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.
Training Dogs of the Sea
Recently, my husband and I took a trip to the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. Being the animal behavior/training geek that I am, I took as many videos as possible to bring home. So many people gather around these exhibits amazed by how these trainers can be so close with these animal and how these beautiful creatures have so much respect for their handlers. Truth is, their training techniques are no different then the positive reinforcement training techniques we use to train our own dogs.
Any kind of animal training is going to start small. It is traditional for marine mammals to learn to follow a "target". Once the animal learns the rewards of touching the "target", they are motivated to follow the target. When the animal follows their "target" you can start to lure the animal and shape the behavior you want. For dogs, the "target" is traditionally the trainers hand.
It is key to take one step at a time. Next step? Find and touch the "target"
Then follow the "target".
Animals can learn to recognize different targets. This is how trainers teach their dogs to recognize numbers and/or colors.
To reduce anxiety and stress it is important for any animal to feel safe and confident in any situation. In this situation, the trainer uses "target" practice and shaping with her hand for the otter to open his mouth. Opening his mouth may seem like a small thing to ask and maybe not a big deal. But when it comes time for the vet checks and safety, the vet is going to need the otter to open his mouth without force.
Once the "target" has been mastered and the animal understands the rewards of following the "target" (shaping), the animal starts to make connections and associations with the movements of arms, hands and body. These become the hand signals. Hand signals are a clear way to communicate with any animal. It is very difficult for a trainer to tell a dolphin to jump. So they will give a hand signal and use the target to lead the animal to the wanted behavior.
Correcting a sea lion sounds like it would be difficult. But, when you work on a relationship built with trust, the animal is always motivated for that reward. So what do you do? This trainer gave her cue, the sea lion tried but the trainer knew he could do better. So no reward was given and she asked him again. When he gave the correct behavior, he received his reward.
This little otter is enjoying his lunch. Just like they would have to hunt in the wild, it is a great stimulation and mental work out for an animal to work for his or her food.
People are always so impressed with how well trained these animals are and think the job is done with some magic talent. It is just understanding simple basic animal behavior. It is because of marine mammal training that I have faith in positive reinforcement training. Imagine what would happen if these trainers used other methods such as shock collars, pinch collars, or choke chains on an otter or sea lion. Somehow I don't think they would get these beautiful animal to be motivated to respond in front of a crowd. Perfect behavior cannot be created over night. The main ingredient to train any animal is patience.
There have been major advances in the past 20 years for dog training. Unfortunately, punishment for unwanted behavior had become the norm and their wolf ancestry has been the blame for bad behavior. Dogs are often labeled as "too stubborn" to train. However, with positive reinforcement techniques, we set our dogs up to succeed and give them rewards for good choices. This helps a stubborn dog become more eager to learn and more motivated to build great relationships.
Positive reinforcement started in the 1930's with B.F. Skinner's scientific studies of Operant Conditioning. Hollywood animal trainers use this method of training because the animals become happy, dependable performers. The wildest undomesticated animals can learn and trust you when using positive reinforcement training. Instead of jerking and forcing an animal with a choke chain hoping the dog will eventually understand, you can shape and reward your dog to the appropriate wanted behaviors.
What positive reinforcement means is that the dog works to get the things he likes. The key to positive reinforcement is timing. To increase the likelihood that the dog will repeat a behavior is to reward the dog at the moment the dog performs the desirable behavior. Positive reinforcements have been scientifically proven to gain favorable results. We are more likely to perform better in our work when we expect a paycheck, a raise, a bonus, and/or a promotion. Just like us, dogs need motivation and reinforcement as well.
An example of positive reinforcement is giving your dog a treat the moment he sits.
Examples of positive reinforcers are:
By implementing positive reinforcement today, your dog will be on his way to becoming the well behaved dog you desire.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement is rewarding good behavior with treats, praise, or life rewards (games, walks, car rides)
Anyone can do it.
