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Old 05-26-2009, 03:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Dog Training Kindergarten--For Humans!

Okay, so this is inspired by Tinat's "Impossible to Walk" thread, and all the discussion there.

It's generally accepted that new puppies, and new rescue dogs must "go to kindergarten" in terms of starting out their training.

But, what about the humans, who are not familiar with how to train? Where is the basic stuff for them? There are a ton of books, DVDs, websites, articles, etc, but how to choose wisely among them, when you're not very experienced?

The puppy or dog's success is literally dependent on the human's ability to master these skills, so I thought it would be nice to have a thread where we brainstorm and sum up some very basic principles that can apply--and here is the tricky part--NO MATTER WHAT SCHOOL OF THOUGHT YOU WISH TO PURSUE IN TRAINING.

Ahem. Sorry to yell.

I'll start. I'm sure the discussion will trigger many more ideas, but here are a few:

1. Set a goal for each training session and write it down, and date it. Keep a notebook. Memory is fallible--written documentation invaluable. Be ready to adjust the goal as needed, but set it, and work towards it. Celebrate reaching the goal, or even steps towards the goal.

2. Keep it short, especially at first, and depending on age, and always end on a succesful note, even if you've had to step back in that session to easier skills for the animal.

3. Speak clear, one word commands. Every single human who works the dog needs to agree which words to use. Always the same word for the same behavior, and say it once. ONCE. "Sit" is not spelled "sitsitpleasesitIsaidsitsitSIT!" Once a dog knows the command, say "Sit" once; any vocalization after that needs to have some indicator that the dog goofed up, "No, Sit." or "Ah-ah," "Oops," whatever.

4. Even if it means working on lead way longer than you anticipated--try to never give a command you cannot at that moment enforce. If the dog blows you off, you've just taught them that obedience is optional. That can be life-threatening, some day, in an emergency, and can be embarrasing and inconvenient, every other day

5. When the dog is performing a learned behavior, like "Sit" or "Down" or "Heel," it should be performing that behavior right up until you release the dog, with a release word or signal. Otherwise, the dog is the one deciding how long a "Down" lasts, in any given situation, on any given day.

Using the words "Wait" or "Stay" are a courtesy to the dog, and can help set them up for success, by giving them some clues at to what might be coming next--a longer wait until release, a new command upcoming, etc, etc. But the command itself "Down" should be an unless and until thing, in the dog's mind. If the human always has this in mind, and trains this way, the dog will learn to be rock-solid in their "stays."

That's enough for a start. Next person, chime in!
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Psst--No one? No one wants to discuss basics? I didn't mean kindergarten as a bad thing, just a starting out place for novices and a reminder and refresher for experienced folks!

Or is everybody just eating dinner right now?

Mmmm, dinner.
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I think you pretty much covered the basics, RFR. While all of these concepts are valuable and essential to producing a well trained dog, probably the MOST important concept of all is to never, ever, ever give a dog a command unless you're willing and able to enforce it. Better to give no command at all than to let the dog blow you off. If people religiously followed this one concept alone, their lives and relationships with their dogs would be 100% better.
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Perhaps another one would be, start off the way you mean to end up. Meaning, don't let pups break all the rules when they are little and cute, they just learn bad habits which will be hard to break. No jumping up, leash pulling etc. when they are 4 months old, at 6 months old that won't be so easy to handle, or to re-train.

...Kim
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Another basic concept would be to break complex behavior down into training many small behaviors. Only after all the behaviors are offered on a consistent basis do you bring them together.
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:46 PM   #6 (permalink)
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OK-here's one: quit while you're ahead.

If you've met your training goal for the day, then praise the dog and stop before you dig a hole for yourself.
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I just finished dinner!

I would add.....remember that dogs are DOGS, not HUMANS.

They do not soil in the house to "spite you" as puppies.

They need their owner to be a gentle but exacting instructor in order to be a well behaved Doberman adult.

They need to learn to have time alone to be a dog, to veg out, chew on bones, play with toys. Every puppy needs to learn how to be alone for a period of time. Otherwise, they will never be able to be left while you go anywhere! Don't succumb to taking the puppy everywhere just because they are cute and whine and cry to be with you. You will NOT enjoy the 85# monster you have created when said pup is 8 months old!
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Ha I replied but it got lost.

Also, a long line is your friend, use them. (see but you really already covered that)

Oh I know one. Timing, practice timing. Pretend by yourself, say sit and practice where to have the treat, how to bring it up properly, how to get it out of the bag, how to step on the leash. Picture the behavior you want the pup to have in your mind and work out things to do if the dog gets up. Picture the size of the dog, where his muzzle is. Walk down your street without the dog and when you see another dog picture/practice what you would do.

