Archive for Training
As professional dog trainers, clients routinely turn to us for help with safety concerns. One of the common concerns that clients express is the need for their dog to come in emergency situations. While I will certainly never discourage a client from improving their dog’s recall, I also explain the advantages to having an emergency stop or emergency down. In emergency situations where the environment is unpredictable, for example where traffic is a concern, having an emergency stop and retrieving the dog can be a safer solution than calling the dog to the owner’s location.
Becoming a professional dog trainer means practice, practice and more practice. See our blog on this topic! That applies to an emergency stop or down , as well. Be sure that you’ve had an opportunity to train or refresh this behavior with your own or client dogs before adding the emergency down to your client offerings.
If you haven’t trained an emergency down, here are a few helpful tips to get you started.
- Begin with a reliable down, no distance included, using either a verbal or hand signal.
- Transfer that behavior to a clear hand signal that can be seen from a distance.
- Add distance to the cue.
- Add real world distractions.
When troubleshooting with clients, offer the behaviors that most suit the client’s end goal needs and their ability and willingness to train. If your client absolutely wants a reliable recall for emergencies – train the emergency recall. If your client wants the best fit solution and is willing and able to train the behavior you recommend, review the options, including the emergency down or stop.
You’ve decided your dog is ready to venture out into the world as your companion. If you’re uncertain if your dog is a good candidate for public excursions, read our blog post “Wallflower or Social Butterfly.”
1. Pick your venue.
Starbuck’s or Home Depot? Petsmart or the local boutique pet store? Choose a venue that has an amount of traffic, people and dogs, that you can expect your dog to tolerate well. Starbuck’s is high volume within a small space. Home Depot is a very large space with a thinner spread of people. Similarly, compare the traffic between Petsmart and a local boutique pet store. You can also expect to see more dogs at Petsmart than a Home Depot.
2. Refresh cues.
If I had to pick three cues to focus on in preparation of public outings, I would work on left side loose leash walking (LLW), place, and one of the following: recall, hand targeting, or leave-it. LLW allows me to get to where I’m going without interfering with others’ enjoyment of the space. Place allows my dog to relax in a place of my choosing while my attention is not completely focused on him. Recall, hand targeting, and leave-it can all be used to redirect and quickly maneuver your dog in a low stress manner.
3. Improve reliability.
Your dog is likely to be under some stress in a new environment. And there will be a number of distractions for which you may or may not have specifically trained. Working on the reliability of your dog’s cues is an important preparation step. You can begin to do this at home by adding in controllable distractions to your training.
4. Be prepared.
Poop bags, water and dish, a place mat, a stuffed kong, a chew – brainstorm what equipment you’ll need and pack it up! Bring plenty of training rewards with you. If your dog is a food reward dog, bring a few different varieties of high value treats and some lower value goodies. If your dog is a toy reward dog, bring several different toys. This will help if you need to do some refresher training on the fly.
5. Be a good neighbor.
Wherever you are, someone has made the decision to allow your dog to accompany you into that space. Thank them with courteous behavior and a well-mannered dog. Scoop your poop, only allow elimination in designated areas, keep your dog under control so as not to disturb other guests, and either don’t inconvenience the staff or tip accordingly if you do.
Whenever you venture out into the public arena, you’ll encounter a number of dog lovers, people who dislike or are afraid of dogs, and people who just don’t want to be bothered. A good outing leaves all of the above groups undisturbed, your dog confident and ready for another outing, and you looking forward to the next trip. With a little planning and preparation, you can make your next trip a good outing. And there is no better advertisement for a certified professional trainer, than clients whose dogs successfully navigate public venues.
If you’re interested in becoming a certified dog trainer, then boning up on your mechanical skills is a must. One important skill is delivery of a reinforcer. Whether you’re luring, shaping, capturing, or modeling, you’re using some type of reinforcer to reward for desired behaviors. Is that reward always food? No, but when introducing new behaviors it increases the ease with which high numbers of repetitions can be completed, so that’s the reinforcer we’ll discuss here.
The following are some helpful tips for improving your delivery, in no particular order.
