I was training a new behaviour with Gabby yesterday – an agility handling technique that was new to me, too. I had done all of my homework: studied the technique, watched a variety of people execute the handling move on video, and practiced the footwork without my dog. I set up the video camera, warmed Gabby up and started training with her.
Here’s the part where my reality takes a sharp left turn from actual reality. I did the handling sequence a number of times – sometimes Gabby got it right, but most of the time she got it wrong. I stopped and reviewed the video and my notes to make sure my handling was good, the set up of the jumps was good…check, check. So that left Gabby. Why was she only getting my desired terminal behaviour less than 50% of the time? Why was she taking. So. Long.
Incorporate a little mental stimulation into your dog’s daily life – it’s easier than you think. What are the benefits of mental stimulation? Aside from the fact that all dogs need daily brain exercise, there are some real benefits from adding mental brain work to your dog’s life.
Why are recall games important? Why can’t you just give your dog a cookie every time he comes? Don’t the laws of applied animal behaviour tell us that the equation “recall cue = cookie” should be sufficient to getting a strong and reliable recall?
Well, yes, and no.
What the equation omits is that there is an emotion attached to every behaviour you train. It’s something I say at least twice a week in my classes: You are always training an emotion into a behaviour. What recall games do is help ensure the emotion that is attached to the behaviour of coming when called is a fun and happy one.
A well trained dog is always demonstrating good impulse control. If you have a dog who pulls on leash to go sniff a tree, doesn’t come when you call or steals food off the counter – you have an impulse control problem. All well trained dogs also demonstrate strong impulse control skills.
There are lots of ways to train better Leash Manners but the first step should always be the same – build value for walking on your left, or right, side. I prefer for my dogs to walk on my left, but if you like your dogs to walk on your right just switch up the exercise.
With your dog standing on your left side, drop your hand down and feed your dog a treat or piece of kibble. It’s important you hold your hand stationary, so that you communicate in the clearest possible way where you want your dog to be.
If your hand moves around when you deliver the treat, you create a position that is open to interpretation. If it helps, hook your thumb into the belt loop of your pants to keep your hand stationary.
Training a dog is about controlling the reinforcement. So if you want to train your dog, you need to have a basic understanding of reinforcement and how it works.
Dogs don’t process information and learn the same way humans do. It serves as a disservice to dogs to expect them to think in complex human terms like “right” and “wrong.” Dogs, and all animals, repeat behaviours that are reinforcing for them. Think about what dogs like to do – sniffing a tree, for example. They do this because they learn so much from smelling smelly stuff. Read more