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Dog Care Info, Issue 52
December 14, 2015

You might have wondered why you have not received a letter in a few months... I have been busy completing a grooming course and opening a dog shop and parlour called Happy Tails.

Also during this times I became 3 dogs richer and 1 pony stronger. Our board and train dogs have also been very busy this year and lots of owners are more in-tuned with their dogs.

I thought to end the year with a nice training letter to you. Happy reading and blessings for the season.

A responsive dog when out and about

How often do we say or hear people say; “my dog knows what I want he is just stubborn”…

Dogs are known to not be good at generalization (doing something specific in a variety of environments) however they are good at discriminating (choosing what they are in favor off).

Your dog can apply a variety of wanted behaviours, like sit, stay, down go to your bed and many more but when you are away from home and out in public it seems that most of these behaviours have never been taught to your dog.

Stimilus control means that your dog waits for you to request a behaviour by asking through a specific cue. In a training set up this would mean that your dog will not randomly offer behaviours.

To train this it is important to stimulate your dogs mind by not asking for behaviours in sequence but asking for a behaviour at random to give an example: Down usually comes after sit so instead your dog will be anticipating the down after giving a sit you can ask your dog for a down while he is standing.

It is important to not reinforce behaviours randomly offered by your dog but instead to ask your dog for a different behaviour. With reward based training your dog will try different behaviours out to see how he can get a reward. So if he offers a sit ask for a down or if he offers a down ask for a look at me cue.This is how you put behaviours on stimulus control which aids in proofing behaviours as well as keeping your dogs mind active and also limiting frustration and boredom.

However when your dog does give you certain behaviours you can still randomly reinforce them for instance if your dog goes and lie down in his bed on his own and settles or is not jumping on your guest or coming up to you to check in on you it’s always good to reinforce to help you establish wanted behaviours.

There is always space to better your dogs training to create consistency in your dogs behaviours. However when training for consistancy it is important to focus on one criteria and one behaviour at a time to begin with. To give an example; If you are learning a new skill like riding a horse and you are learning to speak Spanish, it will be rather hard to do both at the same time but once you have learned to do both fluently you will be able to speak Spanish to your horse while riding.

There are a few important things to remember when it comes to criteria and this is that you need to focus on “duration”, “distance” and “distraction”. I find that distraction is probably the hardest and one of the aspects that form part of a new environment and also part of the fact that dogs do not generalize well, however once a behaviour has been taught well and a variety of distractions are added and the dog becomes less interested it could mean that he is over threshold or not understanding what is wanted of him. Then you either need to increase the reinforcement or you need to lesson the duration or distance and if not possible then the distraction.

Dogs do not generalize well especially in new environments this is the time to remember that they distinguish well so if you make it worth their while training will be easier and creating fluent behaviours in all types of living so up your reinforcement schedule.

If you use dry biscuits at home for a down-stay then at the restaurant you might need to use meat pieces, liver spread, cheese or any other favourites. Once your dog can handle giving you the basic behaviours under new distractions you can again start to add duration, so if your dog is lying next to you but popping up after each treat, you would start to reinforce only after a few seconds have passed and then after a few more seconds until you get to reinforcing every few minutes. So the reinforcement schedule will decrease and behaviour will increase. Also focus on reinforcing as the dog is still in a down stay if you reinforce as he pops up that would be part of the behaviour as the click ends the behaviour.

It’s important to remember that when behaviours are decreasing your reinforcement increases this is usually when your dog is anxious, scared or just something new he is learning or in a new environment. Once he knows the behaviour your reinforcement schedule will decrease. When this happens you can add a new criteria or a new behaviour to your dogs repertoire. Remember even things like a dog bed, carpet, tiles, grass, cement can be a distraction to your dog. It’s like having to reverse a car off a ramp and just reversing out of your own drive way. It’s the same thing you do the same stuff but it’s more thinking on your part. The car does the exact same thing. Once you feel that your dog has done a certain behaviour well it’s important to proof it and this is done with lots of distractions including, other people, maybe other dogs in the vicinity and a different area with other sounds. If your dog is able to do what he does at home or your regular training area then the behaviour is fluent. Once you have a set of behaviours proofed you can start adding them together and proof them again.

The last thing I would like to mention is the latency in which the behaviour takes place. Meaning the speed of when the cue is given and the response time in which the dog gives the behaviour. You don’t want to ask your dog to come to you when you call it but takes 5 minutes to get to you and by that time the scary dog running your way is already right by your side.

So to get your dogs speed up, once a behaviour has been established you need to not reinforce your dog if the behaviour is delayed. This is done once the behaviour has been achieved but your criterion is now focusing on speed.

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