By Kevin Duggan, CPDT-KA
From time to time you'll come across a dog that just seems to listen to its owner without receiving any rewards. Those dogs are often labeled as "good dogs." But what if I told you that those dogs are actually a bit afraid and that's why they're doing what is asked of them? The owner may not be very harsh but the dog is just "soft."
More often than not dog owners would prefer for their dogs to just listen to them without doling out any consequences. Unforunately it doesn't work this way. A dog's life is all about consequences. Behaviors that lead to consequences that a dog likes will happen more frequently. When a dog figures out that jumping on the counter equals getting food, this doesn't make him a bad dog, it simply makes him a dog.
A dog doesn't have any desire to be good or bad. All a dog wants is to obtain things it enjoys and to avoid things that it finds aversive. We as humans throw out these labels as if a dog has a moral compass. We also are under the belief that good dogs are eager to please us and bad dogs are not. Humans really just overcomplicate things.
If we want to have a well-behaved dog ("a good dog") then there are things we need to do to make that happen.
1. Reward behaviors you want to see more of.
We have treat jars placed strategically throughout our home. This allows us to never miss a moment to reward a behavior that we like. You can wait for the behavior to happen and then reward it or you can ask your dog to do a behavior you like and then reward it. A down-stay on a mat or a bed is a fantastic behavior to reward. If your dog is holding a down-stay then they're not doing any bad behaviors. Our dogs are around eight years old and they still get rewarded with food. Because they've had a lot of training we can deliver our rewards a lot less frequently. With a young impulsive dog you'll have to reward much more frequently. But as mentioned, with strategic training you can spread the rewards out.
2. Manage so that your dog is unable to rehearse behaviors you don't like.
It's important to reward the "good" behaviors but it's equally as important to prevent the "bad" behaviors from happening. Gates, keeping counters clear, leashes and securing your garbage are all examples of managing the evironment so that your dog can't rehearse the unwanted behavior. Two of our dogs don't really care much about the things on the counters or the garbage but V is an opportunist. His mission of finding every ounce of food in the house beings the moment we leave. We can't train him not to do it when we aren't there, but we manage by putting up gates and babylocking the garbage in the cupboard.
It's no secret that a tired dog is a "good dog." Exercise is a way for the dog to get rid of excess energy. You can do walks or hire a dog walker, find a dog daycare or do 10-15 minutes of training. Another great way is a "work to eat" toy. Instead of giving your dog its entire meal from the dog bowl put it into a toy that makes your dog have to work to get the kibble out. There are a lot of different options out there. The right difficulty level will take your dog 10-20 minutes to consume its meal. During this time your dog is working its brain and its body (mental and physical exercise).
In closing, there is no such thing as a dog that is just "good." They're either a bit on the soft side, or they receive training and have their environments managed to assure they're staying out of trouble. Soft dogs are responding because they're a bit afraid and dogs that aren't soft aren't responding because they need training and their environments managed.
A cue is a signal that is used to get a behavior to happen. Cues are a way that we communicate with our dogs and get them to do the things that we like. They can be done verbally or signaled. Some examples of verbal cues are “sit,” “down,” “come,” “stay” and “leave it.” Signaled cues for us are palm up for sit, palm down for down, and palm straight out for stay.
How to teach your dog a cue
The first thing you need to do is select the behavior you’d like to teach. For most behaviors it is easy to get it started with a food lure. A food lure is a piece of food that your dog gets to lick and nibble on while you get him to do the behavior you’d like. Once he does the behavior, he gets the food lure. Once he is doing this reliable we can start to add in the cue. If we were using “sit” as the example, we could have started with the dog in a stand (on all fours) and we would have had him follow the food lure as we brought it over his head and towards his rear. This should have caused him to fall into a sitting position. As soon as he is doing this reliably (4/5 attempts) we could add in the cue. Our cue for this is lifting our empty hand palm up over the dog’s head. The recommendation is to just hold it there and wait for the dog to sit. Once he does, reward him with a treat from your other hand. If we wanted to go a step further and get the dog to do the behavior for a verbal cue then we would want to make sure the dog is doing the behavior reliably for the hand signaled cue. If he can do it for the hand signal 4/5 times then we can add it in. The way to do this is to say your verbal cue first, wait a few seconds and then follow with that hand signal. This will take several repetitions for the dog to get it. The point is to get the dog to see that the verbal cue actually predicts the hand signal. Once he gets it he will start to do the behavior before you have the chance to give him the hand signal.
How to ensure your cue is reliable
Once you’ve got your behavior on cue there are a couple things you want to do. The first thing is you want to make sure that the behavior cued always gets rewarded. If the behavior is not rewarded it will stop happening. This is because behaviors happen because of the consequence that comes from the behavior. You can reward the behaviors a few different ways. You can use food, toys, attention or other environmental reinforcers. Depending on the situation one will work better than the other.
The second thing you want to do is make sure that you only give the cue one time. Once you’ve got your dog responding to a verbal cue, say it once and see what happens. If the behavior doesn’t happen, instead of repeating the cue, give the hand signal that you worked on prior to the verbal cue. This will increase the probability that the behavior will happen without losing the value of the verbal cue. Once again, make sure you reward the behavior. The point of only giving the cue once is because the more you give it without getting the response, the less value the cue has. This means that when you need it to happen, it probably won’t. It’s the same for a hand signal. If you repeat your hand signal over and over your dog will start to tune it out.
What to do if it just isn’t working
If your dog was responding to your cues and all of the sudden stops it could be for a couple reasons.
One reason is because the environment may be too distracting. Distractions are competing motivators. This means that your dog finds those distractions appealing and wants to investigate them further. The best way to get your dog to respond when they are around is to practice your cues with them far away. A good way to do this is to introduce the cues in your home. Once they are happening reliably, go outside to the least distracting part of your yard and practice them. If you need to, go back to the beginning and lure a few. If you do have to go back to a lure to start, try to quickly get back to the hand signal. We don’t want our dogs to be “lure dependent.” (Lure dependency basically means that a dog will not do the behavior unless food is in sight.) Once your dog is doing the cues reliably, go to another part of your yard where the distractions may be a bit more intense. Follow the same pattern as mentioned above.
Another reason may be because your rate of reinforcement is too low. This basically means that you’re moving a little too slow and not giving your dog enough reinforcement to continue with the behaviors. This typically happens when there are competing motivators. The best way to get your dog to respond to the cues is to ask for a behavior, reward it and repeat. This will increase the chances that your dog is staying focused on you and responding to your cues.
Your dog will never respond to your cues with 100% reliability, so don’t expect it. Remember that they are animals and they have their own minds. The best way to get it to happen is to use a high rate of reinforcement, proof it in different environments with a variety of distractions and to go to the previous step if the first cue doesn’t work. (Verbal, Hand Signal and then Food Lure) By always rewarding the behaviors you ensure that the chances of them happening again in the future are high. To set yourself up to always reward the behaviors it’s a good idea to have a treat bag on you and treat jars throughout your home. Also remember that you can always leverage the thing that your dog is motivated to have. If you follow these guidelines you will have a dog that responds reliably to your cues.