When using positive reinforcement training techniques, anyone in your family can train the dog. With positive reinforcements, there is no need to use physical strength for leash corrections, or a strong tone of voice.
Clearer communication for the dog.
Consequences aren’t always clear to a dog. For example, punishing indoor accidents teaches your dog not to eliminate around you. On the other hand, rewarding outside potties will communicate clearly that good things happen when he eliminates outdoors.
Used for different behaviors
Positive reinforcement can be used to teach your dog new commands or to reinforce good behavior. For example, you can prevent bolting, jumping on people, or good meal-time manners, all with positive reinforcement training.
It's a mental workout.
Boredom can give rise to a lot of unwanted behavior, like digging, excessive barking, and chewing. A few short positive training sessions throughout the day will help your dog burn oﬀ a lot of that excess energy.
Once your dog realizes that training leads to the things he likes, your dog will begin to view training sessions as playtime. He will begin behaving in a desirable way in the hopes of getting his rewards, while you get to enjoy his antics.
Strengthens the bond with your dog.
Do you like being recognized for work you do well? So does your dog! While other training methods will teach your dog how to behave, positive reinforcement will also build trust, strengthening your relationship.
Going To The Dog Park is a sample from two new classes Furry Tail Dog Training is offering called A Dog's Life Class and A Puppy's Life Class. These classes are to help you better understand your dogs needs to reduce stress and anxiety in everyday life situations, such as vet visits, introduction to new people and dogs, and more. For more information on these classes, please visit furrytaildogtraining.com.
Going To The Dog Park
Protect Your Pet's Paws From Hot Pavement.
Just like we depend on our feet, our pets (dogs and cats) rely on their paws to get to where they need to go. So, it is important that we take care of our pet's paws.
The pad's on a dog's paw is designed to provide protection. They give extra cushion, traction, shock absorption to protect joints, and insulation for extreme weather.
The pads of a dog's paw is the toughest skin on their body. The pads are made of a tough outer layer of skin and fat. This tough skin helps prevent injuries and abrasions. To help keep the pads cool, the pads consist of Exocrine sweat glands.
Damage to the paws and pads can occur within 60 seconds at 125°F. On a sunny day, the pavement can reach up to 143°F. It only take 131°F to fry an egg.
I was at the park the other day waiting for my students for one of my classes when a 2 month old Australian-German Shepherd mix came to greet me. The owner started to ask me some questions about potty training. I asked him if he was crate training his dog. I was shocked when the owner told me the breeder told him not to crate train the dog, because those dogs should not be crate trained. I was a bit thrown back because I have never met a professional in the pet industry that didn't recommend crate training. Along with potty training, there are many other benefits to crate training. Crate training helps reduce separation anxiety. It also helps manage behavior problems such as barking and lack of self control. It also helps maintain social order in the family. Plus, dogs that are properly crate trained handle stressful situations, such as a visit to the vets office, groomers, kennels, and travel better than dogs who have not been crate trained. So let's talk a bit about crate training.
It is my guess that this particular breeder had a stigma on dog crates. Some people view putting a dog in a crate the same as a hamster in a cage. I have talked to many clients that felt the same about putting their dog in a create, until I explained the proper way of using a crate. First we want to view the crate as a training tool, not a living area. Yes, dogs are den animals and we want them to feel their crate is a safe place to be (same as a baby in a crib or a toddler in a playpen), but the idea is not to have the dog spend their days locked in their crate.
It is important to remember that a crate is meant to be a training tool only and is not meant to be used for punishment. Before you determine the length of time you want your dog to be in the crate, beware of your dogs temperament, age, training, physical and emotional state. Adult dogs can be in a crate for as long as eight hours on occasions. When puppies are involved, they should not be crated longer than the number of months old they are plus one. Meaning if your puppy is 3 months old, they should not be crated for more then 4 hours.
