Being consistent in training!

After every training session I always finish with the phrase ” be consistent”. There is a reason for my consistent need to be consistent! If you practice behaviors with your dog regularly and our repetitious it is amazing the level of obedience and sense of achievement you and your dog receive.   Same goes for potty training. Taking your dog out at the same time everyday gets your dog on a routine and they are able to anticipate their walk and hold in their urine till the great moment they get to go for a walk. I tell my clients ” there is no day off in training”. Your dog loves to learn and even if you are only able to do something with them for 5 mins that five minute session makes all the difference.

Love your dog, play with them , understand them, train them, and enjoy them. Being consistent is the key to a happy dog household



How do you train your dog?

How do you train? Do you use treats, toys, praise, all three or neither. Many trainers have multiple opinions on the right methods of reinforcement.

Purely positive reinforcement (PP):
This is the sole use of treats for training. Treats are great in training because they are the primary reinforcement for dogs (R1). Treat training is very effective, quick and of course positive. However using only treats can become a problem because you will have to use treats to get behaviors and people don’t always have treats on them and it can be expensive.

No treat training:
You will hear some trainers talking about no treat training. The theory behind this training technique is using praise like a clicker or the word “good” and that is enough of reinforcement for your dog. No treats just behaviors based on trust and a strong bond. But there is a down side. Training behaviors can take much longer and the duration of the trains will be shorter. Also it requires more work and patience. Not everyone has that time!

Variable positive reinforcement training:
Variable training is the use of multiple primary and secondary reinforcements (R2) between treats, praise , toys, or positive behaviors to train. The benefits of this is one uses treats in the beginning to get the behaviors quickly and once your dog has the an understanding of the behavior you start reinforcing them variably fading the treats. One time with a toy play , next time with love and praise and tactile and the next time with a behavior they enjoy like going for a walk. For example if you want to maintain the sit behavior but you don’t want to use treats every time and you have used toys already. Ask your dog to sit before the walk. Your dog sits and then they get rewarded with a walk. No treats needed and your dog will be able to maintain the behavior. The con is that some people argue that fading treats is a waste of time.

Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT):
This is a whole other form of training where the reinforcement comes from removing a negative feeling. This is used for fear or aggression issues not for sits and downs. For example your dog is afraid of other dogs. So you have a dog come down a street, your dog notices the dog and then the fear kicks in. You ask the helper dog to back up until your dog is comfortable and that is the reinforcement. The removal of the fear. Every time you do this you bring your dog closer and closer and if the improve they get rewarded by the removal of the negative stimulus. This method is helpful to stop undesired behaviors.

No matter how you train your dog, stand by your method. Understand why you reinforce the way you do and know all the different methods of reinforcement. You might realize , like I have, that all these methods have their pros and cons. This is why I use all of these methods in my training. I train with treats, toys, praise the use of a bridge (the word “good”), tactile , bat and redirection training. All to provide the dog and the client with a well rounded training experience.

So next time you have a trainer ask them what method of training they use and why. It is always interesting to hear peoples different opinions on training.


Aversive Conditioning (Good or Bad?)

This week is all about aversives, or a way to help avoid an undesirable behavior by helping the client to associate that activity with a negative outcome.

These people and dogs are not associated with my training or company, but have allowed me to see different types of aversives that they use on their dogs.

I always train animals behaviorally, by understanding the root of the problem behavior and having the dog learn and fix this problem or fear on their own. Now not every trainer uses positive reinforcement training and thus they revert to shock collars, spray collars, or punishment to help stop the undesired behavior.

This experiment will give me and in turn my readers insight into these pros and cons of aversives.

Spray collars

Today I am observing a small breed dog with a spray collar. I am taking into consideration the duration of the barking period in response to the aversive spray.

Does the dog indeed stop barking? For the small breed dog, who barks regularly we saw a very quick response. He managed to bark twice. Twice the spray offered an unpleasant mist and once the dog realized that the spray was only occurring when he was barking, the barking stopped. He barked 30 mins later once again the spray went off. Immediate silence.

Now was the dog comfortable. My observations say “no”. Being alone was still uncomfortable for the dog but the barking was no longer the way to express the feeling. Instead there were quieter moans and whimpering followed by a long-awaited relaxation period nearly 1 hour later.

This owner seems pleased with the spray despite the fact that her dog’s coat smells like the spray and the actually problem behavior which was a separation anxiety is not cured but merely masked.

Since I don’t use aversives in my training it was interesting to have a comprehensive understanding of what these devices do.

Tomorrow a medium breed dog will be analyzed for the same spray collar. Results to follow


Capturing A Behavior

Capturing a behavior takes the utmost patience but sometimes these behaviors are the most impressive.

Captured behaviors can range from animal vocals all the way to flips. It is something the dog or animal does naturally, that you ( the trainer) reinforces and thus captures.

How it works: lets say you see your dog stretch every morning and when your dog stretches it looks like they are bowing (butt high and both paws stretched forward). So you say “bow” and reinforce your dog. Do this every morning when they stretch. Also try saying “bow” in the morning and reinforcing your dog only when they do the behavior. Eventually after some time and patience your dog will bow and you captured it.

The same works for vocals. If you hear your dog make an interesting noise (meow, whistle , whatever). Start capturing it! Use a hand motion (like a cat paw hand gesture) and pair it with a word. Reinforce your dog every time your dog does it. Eventually you will get it on command.

This works amazingly with exotic animals. When I was training dolphins, they would do some amazing flips and acrobatics naturally. So as trainers it was easier to capture than to train from scratch. Every time the dolphin flipped in the air, we would blow our whistle and reinforce them . Then we would pair it with a hand motion and eventually with patience and perfect timing the dolphin flips on command!

