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We want training to be fun and engaging for both the handler and the dog. Why? Because then both enjoy the training and a bond is created. It becomes their special time.
Now, think about this. You are told to do your work tasks but after they are completed you get nothing. Not a thank you, not a paycheck, nothing. No acknowledgement at all. How would you feel? Would you want to learn new tasks? Would you want to go to work the next day?
This is why we use paychecks, or rewards, when teaching new behaviors to our dogs. Higher value initially and then phasing those out to utilize more life rewards. When teaching sit they get a treat or toy, whatever they will work for. Once they are sitting routinely on cue we phase those out and use praise, petting, letting them snuggle, their dinner, going outside. They still get a “paycheck” but it is based on life rather than treats.
This doesn’t mean treats should not be used anymore. We all like that bonus the boss gives us for doing our job well, so do dogs. Spend some time doing a little training refresher, bring out the every day treats (or even kibble) and alternate between praise and treats. This helps keep it fresh in their minds and they really do enjoy your attention. It means more to them than the treats do, believe me.
Be sure to end every session with something fun. Big praise and petting, a little time with a toy or ball, a romp outside. This helps cement the training, helping to retain it. It also helps cement your bond, making him want to do and learn more.
Potty training? Remember the rule of thumb. 1 hour for 1 month of age.
I like to set a timer so that I remember to take them out regularly in case I get busy with other things and might forget. Limit where the dog can go during these early days of potty training.
Watch for sniffing, circling or hiding. If you have an accident do NOT rub the dogs nose in it or punish. This will encourage the dog to hide and fear you as they will most likely connect potty to punishment rather than potty to "I should do this outside" and it will delay your goal.
Hang a bell near or on the door leading outside. Every time you take the dog outside ring the bell. Soon the dog will ring the bell to let you know it needs to go outside.
I prefer to leash in the beginning. This way you can take the dog out, keep an eye on what is happening and reward with big praise and petting immediately upon success. And having a dog that will readily do their business on a leash is good if you have to travel with them.
If he doesn't go within a few minutes take the puppy back inside, but keep the leash on so they can't go far. Take them back out after a few minutes and try again. Repeat until you have success.
Give it a cue. At our house it's "business". If I am in a hurry I can tell the dogs to "do business" and they do it quickly without getting distracted by play.
Note: I am not a fan of pee pads. These can teach the dog that it is ok to go inside and make it that much harder to transition to outside.
What is THE most underutilized cue? Focus. While it is one of the first new behaviors taught in basic obedience it seems to fade away once sits, downs and stays become our "go to"s. It shouldn't, tho. A solid focus means that no matter the distraction the dog's attention will be on you. It helps develop self control and calmness.
Does your dog have a trigger that keeps him from listening to you? He sees another dog/person/rabbit while on leash and his manners go out the window? With a solid focus when you see the trigger you can ask for his attention until the trigger is gone.
Practice focus everywhere. Start with no distractions and then add as many environments as possible until the behavior is generalized (dog trainer speak for a behavior that is consistent everywhere).
Start with high value treats initially and big praise. Make sure you always praise or give a life reward when it is successful. Remember, they need a reason to look at you rather than the distraction.
At home ask for it randomly while you are watching tv, fixing dinner, reading... Say the dogs name and then ask for focus, using the treat to lure the dogs gaze to yours. Take the behavior from room to room, adding distractions. Have your spouse or child clap, move around, open and close doors. Go outside, in your yard and randomly on walks. As with any learned behavior continue to ask for it randomly, even after it becomes automatic, otherwise may fade and not be there when you need it.
Pets should not be surprises. If you are thinking about a holiday gift I recommend doing a "gift certificate" instead. Parents can encourage and demonstrate responsible ownership by doing a certificate that says "after we have researched species, breeds, needs and training we can choose a pet that will best fit our family". It then becomes a great family project.
During a dog's second year they go thru fear phases as well as cement their personalities. Building on the foundation of socialization and good manners of the first year should be a priority in helping your dog be the best family member they can be.
We started waits yesterday in class. The main things to remember with waits are
1) do not keep eye contact
2) to build duration before adding distraction or distance
If you maintain eye contact the dog accepts that eye contact as part of the "cue" and will try to keep that eye contact later and want to follow when you are adding distance and going out of sight.
By teaching duration first the dog learns to keep his or her butt in one place so that adding distance then becomes much easier. We want to build that time first so that the concept of the wait is firmly in place before moving on to distractions and distance.
