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We love Silvia’s kind and effective approach to dog training. If you are faced with the challenge of a resource guarder or an obsessive dog, remember when you provide your dog with plenty, not only will you be perceived as a mindful leader but you will also have the luxury of a world of rewards to use when you are training.
Here at the Clicker Leash Co. we believe you can shape the dog of your dreams through positive reinforcement training but we also recognize that sometimes our dogs’ personalities or natural instincts may make some of our goals unrealistic. We have all felt moments of disappointment when we realize we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. That is why we found this video of a dog who had been bred and trained from birth to be a service dog so touching. This special dog’s instinct to chase birds unravelled her handler’s plans but instead of giving up on the dog completely, the inspired handler transformed her into a “Surfice Dog.” This is an inspiring story for anyone dealing with a challenging dog. Sometimes they won’t be what we want them to but they may make an even greater contribution to this world than we could have imagined.
A popular example among positive dog trainers to illustrate the ineffectiveness of punishment is traffic tickets. North American culture tends to focus on punishing unwanted behaviors like speeding instead of recognizing desirable behaviors like driving your car at the appropriate speed. Now Cape Town Traffic Services in Africa is experimenting with positive reinforcement to see if it can improve road safety.
The department will be rewarding motorists for “gold star” behavior with engraved pens and key rings. Good behaviour will include not getting angry or upsetting other road users, signalling well in advance when changing lanes, slowing down on freeways to allow space for motorists entering from an on-ramp, keeping intersections clear in heavy traffic, and raising a hand to thank fellow motorists instead of using the emergency flashers. Of course, this is creating debate almost as hot as a Victoria Stilwell vs. Cesar Millan dispute with the nay-sayers chiming in with their usual pessimism. Hopefully the department will measure and publish the results of this experiment.
Cape Town police are not alone in thinking positive reinforcement can change behavior. Volkswagen launched their “Fun Theory Campaign” this fall and it is already a viral sensation with millions of views on You Tube. The car manufacturer’s ad agency DDB Stockholm, based their new campaign on the idea that “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” For example, the team set out to see if they could increase the number of people who would opt to take a set of stairs instead of a nearby escalator by making it fun to take the stairs. They changed the stairs into a giant, functional piano that was activated when people stepped onto the stairs. They found a 66% increase in the number of people who chose the stairs when they were made “fun.” You can view this and the two other videos the company has created in the first stage of their campaign at www.thefuntheory.com.
What does all of this have to do with dog training? Well, if we can change people’s current perception about rewards and punishment in human learning then it will be much easier to get people to Train Humane with their pets. Once reward-based principles become mainstream, we will see an increase in people treating their dogs with respect and love and getting great results.
We first learned about the “Look at That” (LAT) game from Leslie McDevitt’s brilliant book “Control Unleashed.” One of the most common dog training issues is on-leash reactivity. Our gut instinct is to tell Fido to knock it off or to try to console them and make them feel safe by patting them and speaking in high pitched voices. Unfortunately for a lot of dogs our attempts at canine communication are often misinterpreted and we see an increase in snarling, lunging and barking at approaching triggers like animals, people or moving objects. If we scold our dogs for acting like a lunatic when triggers approach, we run the risk of creating an even more negative situation for our already stresed or anxious friends. When we try and reassure Fifi that everything is going to be OK, they don’t hear our words but may assume based on our high-pitched tone that we like it when they are nervous and scared and they may enjoy the extra attention it gets them.
Although it goes against our human nature, the Look at That game diffuses both of these situations and quickly results in increased confidence and focus on mom or dad instead of incoming triggers. For a detailed description of the “Look at That” game, we encourage you to check out Leslie McDevitt’s web site and buy her easy-to-understand book or videos but we wanted to give you a brief overview of the exercise because the Clicker Leash makes it so easy to do.
The key is to keep your dog below threshold (ie quiet and calm) while teaching them to look at a stimulus they do not normally like and rewarding them for looking at it. To train LAT, use your Clicker Leash to click and reward your dog the second they look at a trigger as long there is no reaction. If your dog is too intense with the triggers being used, start with a neutral target like a piece of paper or other item your dog has no association with and again click as soon as they look at it. When your dog is offering a quick glance towards the target, name it “look.” Your dog will quickly start to look at their triggers and turn back to you for a reward. If your dog does not turn quickly, it is likely because they are over threshold. You should increase the distance between you and the trigger and try again.
