When a dog continues to make mistakes during training it is important to know the reason why before you can address the issue.
Possible causes for a dog to make mistakes more than 10% of the time:
1. The exercise may be too difficult for the dog. It is important to set your dog up to succeed. Keep it simple and clear. If not, the dog can become frustrated and/or uninterested.
2. More practice may be needed. It is possible the dog has not had enough shaping or being guided correctly into the behavior with a food lure.
3. It is possible the dog is not motivated enough to respond. This usually happens when the dog gets what he wants for free outside of training.
4. Your signals may be unclear to the dog
5. Check your surroundings, there could be too many distractions too soon for the dog.
When the dog give the correct behavior approximately 90% of the time, you can be confident that your dog is ready for the next training level.
If you have a dog, then you have probably heard of "socialization". It is often told to owners of dogs with bad manners that the bad behavior is due to lack of socialization. For a term that is so often used, there are still few people who understand how to properly socialize and how critical it is to preventing dog bites.
To properly socialize a dog, you will need to desensitize him to whatever things he will encounter in life. Proper socialization requires positive exposure in multiple environments and a variety of situations. Never push a dog into any situation. You want to go at the dogs pace to keep it positive.
An under-socialized dog may overreact to common things, such as strangers, other dogs, cars, strange noises, etc.
Another word for socialization is "desensitization". To desensitize a dog is by helping the dog make positive associations in small increments. It is important not to overwhelm the dog and over-expose him to new things. Forcing and overwhelming a dog can cause a negative reaction and make the dog fearful and aggressive.
An example of proper socialization is to bring the puppy to a group class and only exposing her to friendly dogs (with distance) that she feels comfortable with. When the puppy is calm, the owner gives the puppy treats and praise. If the puppy becomes agitated, the owner moves the puppy further back till the puppy is calm again. Each week the owner needs to bring the puppy closer (within the puppy's comfort) keeping it positive for the puppy.
The key to effective socialization is to keep the entire process as positive as possible for the dog. When your dog makes a positive association with new experiences, he is less likely to develop fear or aggression, reducing the changes of an unwanted bite.
You are ready to move to the next stage (automation) when the dog anticipates the action and completes the down before you complete the lure.
Second Stage: Automation
In the automation stage, the dog learns to automatically give a specific behavior without being lured.
An example would be to say "down" before you start to lure your dog into position. The dog will learn to anticipate that the word "down" is followed by the lure and start to go down when he hears "down".
When the dog responds to the cue correctly 90% of the time, you are ready to move forward to the next stage.
Third Stage: Generalization
The generalization stage is when the dog learns that the response should be the same if the cue is given in a different way, by a different person, or in a different environment.
When the dog has a 90% success rate for Down in the family room, with his traditional trainer, it is a good time to generalize the behavior so that he doesn't only respond to specific circumstances.
When the dog responds to the cue correctly 90% of the time in a variety of situations, you are ready to move forward to the maintenance stage.
Fourth Stage: Maintenance
When your dog reaches the maintenance stage, you feel confident that he has complete understanding of the request. To maintain behaviors, it is sometimes required to go back to the beginning when the dog makes a mistake. This means to go back a few steps and make it easier for the dog. This will give you the chance to reinforce the correct response before it deteriorates further.
An example of maintenance is when your dog has been successful with his down stays for weeks. But when your friend comes to visit, your dog breaks his stay and runs and jumps on your friend. You will need to go back to the basics and build a stronger foundation.
5 minute sessions, 3 times a day.
Three five minute sessions for a total of fifteen minutes a day will help you maintain good progress with your dog. Consistency is key for good dog training, and is more beneficial than long duration training sessions,
A conditioned reinforcement can be a bell, whistle, clicker, or a vocal "good". It can take five minutes for a dog to learn a treat is coming after the conditioned reinforcement. When you see your dog automatically respond to his conditioned reinforcement, he has learned the association. The conditioned reinforcement makes it easy to communicate to your dog when you mark the correct response.
Shape a Behavior
Once your dog discovers a behavior brings a reward, he will repeat that behavior more frequently. At this level, you can start to shape the behavior by choosing to reward a behavior that is closer to the behavior goal. Take each step by step slowly. The dog will need to guess what behavior you want and you need to tell him "that's correct" by giving the conditioned reinforcement and reward. Keep the behavior happening, but in small doses ask for more.
One simple way to train your dog is by capturing the behavior. This is only possible if your dog has been conditionally reinforced. You simply catch your dog doing the behavior or wait till your dog does the behavior and give him the conditioned reinforcement.
I am an ABC Certified Dog Trainer and owner of Furry Tail Dog Training.
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