Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dog Training - Motivation

Dog Training – Motivation

By Candy Clemente


Okay, what is your reason for getting out of bed five days a week at the crack of dawn and sitting in two hours of traffic? My guess is it is your paycheck. I am sure you wouldn’t do it just for a pat on the back at the end of the week. So now think about your dog and what motivates him. What makes him jump for joy? Sure, a pat on the head or rub under the chin is nice, but what really turns him on? Is it food, a Frisbee, a ball, a tug toy? Figure out what his favorite thing in his world is, that is number one on your list of paychecks for your dog’s performance, that is his bonus. Go through all of your dog’s favorite things and assign a number from one to five, one being his all time favorite and five being “good boy”. When training, rate his performance from one to five, with one being the best he can be and five just acceptable. For my Jack Russells the Frisbee is number one, a piece of chicken is number two, a piece of kibble is number three, a pat and hug is number four and a “good boy” is number five. So that means if they did the weaves extra fast or hit their contacts perfectly – I toss the Frisbee. If they were just so so, then “good boy”. Dangling that Frisbee will let my dogs know that they were perfect and will therefore strive to get that reward every time they run those weave poles. Just like you, if you know that there is a nice bonus check waiting for you after you complete that project, you will do an extra special job on it. Payment commensurate with performance. It works with dog training too. Your dog will speed up, jump better and hit those contacts when he knows that his favorite reward is waiting for him.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sit vs. sit, sit, SIT!

What happens when you ask your dog to sit? Does he stare at you with blank look on his mug wondering how long before you repeat it three more times and then slowly comply? Or does he immediately plop his butt down and smile up at you waiting to hear "good boy"?

Sit is one of the basic commands that all dogs should know from puppyhood. It is easy to teach, but also easy to ruin. When teaching a sit, you will lure your dog into position with a treat above his head, hold it there and step into him until he sits. After he performs the sit five or six times, name it - "sit". Immediately praise and reward him, then release him with the word "okay". The release word teaches him that he must remain in the sit until he hears the word "okay". After your dog has learned to sit, remember to only say the command once, give him three seconds to comply and without repeating the word, lure him into position. Once he understands his job, it is your job to maintain the behavior with a clear picture of what you expect each and every time you ask your dog to sit. Use a calm and reassuring voice when asking your dog to sit.

After he is 100% in compliance, start adding in "the three D's" - duration, distance and distraction. Begin with duration, start with one or two seconds and then release and reward. Build up gradually to a minute, etc. If your dog gets up, take him by the collar and place him back in the same spot he was in and resume. Set your dog up for success, if you notice that he is going to break the sit, step into him and pay him and then release him. Don't try to move too fast, build up a strong foundation, be patient, all future training depends on this beginning. Once you have a little duration, start adding in a little distance, very little to start with. And always step into to the dog to reward, never make him get up to get paid, reward in the position you are working on. Take baby steps back and go in and pay him each with each step. The final step is distraction, this takes a little longer, but your patience will be rewarded. Start with a low value toy, with your dog in a sit, set the toy down next to you, if he moves, utter a negative sound "agh" and pay him when he remains in the sit, ignoring the toy. Eventually you will increase the value of the item.

Keep your training sessions short, always end on a positive performance. If at any time you feel you are not happy with your session, stop, losing your patience and getting upset will not accomplish anything good. Train four or five times a day for no longer than five minutes, I tell my clients to train during a commercial break while watching television. Make it fun and your dog will look forward to working with you. And DO NOT repeat the command, the dog should sit when told on the first time or you will have a dog that knows he can wait until your face turns red and you are yelling "sit, sit, SIT!!!!"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dog Training Basics

Before the economy became another contributor to the painful surrender of family pets to shelters, the main reason was a lack of training and a lack of research into the choice of a dog for each situation. So many people make the decision to get a dog without looking into how that particular breed or breed cross will fit into their lifestyle. We all remember the "101 Dalmatians syndrome". Parents took their children to see this family movie and the puppies were oh so cute that the number of Dalmatians sold took a huge increase. All without anyone looking into the specifics of the breed. These dogs were bred to be carriage dogs, that means they can travel for miles, they have a great prey drive and are extremely high energy. All these cute puppies grew up to be very unmanageable in small yards with small children and soon the shelters were over run with Dalmatian adolescents. Unfortunately most were euthanized.

