Preventing Destructive Behavior
Goal: The puppy should learn to avoid forbidden objects, even if the items are at their level and on the floor. Being trustworthy in a home is an essential behavior for guide dogs and service dogs. There might be tempting items in the home that need to be left alone like shoes, trashcans, kid’s toys, etc.
All of our dogs must be trustworthy when left unsupervised. Seeding the floor helps the dog understand the desired behavior and teaches them to always select their toys when they chew on something.
Seeding the floor is an exercise that can start as young as 4 months of age. The exercise teaches pups to only chew on their toys, regardless of what is on the floor. After the first couple sessions, you can practice this throughout the week in various sessions like while you’re watching t.v., sitting at your kitchen table, or on your computer.
The exercise can become more complex as the dog matures and gets closer to their IFT date. The more you successfully practice this the better understanding the dog will have of what is acceptable to chew on and leave other items alone.
Setting Up for Success
- Start with less tempting items like paper and then move to more tempting items like shoes, socks, kid’s toys, food containers.
- Practice this exercise in various rooms of the house so the behavior and understanding is generalized.
- When starting this exercise, do not use more than three or four forbidden objects. Pick out a few items that might be of interest to your puppy.
- Use as many or more chew toys than forbidden items. Place the items on the floor with varying distance with approved toys as well. Each time you practice this activity use different forbidden objects, chew toys, and distance between the items.
- Example: three Nylabones, a crumpled piece of paper, and dryer sheet all placed 1-2 feet away from each other.
- With the pup in the crate in another room, spread the items around so they are far enough away to be seen as different items by the pup.
- Bring your pup into the room on a leash or dragline and allow them to investigate the items. It is best to stay on the floor so in the beginning you can respond if the puppy starts to pick up an object. Quickly progress to sitting, standing, and doing normal activities so your puppy does not learn to only ignore objects during training sessions.
- If your puppy chooses a toy allow them to play with it for a few minutes and end the training session because they made the right choice. You can try again later that day or with different items.
- Use verbal and physical praise when the pup shows interest in their toy.
- If your puppy attempts to choose a forbidden item immediately interrupt the unwanted behavior. This may include a verbal "NO" and shorten the leash or take a small step back to prevent the puppy from reaching the item
- Remember that timing is everything with correction – make sure you give the correction the moment they start to mouth or nose the object, before it reaches their mouth. If your expectations are clear your puppy will learn they cannot place the objects in their mouth.
- If the pup does get a forbidden item in their mouth, simply remove the item. Do not give a correction or verbal cue or praise when you remove it. Take the item away, place it back on the floor, and ignore the pup. Puppies will often pick up items for attention so it’s important not to make a fuss about it.
- Do not replace the forbidden item with a toy. You have already established the expectation that forbidden items shouldn’t be picked up. If they pick up the item and get a toy in return at this age they are learning to pick up items for reward.
- Continue the training exercise with consistent and firm corrections. Praise when they choose the right items and ignore the forbidden items.
- The pup should be on a longer leash or dragging the leash without you holding it.
- Continue the verbal and/or physical praise for choosing the right toy. You can also play with the pup for a brief period with the toy they selected.
- If the pup starts approaching an inappropriate item the handler should calmly pick up the leash. If the pup investigates and walks away praise the pup. If the pup starts mouthing or playing with the item take a step back and give a verbal “NO”.
- Continue these sessions in various rooms of the house with different toys and forbidden items.
- If the pup continues to seek out or choose inappropriate items over the toys you should go back to the beginning sessions to establish the pup’s understanding to pick the toys instead. Use high value physical praise and verbal praise as the pup investigates and chooses the right toys.
- Start setting up real life sessions by leaving 1-2 forbidden items. Randomly scattered toys should be easily accessible.
- The dog can be off leash or have a drag line
- Raiser should be relaxed and seem like they are doing other tasks, but really observing the dog’s behavior.
- As the dog proves trustworthy in these situations, you can leave the room for a minute or two and come back.
If you have any questions regarding this exercise, please reach out to your advisor or area coordinator.