When the reinforcement is not with you

Going to a bed is an easily reinforced alternate behavior for almost anything!

We all have those “how did that happen” moments when working with our dog. Sometimes it is a negative conditioned emotional response, sometimes it’s a behavior we have inadvertently reinforced enough to create a problem. Sometimes it’s the environment and we have no idea what happened.

Let’s look at the sock example

If you didn’t read my last post, go do it now. The link is here. How many different ways could that have gone differently?

I mentioned chasing her for the sock, which for Cargo, that would mean I now had zero socks in my house because a game of tug and chase is very reinforcing. Because that game is so reinforcing for her, even if I only played that game one time, the amount of time it would take me to extinguish that one reinforcing moment, would be insane.

What if I did not reinforce anything with snacks but grabbed her and wrestled the sock out of her mouth? For my bitey, herding breed, that would be a great game and again, very reinforcing. I’m sure that she would be hell bent on stealing every sock she saw and I would have no socks. For most of your pet dogs, this would probably result in a dog who hides when they steal a sock. Also not helping the survival of the socks.

What does it all mean?

Best reinforcement ever!

As those moments of “ugh, why does my dog do this” pop up, take a look at how its being reinforced. Every behavior serves a function, and dogs do what works.

If your dog is jumping up on people coming in the door, take a look at what is happening. Does every person pet her when she jumps up?

Do you chase her around when she steals something?

Does barking and whining eventually get a snack from the table?

Those intermittent reinforcement schedules can actually reinforce behavior better than a snack every time. Think about gambling, and the intermittent reinforcement that is going on. You don’t win every time, but when you do, it’s a pretty great feeling! Your dog is thinking the same thing.

“man all that jumping finally got me some pets! I gotta try harder next time!”

What to do?

Make sure you are reinforcing the things you like to see! Don’t wait until it has gotten out of hand and you have to call me! ( you can always call me!) Treat your dog for laying on the mat in the kitchen before he starts counter surfing. Treat your dog while on a walk when nothing is happening to help him understand that flailing at the end of the leash does not allow him to say hello to friends.

What have you accidently reinforced? Tell me about it on the facebook page and I’ll try to help you out!

 

May the Reinforce be with you

Ice cream is always reinforcing!

I think that was a title from a class I took recently.

Reinforcement is a big word for a very easy concept. But one that is usually overlooked. Reinforcement in dog training simply means pay your dog.

Dog does something, reinforce it.

If your dog sits during a training session, you would absolutely give him a cookie. But what are you doing the other 167 hours of the week? Has your dog figured out the game? Do they only listen in class, or when you have the bucket of cookies and the clicker in hand?

Dogs do what works for them. Does it work for you? A kibble is a small price to pay for making sure your dog is being rewarded for the things you like.

Follow this example

This is a common one in my house. Dog steals sock. Dog takes off running with sock. Human chases dog all over the house and out the dog door in the rain, to get said sock back. In my house, we reinforced bringing sock to human to trade for a cookie. Now, “can I have that” means spit out sock to get cookie.  Maybe one day I will teach her to bring the sock to me. (life goals)

Let’s discuss

Many many reinforcement strategies in this situation. To Cargo, the sock is a fun toy. It’s stinky, and it flops around when she bites it.

I don’t want holes chewed in my socks, so early on we taught a “trade” for food. Food is a better reinforcement than the sock, so it worked. If I were to chase Cargo around the house to wrestle her for the sock, then sock would become an even better reinforcement because Malinois love to tug, and I would lose a sock everytime. (Not reinforcing for me!) For a reinforcement strategy to work it has to benefit all the parties involved. Because food is the better reinforcer in this situation, I have food in small containers stashed all over my house.

Dogs do what works for them

If I had chased Cargo all over the house to get the sock back, I would be reinforcing the “stealing sock” behavior.  Chasing and tug is also a reinforcer, but since I set up her options as drop the sock for food or have her collar held until she drops the sock. Food is the only reinforcing option. She’s going to choose the food. Now, she brings the sock to me to show me she’s found it, I reinforce her bringing it to me, and we do not have (many) eaten socks.

In the kitchen, I only give her food when she is laying on the rug in front of the sink. Now, thats where she lays when I am in the kitchen. She gets a Kong or Peanut butter bone when I ask her to kennel, so she happily runs to her kennel when I ask.

This is especially important for new adult dogs in the house, or brand new puppies who are learning how to live in our world for the first time. Putting some forethought into the behaviors you want to see in the future will help you to prevent the unwanted behaviors later on.

Have any questions on this concept? Chat with us on Facebook. The next post will discuss what happens when this strategy goes wrong!

 

 

 

 

Practice Patience and Consistency

Today it’s really cold outside.

I am supposed to be working on my IAABC application, but instead I am doing some displacement sniffing. (Comment if you know what displacement sniffing is!)

Practice Patience and Consistency!

I have been recording my training sessions with Cargo since she was a tiny baby. Most of our training up to this point has been online or by myself. We have taken a handful of classes, she has a few barn hunt titles and done some private sessions. But a majority of training is at home and alone.

The perk of this is that I have hundreds of hours of video on my computer that I can go back and look at when I need to. The downside is that none of these videos are labeled, categorized or have any distinguishing features besides the tiny thumbnail they give me.

Enter displacement sniffing. I am going through all the videos to identify which of my dogs are actually in the video and what in the heck we are working on! I have a solid year of video to go through. Lord help me!