Patience. We are asking the dog to do the hardest thing they know how to do. Nothing. They want to engage and interact with us. Doing nothing goes against all of that. Waiting really IS hard to do.
We start with 5 seconds (and sometimes 3, depending upon the dog) with a simple stop sign hand signal. When we have that consistent 5 seconds for at least 9 out of 10 attempts then we add 5 more seconds. Not until we have solid 20 to 30 seconds of "Wait" do we then add in distractions and distance.
seHow does basic obedience work?
Well, first, it takes a commitment to your dog and family to do what it takes to make it work. It's not magic, it is work.
Second, you need to understand who you've hired, what their philosophy is, what protocols will be put in place and be comfortable following thru. If you aren't comfortable following thru and, with some research into it still feel that way, then it might be best to look for a trainer who's philosophy more aligns with yours. Everyone needs to be on the same page for it to work. This is not to say one trainer is right and another is wrong but a matter of which one is right for you.
Third, you have to understand that it starts with baby steps, in the very beginning, at the simplest point in order to capture and keep the dog's attention, establish communication and trust. Each following behavior is added in a specific order so that it reinforces the previous behavior while adding the new behavior. Each step has to be climbed in order to get to the landing. You can't skip a step without losing progress. And sometimes, if we move too fast, we go backwards a little bit to make sure we don't leave anyone behind.
As the behaviors come together, working with each other, and the dog learns when to provide these different behaviors we have success. We have a well mannered dog that knows how to listen, what to provide and can continue to learn new, even more exciting, behaviors.
Above you see Henley. Henley has learned his basics thru AKC STAR Puppy and CGC classes. He can provide these basics in different environments with different distractions. But it all started with the first step. Each behavior leads to the next behavior. Your commitment to the training to follow thru. It's not magic, it's work. And a sense of accomplishment when you get the end.
Don't forget to bring your dog's vet and adoption records (if you have them) with you. When you arrive I ask that you not try to restrain the dog (unless there is a danger of biting, of course) or correct the dog's behavior. If he wants to sniff and explore his environment, let him. If he wants to hide behind you, that is fine. I need to see their behavior and reactions. I will watch how the dog comes into the studio, their body language. level of curiosity, watching their body language I let the dog choose to approach me. This helps build their confidence and trust.
We start with paperwork then we move on to questions about the dog's history, family dynamics and schedules. I watch the dog closely to read his body language and reactions. Where does he sleep? Is he crated? What does his outside area look like? What kind of toys does he have? What is her regular feed? Is she spayed? Is he neutered? Last vet visit and what was it for? Does he travel? Has she had a litter? Have you moved/married/divorced/had a baby recently? New pets? Lost a pet? Deployment? Sudden schedule change? And more... I will offer the dog treats. The higher the anxiety the less likely the dog is to take treats. If he takes the treats or when he settles enough to take them tells me a lot. Information gathered is for our use in setting up the best treatment plan for your dog. I do not share it unless directed to, such as if you change trainers or want me to provide it to your vet.
The more information I have the better we can figure out what direction we need to take and to set up that treatment plan. Then I go over with you what my plan of action is, how we will address and manage the behaviors while creating a way to get new, desired behaviors. We'll discuss counter conditioning when needed. We'll go over the cost of each session, how many sessions, how often we will meet and set up our first appointment. Payment is per session and can be cash, check or credit card. The consultation itself takes about an hour and a half and unless there are special circumstances that we discuss first, each session should last between 45 minutes and an hour.
Every dog is different and we adjust our approach to the individual dogs. This is important and it may result in shifting our plan to make sure the dog is progressing.
You may be advised to make a vet appointment. If there is a physical cause for the behavior we cannot make progress without it being addressed.
Wild and out of control dogs. This is one of the biggest reasons I get called in. The dog is jumping, barking, pawing, running around like crazy. The more it provides this behavior the more frustrated the human gets, often yelling and pushing the dog away.
How does the dog see this behavior?
Yelling = barking. "Yay, we are both barking out of excitement! I have accomplished my purpose!"
Pushing away = game playing. "Woo hoo! I jump or puppy nip at you, you push me away, I have your attention so I jump again! What a great game we are playing!"
The dog is desperately trying to get your attention and in his mind, ANY attention is good attention. He has gotten you to interact with him. What we do with training is adjust our communication so that we are asking for the behaviors we want and the dog learns what behaviors nets him this positive attention. Then we end up with a calm, well mannered dog who you want to spend time with.