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Dog Care Info, Issue 50
June 09, 2014

It doesn't just sometimes work or with specific dogs... Positive Reinforcement ALWAYS works! If it doesn't work it's due to poor timing of your reinforcement (accidental reinforcement). Using treats with little or no value to your dog as your reinforcement. Not being constant in your training.

I adopted my Beagle a year and a half ago from a local shelter. He is an extreme resource guarder and has bitten other dogs and people on a level 1 bite scale. Because we as a family know dogs well and have learned to manage him I have not really worked on this unwanted behaviour.

So a week ago I decided to take some time and work with him on his resource guard issue. We did 3 sessions up to date of about 5-7 minutes each. Joey guards any and everything...

I started off by being out of his safe distance, which is about 2 meter's away from him. I gave him a treat to chew on and as he was chewing on the treat I would throw him a bite size treat of higher value to him. In the first session this is what we did. I would throw a treat every time he is busy with the chew treat.

In the second session I could slowly start to approach him until I was able to lower my hand towards him, still giving him treats variably.

Then I would start to touch him and because he then did not growl at me while he was busy chewing, I would give him a bite size treat. Now this step alone was huge progress for Joey. With the third session I started to put my hand on the treat he was chewing and when he would leave the chew treat I would start to put it on cue. Soon he learned that he now only gets the nice bite size treats when I am able to touch the treat with my hand which is his cue to leave the chew treat.

So a lot of people think that when they use treats the dog is just focused on the treat and not you. This is not true. We are just focusing on what we want instead of what we don't want. We are also giving the behaviour that we do want value to the dog so that he has a reason to repeat the behaviour. Once the behaviour is learned you will use treats less. This morning after not working with Joey on this for 3 days he got into the garbage and as I was walking up to him I decided I am going to test his new still suppose to be weak skill. So I put my hand on the item and he backed off. This was huge!! Usually he would have already growled as I would approach him, and he would snap at you when just attempting to lower yourself to get to him and definitely put his mouth on your hand when you touch the item. Instead he froze for 2 seconds, dropped the item and backed off 2 steps. Imagine what you can do with a few of these training sessions daily for a couple of weeks. This is by positive reinforcement. Not yelling or screaming or using any form of punishment which would just aggravate him even more.

Now this is not the only way to go about it, there are many techniques to use with positive reinforcement and I also left out step by step details, but my reason for this letter to you is just to not give up on positive reinforcement training it always works!

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