Tag Archives: dog training

Click & Praise

Click & Praise

By Angelica Steinker, M.Ed., C.D.B.C, CAP2

Imagine a reward your dog will never fill up on, a reward that can last exactly as long as you want, and makes your dog incredibly happy. No magic, no trickery, it’s just good old praise.

In the last few decades dog trainers and pet owners have made the transition of moving from force training, using physical corrections, to kinder, more fun, and less stressful training techniques. To me the ultimate of the new dog friendly training methods is clicker training.

However, an odd thing has happened. Somewhere in the transition, from force to fun, a wonderful form of rewarding was lost. It seems that for many of us praise somehow became associated with the “old” rough forms of training. By moving to food exclusively, or food and toys, we lost a powerful reward. Actually, we did not lose it, we just rather seemed to forget about it. This article hopes to create for you, and your dog, a love affair of praise.

Praise can only work as a reward if it is reinforcing. To discover how to make praise work for your dog you will have to do some detective work. What tone of voice does your dog like? High pitch? Low pitch? Both low and high pitch?

 

When you are praising, what kind of facial expression do you have? Dogs read our expressions as we read books, make it a habit to smile, laugh, and be silly while praising your dog.

dog looking up at clicker in human handWhen you are praising, what kind of facial expression do you have?

What type of physical touch does your dog like? Does your dog like to be touched softly? Does your dog like it when you rough up her fur? One of my colleagues has a dog that goes nuts when you pretend you are going to touch her. The anticipation of possibly being touched is a game. Be a fun detective and uncover what type of touch your dog enjoys. Massage is not just for people, dogs love it too. If your dog gives you the dreamy eyes when you massage her, you just discovered a useful reward that you can use in your training.

An ultimate praise fest could be when you combine both the verbal praise with physical praise. Again, experimentation and observation are key.

Okay, so you do all this and your dog because she was abused, or is unusually sensitive, or whatever, does not seem to like verbal or physical praise. Don’t panic! You can teach your dog to like praise. Simply praise your dog and pair the praise with food or with a toy your dog really likes. After several dozens of pairing sessions, you should be ready to use praise. With a little persistence and a lot of fun, you have created another reward. You can now click and praise!

Play, Don’t Train

Play, Don’t Train

By Angelica Steinker, M.Ed., C.D.B.C, CAP2

Are your clients less motivated then you would like them to be? Stop telling them to train their dogs, and start telling them to play. It is often much easier to get them to be consistent when they are having fun. Are you feeling a little bored with your own dog’s training? Stop training, and start playing!

According to Dr. Pamela Reid, author of Excelerated Learning, play is a powerful way of altering a dog’s emotional state (personal communcation). Almost all of us desire a dog that is fun, affectionate, and playful. Play is the ticket to a happy dog and more fun in your own life. Many behavior problems can be rapidly resolved using play-training, and clients can get faster results. A win/win situation!

There are several reasons why play is a powerful way to teach your dog behaviors. When rewarding a dog with play, you can make the reward last as long as you want. This is a tremendous advantage. The dog doesn’t get full! Maybe tired, but not full.

Rewarding with play can make training self–control quick and easy. While playing with your dog, you can stop all movement and cue the dog to sit. After the dog sits, you can give the release cue and ask the dog to play again. This is a great way to practice sit, and teach the dog self-control at the same time. Politely sitting and holding that position gets the game started again.

A dog that knows how to play can usually be more easily counter-conditioned to ignore stimuli that she is fearful of. Play can be a very valuable tool in teaching a dog substitute behaviors: rather than barking and lunging at the other dog, you instead give me eye contact, and then I click and we play.

Playing rather than training is an easy sell, both the dog and the client have fun. Playing is often more reinforcing to clients than simply dispensing a cookie for a behavior. I admit this isn’t scientific, but our clients that play with their dogs report an increase in fun and bonding with their dogs.

 

Safety First

Use common sense, if the client’s dog is fearful or in any way presents aggressive then do not attempt playing with the dog. Fear is the bases for most aggression, so playing with a fearful dog is very effective in terms of modifying the fear, but is an advanced training skill. If you are not experienced working with fearful or aggressive dogs then you will want to pass on play training.