Side note: I have actually worked my dog in front of a mirror before when I wanted to see clearly the exact moment he got out of position which helped me practice where to either correct him or my handling of him. I like mirrors for that purpose. I once had an "ahhhh see" moment, sorry for the pun, in front of a big closet mirror. Look at what you look like to your pup, what body language are you conveying. That sort of thing.
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:56 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I vacillate by nature so do many people, this is horrible for dog training. I had to teach myself early on to be consistant, it can indeed be learned.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Lori Z View Post
Picture the behavior you want the pup to have in your mind and work out things to do if the dog gets up. .
This is a really important concept. You have to be constantly thinking two or three steps ahead of what you're doing at any given moment...you need to know AHEAD of time what you're going to do if the scenario doesn't play out the way you want. That way you're not sitting there with your thumb up your butt staring at your dog in amazement when it offers some undesired behavior.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:10 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Murreydobe View Post
I think you pretty much covered the basics, RFR. While all of these concepts are valuable and essential to producing a well trained dog, probably the MOST important concept of all is to never, ever, ever give a dog a command unless you're willing and able to enforce it. Better to give no command at all than to let the dog blow you off. If people religiously followed this one concept alone, their lives and relationships with their dogs would be 100% better.
I totally agree. I probably should have listed this one, first, last, and somewhere in the middle.

However, everyone is human, and we all forget sometimes, in the moment.

So, for anyone reading, who has fallen into this a lot, here's the way to fix it, if you aren't already familiar.

Let's use the recall for an example.

We'll say the dog's name is Slim.

You've taught Slim his formal recall to the word "Come."

Unfortunately, Slim has started to blow off this command, in favor of chasing squirrels or bicycles or just for the fun of sniffing a good spot, then running out of your reach, while you're frantically yelling "Come, come, dammit I said COME!"

So, just go back to kindergarten, and retrain the command. Use the lead, then the longline, whatever tool works for you, but change the word you use. Change it to "Here," or "Front" or whatever you want, but just act as if it were a new command, one that is NOT ever in any way going to be optional.

And stick to it, be consistent. You'll have a recall again.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:28 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I think this is very important and often overlooked. Sometimes a good session may only be 5 minutes or less depending on what you are teaching. If your dog is hot or in a pissy mood or antsy or just having trouble understanding what you want that session keep it short.

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OK-here's one: quit while you're ahead.

If you've met your training goal for the day, then praise the dog and stop before you dig a hole for yourself.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:31 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedFawnRising View Post
I totally agree. I probably should have listed this one, first, last, and somewhere in the middle.

However, everyone is human, and we all forget sometimes, in the moment.

So, for anyone reading, who has fallen into this a lot, here's the way to fix it, if you aren't already familiar.

Let's use the recall for an example.

We'll say the dog's name is Slim.

You've taught Slim his formal recall to the word "Come."

Unfortunately, Slim has started to blow off this command, in favor of chasing squirrels or bicycles or just for the fun of sniffing a good spot, then running out of your reach, while you're frantically yelling "Come, come, dammit I said COME!"

So, just go back to kindergarten, and retrain the command. Use the lead, then the longline, whatever tool works for you, but change the word you use. Change it to "Here," or "Front" or whatever you want, but just act as if it were a new command, one that is NOT ever in any way going to be optional.

And stick to it, be consistent. You'll have a recall again.
I've always just gone back to basics..first the leash, then the long line, etc. without using a new command. But it's a good long time before I'd give them the opportunity to blow a recall off leash again.

One thing I'd add to this is I was taught every dog just has so many good "come" commands, it's not something to overuse or abuse. This is a formal obedience command, and I ONLY use "come" for formal obedience. Any other time I call my dogs I either use their name or "here".

Also, you can't ever correct a dog after it's come to you, but you sure can say NO when they're heading in the other direction...do it before they get too far away from you. The further the dog gets away from you, the harder it is to get them to respond to you.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:41 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I have one, learn to have the dog give you focus (look you in the eyes). I think without this you can not really proceed in training.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:43 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murreydobe View Post
I've always just gone back to basics..first the leash, then the long line, etc. without using a new command. But it's a good long time before I'd give them the opportunity to blow a recall off leash again.

One thing I'd add to this is I was taught every dog just has so many good "come" commands, it's not something to overuse or abuse. This is a formal obedience command, and I ONLY use "come" for formal obedience. Any other time I call my dogs I either use their name or "here".

Also, you can't ever correct a dog after it's come to you, but you sure can say NO when they're heading in the other direction...do it before they get too far away from you. The further the dog gets away from you, the harder it is to get them to respond to you.
I've done the same, but I hear a lot of folks saying they themselves remember to stick to it better, if it's just retrained as a "new" command.

And, you've brought up yet another two very good points and tips, here.

I also do not use a formal recall very often, and I make a big deal out of it, if I ever have to use it in a highly distracting, off lead situation--when they reach me, we have a party when they do a formal recall in those circumstances.

All other times, it's more of a get back over this way, stick close to me, informal kind of check-in thing, on hikes and such.

In the yard, it's also less formal. So, newer people, when calling your dog, separate your obedience terms if you really want to compete AND if you want a really formal thing to say in case of emergency situations where you've got to get that dog turned and heading back to you.


The next great point MD made is, do not ever, ever correct your dog for returning to you.

I have seen soooo many people call their dog, the dog ignores, the dog blows off, they call some more, the frustration level is rising, and finally they scream at the dog, and the dog comes trotting back--only to get busted and chewed out.

Anything you do for/with/to the dog is related, in the dog's mind, to the very last behavior it just offered you.

