Sound and Effective Training Habits Will Allow For Successful Behavior Modification
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Socrates
Dogs learn through consistent repetition of words and actions, which creates a pattern. As a dog owner, you must learn to develop a pattern of behavior from which your dog can learn. We are going to focus on letting the dog chose to do as we wish, rather than using compulsion and aversive measures.
REPETITION and CONSISTENCY = You (and everyone who deals with your dog) doing EXACTLY the same thing EACH and EVERY time you interact with your dog. Consistency must be established and maintained by EVERYONE in your household, every day and at every opportunity.
When you work with RescueMeTraining, you will learn how to communicate clearly with your dog in order to teach him/her. The more information you give him in a clear and consistent manner, the quicker he will learn.
When you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. You will mark the desired behaviors immediately so the dog knows this specific thing is the behavior you want and then you will be able to increase their frequency. It is necessary to mark the desired behavior within half to one and a half seconds so your dog can learn the precise behavior you want.
MARKING BEHAVIOR — We must deliver information to the dog with the proper timing (.5- 1.5 seconds) so that s/he associates that with the behavior s/he is displaying at that moment. We can use a clicker or a “bridge” word, like “yes!”, to mark behavior. As long as the bridge word marks the behavior within .5-1.5 seconds, we have a little longer to get the treat/reinforcer/reward to the dog. The bridge word marks the behavior and promises there will be a reward for that behavior: the treat! NB: the marker occurs immediately and the treats come after. We do NOT have to deliver the treat at the same time as the marker/bridge.
Whatever you choose as your marker/bridge, they all mean, “I like that, do that again!”
Guidelines for success.
1) Practice every day with your dog!
Ideally, you will practice a total of 30 minutes a day (in numerous small doses) in order for your training program to be a success. Initially practice inside with no distractions, and as your dog gets more competent and can perform a behavior nine times out of 10, you can practice it in different places, and then add some mild distractions.
2) Always keep your dog’s training sessions upbeat, and end on a positive note!
The Four Ps will never let you down. Each task you teach will require a different effort for each dog. What remains constant are the “rules” needed to properly train a dog.
Call your dog’s name before all commands, and give the command only once before enforcing (luring or placing the dog in the desired position).
Your dog should hold all commands until given the release word (“OK!”) which means that repetition is over and he is released.
Please don’t use ‘good dog’ as your release, as you need to be able to praise your dog & say ‘good dog’ without him breaking the command.
Only name a command once the dog actually knows how to do it, or else it’s just “blah, blah, blah” to your dog. She does not speak English! We will lure them into compliance initially, and then associate the command word with the specific desired behavior later.
Always praise your dog when he is doing the things you like- PRAISE A LOT!!! whether you are in a training session or not. Let him know when he is doing things you like and reward him for it. This is very important. Let them know when they are getting it right to increase their willingness to give you the behaviors you want.
We need to make the behaviors we want your dog to do much more rewarding than the undesirable behaviors we wish to replace.
Dogs will do what they find rewarding, so we need to make good dog behaviors the most rewarding!
If you dog persists in a behavior, it is because she finds it rewarding so we need to figure out what that reward is and stop it.
Never reward or reinforce poor performance. That means, give them no attention; whether in the form of a look, touch or verbal communication- simply ignore the undesired behavior, or ask for an incompatible behavior that you know s/he understands. For example, ask for a sit to preclude jumping; she can’t jump if she is sitting!
Each command can only have one meaning.
Commands like “down”, “stay”, and “come” are more difficult for dogs to master because people tend to use those words for more than one behavior. To a dog, a word can have only one, specific meaning. For example, every time you say “come”, you have to make your dog do the exact same thing, or you are confusing him, and teaching him that he has options when you say come.
Heel” or “Let’s Go” means “at my left heel.” When you say “heel”, your dog should walk at your left heel, turning when you turn, and sitting when you stop. Your dog should remain at heel until you release him or her (“O.K!”)
“Down” means lay down.
