Author Archive for

Dog Psychology: Dogs vs. Wolves

 
Be sure to sign up for this unique “dog psychology” webinar Dogs vs. Wolves: Are there ANY behavioral similarities” which will be presented on Wednesday, May 8. This webinar is not about dominance, but about the differences between dogs and wolves — of which there are many! If you are not able to attend the live version, you will receive the recorded version.

This webinar is presented by Wendy van Kerkhove. Currently Wendy is the owner of Fresh Air Training which specializes in Bark, Snark & Growl classes and conducting private training sessions for those humans with dogs who are reactive to other dogs. Wendy is a self described Learning Theory junkie including “dog psychology”.  She is a frequent contributor to the Chronicle of the Dog, TC Dog and will be published in JAAWS (Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Sciences) in 2005.

 

Dog Obedience Training – Four Key Elements

This is the first in a series of articles on the science and art of animal training and dog obedience training. Although the discussion is about animal training, don’t forget that these principles apply equally to humans, so if you’re a professional animal trainer, don’t forget to apply them to your clients, as well as their pets.

For canine obedience training, we have two problems we generally deal with: basic dog obedience training and dog behavior training. When dealing with behavior problems, we’re usually trying to reduce an unwanted behavior such as jumping up or separation anxiety. With obedience training, we’re teaching a dog to increase a desired behavior. For this series of articles, I’m going to focus on obedience training.

There are some basic dog obedience training methods that most trainers know – but it never hurts to review them. So, let’s start at the beginning with the four pieces of the training puzzle that must be in place before a new behavior can be learned:

  • Timing
  • Motivation
  • Achievable Criteria
  • Rate of Reinforcement

If any one of these pieces are missing, the dog is less likely to learn the behavior.

Timing

Let’s start with timing. The “dog psychology” term for timing is contiguity – which is the proximity of a stimulus and response so that an association can be made between the two. In other words, the two events (stimulus and response – in this case, behavior and consequence) must happen close enough in time that the dog is able to make an association between the two.

There are different “rules” about how much time can pass between the behavior and the consequence, but there’s no doubt that sooner is better. Probably the most common recommendation is that it should happen between one and three seconds; personally, I would be aiming for between immediately and one second. AND – this is very important – if you’re a clicker or marker trainer, the marker can give you some extra time, but I’d still be going for less than one second between both the behavior and the click and less than one second from the time of the click to delivery of the consequence. The clicker buys you time, but the food is the consequence.

So what this means is, be prepared! Have treats in your hand, ready to be delivered. Don’t have them in your pocket, a baggie, or even your bait bag because it takes too much time to get to.

Motivation

We all know what motivation is – it’s the reason we do something. Motivation can be to acquire something or avoid something. In the science-based/positive reinforcement dog training community, we generally use something the dog wants such as food, toys, etc. For purposes of this article, we’ll use food as the consequence. Food is easy to work with, highly motivating, and helps achieve a high rate of reinforcement.

You should use the smallest, least valuable reinforcer the dog will work for. Use smaller treats because you’ll be dispensing a lot of them and you don’t want to satiate the dog before you’ve completed the training session. As to the least reinforcing, well – save the big guns for more difficult challenges. Another thing to consider is when to break out the higher-value reinforcers. A lot of trainers jump to higher value treats as soon as the dog displays any indifference to the training session, or doesn’t appear to be learning. If the dog will eat the food if given freely, then it’s probably motivating enough for the training session. So, the problem is probably a function of criteria rather than motivation.

Criteria

Most trainers understand timing and motivation. Where they often go wrong is with criteria. Criteria is the behavior you want the animal to do now. This can include many things such as position, duration, distance, speed, level of distraction, and so on.

The most important thing about criteria is that it should be achievable. If it isn’t achievable, all the motivation in the world isn’t going to help. In human terms, think about asking a 2nd grade school child to do a calculus problem. You can offer him $1,000.00, his favorite ice cream every day for the next year, whatever he wants. If he doesn’t know how to do it, the motivation isn’t going to help him.

Additionally, criteria should be specifically defined. If the requirements change from moment to moment, you have very fuzzy criteria and you’re going to get fuzzy behavior. In a later article, we’ll discuss specifically how to set criteria – when to raise it and how much to raise it.

Rate of Reinforcement

Rate is about how often something happens in a given period of time. Rate of frequency refers to the number of times a behavior occurs within a specified period of time. Rate of frequency is how we measure learning – is the frequency of the behavior increasing or decreasing? If not, then the animal is not learning what we’re attempting to train. Reinforcement refers to the consequence that increases a specified behavior. As we know, behavior is consequence driven – i.e., we are likely to repeat or not repeat a behavior, depending on the consequence of that behavior. So, rate of reinforcement is the number of times a reinforcer is delivered for performance of a specified behavior within a designated period of time.

Timing, motivation, criteria, and rate of reinforcement are the four elements that must be present for learning to take place.

In fact, if behavior is changing these four elements are in place – the trainer may or may not be aware that they’re in place, but they are. A good trainer knows they are necessary and arranges their training around them.

These same principles also apply to puppy obedience as well as when training an older dog. For that matter, they apply when teaching horses, cats, cockroaches and humans!

The next article will discuss the four stages of learning. Meanwhile, I will be presenting a webinar on this topic in January, so if you’d like to learn more, check it out!