The hardest part about crate training is getting the dog accustomed to the crate. Of course, the younger the dog the easier it will be. When introducing your dog to his new crate, take a couple of days placing toys and treats in the crate and allow your dog to enter the crate on his own to get them. It is also a good idea to feed your dog in the crate. Place the food bowl in the back of the crate and leave the door open. This will give your dog a positive association with the crate. Once your puppy is comfortable in the crate be aware if the dog barks or cries. If the dog needs to eliminate, take him to his appropriate area to eliminate. If the dog is fussing to get out of the crate, ignore the dog. It is better to ignore the dog then to approach and say "no". This can be rewarding the encourage future barking. A puppy should not be put to bed in the crate if the house hold is still up.
When a dog has been properly crate trained, the crate can be used as a training tool for different behavior problems as mentioned in the beginning of this blog.
Housebreaking: As mentioned earlier, dogs are den animals and do not like to mess in their areas. This gives the dog motivation to "hold it" while in the crate.
Separation Anxiety: The crate can be used as the dog's "safe area" when left alone. The length of time for the dog to be left alone should be below the dogs threshold for anxious behaviors.
Management: A crate can be a dogs "playpen". A dog can be kept in a crate for short periods when the dog can not be watched by the owner. This ensures that the dog will not have housebreaking accidents or other unwanted behaviors in the house.
Re-Ranking: The crate can help establish the social order in the house. The owner will communicate leadership to the dog by assigning the crate as a sleeping place at specific times during the day.
Barking: Teaching a dog that silence is rewarding. By placing your dog in his crate, he will earn his freedom when the barking stops. The dog will learn the connection between falling silent and getting out.
Self-Control: The crate can be used to teach the dog that when he stops barking, whining, fussing, etc. and gets control of himself, freedom is earned.
So as you can see, learning to use the crate properly has so many benefits for both your dog and his training process. By starting crate training early on, your dog will become so comfortable in a crate you will have no reason to feel guilty for having your dog in there. The crate will always be a positive experience for the dog.
Don't Hate the Crate
I have recently been asked why I became a dog trainer. Of course I love dogs, have a passion for animal behavior, and I want to help people have the best dog possible. But my #1 reason for wanting to become a dog trainer has to do with numbers. 6.5 million is the number of companion animals surrendered every year. 3.3 million is the number of dogs that are surrendered each year. 670,000 is the number of dogs that are euthanized every year. And 96% of dogs that are surrendered to shelters have not received any obedience training. These alarming numbers show how important training is for a dog. When we bring them into our home, it is our responsibility to teach them how to become members of the family and society. Below is a story I found online by an anonymous writer that I found touching.
THIS IS ONE REASON OUR SHELTER IS SO FULL!
My family brought me home, all cradled in their arms. They cuddled me and smiled at me and said I was full of charm. They played with me and laughed with me and showered me with toys. I sure did love my family, especially the little girls and boys.”
“The children loved to feed me; they gave me special treats. They even let me sleep with them – all snuggled in the sheets. I used to go for walks, often several times a day. They even fought to hold the leash, I’m very proud to say.”
“These are the things I’ll not forget – a cherished memory. Now that I’m in the shelter – without my family. They used to laugh and praise me when I played with that old shoe. But I didn’t know the difference between the old one and the new.”
“The kids and I would grab a rag, for hours we would tug. So I thought I did the right thing when I chewed the bedroom rug. They said that I was out of control, and would have to live outside. This I didn’t understand, although I tried and tried.”
“The walks stopped, one by one, they said they hadn’t time. I wish that I could change things; I wish I knew my crime. My life became so lonely in the backyard, on a chain. I barked and barked all day long to keep from going insane.”
“So they brought me to the shelter but were embarrassed to say why. They said I caused an allergy, and then they each kissed me goodbye. If I’d only had some training when I was a little pup, I wouldn’t have been so hard to handle when I was all grown up.”
“‘You only have one day left, I heard the worker say. Does that mean I have a second chance? Do I go home today?”
Owner and trainer for Furry Tail Dog Training.
Books I've read: