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Posts Tagged ‘Positive Reinforcement’

Tips and Guidance for Canine Good Citizen Test Items 8 and 9: Reaction to Other Dogs and Reaction to Distraction

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

In the fifth part of a multi-part series, Carol Hein-Creger, lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s, and Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, and certified CGC evaluator, take you through each of the CGC exercises and offers tips and guidance for practicing and for successfully passing a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 8: Reaction to another dog

This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of 20 to 30 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Tips and Guidance: While the Evaluator can’t require that the dog sit or down while the two handlers are greeting each other, you may at your discretion command your dog to do so. (I recommend that the dog be under the formal “Heel” command at the Handler’s left side for the approach to the other handler/dog team; given a formal “Sit” command while the two handlers are exchanging greetings; and again given the formal “Heel” command to resume their walk after the greeting.)

Test Item 9: Reaction to distraction

This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The Canine Good Citizen evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane.

Tips and Guidance:

The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.  The Canine Good Citizen Evaluator has the option of combining test exercises. For example, the Evaluator may elect to provide the distractions required in this test while the dog is completing a different exercise, such as Test Item #5, Walking Through a Crowd. If the distractions are provided in conjunction with another test during which the dog is supposed to be moving (heeling), then you may not command your dog to sit or down during distraction. If the Evaluator elects to conduct the Reaction to Distraction test as a stand-alone test, then you may at your discretion instruct your dog to “sit” or “down” during the distractions. Choose the option that best ensures your dog’s comfort level during distractions.

Stay tuned for tips for Test Item 10 – Supervised Separation. Check the Canine Training Center’s page to see when the next Canine Good Citizen class starts! Sign up today on-line or call 517.599.0995.

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Barney Rubble’s Story

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Barney Rubble at his home in Detroit

Barney's old dog house and the new dog house Mary bought for him

We’d like you to meet Barney Rubble, a 100 pound Rottweiler, who despite living outside on a chain in Detroit, was pretty well-cared for and has a super-sweet, loving disposition. His family saved him from being a guard dog at a local business, but they didn’t have the means to care for him. A kind soul named Mary, driving through his neighborhood in Detroit on her way to work, stopped by and asked his family if they needed help caring for him. Thankfully, they said yes. For over a year, Mary stopped to see Barney Rubble twice a day, feeding and watering him, changing the straw in his new dog house that she got for him, giving him love and affection, and playing ball with him – his very favorite past-time!

Guardian angel Mary took Barney to the vet, and had all his vaccinations done, as she had done with other dogs in this neighborhood. She made sure Barney was very well-fed and he was even a little chubby – she liked to call him her “little cow.” Between Mary and his family, Barney was loved.

All in all, Barney didn’t have such a bad life. Until his family’s house burned down. His family, under their dire circumstances, left Barney in Mary’s care. Unfortunately, Mary could not take Barney home with her because she lives in a small apartment. Mary’s mother, another guardian angel, had already taken in three large stray dogs and could not take another. Mary could not bear the thought of Barney Rubble being picked up by animal control or being taken by someone with bad intentions. She contacted the Rottweiler Rescue to see if they could help. Coincidentally, the folks at the Rottweiler Rescue knew that AnnaBelle’s was looking for a foster dog to go through training classes, be socialized in day care, and turned into a upstanding member of the community.  And so the match was made! Barney became AnnaBelle’s first foster dog.

Barney's Family Home After it Burned to the Ground

Barney’s First Day at AnnaBelle’s

Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, temperament tested Barney Rubble and found him to have a sound temperament, with no toy or food aggression. Thankfully, Barney does not have any fear of people and clearly views them as the source of all good things for him. He has a true affection for people and just wants someone by his side. After giving Barney some time to adjust, our groomer and professional pet stylist, Michelle van Kleef, gave Barney a good scrubbing. Michelle reports that Barney was a very well-behaved during the grooming process, despite the fact that he’s probably never had a bath before!

