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Using every opportunity

Using every opportunity

It’s easy to get frustrated with your dog. They don’t understand what we’re saying and sometimes it seems like they really couldn’t care less about listening! It’s normal, don’t fret. Every dog owner has gotten irritated and upset with their dog, no matter how patient the person is. Now that we’ve admitted to getting upset with our dogs, let’s figure out what to do in those situations.

Take advantage of it! Punishing your dog isn’t going to teach them anything, so use the opportunity to teach your dog something new. It can be challenging, but once it becomes a habit, you and your dog will begin to understand each other much more. If your dog has a bad habit of eating everything off of the floor, use it as an obstacle course for an intense leave it. Here are a few examples of every day situations I use as practice for my dogs:

  • Every time we walk through a doorway/hallway/car I practice the wait command with my dogs. (Cannot cross the line until called)
  • My dogs must either sit, wait, stay, or lie down before being fed.
  • While walking to my locker at work, there is dog food spilled everywhere so we practice leave it for every item we pass by
  • As I am getting my items out of my locker, we practice stay.
  • Every time we play fetch, my dogs must sit and sometimes even wait or lie down.

My puppy Tucker is famous for grabbing items and running around with them or chewing them up. Instead of waiting for him to get something dangerous or valuable, we practice drop it with items every day; such as the stick in the picture above.

It is great to set aside time to practice commands with your dog, but there are so many things you do with your dogs every day that can easily be used to practice and make commands part of your daily routine.

Do you use any opportunities to teach or practice commands with your dog? If so, comment and let me know! 

 

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Practice makes perfect!

Practice makes perfect!

As I’m sure any person knows, when you learn something new, the only way to get better is to practice. Many dog owners teach their dog how to sit at home and with a treat and when they take the dog out to the park they expect the dog to perform the sit the same way they did at home with the treat. This is called generalizing. Dogs do not generalize, they need to be taught how to generalize. Simply because your dog knows one thing at a certain place does not ensure that they will know it in a brand new place.

I tell each one of my clients that dog training is like math, you start off easy and gradually increase the difficulty. For instance, you gradually increase the difficulty by adding distractions that are more and more challenging. If you don’t practice with your dog in those situations, your dog will never perform perfectly in them. Just like math, if you stop practicing, you begin forgetting.

It is extremely important that you first have faded the lure before trying to add more distractions. If you don’t know how to do this, check out one of my older posts called Fading the Lure.

When beginning in a new environment, always expect to re-teach your dog the behavior, even if they already know it at home. This will start to teach your dog how to generalize. Take your dog several places and practice with treats as if they don’t know the behavior at all. As your dog begins to catch on and is doing the behavior easily, start fading the lure in each place. After you have faded the lure, you can start adding distractions slowly. If for one minute your dog gets confused or too distracted, take a step back and try it from the beginning. If your dog gets frustrated, he will not enjoy training any longer. Keep him motivated and interested by raising your voice, getting more exciting or even giving him treats for small things. Never get frustrated that your dog is confused, this will put a stumbling block in your training and in your relationship with your dog.

Good luck and keep training positive!

 

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Why is progressive reinforcement the best way to train?

Why is progressive reinforcement the best way to train?

Progressive Reinforcement Training essentially means teaching animals by rewarding desired behaviors and excluding the intentional use of physical or psychological intimidation.

Well first off, my motto for training comes from the bible. In Matthew 7:12 it says “In everything, do to others as would have them do to you; for this is the law of the prophets.”

This should be something we consider every day when training our pets, how would you want to be treated yourself? Would you want to be yanked by a prong collar when doing something wrong or rewarded with treats when doing something right? I would choose being rewarded over punished in a second!

When using positive reinforcement, you are showing the dog how you want him to act. When punishing the dog for the wrong behaviors, this causes them to lose trust in you and respect as well. The dog might respond, but out of fear of the punishment. After all, isn’t a dog’s main goal in life to make us happy? So if you teach him how you want him to behave and what makes you happy, he will continue to do these behaviors in the future.   This confirms that when using only positive methods, your dog is behaving because they want to and are happy to, not because they are afraid of what might happen if they don’t.

Since dogs are programmed to work for humans, no punishment is needed to teach a dog what is right. When your dog does something wrong, simply interrupt this behavior by getting their attention and re-directing their behavior. This is called the Positive Interrupter (which I will be making a post about very soon). So instead of scolding your dog, simple distract them and show them what they are supposed to be doing. This will allow them to learn quickly what you want them to do instead.

