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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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Fading the Lure

Fading the Lure

Does your dog rely on seeing treats to perform anything for you? Does he only listen when you show him a piece of food?

Well this is one of the most common issues I have seen with my clients. They lure their dog into doing several tricks with the treat but seem to miss the part where they are supposed to fade the treat out. It’s extremely important to fade out your luring by using hand signals and then eventually fade out the treats completely. Here is a very easy way to fade the treats out for your dog.

I made a quick video to demonstrate the process below. If you would like to not only read it, but see it, go to this link: Click Here

Step #1 • Show your dog the treat, get him to do something and then toss it to him

Step #2 • Pretend you have a treat (mimic the hand position), get him to do something, show him there is an empty hand and then give him the treat from somewhere else.

Step #3 • Show your dog the empty hand, pretend you have a treat, show him the empty hand again and ask him to do the behavior. Give him a treat from somewhere else.

Step#5 • Show your dog the empty hand, give him the hand signal, then give him the treat from somewhere else.

If you follow these steps, in no time your dog will not even need to see the treat!

Tips on how to not even use treats.

• Start varying the reward! Don’t give them treats for everything, use a toy, praise, and affection

• Give him treats once in a while for the behavior (without him seeing them) so he never knows when he’s getting one or not. Make sure to not give treats in a pattern! They will figure it out.

I hope this helps you and your dog learn how to fade the treats! Good luck.

-Amber

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Training tips

 

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