The age old question, should you feed your dog from the table? What happens if you feed your dog from the table? Will this create begging? Let’s take a deeper look.
Dogs do what works. This means that if hanging out by the table results in getting food scraps a dog will do it. This is what humans refer to as begging. Quite frankly, if what you have smells good, a dog is probably going to be interested which will equals begging too.
At this point you’re probably assuming that feeding your dog from the table is bad. But what if we told you that you can feed your dog from the table and it won’t result in having your dog’s nose in your meal? The answer is to reward your dog while he is far away from the table. If you’re consistent with this, your dog will develop a bias towards being away from the table instead of being near it.
A great way to make this happen is to teach your dog how to “lie down” and stay on cue. You can take those skills and cue him to stay and wait for his table scrap from there. (Side note: Not all table scraps are safe for dogs. Additionally instead of using table scraps you can use dog treats.)
In conclusion, by following what is mentioned here, you are allowed to feed your dog from the table as long as you feed him while he isn’t right next to it. Regardless if you want to give table scraps or not, to decrease begging you should teach a down-stay and implement it at mealtime. During this implementation you’ll want to use rewards to reinforce the behavior making it more likely to happen again in the future.
Here's a video on the subject
The first time I experience something new it can really stick out. This is the same for everyone. We all know how important first impressions are to us. But what about our dogs? Do they remember when they come across something new? Are they even paying attention? Let's look a little deeper.
Animals are always learning. They are either learning from the consequences of their behaviors or they're learning by way of association. I think we all understand consequences to behaviors. If you comb the beach for buried treasure and find some, you're likely to keep looking for more. This is because you like the consequence of looking for treasure. The consequence of finding the buried treasure is actually going to help build an association too. You're very likely now to love beaches. Imagine if this was your very first time at a beach?
Associations happen when something predicts something. If a beach predicts buried treasure, you're going to like beaches. If a dog hears a bell prior to receiving food, the dog is going to like the sound of a bell. Associations are always being built. The strongest association that happens for dog or human is the very first impression of something new. If a dog walks into our training center and is given lots of tasty treats, that dog is going to see that the training center predicts tasty treats and is going to build a positive association especially because of that first impression. If a dog is walking down the street and a bus goes by making a very loud startling noise, the dog is going to be afraid of buses because they predict loud noises which are scary.
It's extremely important to set our dogs up to see that new stimuli (people, places, noises, surfaces etc.) predict awesome stuff. This is especially important because that first experience is so salient. It's what is remembered most. Having a behaviorally sound adult dog is contingent upon those first impressions.
To set yourself and your dog up to succeed it's very wise to have tasty treats on you in a treat bag. The goal is to give your dog lots of great stuff a few seconds after it is experiencing something new. Scary bus goes by and your dog alerts to it, give him lots of good stuff. This will show him that buses going by predict awesome stuff. Once again, this is extremely important the very first time your dog experiences that thing.
Another way to set your dog up for success is to make sure that you aren't using a training device that causes any pain or discomfort. Choke chains, prong collars and shock collars all work via pain or discomfort. This is the easiest way to teach your dog that things in its environment predict things that the dog doesn't like. If you're currently using a device that works via pain or discomfort, take a look at this for alternate devices that will give you control and won't have any side effects.
Remember, first impressions matter to us and they matter to your dog. Take advantage of them. If you have a young dog, you're going to come across a lot of "firsts." Have your treats ready and build some positive associations.
Dog owners have questions, and dog trainers have answers. Most of the questions that dog owners have are due to the fact that their dog is doing behaviors that they dislike. That is where the answers from the trainer comes in handy. One thing that must be mentioned before continuing on here is that the dog training industry is unregulated. This means that anyone can call himself or herself a dog trainer and can give any type of answer without any proof that it will work or no mention of any side effects that could come from the advice given. So do your research before hiring a dog trainer. Click here for more information on that topic.
So lets get into some secrets to a happy, healthy, relatively stress free life with your dog.
1. Consistency is Everything
What does it mean to be consistent? It means providing things your dog enjoys after it does behaviors you enjoy and ensuring that your dog doesn't get anything it enjoys for doing behaviors that you don't enjoy. Getting good stuff for behaviors will most likely lead to reinforcement of those behaviors which means they will continue to happen in the future. So if you're providing good stuff for when your dog is lying on its bed instead of standing underfoot in the kitchen, you'll see more lying on the bed in the future and less underfoot in the kitchen.
If you're consistent about consequences you'll find that your dog is doing less to aggravate you. Be consistent about ensuing your dog isn't able to get into stuff when left alone. This can be done by utilizing a crate, a gate, or a dog daycare that is properly staffed and understands dogs.
Dogs also benefit from routines. If you're consistent about when they eat, train, and exercise things are much easier. If you're dealing with a dog that is eliminating in the house, one of the first things to do is get him on a strict schedule. If you live in a home with multiple people, ensure that everyone is being consistent.
2. Exercise is a Must
A lot of issues that people deal with on a daily basis are the result of a dog that hasn't had its needs met. It is a must to provide an outlet for your dog's energy. If you do not, your dog will find an outlet and it's going to result in frustration on your part. Yep, there goes your shoes, your wall, your socks... You'll end up chasing your dog around the house trying to catch him so he'll drop that forbidden object. A questions we get often as trainers is how to prevent the game of keep away. Well, with a young dog, it's inevitable that it will happen from time to time if there are management fails, but the best offense here is a good defense. That defense is helping your dog release its energy in an appropriate fashion.
You can provide exercise in multiple ways. One is to work the your dog's brain. This can be accomplished by doing 10-15 minute training sessions where you either working on regular obedience behaviors or you can even get fancy with it and teach tricks. Teaching tricks is a great way to improve your training skills as well. Click here to learn more about teaching tricks.
The other more obvious way is to do physical exercise. Walks, fetch, jogging, tug... There are so many ways to do it and a lot of it will get you exercise too. At least an hour of physical exercise for a young dog is a must. You've probably already caught on, but if you don't you'll regret it later.
3. Training is a Must
If you want to live in harmony with your dog then it's highly recommended to teach them skills like sit, down, stay, leave it, and come. Stay is one of the most valuable behaviors especially when you have multiple dogs. We use stay often when we are trying to get one dog outside and we don't want the other two to follow. Instead of getting into a power struggle trying to body block or overpower the other two, we ask them to go to their beds and remain there while the other dog goes outside. In return for this behavior they get a small food reward.
"Leave it" comes in handy in so many ways. We use the behavior of "leave it" in place of the word "no." Anytime that we would say "no" to our dogs we ask them to "leave it" instead because this is a behavior we have taught them. This behavior means to give up, or back off. "No" to a dog means nothing and the human ends up repeating it until they're voice gets louder and it startles the dog so it stops the behavior. This falls under the power struggle that we work to avoid.