(Again, I should be working on an application)

My plan is to go through the videos and find all the places where I have been practicing with Cargo and show you the progression of some of our exercises.

I may just have to talk about them instead. (hundreds of hours of video y’all)

I will say my favorite part of recording my training sessions is that when I think I am not progressing I can (occasionally) go back a few videos and see where we came from and what the behavior looks like at this point.  Last week it was our “back ups.” Took a look at last weeks video and well that doesn’t look so bad. We carry on.

That’s the point I am trying to make here. WE carry on! We keep working toward that final goal.

What is your final goal for your dog?

What are you doing to get there? Are you on the right track?

Does it look better than it did last month? Last week?

Keep practicing and keep pushing along. With dogs, it’s the journey, not necessarily the destination.

Another year, how did that happen?

Baby dog is 18 months old! Maybe not a baby dog anymore.

 When did January start?

How did we make it to 2019?

Can you believe I have been training your dogs for 5 years?

I have come a long way from those first few clients. (Y’all I am sorry! I am much better at this whole dog training, and listening thing these days!) Now I have two interns, Jon and Keri, who will help me move into the next phase of world domination.. uhh I mean this business I am building.

Moving on…

As I continue to teach them everything I know, and get them ready to take on their own clients, I am reminded that some things we just can’t rush. I have learned so much in the last 5 years about dogs, behavior, training techniques that it gets overwhelming. Then there is so much more to teach about the most important part of the equation, the people who love the dogs we teach, that I just cannot cover in the 300ish hours they are with me.

Some things you just have to learn little bits at a time. After awhile, it becomes clear and easy but to try to do it all at once just overwhelms everyone. Same with clients, sometimes I have to say the same thing a few times before people are ready to hear what I have to say. That’s okay, it’s how we all learn!

Why do we think that our dogs learn any differently?

Think about the last time you learned a new skill, or the worst, had to get a new cell phone! You didn’t have to think about where the apps were on the old phone, and the autocorrect knew what you really meant when you spelled something wrong. It takes some work to remember how to handle the new information thrown at you.

Why do we think that because our dog did one 6 week group class that they know everything they need to know about living with a different species, in a world that makes absolutely no sense to them?

Learning is a lifelong process, and we need to remember that the species we share our life with might need a little more practice or a little patience to make sure they are learning the right thing. Behavior doesn’t change overnight. It takes some time and consistency to reach the goals we have for ourselves and our pups.

So don’t get discouraged when Spot can’t sit in the vet’s office, just use it as information on how to help your pup a little bit more.

Is 2019 the year for you and your pup to live your best life?

Opal is old as dirt and living her best life. Retired

If you want to help your pup a bit more in 2019, sign up for our newsletter now. It’s a bit dormant at the moment, but as 2019 gets rolling, there will be plenty of new and improved training options for you and your pup. There is a free e-book that will help you and your pup live their best life. Tell me what you think of it!

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Until next time!

Holiday gift guide for the dog lover in your life

Blue and red hands free leash from Rugers Ropes. Whale bandana from The Mispit Shop

I brought in a guest blogger for this one! Between working with her own dogs, and shadowing me on appointments, Keri and I have been together for about a year now! Many of you have met her at Recalls on the Beach and at appointments. She will be taking her training certification exam in March, and I can’t wait for her to join the team at The Freckled Paw! If you love cute dog pictures you can follow her on Instagram at @nalas_foster_furiends

Here’s what she has to say about her favorite online shops for her pups!

GstopYbowtie makes gorgeous, high quality bow ties. 50% of their profits goes towards helping dogs involved in the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. I personally love the style called “Party for Two.” You pick a secondary color for the background. It adds more color and even more stability! I recently let her choose the fabrics and was pleasantly surprised by her choices. These are velcro bow ties so they easily attach to any collar.

Biothane collar and tag from TagNTrail

RugersRopes hand dyes cotton leashes. We have several four and five foot ones, along with two hands free leashes. She also sells pre dyed super soft leashes, but still with her perfect whipping to keep it all together. I previously tried another cotton leash company, but the whipping fell off within a month, causing the entire leash to fall apart.

FourMuttsAndCo creates fabric collars. She is based out of Canada, so shipping takes a little longer, but it’s definitely worth it. As a pitbull owner, I love that she has a house full of bully breeds. She is always finding great new patterns. Her size range is broad so they can go grow with your puppy. Don’t forget your keychain to match your pet! Use code AZUL20 to save 20% on your entire order.

 

GStopYBowtie Wham Bam, Thank You Ma’am bowtie 4 ft Rugers Ropes leash

TagNTrail has over 200 tag designs and will custom make any tag you can think of! They’re double sided and include a silicone silencer. In our house, we have a tag for every collar, so the variety is helpful. You can choose the fonts, colors, and patterns, making every tag unique. Her customer service is great and she sends you proofs before she creates the final product. We have never been disappointed! She has also recently added biothane collars to her shop. They’re great for the beach!

 

TheMispitShop does bandanas with a sturdy pleather backing.  Pleather helps the bandana to say where it’s supposed to. Each bandana is made to size with snaps to fit your dog perfectly. The snaps allow for a quick and easy on and off.Use code AZUL15 to save 15% on your entire order.

Got a favorite “dog stuff” shop? Let us know!