Wednesday, April 28, 2010
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In my opinion, there are three basic stages in teaching a dog anything. Whether you are teaching sit, down, watch me, stay or recall for that matter, you must learn, understand, and deal with the 3 D’s of dog training. They are Duration, Distance and Distraction, and no matter what you are teaching Fido, all three will figure in to how well your dog understands the task at hand and will determine your success or failure. Each “D” is important, and it is critical that you introduce each at the right time and order; please do not attempt to skip ahead for convenience (human translation: the owner’s frustration and lack of patience!)
The first and most basic stage is Duration, or how long a dog can hold a command or cue. Think of it this way, Duration is the “bricks and mortar” of all successful dog training. We all remember the story of the three little pigs and know that using the right foundation is critical to the durability of any given house (behavior); and training is no different. If you bypass the concept of Duration so that you can attempt to add Distance or Distraction to make your life easier, failure is almost certain - the house is blown down!
When I teach a puppy or beginner class, I start with the basic commands; watch me, sit, down and stay. Duration is very important to successful mastery of each of these commands. For solid Duration stays, I want my student standing right in front of the dog (no more than 2 feet away) and working on a duration stay only. This is, in essence, what duration is all about; being able to control the dog at a close distance. Not until the dog is able to reliably hold the cued position (30 to 45 seconds) do we move on to the second of the three D’s, Distance! And I don’t even attempt it in a Puppy or Beginner class; I wait and start my Intermediate classes with Distance.
Distance is exactly what it sounds like… being able to take our already reliable duration and add space between you and the dog! This sounds simple, but in my experience, people have a tendency to get in a hurry (too much, too fast) and then seem to always be playing catch up, with 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. Keep in mind that sometimes when a dog fails, you have to go back farther than where you were before the failure, actually netting zero or even negative progress, which fuels frustration! Distance in dog training requires two things…simplicity and patience! These traits (or lack thereof!) led me to name my training business Keep it Simple Stupid dog training; and if you read on, you will see why!
When teaching how to add Duration or Distance to a stay command, I always start with “The rule of 2.” This rule simply illustrates that it is easier to learn in small, steady increments, rather than jumping ahead in large or intermittent steps without yet being proficient at the beginning levels. This idea will work in all areas of dog training, but let’s focus on Distance. First, get a baseline. Let’s say the dog is rock solid with a 30 second duration stay at 2 feet. Why would I tempt the gods by jumping to a 5 or 6 foot distance next? Remember the comment on simplicity and patience? Here’s your next assignment! I want you to go from 2 feet to 4 feet and practice at that distance for at least 3 days! When your dog is rock solid at 4 feet, for at least 30 seconds, move to 6 feet and so on. The idea of training (dogs, monkeys, killer whales or even 4 year olds!) is to build on successes, not failures; for every success, you gain another 2 feet. While those who attempt too much too fast are going to fail and inevitably blame the dog for being “dense” as the reason for the failure (in this case we need to really ask, who is to blame for the failure?) This is where “Keep it Simple Stupid” comes in hard and heavy. Trust me, the “Rule of 2” works. Teach in increments of 2 and continue to practice till you succeed, then add two again. This concept also works very well with Duration, simply by adding 2 seconds each time you go to a new level.
The next post will focus on the biggest reason for problem behaviors…DISTRACTION!
Friday, April 23, 2010
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In the April 2010 issue of Readers Digest, in the Ask Laskas section, Jeanne Marie Laskas gave some advice to the owners of a couple dogs with a barking problem! After reading the question and the responding advice it made me ponder why some dog training does not work…..
My wife and I have two dogs that we rescued from a shelter and love very much. They are well behaved, except that they bark at pretty much anything that moves. My next door neighbors, have never talked to us directly, but they’ve recently started to blow a loud whistle when the dogs bark and to yell at them to “shut up”-sometimes adding profanities. I’ve tried three different trainers all of whom tell me. “Dogs bark” We can’t afford to build a privacy fence or to move. Is it worth trying to talk to the neighbors? Their reactions have been so hostile that I am afraid to go over there
Advice: Dear Rescue,
Two words; bark collar. It’s safe and humane and follows the same training principle as the popular invisible fence. When the dog barks he hears a warning beep. If he continues barking, he gets a small “correction” in the form of an unpleasant jolt. (There’s also a collar with a citronella spray instead of a shock.) It takes only a few times before he gets the message. I live with four dogs and I would never recommend something harmful. We animal lovers need to be respectful of our neighbors. A constantly barking dog is like living next to a jackhammer. Do the responsible thing, for your dogs’ sake.