Here are some many reasons to refrain from using intimidation methods quoted from this article on progressive reinforcement training:

1) Without perfect timing, intensity, and consistency, the “training” amounts to nothing more than abuse.
2) The animal learns to avoid the punisher in order to indulge in undesirable behavior.
3) These techniques can cause irreversible emotional damage to the animal.
4) The punishment can increase stress hormones, arousal, and aggression.
5) Animals can habituate to the punishment – meaning that the intensity of the punishment must keep increasing to have any effect as the animal learns to endure it.
6) You cannot change an animal’s basic emotional response to find children, adults, or other animals (or anything for that matter) reinforcing by using intimidation; you can only suppress the dog’s punished behaviors.
7) Intimidation can cause dogs to hide their warning signs before attempting to bite.
8) Dogs trained with punishment can feel trapped by their handlers, since the decision to leave a ‘stay’ or to leave the handler’s side (to escape from a bothersome child, for example) can cause punishment.  Animals who feel they have no escape tend to bite rather than move away.
9) Intended intimidation can actually increase the behavior you wish to extinguish, as intimidation involves giving a form of attention to an animal.
10) The presence of the punisher becomes less reinforcing for the animal.  If you punish your dog using intimidation, it is harder to compete with the reinforcement value of other things in the environment.  Your dog will find other stimuli in the environment more reinforcing than you as the dog increasingly associates you with punishment rather than reward.
11) Dogs who have been trained with physical or psychological intimidation do not offer behaviors on their own as readily when asked, making complex behaviors difficult to train
12) Handlers who use intimidation as punishment will punish their animals more readily in the future as punishment is rewarding to the handlers themselves (they get the result they wanted- hitting a dog made it stop barking, so they will be more likely to hit the dog in the future).  In other words, using physical or psychological intimidation causes one’s own behavior patterns to change.

There can always be rare emergency situations where you need to take action and remove the dog from the situation rather then screaming, hitting, ect. Hitting, screaming, ect. will only escalate the dog when he is at the level of attacking.

I hope that this has informed you on why punishment, or other intimidation training techniques can be detrimental and how progressive reinforcement training is the way to go. If you have any questions please ask them! After all, I know this is a very debatable subject. Remember, keep it positive!

 

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The importance of the walk

The importance of the walk
Most people know that if you have a dog, you should walk it. It’s general knowledge that walking your dog is good, but how important is it really? Your dog probably isn’t terribly behaved, so why do you have to walk him?

Imagine yourself in his shoes for a moment. He is either stuck in your house or back yard every single day and the closest exercise he gets is chasing a ball back and forth. I don’t know about you but I would definitely lose my mind if I were that dog.

Lack of exercise is actually the leading cause of all problem behaviors! Does your dog bark constantly? Does he jump up on every single person without fail? Does he destroy things in your house or dig in your yard? All of these behaviors have a root cause, and it’s usually lack of exercise. I ask every single one my clients who is having constant trouble with their dog, “Are you exercising him? How often are you taking him on walks, jogs, or runs?” Their answer is always the same. Either they aren’t taking him out at all or they take him out every once in a while. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your dog on walks every single day!

Now some people get lucky with a dog who doesn’t have to go on walks because she’s more laid back than the average dog. If you have one of these dogs, it does NOT make you and your dog an exception. Just because your dog is not destructive and doesn’t have any problem behaviors, doesn’t mean she won’t benefit from walking.

Taking your dog on a walk every day is an essential part of being a dog owner.

Taking your dog on a walk has MANY advantages.

Your dog will be calmer and better behaved. 

Your dog will have a longer and healthier life. 

Your dog will respect you more and have a stronger bond with you. 

Your dog will become well socialized with people and other dogs.

There are many other advantages but those are just a few.

I hope that this quick post will have encouraged you to start walking with your dog every day! Make it a routine and a part of your schedule. It will even help those who want to get in shape to stay motivated too! If you set aside time every day to spend walking, jogging, or running with your dog, both you and your pooch will live a much healthier, more enjoyable, and easier life!

As I tell all of my clients, as much as you can afford to walk your dog, do it! If you want to go on several walks a day, even better!

If you are wondering how to have a successful walk without pulling, lunging, ect. Keep reading as it will be coming very soon! Good luck and go take a walk with your dog today.

 

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Understanding your dog’s language

Understanding your dog’s language

Learning how to understand your dog’s language is something that will take a lot of observation. As you read through this post, I encourage you to watch your dog and notice how quickly they change their expressions.

Many people wait until a dog bites, barks, growls, or shows its teeth to realize the dog is telling them something, even though these are actually most dogs’ last resort. They will tell you several things with the way they hold themselves, the movements of their ears, tail, eyes, and every part of their body.

