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Thursday, November 18, 2010


For most dog owners the following three things are the most important for the dog to learn:
1.  Housebreaking,
2. Coming when called and
3. Walking on a leash without pulling.
Everything else varies from owner to owner.
The following are the most important things to remember when you start out to "Civilize Your Dog":
  1. NEVER tell your dog to do anything that he can evade.
  2. REWARD whatever you want the dog to continue doing while NOT REWARDING (or penalizing)  whatever you want the dog to stop doing.
 These two statements will help you train the dog for the rest of his life.  Remember that rewards are not what YOU consider a reward, but rather, what the DOG considers a reward.  For example:  if your dog runs out the front door, he is being REWARDED with freedom.  When you call him and he comes and you put him back in the house he is being PENALIZED for coming to you by being put back in the house.  For training purposes a Reward can be verbal praise, petting, food, a ball or whatever motivates your dog.  YOU know your own dog -- you know if he would sell his soul for food or for a tennis ball.  Make his Reward whatever turns him on, and the time spent finding out what really turns him on will be well worth the effort.
Please notice that I said "Penalize" and not punish.  Punishment makes people think of hitting the dog -- which is rarely necessary.  The only reason to hit a dog is for anti-so-cial behavior.  "Anti-social" is not only biting.  A puppy that growls when you go near his bone is threatening you -- definitely anti-social behavior.  If not stopped it will probably become a bite.
A "Penalty" can be anything that the dog does not like.  It may be a leash jerk, not moving when he's a on leash so there's no walk, or just ignoring him.
If you think that your dog can't or won't learn, think about the things that he has already learned.  If you dog has been with you for a few weeks the chances are that he has learned when food is going to be available -- the sounds of the can opener or the opening of the closet door where his food is kept, or even, if he is fed from the table, to beg at dinner time. He has learned that a leash means a walk, that if the front door is left open a crack he can dash out and run for a few hours, and that when he is left alone he can destroy things in the house because he has never been caught in the act.
One of the most important things for you to learn is that it IS possible to teach the dog what you want him to learn.  The dog is always learning.  You have to learn how to reward the dog so that it is in his best interests to do what you want him to do.
If your dog is destructive when left alone, it is because he has not been caught in the act of doing wrong.  See the chapter on crates.
If your dog dashes out the front door, it is because he has been given the opportunity to escape and then is being rewarded by the freedom to roam the neighborhood.  If this is your problem, put a ten foot rope on the dog and let him drag it around the house.  (called a house line)  Just before you open the door step on the rope, or, for a big dog, leave a loop in the end and loop it over the inside door handle.  When the dog dashes out the front door you have a handle with which to jerk him back in.  After a few times or a few dozen times (depending on the dog) he will catch on that it is painful to dash out the door and he will stop.  Congratulations!!  You have just taught your dog a lesson that *may* save his life, and *wil*l save your hours of chasing.
As long as he is dragging this rope around the house, if you have a problem with him jumping on people you can solve that too.  All you have to do is to step on the rope where it hits the floor.  If he jumps up, the rope tightens, giving him an automatic correction.  If he doesn't jump up, nothing happens.
Every dog must have two collars:  one should be a buckle collar with his tags on it and the other is the training collar (a chain choke ). NEVER tie a dog up with his training collar and never leave the training collar on the dog when he is alone as it may catch on something.
Every dog should have two names.  One for talking  TO him and one for talking ABOUT him.  If you use his name when you are talking about him you will desensitize him to the use of his name.  Every time you say his name make it a happy occasion for him.  Use his name when you feed him.  If you want to give him a snack, instead of saying "snack" say his name.  Every time I say my dog's name she thinks that I am saying "snack" and she comes running.  Much better than yelling "snack"  or "cookie" whenever I want her to come.  Much more dignified!!
Most people have a life, aside from training the dog, so that I'm not going to tell you to train the dog for one hour a day.  Also, if you have a very young puppy one hour will be much too much for him.  Five or ten minutes at a time, two or three times a day will be far better to get the training into the dog's mind.
While your dog is eating, add food to his dish.  That is, while he is eating his dog food, add a small piece of meat or a special "goody" to his food.  This will convince the dog that whenever someone goes near his dish it is only to make it better.  The old way to get a dog to be less possessive about his food was to remove the dish while he was eating and then replace it.  This, unfortunately, sometimes led to dogs eating faster and faster because they were afraid that someone would steal their food. Add this goody to his food every day for about one month, then once or twice a week for about one a month.  After that, add a goody about once a month, to keep the dog used to the idea of someone bothering him while he is eating.  At the same time, it is very important that the dog NOT be bothered while he is eating.  What we have been talking about here is training.  If this is done the dog will not object to being bothered now and then, although the fair thing to do is NEVER to bother the dog.  The purpose of this training is that, although the owner should see to it that nobody bothers the dog while he is eating, things can happen.