4. Rewarding Behaviors is a Must
Food is usually the easiest reward that can be given. We recommend having small treat jars placed strategically throughout your home so you always have access to a reward to give at the opportune moment. This comes in very handy when you're having your dog stay, or come. The goal with rewarding behaviors is that it is going to serve as reinforcement which means the behavior will happen more frequently in the future. If behaviors that you like happen more frequently in the future, then you're going to be happy because if your dog is doing wanted behaviors, it isn't doing unwanted behaviors.
Different situations call for different rewards. If your dog likes to bolt out of the door, you can teach him to wait and if he does, the reward can be going outside. If your dog is very motivated to greet a person, that person serves as the reward at that moment. If your dog is pulling on leash to get to a fire hydrant, that hydrant could be the reward. All we need to do is teach/ask for behaviors and then provide access to the thing the dog wants when done correctly.
5. Socialization is a Must
A dog that is sequestered in a home all day everyday is very likely to develop issues when he finally gets to experience the world outside the home. Socialization is about building positive associations with the things that the dog comes across. If you're walking your dog and he sees a person, you can provide a piece of food for your dog noticing the person. With repetition, your dog will start to associate people it sees with stuff it likes. This is just a quick example. Ultimately though, it is extremely important to get your dog out so it can see the world and build positive experiences.
One of the mistakes people make is thinking that a dog will build the association all on its just be experiencing this stuff. It will most likely not work that way for your dog. And if you're using "training equipment" like shock collars, choke or pinch collars you could be helping your dog build negative associations. You can learn more about that here.
Take a look at this video for a real world example of socialization:
What is a bored dog?
A bored dog is an under stimulated dog that has not had his physical or mental needs met. A bored dog has lots of energy that needs to be released. When a human does not meet the needs of their dog, the dog finds a way to meet it's own needs. When a dog meets its own needs, it's typically happening in a way that annoys the human. Some examples are digging, barking, barking, barking, jumping on counters, getting in the garbage etc.
How to prevent boredom
Preventing boredom is a little labor intensive. Every dog is different so their individual needs are different. Generally speaking though about an hour of physical exercise is a good rule of thumb. This can be all done at once, or it can happen over multiple exercises. You can meet their physical exercise needs by going for walks, jogs, playing fetch, lure coursing, agility etc. This will keep their body active and obviously helps release energy.
If you think about it, most dogs spend 23+ hours inside the house each day. This is an animal that would probably be spending 20+ hours per day searching for food. Their bodies are designed to be active. Even for the dogs that get a lot of outside time in their yards, it's still pretty boring because it's the same old environment. Here in NE Ohio a lot of electronic containment systems have been popping up in residential areas. In most cases these dogs are being left outside by themselves. These dogs get bored pretty fast generally speaking and end up barking at everything that passes by. In those cases people are wondering why their dog is bored. Unless you have a huge property, most dogs don't find it very enjoyable to be out in a yard surrounded by an invisible line that produces a shock if they get too close. This actually causes a lot of frustration which leads to more barking. In that case too, whenever adding in aversives, negative associations can and will be built. So a dog that is bored at first and barking at things passing by, gets frustrated because it can't get to the things that are passing by. From there, at some point the dog will get too close to the line when the thing passes by and then the dog receives a shock. In the dog's mind the thing passing by caused him to get shocked and then the association is built. The dog now really dislikes when things go by and the barking increases.
That is just one example of how a bored dog leads to more unwanted behaviors that annoy their humans.
Another downfall of a bored dog finding it's own things to do is that your dog will probably be reinforcing it's own behaviors. If your dog is bored and gets into the trash, and in the trash is a bunch of tasty stuff, there is very good chance that in the future your dog will get into the trash. This means the behavior has been reinforced. This is just one example. But any behavior that a dog does to relieve boredom, it's very likely that the behavior will happen more and more which will get very annoying for you as the owner.
Another important way to prevent boredom is to provide mental stimulation for your dog. For starters, throw away that traditional food bowl. The easiest thing to do that isn't labor intensive at all for the human is to give the dog an interactive food toy. This means that your dog will have to work for its food. This will actually provide mental and physical stimulation. There are a lot of different options out there for interactive food toys. We actually sell some at our training center. Interactive food toys are beneficial because it makes the dog work for its food. If your dog is currently eating out of a bowl, the meal probably lasts less than 5 minutes. Using an interactive toy can take anywhere between 5-20 minutes to consume a meal. During that time your dog is using its brain to get the food. Additionally, a recent study showed that animals prefer to work for their food. It's a win-win.
Other ways to work your dog's brain include 10-15 minute training sessions, hiding food around the house and cueing your dog to find it, teaching tricks, playing hide and seek, chewing bones etc.
They say that 10 minutes of mental stimulation is equivalent to about 30 minutes of physical exercise. That isn't going to be true for every dog, but what we have found is that when you seriously work a dog's brain, it really tires them out. Dogs will even start panting from a mental workout.
While it may be a little labor intensive to meet your dog's needs, it needs to be done if you want to have a relatively stress free life with your dog. If you put the work in, your dog is less likely to go around looking for things to get into. You'll also see a huge decrease in the amount of barking your dog does. With some training, management, and ensuring your dog's needs are met, you will have a very happy life with your dog.
Do you ever go for hikes with your dog(s)? Hiking is a fantastic form of enrichment for most dogs. Here in NE Ohio we are very lucky to have the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that has a ton of different trails. We also have the Metro Parks which have a ton of trails.
Hiking is a great form of enrichment because there is so much to take in. All the sights and smells provide mental stimulation for your dog. Obviously as well, hiking is a great form of physical exercise. Depending on where you live you may have flat trails to choose from or even trails with many ups and downs to get you and your dog's heart rate going. Hiking for Kelly and I serves as a great way to just shut off our brains from all the day to day stuff that we deal with.
There are some rules to follow when hiking. Here in Ohio all of the trails that we know of have leash laws. Leash laws are in place for a reason. The biggest reason for us as dog owners is because a lot of us have dogs that do not enjoy the presence of all other dogs. Especially when approached in a very enthusiastic way. So it is nice to be able to hike with our dogs with the piece of mind that other dogs will not bombard us.
Another rule is to clean up your dog's waste. People really appreciate walking on a trail that isn't littered with dog feces. Okay, enough with the rules, let's move on.
What to bring
- Anti-pull gear (Front hook harness or Head Halter)
- Poop Bags
- Spray Shield
- Hiking boots really make a big difference
- Depending on where you're going you may want to bring some snacks
- Cell phone (put it away unless you're taking photos or have an emergency)
All of these things listed are important. Spray shield is something that we always carry just incase someone isn't following the rules and lets their off leash dog run up to our leashed dogs. (In general it is a bad idea to let your dog meet other dogs while on leash. This can create a lot of frustration and things can go south.) Anti-pull gear is super important. This can really make your hike enjoyable because your dog won't be yanking your arm off the entire time. If you're looking for ideas in this department we sell some at the training center. Hiking boots for us are really important too because we are going over different terrain which includes walking through streams. It feels good to have dry feet!
