• Training

    3 Phases of Training a Dog Training

    There are three very important phases to teaching commands. Each phase has its unique characteristics and as your dog progresses, there will be some variations in your approach.  In every phase, however, the key to success is communicating clearly, calmly, and consistently.   The Teaching Phase Creating the association between a command and the action on the dog’s part.  This is where the dog learns what sit or down is by being lured and guided into the behavior or position you want while hearing the word you will use for that behavior.  Once the dog is in it that position, you reward with both praise, food, or some special treat your dog values. The dog learns that doing a certain action after hearing a certain word results in a reward! In order…

  • Training

    Training and Trial Preparation

    The key to success in a trial is effective training. It seems so obvious and simple.  But misconceptions, “shortcuts,” and inconsistency somehow still manage to crop up in training. Often, these problems arise because handlers are so focused on teaching the skills for the trial that they lose sight of the training “basics” of consistency, right timing, and appropriate reward and correction.  Motivation, Rewards, and Corrections  Motivation comes down to two simple questions:  How can I get what I want?  How can I avoid what I don’t want?  For many dogs, the exercises—especially the running, grabbing, and jumping exercises have built-in motivation—they are FUN! And all training involves interacting with you, which is also something your…

  • Training

    Training Consistency

    A situation occurred at yesterday’s training that requires some follow-up.  For those of you who were there, this will help clarify my intense response to the circumstances. For those of you who were not there, the principles involved are important enough that they bear repeating.  Too often I watch owners handling their dogs in class and notice that after one or two corrections the dog’s tail is down; the wag is gone; and the dog is sulking through the exercises. As a trainer, I know the reason for the sulking is confusion and inconsistency. However, someone with less experience might come to the conclusion that the dog is upset with the owner or that he doesn’t like to train.   When a dog is…

  • Training

    Don’t Blame the Dog

    My motto for my dog training business is simple: “Don’t Blame the Dog!” When a client initially comes to me for help with a dog’s behavior issues, I usually find that the solution lies in teaching the client the basic training principles for communicating clearly with the dog. Once the dog understands the desired behavior and the consequences for misbehavior, the dog stops the undesirable behavior—for the moment. Too often, however, the undesirable behavior returns because the client does not follow through after I am gone. I am called in for another training session to go over the exact same problems. Without follow through, the results of the second session (and the third, and the fourth, and so on) will be no more lasting than the first.    When I need to return to review or repeat training for the same problem, some…

  • Training

    The Heel Command

    For many people, being able to walk their dog without constant pulling and lunging would seem enough. However, while calm, controlled walking is sufficient in some situations, all dogs should know and respect a true “heel” command. Training your dog to reliably obey the heel command ensures that you can keep him safely under control when you are passing other dogs or groups of children in the park, crossing the street or walking near traffic, entering or exiting the veterinarian’s office, and in other situations of potential danger or distraction. The heel command allows you to set a steady brisk pace that will make your walk a healthy exercise outing rather than a “stop and sniff” ramble.  Most importantly,…

  • Training

    Complete Control

    Why Your Dog Needs You to Provide an “Off Switch”  At a recent competition, my dog Fyte was attacked and injured by another dog. We were not near each other; our dogs did not make eye contact: there was no reason or provocation for the attack. Worse yet, based on the nature of the injuries, it is clear that the other dog’s intention in attacking was not to fight, but to kill. In spite of the unexpected aggression directed at him, my dog followed his training and did not respond with aggression. As a result, we were able to separate the dogs relatively quickly (although at the time, it felt interminable) and Fyte’s wounds, thank goodness, will heal without permanent damage.   We cannot predict every…

  • Training

    Always Err on the Side of Caution

     Often, I am called to do an evaluation of a dog and the prospective client says, “I’m not sure how he is going to be. Sometimes he is nice, and sometimes he tries to bite.”  At the other extreme is the super-friendly dog. This dog gets so excited when meeting new people that his ability to focus on and obey a command is a 50/50 proposition at best.  Although these two types of dogs seem like polar opposites, they have one significant trait in common: They are unpredictable. Young dogs are particularly likely to be unpredictable. However, dogs of any age can be unpredictable. If you have any doubts about how your dog will act or react in any given…

  • Training

    Avoiding Insanity

    Being Prepared to Address Unacceptable Behavior  I always say to my clients, “If your dog does something one time, it is a coincidence; if he does the same thing twice, it’s becoming a habit.” If the behavior is annoying or undesirable, two times should be the limit! If you do not address the problem early, the habit will become ingrained and it will become extremely difficult to change the behavior. And if you think the behavior is annoying the first and second time. . . imagine how aggravating it will be on the twentieth, fiftieth, or hundredth time your dog engages in the behavior!  For example, let’s say you take your dog for a nice long walk each morning.  Upon returning, when you are safely in your own yard, you remove his leash. One…

  • Training

    Moving to a New House:

    Helping Your Dog Stay Safe and (Almost) Stress-free The stress of moving to a new home can be overwhelming.  And although you understand that the stress is temporary, your dog, unfortunately, is clueless as to the reasons for the upheaval. Poor Fido is faced with confusing changes before, during, and after the move. These changes can frighten your dog and may even cause undesirable behavior.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your dog make a smooth transition to your new home.  Don’t skimp on the exercise. Preparing for your move requires almost all of your time and energy. Your time is limited, but it is important to make sure your dog continues…

  • Training

    Use of Rewards

    In learning theory there are several schedules of reinforcement that we can use. A schedule of reinforcement is basically the frequency in which we deliver rewards when the dog performs a behavior. To simplify this we will concentrate on 2 general schedules: fixed schedule of reinforcement and random or variable schedule of reinforcement.   A fixed schedule means that we always reward the dog after the same amount of repetitions of the behavior. For example, on a fixed schedule of 1, we always rewarded the dog after he performs 1 repetition of the behavior and on a fixed schedule of 3, we reward after 3 repetitions of a behavior (for example,…