Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Capturing your DOG's Attention

Capturing Attention: 
Without attention you have nothing… How to build attention and interest. How to maintain interest with distractions.  
Attention:  How do you get your dogs attention when he/she off sniffing a bush or doing something that you really wish he were not doing?  How about using a positive interrupter to get your dog’s attention instead of saying “NO”, “EEEhh EEEhh”, “Knock it off”, or jerking him away from the thing that is so interesting to him.  
  • If you use the word “No”, jerk him, or yell his name, it is not telling the dog what to do, it is only suppressing the behavior.  Using these words or actions will cause the dog to associate you with punishment and your dog will be less likely to want to work and interact with you.  Your dog will also not learn what you DO what him to do, so he might go through his entire list of annoying dog behaviors before he thinks of the behavior you had hoped him to do from the beginning.   
  • Instead using physical or psychological intimidation to stop your dog from doing an undesirable behavior, use a positive interrupter.  Why would you want to use a positive interrupter?  Well, it teaches the dog what you want them to do, to stop what they are doing and look at you, as well as building your dogs desire to do what you want him to do.  
How to train the positive interrupter:
  • Make the noise that you want the animal to respond to such as a kissy noise or whistle and then feed a treat. Make the noise, pause for a second and then give a treat.  Repeat this until the animal is expectant of a treat after the noise.  You could use a word, but a noise that you can make that always sounds the same works best.
  • Next make the noise while the dog is looking away from you and as he turns to look at you (for the treat) mark that behavior with either a click (using a clicker) or by saying “yes”.  Once you have repeated this step you can then add distractions.  Have the dog on a leash so he cannot reach the distraction, (perhaps a low value piece of food on the ground) make the attention noise, and click or say “yes” and then feed a treat if the dog turns towards you after hearing the noise. If the dog does not turn towards you, do not click or say “yes”.  However, the dog should not be allowed to reach the distraction that he is interested in.  You can take a step backwards from the distraction to make it easier so the dog can succeed.  You can condition this attention noise to muscle memory in the same way a driver responds to a green light traffic signal (green light means go!).  Once you have created many different scenarios where your dog can disengage in what he is interested in to come towards you and look at you, you can start using the sound to interrupt behaviors that you find undesirable. 
Keep in mind that if you ignore the dog and only pay attention to him when he is doing undesirable behavior, you will be training him to do the things you do not want by providing your attention whenever the behavior occurs.  So the GOAL is to reward the dogs alternate responses in conjunction with interrupting and preventing the undesirable behaviors.  
Example: If your dog steals your underwear and runs around the house with them to get your attention, you have got to reinforce your dog with your attention when he is calm and doing NOTHING.  When your dog is lying at your feet quietly, that is when you will reinforce him with MORE attention than when he runs off with your underwear. 
Teaching a dog to focus on you:
Attention Exercise:  As the dog looks at you click and toss a treat and tell them to get it.  When the dog re-orientates to you and looks at you again, click and toss a treat.  Soon you will have the dog rushing to look at you again.  
  • Now do this exercise in different positions:  Standing, sitting, lying on the ground, walking, running, with your back turned to the dog (can they find your eyes?), and be creative.  
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHLvt6TQzqA 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011