If you're new to hiking, try to find an easy trail to start. The CVNP for example has all the trails mapped out with the elevation changes and the distance. See if where you're planning on going has something similar. Be prepared to have some fun!
At ADGTK we do not use nor recommend the use of collars that cause pain or discomfort to change behavior. The collars mentioned in the title do just that. People use these collars because they can change behavior relatively quickly. If the timing is correct and the dog finds the result to be aversive, you will see a change in behavior.
So if they can change behavior, why do we feel this way? For multiple reasons. One big reason is because these devices have side effects. What do we mean by that? Well, dogs are always learning via associations. This means that whatever is causing the dog to act in a way that results in a collar correction or a shock, can cause the dog to start to associate the presence of that thing with pain or discomfort. An example: A guest arrives and your dog has a history of jumping on guests. You decide to put a collar on him and "correct" him for jumping. After a few guests coming over and your dog receiving corrections your dog is probably going to start to associate guests coming in with pain. If your dog is associating guests coming in with pain or discomfort, your dog probably isn't going to like guests coming in. If every time you saw a spider you got bitten by that spider, you'd probably not like spiders. In this case, the guest isn't the one doing the harm, but the presence of the guest is resulting in something the dog doesn't like. This is just one example.
Another example is walking your dog while using one of these collars. In a lot of situations dogs pull when they see other dogs or other people. Often times it's because they're excited and want to get closer. If every time they see a dog or a person and start to pull towards them and that results in pain or discomfort, they will start to associate the presence of people and dogs with pain and discomfort. This will result in your dog disliking people and other dogs. Here's an example of how this has happened to our dog V.
So why should you believe us? How do you know we aren't just making this up? Well, science tells us this is true. Here's the position statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. This goes along with what we've found to be true while working with thousands of animals in our career as dog trainers.
Another reason we don't recommend them or use them is because they aren't needed. We successfully change behaviors in dogs without having to hurt or scare them. This is done by reinforcing the behaviors that we want them to do instead, and by managing their environment so they do not receive reinforcement for behaviors that we don't want to see more of. If there is an instance where we have a behavior we want to see less of, we either reinforce incompatible behaviors or we use punishment that consists of taking away what the dog wants. This is all done in a way that won't have your dog build negative associations or hurt/ cause pain. We also use training devices that help but don't hurt or scare the dog. You can find more about those here.
And finally, we don't recommend the use of these collars because we don't want to hurt or scare dogs. We love dogs. And as we mentioned above, there is no need to. We even work with dogs that are labeled "highly aggressive" and work with them without the use of these collars. (You can probably figure out why by now.)
If you're currently using a collar like one of these, this isn't meant to bring you down. This is meant to inform you on what the side effects are of using these things. If you haven't seen your dog start to build negative associations, there is a good chance you will in the future. Before this happens, switch to a front hook harness and put on a treat bag. (Or look at the link above for other equipment we recommend.)
Food is something that you can give your dog in situations to get him to act in a way you'd like. It's used as payment. Ask your dog to do what you'd like, and in return your dog gets a tasty morsel of food. If everything goes to plan the behavior your dog did that earned the food will happen more frequently in the future. The technical term for this is Positive Reinforcement.
Today Kelly and I brought V to Lowe's. As we were walking around doing our shopping V received small pieces of food for walking nicely with us. He also received food for holding sit stays and doing other behaviors that came in handy when we were shopping. By doing this he was able to join in on the shopping and do so in a way that was fun for all involved.
Carrying food on you when your dog is present in our book is a must. Why? Because the food serves as motivation. In order to get your dog to do behaviors, you must provide motivation. Food is the easiest form of motivation as it can be carried in a pocket or a small pouch. The food can be cut up into small pieces so you don't have to worry about your dog putting on excess pounds. It's also important to bring food that dogs' deem to be "high value." High value in a dog's mind is typically something like real meat or cheese. (You wouldn't want to leave these out in room temperature for too long.) Your dog will let you know what his favorite is if you try lots of different stuff.
If you don't bring something that your dog finds motivating what usually happens is a lot of frustration. Usually you end up asking over and over for your dog to do something and your dog doesn't respond. This frustration ends up being stress that you don't need which can all be prevented by the power of food.
In order to make food as powerful as it can be, make sure it isn't readily available. Feed your dog twice daily and remove the food after 15 minutes. And to really increase your dog's motivation for food, make him earn every piece of food he gets by doing some sort of behavior. By using food to get your dog to do the behaviors you'd like, your life can be a lot less stressful and you can have fun, happy moments with your dog. Make sure to always have it on you though because without motivation, you can't get behavior.
What is the point of socializing a dog? Why do trainers talk about it so much? Is there a correct way or an incorrect way to do it? Where is the best place to socialize your dog? There are so many questions out there when it comes to socialization. Before getting to those questions, why don't we start off with what socialization is actually about.
Socialization is about building positive associations with the things that a dog is going to come across in it's lifetime. Things can include the sound of a train, other dogs, walking on different surfaces, people with glasses, people with beards, people with backpacks, and the list goes on.
The point of socialization is to have a well balanced dog that really enjoys the presence of the things mentioned above. A lot of dogs are inside a house for 23+ hours each day. The time they are outside is to relieve themselves and doesn't last long. If they finally get to go out on an adventure, (either because their human brought them along or because of bolting out of the front door) they don't really know how to handle themselves. They are overwhelmed. Imagine if you only left your house once every couple of weeks. You'd probably be a little overwhelmed too once all of the elements of the world hit you.
Trainers harp on this so much because a lot of behavioral issues can be prevented if socialization is done properly and continuously. Another thing about socialization is that it's never over. This must be continued on throughout a dog's life. It's definitely most important at a very young age, but older dogs can be affected like lack of socialization.
So let's talk about how and where to do it.
These are equally important. The first rule is to always have something that your dog loves. The easiest thing to bring along is small pieces of food. If you do bring food, make sure it's something that would be considered "high value" to your dog. There are lots of great high value treats out there and you can also bring things like turkey, chicken, hot dogs etc. Once you have your high value item you're ready to hit the streets.
There are some important rules to socialization. One is to make sure that you introduce the high value item a second after your dog experiences the person, dog, car etc. You want to continue to give your dog a few things while the thing is still present. Once the thing goes away, or ends, stop giving the high value object. An example is if a loud truck goes by. As soon as your dog notices the loud truck, start giving him high value stuff until the truck goes away. This will teach your dog that when loud trucks go by, awesome stuff happens. If your dog associates loud trucks with awesome stuff, your dog will not be afraid in those situations.
Another important rule is to make sure that there is enough distance in between your dog and the novel stimulus. You wouldn't want to get your dog directly next to the loud truck to start. Start off at a distance where your dog notices it, but isn't overly concerned. Start to close the distance as your dog gets more and more comfortable.
