Saturday, 15 September 2012

Puppy Dog Tales - Rewards for Training

Little Boy is responding well to all the basic commands - SIT, DOWN and STAND.  

Obviously I use only reward-based training, and so I have a treat bag permanently attached to my belt so that I can reward wanted behaviours whenever they occur.  It is very important to let young animals know what is a 'good' behaviour, and what is a 'bad' behaviour so continual and consistent guidance in the form of rewards for 'good' behaviours is very important.  I do use voice, touch and games too, but with food-motivated dogs such as Labradors, treats make the whole process very simple.  

It does carry its own problems in that I have to ensure that the treats do not make up a large proportion of the puppy's diet - a young, growing animal needs a well-balanced dog food suitable for his age and breed.  Similarly, the older animals are prone to putting to weight, so the quality and volume of treats has to be strictly controlled.

For the puppy I am using a mixture of his kibble pellets and dehydrated liver cubes.  The latter are available in little tubs from pet stores, have no additives or chemicals and come cut in to little cubes of about 0.5cm.  They are quite soft so I can break them up further with my nails and so can treat frequently using the tiniest of pieces.  The older dogs can have problems with sensitivity to wheat so for them I use gluten-free beef or chicken chomping chews.  These are made from 50% meat, and are soft, thin flat strips about 15cm long x 2cm wide.  As with the pup, I break the strips in to about 4 pieces to have in my treat bag, and reward with a small piece broken off one of these quarters.  The size of reward can thus be varied as appropriate for larger or smaller dogs.  

If your dog is very overweight you can measure out the dog's daily kibble allowance, and instead of feeding it all at one time in the dog's regular meal, you can put half of it in your treat bag and use that to reward behaviours.  If your dog is fully grown but is very stubborn, you could try not feeding a meal at all and instead put the dog's daily kibble allowance in your treat bag and reward desired behaviours constantly during the day so that he has to work for every piece of kibble.  However, if you try this approach you would need to be careful that you were consistent and fair in your rewarding, and that your dog was an adult, in good health, and no longer growing as puppies need a different feeding regime to adult dogs.  

For the older dogs, if I am trying to teach them something new or difficult, or trying to encourage them to do something they are worried about - such as getting Little Girl to do the Dog Walk at Agility - then I will use small amounts of a high-value treat.  High-value treats are exactly what they sound - a treat that is of high-value to your dog.  It could be a piece of cheese, or fish, cream, a piece of hot-dog sausage - whatever your dog adores and will do anything for.  Obviously, to keep their status as 'high-value' you must limit their use to those occasions when you are having problems otherwise they will lose their value. You can also use them to distract your dog when working on resolving behavioural issues such as inappropriate barking.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Puppy Dog Tales - Health Scare

Earlier in the week we had a health scare with Little Boy.  He had dinner as usual around 8.30pm, and pooped normally about an hour later.

I had decided to go to bed early and about 10.30pm was beginning to settle the dogs for the night when Little Boy wanted to go potty.  I took him out and was horrified to see he had what can only be described as 'projectile diarrhoea' - what seemed like a huge volume of liquid squirting out his back end as if coming out a hose.  There was no blood but he was horrified and very dejected-looking when he came indoors.  He sat looking thoroughly miserable as we tried to figure out what could have caused it, but as far as we were aware he had not eaten anything untoward either in the house or garden.  However, puppies put everything in their mouth as part of normal development so, although it was unlikely (as we have a dog-proof house) it was always possible he could have eaten something toxic without my knowledge.  

A short time later he vomited, and shortly after that he again had 'projectile diarrhoea'.  By now I was really quite worried so I called the emergency vet service and took him down to their hospital.  My main concerns were parvovirus - and the worry that even if it wasn't parvo that he could go downhill rapidly overnight due to dehydration.

