Chapter OneWhat Is Dog-Friendly Dog Training?
When it comes to the best way to train your dog, the sheer wealth and breadth of conflicting advice is often bewildering. Bookstores and pet shops sell a vast array of literally hundreds of different dog books, and each one recommends different training methods-jerk the leash, don't jerk the leash; use food, don't use food; always do this, never do that.
Worse yet, for the longest time most people have associated dog training with choke collars and leash jerks, assuming the whole process to be a chore and a drag. Wrong, wrong, wrong! An incredible rediscovery has been made in the field of dog training: Training your dog is fun! Better yet, the more fun you and your dog have while training, the faster and more effective training becomes.
Luckily for today's dogs, the popularity of reward-based training grew steadily through the 1980s and 1990s and caused a dog-friendly revolution.
In a nutshell, dog-friendly dog training focuses on three things:
* Rewarding good behaviors
* Preventative management
* Using gentle teaching methods
Focusing on Rewarding Good Behaviors
There are two objectives in training your dog: a major objective and a minor one. The major objective of friendly, intelligent pet dog training is to teach dogs to do things we want them to do. The secondary and minor objective is to teach dogs not to do things we don't want them to do.
Dog-friendly dog training zeroes in on the major objective: teaching your dog what you want and rewarding him for doing it. This is the easiest way to train your dog. After all, there aren't many things we consider "right" for pet dogs to do, so you really don't have many things to teach. On the other hand, the list of "wrong" things that pet dogs can do is endless, so trying to train by punishing your dog for each mistake would be a lengthy and unpleasant process for both of you. When you have taught your dog to reliably understand you and consistently spend his time focusing on good behaviors, he won't have the time or the inclination to behave inappropriately.
For any natural dog behavior you can come up with, there are lots of inappropriate choices and usually just a few correct ones. For example, imagine the one right spot for your dog to use as his toilet (either outside or inside on papers or pads), and imagine how nice and easy it is to take him to that spot when he needs to go (and reward him for doing so).
Now imagine the hundreds of wrong places for him to urinate and how long it would take and how unpleasant it would be to punish your dog for going in each of those spots. Likewise, picture your house after your dog has tried out all the wrong things to chew. Now imagine how much easier it would have been if you had just gotten him hooked on a chew toy or taught him the one appropriate place to eliminate.
Why else is rewarding good behavior so important? For the simple fact that once you have successfully taught your dog how you would like him to behave, he will no longer misbehave. And when he doesn't misbehave, you have no reason to be upset with him. Do yourself and your dog a favor and start teaching your dog what you want him to do the first day he comes home with you. If you already have a dog, start today!
The principle of teaching what is right makes special sense during puppyhood. Not even twenty years ago, it was impossible to enroll a dog in obedience classes until he was at least 6 months old. This would be comparable to keeping children out of school until their late teens! By 6 months of age, most of those uneducated dogs were seriously out of control and required physically rigorous and mentally demanding training methods.
Thankfully, times have changed. Puppy training is widely available, and trainers, veterinarians, shelter workers, and breeders encourage new dog owners to begin teaching their dogs on the day they take them home.
Rewarding your dog for being right is undoubtedly easier, more effective, and more fun than punishing him for being wrong. Moreover, you can speed up the process by responsibly managing your dog's life to maximize the likelihood that he will be right. This way, much of the training becomes effortless, errorless learning, and harsh correction or punishment is simply unnecessary. Simple and smart.
You should be especially concerned with management until the training takes effect. For example, until you have taught your dog to have a chew-toy habit, you should not give him unsupervised access to your home.
There are two parts to management:
* Controlling the resources
* Controlling the environment
Controlling the Resources
Dog resources include anything your dog likes:
* Food (normal meals as well as special treats)
* Praise (verbal and physical)
* Activity-based rewards (going for a walk, playing with other dogs, getting up on the couch, riding in the car)
* Play (games with you or just chewing a toy)
Most owners give their dogs free access to just about everything that is valuable to the dog. In fact, dogs are often rewarded with resources when they do things the owner doesn't like! For example, the dog jumps around like a madman as his food is being prepared, and then the owner puts the bowl down for the dog to eat. Or the dog pulls on the leash, and the owner continues the walk. It's so much smarter to take control of these resources and use them to teach your dog to behave appropriately. In these two situations, wait to put the food down until your dog keeps all four feet on the ground, and wait to continue your walk until your dog is at your side.
