Repetition Shapes Behavior. Communication Builds Relationships.

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Aug 16

Teaching "Leave It"


There are steps to every behavior. Every dog moves through these steps at a different rate. In this video, you'll see how Savy has learned "Leave It"


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  • Shaping is my favorite training tool. Shaping is just like playing a hot and cold game with your dog. Except that in this hot and cold game, we only tell the dog that they are getting warmer in the form of a click. In this video I am working with Gin on putting away her toys. This is not the first session we've had with this skill and this skill is not yet on stimulus control (fancy name for "on cue"). We are still building this behavior, this means that she still needs help and is not getting it exactly right yet. In shaping, the way that we help the dog to guess the correct behavior is by first creating an environment where 90% of her guesses are going to be correct and second, rewarding her for getting closer and closer to the final behavior. In this video I am first rewarding her for any engagement with the toy. Then I reward her for putting the toy in her mouth. Next I reward her for taking the toy towards the mat, and finally for placing the toy on the mat. I am also helping her by positioning myself in the direction I want her to go. I position my body towards the toy, once she picks it up, I position my body towards the mat. I never look in her eyes. I have trained my dog to give me eye contact when I look at her and this is not the time to have her stare at me. Now I want her to pay more attention to the environment and less attention on me. Keep in mind, that some dogs need more steps and others need less. All dogs learn faster if you reward them more often and break your shaping criteria into smaller pieces. This behavior will be complete when I fade out the mat, eventually I want her to put her toys in a box or basket. I also have to fade myself out of the behavior. I love teaching shaping skills. I think they are really fun, for people and for dogs. Shaping is a great way to teach fun tricks and more complicated behaviors and they tire dogs out with all the thinking involved.
  • Size difference is an issue when it comes to dog interaction. Big dogs need to learn how to be calm around small dogs and small dogs need to be confident around big dogs. Small dogs often bark at big dogs most often because they would like more space and are intimidated by the big dog. Big dogs often trample or roll little dogs, most times accidentally. Everyone learns from accidents, but most likely, not what you would like the dog to learn. Big dogs may learn that chasing small dogs is fun. Small dogs are reinforced that they have a reason to be scared of big dogs. Teaching young, large breed, puppies to lay down during an interaction with a small dog is an easy way to set expectations early and reinforce wanted behaviors throughout the dogs life.
  • The simple answer is yes. They should go where ever is convenient. Dogs don't care that your house smells like pee. They rather like smelly things. The general rule is that the softer and smellier the more fun it is. Fun for what you ask? Well.... from a dogs point of view, its fun to roll in it, eat it, rub it all over your body and then all over your carpet. Best game ever! I call it doggie perfume and they LOVE it. So a little bit of pee in on the carpet only helps the ambiance your house, right? Most dogs have no problem with peeing indoors as long as it's not on their food or in their bed, and some don't have a problem with that either. So how do we get them to go outside? The answer is simple. Management, Opportunity and Reward. 1. Management: most dogs won't pee where they eat and sleep. Crate training is especially helpful for potty training because the dog can eat and sleep in their crate. Therefor, if you're not actively monitoring them, you can keep them crated with a chew or a kong and then take them out to a proper potty spot to eliminate on a regular schedule. Other management ideas are: - Constant monitoring - Keeping on leash and next to you so if you can't actively monitor. - Confining the dog to a small area of the house 2. Opportunity: Most adult dogs can hold their urine for 6 - 8 hours if not longer (tho it's unfair to ask any animal to hold it for longer). However, if they have never needed to hold it for any length of time and were able to eliminate the second they felt any pressure, you will have to teach them to hold it longer. Create a schedule. Start with one or 2 hours when the dog is awake and gradually increase the time between potty breaks. You can typically relay on 6 - 8 hours when an adult dog is asleep, keeping them crated at night is a simple and useful way to know they will wither hold it, or wake you up if they have to go. Be sure to give your dog potty break opportunities when he is playing, running, or wakes up from a nap. 3. Reward: The general rule with rewards is that the better the reward is, the more your dog will want to repeat the behavior. For me, potty training is the most important behavior a dog can learn, so I spend the big bucks on potty training. My dogs get salami. During the potty training process, my dog will not get salami for any other behavior. But every time she potty's outside she gets 5 pieces. They are small pieces, she just needs to swallow them. She gets those pieces one at a time while being praised. the reward last 5 - 10 seconds. Dogs peeing outside makes me happier than almost any other behavior they can offer me. If your dog pees inside, ignore him. Don't scold or yell, and what ever you do don't physically punish them. Your dog will quickly learn that peeing inside gets them nothing. But they can exchange their urine for 5 pieces of salami if they do it outside and in front of you. Please note: food delivery has to happen right after the dog eliminates. It is not affective to give them salami when you get back in side the house. You should start praising as your do is eliminating, then give the food reward immediately after. Disclaimer: If a dog pees inside, you must consider that your fault. You failed to meet your dogs needs and you certainly failed to monitor your dog. If your dog pees inside and in front of you, you may try to stop your dog by saying no or clapping your hands. If you succeed to stop their behavior take them outside immediately. Then, reward when they pee outside with 5 pieces of salami. Some dogs will not be deterred once they start eliminating. If thats the case, don't continue to yell. Consider it your fault and take your dog out more often. Potty training is time consuming. But once you teach your dog this new habit, it is as permanent as a behavior as they come. As with any behavior that you will teach your dog, practice the wanted behavior often and set your dog up for success. Reward your dog heavily, and you will create a strong behavior. You can even put it on cue.