NOTE: Since this is the first article in this series, I thought I’d bring this up now. Early in your career, you should know what to call yourself. A lot of dog trainers call themselves “dog behaviorists.” However the term “behaviorist” is an earned title that takes a lot of work, so out of respect for our affiliated professionals, we should not refer to ourselves as dog behaviorists unless we have earned that title. I suggest the term “dog behavior consultant.”

Susan Smith is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer as well as a Certified Dog Behavior Training Consultant. She has co-authored the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Dogs and has authored or sponsored hundreds of online dog training courses.

Dog Trainer Online Course – Branding

For those of you who aren’t aware, I launched my new dog trainer online course website, Raising Canine in 2013. A project three years in the making! Because it’s been such a long and arduous process, I thought I’d share my thought process with you.

When I started this incarnation of Raising Canine, I planned on addressing education for all companion animals (i.e., dogs, cats, parrots and horses). While keeping my dog trainer online course, I also recruited speakers for various species and do have a nice selection of cat and parrot courses. During this process, I realized that my business name, Raising Canine, was not helping me when it came to the other species offerings, so I decided to change my name. After some thought, I came up with the name “Animal Ed.”

Changing my name from Raising Canine to Animal Ed was an emotionally difficult transition, as I love the name Raising Canine, and it is a well-known name in our industry. However, I decided this is a business decision – not an emotional decision – so I decided to gird my loins and do it. I used Animal Ed for about a year, and even put out one major product using that name – Cara Shannon’s DVD, “Bad to the Bone.”

After about a year, I took a look at my financials and decided that I would be better served targeting dog trainers, rather than consultants for other species. I wasn’t as well known with other species as I was with my dog trainer online course, and I didn’t have the contacts to create a rich and varied selection of educational offerings, as I did with dogs. So, I decided to go back to Raising Canine. What a mess! However, I’m very glad I made that decision, even if it was bit of a sticky wicket.

So, the moral of this story is, market narrowly and deliver broadly. Does this seem to be a recurring theme with me? I have a lot of really great education for dog trainers; however, probably half (or more!) of that education applies equally to consultants of other species. So, I’ll target dog trainers and if cat consultants want to learn from my offerings, great! I’m happy to oblige.

My Twelve Dogs of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the second day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the third day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Gretchen, who’s shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the fourth day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who’s shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the fifth day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the sixth day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Arlo the Grinch
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the seventh day of Christmas
My clients sent to me|
Annabelle for loving
Arlo the Grinch
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the eighth day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Jake who’s big and golden
Annabelle for loving
Arlo the Grinch
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the ninth day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Kenny for to play with
Jake who’s big and golden
Annabelle for loving
Arlo the Grinch
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the tenth day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Grace with the sloe eyes
Kenny for to play with
Jake who’s big and golden
Annabelle for loving
Arlo the Grinch
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Sky who loves to linger
Grace with the sloe eyes
Kenny for to play with
Jake who’s big and golden
Annabelle for loving
Arlo the Grinch
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My clients sent to me
Zeppelin , so happy
Sky who loves to linger
Grace with the sloe eyes
Kenny for to play with
Jake who’s big and golden
Annabelle for loving
Arlo the Grinch
Betti the meanderer
Jackson the guarder
Gretchen, who is shy
Copper my sweet boy
And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

Special Needs Dogs – with Jules Nye

Savor the satisfaction of helping a client with a really difficult challenge! Just because a dog is deaf and/or blind doesn’t mean his brain doesn’t work. These dogs are just as intelligent as “Joe Normal” dogs, and training them just means using some critical thinking to be a creative problem solver. Learn how to use the other senses to train the most requested owner behaviors using positive reinforcement techniques.

 

Some key points that will be covered:

  • How do dogs become deaf / blind?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • How can you test if a dog is deaf?
  • Are vibration collars a good idea?
  • Why do some deaf / blind dogs become aggressive or develop anxiety?
  • What cues and behaviors can I teach my dog?
  • Is ASL the best for training a deaf dog?
  • How do you communicate?
  • How to handle relationships between other house hold pets after your dog goes deaf / blind?
  • How to avoid major problems & aggression?
  • Do I need to euthanize my dog?

 

To enroll, click: Training Deaf and/or Blind Dogs

Raising Canine – Dog Trainer Education Website Launch

I was so happy to get this up, and so pleased with my new look, that I really wanted to do something special. I was mulling it over, wishing I was a storefront instead of an Internet-based business, when I thought “Why can’t I have a grand opening? There’s no rule that says grand openings are only for physical stores.” So I took that thought and ran with it. The advantage of a website grand opening is that it doesn’t have to be just one day – it can be all month long!

And so it will be; Raising Canine’s Website Grand Opening will take place throughout the month of October. There are all kinds of things going on this month – here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Free telecourses
  • Great prizes
  • A remote group hypnosis session

We have four Grand prizes up to $1500 in value, and we also have a bunch of first prize DVDs and books which will be given away throughout the month. Everybody who enters will win something. Below is a list of the telecourses that will be going on this month, so check them out. Here’s the link to the Grand Opening page on my website so you can enroll in the drawing, if you want. While you’re there, please take the time to fill out the survey. Thanks for participating!