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Make Quantum Leaps in Training

You will make four quantum leaps in training as you phase out hand-held training lures, and eventually all training rewards. Phasing out food lures is a simple matter — just put them in your pocket to be used as rewards for above-average responses. Phasing out food rewards is similarly simple — just empty your pockets of food and use something else as a reward.

1. Phasing Out Food Lures


As your pup learns to watch the movement of your hand-held lure, your hand movements soon become effective hand signals. Hold your hand palm-upwards for the Sit signal, and palm-downwards for the Down signal. After a few repetitions, your puppy will begin to anticipate each hand lure signal on hearing the relevant verbal command. Thereafter, the verbal request becomes the equivalent of a verbal lure, since it successfully prompts the desired response. Training lures are no longer necessary to entice your puppy into each position because a hand signal or verbal request is sufficient.
Put the kibble in your pocket right now. Come on, all of it! Repeat the Sit-Down-Sit-Stand-Down-Stand sequence with empty hands. However, make sure to follow each eager verbal request with a sweeping — nay flourishing — hand signal, just as if you were holding a lure. At the end of the sequence, praise your pup and reward him with a piece of kibble from your pocket. See, you don’t need a food lure in your hand to get your dog to respond. Failure was all in your mind, just as the food is now all in your pocket.
This is the first quantum leap: Your puppy has learned that although you have no food in your hand, you can still magically materialize all sorts of goodies from your pocket. Now it’s time to begin fading out food rewards.

2. Reducing Food Rewards


Go back and use food as a lure for a quick test to see how many puppy-pushups (alternating sits and downs) your pup will do before he gives up. Keep hold of that treat though. The longer your hold on to the lure, the quicker training will proceed. (In fact, that’s how we teach stays and “Off!”) Now you know how much your puppy is willing to work for the prospect of just one food reward. See which family members and friends can get the puppy to perform the most push-ups for a single food reward. By asking more for less, you have begun to gradually and progressively phase out food rewards in training.
Now repeat the Sit-Down-Sit-Stand-Down-Stand sequence with empty hands but with food rewards in your pocket. Do not be in a hurry to stuff food rewards into your pup’s mouth. Instead, treat every food reward as if it were a gold medal. Only reward your pup immediately following extremely rapid, or especially stylish responses.
This is a second quantum leap: Your puppy has learned that although you have food rewards in your pocket, he may not get one every time he responds correctly.

3. Phasing Out Food Rewards


Now it is time to empty your pockets and replace food rewards with praise, petting, toys, games, favorite activities, and other luxurious life rewards.
This is the third quantum leap: Your puppy has learned that although you have no food rewards in your pocket, even better surprises may follow desired behavior. For example, when walking your puppy, stop and ask him to sit every 25 yards and as a reward say, “Let’s Go” (the walk continues). When in the dog park, call your puppy and ask him to sit every minute or so and as a reward say, “Go Play” (the play session resumes).

4. Phasing Out External Rewards


Eventually, it is no longer necessary to reward your dog to reinforce desirable behaviors. Rewarding your dog is always an option and always a wonderful thing to do, but your dog’s stellar behavior is no longer dependent on expected rewards. Instead, your dog complies with your requests because he now wants to.
After this fourth quantum leap, external rewards are no longer necessary, since your puppy’s good behaviors have become self-reinforcing. In a sense, each correct response becomes its own reward. Really, this is no different from people who enjoy reading, running, riding, playing games and sports, and dancing. Rewards are not necessary. Participation is its own reward.

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Make Your Dog a Sit Savant

Most of us take the sit command for granted. After all, it was probably the first command we taught our dog – and it was so easy! But does your dog really know the sit command? Or does he think it means just touch his butt on the ground, pop right up and get a treat?

A really good sit can help with all sorts of control issues such as:
– Easily distracted dogs
– Door dashers
– Overly exuberant greetings
– Dogs who jump up on people
– Leash pullers
– Leash and other forms of aggression

Work on teaching your dog to sit until they are released. Just as if it were a stay, or a wait. Sit until given the release word. And to sit no matter what is going on.

For our purposes, you may want to use two different commands:
SIT – means facing you
CLOSE – Means in heel position at your left side. This position allows you to have more control over your dog in difficult situations.

The goal is to “proof” the dog using the following:

Duration – how long the dog has to sit

Distance – how far away you are from the dog

Distractions – level of distraction while in the sit

Different locations – work in one place first – then change

Examples:
Practice sits with your back turned to the dog, a bag on you head, around a corner, you get the picture. Sit won’t work in the vet office if you haven’t worked through distractions or a different picture than you in the kitchen with a treat! Practice sits when your dog is very excited, so she ‘sits on a dime’ (like stopping on a dime).

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Some Tips for Interacting with Fearful Dogs

It’s important to recognize when a dog is fearful and not force an interaction that will actually cause the dog to be MORE fearful.

The following tips on human body language are especially important when dealing with a fearful dog:

Let the dog come to you. If your dog is frightened, she must be allowed to decide whether or not to approach. Don’t restrain your dog and force her to accept contact from others. Remember the “fight or flight” response; if you take away the opportunity for flight, your dog’s choices are limited.

Turn to the side. Facing a dog directly is more confrontational than keeping your body turned partially or completely to the side; even turning your head to the side will make a frightened dog feel less anxious.

No staring, please ! A direct stare is a threat in the animal kingdom (and on New York City subways!). It is perfectly fine to look at your dog; just soften your expression and don’t “hard stare” directly into her eyes. Do not allow children to put their faces near your dog’s face or to stare into her eyes.

Don’t hover. Leaning over a dog can cause the dog to become afraid and possibly defensive. The one time I was bitten while working in a Los Angeles city animal shelter happened when I went to return an adorable, fluffy white dog to her pen. While placing her on the ground, I inadvertently reached over her equally adorable little pen mate who jumped up and bit me in the face.

Pet appropriately. Approaching dogs by patting them on the head is ill-advised. Envision the interaction from the dog’s point of view; a palm approaching from above can be alarming. Demonstrate with kids to teach them how to pet dogs properly. The child plays the role of the dog; tell the child that you will pet him in two different ways, and he is to tell me which is nicer. First, reach your hand slowly toward the child’s cheek and stroke it, smiling and softly saying, “Good dog!” Next, bring your hand brusquely palm-down over the child’s head repeatedly, while loudly saying, “Good dog, good dog!” Kids almost invariably like the first method better. If dogs could answer for themselves, nine out of ten dogs would vote for the first method as well! It’s not that dogs should never be petted on top of the head, but that head-patting (or petting over the dog’s shoulders, back, or rump) should not be used as an initial approach. It is wiser to make a fist, hold it under the dog’s nose to allow her to sniff, then pet the dog on the chest, moving gradually to the sides of the face and other body parts, assuming the dog is comfortable. Likewise, a hand moving in quickly to grab for a dog’s collar is more potentially fear-inducing than a hand moving slowly to a dog’s chest, scratching it, then moving up to take hold of the collar.

Stoop, don’t swoop. Small dogs in particular are often swooped down upon when people want to pick them up. Fast, direct, overhead movements are much more frightening than slow, indirect ones. To lift a small dog, crouch down, pet the dog for a moment, then gently slip your hands under her belly and chest, and lift.
Watch your smile. While humans interpret a smile as friendly, a dog might not be as fond of seeing your pearly whites. A show of teeth is, after all, a threat in the animal kingdom. Smile at canines with a closed mouth.

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