Category Archives: Dog Tricks

The Right Way To Train!

The Training Meister – Mastering Fun and Increasing Your Team Knowledge & Skills Apprentice Course started on March 1st, 2016 and was shortly followed by the release of the first recorded webinar. Don’t let the name mislead you – Yes, Training Meister teaches lots of fun tricks but it also teaches you how to teach your dog any behaviour you would like them to know!  I’m going to go as far as saying that you will actually learn more on the Training Meister courses than on many dog trainer/instructor courses!

a remember to reinforce

The first webinar’s learning objectives were very detailed:  Learn what equipment is appropriate. Understand the difference between a command and a cue. Understand the “Hierarchy of Rewards” Learn how to choose an appropriate training area. Learn how to choose an appropriate reinforcer. Learn how to use start and release cues to communicate with your learner. Learn how to lure a behaviour and fade the lure for maximum success and minimal stress! Learn when and how to add a visual cue – hand signal. Learn when and how to add a verbal cue. Learn how to “mark” a behaviour with a secondary reinforcer/bridging stimulus that is a verbal marker. Understand how to correctly deliver reinforcement in position and why thoughtless delivery will undermine the reinforcement value. Master the mechanics of training: Handle food rewards safely and efficiently. Deliver food rewards from hand, treat bag, container or pocket; deliver food rewards in a stationary position to dog’s mouth. Clearly demonstrate ability to communicate the cue, mark the behaviour and reinforce the action. Operate a clicker in hand with a non-visual movement. Give a cue without excessive body language or unnecessary repetition. Understand the antecedent package, including direct and distant antecedents and how they will impact on the behaviour being taught. Know the difference between a reward and a reinforcer. Understand the “scientific” meaning of positive reinforcement.  

Training Meister – Increasing your team knowledge and skills

The feedback from all those who enrolled in the course has been fantastic with everyone saying how much fun they are having increasing their skills and expanding their knowledge of how to use rewards based, science based, force-free training, as well as practising all the new behaviours they have learned!

Once each live webinar is aired it is being released as a recording so that everyone can benefit from the knowledge being shared. Whether you are a pet professional or a pet dog guardian, Training Meister will help you enhance your knowledge and build your skills.  Training Meister could even be your path to a new career or give you a great return on your investment when you can offer a great trick training curriculum in your school or business!  You can register for the first webinar by clicking here.  There are several different registration levels so you have the choice of just registering for the recorded webinar or paying slightly more and registering to also have access to the supplementary course information and homework tasks!

According to Dr. Soraya V. Juarbe-Diaz, DVM, DACVB, CAAB, “Using punishment to stop behaviors is not new. Notice I say ‘stop’ rather than ‘teach’ — I can stop any behavior, but I am more interested in teaching my students, animal or human, to choose the behavior I want them to perform because they can trust me, because I do not hurt them and they are safe with me, and because the outcome is something they enjoy. Mistakes are inherent in any type of learning — if I continually frighten or hurt my students when they get something wrong, eventually they will be afraid to try anything new and will not want to learn from me any longer.”  This statement is included in The Pet Professional Guild Call for Change that was written by Niki Tudge and Angelica Steinker in 2012.  You can read the full educational message by clicking here.

Whether you are a pet dog guardian who would like to teach your buddy using kind, safe, effective, science based, rewards based methods that will increase the bond you share, but aren’t really sure where to start, or a trainer who would like to build on the knowledge and skills you already have, look no further –  become a Training Meister!

The Training Meister Programme is packed full of benefits for all who take part by either enrolling in the course or registering for the recorded webinars. Here are just a few of them:

  • Learn all the skills you need to teach a companion animal
  • Increase your understanding of the science behind the training.

  • Learn how to break behaviors down into achievable steps and set your learner up for success.

  • Increase the bond you share with your pet.

  • Increase your knowledge of force-free training.

  • Learn how to make all your training fun.

  • Learn how to incorporate your new found knowledge and skills into every moment you share with your pet or your students

  • Inspires creativity and leads to increased confidence for both pets, guardians and trainers!

Share this post with all your friends.

Let everyone know that there is another way –

The Training Meister Way!

Happy Learning!

