Saturdays are busy at Fido. We have two basic obedience classes in a row, which keeps us on our toes. This week we worked on Leave It, which I think is one of the most important cues that you can teach your dog. So helpful for calling them off of the cat, the sandwich you left unguarded, and disgusting things you’d rather they didn’t roll in.
At this point, the dogs are hip to the game, and know that there are treats to be had if they can figure out how to earn that click.
Boomer knows how to earn clicks, he’s a teeny tiny smartypants.
Louie knows how, too, but he’ll try mind control first.
Lacey is pretty scared in class, all of the activity is a bit much for her. We have her and her person sit behind a short, portable wall so that she can relax. Lacey’s making good progress, she mastered Sit in just a few minutes! Cute little fuzzy ears.
Loki is one smart dog. He gets a little distracted, but his person does a great job of getting his attention again using that powerful nose. A whiff of a tempting treat and Loki is happy to pay attention.
My husband and I got a new dog last month, a spunky English Lab named Molly who needed a new home because her current person wasn’t home enough to give this energetic 2 year old the attention she needs. I started keeping a journal the first day she was here, thinking that it would help me chart her progress and also hoping that clients might be interested in learning from my mistakes in bringing a new dog home.
And boy, have there been mistakes. As a trainer, I should know better than to leave a dog alone with an untested toy, but I did it the third day she was here. I also let her bully the cats, bark at Sprocket (our other dog), and snatch treats from my fingers with the enthusiasm of a piranha at an all-you-can-eat fish buffet.
Mol is so different that Sprocket, (who is, for the most part, an easy dog) and I’m learning a lot from her. She’s active, bossy, and all around goofy. She sounds like a buffalo coming down the stairs and constantly steps on my feet. She chews, barks, and sheds. She’s, you know, a dog.
Here are the first two entries from the Molly Chronicles:
Although Molly was a bit nervous when her previous person left, she’s settling in already. She paced and whined at the door for a few seconds, but we distracted her with cookies (discovering that’s she’s a total Food Hound) and quickly leashed her for a walk. We took her and Sprocket around the block and by the time we got home she seemed much calmer.
Working hard to fence the yard so we don’t have to keep the dogs on tie outs. I gave them each a stale bagel (Sprock’s favorite treat) to work on while we dig post holes, and Molly crunched hers to crumbs in about 5 seconds. Uh-oh. I think we have a chewer on our hands.
Molly did wonderfully last night! A little bit of pacing around the bed, but she calmed down and slept after awhile. I put one of her dog beds at the foot of the bed to give her something familiar, but she ignored it and slept on the floor. We have 5 dog beds in the house now and I have yet to see her lay on one! Both dogs kooked out when the alarm buzzed this morning, I had to make a run for the bedroom door before they could drag me down and smother me.
Sprocket is claiming his personal space, telling her off when she gets too pushy. She pulls like a freight train on the leash, dragging me down the block. Her recall is quite nice though, and her Leave It is excellent. We need to work on Quiet, she’s a bit barky. I ordered her a cute new tag today, but I can’t decide on a collar! There are so many cute ones to choose from!”
More Molly entries to come, with lots of opportunities to laugh at the silly trainer who thought she knew what she was getting into. That’s her down there underneath this post. Don’t let her fool you, she’s a beast.
Wow, how exciting! My first Fido blog post. What should I discuss on this momentous occasion? Politics? Religion? Or something even more controversial; traditional vs positive reinforcement training.
If you’re even a little bit interested in training dogs, you’ve likely read articles or websites extolling the virtues of choke chains, dominating your dog, and alpha rolls. You’ve probably also read the opposite; the wonders of clicker training, the magic of No Reward Markers, and the benefits of training with treats. Maybe you’ve seen trainers on TV, using one method or the other, with apparently instantaneous results.
The truth is that training is hard work. You won’t get lasting results in 24 minutes plus commercials. You have to commit to training your dog on an ongoing basis, and you have to be consistent.
But which method is best? Obviously, all I can give you is my opinion, but it is an opinion based on hours and hours of reading, watching, and applying my preferred training method and seeing the results. It doesn’t mean I’m the last word in dog training, but it does mean that I know my way works. It works with aggressive dogs and shy dogs, it works with bouncy dogs and silly dogs, it works with scared dogs and it works with lazy dogs. It works with all of these dogs and it is positive reinforcement training.
Wait! Don’t go! I promise it isn’t all cookies and kisses, we really are the Leaders of the Pack with PRT, and it’s not about giving our dogs permission to do as they please. What it is about is being firm but fair. PRT means that we are consistent with our dogs. We reward them when they do right, and we prevent them from doing wrong. We don’t choke, hit, or kick our dogs when they make the wrong choice, we teach them self-control and we make our expectations clear so that that know what we’re asking them to do. It creates a beautiful relationship with our dogs, one based on trust and love instead of fear and avoidance. Our dogs do what we ask because it is rewarding to them to do so, not because they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t.
No, you won’t be stuck carrying treats around forever (although would that be worse than having to rely on a choke collar for compliance?), and you don’t have to use the clicker if you don’t like it (but it is kind of awesome, at least try it). What you will have to do is make an effort to understand your dog, and communicate with her in a way that makes sense to her. Don’t you think that that’s a fair trade for stinky dog-food kisses, muddy paws, and chewed slippers? Oh wait, bad examples… How about this face then?
In future posts I’ll be talking about practical applications for PRT, and talking a bit about how to get started with it. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about with this whole “traditional” and “positive reinforcement” business, I’ll explain that a little further as well. If you’re bored with the whole thing and just came to see pictures of cute dogs, here ya go