Training Reminders – July 7, 2010

Work=play=work. All play is fun and so all work should be as well. If your dog makes a decision during play (example he grabs his toy without being invited to do so) you are reinforcing his right to make decisions during working with you as well (ahh, maybe I will chase the cat rather then practice A Frames right now!).
POSITIVE does not equal PERMISSIVE. This is the guiding principle of Say Yes Dog Training. You must be consistent. If a behavior is acceptable at home (example the dog choosing not to lie down when told) it is also acceptable during work. Approach training and home life with a patient disposition and a strict application of what is and isn’t acceptable. Training happens 24 hours a day 7 days a week; your dog is always learning regardless if you are actively training or not!

Behaviors are shaped by CONSEQUENCES. Be aware of what is reinforcing your dog. Review and alter your list of reinforcers as your dog grows up, especially the “activities that reinforce” section.

Use your RECALL, to evaluate your relationship with your dog. Be diligent at making improvements each day in the level of intensity your dog has for working with you. Work at building a better relationship with your dog rather than making excuses for his performance. Work with the dog on the end of your leash — and turn him into a dog other people wish they had!

Be aware of what RESPONSE you are rewarding each time you give out a cookie or toy. What did you click—did you see eyes? Did you want to see eyes when your dog is performing that skill? What did you intend to reinforce? Does the dog know?

MIX UP YOUR REINFORCEMENTS so that you are working with toys and food. Only offer a reward you know your dog will want. Once a reward is offered, do not accept your dog not taking it. You can use food to reinforce an attempt to play (or the other way around) but never use food to reinforce a dog that has declined the opportunity to play or decided to stop playing. What would you be rewarding? Of course you would have rewarded your dog for making the decision to NOT play with you (and remember work=play).

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Naming a Behavior – July 6, 2010

The point of the cue (the “name”) is to form an association
between the cue word and the behavior. The goal is for the cue to
trigger the behavior. It doesn’t make sense to form an association
with an imperfect behavior, so until the dog performs the behavior
you want, attaching a cue to an imperfect behavior will result in the dog performing that imperfect behavior in response to the cue. In other words, “The behavior you name is the behavior you get.”

If, after you cue “sit” the dog hesitates for 4 seconds, sits, gets a
click and a treat means the dog is learning that “sit” means “wait 4
seconds, then sit”.

Learning generally happens faster with fewer distractions.
Whichever of you is saying “sit, sit, sit” may not consider that a
distraction, but it can be. At best, it is meaningless. At worst,
it’s a distraction that can impede learning. From another perspective, repeating “sit-sit-sit-sit-sit” could even constitute negative reinforcement — nagging that stops when the dog sits.

Pavlov’s experiments demonstrated that the association
between the cue and behavior is formed only when the bell,
light, “sit” or any other cue **precedes** the behavior — not during
and not after the behavior. In other words, it isn’t helpful for
learning to say “sit” after the dog has already sat (“Good sit”).

Dogs learn cue associations when the cue is given just before the dog begins to perform the behavior. Then it takes 20-50 repetitions for the association to be formed. The bottom line, when you are 95% certain that the next behavior the dog is going to perform is the behavior you want, say the cue, click, deliver the treat to reset the behavior, say the cue, click, treat to reset the behavior, etc. etc.

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General Training Guidelines – July 5, 2010


  • Act the way you want your puppy to act
  • Make all interactions fun
  • Stay calm, relaxed and confident

Training a new behavior

  • Use food lure to get the behavior
  • Give it a name only when you are SURE you’ll get the behavior
  • Fade lure quickly – use rewards, not bribes
  • Reward while puppy is still doing desired behavior, not after he moves
  • Make it fun
  • Make it harder – different places, distractions, duration
  • Practice a Release word – OK, All Done!!
  • Don’t over use puppy’s name
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A Summer Reminder from Nancy Kay, DVM – July 1, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Some of us take “dog days of summer” literally- we want to go everywhere accompanied by our beloved canine companions!  As tempting as this may be, keep in mind that when temperatures are soaring your dog is likely best served by staying home.  Heat has the potential to be hazardous to a dog’s health.

Dogs are incapable of significant sweating- their only sweat glands are located on the undersides of their paws.   The major mechanism by which dogs dissipate heat is by panting, but this cooling system is easily overwhelmed when the temperatures climbs.  Panting becomes even less effective in humid conditions or for dogs with underlying respiratory tract ailments (collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, lung diseases) or dogs that are overweight. Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and others I lovingly refer to as “smoosh-faced” breeds readily overheat because of their unique upper respiratory tract anatomy.

What happens when dogs get too hot?  The result can be heatstroke, a life threatening condition.  Symptoms of heatstroke tend to occur abruptly and can include increased heart rate, labored breathing, weakness, collapse, purplish gum color, and even seizures and coma. Of all the “summertime diseases,” veterinarians dread heatstroke the most because we know that, even with aggressive therapy, many heatstroke victims will succumb to organ damage and death.

Most cases of canine heatstroke are a result of confinement in cars.  Perhaps the vehicle was parked in the shade, but the sun shifted, or a well-intentioned person thought that leaving the windows cracked or returning to the car quickly would be a safe bet.  Overactivity in the heat is another common cause of heatstroke. The desire to chase the ball trumps all else, and the person throwing it doesn’t recognize when it’s time to quit.

If you suspect your dog has or is on the verge of heatstroke, spend just a few minutes cooling him off with water from a hose or covering him with towels soaked in cool water.  Then get to the closest veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence- the earlier heatstroke is detected and treated, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing heatstroke.  Here are some pointers to help keep your best buddy safe during these hot summer months:

-Never leave your dog inside the car on warm or hot days.  A panting dog in an enclosed space quickly creates a muggy greenhouse environment that can quickly cause heatstroke.  Even with the windows down, temperatures inside a car can rise to 120 degrees or more.  If you happen upon a dog confined in a car on a hot day, find the owner of the vehicle or contact a police officer- whichever will most rapidly liberate the dog from danger.

-Exercise your dog early in the morning or during evening hours to avoid the heat of the day.  

-Allow for plenty of rest and water breaks during play activity and exercise. Your dog may not know his limits and will continue to enthusiastically chase the Frisbee even when his internal thermometer is getting ready to blow a fuse.

-Keep your dog indoors, ideally in air conditioning, on very hot days.

-If your dog is left outside, be sure he has plenty of shade and provide him with access to a sprinkler, wading pool, or sand pit soaked with water.

-If flying with your dog during the summer months schedule your flight for nighttime or early morning.  Check with the airlines to find out whether or not the cargo hold is temperature controlled.

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged best friend a most enjoyable and safe summer!

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