Saturday, April 16, 2011

Teaching 'go to bed'

To set this up right you'll need a dog bed or blanket - to make it easier on the dog, make sure that the blanket is big enough for the dog to fit fully on, a raised edge will help too - and small, tasty treats.

Start kneeling or sitting on the floor next to the bed. Lure the dog onto the bed and into a down, if you can do this without cuing the down it will be easier to transition to the new cue. Do a few of these repetitions until the dog is doing this step with ease. Now take the food out of your hand, while keeping the same hand signal, get the dog onto the bed. If you hold your hand the same way you did when you had the treat in your hand the dog should follow with no problem. Mark and reward. Release the dog and do it again. This is a good place to stop for a break, make sure that you pick up the dog bed.

After giving your dog a brain break, come back and start where you left off. Do a few repetitions with no food in your hand, sitting or kneeling next to the dog bed. If your dog is doing this without any problems, stand up and do it. Same hand signal, no verbal cue, mark and reward for the dog going to the bed and laying down. From here we start taking steps back away from the bed. If your dog is falling short of the bed, then you've added too much distance too quickly. Remember that everything is still off cue.

When you can send your dog to the bed from five to six steps away you can add the cue to it. Tell your dog "go to bed" then give the hand signal. Mark and reward for the dog running over to the bed and laying down. Do a few of these repetitions and then give your dog a break, don't forget to pick up the bed!

The next time you're ready to start playing, do a few warm up reps without the verbal cue and just the hand signal, then put the cue back on it. You're now ready to do some light proofing. When your dog is on the bed, try to lure him off of it. If he follows, tell him "oops" or "uh-oh", get him on the bed and try to lure him off again. If he doesn't follow, mark and reward. We are building duration on the bed as well and building a stronger behavior. The way the dog wins the game is by staying on the bed. Another way to proof is to drop a cookie out of reach of the dog, mark and reward for not getting up to get it. If he does try to get it, pick up the cookie and get him back on the bed.

Build duration slowly and only practice when you can keep an eye on the dog. We do not want the dog learning that when we turn our back he can get up. Always remember to release the dog when you are done working. You won't always have to pick up the bed. When you are in the proofing stage you can leave the bed down all the time. Only reinforce the dog on the bed when you have cued him to go on it, there by reinforcing the cued behavior.

You can branch out and teach this behavior on a small rug that you can take with you. This is a great way to get a dog to settle and hang out in new places, outdoor cafes, and even classes!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Leave It - Part 1

This is a cue that comes in handy when you come across that gross dead thing on the street that your dog thinks is so very tasty. This cue is only as strong as you make it with practice and patience. This is a choice for the dog, if you make your dog do it the cue becomes weaker, but you will find that your dog will want the object more. Let’s turn the tables and set the dog up for success from the very start.
To begin you will need a stock pile of good treats, made into small pea sized bits, a bland cookie, milk bones do best, and your verbal marker or clicker. Sit on the floor with your dog or in a chair if you’re opposed to getting onto the floor and place the bland cookie in your closed fist. Present it to the dog and wait. Yes, that’s right wait. Wait for the dog to back off from the fist. Do not pull your hand away, scold the dog, or bop him on the nose. It’s a choice remember. As soon as your dog backs off of your hand, mark it with your verbal marker or clicker and treat with the other hand. Begin the sequence again by presenting the bland treat in the closed fist again. Mark and reward (m/r) when the dog backs off. What about the cue? When do we add the cue? You will add the cue when your dog is doing the behavior - in this case backing off the treat - quickly. Add your cue word - we’ll use Leave It - as you present your closed fist to the dog. When the dog backs off mark and reward. Do a few more repetitions and take a break.
Begin your next session with a review. Present the bland treat in the closed fist, mark and reward when your dog backs off. Now it’s time to raise the bar. Present the treat, but this time with your fist open. When the dog goes to grab the cookie close your fist. As soon as the dog backs off reopen, close if he goes for it again, reopen when he backs off and so on. The dog will finally give in and back off from the open hand because there is no way he’s going to get the cookie, this is when you mark and reward. Remember to only say your Leave It cue once when you first present your hand, the rest is a waiting game. Don’t forget it has to be the dog’s choice, so be patient.