He has had only his first set of vaccinations so is not yet able to go outside for walks, but in order to socialise him he has been carried on walks and met other dogs not only then but when taken to the Agility club - again for socialisation.  In addition my other two dogs, although fully vaccinated, meet many dogs when on walks, at Obedience and at Agility so they could have carried home a virus.  Foxes and cats also visit the garden so they too could have brought something in.

On arrival at the vet hospital he vomited all over their floor, but on examination his temperature and all other vital signs were fairly normal, although his upper gastrointestinal tract was very painful.  Because he is only 10 weeks old and so in the middle of the first developmental 'fear period' I declined their offer to keep him in overnight for observation as he didn't need antibiotics, rehydration nor a glucose drip. We took him home with a sachet of electrolyte solution and settled him down for the night.  He had liquid diarrhoea again overnight but no more vomiting and loved the electrolyte solution.  He kept drinking it and trying to dig through the bottom of the bowl as if he expected there to be food hidden underneath.  His stools started to return to normal by midday, and he was tired but otherwise quite normal.  He had another check-up with our vet that evening but given a clean bill of health and the incident put down to an unspecified 'virus' or ingestion of unsuitable material.  He was on a light diet of chicken and rice for the next day, then his normal food was slowly introduced and he has made a complete recovery I'm delighted to say. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Puppy Dog Tales - Time-Out

Little Boy is a very bold puppy, liking nothing better than a good rough-and-tumble with Little Girl.  However, he has still to learn self-control and does not like her gentle(-ish) reprimands in the middle of a play session.  He has a tendency to lose control when this happens and launch himself at her in fury - all snapping teeth and furious growls. She wisely ignores him, but when he catches her in a tender spot she can leap up, or thrash about in surprise - kicking him halfway across the room with her back legs.  She also starts to lose control when he starts mad labbie dashes and joins in, chasing him through the house or around the garden with the result that he usually gets stood on or run over.  Furthermore, in the last day or so he has started humping whatever part of her body is convenient when in the middle of an exciting tussle.  He has also been growling at us when we interrupt his game by picking him up (for his own safety), or if we interrupt him in the middle of something he is enjoying.  

All of these behaviours are related and simply mean that he is becoming over-stimulated and unable to control his level of excitement.  At the moment they are a minor irritation, but if I allow them to continue he could become a rather unpleasant adult.  For that reason we have instigated a 'Time-out' rule and when he becomes over-stimulated he is gently removed to his crate and the utility room where he can be safely confined away from Little Girl and allowed to unwind and go to sleep.  He is happy to go to into his crate with a hide chew as it is not a punishment, but rather about managing his excitement levels.

'Enforcing' sleep periods also stops him becoming grouchy as if he gets over-tired he is not only bad-tempered but cannot manage to get to sleep and throws himself around from position to position, trying to get comfy. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Puppy Dog Tales - The First Few Days


Little Boy is progressing well - and he has a new friend to cuddle!  

He is happy to go to his crate and be confined when necessary as he gets a Kong toy with a few pieces of kibble to keep him distracted as I leave.  He spends a happy few minutes rolling the Kong around the crate to get the kibble out then eating it.  The crate is covered with old towels so it is dark and draught-free, like a little den, and he can feel secure.  He is a clean pup and when confined alone he toilets mainly on the newspaper.   He performs on cue outside when given the command to Go Toilet and by watching him carefully inside, I can normally catch him and rush him outside.  He has a funny little walk when he needs to poo and he rushes around, nose stuck to the ground, circling, until he finds the perfect spot so that is always a useful sign for me to act quickly. If he remembers when playing, he will rush off to his newspaper to toilet, but he is usually too engrossed in his game to remember.

His training is going well, he knows his name, how to make eye contact, Go Toilet, Come, responds well to Leave and is learning Stand.  He is also learning by watching the bigger dogs that calm behaviour is rewarded rather than the hysterical, excited jumping up of puppies.  Jumping up to demand food or attention may be endearing in a little pup, but is extremely irritating in a full grown dog so we are not encouraging it and instead reward the instant he sits calmly and looks at my face. 