Controlled access to a limited commodity increases its value. It's all a matter of supply and demand. If something is easily accessible and in great supply, the demand usually isn't so great. Imagine if you had twenty million dollars. If someone asked you to do something for one dollar, chances are you would not be very motivated to do it. Consequently, make your dog's resources more valuable by controlling them. For example, pick up all your dog's toys and ask him to come, sit, or lie down before you give him one or two to play with. Each time he comes to you for petting, ask him to do something before you comply. When you serve him his dinner, ask him to do something before you put his food-stuffed toy or bowl on the floor. Better yet, every once in a while, sit down and hand-feed him some of his meal and ask him to do something for each piece of food.
Similarly, when walking your dog on leash, regularly stop and wait for him to look at you and to sit before you continue walking. He will quickly learn that watching you and sitting when you stop is the way to ensure that the walk will continue. Let your dog know that you have what he wants, and if he wants it, he just needs to ask politely-in this case, by sitting at your side when you stop walking.
Don't feel bad about asking your dog to do a little something in return for resources. Dogs love to have a job to do. Most pet dogs have no job, and in turn they have a very boring existence. You, however, can change all that.
Controlling the Environment
By preparing your house in such a way that your dog does not have access to areas where he might make mistakes, you are essentially putting the odds in your dog's favor that he will be right. Doing so from the outset with a new puppy or dog will prevent predictable behavior problems and the potential need for punishment. This is also the best way to prevent further problems with your current dog. Of course, once your dog reliably understands the house rules, he can enjoy as much freedom indoors as you permit.
Controlling your dog's access to areas where he might get into trouble is known in the dog-training trade as the "shut the door" notion. For example, if your dog is getting into the garbage in the kitchen, shut the kitchen door, confine your dog away from the kitchen, or get a garbage can with a lid that locks. If your dog is urinating in your bedroom, shut the bedroom door. Better yet, confine your dog to an exercise pen, a crate, or one room in the house. If you confine your dog, there are a thousand wrong things he can't do in the other rooms. This is essentially the same way we teach young children to behave at home. You wouldn't consider allowing a toddler to roam around unsupervised!
When you have time to supervise him, you can also keep your dog on leash at your side with a couple of food-stuffed toys. Doing so prevents so many problems that it would take a whole book to write them down. If you keep your dog on leash until he learns the house rules, he can't chew inappropriate things, eliminate in the wrong places, and so on. This is, of course, a temporary but necessary aspect of training. Once the dog has learned good habits, a lifetime of freedom in the home awaits.
Using Gentle Teaching Methods
When teaching your dog to respond on cue, he learns that the Antecedent (a cue, request, or command) followed by a specific Behavior (such as sit, down, or come) signals that a Consequence (reward) is likely to follow. These are the ABC's of teaching:
A reward (Consequence) causes the behavior to increase in frequency. For example, simply giving your dog a piece of food every time he sits quickly produces a sit-happy dog who sits frequently. The reward also reinforces the association between the request and the response, such that the dog learns that sitting when requested often produces rewards. Ultimately, the dog learns to want to sit on request. If you want your dog to sit frequently without even being asked (such as at street corners or when greeting people), you can reward him when he places his rear on the floor without the cue. This is an automatic sit in specific situations. This way, he'll learn that sitting, whether he's asked to or not, is a good idea.
This training sequence represents an oversimplification of learning theory-the science of dog training. But your dog is going to learn very quickly if you present the ABC's.
Some examples of the ABC's of learning are:
Antecedent Behavior Consequence
The dog hears you pick up The dog comes to you. You put the leash on your dog and the leash. take him for a walk. The dog hears the word "sit." The dog sits. You give the dog a tasty treat and praise. The dog hears the doorbell. The dog goes to the door You open the door. and sits.
The art of dog training, though, depends very much on the skill of predicting or causing the behavior you are trying to put on cue and increase in frequency. For example, when you ask the dog to sit, how can you predict that the dog will sit so that you can reward him for doing so?