Clients rely on us to assess their dogs. I recommend only playing with dogs that you know well otherwise modifying all games for safety.

Not all the ideas for games I present may be recommended for all dogs or owners. All games should be on cue, so that the owner can clearly signal the start and end of the game. Do not play a game or recommend that clients play a game, if both the dog and persons will not be safe.

 

If the Dog Won’t Play

Assess why the dog does not play. There are three common reasons why a dog will not play. In some cases, the dog did not learn how to play as a puppy. Puppy mill dogs, pet store dogs, abused, and neglected dogs may never have learned to play, which is tremendously sad. Depending on the genetic makeup of the dog, on the dog’s resilience, and on the perseverance of the owner, it can take months but it will be worth all the effort. If the dog takes food, then simply pairing food with targeting a toy is a great start. From there you can shape the dog to pick up the toy, hold it, carry it, shake it, “kill” it, and so on.

The second reason can be that the owner doesn’t know how to play. This is also challenging, but usually fixable. Begin with helping the client to relax and get in a silly mood. Making jokes and kidding around can help loosen clients up. Read the person and adjust to what they need you to be, so you can help them get where they need to be. Observe your client as much as you observe the dog you are training. Once you have created a window of opportunity, expose the client to some fun games that can be played with the dog. Show the practicality of the games so the client can be sold on how fast play-training works and how powerful it is.

Often the easiest problem to fix is when the dog has just never been asked to play. I recently worked with a client who insisted her dog would not tug. Within literally seconds I had the dog tugging. The dog was very tug motivated but the owner had never been shown how to play tug with a dog. All her attempts at shoving the toy at the dog, or limply dangling it in front of the dog, got her a big yawn. My attitude was silly and my face one big smile, and within minutes the dog was a permanent member of Tuggers Anonymous.

 

If the Client Won’t Play

Just as we shape dog behavior, it is important to shape client behavior. If the client isn’t very fun in how she is playing, find the good things about their attempts at play, and reward them. Build the playing behavior just like you build a behavior chain in a dog.

If the client is resistant to play with the dog, model playful behavior: grab a toy, play with the dog, and then demonstrate how willing the dog is to work for you. Explain that this is the power of play and it is an ideal way to establish a reinforcement history very rapidly.

Just as we shape dog behavior, it is important to shape client behavior.

One of our trainers recently worked with a retriever that had been forcefully trained by the previous dog trainer the client had hired and fired. The client noted that the dog would not come to the previous trainer when she called him to her. Our trainer had the dog begging her to give her a cue within minutes. Simply by playing with the dog. Showing the dog that an offered behavior will be reinforced with play. With those kinds of results, it was easy to sell the client on click and play training.

 

What to Play

Tug

Tug! Tug is my all-time favorite play training game. For anyone who has not read Jean Donaldson’s great book the Culture Clash, it has been scientifically proven that tug does not cause aggression (Borchelt, et al.). If a dog with a stable temperament and growls while playing tug, that is usually a play growl. Make your own play growl noises and join in on the fun! Obviously be careful with dogs that have resource guarding issues.

To play tug, evaluate what type of toy movement is enticing to the dog you are playing with. Does this dog like slow toy movements? Does this dog like fast toy movements? Does this dog show interest if you move the toy back and forth? What gets the dog’s curiosity going? Entice. Observe. When playing tug, it is critical that the dog has the impression that he could conceivably grab the toy and get a hold on it. If the dog has no hope of being able to get the toy, the game may be over before it ever got started.

When you play tug it is ideal to move backwards so the dog is moving into you most of the time. There are a couple of reasons for this. Moving backwards makes the tug toy a little harder to get which can be a fun challenge to the dog, and it keeps the dog moving toward you, which is generally a good idea. Think of the recall.

Tease and entice by backing up, but always making it possible for her to grab the toy.

Once the dog grabs hold of the toy, resist the temptation to shove the toy into the dog’s mouth to try to get her to grab harder or intensify the play. Instead tease and entice by backing up but always making it possible for her to grab the toy.