My main problem a the moment is trying to prevent Little Girl from hurting him accidentally.  They play a lot - she brings him toys and plays tug-of war, or lets him climb all over her, or they wrestle and play chases.  However she is also young (2 years old) so she can get over-excited very easily and starts charging about or play-biting him so he could easily be badly hurt.  Also all dogs need to learn self-control.  

We have all seen toddlers in supermarkets having a tantrum because they want a sweet or a toy and Mum has refused.  A very similar thing happens with dogs and puppies when they become over-excited and they start charging about, crashing into people or furniture, perhaps barking or nipping.   As with jumping up, this can be endearing in a little pup if no damage is done, and if children are involved they will probably find it great fun, playing chases with the pup, the children squealing and the puppy barking hysterically.   However, allowing this to happen without moderation is laying down trouble for the future as the pup is learning that out-of-control behaviour is acceptable and indeed fun!  However, when the dog is larger or fully grown it will still display these behaviours and that is when owners realise that the behaviour is no longer acceptable and that they have a problem dog.

Owners and their children should most certainly play with their pup - it is necessary for the pup's development and strengthens the bond between dog and owner. However, the owner is the leader in the relationship and must moderate the behaviour of the pup and those it is interacting with (be they adults, children, dogs or other pets) to ensure that play remains fun but if the pup does start to lose control and act hysterically that it is encouraged to calm down and play more quietly.  By gently restraining it and not allowing it to continue to play and telling it quietly to calm down, then allowing it to continue playing once it is calmer you are teaching it to manage frustration (at being denied play) and learn self-control.  It will learn that the appropriate behaviour to allow it to gain access to play is calm and happy and that if it doesn't moderate its own behaviour through self-control then play may be withdrawn.  If adults or children react to hysterical, out-of-control behaviour in a pup by squealing, laughing at it, chasing or egging on the behaviour (there are many videos online of owners doing this!) then the pup will see this attention as a reward and be encouraged to repeat the behaviour. 

It is easier to lay down boundaries and stop your pup from demonstrating unacceptable behaviours at this age so think carefully - do you really want your pup doing this when s/he is fully grown?   If the answer is NO then stop it now!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Puppy Dog Tales - The New Arrival


The new puppy - Little Boy - has arrived and is settling in well.  He has been checked out by the vet and has had his first course of vaccinations.  

He seems a bold and inquisitive pup, and when brought in to the house and introduced face-to-face to Big Boy and Little Girl, he seemed pretty relaxed about the whole change of scenery and family and began exploring quite happily.  

Big Boy is curious, but doesn't really see the need to get involved, although he finds it a bit alarming when the puppy bounces towards him stiff-legged with all four paws off the ground - like a little cartoon character.  The puppy has also threatened to nip his toes - and Big Boy hates anyone touching his feet - so as is fitting for the old man that he is, he is keeping his distance and treating the pup with some disdain.

After some initial concerns, Little Girl has been really keen to play with him. However, she weighs 28kg whereas Little Boy weighs in at 3.5kg at the moment. Labbie playtime involves much body-slamming, high speed chasing and crashing in to things - so he is much too little to allow this at the moment.  However, despite being closely watched, sadly accidents do happen.  Earlier today Little Girl fell over in her excitement and landed on the puppy, then later in the evening she stood on him.  Nothing seems to be broken although he is obviously tender and bruised so I will see how he is tomorrow.  She too has been injured in their interactions - he has been trying to suckle from her and has nipped her - drawing blood so that too will need to be monitored in case of infection but it should be a relatively superficial wound as his teeth are very sharp but very short.

Toilet training is progressing - we have managed to catch most of his toileting and rush him outside, giving him the command 'Go Toilet' and he seems to be responding, so earning lots of praise or a tiny treat.  He also is responding to 'Come' and giving eye-contact when he gets his meal so that is all looking good so far.  However I suspect he is going to be a chewer - he has a fascination with chewing shoes already - even when they are on your feet, and he is also fascinated by all the lovely dangling wiring under my computer desk so I will have fun trying to keep little teeth from nipping through thin wires when I am not looking!

He howled and cried when left in his crate in the utility room last night.  The crate door was open but the baby gate confined him to the utility room and kept the other two dogs out.  He had a blanket that had been rubbed on his mother in his crate, but when he started howling Little Girl bolted downstairs to see him as I think she thought he had been hurt.  She soon realised he was OK so ignored him and came back upstairs to her bed. He quietened down fairly quickly and was up 3 or 4 times during the night.  Big Boy sleeps downstairs now so he was close by, and my daughter also slept downstairs for his first night and took him out to toilet in the small hours.  The floor was relatively clean this morning - just a couple of small puddles and a small poo.  Hopefully his night-time toileting  needs will decrease as quickly as his physiology will allow.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Puppy Dog Tales - Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Tomorrow is the day we pick up the new puppy - Little Boy.  He is a black Labrador Retriever and will be 8 weeks old.

As we have two labs already, we have had to prepare them as well as the house for the new arrival.  Over the past couple of weeks the dog crate and puppy toys have been brought out and put in position in the utility room where he can be confined by a baby gate; mats that the puppy might chew have been lifted and the older dogs' bowls have been moved out and into the kitchen.

We have a cardboard box lined with newspaper and towel to bring him home in - a travel crate would do just as well - and we are taking his bed blanket to rub on his mum before we leave so that he can smell her and doesn't feel too lonely.  Both older dogs will come in the car when we go to collect him so that they can smell him in a confined space during the journey home, and he can smell them.  Hopefully by the time we arrive back all three will be used to each others' smell and introductions shouldn't be too stressful.  

Both older dogs are well socialised, although the older one has various health problems so won't appreciate a puppy hanging off his face and ears again.  We need to watch him as he is unlikely to reprimand the puppy by nipping it, he is more likely to sit on it and as he weighs 35kg that could be rather serious for the pup!

I plan to train the puppy in obedience firstly, then once his joints have stopped growing - possibly 12 - 18 months old for a Labrador - I will see how he manages with agility.  I will also try Gun Dog Training depending upon my time and his temperament.

Choosing a puppy from a litter of adorable little faces and wagging tails can be very difficult, but you need to think about what experience you have of dog ownership and what you want from a dog so that you can make a sensible decision as to which pup to choose.  The WORST thing a first time dog owner with young children can do is to choose the pup that runs up to you and demands attention.

Before you even get your pup home its temperament is shaped by:

  • the genes it inherits from its parents; 
  • the environment it was exposed to as it developed inside its mother's womb (was she happy and well-fed, or stressed and starving?)
  • the mother's temperament (is she calm and friendly to humans, or fearful and snappy with strangers - she passes these attitudes on to her pups)
  • early exposure to people, environments, noises, smells, other dogs and animals etc from about 6 weeks to 14 weeks.  The more experiences your dog has of all these things, the better.  But a scary encounter could cause him to be fearful for life so take care and be in control of new experiences.
When choosing my pups I have used the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test http://goo.gl/uU74V as well as consulting the breeder. This is one of the tools devised by the Volhards who have been training, raising and showing dogs for over 30 years and can be used by a new owner - you don't need to be an expert.  It is also used to inform selection of puppies with a suitable temperament for Guide Dog training.  

It can help identify pups in a litter that are strong-minded and independent and so are not suitable for a family or an inexperienced handler.  Similarly, extremely fearful or submissive pups will need a calm environment, probably not with children, and they too need an experienced handler who can build their confidence.  Families with children should look for a calm, easily controlled pup who will get on easily with children and can adapt to the noisy comings and goings of family life.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Puppy Dog Tales - 2 days to go...