Now be aware that one signal on its own does not determine what your dog is saying, it is the combination of signals.

Since your dog communicates with so many parts of their body, we will just go over the three easiest for you to see in this post. The eyes, ears, and tail.

EYES

  • When a dog avoids eye contact, he is being submissive.
  • Dog’s don’t stare at each other because this is a very challenging behavior and could mean a threat. If a dog is staring at you with a tense body, this could be dangerous.
  • Many trainers (including myself) encourage eye contact from the dog, this is not threatening because the dog is not tense when he is looking at you.
  • Anytime you see the whites of the dogs eye, this can be a warning from the dog. He may be scared or irritated.
  • A dog will squint his eyes when he is submissive.
  • Pay attention to their eyebrows to see if there is tension or not.

EARS

  • Ears erect and forward are very alert. Alertness can quickly change into charging.
  • Any time the ears are tight against the head, this is a sign that can turn into an attack.
  • If the ears are laying back but not tight, this is very submissive and the dog is showing you ultimate respect.
  • When the ears are relaxed but towards the side, the dog is comfortable and very relaxed.
  • Ears pointing straight forward when intensely focused is a sure sign that your dog is going to charge.
  • When one ear is to the side and the other is forward, your dog is listening to several things and being calm about it.

TAIL

One of the BIGGEST myths about a dog is that a wagging tail means a friendly dog. This is FALSE, I cannot stress that enough. You can easily be attacked by a dog while his tail is wagging. 

When your dog’s tail wags, it simply means that they are excited, pumped up, have adrenaline, or simply a responder to being with someone else. The meaning of the wagging tail relies on the position of the tail itself.

  • As most people know, a tail tightly curled under a dog’s belly is a very fearful dog and can even lead to a bite.
  • A tail slightly underneath the dog’s belly is scared but also submissive.
  • A low wagging tail is my favorite tail! This is a submissive gesture and a very relaxed and content dog.
  • A tense straight tail is never a good sign, it tells you that the dog is either being very dominant or feels very uncomfortable in the situation. It can be an indicator to an attack.
  • A tail that stays within the middle, (around the line of their back) is a content dog but can be easily excited.
  • A high tail is a sure sign of a dominant dog. Two dogs approaching each other with very high tails need to be very closely supervised.

Now many of these signs by themselves won’t have much meaning so watch for when they are combined together. I will be making more posts about dog body language as I think it is essential for every dog owner to know.

Just remember, a loose bodied/ wiggly dog is a happy guy, a tense and stiff dog is a bad sign.

Hope this helps! If you have any questions on certain signs your dog is showing or how to really understand what your dog is saying, please write me a post at Facebook.com/apassionforpaws Good luck!

-Amber

 

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Your dog’s currency

Your dog’s currency

Every dog has at least one currency. Some dogs actually have two, but you’re very lucky if you have a two-currency dog because they’re so rare.

Currency is basically what you pay your dog with. The most common currency for people training their dog is food. Treats are a fantastic currency as most dogs will literally do anything for food. Hence the phrase, “Will work for food!”

Even though food is a fantastic motivator and an even greater reward for your pooch, there are several other types of currency that I believe are necessary to use for each dog.

I have had several clients tell me that their dogs will only do something if they have a treat. Now of course this is why we teach how to fade the lure, but if you only use food to reward your dog then those results are to be expected.

Other great rewards for your dog could be playing with a tug toy, affection, or just praise on its own. It’s really important to see what your dog is ultimately motivated by. Whichever he is most motivated by, that will be your most common reward. Now since food is typically the top motivator, it’s your job to make sure that when you use food as a reward you don’t try to use a tug toy at the same time. Most dogs will get a taste of the food and nothing else matters but the food.

The dogs who will eagerly take food or anything else over food are dual-currency dogs. 

When you’re teaching behaviors that are play-driven, such as tugging on a rope to open the fridge, or fetching an object, you really don’t want to be using food as the reward. If your dog is not a dual-currency dog, I guarantee that he will lose interest in the play-driven behavior that you are trying to teach. Be sure that when you are trying to teach a play driven behavior that you are rewarding with play and/or affection. 

To find out what your dog can use as a currency besides food, watch what their favorite toy is and what they get most excited about to play with. If it’s a squeaky toy, use it! If your dog simply wants your praise, then you have the easiest reward for your dog out there.

Hope this makes sense! If you have any questions or want to know more please go to:

www.Facebook.com/apassionforpaws

-Amber

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Training tips

 

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