1. Small Pieces.
Start with the right kind of food. Small pieces work best – both for purposes of training and for delivery. With small pieces, you can hold more than 1 piece in your hand and quickly feed out piece after piece. Additionally, your dog doesn’t get full, which will decrease the value of the reinforce.
2. Easy Reload.
Have your treats readily available so that you can reload your delivery hand. Treat pouches can work, although I don’t like using a pouch for more advanced training. See our blog post “Creating The Perfect Picture” for reasons why.
3. Where you deliver matters.
The placement of the food reward has value for your dog. For example, if you’re teaching heel and marking correct heel position with a clicker but consistently rewarding a position forward of heel, you may create forging. The most common example I see in pet manners classes is rewarding for the sit or down when the dog is no longer in that position.
Your goal is to create a clear consequence – delivery of the reward – for a desired behavior. The time between the behavior and the consequence should be very brief so as to not allow an intervening event. There is some discussion as to the maximum amount of time that can elapse before the dog no longer associates the reward with the behavior, but under 3 seconds is preferred and less time is better.
5. Fluid delivery.
Fumbling and excessive movement only distracts from the clear relationship you’re trying to create in your dog’s mind between the behavior you like and the reward. Since placement is important, plan to practice delivery with both hands to improve fluidity with both right and left hand delivery.
For more information on improving your mechanical skills, check out our blog post “Advanced Dog Training Skills: Do Pet Dog Trainers Need Advanced Dog Training Skills?” Also, look for more posts focusing on skills practice!
As a certified dog trainer, you’ll read about interpreting canine body language. You’ll watch video clips, monitor group play, and take every opportunity to observe how dog’s interact with each other and their people. With all of that practice and education, you’ll never come close to the observational skills of the average canine. How does that impact your daily training? Be aware that when you’re dog training, your dog is people observing.
Give Your Dog Something to Watch
Being consistent in the various cues that you’re providing can help you to clearly communicate with your dog. Some of the cues that we, as handlers, provide to dogs and may not be aware of include the following:
1. Posture, including the orientation of your shoulders.
2. Eye contact, including direct eye contact or targeting with your eyes.
3. Facial expression. Dogs that spend time around people can interpret facial expressions very well, so if you’re happy with your dog – smile!
4. Treat pouches. Visible signs of training, like treat pouches, special clothes (a police or SAR uniform, for example), or training gear (like a specialized harness or collar), can become a part of your training picture, just like body language.
5. Gait. The length of your stride or even the way you walk can be a cue. Ask anyone who has trained their dog to heel and then suffers a gait altering injury. Your gimpy knee makes your body language very different.
6. Placement of hands or feet. Hands at your side or your waist, feet pointing forward or creating a V shape.
While it may not be possible to create the perfect picture, as a professional dog trainer you can be aware that your body language creates a picture that becomes a part of your cues. In being aware, you can begin to knowingly incorporate posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues into your training.
Can you become an exceptional pet dog trainer without experience training dogs in competition, therapy, service, scent, or other advanced areas of dog training? Yes, you can. But I’m going to tell you why advanced training skills can help you to become a better certified pet dog trainer.
1. Enhance Specific Skill Sets.
Training in different sports and areas of expertise can help to develop specific skill sets that a dog trainer may not fully develop when focusing on pet manners alone. For example, training for competition obedience requires greater precision than pet dog training. When training in any of the scent disciplines and when doing behavior work, close attention to, and an ability to interpret, body language is vital. Service dog training requires the handler to train complex, chained behaviors.
2. Improve Reliability.
A search dog must be prepared to search in a variety of conditions with consistent results. A competition dog won’t title without performing a series of behaviors multiple times in new environments. Many service dogs provide aid that is so essential to daily life for their owners that failure is simply not an option for these dogs. This level of reliability may be desired by pet dog owners, but it is one of the areas in which I see professional pet dog trainers struggle the most. Training dogs to this high level of reliability gives a certified dog trainer a number of tools to use in aiding clients to achieve improved reliability.
3. Third Party Assessment.
Many areas of advanced training have titles, certifications or some neutral third party evaluation. This can be advantageous because there are clear standards and feedback is neutral – pass/fail, certified/not certified, titled/not titled.
