'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Monday, 27 December 2010

Establishing the Basics.

Establishing the Basics from Sarah Fisher and Marie Miller's 100 Ways to Train the Perfect Dog (pages 40 to 51).

1) Use an indoor kennel: p40-41.
a. 'A dog should also see the indoor kennel as his safe space where good things happen, not a prison where he is dumped when his owner seems angry with him for some inexplicable reason (dogs don't always understand our logic, see pp. 12-13). Ensure that he always has access to water when he is in his crate.'
b. 'When your dog has been active and is becoming tired, encourage him into the kennel with a stuffed Kong or chew toy but leave the door ajar. At this stage the only place you should give him exciting things to chew is in the indoor kennel. ... When your dog is happy to go into the kennel, begin to close the door to confine him for short periods. Make sure he has exciting things to chew in the indoor kennel.'
> Despite having been crated as a puppy, Lola really doesn't understand or like her crate at all. We're going back to Crating 101 at the moment.

2) Provide effective housetraining: p42.
a. 'Puppies usually need to relieve themselves when they wake up, after they have eaten and after (or during) an exciting game. Watch for signs of circling or sniffing. Quickly and calmly take him outside and stay neutral so you don't distract him. Give a tasty reward when your pup toilets in the right place. When he begins to understand why he has been taken out, attach a cue word (see p.32) quietly as he is relieving himself.'
> I already take her out very frequently, following this. Irritatingly, she doesn't have much of a pattern when she's going to have an accident indoors; but she's started to alert me by looking at me and then heading toward or even scratching the kitchen door, so that's something. If she's way over-excited during play, she forgets though, so I have to remember to take her out for her.

3) Follow a sensible feeding regime: p43.
a. 'Decide on a good diet, put the food down and leave it for 10 minutes. If there is anything left in the bowl, clear it away and do not offer anything else until the next mealtime. Fussy eating habits tend to develop very quickly if you constantly offer alternatives.'
> We already do this; the girls get what they're given, and if they don't want to eat it (something that's never happened outside of J being ill, occasionally) then that's that until the next time.

4) Cultivate good food manners: p44.
a. 'Dogs need to learn how to be polite and confident around both food and the food bowl and this can be done in a kind and motivational way using clicker training.'
> At the moment, I really need to get on with this. Not with Jess--she's used to behaving well for her food, and we even had to once given up on making her 'wait' whilst the bowl went down, because eventually, a few years ago, we got to the point where she would not eat from her bowl unless you were standing in her vicinity and repeatedly told her to 'go on'. But teaching Lola to wait--teaching her some ever-so-helpful self control--would be a brilliant idea.

5) Teach food bowl confidence: p45.
a. '...it is important to encourage your dog to feel confident about humans being near his food bowl while he is eating. A simple and effective way to do this is to add tasty tidbits to the bowl while your dog is eating. It is then potentially rewarding for people to be near the food bowl.'
> I already do this with both of my girls - as a result, neither minds me touching them when eating extremely high value foodstuffs (e.g. tripe, raw bones), though I don't take bones and such away from them without ever giving them something in exchange. There's just no reason to do so; it's cruel and promotes food guarding.

6) Ensure appropriate eating from the hand: p46.
a. 'Many dogs learn to grab food from the hand, which is both unpleasant and painful. It makes good sense to teach your dog how to be confident and gentle when taking food offered by hand; even if he has already learned the art of snatch and grab, you can still teach him better manners using this exercise.'
b. '1. With your palm facing up, trap a piece of food under your thumb and offer it to your dog. 2. If your dog tries to grab it, keep your hand and especially your thumb very still and release only when he slows down and softens his mouth to take it.'
> This should be really helpful for my savage little beast. I've been doing something similiar--offering a treat, but curling my fingers back around it if she tried to snatch--and that seems to be working, but maybe holding tightly under the thumb would send her a clearer signal.

7) Use effective rewards: p47.
a. 'Different dogs value rewards in differrent ways. Some love to work for food, while others prefer to work for a game with a specific toy; some may enjoy both equally. And then, of course, there is also verbal praise and physical contact.'
b. 'Grade the value of treats that you give to your dog. ... Find out which of his toys your dog rates the highest and vary the toys you use when working with him to keep him interested.'
c. 'The most important thing to remember is that a reward needs to be just that - a real reward for the dog, and therefore must be appropriate for the environment that he is in at the time and for the precise moment that you want him to respond.'
> This is something I need to work on; I really ought to make a list and scale Lola's reinforcers, from the highest (e.g. exciting chase-play, cheese, chicken) to the lowest (e.g. biscuits from her daily meals), and start working with her from that.

8) Train your voice: p48.
a. 'Dogs have a very acute sense of hearing and can pick up a variety of pitches and sounds. Like people, they respond well to praise and an interesting, well-paced speech pattern. They will be far more engaged and keener to learn if the person that is working with them uses their voice effectively.'
b. 'Many owners fall in to the trap of either talking too much or not praising enough when teaching their dog new skills. A weak, flat or monotone voice, or gruff, short commands will do little to motivate your dog and a terse attitude can cause a dog to withdraw and become aloof or depressed. At the other end of the scale, a permanently excited, squeaky, high-pitched voice can over-arouse or confuse a dog.'
> I do quite well working with the dogs with my voice, but I'd like to get better at making minute vocal adjustments to further help us. At the moment, I tend to lean toward over-praising in the early stages of working on something, which can be confusing, and I also chatter inanely to the dogs throughout the day. I'd like to cut back on the useless chat (though not stop talking to/at my girls altogether).

9) Work on your posture and hand signals: p49.
a. 'Dogs communicate primarily with body language so it is often easier for them to learn visual cues, which can then be paired with verbal cues.'
b. 'When training your dog by encouraging him to use his initiative and perform a behaviour of his own free will (free-shaping), it can be helpful if you sit. This way you are less likely to lean or shuffle or involuntarily give clues; all of which may distract him. It also helps him to know the only 'clues or hints' he will get will come with your clicks and treats as he works towards the goal behaviour.'
> Sticking to the same cues? Controlling my posture? Not waving my hands around for any damn reason? Yeah, I need to work on this, badly.

10) Use bodywraps and t-shirts: p50-51.
a. 'This is not about dressing up your dog as a fashion accessory. Both bodywraps and T-shirts have practical uses and can provide an important first step for service puppies that go into freeze (see p.32) when they first wear a puppy coat or body harness, and for dogs that are noise-sensitive.'
b. 'Putting a T-shirt or bodywrap on a timid dog can help him to feel less shy and can help a bouncy dog to settle and become focused on what he is being asked to do. They can also help dogs to overcome a fear of being confined or touched. Giving a dog sensory input with T-shirts or a stretchy elastic bodywrap can also help to reduce over-excitability when travelling in a car...'
> I'd like to use the relaxating, step-by-step methods outlined in the book to help Lola appreciate her coat more. At the moment, she fights like the devil to get it off/away, making it incredibly difficult to put it on if she's wide awake and bouncy. I might also purchase some secondhand jumpers or t-shirts from a charity shop, and sew-adjust to the right sizes, to suit her now as a temporary measure (rather than buying an expensive T-shirt that she will grow out of within the month).

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