Training Smart: Adding Fun To Your Obedience Training

This is an excerpt from one of Julie Symons' Obedience Games lectures along with a few other thoughts about dog training!

When it comes to dog training, everything we need to train and prepare for trialing can be overwhelming. Skills, precision, ring confidence, OUR confidence, weaning off primary and secondary reinforcers, etc. We all have goals and ambitions and want to do well.

We start that journey by building a strong emotional foundation when training our dogs. First and foremost we want a happy, motivated, secure, and engaged dog!! I don't worry about a lot of precision early on. The key is to prepare your dog by training smart and reinforce improvement on the way to perfection. The path to perfection or as close as we can get is the journey you take with your dog, not something you achieve all at once early in their career.

What does "training smart" mean?

It means being present when training and having a plan. It's not training when you don't feel well or in a bad mood. It means to make what training you can get to count and make a difference toward progressing.

If you don't have a lot of time to train, then make the most of the time you do have to make it productive and effective. Don't rush or get sloppy.

Make it your goal to rehearse correct behavior and be consistent with criteria as much as you can. And remember, no dog trainer trains perfectly. You constantly have to make quick decisions. To paraphrase Bob Bailey … you need to make a decision as the next one is right around the corner!

So you have to decide what/when to mark, when to release (ie., to avoid a crooked front), when to ask for more, etc. Don't fret over missed decisions, just get ready for the next one. Make it your goal to grow and expand as a trainer by experimenting and approaching it like an art form!

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E125: Julie Flanery - "Precise Positions & Clean Communication"

Julie Flanery joins me to talk about her positions class, clean communication, the importance of good mechanics in getting trained behaviors more quickly, and more.

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620 Hits

Cavalettis: Why You May Be Underestimating This Canine Conditioning Tool

 My dog can already trot through cavalettis, so what do I do now?

The cavalettis can be a daunting piece of equipment to buy or make, especially when traditionally it is only used as a trotting exercise. However, cavalettis are actually one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can use for canine conditioning.

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2035 Hits

E124: Bad Dog! Dealing with Unwanted Canine Behavior

Chrissi Schranz, Chelsey Protulipac, and Tania Lanfer join me to talk about dealing with problem behaviors like resource guarding, jumping, counter surfing, and unwanted chasing!

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1061 Hits

Management, Training and Maintenance, Part 2

In part 1 of this blog post, I discussed management, training and the intersection of the two. Now let's turn our attention to the concept of maintenance.

Behaviors that I am maintaining are well trained, well understood, and have moved into the realm of habit.

Here's how that works:

After I have called my puppy into the house hundreds of times, and I have backed up her good responses with a cookie and my genuine praise, then I will stop rewarding most of her responses with a cookie and I'll offer only praise or a life reward (to be discussed in a further blog post). People often ask me how I know when it's time to start reducing reinforcement and the answer is relatively simple:

When I am no longer impressed by the good behavior. 

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970 Hits

E123: Nicole Wiebusch - "From Four on the Floor to the Rally Ring"

Pet Professionals Program and FDSA instructor Nicole Wiebusch joins me to chat about her upcoming PPP Workshop and Rally classes!

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Management, Training and Maintenance Part 1

I'll refer to these terms over time, so it might help if you have some idea what I'm talking about.

When I talk about management, I'm talking about preventing your puppy or dog from rehearsing bad behaviors, either while you decide to start training or until she outgrows whatever misbehavior is currently expressing itself or….forever, if that is your choice.

Management may involve applying external controls to the dog, or it may mean structuring the environment.

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1258 Hits

E122: All About Puppies: Socialization, Foundations, Playtime & More

I'm joined by Dr. Jennifer Summerfield, Amanda Boyd, Casey Coughlin, and Sara Brueske — our Pet Professionals Program instructors — to talk about working with puppies!

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1408 Hits

Language and Dog Training: Do the Words We Use Matter?

Ok, I admit it! At heart I am a scientist. My training is in maths, physics and psychology – I'm proud of my geek status and am happy to own it! However, the people I train on a daily basis are not geeks. They do not get a thrill when confronted with a new scientific bit of jargon to digest; they just want to be able to DO THE THING, dammit! So, wi...
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Recording of AMA with Denise Fenzi

In honor of the start of the new FDSA – pet professionals program, (FDSA-PPP) Denise Fenzi did a free webinar open to anyone. She offered to review videos and answer questions on any topic someone wanted to discuss! The following is the recorded webinar. Enjoy, and feel free to share with anyone who might benefit. If you'd like to be notified of ra...
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779 Hits

E121: Liz Laidlaw - More than Manners: Training Beyond the Basics

 This week we talk to FDSA PPP Instructor Liz Laidlaw on training options, and how to decide what approach you'll use based on the dog - or client - in front of you.