One of the biggest problems is catching a dog thief in the act.  That is, a dog who steals food or other stuff off a table or a cabinet when you are not watching.  The trick is to catch him.  For this you will need several empty soda or beer cans.  When the cans are empty, wash and dry them.  When they are dry inside, put about ten pennies in the can and seal it with tape.  Line the cans up on the edge of a counter about six inches apart. Put a piece of food, or napkins, or whatever it is that he grabs off the table BEHIND the cans.  When the booby trap is all set up, leave the room, but stay within earshot.  When you hear the can hit the ground, come running in screaming.  DO NOT EVER SET THIS UP UNLESS YOU CAN COME RUNNING WHEN YOU HEAR THE CANS FALL.  Otherwise the dog will learn to spring the trap and get the bait.
The purpose of obedience training is to teach your dog to be a well-mannered companion, who is responsive to your commands and who looks to you for leadership.  The process of training should be enjoyable for you both, and enhance the bond between you as well.
How Dogs Learn
Dogs learn by associating an action with a consequence.  If the consequence is pleasurable, the dog will tend to repeat the behavior.  If the consequence is unpleasant, he will tend not to repeat the behavior.
In training you show your dog the action you wish, helping him to perform it by luring him with food or a toy, or by collar pressures.  When he performs the action, you immediately provide a pleasant consequence, by rewarding him with a special praise word and giving him a small treat. This is called "positive reinforcement," and will cause your dog, after several repetitions, to repeat the action.
If you give your dog a command word at the same time that he performs the behavior, he will learn to associate the behavior with the command.
For example, in order to teach your dog to sit, say the command SIT as you help him to do it.  This can be done by luring his head up with food or a toy held in your hand, which will cause his rear to sink into a sit, or by use of collar pressure coupled with the pressure of your hand on his rump.  The instant he sits, say his special praise word and give him a tiny treat.  After many repetitions of this he will make the association between the command word SIT and the act of sitting.  He will learn to obey the command by being positively reinforced by your praise word and a treat.
Using A Special Word to Speed Learning
You can speed up your dog's learning a lot by using a very special praise word reserved for the purpose of telling him that the action he is performing is correct and that he will be reinforced for it.  You can also use a "clicker" instead of a special word.  (Dolphin and killer whale trainers use a whistle for this purpose.  You've probably seen this at dolphin shows or on TV.  The whistle tells the dolphin that what he did was correct, and he can get a fish to eat.)  We suggest using a single word such as "great" or "yes" or "wow" that is different from general praise words like "good boy."
You dog will first need to learn that this special sound, called a "conditioned reinforcer" means something.  Teach this at home by saying the word (or clicking your clicker if you are using one) and immediately giving the dog a tiny, succulent food treat.  The order is very important.  FIRST you say the word, THEN you give the treat.  Your dog shouldn't be doing anything special, just say the word and toss the treat.  After several repetitions of this you will see your dog startle and look at you when you say the word.  That means that he has learned that it means "a goodie is coming."  Now you can use your conditioned reinforcer to clearly tell him he has performed an action correctly and will be reinforced for it, with food, a toy, praise, play, or all three.
In order for this to work, you must find something your dog likes and will work for that you can couple with your conditioned reinforcer.  For most dogs, tiny pieces of soft, tasty food work best.  We suggest tiny pieces of hot dog, cheese, soft-moist cat food, or lunch meat.  Buy a cheap belt pack to carry the food in when you are training and at class.  Once your dog has learned commands, you will not need to carry food, and can reinforce with praise, petting and play, but using food initially will help him learn much faster.
Remember that your conditioned reinforcer must be given the instant the dog obeys your command and while he is still performing the behavior, and not several seconds later.  You will need to train him daily in order for commands to become part of his long-term memory.  He needs to be quiet and controlled while you are teaching him.  He can't learn if he is wildly excited or not paying attention to you.  Therefore, begin his training in quiet, familiar places, and add distractions later as he becomes proficient in his commands.
As you start this obedience course, it will seem like there is a huge amount of things you need to learn and remember - new words, new ways of handling your dog, and new ways of relating to him.  Don't worry about trying to learn it all at once.  It will all be repeated over the weeks of the course and you'll find it becomes second nature as you gradually train your dog.  Just relax and have fun.
And remember these three things that form the cornerstone of dog training:
PATIENCE                              PRACTICE               PERSEVERANCE
It should take a while to teach the dog all this stuff. I am being vague on purpose!! Don't panic if the dog doesn't seem to be catching on in one week.  Training takes time.  If you doubt that the dog is making any progress, keep a training diary.  This will help you see just how often you are training (once a week won't work) and you will be able to see that you ARE getting somewhere.
Vivian Bregman and the Border Collies in Northern New Jersey
Member of NADOI & APDT

Source : doglogic

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