THE TRAINING PROCESS

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SET UP FOR SUCCESS

Below describes some basic steps you can take in order to increase the effectiveness of your training sessions.

Training Sessions

  1. Training sessions can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as you and your dog remains engaged, relaxed, and having fun.

  2. Train new behaviors in an undistracted, safe, and quiet environment.

  3. Train one behavior with one trainer, then ensure others are consistent with their interactions with the dog. 

  4. Use a variety of treats and cut them up in pea-size pieces to allow for a high rate of reinforcement (number of treats per minute.)

  5. Use a treat pouch or equivalent in order to keep treats in your reach but out of the dog's sight while training.

 

Motivation

 

No motivation, no learning - this is a well established law of behavior.  You must ensure your dog is motivated to learn, which can be helped by the following:  

  1. Make the value of the reward proportional to the behavior being asked - your dog may sit for a biscuit, but not for dropping a chicken bone from its mouth.  For that, he may need cheese or more!     

  2. Train when your dog is relatively hungry -  your dog may be less motivated to perform right after a meal.

  3. Use meal time as an opportunity to train - for example, give all or part of his meal as rewards for 'sit and stay' or any other behavior.

  4. Train when your dog is energized but not overly excitable - depending on the dog, this might mean to train right before or after going on a walk or to the dog run.

  5. Rule out any health concerns if your dog is not motivated or not offering a behavior.

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THE TRAINING PROCESS

Below provides the steps required to teach new behaviors.

1.  Get the Behavior

Step one of the training process is to get your dog to offer the behavior that you want.  This can be done using any of the four methods below - noting that none of the methods  include talking.  For example, you can lure your dog into a sit position using a treat; but you cannot talk your dog into a sit position by repeating the word 'sit!' - he doesn't know English!  In this step, silence is golden.

1.  Lure:  Use a treat to get your dog into a desired position or behavior.

2.  Target:  Use of your hand or object to guide your dog to move to the desired position(s), such as 'off the couch'.

3.  Capture  Wait for your dog to naturally offer the behavior, then mark and reward.

4.  Shape:  Mark and reward successive approximations of the target behavior.  

4.  Add the Verbal Cue

Step four is the time we can finally talk!  But only if you are 99% sure your dog will offer the behavior - else go back to the prior steps.

  1. Say the cue, such as 'sit', right before the the dog initiates the behavior.

  2. Do not repeat the cue.  Say it once, then try again, or work on getting the behavior more reliably.

  3. If you are using a hand signal, then say the verbal cue right before giving the hand signal.  Do not use a hand signal and verbal cue at the same time.  Soon your dog will offer the behavior with the verbal cue alone.

  4. Don't poison the CUE!  Don't ask your dog to 'COME' then pull him out of the dog run!  That is called punishment!

2.  Mark the Behavior

Step two is to let your dog know that this is the behavior that will earn him a reward.  This is the role of a marker.  If you do not mark the behavior, you may be rewarding the wrong behavior.  For example, if you ask for a 'sit', and your dog sits, then he gets up and you give him a treat, you rewarded the standing - the not the sitting.  So, when possible, always treat in position, in this case, while sitting.  You can also use a clicker, which is an extremely effective way to mark a behavior, just remember:

  1. Keep your promise.  If you click, you must treat, every time. 

  2. Timing is essential.  For example, if teaching your dog to 'Drop it', click the moment your dog's mouth is opening.

  3. The treat follows the click.

5.  Add the Three Ds

Step five strengthens the behavior, by adding what is called 'the three Ds' - Distance, Duration and Distraction.  Each component is learned separately, and trained as any other new behavior, following a Training Plan, increasing each component incrementally.

  1. Increasing distance - moving farther away from the dog - is relevant for behaviors such as Touch and Recalls.

  2. Increasing duration - asking to hold a behavior for a period of time - is relevant for behaviors such as Sit and Down.

  3. Adding distraction is relevant to all behaviors, and includes asking the dog to perform when such things as noise, people, dogs, food or toys are present.

3.  Reward the Behavior

Step three of the training process is to reward the behavior that you want:  Your dog determines what is rewarding.  Each dog is different, each day is different: it is your job to learn what motivates your dog.  Generally speaking, food rewards are the best choice when training new behaviors because they are easy to dole out quickly and offer a lot of variety. ​  Remember to reward:

  • Every success when training a new behavior (or when rewarding an emergency recall)

  • Intermittently, 60% or more, once the behavior is reliable - just keep in mind, 'stop the rewards, stop the behavior' -  so don't be too stingy!

  • In proportion to the behavior being asked.  Sits are easy, recalls are hard.

6.  Proof the Behavior

Dogs do not generalize behaviors easily.  That is, if a dog learns 'Down' in your living room, in an undistracted environment, then you ask for a 'Down' outside, he may seem to have 'forgotten' or 'ignored you'.   To help with this process - once the behavior is learned, practice 

 

  1. In various locations, such as in public settings, at the do run, or different rooms

  2. In different positions, such as when you are sitting down, turned away, or upside down! 

  3. With different people, having others ask your dog for certain learned behaviors.  This helps to generalize the behavior and  also ensures that everyone is consistent.