When it comes to socializing with other dogs there are some rules as well. It is recommended to keep on leash initial meetings under 5 seconds. Typically if something goes poorly it happens after the dogs have been in close proximity for too long. After those initial seconds, call the dogs away and give them lots of high value stuff. You can repeat that exercise a few times and if everything goes smoothly, you should be fine to increase the amount of time they're together.
Socializing with people can be a bit easier since you can tell people what to do. Overall it's a great idea to pair people with food. Depending on how your dog currently feels about people, you can either give your dog treats when he is in the presence of people, or if your dog is pretty comfortable around people, you can give them treats to give to your dog. For any dog that is very nervous of people, we recommend having the owner deliver the treats. Dogs don't necessarily generalize people very well when it comes to socialization. Make sure that you find people with hats, back packs, beard, different skin colors, skateboards, costumes, you name it. Make sure to do this in different contexts as well. You want to practice this out and about, as well as in your home with people coming through the door.
The overall idea is to get your dog out and to have a lot of fun while doing it. Make sure you bring lots of awesome stuff and give it to your dog when stuff changes in the environment. You can also use small tasty treats to reward your dog for doing behaviors that you enjoy. (Walking on a loose leash, sitting at cross walks and leaving objects from the ground.)
For a nice visual of how to socialize your dog, check out this video:
Have you ever been walking down the street with your dog and all of the sudden you look down and your dog has something in its mouth? I think it's safe to say that it happens to just about everyone. This is actually a solvable problem with a little bit of training. The video below shows a step by step guide to solving this unwanted problem. Remember that along with the training you must also be watching your dog closely so you can give the cue prior to your dog picking up the forbidden object. If your dog does pick up the forbidden object, that's where a drop it cue comes in handy. That'll be our next video.
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Today may be the warmest Christmas Eve on record here in Northeast Ohio. It's 60 degrees and sunny. This is what I call a great day to take a hike. So you guessed it, Kelly and I took the boys on a hike.
After loading the boys up in the car and grabbing all of our gear, we arrived at the nearby hiking trail. Being Christmas Eve I didn't think that people would have time to go out and hike, but I was wrong. When Kelly and I pulled in there were 10-12 cars in the parking lot. Typically theres a max of 4-5. With all of the cars we decided to park farthest from the trail head towards the back of the parking lot.
Fast forwarding a few seconds, the boys had relieved themselves and we are walking through the parking lot to hit the trail. As we are walking a couple cars pull in and park. As we are approaching to pass by, one of the people in the car opened the door and out came a small white dog off leash heading right towards us. I instantly exclaim, "Please leash your dog!" Fortunately they were able to grab the dog rather quickly and leash it up. The reason why Kelly and I go to this trail is because there is a leash law in effect and we hope that people will follow it. So about 2 minutes later we are on the trail walking. As we are about to hit a corner that is somewhat blind, a dog appears - off leash with no owners in sight. The dog starts to approach us and once it gets within about 8 feet I had to spray her with spray shield. It was a pretty direct hit so it resulted in her retreat pretty quickly. This is a position that it really sucks to be put into. But had I not sprayed, things could've been worse. It could've turned into a dog fight resulting in multiple injuries to multiple dogs. There aren't many dogs who enjoy being approached by an off leash dog while on leash. Leashes can cause frustration and remove a dog's flight response option.
In the end, the dog who was just being a dog was sprayed in the face. It could have all been avoided had the leash law been followed. I'm not writing this to publicly shame the dog's owners. This is being written because it's not fair to dog owners that have dogs that need space. Kelly and I have both put a ton of work into helping our dogs feel comfortable around new dogs. It only takes one bad experience for a dog to start being very uncomfortable around other dogs.
Leash laws are made for a reason. No one is perfect. Years ago I was hiking in a park on a trail where I never saw anyone. I had V off leash. V has a 95% recall out on the trail. Out of the blue someone appeared with two dogs. I called V and he didn't come to me. Instead of coming to me he went up to the investigate the other two dogs. I ran up there and nothing had happened between the dogs. I apologized at least ten times, grabbed him and walked passed her with him leashed up. To this day I feel bad about the situation and no longer do I let V off leash on hiking trails. Prior to that instance we had come across dogs while he was off leash and he ran on back to me no problem when I called. It can happen even if you think your dog will come back to you every time.
Please keep your dog on leash in dog friendly areas where it's the law to keep your dog leashed. Even if you think your dog will come every time. Believe me, there will be a time when your dog doesn't come when you ask. The other big reason is because of the other dog; not all dogs like being approached by other dogs. There are lots of dogs out there that are very afraid of other dogs and their people are working hard on building their dog's confidence. One instance of a dog running up to them could cause a huge setback. And finally, your dog could very easily be sprayed in the face with a deterrent. Let's all be on the same team and follow the rules so everyone can enjoy the outdoors without having to have the added worry of being approached by an off leash dog.
Hey y'all! Kevin from All Dogs go to Kevin here. It is safe to say that this year has been the best year of my life. Lots of changes happened with ADGTK and it has been fantastic. About halfway through the year my wonderful, beautiful, and talented girlfriend Kelly moved on up to Ohio. Since her arrival we have been able to make some big changes to the classes which we have found have helped people a ton. Also since Kelly's arrival we have been able to co-teach all of the classes which has really provided even more help to our clients. That's right, all of our classes are co-taught by two professional trainers.
This past year we've added Katherine Knapp to the team to head our Dog Walking and Pet Sitting departments. She has done a wonderful job and she even watches our dogs when we go out of town. Katherine is doing fantastic and we couldn't be happier with the services that she is providing to our clients. In 2016 we plan on advertising these services more so they're more well known to the general public and also our clients.
Another awesome sight to see every time we walk in the doors is our awesome assistants/interns, Chris, Crystal, Sierra, Lydia and Katherine. They all started as students and decided that they wanted to pursue a career in the dog training field. It's fantastic to have all of them on the team and we are very lucky as they continue to show their dedication day in and day out. They make our jobs so much easier by demoing the skills we are teaching the dogs during classes, helping people with training equipment, and also they do a fabulous job at cleaning up pee and poo during puppy socials. We've been told we look like a nascar pit crew. Thanks again guys, we love having y'all.
The business was opened in March of 2012. At the time the only service offered was private dog training done in the person's home. This is a service we continue to offer. Now we offer 15 different group classes, dog walking and pet sitting. As I'm writing this I am humbled and overwhelmed with joy to see all the hard work pay off. It means the world to me that we are able to offer services that people need in a humane way that the human and dog both really enjoy.
I'm not really sure what to expect for 2016. My expectations though are more growth. As I mention above, we are really going to focus on getting the dog walking and pet sitting off the ground. Did I mentioned that all our pet sitting and dog walking services include training? That's right! Your dog will not be doing undesirable behaviors on our watch.
As for Kelly and I... Kelly has accepted a job with the world renowned The Academy for Dog Trainers. I'm so proud of her as that is a real honor. She is such a hard worker and this really shows it. My goal this year is to attend the academy to further my knowledge and to get a formal education. As I preach a lot, dog training is an unregulated industry and anyone can call himself or herself a dog trainer.