Clearly it is not a good idea to have an elderly lady tug with her Irish Wolfhound, or to pull teeth out of a puppy’s mouth when he is too young to have such pressure on his mouth, but aside from these few exceptions, tug is a great game that can help you help clients attain their training goals.

Fetch

Fetch! Playing fetch is a great way to keep dogs fit and to keep adolescent dogs out of trouble. Twenty minutes of fetch a day can sometimes make the difference between being euthanized at animal control or staying in a home. Almost all breeds require daily exercise. Teaching your clients to teach their dogs to fetch cannot only help save lives, it can tremendously improve the quality of the dog’s life. Play fetch for life!

 

Find It

Find it! “Find it” is a great mind activating game for a rainy day. If a client is less mobile it is a fun way for the client to play with their dog. “Find it” can be played by both toy and food motivated dogs quickly and easily. If the dog really enjoys the game, it can be used to reward desired behaviors. Find out what the dog likes and then use it to play. Be a fun detective!

 

Play, Don’t Train

So, you have your clients tugging, fetching, and hiding. Now what? Use these games to train. Pair the new games with your clicker. Tugging is an excellent reward for coming when called. Start at a short distance, have the owner hide the toy (no prompting please), call come, and then click and play! Any part of the dog’s recall can be clicked: the first step, the half way mark, or the last part. Just choose one part of the recall and click it and reward with tug. As the dog catches on to the game, increase the distance of the recall. Watch the dogs recall at light speed! Wear shin guards, and keep the business cards of a good chiropractor handy.

Playing fetch is a great way to train and proof sit, down, and stand cues. Ask your dog to sit, then throw the toy, then release her to it. Ask your dog to down, pretend to throw the toy several times, then click and feed her steak.

 

Author’s Note

These recommendations for “games” should be administered only to sound dogs; not those with even a hint of instability. Certainly any dog with an unknown background, or one with problems with reactivity, aggression, lack of confidence, etc. should be treated with extreme caution.

 

More Games To Play

Raspberries. With or without skin contact. Zoomie loves it if you blow a raspberry on his face. No matter where I am I can always make a raspberry even without making skin contact and therefore reward him or elicit a playful mood. Sit! Down! Release, raspberry!

My Min Pin Turbo, a rescue, loves shoelaces. Lucky me, I am usually wearing shoelaces so I have a toy no matter where I go. Turbo is also obsessed with hair scrunchies, and tugs on them like a crazy fiend, so that is another one that is handy. When I got Turbo, who was dumped for barking too much and being too hyper—the precise job description of a Min Pin—he would not play.

One of my favorite games is simply shoving and grabbing at my dogs. Many dogs with a good opposition reflex (or balancing reflex) really love this game. The truth is dogs, friends, and clients invent new games every day. Join us!

 

A version of this article was originally published in the APDT Chronicle of the Dog.

Tampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: What is UpDog?

4 Way Play Frizgility 10361263_1512780378945583_2448123466868105570_nTampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: What’s UpDog?

UpDog is a brand new dog sport organization created by Kat and Jack Fahle, Andrea and Jason Rigler, and Babz Mahony. These dedicated disc doggers wanted to expand their favorite sport to include a wider variety of dogs – and people – than seen at typical disc dog events. Traditionally, while many people enjoy games with discs in their yards, only athletic dogs of certain body types and handlers with great disc throwing distance and skills are very successful at disc dog competitions. UpDog organizers wanted to change that. “We feel that everyone should be able to participate in the game of disc. It’s one of the most fundamental things people do with their dog – play fetch. As such, we’ve created games that allow all levels of people and dogs to play. We’ve helped make the sport more beginner friendly by creating games that incorporate short tosses, by allowing the use of soft discs, rollers [discs that are rolled on their sides rather than thrown in the air], and, in many games – multiple discs,” says Kat Fahle. UpDog’s website says, “UpDog is dedicated to expanding the awareness and participation of people and dogs in athletic endeavors. We want more people and more dogs having fun, playing together. So we designed some fun games built around the opportunity for every dog and human to work towards their own personal bests. You will have fun (Play), you will earn achievements (Achieve), and you and your dog will learn and grow (Expand).”