Begin playing LAT with a different neutral distraction for about 30 seconds, as often as you can each day. Gradually progress to more challenging distractions such as favourite toys, the mailman, squirrels and approaching people. Once your dog has mastered the game with various distractions, you can progress to using dogs they like and then strange dogs. Remember, the key here is to keep your dog calm during this game. If they begin to growl, bark or lunge, they have gone over threshold and you need to start again with more distance between you and the object.
If youhave a particularly stressed, anxious or reactive dog, you may also want to check out Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. The protocol provides a clear set of exercises to do with your dog to help teach self control in exciting situations. Remember to keep your training sessions brief and fun so your dog will want more! For more training tips and free video tutorials visit www. clickerleash.com
One of the most important responsibilities as a dog owner is to train your four-legged pal so he will be a welcome member in the community and a treasured part of your life. Many of us quickly realize though that our dogs have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them. Some of the best doggy teachers are often the ones that initially come with the greatest challenges, including many adopted dogs who have suffered from abuse and neglect in their previous lives. Dogs with behavioural issues teach us valuable life lessons when we take the time to help them overcome challenges. These life lessons include the ability to think creatively, patience and how to communicate effectively.
When dealing with behavioural issues there are no quick fixes. What works with one dog, may fail miserably with another. The easiest way to assess and treat a behavioural issue is by imagining the world through your dog’s eyes. Analyze what triggers are provoking the unwanted behaviour and what may be rewarding your dog for their response. Then make a plan to control your dog’s environment so you can prevent or prepare yourself for theses triggers and teach your dog a more appropriate response. Remember to be creative, breeds like Terriers and Hounds are independent thinkers while other dogs who lack confidence are fearful and often wrongly labeled as being stubborn or dominant. Make sure to set up your training sessions so the dog can only make the right choice and make sure the dog’s rewards match your expectations. Most humans wouldn’t go work at their jobs everyday for a pat on the back but will endure sometimes awful jobs for a big reward like a paycheck.
Because there are no effective quick fixes for behavioural issues, dogs are great at teaching humans patience. Bad behaviours take time to become habit and changing bad habits to good ones doesn’t happen overnight. It is essential to be calm, consistent and have a clear training plan. Having patience with problem dogs will transform nervous and insecure dogs into happy-go-lucky, relaxed animals. This transformation is a powerful, rewarding and can give you the strength and patience you will need to face future life challenges, knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The final skill set our challenging dogs teach us is effective communication. We learn that yelling and nagging won’t work to change a dog’s behaviour any better than it does to change a spouse or co-worker. When we learn to focus on and acknowledge the small successes our dogs experience when overcoming a behavioural issue, this will often transfer to the rest of our lives and we will be more likely to see the good in people which results in healthier professional and personal relationships.
Get started on the road to success with a challenging dog by contacting a qualified trainer who focuses on modern, positive training technique. Enjoy teaching your dog new tricks while you learn a few yourself!
There has been an outpouring of rage over the arrest of a Salem, Oregan man on Tuesday for using a shock collar on his four kids because he “thought it was funny.” The 41-year-old father is accused of using the shock collar to “torture” his children ages three to nine and was charged with four counts of criminal mistreatment in the first degree. Although it is surprising that someone would get pleasure from scaring and tormenting their children, what is even more surprising is the reaction of the police who investigated the case.
The officers who investigated the case used words like unimaginable and disturbing to describe the man’s actions. One of the investigating officers went on to say “we shouldn’t have to tell people in our society not to do things of this nature.” Why is this reaction so surprising? Because the practice of using shock collars on dogs as a “training tool” is still so widely accepted. Why is it unimaginable, disturbing and considered torment when a device is used on a child yet it is OK to use it on a dog? We know dogs are not human but that does not negate the fact that they also experience pain and fear. If the use of a shock collar made a child cry and run away, why is it considered effective to train dogs if we know that 90% of dog aggression has its roots in fear?
Victoria Stilwell describes the use of shock collars as disgusting, perverse and abusive. She like many other professional dog trainers and behaviorists has to deal with the fallout associated with the use of shock collars on dogs. From dogs who are nervous to offer new behaviors for fear of being punished with a shock to dogs that redirect aggression to people or things they come to associate the electric shock with, these types of collars result in problem behaviors in many dogs. Hopefully with the media attention being paid to the sad case of child abuse in Salem, more people will realize that these are inhumane products that are unsafe for children and our pets.
Five Things Every Dog Should Know
Whether you want a pooch you can let off-leash at the dog park or one who can stroll with you along a busy sidewalk, there are five key life skills that will get you there. With a little digging you will find a trainer who can help you perfect these skills. Whether you are looking for personalized one-on-one training, small classes in a relaxed environment or larger classes with more real-life distractions, all of these options are available in most urban settings. Be sure to consider what teaching methods suit your personal style when you are choosing your trainer. Dogs don’t come preprogrammed to understand human language or any basic obedience so a good trainer will help you develop the skills to communicate clearly with your dog while building a strong bond. You may also want to visit clickerleash.com where you can view videos that can show you how to teach your dog these important life skills quickly and with love.