First, I am a dog trainer, second, I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and third, I do not know everything, but I have a different solution for the above question. I am not the kind of trainer that will say using a bark collar is a sin, but a bark collar as the first solution, is, in my opinion, a very premature option (whether it is safe and humane we will leave to someone else). Why did the first three trainers fail? Maybe because they went to the fastest & easiest (for them) harshest & most direct (for the dog) solution first; and when it did not work, they had no plan B. Too often, we are more interested in a “silver bullet” type solution than we are in finding out why the dogs are barking. I am not trying to call anyone out, but if you don’t know why a problem behavior is occurring, how can you assume to know what will fix the problem? In some cases (I believe rarely) a shock collar might work, but only if all other options are attempted first. Starting with a shock collar is much like bringing a nuclear weapon to a knife fight, effective but totally unnecessary! Let’s look at some possible reasons for excessive barking.
• Breed of the dog…A bark collar might not be a good solution for, let’s say, a beagle, a breed that was developed to have and need an excessive bark.
• Age of the dogs…If they are puppies and have yet to learn impulse control, is it really fair to put a bark collar on them?
• How many hours a day are the dogs stuck in the back yard? If the owners are leaving the dogs outside 12 hours a day with no stimulation, would a bark collar be a good choice?
• Amount of exercise…Let’s say the dogs spend 10 hours a day in a crate and another 10-12 hours in the back yard on a chain? Might the barking be a problem with the owners, not the dog?
Any of these reasons can be dealt with in a myriad of ways; from doggie daycare, to obedience to just daily walks to take the edge off the dogs. A dig box is a great way to give a bored dog an activity to enjoy during the day. There are even sonic devices that rely on high pitched noises as a correction for barking.
My point is that we cannot focus on the solution without knowing the problem. All of the above questions and scenarios needed to be reviewed before ever suggesting a solution to the problem. And even if the neighbors appear “hostile”, we were all taught that honesty is the best policy. I would assume that these neighbors, like most, would appreciate an update and upcoming action plan for how you are dealing with the problem. It would not surprise me if the three trainers that failed made the same and common mistake of trying to train away the symptom without knowing the disease. Remember, there is no such thing as a “silver bullet”…the only way to solve problem behaviors is to know what the triggers for those behaviors are, and then spending the appropriate time to find a cure.
Founder of MuttzRus.com and
Keep it Simple Stupid Dog Training
- Mike Deathe
Being able to train “any dog” is really not the question to ask. As far as I am concerned, training people is a much more effective way of solving problem behaviors in dogs. What I do is nothing new or magical. I use basic behavior theory, and positive reinforcement techniques to change behavior or teach proper ones to begin with. There are many ways to train a dog and if done right, none are any better than the other. I want all of my students to understand that positive reinforcement is, in my opinion, the best and fastest way to teach a dog. Please take the time to go to my website www.muttzrus.com and look at my blog (keep it simple stupid pet blog) and decide for yourself. You should not make training decisions based off of a brochure; talk to at least three trainers; check out blogs and get references; then make your choice. I hope that in the end you will choose me as your trainer
Mike Deathe is a stay-at-home dad who found his passion as a dog trainer in 2008. He enjoys identifying unique and useful “muttz” related products. He is the author of Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.) Pet Blog. Mike has had dogs since he was four years old and there are currently four dogs and two cats living in his home! As an avid pet lover, he regularly sees the number of dogs and cats that never find a home. In 2009, he and his wife Kate founded Muttz “R” Us, a t-shirt and pet product company with a philanthropic motto of “Adopt a Pet, Save a Life.” In 2010 Muttz “R” Us also launched KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID DOG TRAINING! Visit us at facebook or twitter or follow the blog @http://muttzmembers.blogspot.
com/or check out the website @www.muttzrus.com for more details.