UpDog offers a variety of games that incorporate elements of agility and flying disc. But extensive training in either sport is not required. If your dog can catch a thrown or rolled disc and/or can do agility jumps and tunnels, you can have a great time at UpDog events. The games offered through this venue are fun in and of themselves, but they also provide a stepping stone to other dog sports. Fahle says, “Not only is it easier to get started in disc via UpDog, the other great thing is that as you play our games you are building foundation skills needed to play Freestyle should the day come you want to try that out. So you and your dog are learning while playing!”

Everything about UpDog is “beginner friendly,” as Fahle says. “If your dog is at the point in his training where he will only return a disc if you have another disc, we have some games that allow multiple discs. Say you can’t throw more than six feet; we have games where short tosses are all that are needed and then once you build your skill set there are more games and more levels to explore. We also allow you to roll the disc, which may allow for a new person to get more distance at first while they learn better throwing mechanics.  For dogs not yet used to hard discs; we allow soft discs!  Say you have a physical limitation that doesn’t allow you to ever throw farther than 6-10 feet; you can stay in level 1 for as long as you need. Simply because you earn enough Ups [qualifications] to move to level 2 doesn’t mean you have to move to level 2.  Conversely, the games and levels offer challenges for even the most skilled disc dog teams as well.  In UpDog, there is something for everyone at every level of play,” says Fahle.

Unlike most disc events, you don’t have to place in your class to “win.” Fahle says, “We’ve built in a system of achievements and UPs so that every person who earns even just one point while playing is rewarded. Each game has achievements that can be earned. Starting this fall, when a team joins UpDog, their achievements will show on their digital profile, which can be shared via social media, linked to on websites, et cetera. Then, as they accumulate achievements, those count towards UPs. These are physical rewards somewhat like dog tags that participants can earn and collect. The earning of UPs also allows teams to move up from one level to the next somewhat like titles in agility.”

UpDog has been very well received in the disc dog community, and it is beginning to make waves among dog sport enthusiasts of all kinds. Even though the first UpDog classes were offered just this spring, the upcoming UpDog event, planned for August 9th in Plant City, filled up all available competition spots in just 13 hours (spectators are welcome). The UpDog team traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan, recently to present the sport at the United Kennel Club’s national event, the Premier, and it was very well received. The fall will bring UpDog competitions to Illinois, New Hampshire, and Canada. Pretty great for a brand new organization born right here in central Florida!

For more information on UpDog, visit their website at http://updogchallenge.com/ or find them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UpDogChallenge.

Courteous Canine, Inc. offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball, Fun Scent Games, disc dog sports and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

Tampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: New Trainer and New Class at Courteous Canine, Inc.!

lisaNew Trainer and New Class at Courteous Canine, Inc.!

By Brenna Fender

Did you ever see a dog do some really cool tricks and think, “Wow, I’d love my dog to be able to do that”? Do you just know that your dog could do amazing tricks if you just knew how to teach him? Courteous Canine DogSmith of Tampa can help you do just that!

Certified trick dog trainer Lisa Morrissey will be bringing her trick training expertise to Courteous Canine DogSmith of Tampa this fall with a new trick training class. This class teaches handlers how to train their dogs to do basic tricks and how to build on them to create more elaborate tricks by luring, shaping, capturing and chaining tricks together. Through the class, owners learn how to teach their dogs enough tricks to earn a Novice Trick Dog title through a sanctioning organization called “Do More with Your Dog.”

What tricks could you learn to teach your dog in this class? Spin, leg weaves, figure eights, paws up, say your prayers, shake hands, wave, take a bow, jump though a hoop, soccer, wipe your feet, and more! Morrissey has extensive experience in training tricks and has won trick competitions with her rescued Border Collie, Brody, who has also appeared in television commercials and on the news. Learn more about Brody in his online resume here: http://brodythebordercollie.weebly.com/brodys-resume.html

Trick training is fun, but it also has lots of value for dogs that compete in dog sports or participate in family life. Teaching dogs tricks provides mental and physical stimulation and exercise, builds canine confidence, and improves the dog/owner bond.

For more information or to enroll in the class, contact info@CourteousCanine.com or visit our website www.CourteousCanine.com.

Courteous Canine, Inc. offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball, Fun Scent Games and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!