Helen on March 23rd, 2017

The posts from this blog are slowly being moved to the Outsmarting Dogs website. Look under the “dog training tips” tab. See you there!


Helen on September 30th, 2010

When training your dog, be sure to have a wide variety of food treats at your disposal.

You can categorize treats into three types – A, B, C.

The A-group is the most appealing treat to the dogs.  For example, most dogs would do anything for a piece of steak or other kind of meat.  Most dogs love cheese, too.

A B-group treat may be dehydrated apples or bananas, an animal cracker, or some other dry tidbit that isn’t usually found in the dog’s food bowl.

A C-group training treat would most likely include a dog’s daily kibble, a carrot, or other food the dog will eat because he’s hungry.

Think about your dog/s and what tasty food will fit under each category and make a list.  And please read the labels on treats.  Some dog treats look and feel like play dough.  They smell awful, and the label reads like a chemical factory list.  It’s so much better to feed your dog food that is natural.  They used to eat it before dog food manufacturers opened shop, and they did very well on it.

So take a little time to make your list then fill your dog’s treat pantry with the good stuff that will motivate him, along with you, to do great things.

Helen on September 27th, 2010

When you are working on eliciting a certain behavior from your dog, you’ll want to reward it around the clock.  We can’t always have treats handy in our pockets, so make sure to keep small, tightly sealed containers of treats around the house for you to access.  This way, when your dog is offering a behavior you’ve been looking for, you have, at your hand, the reward he justifiably deserves.

Let’s say you are working on teaching and reinforcing your dog lying quietly on the floor while you’re working on the computer or reading a book or doing something else where you don’t need your dog’s help.  When Pooch is lying down, quietly get the dog treats out of their container, and toss some over to Pooch when he’s not looking.  He’s learning that he may be rewarded for being a good pooch by the skies above.

Think about this as a living example from an old standard song we all have heard.  “He sees you when your sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”  The he (or she) the song is referring to in our case is Pooches’ omniscient trainer.  Let’s face it, we know when Pooch has been good or bad even if we’re not always around to witness first hand.   Ignore the bad.  We’ll deal with that later through management.  Just remember, a dog doesn’t remember tearing up a pillow three hours ago, or peeing on the floor two minutes ago.  When his owner and best friend is ranting and raving, all the dog learns is to be afraid of this person because sometimes she gets really mad and takes it out on Pooch.

When Pooch is good, though, tell him.  Emphasize the good behavior he offers.  There are times to tell him what a good dog he is right to his face, and times to let let him know anonymously, but always let him know when he is offering the good behavior.  “Good things can happen anywhere, anytime, if I behave.”  That will be Poochie’s motto the more you, his trainer, stick to the program and reward his stellar moments.

So keep those tightly sealed treat containers full of small sized treats, accessible to you around the house.  The more you let Pooch know when he’s behaving appropriately by showering the treats when he’s least expecting it, the better.

Helen on September 24th, 2010

Does your dog jump all over you and nearly maul you as you serve his dinner to him?  With a little practice, perseverance, and patience, you can fix that.

When you are fixing Poochie’s dinner, this is a fine time for having him practice a sit stay.  It may be a little challenging at first, so take each day to add a few seconds to his stay.  And work backwards.  That is, have your dog do a sit stay as you offer him his bowl of food.  That could be a challenge at first, but with some practice, the dog will understand he needs to stay until you release him with “OK!”  Or you may chose another word.

So how do you start this exercise?  Put your dog in a sit stay.  When he’s stable, deliver the bowl to him.  He will most likely get up, and when he does, take the bowl away wherever you are in the delivery process.  Then stand there until Poochie sits again.  Don’t tell him to sit a second time, though.  That will make the command less meaningful if you repeat it to him.

Once he sits, deliver the bowl again.  He will probably get up again, so repeat the process above until he understands he must stay until you give the release word, “OK!”  Then he can eat.  Some dogs learn faster than others, so be prepared to gently stretch your patience  in case yours is one that needs a little longer learning period to control himself while dinner’s being served.

With patience, soon your dog will become familiar with this routine, and you can extend the sit stay practice to a longer period.  This is what I mean by teaching it backwards.  You now have control over him while you are serving dinner.  So start the sit stay a little before you are ready to serve his dinner.  Each day you can extend the length of time he is to stay as you fix dinner.  Remember, in Open obedience competition, a dog must do a 3-minute sit stay while the owner is out of sight and a 5-minute down stay.  You should also practice the down stay with your dog and teach it in the same manner.  Back chain it just like the sit exercise above.

Remember, dogs don’t generalize, and they need patience and understanding while they are learning a new positional stay.  Down and sit, though both are stays, are different in your dog’s mind.  And that’s the place we need to reach.  This is a great way to exercise Poochie’s mind and impulse control.  So be patient, upbeat, and know that he’ll get it.  And then you will have a well-trained dinner companion when dinner’s served!

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Helen on September 23rd, 2010

Training with treats, praise, and toys is a reward-based system.  Training with such things as collar corrections, ear pinches, and shocks  is a punishment-based system.  Let’s start with you, the dog owner.  Think of what it was like the last time you learned something new.  Or think of something you learned years ago that was not easy.  For me, that would be tennis.

If my tennis teacher had put a shock collar on me and gave me a few volts every time I made a mistake, I would have been plenty bruised, both physically and mentally, and wouldn’t have learned tennis.   I made plenty of mistakes, and I should have.  I was learning!  Even without the shock collar, if the instructor used nothing but language and tone to shout at me about my mistakes, it would be a very disheartening, ugly learning environment and experience.

I had a few tennis coaches, and the one that brought out the best in me was a very positive, upbeat instructor.  He complimented my good shots right then and there as I made them, and when I fumbled, he either passed a quick remark about what I did or said “Oops, next time.”  If next time I still made the mistake, he backed off the big picture, and  we stepped back to focus on the mechanics problem, till we fixed it.  Encouragement and results fueled my motivation.  I looked forward to our lessons and learning.

Now let’s turn this same philosophy to our dogs.  Dogs are a lot like us in many ways, and they accelerate when learning is fair and fun. Thanks to the work of such experts as Karen Pryor and Ian Dunbar, approaches to dog training are more rewarding for both the dog and handler. They have moved us from a mentality of forcing and coercing dogs into submission into creating a partnership with our canine family member.  They have taught us to be fair and encouraging as we facilitate the success of our canine partners and help them work and think through learning hurdles.   That’s a big deal.

Teach your dog by way of encouragement and kindness.  Step back when your dog doesn’t understand and go back to a place where he does get it.  Then move forward at his pace from there.   The worst that can happen is you give your dog some extra treats and praise.  That will never harm your relationship with your dog or your dog’s trust in you.  And that sort of training will never haunt you.  That’s a big deal, too.

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