How you go about this is the main determinant of the efficiency and effectiveness of training. Basically, three techniques are used to predict or cause specific behaviors:
1. Simply waiting for the behavior to happen on its own (capturing/ shaping)
2. Luring the behavior to happen (lure/reward training)
3. Physically prompting the behavior
As a dog-friendly trainer, you will primarily use numbers 1 and 2, gentle capturing and shaping and lure/reward methods, to motivate your dog to do what you want. Everyone, including children, can easily master these two quick and fun ways to train.
Physical prompting methods, on the other hand, are not appropriate for all dogs and all people. A child certainly should not be expected to physically prompt a dog to get him to obey. Even adults may be at risk if they resort to pushing and pulling some dogs. Overall, physical prompting is not as safe, easy, or effective as the other two approaches, and it's probably not as fun for you or your dog.
The capturing method of training is also referred to as reward training. Capturing is an extremely simple method to master, and it is the method most likely to result in a reliably trained dog who, as a wonderful side benefit, has mastered the ability to learn.
Learning to Learn
Using this method can maximize your dog's potential by encouraging him to be an active, thoughtful participant in training. This approach creates a dog whose ability to learn is greatly improved; he becomes very much a "thinking dog" who is confident and enthusiastic about playing the training game.
All you have to do is wait for the right behavior to occur spontaneously before marking the behavior (with the sound of a clicker or "yes") and then reward the dog.
For something simple such as a sit, the behavior is likely to happen quickly and is therefore easy to capture. For more complicated behaviors, such as jumping through a hoop, you shape the behavior by marking and rewarding small steps in the right direction toward the ultimate goal. For example, you might start by marking and rewarding the dog for stepping toward the hoop, which is held low to the ground. Then you might reward him for touching it with his nose, then for stepping a paw through it, and then his whole body, gradually increasing the height the hoop is held off the ground.
What Is a Marker?
A marker tells your dog exactly which behavior earned a reward. The marker occurs at the same exact time as the desired behavior or event, which is why some people call it an event marker. The marker is immediately followed by a reward.
A marker can be a word, such as "yes," but is more effective when it is a distinct and unique sound, such as the click of a clicker-a small, handheld tool that you press with your thumb. Unlike your voice, the sound of the click never varies. Also, the sound of the click is much easier for your dog to recognize than one word (such as "yes") in what is probably a stream of words you are saying to him. As such, it's easy for your dog to learn that the click means only one thing: What I did at the exact moment I heard a click is getting me a reward. This clear, sharp sound can have a dramatic impact on the clarity of your communications with your dog.
It usually takes just a few repetitions of pairing the marker with the reinforcement for your dog to associate the two. Since your dog wants to increase the likelihood of the reinforcement, he will increase (repeat) the behavior that happened when he heard the click.
Unlike lure/reward training, where both you and your dog exert relatively similar effort, capturing requires your dog to be the more active participant, to try to figure out what is expected at a certain moment in order to be reinforced. Your job is to carefully observe your dog so that you can deliver well-timed and frequent reinforcements.
Generally, at first, reward training takes more time than lure/reward training. When you start, you are waiting for the dog to behave appropriately, and it usually takes him at least a few guesses to get it right.
During reward training, your dog will make many mistakes and incorrect guesses at what you want, but each unrewarded mistake is important because it enables your dog to eliminate yet another unprofitable option. The more mistakes, the more your dog learns what is not rewarding. Eventually, your dog will hit upon what you want, and will soon repeat the immediately rewarded behavior many times. Dogs love playing this game.
For example, to train your dog to sit, take hold of a few pieces of his food, stand still, and wait for him to sit. He may go through a whole repertoire of behaviors, like jumping up and barking. Ignore all this and wait for the sit-he will do it eventually. When he sits, click or say "yes," offer him a piece of food, and then do it again. (You might have to take a step to get your dog to stand up.) You will find that your dog sits more and more quickly each time. Soon, your dog will develop the notion of sitting after you take a step in order to hear the click or the word "yes," which means that he gets a reward. Now you can predict when he will sit and say the word right before he does so-in this case, right as you are about to stop after taking a step.