Exciting times - after many months of waiting our breeder finally has a litter of pups and we have "booked" another Labrador Retriever - a  little boy.  We went to visit and see the litter when they were 5 weeks old and all being well we expect to collect him on Sunday when he will be 8 weeks of age.  This is the ideal time for pups to leave their dam and become accustomed to the human world in which they will live.  

In order to prepare Big Boy and Little Girl for the new arrival, the dog crate has been brought out, cleaned and is in position.  The blanket that will serve as a bed until he stops toileting during the night is inside, as are the puppy toys - but the door is closed.  Little Girl loves toys but will easily destroy puppy-sized toys and I don't want her to think that the new pup is being given special treatment so by the time he arrives she will be used to the smell of the toys, and not being able to reach them.  

The dog crate is in the utility room, which can be closed off from the rest of the kitchen by a baby gate.  Thus puppy can be safely contained where he can see, smell and hear all the hustle and bustle in the kitchen but is safely contained behind his baby gate, out of harm's way.  His crate will be partly covered by a towel so that if he feels the need to retreat to a quiet, dark corner on his own, he can do so.  He will sleep here until he is toilet trained and can be relied upon not to chew personal belongings  or furnishings, at which point he will have access to most of the house same as the other two dogs.

The puppy's food and water bowls are also in place beside the big dogs' bowls, again so that they can become used to the extra bits and pieces before the exuberant little beast arrives to disrupt their lives!

I do not plan to use the crate to restrict the puppy's access to the rest of the house - that it what the baby gate is for.  Rather, the crate is to give him a secure 'den' where he can withdraw for peace and quiet if he feels the need.  Also, if we decide to visit friends overnight or go on holiday before he can be trusted not to chew things, he can be locked in the crate on those occasions without causing him too much upset, whilst keeping our hosts happy!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Asking for a Hidden Object - Gaze Alternation in Dogs

Have you ever wondered why your dog will stare at your face as if to get your attention, then flick his/her eyes to another location, then back to your face – all with no or little movement of the head?  

The reason is most likely that s/he is asking for a hidden object – probably food or a toy.  Big Boy used to do this frequently when he wanted a carrot.  He knew where they were kept on the counter-top, and would stand and stare at the location, then flick his eyes to my face, then back again to the carrot location.  Carrots were his ‘filler food’, designed to fill his stomach without actually put weight on him and so he was fed them fairly liberally to stop him scrounging more fattening foods.  As a Labrador with damaged joints, keeping his weight down is of utmost importance!

A recent French study has demonstrated that dogs exhibiting this behaviour are indeed attempting to communicate to their human partner the location of a hidden object that they desire.  So the next time you see your dog do this, just follow the direction of their gaze and try to understand what they want – it will help strengthen the bond between you if your dog has confidence in your ability to understand him.

Similarly, both Big Boy and Little Girl will stand motionless and stare fixedly at the bottom edge of a sofa or fridge if a treasured plaything or a tasty treat has been knocked underneath.  They stand staring and motionless, ears forward, not looking at me, for several minutes until I come to see the reason for their unusual behaviour and retrieve the object for them.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Teaching Little Girl How to Swim and Retrieve from Water

