YOUR TRAINING TOOLBOX
Leashes, collars, harnesses, long lines, treat totes.
Neck Collars - flat buckle collars are for hanging your dog's ID and license tags, so if they get lost whoever finds them, can find you.
Body Harnesses provide a safe and non-restrictive (no pressure on the dog's trachea) way to keep your dog safe. A front hooking harness gives you directional control.
Head collars work like a halter on a horse. They help direct the dogs's movement and focus by gently turning his nose in the direction you'd like him to go.
Leashes and long lines are life insurance. Even the best driver makes mistakes. No living being is ever 100% reliable. Your dog is only as reliable -and as safe- as the time and training you have put in. Your leash keeps him safe from darting into the path of a car, rushing up to other dogs or people, and it is required by law unless they are in an approved off-leash dog park.
Treat totes are handy removable pockets to hold your food rewards. Fill them at the end of each training session so they are ready for your next training opportunity. Store your filled tote in the refrigerator if you use perishable foods like meat or cheese.
What equipment do we use - and what don't we use? Click HERE
Training is about communication and understanding.
Your voice - your tone, pitch, cadence can enliven or inhibit your dog. No nagging or scolding!
Your touch - can rev your dog up or calm him down and help him relax. Your hands should never threaten or cause pain.
Your body language - how you stand, how you move. Leaning or moving away from your dog will draw them toward you. Stepping or leaning toward your dog will cause them to stop or move away. Dogs communicate via body language to you and each other.
Timing! Perfect timing equals perfect understanding. Poor timing creates confusion.
Marker signals - a well-timed "Yes!" or "Click" lets your dog know in an instant that exactly what they did has earned a reward.
Cues - Cues tell the dog which behavior you would like to see. Training teaches him what those words and signals mean and how you would like them executed. A cue is a verb: "do behavior X." There is no magic in what words or signals you choose. You could teach your dog to put his bum on the floor when you said "pickle" if you wanted to.
Release cues are essential. They tell your dog when a behavior or training session is completed. Without a release cue, he won't know when he may leave a stay or when the need to hang on your every word has concluded and he can go do his own thing.
Consistency - if you are consistent in the words and signals you use and you are consistent in your expectations, your dog will become consistent. If you're not consistent, he will never understand exactly what you want, so he can't be expected to be consistently reliable!
Reinforce behavior you want.
Ignore behavior you don't want.
Manage behavior you can't ignore.
ANYTHING your dog is willing to work to earn. Food, toys, games, activities, access, attention, touch ...
"But I want him to do it for ME, not for the food." He will be doing it for you - earning access to rewards through work. Without positive reinforcement, the dog is purely doing as you say to avoid what might happen if he doesn't. Yes, he's doing it "for you" - perhaps in fear of you. Far too many dogs are "obedient" to avoid the unpleasantness of what might happen if they aren't.
Your dog performs either to EARN something he likes or AVOID something he doesn't like.
Behavior doesn't happen in a vacuum. It has a function. Everything your dog does has a function of gaining or avoiding something. He chooses to show you your underwear and run because it works to get you to chase him. He was inviting you to play, and it worked. You call your dog and he comes happily - and you put him in his crate and leave for work. It should not be surprising that, if this sequence is repeated in the days to come, that the dog will become reluctant to respond when you call him. Not because he's disobedient or stubborn. Dogs do what they do because of the consequences.
Your dog follows your silly requests because history has proven that good things happen if he does (he earns rewards, praise, approval). He avoids behavior that causes undesirable consequences (loss of access to things he wants, punishments). He works to EARN or AVOID the consequences. Consequences drive behavior. Punitive punishment is not necessary if you set the dog up for success and focus on what you DO want rather than waiting to catch him in the act of getting it wrong. Habits are hard to break - focus on creating GOOD habits!
Reinforcement fuels the behavior you do want. Punishment shuts down behavior. While it may sound like a good thing to "shut down" unwanted behavior, you are also affecting trust, relationship and confidence. Obedience through force or discomfort works because of relief - the unpleasant sensation stops as soon as they perform. The dog sits and the choking sensation of his collar and downward pressure on his hips stops. You don't need to inflict discomfort to train your dog. Positive reinforcement increases selected desired behavior. Catch him doing it right. Put your energy into teaching what you want to see instead of catching him doing it wrong. He will repeat what works.
Persistently rewarded behavior becomes persistently performed behavior.
Training vs. changing emotional reactions: desensitization and classical counter conditioning
You can teach skills to help a dog choose alternate responses, but you can't make a dog unafraid by making him sit when he would rather flee. Dogs who are made to "face their fears" through flooding by immersing them in a scary situation while preventing escape merely cope by shutting down in a state of "learned helplessness." This is NOT calm, relaxed or comfortable. Worried dogs need time and space to acclimate to new situations. They need many positive experiences in order to build trust. Barking is merely a symptom of fear and inexperience. Your focus isn't on stopping barking, but helping the dog feel comfortable. Once the dog isn't stressed, the barking will stop. They simply won't need to bark when they feel safe. They can make friends when they aren't worried about potential danger.
But won't I 'reward fear" if I feed them when they are afraid? No. No matter how many dollars I give you when you see a spider, I cannot make you more afraid of the spider by giving you money when you are startled by one. In fact, the opposite can occur if the sight of a spider predicts a reward. The sight of a spider becomes a positive because it predicts a positive outcome. The higher the value, the better the positive association. (Dimes don't make a very memorable association. But hundred dollar bills might!) Conversely, if money predicts spiders, you might learn to avoid money. It's the order that's important.
Why feed the worried dogs? The food isn't just a distraction, but a way to help your dog form positive associations and feelings of safety in the presence of the things that worry her. Through classical conditioning (pairing something good with the experience of being in the situation, she is gradually able to feel safe and relax. Each positive experience builds trust. The primary goal of every minute of your time in view of worrisome things is to reduce stress and create a positive association. (Scolding might shut down the noise momentarily, but ultimately it will increase anxiety by adding another negative to an already stressful experience.)
This dog is worried. Her owner has seated herself away from the activity so the dog can feel safer as she gets used to the new environment. She has positioned her legs to help her dog feel protected until she feels comfortable enough to relax and come out of the corner. Each time another dog gets up to work in the classroom, she produces yummy treats and praises her dog a calm and a happy voice. Pretty soon, because the dog feels protected and supported and is allowed to progress at her own pace, the dog perks up and looks forward to watching the dogs instead of feeling afraid of them. Her confidence builds.
Safe dogs can truly relax because they no longer feel at risk.