Author Archive for Susan Smith

Dog Obedience Training – Four Key Elements

Dog Obedience Training:  The Four Elements that Need to Be Present

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.

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.

Wash ‘n Zip Pet Bed Review

     

    

I was given a free sample of the Wash ‘n Zip Pet Bed (lucky me!) so that I could test it and blog about my experience. So . . . here we go!

The Wash ‘n Zip is essentially a pad that is folded in half (smaller beds are folded twice) and then zipped around the edges. When you’re ready to wash it, you unzip it and throw it in the washing machine! When it’s washed and dried, you zip it back up and have a nice, cushy pad. The Wash ‘n Zip can also be left unzipped to create a larger, padded blanket. Or, just zip one side and you have a sleeping bag! For more advantages of the Wash ‘n Zip, click here.

As a Certified professional dog trainer, I always have a lot of dogs in my house so I’m a very good person to test out the Wash ‘n Zip! It seems like a good bed; the dogs don’t seem to prefer any particular pillow over the Wash ‘n Zip, but neither do they prefer the Wash ‘n Zip over other beds. I think it just depends on where a bed is located. All the dogs used the Wash ‘n Zip at one time or another – so the dogs appear to like it. I have a size “Large,” which is about perfect for my Springer Spaniel; a dog much bigger than that would need an “Extra Large,” and they probably will want to make an “Extra Extra Large” for the giant breeds (alternatively, it can be left unzipped, but then you lose some padding).

I let it sit around for a couple weeks; I had a lot of dogs in the house so the Wash ‘n Zip got a fair amount of use. I then washed it – I  unzipped it, threw it in the washing machine and then the dryer, and when it was done I zipped it back up and it worked like a dream! Now, I have only washed it once, so I don’t have a good feel for how it will stand up over time, but it is a heavy-duty zipper (better than what’s on most pet beds) so I imagine it should be fine.

In conclusion, I must say that I think it’s worthwhile; it’s compact, it’s comfortable, and it’s easy to clean.   It’s also perfect if you want to keep a bed in your car to visit or if you’re traveling. Ultimately, the dogs like it and it worked as advertised, so I think that this is a good product to look into.

Before I end, I also want to give one last tip for those who don’t already know this. Before I wash pet beds, I put them in the dryer with a dryer sheet which gets a lot of the hair off; then I put it in the washer. This saves a lot of wear and tear on your washing machine!

The Midnight Walkers

Here’s a beautiful blog by one of our Far Beyond trainers, Michael Baugh. If you have a reactive, fearful, or aggressive dog, or know someone who does, you should definitely read this post. http://www.farbeyonddogtraining.com/the-midnight-walkers/

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

Remote Course – Training Deaf and/or Blind Dogs with Jules Nye

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
11:00am-12:30pm Central Time
CCPDT CEUs: pending
IAABC CEUs: 1.5
$30.00

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 this link: http://www.profcs.com/SecureCart/SecureCart.aspx?mid=916CB0D3-0FF8-4E71-A5DA-18936C8CB55A&pid=dab296cf04c344d69e9c0cfb428e9e77

Christmas Is Almost Here

The holidays are upon us; for most of us, things are beginning to slow down, so this is a great time to think about some specialty marketing. As professional dog trainers, we know the potential hazards awaiting the family pets during these times:

  • Christmas trees
  • Ornaments
  • Icicles
  • Lights
  • Presents
  • Visitors
  • And so on and so forth . . . .

In other words, a lot of new stuff, a lot of excitement, and very little supervision! Holidays can be a dangerous time for dogs and cats.

Trainers, on the other hand, can take advantage of these hazards and use the opportunity for some much needed education and marketing. Here are a couple of ideas to think about (there are plenty of other ideas out there, as well – just put your thinking cap on!).

Newsletter – Create a newsletter addressing holiday safety for pets. In addition to sending this e-mail to your clients, have a bunch printed professionally and leave stacks in vet and groomer reception areas, pet stores, etc. Not only does this put your name in front of a whole bunch of potential clients, it provides much needed information to the clients of non-competing professionals – and hopefully, they’ll remember when it comes time to refer!

Live presentation – Offer to do a short, informative presentation on holiday safety for local businesses and/or organizations. You could do one for vets, local pet stores, your community shelter, the Better Business Bureau, the Elks, schools, churches, department stores . . .   There are too many possibilities to list!

Free clinic – Get together with some of your training buddies and have a “Holiday Pet Safety” clinic, where you present information and brainstorm with pet owners. It could be an all-day event at the local shelter. Have a basic 30 minute presentation then 30 minutes of brainstorming, and just keep repeating that format throughout the day. Participants will come and go, and they can make donations of food or money to the shelter.

Santa Paws – Team up with a professional photographer to offer pictures of dogs with Santa Clause; the photographer can take the photos and you can provide help and guidance to customers while they’re awaiting their turn.

These are just a few ideas, but there are many creative ways to take this extra time and put it to good use. Have a happy and safe holiday!

Raising Canine’s Grand Opening is Over

Well, today’s the last day of October and the big Grand Opening event is over, although we still have some last items to take care of. We have one person who has not claimed her prize, so we may do one more drawing. A notice was sent that if they do not claim their prize by Wednesday, we’ll re-draw. Other than that, we’re done!

It’s been a lot of fun, and I want to thank everyone for participating.

I’ll be adding telecourses for 2012 soon – I already have several lined up, so be sure to check back often and see what’s coming up. Additionally, for those who have passed their CBCC, we’ll be re-submitting several of our telecourses to qualify for continuing education units for CBCCs, and a couple will also qualify for CPDT-KSA CEUs.

Again, thanks to everyone for participating, and don’t hesitate to contact Raising Canine if we can be of help in your business or education.

Judy Williams is the Big Grand Prize Winner!

Judy Williams of Dog Training 101 in Jacksonville, IL won the big grand prize! Judy won free enrollment in our Professional Dog Trainer course worth $1,500! This is an intensive, year-long remote course covering learning theory, training, consulting and business. Congratulations, Judy – I can’t wait for you to join the class.

Natalie Zieinksi won . . .

Ray Coppinger’s DVD “Of Dogs & Wolves.” Congratulations, Natalie. There’s just one more drawing, and it’s the biggie – free enrollment in Raising Canine’s Professional Dog Trainer remote course. This prize is worth $1,500.00 – there’s still time to enroll! The drawing will be held Monday morning.

Paula Sunday won today’s drawing!

Congratulations to Paula Sunday who won today’s drawing! She won the “Terrible Teens – Canine Adolescence” DVD by Trish King, worth $60.00. And many thanks to Trish for donating the DVD – thanks, Trish!