Little Girl loves the water and always feels compelled to leap in to the nearest puddle - a typical black labrador!  However, despite muddling about at the edge of ponds or on the sea shore she had not yet learned to swim properly.  
So, during our recent stay at Castle Sween (Scotland, built in 1100's) on the spectacular shores of Loch Sween, we taught her to swim.  She loves to retrieve, especially her tennis ball, so over the space of three days we took her down the water's edge and using the tennis ball gradually encouraged her out deeper and deeper until she swam without thinking about it.  There was a jetty for small boats and it was suggested that we should throw her off that and she would naturally swim back to shore.  I suspect that she would have done so, but I also believe she would have been really quite alarmed by the experience so we let her do it in her own time.  
On Day 1 we threw the ball in to the water, a little further (and thus into a little deeper water) each time and she happily charged in after it.  At the end of the exercise the water was at a depth where she had to stand on her nails when she went out to retrieve, but she was still relaxed and happy and enjoying the retrieve from water.  
On Day 2 we again threw the ball in to deeper and deeper water, but this time she was on the lead, and using treats we encouraged her each time to come out a little further, then a little further until she retrieved the ball.  On this day her whole back end was being lifted off the bottom by the wave motion but she still declined to swim.  There were occasional lunges forward when she found herself unable to touch the bottom but the sensation of water closing over her back (and sometimes her head) scared her so she would immediately retreat and we would have to build up her confidence again.   
On Day 3 we almost immediately threw the ball in even deeper water than before and without a moment's hesitation she charged in to the water then swam out to retrieve it.  Her little tail was wagging constantly until her body realised that tail wagging didn't work when swimming and she had to turn the tail in to a rudder as nature intended!
She is now quite relaxed about swimming and all that remains is to gradually build up her stamina and strength when swimming.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Big Boy

Big Boy will be 8 years old in October, if he lasts until then!   He has a very long medical history:  
  • he developed Elbow Dysplasia when less than 6 months old, had several operations to scrape cartilage off bone and allow it to renew; 
  • he developed a lifelong ongoing gastritis condition as a result of his medication; 
  • being a labbie he stole chocolate and ate the end off a horse lead rein so required treatment and in the case of the lead rein an operation to remove the blockage; :)
  • he developed a perforated ulcer and consequent abdominal operation as a result of his pain medication; 
  • his anal glands needed emptying monthly; :)
  • he developed multiple allergies requiring gluten-free food, natural products, evening primrose oil for his coat, anti-histamines all summer long etc etc, 
  • as he aged he developed hip dysplasia despite the excellent scores his parents had recorded;
  • his spine is very stiff and inflexible - probably spinal arthritis
  • two years ago he developed a mast cell tumour (Category II) on a back leg.  At 6 years old he had an operation - a large amount of tissue removed from his thigh muscle; followed by a follow-up op at the vet hospital.   After two operations and chemo-therapy he was a physical wreck.   After a period to recover from the ops he had chemotherapy - which was interrupted as his white blood cell count kept dropping - but it did eventually came to a close.  However, his fat and muscle mass was re-distributed due the chemo and steroids so his skeleton was never the same again.
  • He is now on just over 20 pills a day, the latest being the third of three painkillers (Previcox, Paracetomol and now Gabapentin) but it has improved his pain level and he is much happier.
  • At the moment he is happy but despite his relatively young age, when he has more bad days than good days I will grit my teeth and make the decision that it is time to say good-bye and send him over the "Rainbow Bridge".

Olympic "Gold" for Little Girl!

What excitement!  After only a few months training Little Girl achieved 3rd place in Beginner Class of Agility Club's end-of -term fun competition!  
Feel very, very proud as she has only mastered Dog Walk in last couple of weeks (is high up, off ground so a bit scary as she is quite clumsy) and only managed see-saw (scary as moves and bangs when hits ground) in the last week or so. Couldn't believe she did so well so need to keep up training until session starts again in August!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Is your Pup Really a Wolf in Dog's Clothing?

There are numerous variations on the theme of dog training, many based on misconceptions around wolf behaviour.  A study in the 1990’s by Dr. David Mech of the University of Minnesota concluded that much of what was widely believed about wolf packs was mistaken, but it was these misunderstandings that had underpinned the dominance hierarchy / alpha leader version of dog training.  Dr Mech studied natural wolf packs in the wild for over 12 years and attributes many of the misconceptions to observations of unnatural packs of unrelated wolves in captivity.  He identified that the natural wolf pack is typically a family, with a breeding pair of adult wolves and their offspring and the terms "alpha" or "dominant" are less appropriate than "parent."  A wolf pack should be seen as a family unit which serves to raise the young, with the adult parents guiding the activities of the group before the young disperse to pair up with other dispersed wolves and form a breeding pair and a pack of their own.  To ensure their survival, canines have developed body language and behaviours that have a calming effect so the animals can co-operatively hunt for prey, raise their young, and resolve conflicts without violence.  