-Use “Off” if the dog jumps or gets on furniture etc. (If the dog gets on the couch and you yell “down” & the dog lies down on the couch he just did what you told him to!)
-“Stay” means, “I’ll be back, you stay here.” Your dog should not move until you give the release word. Gradually build longer duration, distance and distraction.
Always go to your dog to reinforce him or her for the stay; if you call the dog to you to reinforce him/her, you didn’t reinforce the stay, you reinforced the come.
-“Wait” means “wait here for more instructions to come soon.” You should use wait instead of stay when entering/exiting doors, wait for permission to get in or out of the car, etc. (If you leave for work and the dog is trying to get out the door and you tell the dog to stay, he should still be there when you get home!)
“Come” means the dog should come straight to you, and sit straight in front of you. You should ONLY associate the recall command with positive things, make it a fun game, as if they have won the jackpot! NEVER call your dog to come to you then punish him for something he’s done. If you punish him/her after s/he comes to you, then the next time you ask for a recall you have guaranteed they will not come to you.
Alternatives to the word come: If you’re calling the dog in from the yard you can say “inside” instead of “come”. If you want to put the dog in his crate, you can say “go in your house” or “go to your room”.
The more you practice, and the more fun you make it, the better the dog will be!
Always begin training with a hungry dog who has had a little exercise. This was he will have burned off some of the crazies and will be ready to work for food, attention and praise or play.
The basics of managing undesirable dog behavior.
Most behaviors that we deem undesirable are actually natural dog behaviors that they find very rewarding, so we need to give them something else to do that they find more rewarding. Dogs are not, “not-doers”, they are DO-ers (thank you to Beverly Courtney for that one!). So, give them something to do rather than yelling “NO!” at them.
Behaviors that get reinforced/rewarded are more likely to be repeated. So if your dog is continuing to do something or a behavior is actually increasing, then he is clearly being rewarded for it, even if you can't figure out what the reward is. Remember: re-enforcement (reward) is in the eye of the beholder; it is not about whether YOU think it ought to be reinforcing, but rather that your dog finds it rewarding.
Here’s a good article about reinforcers:
Treatment Plan Components for Behavior Issues.
There are four components that will be used as an outline when addressing individual behavior problems in this stage. Each component will detail different actions that can be taken to help resolve or curtail that specific behavior problem. You will notice that some actions can fit into more than one component because many of the training techniques are related.
1. Positive Reinforcement of Alternate Behaviors
2. Management and Setting the Dog up to Succeed
3. Consequences for the Problem Behaviors
4. Consistency in Dealing with Problem Behaviors
All four components need to be addressed in order to eliminate or curtail the problem behavior.
Positive Reinforcement of Alternate Behaviors
The majority of the behaviors we label “problems” or “nuisances” are typically normal dog behaviors that become inappropriate when demonstrated in our human environment. Behaviors such as jumping, digging, chewing, etc., are all normal dog behaviors. In addition, they are usually self-rewarding behaviors, as the dog truly enjoys engaging in them. The dog must be taught that an alternate behavior is more rewarding than the “problem” behavior or the dog will choose the problem behavior each time the opportunity arises.
It is also critical to discover what triggers the “problem” behavior and desensitize the dog to the item or situation while teaching him an acceptable alternate behavior. For example, a dog experiencing stress because of a stranger’s arrival at the home may display destructive behavior. Identifying the arrival of the stranger as the trigger allows you to devise a plan that addresses how the owners should manage visitors. Discovering and desensitizing the dog to the trigger may determine the success or failure of the Treatment Plan.
We have to figure out how to minimize or eliminate reactive responses to your dog’s inappropriate behavior. This is done by focusing on being proactive (e.g., praising your dog whenever he performs any acceptable alternate behaviors), instead of reactive (e.g., leash and collar corrections, yelling). Most owners will ignore their dogs when they are behaving in an appropriate manner (e.g., when they are lying quietly).