Barking - WHY do dogs Bark?  HOW do I train a dog not to bark?
Barking is a perfectly natural dog behavior.  Humans talk, cry, yell, and whisper; Birds tweet, sing, and screech; and dogs bark, whine, and howl.  If you have a dog you should expect some barking.   It is unrealistic and simply not fair to think you can train your dog to stop barking altogether.  However, you, your neighbors, and your dog will all be happier if the barking is under control.
Did you know that dogs use different types of sound to communicate?  These sounds range from whimpering to barking to growling.  Dogs various sounds have different meanings.  For example, a dog can use one bark if it is being defensive, and a slightly different bark when he is afraid of something.  Dogs communicate vocally by whining, grunting, screaming, yelping, howling, growling, barking, and so much more.  Dogs are great at barking and enjoy barking, just like some humans enjoy talking.  However, dogs do bark for a variety of reasons.  
Dogs bark at people or things passing a window, fence, etc…
    • Barking seems to scare them away or so the dog thinks.  
    • If you “Yell” the dog thinks you are barking too and you both scared them away.
    • Barking will continue under those circumstances, in addition will add more stress to the dog and the family.
      • Teach an alternate behavior – Down, go to crate, or come and find you.
      • Praise, pet, and or give a treat to the dog for not barking or before he is able to bark.
      • Have strangers, “mail carriers” come and give the dog a cookie when he is quiet.
      • Most of the time if a dog is barking and the person stops to talk to the dog’s owner, the dog will eventually stop barking, and at that moment click and treat the dog, praise the dog, or simply toss the dog a treat.  As the dog is still quiet, randomly reward that quiet behavior.  
      • I have a theory that if a person walks past the house of a barking dog and happens to know the dogs name but does not really know the dog, saying the dogs name and acting like you know the dog, will help the dog to stop barking.  I have been experimenting with this theory, but of course it is just a theory.  
      • Make the triggers less easy to see – blocking views or moving the dog to another room to limit access to the window or fence can help manage the barking.  Please keep in mind that this is a management technique and will not magically cure your dog from barking.  Using management will prevent the dog from being able to practice the undesired behavior and keep the barking from becoming a learned habit.  A self-reinforcing habit.  
Dogs bark for attention…
    • Bark; let me out, Bark; let me in, Bark; give me a treat, Bark; I want to meet that dog or person, etc.  The dog barks to get attention.
      • Don’t YELL!  Just get up, walk away and ignore or turn your back and ignore.  (To a dog, negative attention is better than none at all.)  Yelling or saying, “knock it off” is negative attention.  It is not any different than the kid in the classroom that taps his pencil on the desk to get attention from the teacher.  So, if you ignore, eventually your dog will learn that barking is not worth it and does not get him what he wants, which is attention from you.
      • Remove the item that he wants or remove him from the environment if you have to.
      • As soon as he is quiet – PRAISE and REWARD.  
      • Praise for a few seconds of quietness and increase the time slowly.
      • You are now giving the dog the attention he needs, but on your terms and for the acceptable behavior of being quiet.
Dogs bark when they are stressed…
    • Do not YELL, this will only make the dog more stressed.  When you are stressed at work, it will make you more stressed if your supervisor or co-worker yells at you.  Too much stress can impact the immune system and cause illnesses.
    • Offer calming signals to relax your dog by yawning, lip licking, turning your head away, and using soft eye blinks.
    • Divert the dog’s attention if possible.
    • Train your dog to be calm, go to a mat or settle when distracting things are present.
    • Teach your dog to “check things out” and allow him to explore the “scary or weird” things in the environment.  If he is barking due to an object that is causing him stress.  
Dogs bark when bored…
    • Dogs that spend most of their time outside or alone and away from their human pack.
      • Frustrated and lonely – Dogs are pack animals and need to be around you for a good portion of their day.  This does not mean just in the house with you.  Your dog should receive individual attention and play a minimum of an hour a day with you.  
      • Bring your dog in when you are home and leave your dog in when you are not home. This way he can feel like part of the family. Do not leave your dog outside!  He is your dog, your best friend, and deserves to live in your home.  After all you would not leave your child outside all day, would you?
      • Provide daily social EXERCISE by walking in the neighborhood, 45-minute walk is great for most breeds. A properly exercised dog will sleep most of the day when you are not home. Allow your dog to sniff from time to time, which will give your dog some mental stimulation.
      • Having a large yard does not mean the dog is getting enough exercise – if your dog is dashing madly around the yard it is the equivalent of pacing, fidgeting, or other forms of nervous activity.
      • Dogs are social and need friends – schedule play dates with friend’s that have dogs.  
      • Dogs left alone bark to rid pent up energy and take up barking as a hobby.
      • Provide your dog with fun things to do – digging pit, chew toys (stuffed or not), treat balls, things to find, and calming music.
      • Engage your dogs BRAIN by TRAINING him.
        • Tricks
        • Basic obedience behaviors (sit, down, stand, stay, come, are just a few examples.)
        • Train your dog to do a dog sport (Agility, Canine Freestyle, Rally-O, Tracking, and so much more).
Dogs bark when they are afraid… 
    • There are various levels of fear, which range from unsure, worried, startled, extremely afraid, to panic attacks.
    • What are dogs afraid of?
      • Left alone (in home, car, crate, new place, or tied up) Such dogs are attempting to call their owners back home, but because the owner does eventually come back, the dog thinks that his barking was effective – so he may bark with more determination the next time.  This causes anxiety because the dog cannot cope without the owner. Videotape your dog during the day to see what is triggering his barking.  The more information you have the more success you will have at helping and training your dog.  
      • Sounds and startling noises
      • Threatening behaviors of other dogs and humans (arguments, aggression, anger, coming directly at a dog, and raised voices).
      • Exposure to new items or “scary things”  
      • Being held tightly in arms or on a leash, and loss of ability to escape if needed.  
It is hard to say what will trigger a dog to be fearful of something or what the dog will associate that fear with.  If you jerk on the leash when the dog barks at something he is afraid of then you are basically telling the dog that he should be afraid of that particular thing. When he looks at it, he gets a correction and that thing causes him pain.  He will also now associate you with that “scary thing” he is afraid of and now he will become afraid of you as well.  Chances are the dog will not think, “oh, it is because I barked that I got corrected” and even if he did, that is not a chance worth taking.  You could be creating a fearful dog by giving leash or verbal corrections and now your dog could associate those corrections with whatever he was afraid of, to begin with (dogs, people, cats, kids, you, and the list goes on and on).
So, how do you start teaching your dog “NOT” to bark?  In order to train your dog not to bark, you must first figure out WHY he is barking.  What is triggering the barking and then go from there? 
        • Many will say that teaching a dog to “Bark” on cue will decrease barking because the dog will only bark when given the cue to bark.  I have taught all my dogs to “Speak” on cue and to be honest, it does not prevent barking altogether but it does seem to decrease.  My dogs love being given the cue “Speak” which tells me that they really love to bark.  It is their favorite trick!
        • Reward is the best motivator!  Reward when the dog is not barking, and reward before the dog can bark, if something happens that he might normally bark at.  For example, if another dog barks, give your dog a treat for NOT barking back.  
        • When your dog is lying quietly and allowing you to visit with neighbors or talk on the phone you can praise and reward him, which will encourage the dog to remain quiet the next time.
I wish I could tell you the magic word and you would have all your barking problems go away, but that is simply not possible.  Dogs bark!  The key is to manage the barking and work on rewarding your dog the times he is quiet.  We tend to ignore our dogs when they are being “good”, but give them attention when the are being “bad”.  Why not just reward and give them attention when they are doing the things you like? 

Building A Bank of Reinforcers!

Building a bank of reinforcers 
Conditioning a large variety of reinforcers will create variety in training sessions.  You want as much variety in training sessions as possible to prevent boredom and to give you an edge when faced with high level distractions.  
Toys- Tugs, squeakies, balls, Frisbees, balloons, water squirts, food inside a thrown toy… Can you think of more?  
Activities-  getting to skateboard, getting to chase you, getting to go in the car to go for a ride, agility, and tricks.
Real Life rewards- getting to chase bunnies/birds, getting to play with a dog, going outside, sniffing bushes on walks, and being given the opportunity to run free.  
Food-  switch your food rewards CONSTANTLY!  Reinforcement EQUALS behavior! If your dog is acting bored and slow, its YOUR FAULT!  You are not giving the dog the reinforcement required for offering the behavior.  Be unpredictable with your reinforcement choice!  Hide food toys under your clothes and in your pockets.  Have an unpredictable reinforcement hidden somewhere, to surprise your dog with.  EVERY behavior your dog does has the possibility of a jackpot! He never knows when it will happen. 
Conditioned Secondary Reinforcers/Markers- Clapping, Touching your dog, Jumping, A vocalization- “yay!”, “good girl”, “yipee” and waving your arms can be conditioned as secondary reinforcers.  For competition where you are not allowed to talk, you could use a quick loud breath of air to tell your dog that they are doing “so far so good!”.  These conditioned reinforcers can be used to mark behavior that is on a variable schedule instead of using a clicker.  This is called a keep going signal and lets your dog know that he is on the right track, to keep going, and the reinforcement is coming.
How to use behaviors reinforcing in themselves- Using a behavior that is a conditioned reinforcer to reinforce a behavior chain.  Example- teach dog jump into arms as a reward at the end of a routine, or to fetch the leash.  Mix behaviors your dog likes to do naturally with the behavior you want your dog to do.  
Building a toy as a reward – creating new conditioned reinforcers 
  • If you have a dog that really likes food as their reinforcement and you would like them to play with a toy instead, here is what you can do.
    • Get the toy that you want the dog to play with.  Let’s use a tug toy as the example.
    • Build the dogs interest in the toy by starting off easy, dog looks at the toy, click and give the food reward.  
    • Now start asking for more interaction with the toy before the click and treat.  So, perhaps the dog will touch it with his nose.  Click and treat.
    • Then click for the dog taking the toy in his mouth.
    • Click for the dog holding it as you pull on the toy.
    • Play a small game of tug with it, click and treat.
    • You will be building value in the toy by using classical conditioning with the food reward.  Soon, the dog will want to play with the toy.  However, being that I have done this with my dog Isabelle, she still prefers the food over the toy, but her play drive has improved.  The same holds true to Bandit my border collie as I did the opposite with a toy.  I have been working on building his food drive by using the same method.  But the process is switched, so I give him food, he eats it and I click and reward with the ball, tug or Frisbee.  
Pamela Johnson, CPDT-KA

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Clicker Training BASICS

Clicker Training BASICS

1.  The Clicker is NOT a TOY and should ONLY be used as a training tool!  

2.  The clicker takes the focus off the reward so your dog can concentrate on what he was doing at the particular moment in time that he did the correct behavior.  
    -  The click is like a camera taking a picture of the exact behavior that you like or that you want repeated.  
    -   A good example is training a dolphin at Sea World to jump over a pole.  As the animal jumps over the pole the trainer clicks (whistles) to tell the dolphin he was correct, and then swims back to the trainer to receive his fish reward for the behavior.  If the trainer just gave him the fish with no click, then the dolphin might think that having his head out of the water with his mouth open is what earned him the fish and not the jump. 

3.  1 Click = 1 Reward (or more rewards if the dog does something amazing; JACKPOT)  

4.  What types of rewards?  
     -  Small smelly pea sized treats that are soft and easily swallowed so you don’t have to wait until your dog finishes chewing.  Be unpredictable by using at least four different kinds of treats, toys, and make use of environmental rewards (playing with dogs, sniffing bushes, etc.) when training new tricks or behaviors. 
5.  NEVER click the clicker next to your dogs ear, unless you have a quiet muffled clicker.

6.  If you click and you did not mean to click, you still OWE your dog a reward.  If you do not want that behavior to happen again, then make sure you do not click that behavior again. Practice your timing!  

7.  If your dog knows the behavior, they don’t need to be clicked, they already know what they are doing. 
     -  Clicking your dog is only reserved for training new behaviors or adding new criteria!   
8.  Clicking vs. “Good Boy” 
The clicker is consistent and always sounds exactly the same.  It has been tested scientifically that neurons in the brain can connect faster and more easily to a tone that sounds exactly the same rather than ones voice.  If you are using a clicker you are actually conditioning the dog to find the behaviors reinforcing.  Also, voice carries the trainer’s emotion.  People are talking all the time to their dog’s, so it is hard to make a novel sound used only for training sessions with one’s voice.  It is important to condition a word that means the same thing as a click for times that you do not have a clicker, when it is too difficult to hold the clicker, or if the dog is afraid of the clickers sound.  I use the word “YES” to mark behaviors and condition the word “YES”, so that the dog understands it.

9.  Keep your training sessions SHORT.  2-3 minutes!  Play to celebrate successes.  If you spread out short sessions throughout the day, a dog will learn much faster than a long session once a day.  Train during commercial breaks when watching TV.

10.  Start all training in a place with few to no distractions.  
Different rooms in your house with no other dogs, or animals.  Eventually progress to the yard, the street, and distracting places with other dogs and people as your dog is successful.  If at anytime your dog does seem distracted, do not try to work through it.  Move away from the distraction until your dog is able to listen and then go back to training the behavior.  Set your dog up for success and increase the level of difficulty slowly.  Kids start school in kindergarten and as they learn they move up in grades.  We would never expect a kid to go from kindergarten to college right away, so don’t expect your dog to either.  
Have fun with your dog!  A dog’s life is just too short!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Give your DOG a JOB!

Give your dog a job!
Many think that you have to do dog sports that stimulate a dogs instinct to be able to give your dog a job.  The truth is that it does not matter if you live in a house, on a farm, or in an apartment.  You can find a job for your dog!  Trust me, if you do not give your dog a job; he will create his own.  Chances are you will not like your dogs job ideas, which usually consist of barking at people or things passing by, chewing up your furniture, going through your laundry basket of dirty clothes, getting on the counter tops, digging in the trash, or destroying your favorite pair of shoes.  These “behavior problems” could simply be avoided if the owners gave their dog acceptable jobs to do.  You might be thinking, what kind of job could I possibly give my dog? Well the answer is simple!
When you are out of the house and your dog is home alone...
Try feeding your dog his breakfast by taking the kibble and hiding it around the house.  Dogs love to find things and this is a great way to stimulate your dogs mind.  
If you do not usually feed your dog breakfast, then you could hide a few of his favorite toys or acceptable chew bones around the house.  
There are some amazing food dispensing toys out on the market right now that allow you to put dog food or treats inside the toy and the dog has to knock the toy around with his nose or paws to get the treats out.  This is a challenge for the dog, stimulates their mind, and helps them work off some energy they might have stored up.
Hiding stuffed Kongs is another fun thing to do for your dog.  You can make it more interesting for your dog by stuffing the Kong with different things.  Maybe one day the Kong is stuffed with peanut butter and the next day it is stuffed with cream cheese.  This will make it more interesting to your dog when he is sniffing around trying to find the Kong.  Get creative with the hiding spots, don’t hide the items in the same spot, and challenge the dog by hiding the item in difficult places.  

Hide toy's, then encourage your dog to go find the toy's and give them a treat for every toy they find.  At first you might need to start with easy hiding places (maybe even in plain view) and then as your dog gets better at finding the toy's start hiding them in more challenging places.  We play find the tennis balls at our house and I try to get really creative as to where I hide the balls (on counters, under dog beds, inside boxes, and in every room of the house and yard.  Make sure to count the toys that you hide, because they might try to pretend not to find the toys so that they can play with them later.  LOL!  My Border Collie Bandit loves to pretend that he can't find the last toy and when we are watching TV he will come running in the living room with a ball in his mouth.  He is one clever pup!  Here is a youtube video that I did to show how to train a dog to find an item.  Treasure Hunt
When you are home and you want to give your dog something to do...
Train your dog to do a trick.  This is a fun job and it is a win win for the human and dog.  The dog gets to earn yummy treats or toy rewards and what an sense of accomplishment for the human.
Take your dog to class to learn a dog sport.  Dog sports are a fun way for humans and canines to bond and enjoy each others company.  In addition, your dog will be tired from all that learning.  
Play recall games with your dog.  My favorite one is hide-n-seek recalls, where I hide and then call my dogs to me.  They have to run around and find me.  Once they find me they all get a treat or to play tug with me.  
If you are busy and want your dog to just chill out, you can give him a yummy chew bone.  I love to use antlers, bully sticks, and stuffed frozen Kongs, but there are literally a ton of different types of chew bones.  
Take your dog for an exploration walk to sniff bushes and check out the environment.  Sometimes I will hide things (tennis balls or treats) as my dog is distracted and then get excited when they find the items I hid.  Sometimes my dogs find cool sticks, pinecones, and balls that were dropped by other dogs (Woo Hoo, Score).  
Go on a hike!  If you have a really energetic dog, you can get a backpack for him and make it his job to carry the water bottles.  I would only put one on each side to even out the weight.  
Teach your dog to find, fetch, and bring you things; such as the TV remote, your keys, slippers, get the clicker, and anything you might want.
If your dog loves people, consider training him to become a Therapy Dog and take him to hospitals, rest homes, and to visit children at schools.  
The ideas are endless as to what jobs you can give your dog.  The more you teach them the less they have time to create their own work.  The bottom line is to stimulate your dogs mind to prevent boredom.  
By Pamela Johnson

