Zoomies! FRAP! – Cambridge Puppy Training

Cambridge puppy trainingZoomies!!! We all LOVE zoomies, well I do. Is there anything more hilarious than the sight of a puppy or dog flying around at 90 mph, tail often tucked under, racing from one end of the garden or room to the other, with a slightly wild look in their eyes! If you are unsure what ‘zoomies’ are, a quick Youtube search will result in many a video displaying this hysterical dog activity. My personal favourite is greyhound zoomies, there is something so enchanting about a leggy, tall, elegant and streamlined dog racing about like a loon! You may see a play bow, a slight glint in the eye, sudden jerky movements, and then BAM they’re off, just brilliant.

But, what exaclty ARE zoomies? Why do they occur? Zoomies, believe it or not, actually have a technical term, Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAP). I know, brilliant isn’t it, they are actually a ‘thing’. There are a few key times your puppy or dog may display zoomies:

  1. After handling/grooming – often you will see some zoomies after a period of restriant ie. after grooming. A ‘thank goodness I’m free’ type situation!

  2. Bathing – after a bath! Possibly an adaptive behaviour as a means to dry quicker?

  3. Tiredness – a puppy may display zoomies in the evening, when they are particularly tired and needing to sleep. A puppy largely will not voluntarily switch off, so a way to deal with and cope with such tiredness is to perform some ‘zoomies’!

  4. Frustration – a dog lacking in adequate physical exercise opportunities may display zoomies as a way to release that pent up energy!

  5. After food…….or pooing! – Sorry, but it is true! A celebration of a full stomach, or an empty one :O

  6. Fun! – quite simply, it’s fun! There is no need to always look for a deep-rooted behavioural reason for every behaviour seen, sometimes, it’s just fun!

There are other reason for ‘zoomies’ but this is a very broad list of some possibilites. So what should we do about zoomies? Leave the dog to enjoy? Stop them? Encourage them? The main thing to consider is safety. If your pup is flying around a room with a slippery floor, or lots of furniture about, be aware of how safe the environment is for such an excitable activity. If in doubt, encourage your pup out into the garden to be (if safe and secure) to ensure your pup doesn’t inadvertantly cause himself, or others, damage.

Alternatively, if you are in an environment where you simply can’t usher your puppy into a safe space, try redirecting to an appropriate toy or activity, which is somewhat less manic. It can be useful to teach your puppy a ‘settle’ early on for these such times. As with any behaviour we don’t like, we can plan ahead and prevent. If you know your puppy is prone to the zoomies at a certain time of day, plan for that time. Prepare a game such as some scent work with cones, or some interactive toys, to engage your pup BEFORE the zoomies begin. You may well find by providing more opportunity for physical exercise the zoomies will decrease, but in a young pup you will have to weigh this up carefully with over-tiredness and exhaustion via too much overstimulation through physical exercise. The behaviours seen through over-tiredness may well be much more difficult to manage than some zoomies, and infact, may contribute to the zoomies! We could delve into the reasons behind zoomies forever, is the puppy frustrated? Is the puppy stressed? Is the puppy over-tired? Is the puppy not getting enough physical exercise? Is the puppy displaying some deep-rooted behavioural issue which must be addressed? I highly doubt it. I think sometimes, we analize way too much.

If it is a safe environment, and your puppy has adequate provisions for both physical and mental exercise, then by all means just watch the hilarity unfold. Remember safety, manage the environment well to keep your puppy safe, and let nature take it’s course!

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Antecedents in puppy training – Cambridge Puppy Training

antecedents

Most of us follow a few general and rather loose rules when dog training. We know dogs learn by association, so we teach cues to associate a certain behaviour with. Secondly, the consequence of the actions our dog perform, whether this is a pleasant or unpleasant consequence largely dictates if the behaviour will be repeated. So we can (very generally!) say that behaviour is based around these two aspects. But, what of the ‘event’ or ‘stimulus’ prior to the behaviour? Is this not just as important as the behaviour itself, how it actually came about?

I am going to introduce you to the ABC’s! Yes, I know, it sounds crazy but bear with me.
A = antecedent
B = behaviour
C = consequence

So, the antecedent is the stimulus or catalyst for WHY that behaviour happens in the first place. To define “a preceding occurrence, cause or event”. So often, the antecedent is either overlooked, or not given enough consideration. It is essential you are aware of the antecedent (or antecedents, plural!) before approaching any kind of behaviour or consider altering the consequences of such behaviours.

Often it can be better to look at an example to really see how this works!
We can assume that:
Antecedent → Behaviour → Consequence

So, for example if you have a counter surfer!
The antecedent = seeing/smelling food on the counter
The behaviour = paws up on the counter and grabbing food
The consequence = eating yummy food! Yay!

When you break ANY behaviour down into these small steps, it’s far easier to tackle them. Now, there is a bit of grey area with antecedents. Unfortunately antecedents are not all equal, so then we have a bit of a problem! We face the issue of ‘blocking’ or ‘overshadowing’.

Overshadowing is essentially presenting lots of antecedents, of varying value, whereby one will overshadow another. One will be ‘winning’ and it may well be an unintended one. So, for example, you are luring your pup into a sit with a treat (one antecedent) on his nose. At the same time you are saying ‘sit’ (second antecedent). Your verbal cue is far overshadowed by the food on the nose so will likely be ‘drowned out’ by the more powerful antecedent of the treat.

Blocking is essentially TWO antecedents being present at once, thereby one being blocked by the other. For example, if I ask my dog to ‘down’ using a hand and verbal cue, one will likely not be learned or improved if it is being blocked by the other. Say, for arguments sake, I am wanting to improve my hand signal, it likely WON’T be improved as it will be blocked out by the more powerful antecedent, the verbal cue.

Think of how many antecedents are in this scenario of asking for a down via a verbal cue and hand signal:
1. verbal cue
2. hand signal
3. hand in treat pouch
4. treat in other hand
5. my body may lean forward slightly
6. my leg my step forward too

That’s SIX antecedents! A huge amount. Now, is there anything wrong with this? No there may well not be, however if you then expect your pup will understand how to sit/down with only the verbal cue minus the other 5 antecedents, we could have a bit of a problem. I am hugely guilty of always having a treat in my hand, it’s quick, it’s easy, I like my reward delivery to be fast so I rush rush rush! Will I stop doing this? Probably not. Would it help my training if I did? Maybe. However, I try to position my hands in such a way they that they don’t become an overshadowing antecedent.

So, how can we combat this? How we can use antecedents to our advantage when training?

  • Antecedent arrangement – set up scenarios and situations so the STRONGEST antecedent wins out, and the behaviour we want is more likely to be offered (especially important for puppy training!)
  • Try to have ONE antecedent going at any time – ask for ‘sit’, pause for half-second, use your hand signal
  • Be clear – make it easy for your dog, be obvious in what you are asking, don’t ‘muddy the waters’ or make it confusing
  • Keep hand out of treat bag!! (This one is for me!) A hand going into a treat pouch is one antecedent that will block out all others!!

So have a think, what is the antecedent to some of your pups behaviours? And how can you simplify your training to minimise all the excess antecedents? It’s quite interesting to come up with some new ideas!

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