I want to personally thank you all for sticking around the website/Facebook page. It's always great getting to know everyone. We will continue to post lots of fun True or False and multiple choice questions. I also want to thank you all for your support. I know there are a lot of you that have been around since the beginning. I will never forget you guys and will always be thankful for your support. Additionally, I want to thank all of our awesome, wonderful, dedicated clients. You guys are the best and really keep us going. Keep on coming back with your smiling faces and happy dogs.
Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful holiday season!
- Kevin, Kelly, V, Villere, and Rosa
When I first got into dog training I thought dog tricks were dumb. I thought they served no good purpose and were a waste of time. Well, I also had ultimately no knowledge of how dogs learn and why they do the things they do. My opinion has now changed.
The other night during week 2 of our first session of tricks class I had a thought, and also came to a realization. Why do dogs do tricks so reliably but struggle with the common cues that we need them to do on a daily basis? The answer is because humans love to give their dogs rewards when teaching tricks, but often times struggle to give rewards when asking their dogs to do things on a daily basis. It's as if we have the mindset that in order to do a trick, we need to reward the dog, but in order to get our dogs to do the things we want on a daily basis, we shouldn't have to reward them, they should just do it. I'm not sure where this mindset comes from, but it certainly hurts the relationship between the person and dog and creates this power struggle.
A dog does what it does because of the consequences it receives. A dog's brain isn't set up to listen to humans by default because they know we are humans and they are dogs. That isn't how their brains work, and it never will be. Dogs are just like any other animal in regards to learning. It comes down to what kinds of consequences they receive for the behaviors they do.
Teaching your dog tricks is a fantastic relationship builder, and it also really gives you some hands-on insight as to how dogs learn. Get the dog to do this thing, then give a reward. The dog is likely to do that thing again. This style can be transitioned right into the real world. You can look at any behavior you'd like your dog to do as a trick. Does your dog jump on the table while you're eating dinner? A fantastic trick to teach your dog is how to hold a down-stay on a mat during the duration of your meal. To make this work, you just need to teach the trick and then reward the dog. This means that you will be giving your dog small food rewards every couple of minutes to keep him holding his down stay. Here's how to teach the beginning of this trick:
Does your dog jump on guests when they arrive? There's a trick for that as well. Instead of allowing your dog to jump on the guest, teach your dog the trick of sitting to greet people. To make this work, you need to have some high value food rewards and a leash to help control the situation. Here's how to teach the beginning of this trick:
Does your dog pull your arm nearly out of the socket while attempting to go for a walk? There's a trick for that too. The trick is walking with you and receiving rewards. To accomplish this, you need to be consistent and give lots of rewards. It's also important to start off in an area where your dog isn't too distracted. I mean, you wouldn't introduce a brand new trick to your dog out in the front yard, right? Start off inside your home and then take it on the road. Here is a video on how to get started with that:
Does your dog try to bite the leash and play tug while you're attempting to walk? Well, you guessed it! There's a trick for that too. This one actually consists of teaching a few little tricks to your dog and rewarding often, especially in the beginning. Here's how to get started:
Reward your dog and life will be easier. Reward your dog for the real life "tricks" as you would for the other tricks that you do for fun. If you do, there will be no power struggle and your life will be easier and a lot less stressful. Training a dog takes time, patience, consistency, and lots of rewards. It's not necessarily easy, but it will get easier with the work you put in. Remember the more rewards you provide, the more behavior you will receive. Reward that dog.
Depending on the situation your dog can have an extremely short attention span. And in those situations, often times we humans are asking our dogs to jump through hoops. Okay, maybe not literally jump through hoops, but in a situation where we can barely get our dog's attention, the last thing that we need to be asking for is more advanced things like sitting or lying down.
The first skill that needs to be worked on is a cue that gets the dog to look at the human. This is often referred to as a "watch me" cue. This is the first thing I recommend teaching to your dog. I don't currently have a video on it so I will do my best to explain it. Firstly, start teaching new cues in your own home. Do this in a room that has limited distractions. (eg cats, dogs, other humans etc.) Start off by taking a small piece of food that your dog finds enticing and bring it to your dog's nose. From there, take that piece of food up to your eye and wait for your dog to make eye contact. When he does, tell him "good" and give him the the small food reward. Do this a handful of times until your dog is really getting it. From there, you're ready to move onto the next step.
The next step is getting this new behavior on a hand signal. For this, you will mimic the same motion you made with the food, but without the food in your hand. Basically, you'll point at your dog's nose and then up to your eye. Once your dog follows your finger and looks into your eyes, tell him "good" and then give him a small food reward from your treat pouch. Do this a handful of times until your dog is really nailing it. From there, you're ready for the next step.
The next step is adding a verbal cue for this new behavior. I say, "watch." To introduce this new cue, say the word, "watch," wait a few seconds, and then do the hand signal that you previously introduced. Reward your dog for following the hand signal. Do rep after rep and before you know it your dog will be looking into your eyes when you say the cue, "watch."
Why did I go into such depth on how to teach this behavior? Because this is what you really need to be working on if your dog is easily distracted. Teach this to your dog in your home in a room that has limited distractions like I mentioned above. From there, teach this to your dog in the back yard, and then the front yard. Start off at the very first step when starting in a more challenging environment if your dog needs it. The end goal is to get your dog to respond to the verbal cue in any environment.
Here's the takeaway:
This will make your life a lot easier. To make this successful, do lots of reps with lots of reinforcement. (Reinforcement in this case means food rewards.) If you pay your dog, your dog will continue to work for you. Just make sure you're using something that your dog really enjoys. Working on a very solid foundation of a watch cue is the place to start. If your dog is looking into your eyes, he's not looking around at everything else.
"Watch" as taught by Jean Donaldson, The Academy For Dog Trainers
In order to motivate your dog you must provide things your dog likes as payment for doing what you ask. This is known as Positive Reinforcement. By providing this payment your dog is more likely to repeat those behaviors in the future. The easiest form of payment is small food rewards. Other things like toys, play, praise, and petting can be used as well depending on the situation and what is motivating the dog at the moment.
Kelly and I work with hundreds and hundreds of different people and their dogs each year. The people that have the most success with training their dogs are the ones that pay their dogs a hefty salary. The more payment you give, the more behavior you will receive.
When I first got into dog training I was a punishment based trainer. I really didn't give rewards at all. In fact, I "rewarded" the dog by not giving corrections. It's something I feel bad about to this day, but I can't change the past. Transitioning from no rewards to starting to use rewards consisted of me keeping a stick of string cheese in my pocket and slowly and frugally doling out the tiniest of rewards. Since then I've transitioned to wearing a treat pouch and doling out treats at a rate of reinforcement that I've only seen Kelly offer. Since I've started using this high rate of reinforcement I've noticed that the clients I work with our getting better results. (If they follow my lead.) A great example is the Reactive Dogs class we had last night. Cooper the pit bull keeps his eyes glued to his mom. He wasn't always like this. When we had him in Basic Manners 1 he was hard to handle. Last night in the final Reactive Dogs class he kept his eyes glued his mom and didn't even bat an eye at another dog. Why? Because Alexis pays Cooper a very high salary. (Everyone in the class did awesome, just Cooper really stuck out seeing his transformation.)