Monday, October 3, 2011

Go Slow to Go FAST!

I am a teacher and we have been reading a book called, “Secrets of the Teenage Brain”, by Sheryl G. Feinstein .    As I read this book I would think about how much it also relates to dogs and dog training.  When teaching kids it is important that they have good foundation skills in order to learn more difficult information.  It is not any different for training dogs.  You have to build a solid foundation of skills, behaviors, and develop a great bond with your dog before you can move onto training more difficult tricks, dog sports, or behaviors.
This made me think about what is it that I feel is important to train a dog to do in order to build a solid foundation.  
Learning games: Teach your dog to think by playing clicker games, 101 things to do with a box, recall games, attention games, and impulse control games.  It has been proven that when a species learns, they are increasing the synapses in the brain, and basically means the dog is getting smarter.
Socialization:  Socialize your dog to dogs, people, other animals, things, environments, and surfaces.  It is important to provide your dog with positive life experiences.
Communication: Develop clear communication with your dog through positive reinforcement or clicker training by having good timing, being consistent, setting an acceptable criteria or expectations, and 
Teach dogs to do what you want them to do, ignore what you do not want, and manage to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced.
Be NOVEL!!  Be FUN!!  Humans and dogs alike find novelty to be interesting and engaging.  The other day in my PE class a student taught me this new dance move called a shuffle and they do this move in the song "Party Rock Anthem".  Well after learning it, I used that move to get their attention at roll call and to tell them what they were doing for the day.  Every student's eyes were on me and listening.  It was fun and novel that their PE teacher was doing the same dance move that they love.  We need to be like this with our dogs!  Make training fun, be your dogs favorite playmate, and your dog will WANT to LEARN!
Playtime:  Teaching a dog how to play with you, with toys, and with other dogs is a really valuable foundation skill.  You want to train your dog the rules involved during playtime.  Maybe those rules include: dropping the toy when asked, fetching the toy, not putting his mouth on the human, and playing appropriately with other dogs.  Building a dogs play drive can strengthen the human canine relationship! 
Teach BASIC skills:  Teach a dog their NAME, Sit, Down, Stay, Come, hand targeting, loose leash walking, and to pay attention to you.  Teach basic skills without force, intimidation, and physical punishment to help you build a positive strong bond with your dog. 
Before a child can form sentences they must first learn their ABC’s. First a kid crawls, then walks, and finally runs.  The same goes for our dogs.  Before we can teach them to walk on a loose leash, we must first teach them how to accept having a collar and leash on.  Before we can teach a dog to stay around distractions, we must first teach them how to stay in one spot for duration.  In the beginning that stay might be one second, but we build on that behavior until they can stay for a minute.  Then we add, distance, and eventually we add distractions and put it all together.  It is not fair to ask a child to write a paragraph when they just learned how to formulate a simple sentence.  So, it is not fair to ask something of our dogs that we have not really taught and practiced.  

By, Pamela Johnson

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Motivates your dog or puppy?