Next, Barney went to see veterinarian and good friend of AnnaBelle’s, Dr. Joyce Heideman at the Southside Animal Hospital. Dr. Joyce said Barney was in pretty good shape – except, he was heartworm positive. Not surprising news, but a little disappointing. The Rottweiler Rescue offered to pay for his heartworm treatment and soon, Barney Rubble was on his way to good health.  He is now nine weeks out from his heartworm treatment and doing very well!

Happiness!

Barney just started his beginning obedience classes. Our wonderful interns from the Michigan State University Pre-Veterinary Medicine program, began working with Barney in classes with Carol Hein-Creger and Erinn Hadley of the Canine Training Center this week. This is no easy task. While Barney is sweet and kind, he is also 100 pounds of determined Rottweiler and has had no previous training whatsoever! But our interns are doing an amazing job. They have even volunteered to work with Barney on the weekends so that he gets practice, activity, and positive reinforcement.

Barney also loves other dogs. He still gets a little over-excited when he meets new dogs, but loves to romp and play with other large dogs, especially other Rottweilers and pitbulls. Last week, he spent several days at Carol Hein-Creger’s house and got to play with her long-haired foster Rottweiler, Skye, and another Rottweiler, Amos. Barney had so much fun! Soon, Barney will be neutered (Skye and the rest of us will be very thankful) and the AnnaBelle’s Team will continue to work on his house training and getting him well-socialized in AnnaBelle’s Day Care Depot. We hope that Barney will be ready for adoption in a few months, after he completes 12 weeks of training classes.

This is been such an amazing team effort at AnnaBelle’s. All of our staff (and many friends) have pitched in, cared for Barney, worked with Barney, loved Barney, and fought over who he loves best. When we find the right family, it will be difficult to let him go, as anyone who has fostered a dog knows. But making Barney Rubble the best possible canine companion and finding him the right forever home is our goal, even if it makes us tear up and sniffle … a lot.

UPDATE: After only week on Petfinder, through a courtesy posting by Voiceless-MI, Barney Rubble found his forever home! He was adopted by an experienced Rottweiler owner, who lives in Grand Blanc, MI on a large property with plenty of room for Barney to run and play with his new Rottie sister!

Clicker Mechanics: How to Correctly Use a Clicker When Training

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Those of you who have taken a clicker training class know the importance of “timing” when using a clicker. But there are a few other important aspects of clicker use that you should know. Brushing up on these skills is as important to the experienced clicker trainer as it is to the beginner. And, if you haven’t taken a clicker class, what are you waiting for? Sign up now to learn the most advanced, scientific method of animal training available today. Here are some exercises to help you get started:

1.  Get comfortable with the clicker and make sure your dog is too.

clickerClickers come in many shapes and sizes and every brand sounds different. Click the clicker near your dog. If he flinches or is frightened in any way, try a different brand. Some clickers come with different sounds such as “pings” or “chirp” that may be less intimidating to your dog. Get a wrist coil or lanyard to keep your clicker conveniently attached to you and within easy access.

2. Practice keeping your clicker and treat hand motionless until after the click. Your dogs will quickly start focusing on your treat hand or clicker hand if it is moving. Keep it stationary until you click. Be like a statue … click, then go for the treat in your treat bag or give a treat that’s already in your hand.

Remember, your clicker is NOT a remote control. There is no need to point it at your dog for it to be effective. So keep it still.

3. Watch your dog! This is critical and cannot emphasized enough, you must be looking at your dog. Watch closely for the behavior you want your dog to repeat. Missed opportunities slow the learning process and can contribute to confusion and frustration.

4. Click DURING the behavior. Do not wait for the behavior to be completely finished.  If you do, you’ll probably click too late.

5. One click = One treat…if you click, you MUST treat. Even if you accidentally click, you must still treat.  The click is a promise that there will be a treat. Keep your promise and always give a treat.

buddysystem16. Practice your clicker timing without your dog present. Have a friend or family member help you practice with your clicker with your dog in another room or outside. Have them bounce a tennis ball, while you click each time it hits the floor. Or toss it in the air and click at the apex (the split second BEFORE it starts to drop). Or just watch them and clicker each time they blink their eyes. When watching the nightly weather forecast, click each time the weather person points at the national map. Any and all of these games will help hone your timing and observation skills. Now go ahead and start clicking. It’s Time to Change the World, One Click at a Time!!