Is improved reliability, neutral assessment, and improving skill sets possible to achieve when focusing on pet dog training alone? Of course it is. But – in my experience, pet dog trainers frequently don’t strive to the same levels of precision and reliability as is seen in advanced dog training.
1. You don’t have an appropriate dog.
You need not train a dog that resides with you. As a certified professional trainer, there are a number of opportunities for training dogs that do not reside in your home. Additionally, there are ever-increasing opportunities for advanced training available. Do a little research, and you may find a sport or activity that suits the dog you have.
2. It takes too much time, of which you already have so little.
You’ve committed to training dogs as a professional. That means that you must keep your skills sharp – and that means that you must practice. Dog training is in part an intellectual skill and in part a mechanical skill, and both skill sets degrade without use. Making time to train advanced behaviors pays off in improved intellectual and mechanical skills, including timing, reinforcement delivery, reading body language, and chaining complex behaviors.
3. Your heart is with pet dogs.
Taking your personal training a level further doesn’t mean you focus your teaching skills in the advanced dog training arena. It does mean that you’re developing a larger set of skills and problem solving tools that you can use in teaching your pet dog clients.
So – become an advanced dog trainer! You’ll improve your pet dog training skills, provide your clients with a richer set of problem solving resources, and gain valuable feedback from other professionals and advanced dog trainers.
You’ve decided you want to train to be a dog trainer. You’ve signed up with Become a Professional Dog Trainer; you’re taking courses on behavior, learning theory, dog training, teaching. What’s next? Practice!
Training dogs is a skill, one that contains both intellectual and physical components. Reading body language on the fly requires practice. Acquiring fluid delivery of different types of reinforcers happens over time, with practice. How do you improving timing? That’s right – practice!
Where do you get this practice? Your dog or dogs will not be enough. So where do you find a supply of ready and willing subjects on whom to perfect your mechanical dog training skills? Be creative. Speak with local rescue groups and shelters about volunteering your time. Video yourself as much as possible, so that your practice is productive and you’re improving your skills, rather than developing poor habits. Consider apprenticeship with a certified professional dog trainer. Keep taking classes from other certified professional trainers. Consider developing advanced skills (link to advanced training skills blog) in areas such as competitive obedience or scent work.
Just like dog training, training people improves with practice. Preparing to teach, teaching, and reviewing your teaching experiences for future improvement – all of these steps will improve your teaching skills, but they can also help you to increase your confidence. Again, consider videoing yourself so you can pinpoint areas for improvement. You need not teach dog training classes to gain experience teaching people, so be creative!
If you want to become a certified dog trainer, then get ready to do some homework! Practicing your teaching skills and your dog training skills is a must. You may need to be creative and reach out to your local community to develop opportunities to practice your people teaching and your dog training skills. But your efforts will pay off as you practice, practice, practice, and make yourself better!
Boys like to wrestle! As a professional dog trainer, I frequently have training sessions with entire families. Mom, Dad, the kids, and the dog. These are excellent training sessions, since it means that the whole family is interested in training, consistency between handlers is more likely, and all of the family members’ concerns can be discussed within a unified training plan.
While training issues aren’t typically gender specific, there is one issue that is frequently raised by Mom – wrestling. Most often, Dad and the kids are the culprits. By wrestling, I’m referring to rough play that includes pushing, shoving, chasing, exuberant hugs, and rolling on the ground. The following are a few questions that are raised.
Is it ok to wrestle with our dog?
Yes and no.
Children: No. My preference is that children do not engage in this type of play with dogs.
- There is a size concern with big dogs and small children that children may be injured. There is still a size concern with small puppies and children, but it is the puppies who may be more at risk for physical injury or other damage.
- Children can’t always be relied upon to appropriately gauge the dog’s arousal level or to recognize what is good play and what is not.
- Additionally, they can’t always be relied upon to cease play in a timely manner when the dog does become over aroused or is playing inappropriately.
Adults: Yes. I encourage adults to interact with their dog in healthy ways that improve the bond between dog and human. And play is a very important part of creating a positive relationship between human and dog. The following are some guidelines for wrestling and play in general.
- All play should cease if the dog becomes over-aroused and is engaged in inappropriate play. This includes jumping, scratching, or mouthing.