Paying a dog isn't bribery, it's the laws of learning. Animals, human or dog, repeat behaviors that provide good consequences. If a dog is paid for holding a down stay on a mat a few feet from the dinner table, he will most likely stay on that mat. This is a lot more effective and stress free than yelling at the dog to "go lie down" repeatedly. This is just one example.
Don't be stingy. Pay that dog. Find something your dog likes and use it as payment for the behaviors you like. If you want your dog to really respond to what you ask, don't pay him minimum wage, give him a six figure salary.
"My dog won't listen to me." "Treats aren't working."
You've finally mustered up the strength and courage to take your dog for a walk. Your arm is still recovering from nearly being dislocated from the previous walk that took place 30 days prior. So what's going to make this walk any better? What can you do? You've tried treats, collars etc. Why aren't they working?
What it really comes down to is the novelty of these experiences. When dogs don't get the opportunity to saturate it can be extremely challenging to get them to do what you ask. Why? Well, there are so many sights and smells that you've become old news. These are what we refer to as competing motivators. This is where saturation comes into play. The first step is letting your dog absorb all these new sights and smells without you asking for anything. If you're starting out on a walk, hang out in your yard for 5-10 minutes with your dog leashed up and ready to go without asking your dog to do anything. In the beginning, your dog will be very confused and anxious. Wander around with him and let him start sniffing. Plant your feet if he's trying to actually pull you in a direction. Don't ask for anything from your dog. This is very important. At the moment, your value has dropped since there are so many new sights and smells. You can raise your value by patiently waiting a few minutes and letting your dog saturate. If your dog does happen to look back at you, offer a treat for it. If he willingly takes it, great. If his interest in the treat drops when you go to offer it to him, remove it. The last thing you want to become is just another distraction in the environment waiving food in your dog's face.
Saturation takes place by getting to experience the thing often. If you do daily walks in the same area, your dog will saturate in the environment and it will be a heck of a lot easier to get his attention. As soon as saturation takes place, food will become a motivator again. This is an example I hear all the time. "When I take my dog for walks he isn't food motivated." It's not that he isn't motivated by food, he is just overwhelmed with motivators and doesn't know what to explore next. It's like a kid in a candy store.
So what is the takeaway here? If you're in a situation where your dog is "out of control" and you can't get his attention, you need to bring him to that environment more and let him explore it with his nose and eyes. By doing so, all those things will no longer motivate him leaving just one motivator left, you. It's also important to use the proper training equipment. So for your next walk, leash him up and hang out in front of your house for a bit. Let him explore and wait for some of the excitement to die down. When you're ready to start walking, try this.
I couldn't imagine living without a dog. Every morning when I wake up I am greeted by 3 smiling doggy faces. Okay, so the reason why they're smiling is because they know that seeing me equals breakfast, but at least they're happy to see me. And seriously, it feels great coming home from work and being greeted by their wiggly butts. If having a dog was as simple as feeding them and getting greeted by them then I think peoples' lives would be less stressful. Yes, owning a dog can ease your stress, but sometimes it can increase your stress.
Patience is incredibly important when dealing with another species of animal. Often times we wish our dogs would do what we ask the first time we ask. And for a lot of people, they wish that their dog would do it the first time, and do it solely because they asked their dog to do so. It's important to remember that dogs are animals and don't speak the native tongue of us humans. The majority of the time when we are asking our dogs to do something, all they hear is, "blah blah, blah blah blah." I know this to be true because sometimes I'll ask V to do something, like, "go lie down." He will look at me and not do it. I will then say, "V, blah blah blah" and he will go lie down. This is a perfect example of dogs having no idea what these words coming out of our mouths mean. For the record, we can introduce verbal cues to dogs and they can understand them. What I'm saying though, is that we as humans have a tendency to speak full sentences to our dogs and just expect them to understand what we are saying. Usually they don't respond the first time which then results in the phrase being repeated with a little more seriousness behind it. Humans typically get impatient in these circumstances. A couple takeaways here:
1. Dogs are just like any other animal. They don't do things unless their is motivation involved. We can motivate our dogs to do things by showing them what we'd like them to do, and providing great consequences. A dog will not comply with a human's requests just because it's coming from a human. That human needs to either provide good consequences, or bad consequences, both of which can create motivation.
2. Take the time to teach your dog cues, whether it's a verbal cue, or a hand signal and provide things your dog enjoys as payment. This will help your dog understand what you'd like him to do, and will keep your stress level down because you won't have to ask multiple times. With the "blah blah blah" example I gave above, I really should have just ask V to go to his "place." His place is his bed. This is a cue that we've practiced a ton and there's a very high probability that he will respond in the way that I'd like. But I'm human and I'm not perfect. Hence me saying, "V, go lie down." Honestly, it's an old habit of mine that I am trying to break. Don't they say the old habits die fast? Pshhh.
If you're sharing your home with a dog then you're sharing your home with an animal. Yes, that may be a blatantly obvious statement, but I feel that a lot of people forget that dogs are animals. Often times we anthropomorphize our dogs. We think of them as another human in the family. While V, Villere and Rosa are a part of our family, and we do refer to them as our kids, we remember that they're dogs. This helps us stay less stressed. Here are 5 things you can do with your dog to lower your stress level:
1. Meet your dog's physical and mental needs:
Just like you have needs, so does your dog. A lot of dogs will benefit from a daily walk, a fetch session, and a few training sessions throughout the day. Most dogs spend 23 + hours inside your house each day. That can be pretty boring considering that if they were wild, they'd be spending 20+ hours looking for food. While age and breed do play a factor in this, try to get your dog out on a daily walk and try to do at least one 10 minute training session per day. This will help meet your dog's needs.
2. Teach your dog appropriate behaviors:
Screaming "No!" when your dog is doing something you don't approve isn't the best option. We can teach out dogs behaviors that we'd like them to do. "Leave it" is a great option instead of shouting "no". Remember that these appropriate behaviors that we'd like them to do must have consequences that they like. If you'd like your dog to hold a down stay on his bed while you're eating dinner, make sure he gets little food rewards for staying in place.
3. Use appropriate equipment:
If you have a child, you probably aren't leaving home without bringing cheerios, or the iPad. Think in a similar way with your dog. Bring your treat pouch, small food rewards (multiple types just in case), a 4-6 foot leash, and a harness where the leash hooks in the front, or a head halter. All of these things will make life easier.