Author: Dawn Pizzoferrato, ABCDT, owns and operates Pizzoferrato Pet-Care and Training Services (PPATS) and offers dog training classes at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station. Dawn’s classes, Doggie Do Good Beginner Clicker Training and Doggie Do Good Intermediate Clicker/Intro to CGC start Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Carol’s Corner – How to Reward Multiple Behaviors at the Same Time

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Dear Carol,

We have talked about rewarding Nemo as strangers approach. My concern is that I am also trying to work with him on not pulling the leash when we’re walking. You taught us to use leash corrections and/or frequently reward the dog for maintaining a slack leash. If I am rewarding him frequently for maintaining a slack leash, but also rewarding him when strangers approach, won’t the messages be mixed? Does rewarding him for keeping a slack leash diminish the excitement about a reward when strangers walk by?

Thanks, Niya


Dear Niya,

I wouldn’t worry about sending Nemo a mixed message when rewarding both a slack leash and when strangers approach. It is true you cannot shape for more than one aspect of a behavior at a time(a straight and fast sit, for example). However, once you are getting a reliably straight sit (by way of example), you can then begin to selectively reinforce the faster responses to shape for fast sits. Once the sits are straight and fast, you could then shape for another aspect of the behavior if you wished, i.e., straight, fast and with eye contact. You can however, reinforce more than one behavior when you train. If Nemo gets rewarded when the leash is slack as well as when people approach, both behaviors will become stronger. There is merit in your concern that rewarding Nemo for maintaining a slack leash could diminish his excitement for the reward when strangers walk by. If he is highly motivated by the reward, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. If that’s not the case, you may want to set up situations where you and Nemo are stationary and you’re only rewarding him as people walk past. The distance between Nemo and the passerby should be such that Nemo is comfortable enough to stay at your side and eat the reward. If Nemo tries to hide behind your legs or refuses the treat, you are too close. In time and with practice, you will be able to move closer to the approaching person while still keeping Nemo comfortable, as the rewards will have changed the way Nemo feels about the situation. There are other things that can be done to make Nemo more comfortable with people and I would be happy to discuss this further next term.

See you soon, Carol

Carol Hein-Creger
Director of Training
Canine Training Center

Carol Hein-Creger has been training dogs and their owners for over 30 years. She has trained thousands of people, including many local dog trainers. Carol is currently teaching at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station in downtown Lansing. Check out her her upcoming class schedule. Do you have a training question for Carol? Send an email to info@coolcitydogs.com with “Carol’s Corner” in the subject line or use the “Contact Us” form.

Loose Leash Walking: “No Pulling, No Fooling”

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Author: Carol Hein-Creger, owner and director of the CANINE TRAINING CENTER

Dogs form their perceptions of people based on the messages they pick up on during every day life with each individual. Whether intended or not, people send messages to dogs with virtually every interaction, and the dog forms an “opinion” or perception of the person’s status based on those messages. This perception determines how the dog will interact with and respond to the person in question.

Even when dogs understand what’s expected of them, they generally won’t comply or respond to commands unless they view the person giving the orders as “higher ranking”, or, in other words, as an authority figure. This is evident when we see trained dogs fail to respond to certain individuals, often within the dog’s own family. This is because those individuals have failed to present themselves as authority figures to the dog, so even though they know what words or commands to say, the dog feels no sense of obligation to the person giving them.

Good, effective leaders have certain characteristics that mark them as leaders.  They don’t have a million rules, but the ones they do have are enforced emphatically. They are consistent. They are fair. They maintain an air of calm. They control access to all resources. They lead, and subordinates follow them.

When we allow dogs to pull us from place to place when on a leash, we effectively send the message that the dog is the leader and we are the follower, or, put in other terms, that we are subordinates to them. This greatly influences how they respond to us on several levels, including whether they respond to our commands or direction when there’s something else they’d rather do. In other words, when our behavior “tells” them we’re not in charge, they happily take over. Dogs innately understand that the one in charge gets to make the rules, and those that are not in charge must follow them.