What motivates your DOG or PUPPY?
A well-trained dog does not work for free!
Why is it important to motivate your dog?  Many think that dogs should just want to please us and the truth is that dogs do what benefits them and what earns them reinforcement.  Pulling to sniff a bush is reinforcing, because he pulled and received the benefit of sniffing the bush.  What if he could also get to sniff the bush if he first did what you want?  Let’s say, he walks on a loose leash, then you could reinforce him by allowing him to sniff a bush.  This is just one example of reinforcement.  There are countless ways one can reinforce a dog.  Keep in mind that dogs are always learning.  They can either be taught the right behaviors or they can learn bad habits all on their own.  “You can’t blame him, if you don’t train him”, so ask yourself, “is he learning the right behaviors?”  Are you teaching him what you do want, rather than punishing what you do not want?  
How do you teach him the appropriate behaviors?  First, determine what it is that you want your dog to know.  Next, find things that your dog finds reinforcing.  Now, use those reinforcers to reward all the behaviors that you like.  Soon your dog will choose to do what you like, because he is earning what he likes.  In other words, good things happen to the dog when he does the proper behaviors.
Positive reinforcement is not about becoming a cookie pusher.  Comments such as,  “I do not want my dog to get fat” or “I do not want to always have to give my dog treats”, are not true if reinforcement is used properly.  Many use treats as bribes to elicit a behavior.  I am not suggesting that you bribe your dog with a reinforcer, but rather wait for the acceptable behavior and then reinforce.  Reinforcement is much more complicated and important than just giving dogs treats.  If reinforcement is used properly it can have a long lasting effect on the dog’s behavior.  I always say, “Reinforcement drives behavior” because the more a particular behavior is rewarded the more the dog will offer and perform that specific behavior.  I like to think of reinforcement as a paycheck for a job well done.  I would not go to work if I did not receive a paycheck. I love training dogs, but would not train my client’s dogs for free.  Do you work for free?  
What is reinforcing to a dog?  
When a trainer says they use reinforcement, the first thing people think of are treats or food, but reinforcement could be food, toys, play, or environmental rewards.  Think of reinforcement as something valuable, a reward, or motivator. Being able to get in many repetitions in the beginning of training is important because it will help the dog build muscle memory for that particular behavior, which is why many use food rewards in training. 
Why should one use reinforcement or rewards when training a dog?  
Well as I mentioned earlier, “Reinforcement drives behavior”.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that if a desired behavior is rewarded many times, then the likelihood of the dog doing that behavior will increase.  From the day I brought my puppy home, I rewarded him for being next to me.  Whenever he chose to be next to me either on or off leash, I would give him a piece of food or play tug with him.  Now, he is a permanent fixture at my side, which is just one great example of how reinforcing a behavior really works.  
Food Rewards
The great thing about reinforcing a dog with food is that all dogs need to eat. Some dogs are more interested in food than others.  Using food as a reward is simple for dog owners.  In addition giving treats, allows for many repetitions to take place of a desired behavior in a short amount of time, which is important in the beginning stages of training.
Training Tips Regarding Food Rewards:
  1. Use treats that are more valuable than your dog’s daily dinner when training a new behavior. Here are some examples: chicken, lamb, beef, cheese, kibble, lunch meat, hot dogs, canned chicken, salmon, and cereal.  
  2. Prepare the treats ahead of time and make sure they are about the size of a pea for large dogs and smaller than a pea for small dogs.  This will prevent the dog from filling up quickly and will allow for more repetitions of a given behavior.
  3. If the dog gives you an outstanding effort (faster, snazzier, or around distractions) feel free to give the dog a jackpot.  A jackpot consists of about ten treats given one right after another along with praise, which tells the dog that he did an amazing job.  Dog’s, like a human sitting at the slot machine will remember that jackpot.
  4. Food rewards should be easy to chew and swallow.  You do not want your dog choking.
  5. If the environment is distracting, then the food reward should be of higher value and worth the effort for your dog. When you are training a behavior in your kitchen you might get away with using kibble, but when training at the park you will need to bring out the high value rewards.
  6. Use a variety of food rewards in training.  This will help prevent the dog from being bored of that particular food and will keep the dogs attention.  When you vary the reinforcement, you will become unpredictable and this will keep your dog engaged.  
  7. To prevent weight gain, make sure that when doing a lot of training, you cut back on the dog’s daily food intake.
  8. If your dog is more toy motivated, you could give a piece of food as a reward and when he eats the food, he gets to play with his favorite toy.  This will build the value of the food. 
If your dog is not “food motivated” then I would suggest cutting back on the dogs daily food intake.  Sometimes dogs are just over fed and are not hungry when training.  By decreasing the amount of food the dog intakes and putting the dog on a food schedule, you will find that the dog should be more interested in the food as a reward.  In addition to limiting a dog’s daily food intake, you could use their regular dinner for training.  Lastly, if your dog is normally food motivated, but will not take food it could be that he is too stressed to eat.  Move to a different location or create more distance between your dog and the distractions until your dog is able to eat again.
Toy rewards
Some dogs are very motivated by toys and play, so you should definitely use toys as a reward anytime you can.  You should vary the reinforcer and alternate between toys and treats to prevent boredom as well as teach your dog to work for many types of reinforcement.  
For dog’s that do not prefer to play, you can train him to like it more by associating play with treats.  Get the dog interested in the toy and for playing he gets a treat.  Eventually your dog will enjoy playing and you can use play as reinforcement in training.  
Start playing with your dog or puppy to build the desire to play and keep using play as a motivator.  Put the toys away and only bring them out during training and when you are playing with your dog.  This will increase the value of the toy and help build a positive connection with you.  
The great thing about play is that it really allows the dog and owner to build a strong connection and bond.  This wonderful relationship will grow the more you get to know and spend time with your new shelter dog.  Playing is also good exercise and mentally stimulating. 