4. Let em' Saturate:
A lot of the times our patience is tested with our dogs is when we are trying to do something new. Saturation is important. In new situations there are a lot of things that are going to catch your dog's attention. We refer to these as competing motivators. It's important to let your dog check things out. The more often he can visit these places, the less exciting they are. It's the same concept as bringing your child to an amusement park and expecting them not to pay any attention to all the fun rides and games. When they first get there, it's tough, but after they get on a ride or two and win a prize, the excitement is less and it's easier to gain their focus. The more you can bring your dog around these things, the less novel they become and the easier it is to get your dog's attention and for him to do the things you're asking him to do.
5. Be patient:
Easier said than done, right? Seriously, remember that you're dealing with a living breathing animal that doesn't fully understand you. They're going to do things that animals do. Like lick themselves loudly, regardless of who's around. They're going to jump on counters and steal food if the opportunity presents itself. They're going to bark from time to time. These are normal dog behaviors. This is why it's a great idea to take a dog training class with your dog. Taking a class, or even doing private training will help you have a better understanding of why your dog is doing what it's doing. It will also give you the best ways to communicate with your dog. Just avoid any trainer that says you need to be a pack leader or your dog doesn't respect you etc. Also, avoid any trainer that is recommending the use of choke chains, prong collars, or shock collars. These devices can change your dog's behavior, but often times there are side effects that are much worse than the initial issue.
Humans like to talk to their dogs. I get it, I talk to mine all the time. And one of the best parts of talking to them is they're happy to listen. But did you know that your dog has pretty much no idea what you're saying? I say "pretty much" because they are smart enough to catch on to phrases and certain words. But how do we teach them these words and phrases? That's a great question, and knowing the answer will help you understand your dog better and ultimately teach your dog things a lot faster.
Teaching your dog a word is actually quite simple in concept. The first thing you need to do is teach the behavior. Examples of behaviors include sit, down, come, and stay. There are different ways to teach behaviors. Some behaviors you can lure, while others you can capture. If you're luring, it's recommended to get the dog to understand the hand signal prior to working on teaching the verbal cue. If you're capturing, you'll want to make sure the dog understands the sequence before adding in the verbal cue. The important part with either though is that the dog is getting the motions down, prior to adding in the verbal cue. With luring, once your dog understands the hand signal, you can start saying the verbal cue a couple seconds before giving the hand signal. At first the dog will not respond to the word, as it has no idea what relevance it has to the sequence, but with repetition of doing the sequence, the dog will catch on and do the behavior before you're able to do the hand signal. With capturing, it's important that the dog is doing the behavior reliably before you add in the verbal cue. If you try to add in the verbal cue prior to the dog understanding the sequence you'd like him to do, he'll have no idea what the word means.
Another way that dogs understand words or phrases is due to the order of events in which they're used. A couple examples are, "Wanna go for a walk?" or "Wanna treat?". The way that a dog starts to understand the meaning of these is because the phrases or words are said prior to something happening. Most people say "Wanna go for a walk?" prior to bringing the dog on a walk which serves as a predictor of walks. Dogs are smart enough to catch on to these sequences when they're done correctly.
That is how dogs understand some of the things we say. Dogs don't speak human. Pretty much everything that we say to them they hear as "blah blah blah blah blah." This is why sitting down and having a talk with them about what they did wrong doesn't and will never work. Too bad, right? Wouldn't that be great if we could just ask them nicely not to do something again?
In conclusion, if you'd like to teach your dog how to understand words or phrases, the order of events must happen in a particular order. Repeating the word over and over until the dog guesses right isn't the most efficient way either. I know we have all had a tendency to do that in the past. Stay patient, teach the behavior first, and then add in the word you'd like to use. Thanks for reading.
I am not the best dog trainer in the world. I have come a long way though. When I first started training my own dog I had no idea what I was doing and I actually made my dog's behavior worse in some ways. The only education I had was from watching tv, and that was about the worst education I could receive.
Over the past few years I worked very hard to further my knowledge. I read more books than I ever had. I went to training seminars. (And I continue to.) I worked with professional trainers. And most recently my wonderful girlfriend Kelly and I started working together which has really opened up my eyes even more on how to be a better trainer. I can now confidently say that we offer the best dog training services in our area.
With that being said, I feel that there are a lot of trainers out there that shouldn't currently be accepting money for their services. My opinion is based off of what I see in a lot of groups on Facebook. There are Facebook groups all over the place dedicated to positive training techniques. (Don't get me wrong, I really love the idea of it.) But occasionally I am scanning through these groups and I just see some of the worst advice from people that call themselves positive trainers. I remember once reading a person ask a question about how to get their dog to stop barking when people rang the doorbell to their house. The first comment I read was to counter conditioning every time someone came over. Well, this may be fantastic advice if the dog is barking because it doesn't like visitors. But what if the dog really loves visitors and it's barking out of excitement? Well, counterconditioning would then make the problem worse. We don't need the dog to associate the visitor with even more exciting stuff, right? When I read the comment I scrolled over the person's name and it said they owned their own dog training company. I instantly smacked the palm of my hand to my forehead and sighed audibly.
We need to do better than this. If we are going to hang out in Facebook groups and give advice, we need to ask more questions first. When I first got into dog training I put a lot of my eggs in the Facebook basket. I spent a lot of time answering questions for free. Thinking back I know I was guilty of giving answers prior to gathering all the information needed to give answers. Once again, I'm not perfect. No human is. But we can be better. If we want to really help people and their dogs in a humane way, we need to do better. I will be attending The Academy for Dog Trainers next year to help further my knowledge to be an even better trainer.
What to take away from this:
-If you're a trainer, never stop trying to learn. Learning is awesome. That is why I am going to invest a lot of time and money in more education via the Academy.
-Consider trying to specialize in one area before trying to take it all on. There's nothing wrong with only working with puppies, or only working with fearful dogs for example. There is so much to know in any category and if you're just starting out, it's pretty difficult to be able to help with every dog issue.
-Know what the quadrants are. If you call yourself a dog trainer and can't define what the four quadrants of operant conditioning are, you really shouldn't be taking money.
-Know what Classical Conditioning is. Dogs are always building associations. You need to know how this affects the dog and how to help control how the conditioning takes place. If you're working with dogs that have negative associations with things, and you don't know what Counter Conditioning is, you're not doing the dog or the people that own the dog any justice and shouldn't be taking their money.
-If you're going to give advice in groups, great! Just make sure to gather a proper history prior to giving advice. The example I gave above is perfect. If the dog is actually just very excited that someone is at the door, Counter Conditioning will only make him more excited.
This post isn't meant to bring anyone down. This post is meant to inspire people. Be a better dog trainer. Never stop learning. We all love dogs, but love isn't enough when it comes to helping them with their issues. Having a solid education is the best way to help dogs stay with their families.
In closing, another big take away is that if you're not doing a great job as a positive trainer, you may unintentionally turn people away from humane training techniques because they feel that they don't work. This could send them over to the local traditional trainer who is still hanging around because people feel it's the best option. Let's be the best trainers we can be. Never stop learning. Don't take on a client who you don't think you can handle. And finally, get a formal education.