Louise Stapleton-Frappell PCT-A

DogNostics Career College

For more information on force-free training and pet care,

or to find your nearest qualified force-free trainer or behaviourist,

please visit The Pet Professional Guild

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Learning the TrickMeister Way!

How important is it to teach your canine companion what you would like them to do?

Would you like to go for a walk?
Would you like to go for a walk?

I believe it is extremely important but what is even more essential is that you teach in a way that doesn’t cause any stress; that you teach in a way that is fun for both teacher and student; that you teach in such a way that each ‘lesson’ is easy to understand; that you teach in a way that not only encourages learning but enhances it and that you teach in a way that makes all learning feel like a game!

I also maintain that in order to successfully teach any companion animal, you need to understand animal learning theory – you need a good foundation of the knowledge and skills that underpin science based, rewards based, force-free training!

Whether you are looking to reduce unwanted behaviors or would love your pet to know some cool tricks, the learning process is the same. Whether you are looking for effective management strategies or want to know how to teach your buddy to walk on a loose leash, the philosophy behind all of your interactions with your pet should be the same: A philosophy based on your belief that we do not need to punish our companions in order for them to learn – a philosophy based on the latest scientific research!

I am not implying that you need to be a scientist in order to teach your pet and I’m not implying that you need to study all the latest literature.  I’m not even implying that you need to ‘master’ every single ‘positive’ training strategy that is available for you to use.  I do, however, believe that you should have a foundation of knowledge and skills.

Misinformation abounds about the ‘best’ ways to ‘train’ your dog.  The access to information has never been easier.  Unfortunately, much of the information available isn’t based in fact and worst still, a lot of it could prove extremely detrimental to your pet’s physical and mental well-being and the relationship you share with each other.  You only have to read some of the posts on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media to be inundated with ‘advice’ on how to deal with a specific problem or how to teach a specific behaviour.  Do a search on the internet and you will, without doubt, find the answer you are looking for or will you?  You may think that you have the answer but, if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of learning theory, how will you know that the answer is the right one?

There are many ways to teach a behaviour but not all of them are going to promote a healthy, happy bond for you and your buddy.  Not all of them are going to be in your pet’s best interest.  What appears to be a ‘quick fix’ may be anything but when the consequences of your ‘teaching’ methods resurge at a later date.

Sit?
Would you like to sit?

Let’s take a look at a behaviour that most people are going to teach their pet dog:  a sit.

‘Easy’ you say.  Yes, it’s not difficult to teach but how are you going to teach it?  Are you going to push your companion’s bum to the floor and command them to sit?  Are you going to push their bum to the floor, tell them to sit and then tell them good girl or good boy?  Are you going to pull up on their collar, tell them to sit and then  give them a treat?  Are you going to wait until you see them sitting and then say ‘Yay, good sit!’  Are you going to tell them to sit and then lure them into position with a piece of yummy food?  All of these methods will ‘work’ so which option would you choose?  My choice?  None of the above!  Some are much better methods than the others and I hope you can spot which ones I am referring to, but none of them would be the path I would take.

I would choose the path of modern, science based, rewards based, force-free training.  ‘Mmm’ I hear you say, ‘ a few of the above options  use rewards’.  Yes they do, but none of them are the most effective way to teach your companion how to sit!

So, I hear you ask: ‘How would you teach a sit?’  I would teach it carefully, I would teach it thoughtfully. I would teach it clearly.  I would teach it ‘precisely’.  I would teach it with all future learning in mind.  I would teach it in such a way as to promote accelerated learning.  I wouldn’t just use a ‘reward’, I would use a ‘reinforcer’.  I wouldn’t use a ‘command’ and I wouldn’t even, initially, use a cue!  I would teach it the TrickMeister way!  I would teach it as a trick!  “What?” I hear you say, “Why would you teach it as a trick?  My answer?  I teach all behaviours as tricks and I teach all tricks in a way that fulfills all the above mentioned criteria: Carefully, thoughfully, clearly, precisely…  and much more!

