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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Improving Myself

This week is Positive Reinforcement Pet Training Week, and the topic is, "Do you have any bad training habits or ways you could improve as a positive reinforcement pet trainer?"

Learning From My Mistakes



Sadly when I first began working with dogs, like so many other people, I followed traditional training methods. These methods were based around the idea that all dogs strive for dominance, that they are closely related to wolves, and need to be "showed who is boss" in order to respect and listen to you. Granted I wouldn't call what I did abusive, but we originally used corrective techniques such as leash snapping (jerking on the collar if the dog pulled while walking), and alpha rolls when the dog wouldn't calm down. Dogs know where their feet are - stepping on your feet represents disrespect, which was followed by stepping on their toes in return. Ouch!

Back to Positive Training, I love it! They say you usually mess up your first dog, Dante is that dog for me. We used some aversive techniques right in the beginning of adopting him and were in the middle of switching and learning new ways of working with dogs thanks to Tex-Anna our former foster who we had at the same time as Dante.

By the time we adopted Ziva (a very soft personality), we had fully switched and I was researching as much as I could about positive techniques and clicker training, all of this helped us with her since she was dog reactive due to a bad experience with a mastiff, and she was low on self confidence (Click HERE for more on her story).

Throwback to Ziva as a young pup, at Sevadog Rescue.
Positive training has been amazing! But that doesn't mean their are no consequences for the dog, sometimes depending on the dog and the situation you need to extinct a behavior this is referred to as Negative Punishment (P-) or extinction. 


In reading many of the other blog posts for this week's topic i'm glad to discover I'm not the only human with bad habits that need to be broken. Sometimes I find myself frustrated and resorting to Positive Punishment (P+) usually in the form of a sharply spoken, "No", or a collar jerk if i'm tired and trying to have a nice walk and the dogs are pulling.  This is when I need to step back from the situation, put myself in a new mindset, and move on.

If the dogs are pulling it is because we haven't practiced in such a high distraction environment, and it means I need to go back to the basics and probably just walk one dog. 

In using positive training techniques, the dogs learn much faster, their is no fear, less frustration on my part (training should be fun!), and you are working to build upon your relationship and develop trust. Through positive training my relationship with my dogs has improved, and we have a much stronger bond. 

We still need to work on our distraction training, here is a recent walk I took with all three pups by myself! Something I'm only just starting to do. Since we haven't done much distraction training recently, I found a nice quiet trail to take the dogs on. We did not encounter any other dogs or dog walkers but their were plenty of distractions in the form of wildlife and things to smell that I was more comfortable using gentle leaders in this scenario. Ziva was being really good so she didn't have to wear one, and as Dante settled into my pace I eventually removed his gentle leader and resorted to praise and treats to keep him in position.

Having three large breed dogs it is important to me that I am in control of the walk, working with each dog individually, and then together, using treats and gentle leaders for added control has really helped us to maintain our positive training. With practice and regular walks we don't need to use the leaders.

Depending on how high the distractions are I have to remind myself to be patient because sometimes I catch myself falling back into my old habits, leash popping, getting frustrated, and generally killing the mood of the walk which makes it no fun for anyone.


Yesterday was the perfect example; 

I had just gotten home and it was gorgeous out so I decide to take the dogs with my sister's help to the river to go swim and play. As soon as we got there I had the dogs sit, clipped the leashes on one at a time, and released them individually to exit the car (I wanted them to start out engaged with me before we played). Dante jumped out, Ziva was next, Jack exited the car last. When Jack jumped out, he became entangled in Ziva's leash and the leashes crossed around my legs trapping me. As I was fiddling with getting untangled Jack pulled and I dropped his leash, he took one look at it hitting the ground and bolted. "Damnit!!" Good thing my sister was there because I nearly let out a sailors string of words, none of them positive. Walking towards him, he kept bounding away (I need to remember he's only about a year old..), bouncing and practically rubbing it in that I couldn't catch him. He wouldn't come when I said, "Come", and every time I even kind of got close to him he'd bounce away again laughing at me i'm sure of it.

I tried, "touch" which we've worked really hard on. Nope.. I tried again, "TOUCH". And finally a third time more angry, "TOUCH!!"  Before I could calm my inner monster it worked! He bounded over, hit my hand super hard with a perfect nose touch, and then I ruined it by pouncing on him instead of rewarding his return.  "Damnit Again!"

We still played at the river, the combo of angry that he bolted, and angry at myself, tainted my fun (my sister played with Jack).  I know Jack forgives me, he is good at not holding grudges but I'm still beating myself up over it. What it tells me is that we need to work even harder on our recalls with Jack, and while not yet giving up hope - he just may never be a good dog to trust off of a leash.
I also need to work on not being so quick to get frustrated and take things personally. When Jack bolts it's because he is full of spunk, and zest for life! He was also practically feral, and I have to remember how far he's come since we first rescued him.

(More on Jack's bolting issue HERE)

We're taking Susan Garrett's Brilliant Recall's session right now, and I've worked with my agility trainer - we're doing everything right except we simply need to put more time into proofing it with Jack. More on that though in a different post.

See this face? This is a naughty Plott Hound's face.
The Reality Is
People Mess Up.
Don't Let One Mistake
Ruin a Beautiful Thing.


10 comments:

  1. You do so well with your big and challenging crew! You are so right that we have to recover and move on from our mistakes in order to seize the next opportunity. Thanks for joining the hop!

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    1. Thanks guys! I just gotta remember the dogs don't hold onto things, so why should I? :-)

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  2. I'm so glad they say you mess up your first dog (like messing up for the first child?). We only use positive obedience and love it so much we feel guilty over the other dogs we've had.
    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

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    1. It really does make a huge difference. :-) I know exactly how you feel though.

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  3. I'm sorry you had an aggravating time with Jack! Adolescent dogs, sigh! LOL! Are you taking Susan Garrett's recallers class? The critical core is free right now and I think it's 4 lessons for free.
    https://www.brilliantrecalls.com/freeguestpass/?utm_expid=87015966-1.BYXa4kcESmy0NuPX8OaPHg.0

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    1. Yup! We are taking her class, it just boils down to needing to put in more hours training.

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  4. We're doing the basic Recallers class too. It's frustrating when dogs don't listen especially when it could turn into a dangerous situation. Glad everyone is OK and he came back!

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    1. Thanks!! Good luck to you guys in class!!

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  5. Oh gosh, I have had those days too. It ruins my mood and ruins the walk for the remainder of the time we are out, and I feel bad for Bain since he notices my mood changes.

    He's a hunting breed and quite stubborn, but he's just so funny. Training is always fun.

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  6. I know that bolting move well. At least he stayed close enough that you could see him. Very smart to use "Touch" to get him back. I probably need to do that recall class!

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Barks & Howls are always welcome!!

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