in my previous entry I gave a bit of background on my previous dogs..in this entry I wanted to talk about what I have learned that I can apply to my next dog. one of the biggest areas of change will without a doubt be training.

when I started practicing sit and down with bobby, I can remember it being frustrating or seemingly futile at points, and I can see now my approach caused all of my problems. Yep, I was the one with the problem.

I would generally start a training session in the afternoon with a handful of milk bones, making sure Bobby knew I had them. When I had his attention, I would issue a ‘Sit’, wait for some sort of action, and then, would repeat the command a few times if I didn’t get the ‘sit’ I was expecting (‘Sit bobby’, ‘Sit down, bobby!’, ‘Bobby, sit!’). Eventually, I would use my hand on his back-side and force it to the ground. At that point he would get an ‘attaboy’ and a milk-bone.

so what could’ve been done better?

well, first off, I started training in the afternoon with milk bones. A dog that has access to his food bowl all day long isn’t going to be very hungry, and after a couple of milk bones he’s going to even be too full to really want to pay attention to a food reward. You’d think it would be common sense, but training a dog using food as a reward is much easier when the dog is hungry! and all you need is little bits of food, not huge treats.

My second flub was in issuing a command to the dog hoping somehow at first he would understand English. I also secretly hoped he’d absorbed by osmosis the way other dogs sat when commanded. a lot of dog training experts nowadays say you shouldn’t even bother with the english word command until the dog has gone through the motions. Instead, they say you should use a marker like saying ‘Yes’ (or using a clicker device or a cluck of the tongue, etc). The thought is eventually in all your training the dog comes to equate that with "Oh, there’s a tongue cluck and a treat. I must’ve done what he wanted".

my third goof was using my hand to push the dogs bum down into the requested sit. This becomes a point of confusion for the dog. Basically in his mind he comes to recognize the condition for him getting rewarded is him letting me push him down.

Trainers nowadays use a bit of food in the palm turned upward, and hold the palm above the dog while moving it slowly towards the dog until his bum has to hit the floor. The dog is rewarded as soon as that happens. This way, the dog isn’t manipulated into the sit, but he is doing it on his own. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESZozdpmQMs for an example of the right way to teach sit)

It’s kind of sad to see I was doing it all wrong, but the good thing about dogs is that they’re really eager to please us, even if we can be morons.

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