Do we really need the "Stay" command
So you've taught sit, down and maybe even place. Do you really need "stay" to get her to keep doing what you just told them to do? Each command needs to have an end point. In the case of the "sit", do we mean the command is finished when her butt hits the ground and now she can decide what's next unless we follow with a stay? Many trainers feel the stay is unnecessary since when you taught sit, it should mean sit and keep doing it until I tell you otherwise. The otherwise could be another command such as "come" or "down" or whatever. Even the "stay" needs an end point, but often we just leave him there until he decides what's next. If stay is used it needs to be reinforced until the handler decides its done. On the other hand you can have the same result by just reinforcing the original command of "sit" or "down" or whatever it was until the finish.
Another way to indicate the finish is the "break" or "free" marker. This means we are done and you can do what you like. But it can also be used as the reinforcement for other commands. Teaching "break" with a reward such as food or play gives you another tool to reinforce other commands and this is how you do it.
Suppose we are teaching sit and you have the behaviour and have named it. Now stop feeding at the command but wait a few seconds then give "free" signal and treat. Now keep extending that time until the dog learns " holy cow I've got to keep doing this until she releases me or I don't get paid".
This is maybe a subtle difference from stay but interesting concept. Let us know what you think.
Charging Your Marker
So your ready to start training your new dog. You tell her to sit and.... nothing. We need to start by getting her to pay attention. This is generally done with food treats. Your dog needs to be food motivated so you may need to skip a meal or two to get to the starting point. Once she is food motivated and ready to work, now we can start "charging the marker". By marker we mean some sort of signal that she has done well and is about to be rewarded for it. Dogs live in the moment, second to second, so we must signal them the instant we get the behaviour we are looking for. Just giving the reward without a marker is ambiguous for the dog, he may think he just lucked out, and you will not be able to present the reword at the exact right moment every time. The marker will establish anticipation and attention.
The marker can be anything, some people use a clicker but that can be inconvenient when you can't find it. Easier to just use a word like "YES" or "GOOD".
At this stage we are not trying to teach commands, just establishing the marker and payment. So suppose he is on a leash, walk backward away from him and stop lure him into a sit position but don't name the command just say "GOOD" hold the food in front of you so he's looking at your face then give the food. If he moves away give a negative signal "NO" and withhold the food. When he looks at you again "GOOD" and treat. Repeat this many, many times until he knows "GOOD" means payday. Again we are not naming any commands at this stage because we are only teaching that "GOOD", or clicker or whatever you are using means a reward is coming. This is called "charging the marker" and once you have that firmly established you are ready to start using your marker to teach any behaviour. Don't forget she needs to be food motivated for this to work. Some trainers, when doing continuous training, will never feed the dog from a bowl because they are using food strictly as rewards and they are getting all their food that way, but if you are not working that intensely with your dog, remember that they have been getting fed all through the training process and to cut back some at feeding time. We don't want a bunch of fat dogs even if they are beautifully trained.
Have fun and keep heading Duenorth, the right direction to a well trained dog.
When people call me for a training appointment, one of the number one complaints that folks have about their dog is that the dog won’t come when it is called.
I wonder how much effort the average person put into teaching this to the dog? Probably most people assume that the puppy they bought was born speaking English. So I assume not a lot of effort goes into teaching the word to the pup.
The puppy gets let out loose in the backyard to do his business and we call come when we want to get back into the house. At first the puppy might come because you are interesting, probably slapping your legs….but after awhile the puppy begins to find the yard is more interesting than you are. And at about the same time, the puppy figures out that if it does not want to come back to you…well there is not a heck of a lot that you can do about it. Screaming at the dog to come is making it even worse than ever….now you are not just boring but scary as well.
So change things around. Get yourself a long line and a pocketful of treats….make them yummy treats like cheese or chicken. A long line is a cord of about 30 feet. Put the puppy outside dragging the long line. Let the puppy do its business and play around a bit.
Now step on the long line and tell your puppy to come. If he does not come, show him what you want by picking up the line. Pull him toward you and when he gets to you praise him up and give him a treat. After a week or so you should start to see a pretty good recall in your yard.
Now take him out to somewhere fenced and safe and practice with some distractions. Keep doing things like this for the first year of your puppy’s life and you are going to start to see a dog that really does understand what ‘come’ means and they will also be pretty convinced that you have magical powers because the long line always ensures a good return.
If your dog is older this will still work but it may take a bit longer to undo his previous experiences….but it can still be done. You can teach most old dogs new tricks.
So if you have a new puppy arriving soon, teach him to come right from the start and you should end up with a great recall.
I have been training dogs for decades. And I have seen lots of fads come and go. And I mean lots. Every new trainer has a new idea….a new gimmick. But the truth of the matter is that there are only two methods to train a dog. One is to be a very heavy handed trainer that uses only corrections and the other is to only use food. Either method will usually produce results. But sometimes sacrifices are made with each method. A very heavy trainer that fails to sufficiently praise the dog will produce a sullen unhappy dog that mopes around terrified of making a mistake. A dog that only receives a food treat for being obedient often becomes petulant if things don’t go their way and may refuse to do what is asked of them. Sometimes positive trained only dogs become very frantic and develop obsessions in an effort to protect their food source.
The truly great trainers will use a blend of both methods suited to the dog in front of them. They can use both food and corrections in the training session to meet the needs of their dogs.
You can often tell what a trainer is like from their own personal dogs. Watch how the dog behaves. Does the dog come when the trainer calls them? Can the trainer have their own personal dog off leash? Is the trainers dog good with other dogs?
It is not unusual for a trainer to have younger untrained dogs, but the dogs that they are using for classes should be well behaved dogs.
Look too for a trainer who can train dogs with a variety of methods that suit you. If a trainer can only train with a clicker perhaps they are denying you a method that would better suit your dog. If they can only train with a pinch collar they may be denying you a softer approach that your dog may need.
Plumber and electricians have toolboxes…..make sure that your trainer has a full toolbox to meet all of your needs. That toolbox should include a clicker, a choke collar, a pinch collar and an ecollar…..and a very big sense of fairness for the dog.