Many are afraid that too much play will cause the dog to stress or become over aroused, which could be true depending on the situation.  However, if you make sure your dog knows the rules of the game and acts appropriately by taking it, dropping it, bringing it back to continue play, and does not to put his teeth on you, then you are probably just fine.
Use a variety of toys such as: tugs, balls, Frisbees, and squeaky toys.  The variety of toys that you can find at a local pet store is astounding.  
Environmental rewards
There are many things in the environment that dogs find reinforcing.  So, use those things as rewards.  This method is called the Premack Principle and basically can be used with anything that your dog finds exciting.  In short, if the dog does something you like, he gets something he likes.  You ask your dog to walk on a loose leash and he gets to sniff a bush.  You ask your dog to come to you and then he can go back and play with his doggie friends.  You ask your dog to do agility obstacles and then he can go and sniff gopher holes.  I personally use a clicker or a word to mark the behavior I like and then a release cue such as “Ok, Break, or Free” to tell the dog he can go to his reward.  Every dog finds things in the environment rewarding, so why not use them in training.  
Some environmental rewards might include: playing with human family members, sniffing (bushes, grass, dogs, sidewalks, gopher holes), playing with another dog, swimming, and running.  By observing your dog you can figure out what he really enjoys.  
Your homework
It does not matter if you just rescued a dog or if you have had your dog for years, it is never too late to find something that will motivate him to learn.  The best way to find out what your new dog will go nuts over is to try out many food items, toys, and to observe your dog to find out what he likes to do.  I challenge you to find at least five food, five toys, and five environmental rewards that your dog loves.  Once you find out his favorites, rank the items and know which ones are more valuable than others.  You can rank them according to one being the most valuable and five being the least.  Now you are ready to use these rewards to train your dog.
For learning to take place, it is important to know what motivates your dog.  Every dog is different, just like every human is different.  What works for one, may not work for another.  So, experiment and find the perfect rewards for your dog.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Be a 'GREAT LEADER' to your dog!

