Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dog Training – Motivation (again) Part III

By Candy Clemente

Furry Visions Dog Training

Okay, I promise to stop. But thoughts rumble around in my head at odd hours of the night and I have to put them on paper (or cyberspace).

The discussion continues on reward training. Some people think that you are going to have to wear a bait bag forever if you train your dog with “cookies”. Let’s take a trip back in time, back to kindergarten……remember when you did something especially well, your teacher would come by and stick a bright shiny gold star on your shirt and you couldn’t wait to get home and show your Mom and she would get all excited? Remember that good feeling of being special? By the time you reached grade school you didn’t need that gold star anymore, that beautiful “A” on your essay gave you the same feeling with a lot less fanfare.

Once you know what is expected of you, you don’t need a gold star anymore, the good grade suffices. But getting to that point was made easier when you got the extra “cookie”. It is the same when training your dog. In the beginning, he needs that extra incentive to communicate to him that he is doing a good job, he is pleasing you. You are shaping his entire future, so don’t be stingy, give him his gold stars when he does a good job. By the time he is in “high school” a “good boy” will give him the same satisfaction because of all those bright shiny gold stars he earned in kindergarten.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dog Training – Motivation Part II

By Candy Clemente

Furry Visions Dog Training

I work at a pit bull rescue training the dogs for their new forever homes. Last winter, a pregnant pit was saved and whelped eight beautiful puppies. At eight weeks I started their basic obedience training. We did sit/stay, down/stay, walking on a leash and some heeling. After three weeks of training I had to leave to work in a TV show. When I returned three months later, there were three puppies left and they were a lot bigger and stronger and unfortunately no one had the time to continue their education. I didn’t know what to expect after that long of a period of time without anyone working with them. It seemed as though they recognized me and were anxious to be with me. I started with Simon, the biggest and the most out of control. I loaded up my treat bag and slipped the training collar on him, I checked him a couple of times and he immediately remembered to sit before I opened the gate, padded his feet waiting for his cookie. I smiled, wow, they do remember. As we stepped out the gate, again he sat and stomped his feet waiting for his reward. We took our mile walk and he was perfect. When we returned, I decided it was time to do a little crate training. He is fine in the crate, but is over powering when it is time to come out. So, I tossed a cookie in the crate while holding on to his collar and told him to “get in” and released him. Of course as soon as he ate the treat, he was ready to run out. I told him to get in and gave him a cookie, when he tried to come out, I uttered “ahg” and while he remained inside, I gave him cookies. I increased the time between rewards as he stayed in with the gate open and only let him out with a release word “okay”. I did not pay him for being outside, but praised and paid for being inside. After less than ten minutes, he had it down.

I got the second puppy, Sonny, who had been jumping on everyone and took him out. Again, after slipping on the training collar, the light seemed to go off and after a couple of reminders, he got it together – he sat while waiting for the gate, he walked on the leash, when he would start to jump up, I would “ahg” and he would sit and tap his feet waiting for his reward. The third puppy, Daisy was just as good. And the following week, I went to work Simon on his crate and even though it had been three days since we worked, he remembered and was a perfect boy.

It just shows that once a dog has been properly trained, he doesn’t forget what he has learned; sometimes he just needs a gentle reminder. And I believe that treats are good motivators when used correctly. Some people don’t see the need for them, but I believe that when a dog is just learning, he needs something special as a reward for a good job, once he is 100%, you can fade the treats starting with random re enforcement and gradually weaning off completely. But in the beginning you need to build up your bank account with lots of big deposits and in the end it will pay big dividends.