Although dogs are not wolves, they are pack animals and they want someone to take charge.  They want to be led by a calm, even tempered leader; someone who will deal with whatever situation arises with confidence, and communicate to them that they are safe and secure – a parent figure rather than a tyrant figure.  A handler taking on the role as pack leader has to communicate that they are in control, are the source of the dog’s food, are in control of the space in which it lives and the resources it wants to access, and help the dog understand those actions that constitute acceptable behaviour through positive obedience training and building a close, trusting relationship with their dog.

Dogs learn very quickly and from an early age – both from each other and from humans.  Puppies can learn behaviours quickly by following examples set by experienced dogs.   Studies have also shown that dogs engaged in play with other dogs change their behaviour depending on the attention-state of their partner.  Play signals were only sent when the dog was holding the attention of its partner. If the partner was distracted, the dog instead engaged in attention-getting behaviour before sending a play signal.  Similarly in a training environment handlers have to secure the attention of their dog before giving it an instruction.

To train any animal the behaviour of the animal must be understood.   A bond between trainer and animal must be developed so that the responses of each become predictable.  The animal needs to learn that the trainer will respond predictably when the dog offers certain behaviours, i.e. the trainer will offer rewards.  Similarly the trainer learns that reinforcing the desired response makes the response more likely to be repeated in the future.   One of the aims of dog training classes is to train the handlers to be predictable so that the dog realises that responding in a certain way has a desirable outcome.

Reinforcement is a reward for desired behaviour and gives the trainer a means of managing the behaviour of the animal as whenever a particular activity is reinforced, the chances of that activity being repeated are increased. To be effective, a reinforcement must be given almost simultaneously with the desired behaviour (and certainly never before).  A reinforcement can be a food reward, a verbal reward (praise), a physical touch (stroke, tickle etc) or even a game (throwing a ball etc).

Inducement training can also be used to shape and reinforce a behaviour that at first approximates the desired goal behaviour.  Through further selective reinforcement and shaping, the dog's behaviour eventually meets the handler's requirements.  Psychologists identify this process as a form of operant  conditioning.  The inducement can be in the form of a favourite toy, or a treat.  When the dog responds with the desired behaviour, the behaviour is then reinforced by verbal praise.

So to summarise:
·         The handler has to understand what a dog is – a pack animal that wants to live in a co-operative family unit with a firm but fair pack leader who makes the dog feel safe and secure. 
·         Owners should remember that dogs are not wolves, and breed personalities have been shaped by selective breeding during domestication.
·         Dogs learn quickly, from both other dogs and humans, and through selective breeding have acquired the ability to interpret subtle social cues from their handlers.
·         Dogs need to be trained using positive reinforcement methods, and handlers must understand that they need to demonstrate predictable behaviour to the dog so that the dog realises that behaving in a certain way has a desirable outcome in the form of a reward.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Extinguishing Behaviour

Today tried to teach Little Girl to 'Hold' when bringing back retrieve - but managed to start to extinguish her 'Retrieve' in one action.  Here's how - so you don't make the same mistake...
Threw toy, asked her to retrieve, she did, but holding it for a few seconds when I said 'Hold' instead of dropping it near my feet as usual, so rewarded her with a treat.
Threw toy, asked her to retrieve, she did, but despite me saying 'Hold' dropped it near my feet as usual, so I turned my head away and ignored her to illustrate my disapproval.  
Not having made myself clear about what I wasn't happy about, she thought I disliked the retrieve, so when I next asked her to 'Retrieve' she stood looking at me blankly - something she never does.  I realised immediately MY mistake and we started a play-game of 'Retrieve' so she is back doing that OK and we will work on 'Hold' later!