For the owner, it is much more difficult to ignore the dog when he is engaging in inappropriate behavior. Because of this, most dogs quickly figure out that "bad" behaviors get them attention. As a social animal, dogs often view negative attention as better than no attention at all.
In short, positive reinforcement of alternate behavior(s) is critical in the treatment of behavior problems. Failing to reward an alternate behavior is a missed learning opportunity for the dog.
Management of the Problem and Setting the Dog Up to Succeed
This is a critically important aspect of training. We must manage the problems till we have control and we must strive to set our dog up to succeed. The idea is to provide the dog with every possible opportunity to learn that the new alternate behavior is more rewarding for him than the previous problem behavior. We must supervise the dog and his environment so that he is not able to perform the undesired behavior. Since most dogs consider the problem behavior rewarding, each time the dog performs it, he is being positively reinforced for the very behavior you are trying to eliminate. The dog will not successfully learn the alternate behavior until the owner is consistent in managing the dog and his environment.
Until a dog is proficient at offering the new desirable/acceptable behavior in a particular situation (successful 9 out of 10 tries, or 90 percent), the dog must be prevented from offering the inappropriate behavior at all times whether the owner is present or not. For example, while training a dog who engages in inappropriate chewing and destructive behavior, the owners will not be able to leave their dog loose and unsupervised in the house or in the yard. Leaving an untrained and unsupervised dog with that much freedom will commonly produce results similar to leaving an average 2-year-old unattended for hours at a time. Quite frankly, it would be crazy, not to mention unsafe. Most people would never consider leaving 2-year-olds unattended because they would endanger themselves and potentially cause considerable damage to their surroundings.
Consequences for the Problem Behaviors
Consequences are designed to tell a dog the behavior he just offered moves him farther away from his reward. In addition, a proper consequence should impact the dog enough that it decreases his desire to offer the behavior again while compelling him to offer the appropriate behavior immediately with a good attitude.
In most cases, behavior problems can be resolved through the use of positive reinforcement and negative punishment (removing his ability to do or get something he likes) only. If an owner is committed to training, positive punishment, such as a leash and collar correction, should not be necessary to modify a dog’s behavior. Positive punishment is most often introduced due to the owner’s lack of commitment to training, not because the dog is unable to learn through positive reinforcement.
You may need to try several different consequences to find the one that is most effective for the dog you are working with. If a particular consequence does not work, you should stop using it and try another. The corrective technique chosen should always be based on the individual dog’s drives and sensitivities, as well as the owner’s implementation and abilities.
[For those members of your family that insist on using a punishment, ask them to consider this: When choosing a corrective technique or punisher, always keep in mind that, by definition, a punishment stops a behavior in just one or two applications. If a punishment, such as a collar correction, must be used for more than just a few applications, it is ineffective and will not produce the desired results, and will almost certainly lead to other problems. And it is cruel and possibly painful for the dog. ]
Consistency in Dealing with Problem Behaviors
Dogs respond well to consistency. Dogs are happy, confident and secure in an environment where the rules and expectations are consistent. Dogs can become suspicious and untrusting of an owner who changes the rules by sometimes expecting compliance and sometimes not. Owners who teach their dogs that a behavior is acceptable sometimes, and then get angry at the dog for the behavior at other times, will usually have a difficult time eliminating the problem. This inconsistency can cause new stress- and anxiety- driven behaviors that may be more objectionable than the original problem behavior. For example, an owner who hugs her dog for jumping up in greeting, but issues a collar correction the next time the dog jumps up, may create such conflict and anxiety that he dog is incapable of responding to known commands, and begins to cling to her as he jumps up. This anxiety-driven behavior becomes compulsive and will require a behavior plan to relieve the anxiety.
Remember that the majority of behaviors we humans label “problems” (e.g., jumping, chewing, digging, nipping, unruly behavior in the house) are self-rewarding behaviors for the dog. Because of this, most dogs will not miss an opportunity to partake in them. It is for this reason that consistency plays such a crucial role in treating behavior problems.
“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”
Orhan Pamuk, Author, “My Name is Red."