Many dog owners, who have trained their dogs, do not realize the tools for working on many dog behaviors that are problems to us are the training commands themselves. The ability to use these commands repetitively in different situations can help build the types of reactions that dog owners prefer from their dogs in many situations.
Patterns, as I define them in dog training and behavior modification, are manufactured predictable events. That is they are a sequence of steps that become predictable with repetition and consistency. Remember, canines do not share our human language. We can not tell them what is coming up, but our actions to create patterns and structure can place them on more predictable ground.
As humans we take this for granted for ourselves, but if you think about it, our every day patterns and structure lend to the feeling of safety and security for human children and adults alike. Of course we can talk to each other should an unanticipated event comes up. Can you imagine how scary some events are to dogs who do not have that sort of heads up? We can make everything smooth sailing (or smoother sailing anyway) by adding a little pattern and structure to certain parts of our canine's day.
Leon loved fetching as a wee young thing. We both learned about this skill together, and had a lot of fun doing it.
What do I mean by your dog's "bliss"?
Engagement in dog training is the ability to create a relationship with your dog where you are the reward. Engagement done well will have your dog insisting on continuing the activity with their owner. In other methods of training, there are some elements of this as well, but the engagement that I am talking about is much more. Engagement in dog training is more about play with their owner or handler to create that very strong bond and work ethic. As with anything, it can have it's pluses and minuses. I really enjoy this method, because I get to play with my dog and train. The thing that motivates me in this method, is seeing my dog have fun while we are doing it. Why do I also use other methods other than Engagement and Motivational methods? One reason is this is a bit slower process than some other methods in the shorter term. Sometimes if you really need to stop your dog from jumping on your elderly relatives, while including them in your family activities, you might want to take a faster course of action. Of course there are ways to control what you dog does by confining them more, but I like my dogs to have certain freedoms during the day, where this perhaps might not happen if I was only using this method. It takes longer not in time per day, but the progress to build to a goal in general will take more time. There are reasons to want to spend a longer period if time in training your dog. I will go over that at a later date.
A common question that I get asked as a dog trainer is "How long will it take to get my dog trained to do XYZ?" That question does not have any concrete answer, and of course it depends on a variety of factors. Age, temperament, owner commitment, behavioral challenges, and increasing distractions all change this answer. When I am training a dog here, I feel that I need at least 21 days of consistently working the dog on training commands and behavioral exercises to get a dog owner on their way to picking up where I left off easily (or easier). Training does not just happen in one day or in one environment. Dog training, as dog trainers understand it, when you have reliability of a command (and very dependent on whether you are talking about an adult dog or a puppy) without the need of going through much effort other than the verbal command at least four out of five times in various environments and distractions. That actually takes much more than three weeks if you want a full set of commands that can be worked in that way. It also depends on if this is a family's needs for their family dog, if this is a working dog, or if this is a sports and competing dog.
I don't know if most of the dog owning public is aware of the levels that we pass through when teaching a dog a certain command. Here are the four levels that I usually think of:
1) Demonstrate to the dog what you want him to do.You can do this by positioning or luring your dog into position. Dogs need to be shown what to do, because they don’t naturally know the things we take for granted that older dogs have already been taught. Obviously they don't understand our verbal cues, and need to be shown what they will correspond to in the future. In the Demonstration phase, the command is verbalized in conjunction with the luring or placing the dog into correct position.
Feedback is information that lets your dog know whether they are on the right track or not, depending on what you are doing with them. It is important that feedback is given at a well timed point to let them know in that moment if they are performing or working in the direction or task that you want. Ideally you want this feedback to be able to be given with some space in between you once you get going. Rewards and corrections are a type of feedback that is close up. Instead in this article, I am going to talk about equipment, the clicker, and verbal, your voice.
Today I am going to go over the very commonly used practices of treat training used with luring to train your dog. Most of this training falls under the category of positive reinforcement. That is the practice of adding something to increase the likely hood of a behavior. In this case, we are talking about food rewards.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN TRAINING WITH FOOD:
Most puppy training starts with food training. Puppies are maturing, and do not have the focus of an adult dog. They are discovering the world with their paws, nose, eyes, and mouth. Therefore, humans need a good reward method to catch their attention for any period of time.
