General Comments on Training


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Training your dog isn’t difficult. It should be FUN. Both for the dog and for you. The more fun you can make it the more your dog enjoys it, the more FUN they have, the more they look forward to it, the more you enjoy your dog and the more fun you have …. It progresses.

Progression is the key. Let them succeed. Don’t set your dog up to fail. You wouldn’t start teaching “Come” from 250 yards away. But you can easily progress to that distance in a matter of a few weeks once your dog has mastered the basics at 6 ft. You will be surprised how fast you can advance. If your dog is failing a command in one instance but succeeds every time in the same command under a different instance, be it a closer distance, indoors versus outdoors, a quiet area versus a noisy one. Then back down to where the dog is succeeding and incrementally increase the training. Never end a training session on a negative. Give a command that you know the dog will succeed at. Praise them to high heaven and then end the session. The saying is as old as dirt but true nothing succeeds like success.

The best tools in your training kit are your voice and body language. The sound, pitch and speed of your voice. Give all commands clearly. You can change your voice easily from neutral to firm to happy-happy to correction gruff growl. Do the following test yourself. Pick any praise comment or command that you use and you know that the dog understands. “Come” is my favourite illustration.

From 20ft away with your dog in sit-stay say “Dimwit Come” in a totally neutral voice and see what happens. They will probably ignore it or will walk up slowly almost like they could care less. That’s because your voice indicates you could care less. Next same sit-stay call “Dimwit Come” with your voice louder and very firm, not gruff but crisp and firm. The dog will likely come at steady slow walk maintaining eye contact with you. Next time standing very rigid and all muscles tight try “Dimwit Come” with your voice very deep and gruff, put as much growl into your voice as you can. If they come it is usually with tail and head lower and their behaviour is much more timid. IF they come at all. No one likes the correction voice so save it for that purpose. Lastly call “Dimwit Come” pitch your voice higher in what I call happy-happy voice. (The voice you use when you want to make a baby smile and laugh, only louder.) The voice you use when you are really happy and pleased with your dog. As you give the command bend at the waist and clap your hands and put the biggest smile on your face and be HAPPY. Your dog will likely run you over waggling all the while. That is voice and body language in its best form. Same command 4 different ways and very different outcomes.

There is considerable attention paid to reward training. Be it treats of food or a favourite toy. The dog does what you want and you reward them. This is ok to a point. The point being dogs aren’t stupid. They quickly learn when you don’t have the reward. What do you do when you are out on a busy street and the buckle breaks on the collar? You don’t have treats in your pocket this day. Dog knows that. Is it going to come, sit, or heel? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. If all you’ve ever done is food/treat based training there is a good chance not.

Your training of your dog should be such that the dog wants to obey the command. Obeying is a deeper drive than chasing the cat, cars, the kids playing ball, or the food booth across the street. There will be two motivators here 1. Is wanting to please the boss. That’s you. 2. Knowing that not obeying will incur the displeasure of the boss. That’s you.

When your dog does what you ask of it praise it. LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of praise. Praise is a reward that you can always use. Tell them how smart they are. How terrific they are. How beautiful they are. Use the happy-happy voice. Scratch their ears. Pat their chests. Make a fuss over them. Let them know they have pleased the boss. That’s you.

When your dog doesn’t obey the command let them know you aren’t pleased as you correct them. Always correct never punish. You can only correct what happens “right now” 5 second rule. If it happens and you don’t correct it in 5 seconds, don’t as you’ve likely lost the moment. Your perception of time and your dogs perception of time are two different things. If you discover a tipped over plant two hours after it happens clean it up, but you can’t growl at the dog. She didn’t do it. Least not in her time reference.

When your dog does something wrong by all means correct it right now. When correcting use a gruff growlly voice. Voice deep, low, gruff and roll the sound with as much grrrr as you can. Make your body more rigid and your muscles more tense. No praise sounds at all! The dog will get the idea real fast you aren’t happy. You want to condition the response of the dog. Every time you issue a command they have to respond the same way. If they do there is the happy-happy boss. If they don’t there is the growlly gruff boss. Which do you think your dog prefers?

But you say your dog gets in the garbage while you’re at work? Eats your shoes when you aren’t looking? Gnaws on the chair legs? Those things you don’t catch in progress. You have to train it not to. What’s “theirs” and what is “yours”. Acceptable and unacceptable. You have to teach them. If your dog shreds the garbage either put it away where the dog can’t get it and won’t be tempted or teach it that garbage is totally out of bounds. This is where NO comes in along with aversion therapy modification. Dogs have to learn just as kids do, if it isn’t yours don’t touch it.

Here is a story of what I call aversion therapy. The wife came home from work one day. The dog had taken a glove off the table and shredded it. Expensive leather glove. Aversion therapy 101 time. The dog all happy to see her. Then the wife saw the glove, when she picked up what was left of it the dog tried to grab it. Wife pulled it away and said “NO” in her gruffest growl she could muster. As wife walked away from her the dog tried to grab it again. Wife stomped her foot and totally growled “NO”. She, the dog, backed up a bit. Now she had likely been “playing” with that glove for hours. So what was different now? So she tried again. Wife said “NO” and grabbed her snout and pinched lightly and shook her head. Holding the glove remains right in front of her face. “NO” shook her head again and let her go.

Wife then dropped the glove on the floor and walked away from it. Puppy dog she sat looking at it for a bit and moved towards it. Wife stomped her foot and growled “NO. Leave it.” So she did. For awhile. When she thought the wife wasn’t looking miss puppy dog sidled up to it. As she reached it wife reached her. “NO.” and she got the scruff of her neck shook. She about jumped out of her furry skin. She didn’t touch it the rest of that evening. At bed time the glove was picked up and put on the fridge. The next morning the glove was laid it back down on the floor and miss puppy dog made a bee line for it. Again “NO. Leave it.” And she did for awhile. But testing as dogs will she got closer and closer to it and wife let her. When she reached for it. Wife grabbed the glove slapped her nose with it and yelled. “NOT YOURS” She then went around the house after the puppy dog and every time miss puppy dog would stop wife would shake the glove in front of her face and growl “Is this yours? NOT YOURS” Wife did this for some 20 minutes. After all this the glove was put back on the floor. Every time she got within a body length of it there would a growl “NOT YOURS.” In less than an hour she was walking a circle around the glove laying on the floor. She has never touched another glove.

She did get a hold of a book and chewed the cover up. We did the same treatment of 20 minutes with the book and returned it to the floor. It was left on the floor for a week, every time she came within a body length of it she was asked “IS THAT YOURS?”. She has never touched another book or anything paper. Also now all you have to do is ask her “Is that yours?” and she leaves whatever it is alone. Hold it in your hand hold it out and ask “IS THAT YOURS?” and she is backing away from it. Aversion to anything not hers. As long as she knows it is not hers.

She does have stuffed toys. She does chew those up. But they are hers. I’d rather she know she can chew up nyla bones, kongs, squeaky toys, stuffed toys and balls than think the table leg or the sofa cushions are fair game. There a ton of books, methods, and products that you can use to teach your dog what is allowed to them. However we find that this works for us, aversion is a strong tool. Plus we find that this way works faster than spraying everything with bitter lemon 4 to 8 times a day. Besides which some dogs actually like the taste of bitter lemon. Miss puppy dog sure did.

Use what works. No one trainer has all the answers. What works for one person may not work for you. By your body language or tone of voice or whatever you may not be able to convey the proper lesson to the dog. When that happens move on to something else. Be open to new things. New ways to do the same old things.

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