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838 Hits

The Science Cafe: Oh No! It's the Fourth Again!

For July 4th, we brought together Amy Cook, Ph.D.; Deb Jones, Ph.D.; Jennifer Summerfield, DVM; and Jessica Hekman, Ph.D. for the latest edition of the Science Cafe!  Below is the recording from their hour-and-a-half live webinar discussion of phobias, focusing on noise phobias in particular. The summer holidays can be the absolute W...
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1338 Hits

Who are you when it comes to dog training?

When asked "Who Are You?" regarding our involvement in dog training, we often have a split personality.

Am I a training geek? Amazed by all the nuances in training? In awe of my dog's ability to learn complex skills and tasks? Learning all that I can about the "science of training"? Exploring around the edges, such as with concept training?

Am I a dog sport trainer? Working with my own dogs as well as my students' dogs in helping them reach their goals of a true partnership in training and their competition goals? Exploring the most up-to-date training methods for my sport? Always on the search to make myself more clear and more valuable to my dog? Creating a partnership that includes concepts such as consent?

Am I a pet dog trainer? Working with inexperienced handlers who have yet to learn how to communicate with their dogs effectively to meet their seemingly simple goals of a well-mannered pet? I say seemingly, because in reality the work of a laymen is often ten-fold the work of an experienced trainer. Much of what they must learn, we now do by rote.

In truth I am all three. That doesn't mean, though, that all three of my "personalities" view training or apply the same techniques in the same way.

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1440 Hits

E120: The Business End of Dog Training

In honor of the recent launch of the new FDSA Pet Professionals program, I have the Badials and Christina Hargrove on to talk about what it's like to start a dog training business.

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More than Manners: Types of Learning

​This is an excerpt from a free ebook by Liz Laidlaw for the FDSA Pet Professionals Program. See a link to the full book at the end of this post for more! 

The science of learning is based in the academic realm of psychology. This means that some of the language of learning and cognition is jargon that may not be familiar, or may use words in a different context to their more popular usage. Trainers tend to talk a lot about the types of training and the "four quadrants," so we will discuss those here to get us started.

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Should you try Treibball? How to decide if Treibball is for you!

Here's the thing…

With so many dog sports out there, each with their own pros and cons, it can be hard to decide which to choose! If you enjoy teaching precision and control, maybe you'd like obedience. If you enjoy fast and dynamic behaviors, agility may be more your speed.

Exploring the world with your dog? Maybe you'd like parkour! Fascinated with how your dog can use their innate skills? Give nosework a try!

So, what about treibball?

The challenge (and fun!) in treibball is about getting control at a distance… having a dog that can follow cues even in motion with a balance between keeping their attention on you and independently performing complex behaviors.

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E119: Loretta Mueller - "Timing in Agility"

It's totally not helpful to be told your cues are late - without any idea what to do about it. Today Loretta and I get into why timing is so important for agility and how you can work on yours!

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Building Obstacle Independence and Confidence at Distance for Agility: Vito's Game

This game takes advantage of a simple pattern. The basic setup involves you sitting on the ground with two treat dishes on both sides of your knees. There is a cone in front of you. The initial objective is to shape your dog to go around that cone from one side to the other. As they round the cone and approach the treat bowl on that side, place a c...
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2024 Hits

E117: Denise Fenzi - Back to the Future (And An Exciting Announcement!)

We talk about the theme from camp this year and unveil an exciting new program, coming soon to FDSA!

Want the full details on the FDSA Pet Professionals Program? Check out the new website, www.fdsapetprofessionals.com! 

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725 Hits

Using a ‘Focus Point’ to Teach Duration

Hands up — who has trouble teaching the concept of duration to their dogs? 

Maybe all your other dogs have just gotten it, but now you have one who, well, just doesn't. It can be tricky, especially with sensitive dogs who tend to shut down at the mere hint of a 'missed click.' You know the ones; they can offer you a nose touch multiple times, but each is so fast you struggle to time your marker to when the dog is actually touching your target. And if you are able to time that click just right, heaven help you if you delay it for a split second – your dog will interpret that as a 'mistake' and will be too traumatized to train again for a week.

Or the hyper motivated ones: they can respond to your down cue super-fast, but they appear to have rubber elbows – as soon as they touch the ground they bounce back up again! Sure, you can get the illusion of duration easily enough by feeding frantically in position, but as soon as the food slows down – boing! Dog is standing again!

Both of these types of dogs, the super sensitive and the super motivated, can be frustrating to train.

However, a year or so ago I fell over a neat little trick to help with both types of dog. I'm sure that it's not new (few things are!), and I doubt that it will be life changing for many of you, but if you are struggling to teach duration, it may be the key you've been looking for: I now teach duration behaviors using a focus point. 

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2718 Hits