by Grayson Schaffer | on October 22nd, 2009 | in Features, Training, Video Clips
Some folks were asking whether Danger can do that beer trick from last week’s short movie, “In the Face of Danger,” in one take. Yes, and chances are your dog can too. Training a dog to connect tricks or behaviors end to end is called chaining. Typically, these types of linked behaviors are taught back to front, or what’s called back-chaining. Basically, you start with the last part of the task, train that to proficiency, and then add the next-to-last part. Withhold your reward until the dog completes both of these well-polished tasks end to end. It won’t take him long to figure out that the criteria have been raised and he now has to do two tasks before the reward. Then add a third link in the chain and so on. When you see dogs performing complex, apparently human-like tasks on TV, this is generally how they’re taught.
OK, here’s the video.
by Grayson Schaffer | on June 22nd, 2009 | in Features, Training
I’d always had this impression that Labs naturally held things—birds—softly in their mouths. To some extent it’s true that a dog can be predisposed toward having a so-called soft mouth or a low-pressure bite. Mostly, though, it’s a skill that must be trained like any other. “Hold” means you’ve got to keep this object, whatever it may be, balanced between your teeth and not chomp or chew on it. I don’t care how soft a dog’s mouth is, if he doesn’t know a hold command and you put a pork sausage in his mouth, it’s gone. Sue and the ADW trainers taught me this sausage trick as a way of illustrating what’s called stimulus control. That is: Because I’ve given the “hold” cue, Danger should view the sausage not as a treat for completing a task, as he would ordinarily, but as an object to hold as he’s been taught. The treat, his normal dog food, comes after he’s held the sausage for what must be an unbearable length of time.
How to work up to this one slowly: Teach your dog the hold command with a wooden dowel. Click just for light but steady pressure on the dowel being sure to maintain control of it until your dog will hold it—even for a fraction of a second—without rolling it in his molars. Add the cue once you’re getting a consistent hold of a few seconds. Then, once he knows the command, very slowly raise the criteria with objects that he’s more likely to chomp down on or treat like a chew toy. Finally, when your dog can hold actual chew or squeeky toys calmly, introduce a frozen sausage. Then slowly let it thaw as you train. Mike and the Wildrose gang use a similar progresion for hunting retrievers, starting with a frozen game bird and then then gradually letting it thaw as several young dogs make retrieves with it.
by Mike Stewart | on May 19th, 2009 | in The Wildrose Way
Once you’re getting a consistent glance away from a bumper or treat, it’s time for the more advanced levels of focus. Gradually build in each of these levels in parallel to your basic obedience and socialization training.
In obedience training, every command is preceded by the pup’s name. This will eventually allow you to work multiple dogs without confusion. Get the youngster to look you in the eye at the sound of his name. Once you’ve got eye contact, then give the command.
Sequence: “Deke” —> eye contact —> “heel.”
Gradually lengthen the duration of the eye contact. This helps build focus no matter what you’re training your dog to do. Then use the whistle instead of the dog’s name. The objective: The peep gets the pup’s attention and the eyes. This is where whistle stops begin—by building up a solid foundation.
Whistle –> eye contact –> “heel.”
Another point at which to gain focus is during hold conditioning, which we’ll get to. (This is teaching the dog specifically to hold an object gently in his mouth without any chomping or chewing.) When teaching hold, maintain eye contact. Provide lots of praise. Later in the progression as the youngster wants to take and hold the bumper to receive the immediate affection and praise you may utilize a variation of Stage I. Hold the bumper to the side and without a word wait for the eyes to lock on yours. Then, quickly give the bumper and praise.
Later, in stop-to-the-whistle training, I once again emphasize eye contact. During whistle stop exercises, hold those eyes for a brief period before the next command or cast. Do not allow glancing about or head swinging. If the dog looks about looking for the bumper (a behavior that can deteriorate into self-employment if the dog decides he knows better than you where that bumper is) or focuses on a thrown diversion bumper, use the whistle to regain the eyes and hold the focus briefly before the cast. If you build up the behavior gradually over time, every whistle stop will result have your dog instantly hitting the brakes and looking to you for direction. We’ll build in this same default response for every diversion, flush, gunshot, or bird down: eyes on their handler for instruction, which will ultimately be followed by the reward of a retrieve and lots of praise.