By teaching behaviours as ‘tricks’ I teach in a playful way and in a fun way but this doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to learn the mechanics; it doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to understand ‘learning theory’; it doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to know the difference between a ‘command’ and a ‘cue’ or the difference between a ‘reward’ and a ‘reinforcer’.  I had to work on my skill-set and I had to build on my knowledge.  I needed to learn how to ‘cleanly’ lure a behaviour.  I needed to learn about fading the lure.  I needed to learn about ‘marking’ a desired behaviour.  I needed to learn how to break my ‘lessons’ down into easily achievable steps.  I needed to learn about training in ‘sets’.  I needed to learn when I should add the cue…

I’ll let you into a secret – I’m still learning!  I love to learn and my dogs love to learn!  My students love to learn and their dogs love to learn!  Why?  Because learning is fun!  Learning is a game!  Every interaction we have is a chance to learn!   I will never stop learning!

If you are a pet dog owner who is interested in learning how to teach your pet or you are a trainer who would like to improve your skills and knowledge and perhaps introduce a ‘trick’ or even a new ‘manners’ programme to your training curriculum then please take a look at the TrickMeister programme.  The money you spend now will put you on the right path for all your future learning and could even increase your business’s future revenue.

For more information, please go to:  DogNostics eLearning.

 

Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG.
Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG.

Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. Hons. (Univ. of Leeds). Professional Canine Trainer – Accredited through The Pet Professional Accreditation Board. Certified Trick Dog Instructor. Fun Scent Games Instructor. Clicker Competency Assessment Program Level 3 Distinction. Force-Free Instructor’s Award and K9 First Aid Certification. Animal Behavior and Welfare Verified Certification. Super Trainer Clicker Trainer. Dog Emotion and Cognition Verified Certification. Performed as the Dog Trick Instructor at In The Doghouse DTC.

Louise is a passionate advocate of Force-Free Training, promoting a positive image of the “Bully” Breeds and advocating against Breed Specific Legislation in favor of breed neutral laws and education about dog bite safety and prevention. Proud “Mum” to Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog:  The first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to achieve the Title of Trick Dog Champion. Louise has her own YouTube Channel where she shares “How to Teach” videos and fun trick videos. Jambo has been aired on “Talent Hounds” TV in Canada. Jambo was also featured as a Victoria Stilwell “Positively Success Story”.

Louise blogs for The Pet Professional Guild and is a regular contributor to BARKS from the Guild magazine.  She is a Steering Committee Member of PPG; Steering Committee Member and the Membership Manager of the Pet Professional Guild British Isles; Co-presenter of PPG World Services radio; Faculty Member of DogNostics Career College; Steering Committee Member of Doggone Safe and Regional Coordinator of Doggone Safe in Spain. Louise is a passionate advocate of Force-Free Training. She believes that everyone should know how to teach their dog using science based, rewards based, force-free training methods and that all learning should be fun!  Louise is also the creator of TrickMeister, a  unique program aimed at increasing the knowledge and training skills of both dog guardians and pet professionals.

