Friday, July 20, 2012

But It's Mine - Resource Guarding

When a dog resource guards he is telling you that whoever or whatever is approaching when he has whatever or whoever is threatening.  It is not because he is dominant or feels you are below him in the pack order.  The more you battle with your dog and prove you can take whatever the worse it gets.

With puppies I like to build a history of people approaching while my puppy is eating or chewing or sleeping and good things happening.  Simple exercises like puppy eating dinner and someone walks by and throws a piece of sausage in the bowl.  Pretty soon the dog is looking forward to someone approaching the bowl.  This leads to being able to call the dog away from the bowl or cue another behaviour.  I practice the same approach with toys and bones.

Old school methods did a lot of taking toys to prove you could.  In my experience this left me with a dog that if the opportunity presented itself, such as outside with a dead thing in his mouth, there was no way he was going to come within hands reach so I could take it.

I am also proactive and while playing these games with my dog I always protect the dog from feeling threatened so he does not practice guarding.  For example my dogs are all in crates when they get fresh bones so they can all chew in peace.  No one is obsessing about taking someone else s and no on is feeling threatened that someone else will take their bone.  Same with dinner they are at the very least separated and usually crated so no bad feeling are being practiced.

I have been in houses where the dogs are fed side by side sometimes even with bowls that are attached.  From what I have observed there is usually one dog who feels a little (or sometimes a lot) intimidated and to me that is just not a good existence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding Something To Reward

I read a book the other day that spoke about how are brains are trained to find the bad and not the good.  It said you actually have to train your brain to observe the good.  I think this is an important part of dog training.

I will take as an example a new beginner class coming into the room.  Most people will correct their dogs multiple time per minute.  Leash pops, bum squishes, hey hey, etc.  For most of these dogs they have never experienced that many dogs in that small a room while they are on leash.  Even more confusing to the dog is the behaviours they are exhibiting have been rewarded in the past.

Instead wouldn't it be great if you rewarded your dog for any good behaviour.  I am sure at some point your dog was not pulling, or barking, or lunging.  That is an improvement and I guarentee you if you continue to reward the good, the good will happen more often.

Remember any behaviour that is rewarded will be repeated.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Quality of a Cue

Let's start with defining the meaning of cue.  A cue is a word or signal that the dog receives that elicits a response.  To properly create that response the cue needs to be paired with the action over and over until the dog has made the connection.  No puppy, no matter how smart the breed or parents where comes with any cues, your job is to train them.

To begin this association of cue and response you have to be able to create the response before you add the cue.  For example you want to teach your dog a verbal cue for sit.  Most puppies and/or dogs will sit when you show them a treat and then bring your hand up by bending your elbow.  Once you can predict that the moving of the hand will get the sit and not some other behaviour you are ready to begin to add the verbal cue.

Whenever teaching a new cue for a behaviour the order is new cue, pause, old cue.  In this case the verbal "sit", pause, then the hand signal you have created. You repeat this enough times and your dog starts to anticipate the hand signal and sits as soon as you give the verbal.  I also incorporate the verbal "sit" in any situation that I can predict my dog will sit, such as at meals and at the door.

The worst thing you can do to this brand new cue is to say it when you are not sure the dog will do it.  You first have to grow the strength of the cue until you are confident the dog understand it.  The best way to know this is to test it.  Do a number of repetitions of sit with you standing in front of him how you originally taught him.  This will bring the "sit" cue into the front of his brain.  Now go sit in a chair and give the "sit" cue.  Chances are your dog will sit since you just did a bunch of repetitions and you have just built a lot of value for sitting.  Now you have started to clarify when I say "sit" even if I am sitting in a chair you are expected to sit.

One important note to keep in mind.  I will allow my dog to fail no more than three times int his situation or any training.  You want to try not to change anything and allow him to fail.  Failing is good it explains to the dog what will not be rewarded and your dog is brilliant about working for rewards.  After three failures I have to reassess; is my dog to stimulated by the environment or was whatever I tried too hard and he wasn't as knowledgeable as I expected.