The first lesson here, is do your research. What type of dog will fit into your daily life for the next 10 to 20 years? Do you jog every day, take hikes on the weekend? Or are you away from home eight to ten hours a day and come home,have dinner and sit on the couch for the rest of the evening? If the former is your way of living, then a high drive, high endurance dog would fit into your life. If the latter description fits you better, than a low energy, medium to small dog that will do well with a couple of walks a day is better for you. Don't go to a dog agility show and fall in love with Border Collies; go out and get one, then expect him to wait patiently for you to come home after being gone all day and find your yard in one piece. The dog's inherent breed characteristics must be considered before you make your choice. Talk to the breeder, talk to people who have the particular breed you are interested in before you make a mistake. This is a life long commitment to this animal.

The next lesson here is training. After you have done your research and found your perfect match, now you must train him. Dogs, like children need boundaries, they need to know what exactly is expected of them. Don't assume that they can read your mind and know that you don't want them on the couch, that you don't want to beg while you eat, that they can't pee in the living room or bark at the cat. It is your responsibility to show your dog how to behave. All puppies must learn the basics and they are never too young to learn. Dr. Ian Dunbar, DVM and Animal Behaviorist, says that puppies should be housebroken, crate trained and know how to sit, lay down, walk on a leash, allow you to look in their mouth and touch their feet before they are six months old. And it is easier than you think. And all of it is done with positive re enforcement. You never need to be mean to a dog while training them, they learn very fast with love and patience and lots of cookies. When done correctly, the basics give you a solid foundation upon which to build all future training with your dog. Be kind, be consistant, be patient, do not rush your training, wait your dog out, he will comply.

Next blog....... Sit vs. Sit, sit SIT!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kinder, Gentler Dog Training

I am starting a project...I want to put out there that there is a kinder, gentler way of training a dog. I have been reading as many books on dog training that I can and then recently attended the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Conference in Oakland, CA. I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Ian Dunbar, a Vet, and an actual animal behaviorist, one who has studied real animals in clinical settings and in real life settings. The truly educated in this field all agree on one thing, violence begets violence in training and there is no quick fix for behavior problems in dogs. Along with each dog's inherent behaviors, the dog is a product of his environment. Of course, there is no one way to train all dogs, each dog is an individual and learns at his own pace, you have to find what really turns your dog's learning switch on. For some dogs it will be as simple as a ball or frisbee, for others not so toy motivated, you will need some really good, stinky treats.

Currently I am reading a book by Alexandra Horowitz - "Inside of a Dog - What Dogs See, Smell and Know". Ms. Horowitz teaches psychology at the Barnard College, Columbia University. She has a PhD in cognitive science at the University of California San Diego. She has studied the cognition of humans, rhinoceroses, bonobos, and dogs.

I am reading that book now because when I got on the plane to New York on Friday, I reached for the book by Dr. Dunbar that I had purchased in Oakland the week before and realized I had forgot to pack it and in my thirst for knowledge, bought "Inside of a Dog" in New York so I would not be without a good read.

I will update what I have learned from these distinguished authors as often as possible. I feel that when dealing with animals, you never stop learning. I compete in dog agility, have since 1999, and every time I finish a course with my dog, I have learned something new. Even just watching my fellow competitors, I am learning.

I work with rescue dogs at Linda Blair's Worldheart Foundation and every dog there has something to offer for my education and every dog there is a willing and wonderful student. And a note on Linda, she is a wonderful, compassionate, dedicated and hard working woman who has saved many, many deserving and helpless dogs.

Dogs are a wonderful part of our everyday lives and by giving them the proper training, you ensure their place in your home and improve their interaction with other dogs and people.