So, you may be very angry that the dog blew you off for five minutes straight, but in this last 3 seconds, the dog came back to you. You cannot correct it now. You correct it now, and you are punishing it for coming back to you.

Instead, do what we were talking about above, and go back to basics, back on lead and longline, and train some more.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:45 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
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I have one, learn to have the dog give you focus (look you in the eyes). I think without this you can not really proceed in training.
Remember, this is kindergarten, for folks just starting out

Can you explain to the class how you work on this skill?
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:52 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Great thread

If your dog isn't "getting it" - step back and see how you can break it down like Murreydobe said you may just be asking for to much to soon.

Also make sure YOU are consistent in your commands (Casper's greatest obstacle is his handler)
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Old 05-26-2009, 08:10 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Remember, this is kindergarten, for folks just starting out

Can you explain to the class how you work on this skill?
Now class this is how it's done...lol!

I started teaching focus using Jasmine's favorite food. Show the food in your hand. At this point it doesnt matter where you put your hand; the second the dog looks away from the food and looks at you..reward and praise. Do not put a command to this just now. Practise this over and over.
Once the dog has the hang of it you can raise your arm to the side, or put food in both hands...wait for the look and treat. Start slowly to increase the time the dog focuses on you, if he/she looks back at the food say ah, ah or what ever you want to use to get the attention back. I then put a command to it, I use "look". When you get the focus, praise with good "look" while treating.
I work on focus everyday, mostly now with a tug or her cuz ball. But you can work it into all situations and example would be feeding time. Put the bowl of food down, if your dog knows the wait command use that. Again once the dog looks at you, release him/her to their food. Increase length of focus over a period of time. After your dog can focus on you really well start adding distractions.

Once you have focus you can really start training, your dog is NOW paying attention to you and you only!!

This is how I taught it, I'm sure there are better ways, or other ways. But I do feel it's a good foundation for ALL training. Hopefully other will chime in, I'm not the greatest explainer..lol!

Edited to add: Eventually you will want to do this with just the command no treats or toys.
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Old 05-26-2009, 09:11 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Great idea this thread, and great tips.
Thanks to all for the posts.
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Old 05-26-2009, 09:22 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedFawnRising View Post
Remember, this is kindergarten, for folks just starting out

Can you explain to the class how you work on this skill?
Place the dog in a sit. Take the treat (string cheese works good for this) and put it in your mouth (that is why string cheese works well). Point at your eyes and say "look" or whatever you want for focus, then as soon as the dog looks drop the treat from your mouth directly into the dog. If they know how to catch that is great if not let them get it themselves then back to a sit and repeat. After a few times the dog will think to look at you because food just falls out of your mouth. It works great. You can even do it sitting down while you are at the computer with a smaller puppy. The earlier you teach this the better. Being able to focus a puppy to your face is a great thing.
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Old 05-26-2009, 10:27 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Place the dog in a sit. Take the treat (string cheese works good for this) and put it in your mouth (that is why string cheese works well). Point at your eyes and say "look" or whatever you want for focus, then as soon as the dog looks drop the treat from your mouth directly into the dog. If they know how to catch that is great if not let them get it themselves then back to a sit and repeat. After a few times the dog will think to look at you because food just falls out of your mouth. It works great. You can even do it sitting down while you are at the computer with a smaller puppy. The earlier you teach this the better. Being able to focus a puppy to your face is a great thing.
Hehe, off topic for just a sec, I have a friend whose very smart little Dutch bunny girl really liked to try to steal human cookies and crackers. (Not good for bunnies.)

One night, Naughty Bunny was loose in the room while her human was snacking on some crackers. Naughty Bunny watched. Naughty Bunny focused. Naughty Bunny tried to steal and rip open the box of crackers, which the human then put up high.

So, Naughty Bunny tried to rip open the next logical place she'd seen the crackers being put and "stored." The human's head and face
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Old 05-26-2009, 10:30 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Hehe, off topic for just a sec, I have a friend whose very smart little Dutch bunny girl really liked to try to steal human cookies and crackers. (Not good for bunnies.)

One night, Naughty Bunny was loose in the room while her human was snacking on some crackers. Naughty Bunny watched. Naughty Bunny focused. Naughty Bunny tried to steal and rip open the box of crackers, which the human then put up high.

So, Naughty Bunny tried to rip open the next logical place she'd seen the crackers being put and "stored." The human's head and face
In this house Naughty Bunny would have been killed and turned into a fresh dog meal. Rub the nub. Me.
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Old 05-26-2009, 10:44 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I have a feeling Naughty Bunny could have taken a Dobe.
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Old 05-27-2009, 08:45 AM   #24 (permalink)
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I'm going to make this a sticky - keep the on-topic educational posts coming! Great thread for beginners
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Old 05-27-2009, 09:38 AM   #25 (permalink)
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I hope no one already mentioned this: Introduce distractions slowly.

If you've been practicing a down stay inside the quiet of your own home, don't go to the front yard and suddenly try the down stay from a distance when the school bus has just dropped kids off on the sidewalk.

One distraction at a time.

Easier for your dog, less disappointment for you.
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