- Chase games are a great way to work on recall. The important point – the dog is chasing the humans and not vice versa. I find that teaching a dog keep away, human chasing dog, is rarely productive or healthy.
- Pushing and shoving can be a useful way of utilizing opposition reflex. Think of opposition reflex as push-push, pull-pull. If you push, the dog pushes back. If you pull, the dog pulls back. I utilize this concept when teaching a dog to stand by pushing very lightly on the dog’s shoulders and back. In response, many dogs will plant their feet and push back lightly. I sometimes use this when increasing the speed of a recall. Push the dog away and run, and he’s quite excited to reach you. Note that not all dogs enjoy being handled this way. Paramount is that the dog and human are both comfortable and enjoying the game.
I encourage adults to limit this type of play to very specific uses, like those described above.
My children and husband love to wrestle with the dog. I don’t want to deny them such a great game, but I worry that sometimes the play is too rough and that we’re teaching our dog bad manners. What is your recommendation?
I’m always excited when clients have found ways to interact with their dog that are enjoyable for both parties. Because wrestling raises the dog’s arousal level and can quickly lead to inappropriate play (there’s a reason Mom is concerned about the wrestling and asking these questions), I recommend the targeted use of opposition reflex, chase games, and hugging. (See above.) Otherwise, I point clients to great wrestling alternatives, like tug and fetch.
Of course women and girls like to wrestle, too! I’ve singled out Dads and kids, because in my personal experience they are the ones who are the most likely to enjoy hard, physical play with their dog. But if you’re a wrestling-loving woman, you’re not alone – I’m right there with you!
In the next blog, we’ll talk about tug, the rules, and how to train your dog to play a great game of tug.
If you haven’t already, check out my post on 3/11/11, “If You Want a Career in Dog Training There Are Important Concepts to be Learned.” See if you can find the answer before reading the rest of this post!
Ok – here’s the answer. At about 1:15 seconds, Jane decides to raise the criteria so her dog is dropping the object into her hand, instead of on the floor. When she does this, she requires the dog to “deliver to hand,” but she also wants him to pick the object up from the floor, instead of holding it in her hand for the dog to take as she had previously done. This is also a change in criteria, resulting in two criteria raises instead of just one.
The dog completely falls apart. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do, and starts showing a lot of stress behaviors such as panting, as well as displacement behaviors such as rolling on the ground.
After a little while, Jane realizes her mistake and takes steps to correct it; however, she then goes on to make another fundamental error. Can you figure out what that second error is? Check out the video below.
I’ll post the answer in a couple of days. Good luck!http://becomeaprofessionaldogtrainer.com/Audio-Video/3-14-11post-new.flv
If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit http://becomeaprofessionaldogtrainer.com.
One of my students (Jane), who is training to be a dog trainer, submitted this video which is part of her assignment to teach an induced retrieve.
One of the advanced dog training concepts that most people don’t understand is that you only raise one criterion at a time. There are essentially four things we train for: distance, duration, distraction, and handler orientation. When raising criteria, you should pick one of these, raise the criterion just a teeny bit, and leave everything else the same – or even lower the other criteria, depending on the difficulty of the new requirement.
This video is a lovely illustration of why this rule exists. Jane’s criteria has been the dog taking the object and holding it for just a very short time. This is going along quite well. She then decides she wants the dog to drop the object into her hand, which is a requirement of the final behavior.
Can you spot the TWO criteria increases? I’ll give you a couple of days to see if you can get the correct response, and then I’ll post the answer, along with the second half of the video and another question. Good luck!http://becomeaprofessionaldogtrainer.com/Audio-Video/3-11-11post-new.flv
Rate of Reinforcement is one of my soapbox topics. There are essentially three things necessary for an animal to learn a new behavior – good timing, motivation, and achievable criteria. Rate of reinforcement will tell you if one of those three things is not in place.
You should strive to have a high rate of reinforcement during the training process. It will necessarily go down when you raise your criteria, but you should have it back up within just a few trials. This is the mark of a good trainer – you are setting achievable criteria! This speeds the learning process and creates a behavior with a solid foundation.
Here’s a short audio clip where I’m explaining how to do rate of reinforcement with loose leash walking.
- How We Learn (socyberty.com)