Therefore, if you want to control your dog’s actions in general, you cannot allow him to drag you all over the place when he’s on a leash.

Below are three effective ways to teach your dog not to pull on a leash, each having their own specific pros and cons:

1. The fastest way to teach your dog not to pull on the leash is to apply a well timed, effective leash correction that PREVENTS your dog from getting to the end of the leash. For the correction to be effective, it must be

a. Applied proactively, BEFORE the dog pulls. The leash must be totally slack unless you are actively correction (including immediately prior to and immediately following the leash correction).

b. Firm enough that your dog wants to avoid it in the future. The level of correction necessary will vary depending on each dog’s level of sensitivity.

c. Applied consistently. This “no pull” rule must be enforced each and every moment your dog is on a leash. To do less will confuse your dog and force him to endure more corrections in the future.  Inconsistency on the handler’s part will result in inconsistency on the dog’s part.

In addition to the corrections, the dog must receive meaningful rewards when he maintains a slack leash. The best trainers focus just as much on rewarding the dog for maintaining a slack leash as on applying corrections effectively.

PROS: Leash corrections are generally the fastest way to teach your dog to stop pulling when on a leash. Following the criteria above, you will see great progress towards that end in just one or 2 training sessions. As the corrections change your dog’s behavior, you will quickly reach a point when corrections are no longer necessary.

CONS: The dog has to endure some corrections that he initially won’t know how to avoid. The correction technique requires practice to perfect. And finally, many dog owners are inconsistent in the correction’s application.

2. If when a dog pulls he is NEVER allowed to move forward in the direction he’s pulling, the pulling will diminish and eventually disappear as the dog learns that pulling doesn’t work. In order for this method to work the handler must follow these steps.

a. Whenever the dog begins to pull, regardless of his intended destination, the owner must immediately STOP and stand as still as statue, preventing the dog from moving even an inch in the direction he’s pulling.  This must be absolutely enforced every moment the dog is on a leash for any reason.

b. The dog must be HEAVILY rewarded, especially initially any time the leash is slack.

PROS: This method requires little skill on the part of the handler. It costs the dog nothing in terms of physical corrections.

CONS: This method can take a long time to teach a dog not to pull, depending on his motivation to move towards something as well as his history of reinforcement for pulling. If he’s been successfully pulling and reaching his intended destination for an extended period of time his pulling will have a long history of reinforcement, which will take much longer to extinguish. Therefore, this technique often works best with puppies that do not have a long history of reinforcement for pulling. Furthermore, to be effective, the handler must be willing to stop EVERY time the dog pulls, even if it’s raining, they’re in a hurry, or just going for a casual walk. Lastly, since the only consequence for pulling is that the dog is not allowed to move forward, this method requires a high frequency of reward in order to inspire the dog to change its’ behavior.

3. There are several devices on the market that when worn by the dog will greatly discourage the dog from pulling. These include head collars and no-pull harnesseseasywalkharnessThe head collars work under the premise that, like a horse, if we can turn the dog’s head in a particular direction, we can influence the body to follow. Like a horse halter, there is a loop that goes over the muzzle and another that fits up right behind the dog’s head. Many dog owners have discovered that a head collar gives them almost immediate “power steering”, enabling even youngsters to control large dogs. gentleleader2The no-pull harnesses generally inhibit the dog’s front legs from freely moving forward when he pulls, thereby changing his behavior over time.

PROS: Once the dog adjusts to them, these devices can quickly make a significant change in the dog’s pulling behavior with only a small investment on the part of the owner.

CONS: Especially in the case of the head collar, many dogs initially resist them, sometimes violently and it can take a significant period of time for the dog to adjust to it. Some dog owners are unwilling to put their dog through the adjustment period. Additionally, again in the case of head collars, some owners are afraid the device will be perceived as a muzzle by the general public and are uncomfortable with that possibility. Lastly, it can be difficult to transition dogs from these devices to traditional collars if the idea is to use them as a temporary training measure.

Want to learn more? Check out the current class schedule the Canine Training Center.

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