Try it ourself! You will be amazed what you can capture that is unique to your dog.


Therapy Dog Test Requirements

Therapy dog work is always encouraged and needed in our communities. So how does your dog participate in such a rewarding experience? There are 13 steps or testing requirements that your dog needs to pass before they can receive certification.

What to bring : 6 inch leash is a must. No corrective leashes or corrective harness.

The test is to stimulate the experience one goes through in a hospital or retirement home. DEMONSTRATING CONFIDENCE AND CONTROL, THE DOG MUST COMPLETE THESE 13 STEPS OF THE TDI TEST. Phase 1 is group work then Phase 2 is based on an individual skills.
Also remember that at check-in, before beginning Test 1, the owner must present a current rabies certificate and any other state or locally required inoculation certificates and licenses.)

Phase I
The dog must wear either a flat buckle or snap-in collar (non corrective) or a harness (non-corrective), all testing must be on a 6ft leash.

TEST 1: TDI ENTRY TABLE (Simulated as a Hospital Reception Desk)
The dog/handler teams are lined up to be checked in (simu- lating a visit). The evaluator (“volunteer coordinator”) will go down the line of registrants and greet each new arrival including each dog. At the same time the collars must be checked, as well as nails, ears and grooming.
This is to simulate the arrival at a facility where the coordina- tor first greets the visiting dog team and instructs the handler on proper grooming before a therapy dog visit. The dogs must permit the evaluator to check the collar, all 4 paws, ears and tail which must be lifted if applicable. The dog must be friendly and outgoing upon meeting the evaluator, willing to visit without being invasive and show impeccable manners.

The handler is asked to complete the paperwork and check in. At that time a helper will ask the handler if he/she can help by holding the dog. If the handler prefers he/she can go with the helper and places the dog with a stay command. The dog will be out of sight of the handler. Another helper will take charge of the dog. The helper can talk to and pet the dog. The dog can sit, lie down, stand or walk around within the confine of the leash.

As the dog/handler team walks toward the patients’ rooms, there should be various people standing around. Some of the people will try visiting with the dog. The dog/handler team must demonstrate that the dog can withstand the approach of several people at the same time and is willing to visit and to walk around a group of people.

The evaluator will ask all the participants to line up with their
*If the dog is on a longer leash, a knot must be made in the leash to mark 6 ft. The handler must drop the excessive leash.
dogs in a heel position (w/dog on left), with 8 ft. between each team. Now the handlers will put their dogs in a sit/stay position. The Evaluator will tell the handlers to leave their dogs. Handlers step out to the end of their 6 ft. leash and wait for the evaluator’s command to return to their dogs.

Same as test number 4, except dogs will now be in a down/ stay. The dogs must stay in place as ordered. These exercises will show how well the dog responds when other dogs are present.

All handlers will be seated. Three dogs at a time will be fit- ted with a long line. One handler at a time will take the dog to a designated area and downs the dog. Upon the command from the evaluator the handler will tell the dog to stay. The handler will walk to the end of the 20 ft. line, turn around and upon a command from the evaluator will recall the dog. For all practical purposes the recall is one of the most impor- tant obedience exercises for the dog to master. If a dog does not come when called the dog is not obedient and cannot be trusted in public.

The dog should show willingness to visit a person and dem- onstrate that it can be made readily accessible for petting (i.e. small dogs can be placed on a person’s lap or can be held; medium and larger dogs can sit on a chair or stand close to the patient to be easily reached).
For this part of the test a wheelchair or bed can be used. The evaluator will supply a rubber bathmat and a towel.
Phase II

The dog handler team must be walking in a straight line. The dog can be on either side, or slightly behind the handler, the leash must not be tight. The evaluator will ask the handler to have the dog sit (the handler may say sit). Next the evaluator will ask the handler to down the dog. Continuing in a straight line, the handler will be asked to make a right, left and an about turn at the evaluator’s discretion.
The following distractions will be added to the heel on a loose leash.
a. The team will be passing a person on crutches.
b. Someone running by calling “excuse me, excuse me” waving hands (this person is running up from behind the
dog. It could also be a person on a bicycle or on roller blades). c. Another person should be walking by and drop some- thing making a loud startling noise (a tin can filled with pebbles, or a clipboard). At an indoor test one could use a running vacuum cleaner (realistic in a facility).
d. After that, the team should be requested to make a left turn.
e. And a right turn.
f. After the right turn an about-turn, going back in a straight line.

The dog handler/team meets a person using a walker, the dog should approach the person and visit. The person with the walker will offer the dog a treat. The handler must instruct the dog to leave it.

The dog handler will resume walking in a straight line with the dog at heel. There will be a piece of food in the path of the dog. The dog must leave it.

A volunteer with a demo dog will walk past the dog han- dler/team, turn around and ask the handler a question. After a brief conversation, the two handlers part.

The dog handler team is ready to enter a door to the facility. The handler first has to put the dog in a sit, stand or down stay, whichever is appropriate for the dog. If there is no door available, an area simulating an entrance should be marked. A person should be able to go through the entrance before the dog/handler team.

The last phase of the test shows us if the dog will be able to work well around children. The dog’s behavior around chil- dren must be evaluated during testing. It is important that during the testing the potential Therapy Dog and the chil- dren are not in direct contact. This means the dog can only be observed for a reaction toward children running, or being present at the testing site. The evaluator must designate an area at least 10 feet away from the dog and handler. The dog may be walked, or put in a sit or down position. The children will be instructed to run and yell and do what children usually do while playing.

If you can pass the 13 tests you now have joined an amazing group of dogs and dog owners! So if your dog can pass these requirements, find your local TDI evaluator and get started!!!!