Adult dogs will have more maturity and focus (usually). Therefore, the first section does not necessarily apply to them. Although, these are things you may want to consider, especially if your adult dog seems at all flat when training. Both young and old dogs need a distraction free place to start learning at first.
Most dog owners, especially first time dog owners, do not have a real understanding of what dog training is. How could they? This is not something taught to us in most schools, and dogs are a totally different species than we are. The building blocks of dog training are very important, and it is the understanding of these and why they are used that confuse most dog owners.
The first thing you should know is dog training is a process. There are many steps, and if you don't step off on the right foot in the first place, you will make your self a lot of unnecessary work later or just give up in frustration at a point where you could have excelled. This blog seeks to give you some insights to understand the bones of the process in hopes that when you start training you will continue on to a very enjoyable life for you and your dog with a fabulous working relationship.
This is just the beginning of the spin trick. There are more steps later on to have the puppy or dog doing this on their own for the verbal only or signal only command.
Equipment needed: dog or puppy, six foot leash, flat collar that does not come off of head, treats, place to sit or kneel down (can be done standing too, but usually you need to start lower down. NOTE: TREATS SHOULD BE SMALL FOR PUPPIES AND NOT THAT BIG FOR DOGS EITHER. THEIR KIBBLE CAN BE USED FOR THIS.
STEP 1: Hold handle of leash in one hand.
STEP 2: Put treat in the other hand.
STEP 3: Make sure you have the puppy fairly close to you on the leash.
STEP 4: Place the treat close to or right on the puppies nose if needed in a closed hand.
STEP 5: Then lure with your hand so the puppy's head turns to start. Don't expect more than a head turn at first. If they do go all around with their body at first, then great! The second time they may not. Just be patient with the puppy or dog at first, as they do not understand exactly what we want yet. This is the teaching or showing phase of training.
STEP 6: When they turn their head, say "good boy" or "good girl" (notice we are not giving a command at this point), and then open your hand so they can take the food.
STEP 7: Repeat for about 15 repetitions. Young puppies should only be trained for a short period of time, and ideally you want them wanting more at the end.
NOTE: If they start moving their body with the food on the first session, that is great but it might not happen. Do not push the puppy (or dog) too fast. Stay slow and steady and the exercise will perform better in the long run. In the next session, you may want the dog to do a complete spin before getting the treat. When that starts happening consistently, then you can use the command "spin" or "good spin" (if you are using a marker system) when the dog or puppy completes the spin.
In the past (before I knew how to train my dogs and before I even had an inkling of dog training), down hill skiing on vacation was the most relaxing thing for me. This was true even though I was a $hit skier, and had to take lessons every time to improve myself. I feel like it is the same reason that training dogs (and just hanging with them too) relaxes me. FIRST of all you have a goal to reach. SECOND to reach the goal you need skills and a plan to obtain those skills and THIRD if you don't concentrate on that, you are going to fall off the mountain! 😂 Okay, maybe it is just that you don't get down the mountain the way you wanted OR you get hurt on the way there (by your own self).
So the first time I went skiing with my husband on vacation, I took for granted that you put on the skis and magically down the mountain you went. I mean I had skated when I was thirteen, right? Thankfully, we did have a ski instructor who came with us (and somehow ignored all the obvious signs that I had no idea what I was doing----which included riding up in sub zero weather holding onto my gloves instead of having them on---sliding backwards on my skis before getting onto the lift). Long story short, we got down several hours later, by the instructor (from the top of the mountain mind you), skiing backwards while I held onto his ski poles in front of him. Clearly mad skills HE had and strength. I needed to start on the bunny hill first, and then the advanced bunny hill, and so on before you even think of starting at the top of the mountain.
Pandemic Day 17's dog training tip: Bring you and your dog to the bunny slopes first. More of that soon, since I have some time on my hands.
Follow Mannerly Mutts Dog Training's Facebook page for tips on how to handle the bunny slope.
Author, Robin Rubin
Owner and Head Dog Trainer in Maine, Robin Katherine Rubin, started her Maine dog training business in September 2004. Our dog training facility is located in Southern Maine in York Beach and we help families enjoy their dogs more, making sure they listen reliably and resolving unwanted behaviors.