Be a ‘Great Leader’ to your dog! 
In my definition ‘Leader’ is synonymous to ‘Guide’ rather than ‘Dictator’.  A great leader should communicate clearly by providing consequences to behavior, strive to gain trust and respect, create training goals, guide by setting the dog up to succeed rather than fail, and motivate the dog!
Great leaders set good examples by showing, explaining, and communicating clearly as to what is expected and acceptable.  There must be consequences to all behavior, but in no way shape or form is any sort of physical/verbal punishment, force, intimidation, or aggressive actions acceptable when being a great leader to your dog.  Dogs are not wolves, nor do humans need to make them “submissive” or show “dominance” over them.  As a leading agility trainer Susan Garrett says, “positive is not permissive”.  This means that just because we are being positive with our dogs, we do not let them get away with everything.  To provide consequences one simply has to reinforce behaviors that are appropriate, interrupt behaviors that are inappropriate, and prevent the dog from being reinforced for practicing unwanted behaviors.  You can interrupt behavior by making an attention noise that has been trained using positive reinforcement or recalling your dog.  There is no need to become a dictator when stopping unwanted behavior.  Recent scientific data has proven that aggression towards animals can actually increase stress hormones.  Therefore, the reverse effect of increasing aggression and stress behaviors in dogs causing more problem behaviors as a side effect. 
In a world where people are getting dogs specifically to be their companions, benevolent leadership is becoming the popular way to train.  The dog takes on the role as the training partner who is happy, willing and eager to learn; while the owner strives to be a great leader to their dog.  I love seeing results and feel pride knowing that I have never had to yell at or physically punish a dog.  What is the secret?  Well, learning to be a great leader is what it is all about in my opinion.  
1.  Clear Communication:
Clicker/marker training will aid in bridging the gap between you and your dog and is a great way to establish clear communication.  Either the dog does the right behavior and gets rewarded or he does the wrong behavior and tries again.  All species including humans can be trained with markers.  It is as though you are taking a snapshot of the behaviors you like and follow with reinforcement to ensure those behaviors are more likely to happen again.  Once you have conditioned the dog to understand what the marker or click means, you will have established a clear-cut way of communicating.  In my opinion, one needs to take responsibility of training their dog.  Part of training is to teach the dog what you do want him to do; rather than punishing him for doing the natural dog behaviors he might think up on his own.  Through clicker training you can establish a clear and effective way to communicate with your best friend.
A responsible dog owner teaches their dog how to earn privileges and rewards.  We all work for the things we want or need.  Our dogs can work for their dinner, playtime, affection, attention, things in the environment, and anything else he may want.  A leader sets the rules and enforces the rules in a fair respectful way.  One does not need to force a dog into submission or intimidate a dog to ensure he listens and follows rules.  Training a dog using force or physical aggression which is demonstrated by many that call themselves “Pack Leaders” will have the side effect of  teaching a dog that force, aggression, intimidation is an acceptable behavior.  Aggression begets aggression.  I am a progressive reinforcement dog trainer and use marker training.  I have rules for just about everything, greeting (dogs and humans), walking on a leash, coming when called, knowing where to go potty, appropriate play, and house manners just to list a few.  If you do not communicate to your dog what you do want him to do, he will learn, but will he learn acceptable behaviors?  Chances are he will not learn what is acceptable, but rather what is fun and reinforcing.  Barking, pulling, chasing cats, jumping up on humans are all highly reinforcing behaviors for our canines!  What do you want your dog to know?  Once you figure that out, you are ready to start communicating and reinforcing those great choices your dog makes, guiding him in the right direction, and teach him how to learn and earn.
When one trains their dog using this type of leadership the relationship between dog and human will be strengthened and the things you and your dog can accomplish will be unlimited.  
The art of communication is the language of leadership. 
2.  Trust and Respect
Align your words and actions. Stay true to what you believe and with who you are. Your beliefs are the foundation of every decision and every action you make. It is what makes you trustworthy and respectable, when dealing with humans or dogs.   
It is important to establish trust, respect, and for the dog to know that no matter what happens the leader will provide for, protect, take care of, and keep him out of harms way.   Give your dog 100% of your attention when working with him, where ever you are, “be all there”.  Be that dedicated leader your dog deserves.  Human canine relationships are built on trust, not dominance.  So, be consistent and fair.  Training or teaching a dog is not any different than teaching a kid.  In our society it is not acceptable to mistreat, physically punish, or yell at children, so why do so many feel the need to do those things to a dog. Physical punishment, intimidation, and force will only destroy trust and respect. 
You don't lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership. 
3.  Goal Setting & Having a Game Plan
It is important to know and write down what you want to achieve and set goals that are realistic and achievable to create a successful dog training plan.  Setting small attainable goals through the use of a training plan, making changes when needed, and being patient to allow learning to take place is what great leaders do. Set goals that allow the dog to be successful and encourage the dog to want to play this game that we call, “training”.  If you want a dog to succeed, you need to have a well thought out plan.  When a dog is successful and rewarded for his hard work, it helps build confidence, makes him more comfortable, and builds a strong relationship between the trainer and dog.  When you build a dogs desire to work, it is a win win situation.  
A great leader can recognize when things have gone wrong in training and can turn those challenging moments into learning experiences and formulate a new plan that will cause the next training session to be successful.  It is important to appreciate differences in dogs, draw from the dog’s strengths, and build a training plan according to each dog.  
I have a Husky mix and two Border Collies and I do not expect my Husky mix to be able to do some of the tricks that my Collies can.  I pick tricks that are acceptable for her size, modify tricks, and make sure she can physically do the tricks.  I would also not expect her to learn at the rate which my Border Collies learn.  However, she is very smart and because I have taught her to learn, she picks up tricks very quickly.  One would think she has the intelligence of a Border Collie.  I set goals and have a plan to ensure she is successful with everything I teach her.  
One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency. 
4.  Provide Learning Opportunities
Great dog leaders provide learning opportunities; setting the dog up for success by using a well thought out plan, and guiding the dog in the right direction.  It is important to allow a dog the opportunity to think for himself, figure things out, and learn on his own. Make sure the environment is safe and will not cause a regression in training, injury, or allow the dog to have a bad experience.  Play learning games with your dog and help him grow into a confident, secure, well-adjusted dog.
Education is the mother of leadership. 
5.  Motivation & FUN!
It is important to be able to motivate, engage the learner and build value for what the trainer wants because it is in the dog’s best interest.  The dog gets rewarded through fun playtime, treats, the environment or with anything the dog finds valuable that you can use for doing proper behaviors.  Great leaders are creative, know how to have fun, and are imaginative. Einstein wrote “imagination is more important than knowledge.” The ability to think and see things differently allows leaders to go in new directions instead of following others.  Look for more ways to motivate and in return open up the pathways for more possibilities.
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. 
In conclusion, train your dog to do what you want him to do.  Guide him by teaching him the appropriate behaviors and reward him for it.  Your dog will repeat what he finds reinforcing.  So, be sure to reward him for things that are acceptable or he will find things that are reinforcing without you.  An example of this is barking at people passing by could be highly rewarding, so make sure you make being quiet when people pass by more rewarding.  
You can be a great leader.  You can make a difference, enforce changes, have success, and earn the respect you deserve from colleagues, friends, neighbors, children, spouses, and yes even your dog by being an amazing leader.  
By Pamela Johnson

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Before I was a Dog MOM!

    [Author Unknown]
Before I was a Dog Mom: I made and ate hot meals unmolested; I had unstained, unfurred clothes; I had quiet conversations on the phone, even if the doorbell rang.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got to bed . . . or if I could get into my bed.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I cleaned my house everyday, I never tripped over toys, stuffies, chewies, or invited the neighbor's dog over to play.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I didn't worry if my plants, cleansers, plastic bags, toilet paper, soap or deodorant were poisonous or dangerous.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I had never been peed on, pooped on, drooled on, chewed on, or pinched by puppy teeth.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I had complete control of my thoughts, my body and my mind. I slept all night without sharing the covers or pillow.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I never looked into big, soulful eyes and cried. I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop a hurt. I never knew something so furry and four-legged could affect my heart so deeply.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I had never held a sleeping puppy just because I couldn't put it down. I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was well. I didn't know how warm it feels inside to feed a hungry puppy. I didn't know that something so small could make me feel so important.
Before I was a Dog Mom:  I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache, the wonderment, or the satisfaction of being
                                                                                 A Dog Mom ~