Training Thoughtfully

I have just returned to Spain after three days of ‘Training Thoughtfully’ with Kay Laurence, Alexandra Kurland and Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz.
Animal Behaviourist, pet dog trainer and blogger extraordinaire, Mary Hunter asked me what the best part of the seminar was.  Now that is a difficult question as there were so many highlights!
First of all I would have to comment on the ‘cruise’ style of presenting. Although there was an ‘agenda’, the three days felt more like a conversation between friends than a seminar.  That doesn’t mean to say that learning didn’t take place, as every piece of information was either absorbed or written down to be pondered at a later date!
I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which the material was presented.  Everything was explained with a story and wow, Kay, Alex and Jesús sure have a lot of interesting stories! Scientific topics are frequently presented in a dull and often difficult to understand format but every story increased the understanding of every topic. All conversations continued into break time. There were small pockets of people either working on balance with Alexandra, talking about cues and reinforcement with Kay or happily chatting about behavioural analysis with Jesús.  There was a great selection of attendees, some from the dog world and many from the horse world. I myself travelled back from Spain and others had travelled from as far afield as Israel, Germany, Portugal…
We played lots of PORTL, which I’m sure had a great impact on everybody there. It was fascinating to learn a little about the character of our learner just through watching how they responded to the game.  Much time was spent on planning each behaviour taught and many breaks taken to revise the criteria in order to set our learners up for success.
Many of you will know that I think all training should be fun but science based.  I teach all behaviours as ‘tricks’ as I believe that, in doing so, we set both trainer and learner up for success.  Whether teaching a ‘stay’, a ‘recall’, a ‘spin’ or a fun routine, teaching behaviours as ‘tricks’ sets the theme – learning should be playful!  I therefore loved the fact that much emphasis was placed on play.   RAGE, FEAR, GRIEF/PANIC (punishing) and SEEKING, LUST, CARE and PLAY (rewarding/reinforcing) – Jaak Panksepp’s primary-process affective emotional systems of the brain were referred to several times with emphasis on play being essential for healthy brain development and for learning – when playful one can find solutions that are not available when afraid!
In the TrickMeister – Mastering fun and increasing your team knowledge and skills Course curriculum I not only place an emphasis on play but also on making sure that we break each behaviour down into easily achievable criteria to set our learner up for success and achieve minimal or ‘micro’ error learning.  Kay Laurence calls this ‘micro-slicing’ and I myself, use Kay’s terminology and practice of micro-shaping behaviours.  I also love to teach learners a wide repertoire of behaviours, all successfully learnt without incurring lots of errors.  Jesús‘s talk on extinction and resurgence highlighted how important this is.
Micro-shaping behaviours means that only micro-extinction occurs as we build in each new approximation to the final behaviour.  Micro-errors do not destroy confidence.  Our learners need ‘puzzle moments’ (Kay Laurence) and the ability to explore their options.  These ‘micro-errors’ are actually just information.  Teaching with too large an increase in criteria leads to an extinction process that can be stressful, frustrating and punitive for the learner – “The failure of response to get reinforced leads not only to operant extinction but also to a reaction commonly spoken of as frustration or rage” Jesús Rosales-Ruiz.  We also need to bare in mind that when resurgence occurs we fall back on previously learnt behaviours.  We should always strive to build from a clear base position. This foundation behaviour will be the behaviour our learner returns to when unsure of how to proceed.  If our base behaviours are taught without errors, well practised, building confidence and trust in the learning process, we really are setting our learners up for success!    The more fun-filled, ‘thoughtfully’ taught, positively reinforced behaviours our learners know, the less space there will be for our learners to fall back on behaviours we would rather not see!
I have previously spoken out about training behaviours just because they might look good (impressive) to the spectator.  I, for example,  was once questioned as to why I haven’t taught Jambo to do a free-standing handstand.  My answer was that it isn’t a suitable ‘trick’ for him.  Yes, I teach some behaviours just for fun but I will always endeavour to never teach anything that could be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of my learner.  I have also been criticised for advising people not to do anything that would place undue stress on a learner’s joints (for example ‘jumping tricks’).  Alexandra pointed out that the training methods we choose evolve from our underlying beliefs and principles.  Kay added to this by saying:  “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.  We are using very powerful training technology and just because we are using positive reinforcement – “It isn’t okay”.

I will end with a quotation from each presenter.

Alexandra Kurland:  “For every step you include in your training, there is always a smaller step you can break the behaviour down into.  Don’t get louder.  Get quieter – Take smaller steps!”

Kay Laurence quoting Chris Bond:  “It’s not about training impressive behaviours, it’s about impressive training of behaviours.”

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz:  “Build the behaviour with what you want, so when you use extinction, or it occurs, you fall back on wanted behaviours.

The seminar description said: ‘A boost to the deepest Winter dreariness. Presentations to inspire, explain, explore and discover PORTL Activities to deepen understanding, reflect and absorb.’  It certainly didn’t dissappoint!  A big thank you to Kay , Alex, and Jésus – It was a privilege to be part of this amazingly informative yet fun-filled ‘land cruise’

profile pic in black and white
Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG.

Just An Ordinary Dog!

Jambo is a Trick Dog Champion. In fact he was the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be awarded the Title. Jambo is an adorable, loving pet dog. Jambo is not an exceptional dog. He isn’t particularly athletic. He isn’t unusually intelligent. He is a dog who has been set up for success because of the way he has been taught. Jambo is not trained for hours every day. In fact, Jambo’s “training” sessions are always very short. If you asked Jambo, I am sure he would say that he doesn’t do any “training”. So what is the key to Jambo’s success?

