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.
If your dog is emitting sit on the first approximation (first time) you ask for it, move on to the next behavior. Down can be difficult for some dogs so work slowly. First ask your dog to sit say good (or any positive word) then reinforce that. With your dog still sitting get another treat say the word down and move your treat down to floor. if your dog moves his head downward take that, say good and reinforce. Now do it again but move your hand further down if your dog leans down further reinforce that. Now the next time when you start bringing your hand down to floor, say down and move your hand away from the dog on the floor. If he starts crawling down to get the treat, say good and reinforce that. This is called using small approximations or steps to get desired results. Dont expect your dog to just lay down. lean him down through positive reinforcement. I know some dogs just seem to get “down” but this method is great for dogs who just need more guidance. Remember also to always end on a positive. If your dog has improved at all after a few sessions stop and give them a play. Then after some time start again. Your dog will learn down in a day if you work on it in small positive steps. Anytime you dog doesn’t do what you want, ignore the behavior and ask again. Reinforce only improvements!!
Today, we will discuss the behavioral aspects of pulling and straining on a leash.
We will be using positive reinforcement training so bring some treats with you on your walk. When you begin the walk don’t get your dog overly excited especially when you know you are battling with leash pulling.
Be calm and head outside. Now your dog probably is already pulling. Be patient!!! If your dog knows basic obedience training use it if they don’t start your dog on a program of sit, down, stay and come. Now that you are outside do not move your feet if your dog is pulling. It is so important to never give in to the pull . Best thing to do is not move until they stop or change your direction in walking . If your dog responds to any of these changes reinforce that behavior . The purpose of this is to keep your dog on his toes. You’re the leader and your dog should follow you. Once again reward small improvements, don’t expect to see miracles in a day but if you expect and anticipate small changes to occur you will be excited with the results. The more confidence you begin to have it will translate to your dog . Also remember if you have a large breed dog make sure to also give them a lot of exercise!! If they go for runs or to a dog park and release energy you will notice your dog walks will start becoming more behavioral and your dog will be less hyper active . I love when I start walking dogs and in the middle of the walk ask them to come closer and do a little sit and down behavior. I reward all these behaviors and it builds a great bond with my clients and myself.
There is never just one way of fixing leash pulling problems but collectively if you get the best leash , train your dog in basic obedience, give them exercise, and be the leader walks will become such a positive fun part of your day with your dog .
Even though all breeds can pull on the leash, those owners with large breed dogs have the most complaints. This is for obvious reasons: dogs are larger , harder to handle, and can physically over power you.
When it comes to pulling on the leash there are actually multiple ways for fixing the problem. So even though it is great to have options, you must realize that might mean trail and error. Be patient. Since this is a lengthy topic, I will concentrate primarily on leashes today and on pulling tomorrow.
First get the proper leash. Many dog owners have choker collars which I do not recommend. Don’t use aversive conditioning!!! Positive reinforcement over punishment always. There are fabulous leashes on the market for all dog types. So find the one that best suits your dog.
Here our 3 choices in leashes that will be great for your dog !
Front clip harness: A leash I recommend often, this leash clips in the front on your dogs chest. The point of this and why it is so effective is when dog suddenly pulls it is pulled right around to face you. This is very annoying for the dog and you will see a change in the behavior quickly.
Sporn Harness: I see many owners with these. The way this leash works is when the dog is pulling on the harness it will tighten slightly in the front around the legs. The dog will feel like their feet are being lifted off the ground. So larger dogs or aggressive ( bully) breeds that can knock you off-balance, this leash could be good for you. This leash puts you in control.
Head collar: This leash is becoming very popular for dog owners. The leash fits around the snout or mouth of your dog. Even though many owners swear by this leash it is not intended for dogs that lunge or pull abruptly or dogs that have eye or neck issues. Injuries to eye and neck are more common.
Now pulling while walking is not just about changing your dogs leash. Be behavioral ! Tomorrows blog will explain more behavioral aspects of this common dog problem.
But remember always set your dog up for success and a great comfortable leash for both you can your dog is a great start.
Separation anxiety is one of the most stressful experiences for dog owners, especially for people living in condos or apartments. Your dog barks (annoying neighbors) urinates (even if they just got walked) and they can eat or dig at everything. Today we will go over several ways to solve this problem .
Dogs know when you are leaving and that is what triggers the fear. Putting on shoes, getting your keys, turning off the television are all daily reminders you are leaving. This technique teaches you to eliminate those signs. When you are in your home pick up your keys but don’t leave. Sit down watch TV shaking your keys or do your daily chores with the keys . Reinforce your dog anytime he is not concerned you are leaving . The same works with your shoes or purse. Reducing the stress of leaving will make your dog much more calm and comfortable . This takes time and patience but worth it.
Make leaving time as positive as the time when you are home. Anytime you leave give your dog an amazing toy/ treat. Something they only get when you leave. A frozen kong toy with peanut butter is great, this is redirection . This allows your dog to focus on positive treats instead of the negative leaving.
If your dog barks at noise, people walking in the halls, or cars driving by set your dog up for success. Crate training is great if your dog is crate trained. Leaving the television on can also be comfortable if you watch a lot of television when you are home, it also can drown out outside noise and if your dog barks it drowns out that as well. Put your curtains down so outside observations don’t trigger barking.
All these solutions are positive reinforcement training. Apply all or just one to your specific dog needs.
If behavioral issues can’t be resolved even with an experienced animal trainer there are medical solutions as well. Calming sprays, calming jackets and calming medications.
I treat everything behaviorally before medically. So have patience with this problem and be dedicated.