About Me

I am the Dog Trainer Girl. A wife to a wonderful husband, momma to 2 boys, one that is a mini-me and makes me call my dad and appologize on a regular basis. I am owned by a Corgi named Yadi. I'm a Baseball girl, who likes bats, ball and bases on my diamonds. Go Cardinals!!!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Positive Changes of Dog Training

In the last century dog training has been under going an evolution of sorts.  It wasn’t so long ago that the lexicon of dog training included words like punishment, compulsion and Intimidation.  The tools of the trade where things designed to inflict pain and cruelty as a way of training dogs to do or not do things the handlers wanted.  Dogs were punished with ear pinches and the like, if they didn’t perform the desired behaviors.  The idea of training a dog was to break the dog of some bad habit it had.  
One of the forefathers of scientific study into dog behavior was Edward Thorndike (1874-1949).  He studied the effect of positive reinforcement on dog behavior.  Thorndike called his study the Law of Effect.  His study put forth the idea that the key to understanding how to train dogs was to understand canine behavior.  Behaviors that produce an effect that is desirable are ones that a dog is more likely to repeat, whereas behaviors that produce an undesirable effect are ones that are less likely to be repeated.  He gave us our entire foundation for trial and error training, which helped us to focus on problem solving skills during training. 
Skinner's Box
Photo Credit Levelskip
BF Skinner (1904-1980) one of the most well know figures of Behaviorism, built on Thorndike’s findings with the help of a mouse in a box, to reveal a better detailed picture of the principles of learning.  This is where we learned that desired behaviors should be reinforced and can be shaped in incremental steps to form complex behaviors.  Skinner also helped us to learn that animals need immediate reinforcement to better facilitate the learning process. 
Marian and Keller Breland, both students of Skinner, worked to merge the fields of professional animal training and modern behavior science.  They wanted to teach people there was a more humane way to train animals.  It was through their efforts that the world of dog training was introduced to the idea of using kindness instead of fear and force as well as the principles operant conditioning.  After the death of Keller Breland, Marian met and married Bob Baily, together they couple worked with a non-profit organization to train service dogs.  Their work to bring forth positive reinforcement dog training can not be emphasized enough.  
The basis for the positive reinforcement dog training that we know today came from the work of Karen Pryor.  It was her thoughts and theories published in her 1984 book Don’t Shoot the Dog, that brought positive reinforcement and clicker training into mainstream dog training.    
Karen Pryor
Karen Pryor
Clicker training is a good way to help dogs learn to exercise those problem-solving skills, in a positive way.  The clicker by itself means nothing to our dogs, however when we apply behavior science, we are able to teach our dogs that the sound of the click comes when they have done a behavior that we desire.  Thus, teaching them that the behavior they are doing is when they hear the click that they will receive a reward that they have deemed worth working for.  Allowing us to shape or capture behaviors that our dogs do that we desire.  The best example of this being put into practice is, well just about every behavior our dogs do thankfully.   Let’s look at the behavior of rolling over. 
To get a roll over the first thing our dog needs to be able to do is to follow a food lure.  This means that our dog will simply move toward at treat you hold and move with your hand. 
Start your dog off in a Sit.  Holding your treat just at your dog’s nose your going to lower your hand slowly down toward your dog’s front feet.  Be careful not to pull the treat out in an arch from your dog’s nose or they will stand up to follow it.  As you lower the treat down, they should follow it down until they are laying down on their stomach.  
Once your dog is in a down position, your going to take your treat and move it slowly toward their shoulder.  As their had follows the treat around they should flop over to lay on their side.  Continue to pull the treat over and they should flip completely over back onto their stomach again.  At this point you would click and give them their earned reward. 
Tippy and Yadi
All training can be this easy when we learn to apply behavior science to work with our dog’s natural thought processes.  When we work together with our dogs to learn new behaviors or new ways to respond to specific situations amazing things can be accomplished, but we have to learn to think out of the box.  Dogs do not think the same way we do, but they are highly intelligent. Our dogs learn what we teach them.  To learn from our past instead of trying to “break” a dog of a habit, we should instead be teaching them a new more desirable habit.  Such as how to greet people, instead of allowing our dogs to practice jumping up on our guests and strangers we should be actively teaching them how to sit to greet people. Using your leash and keeping your dog focused on you while you meet other people will help your dog learn that they need to stay calm when people approach them.  To help them learn to remain sitting when someone comes up, have them sit before allowing people to pet them.  If your dog jumps remember to ask the person to back away without touching your dog.  They will learn that if they put their feet on a person, it causes that person to go away.  Dogs are very social beings and love to greet and get attention from others.  When they make the connection between them jumping up on someone and it is causing that person to go way, they will stop jumping up, allowing them to calming wait for someone to come up and pet them.  
Training with our dogs should always remain fun and positive for both the human and the dog.  Our dogs are emotional mirrors, meaning they take in our feelings and reflect them back to us.  If we get frustrated because we are having a hard time communicating to our dog what we want them to do, then they will also become frustrated trying to figure out how to understand what to do.  Dogs are very good at problem solving, just not the same way that we do.  Always try to end your training sessions on a happy note, with a success even if it’s not the big finish that you wanted.  
For more information on positive reinforcement training or any dog training questions, please email me at dog.trainer.girl@gmail.com

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