Any time you are teaching your dog a new skill or if you are brushing up on one that may have gotten a little rusty, start off in a quiet environment like your living room or backyard. Once your dog is responding to your requests immediately, take your show on the road. Just remember as distractions increase, your expectations should decrease and you will have to reward good behaviours more often so that your dog understands exactly what you want him to do. Now onto those essential life skills!
A Fast Response to Their Name
Before you can give your dog any guidance through this crazy world, you have to have their attention. Teach your dog a speedy response to their name. Make sure you don’t waste your dog’s name by repeating it over and over, with idle chitchat or by using it if you are correcting a behaviour. Your dog’s name lets him know it’s time to stop catching up on the latest pee-mail and time to pay attention to you.
To play the name game, start off with your dog on a loose leash. Say his name and as soon as he turns around and looks at you, let him know what a good boy he has been. If he does not respond, back away from whatever is distracting him, until he turns around and looks at you. Keep your movements smooth and gentle. Only jerks jerk! Resist the urge to repeat your dog’s name as you are backing up. When we repeat ourselves, our dogs learn that the words we are saying have no real meaning and will not understand them. When your dog finally does look at you, let him know how happy you are with his choice.
Come When Called
You can keep your pet out of all kinds of trouble if he reliably comes when called. Whether it is a small child running with a tasty treat or a porcupine in the woods, your dog should be able to come away from these things and return to you before he has earned the privilege of being off-leash. If you are worried about your dog getting enough exercise before he has mastered this, invest in a long line that can drag on the ground. If you run into a situation that causes your pooch to lose his brain, you will be able to step on the long line and get control of the situation.
Loose Leash Walking
Loose leash walking prepares your dog for off-leash privileges. If you don’t rely on your leash to communicate then you are one step closer to off-leash fun in Point Pleasant Park. Loose leash walking also helps when meeting new puppy pals. A friendly dog can look aggressive to other dogs as well as people if they are pulling or lunging forward.
Many dogs become expert pullers because they are rewarded by getting to explore all of the exciting things at the end of a tight leash. If you would like to stay out of physiotherapy, start playing the red light, green light game. If your dog is pulling, stop walking forward and wait for the leash to become loose and reward your dog by walking forward again. If your dog has become a master puller, it may take you an hour to get around the block but with consistence your dog will quickly understand the rules of the game. For excessive pullers, you may want to jumpstart your training with a head halter like the Gentle Leader or harness like the Easy Walk Harness. Stay away from retractable leashes if pulling is a problem for you. Your dog will feel a constant tension in his leash as he moves forward and think pulling is the correct way to walk.
Whether you choose a sit, down or stand, your dog should know how to stay in one spot for extended periods of time, even if you are out of sight. Stays are a great way to prevent jumping up and can help an otherwise active or excited dog relax and be calm. A dog in a sit or down stay is under control and this will put other people at ease around your fur kid. At home use a stay if you are putting groceries away or preparing a meal and don’t want your dog underfoot.
Once your dog can sit, down or stand on command, gradually increase the length of time you want him to maintain the stay and intensify the distractions. Get creative with your distractions and try to incorporate things you are likely to run into out on your walks. If your dog leaves the stay before you have said it is OK, decrease the amount of time or the distractions so that you can build on success.
Give (Even if you Really Don’t Want To)
There are so many things your dog will think are great for chewing and eating. Pills, children’s toys, sticks, bones and litter are just a few examples that seem irresistible to the canine palate but can be dangerous if swallowed. Besides stopping your dog from ingesting dangerous objects, a give command will help prevent object and food guarding issues.
As long as your dog has not developed any resource guarding, begin by hand feeding as many meals as possible to get your dog used to your hands around his mouth. Once you have established a trusting relationship, begin teaching a give command by trading an object that isn’t very important to your dog for something he likes better. Remember to always trade up during practice so in an emergency your dog will be happy to give up what he has with the expectation that you will give him something even better.
Life skills training doesn’t have to be a drag and by incorporating it into your dog’s daily routine, you will have a four legged friend you can take anywhere. Remember to make things fun to keep your dog engaged, happy and confident. While timing and consistency are important, you will be successful as long as you keep things positive and focus on rewarding the behaviours you love instead of trying to correct the ones you don’t like.
Humane dog training information.