Jambo has been taught using modern, rewards based, science based, force-free training. He has lots of fun learning new tricks (playing enjoyable games), learning new skills (playing enjoyable games) and practising old skills (playing enjoyable games). Everything he is taught is broken down into easy to understand lessons and is reinforced with things he loves. He is “paid” for having fun! When actions bring enjoyable consequences, those actions get stronger and are more likely to be repeated in future.

Food is at the top of Jambo’s list of reinforcers and obviously used in all of his training but Jambo’s “top gun” reinforcer is actually a ball. Unfortunately for me it happens to be rather large: a ten-inch boomer ball!   I actually have photos that show the boomer ball “hidden”, out of sight, down the back of my top! If only we humans could choose the reinforcer – I’d definitely be choosing a tug toy or a tennis ball, something that I could pop into my pocket. Unfortunately, the choice isn’t mine. Jambo does not show much interest in tennis balls. He’ll fetch one a few times.   Unless, of course, I am using the boomer ball as a reinforcer!  If fetching a tennis ball meant access to his highest value reinforcer then he would fetch that tennis ball all day if he could!

Jambo playing with his boomer ball.
Jambo playing with his boomer ball.

Thank goodness for food! We all need to eat and Jambo is no exception! Many people, however, seem to have a problem with the concept of using food in training. I really don’t understand their objections. Food is such a great resource, why wouldn’t we make use of it? It is definitely a lot easier for me to fill my pockets with tiny pieces of hotdog than to walk around with a ten-inch boomer ball stuffed down my top! The majority of Jambo’s “tricks” are taught using food. I can cut it up into tiny pieces; it’s easy to deliver; it’s quick; it’s safe; it enables me to do lots of repetitions… In short, it’s the perfect resource!

After leaving university I took my first teaching post in a school in Cartagena, Spain. I was given many textbooks that I was told I needed to work through with my students. I found the classes quite tedious. The textbooks were, for lack of a better word, boring. They were dull and uninspiring.   There were a lot of books. There were a lot of mundane exercises to complete and a limited amount of time to complete them in. If a student didn’t understand a certain concept they could often get left behind as the timetable meant there was little time to digress, to explain in more detail or to go back a step.  If I, the teacher, was finding it difficult, how must my students have been feeling?

When, a couple of years later, I started working as a private tutor, I realised that I didn’t want to teach in this way. I wanted to teach in a way that I would like to be taught. I wanted the lessons to be fun. I wanted the learner to understand each step and marvel in their success rather than feel miserable in their failure. I didn’t want my students to feel frustrated because they found the lessons too difficult. I did, however, continue to make use of those old textbooks.  If you look closely you may spot them in one of my videos – they make great props: a single textbook is a small platform but stack a few together and I can create more height, which is very useful for teaching hind leg lifts!

Whenever I have something new I would like Jambo, or any other dog (or human) to learn, I always think about one thing: How can I break this behavior down into easily understandable pieces?   Why is this so important? Because if I break the behavior down, I am setting my learner up for success instead of failure! Each new piece of information or new behavior that is successfully learnt, not only builds on the previous knowledge set, it also increases the confidence of the learner. How much better do we feel when we successfully complete a task than when we struggle on and on and yet are still unable to grasp how to do it or to understand the knowledge being shared with us?

I previously stated: “When actions bring enjoyable consequences, those actions get stronger and are more likely to be repeated in future”.  This statement applies to all learners.  So what is the key to Jambo’s success?   A loving relationship, lots of fun, clear communication and motivation through appropriate reinforcement – Jambo is motivated to learn and that very learning creates a cycle of more learning!

Watch a 25 second speedy video of Jambo in action!

Rewards based training leads to enthusiastic, fun-filled, accelerated learning!

You can find Jambo on Facebook at www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion.

Positive Reinforcement Training And A “Strong” Dog!

You have a “strong” dog so you must need to use lots of force to control them, right?   Wrong!

Using positive reinforcement is not only based in science, it is also a fast, effective and fun way of teaching your dog new behaviours.  It establishes a pattern of learning and trust allowing you to bond more deeply with your dog.  You can increase desired behaviours and decrease unwanted ones.  Positive reinforcement training uses rewards not force!

Many behavioural problems can be solved by channelling your dog’s energy into something constructive.  Is your dog constantly getting himself into trouble?.... “Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog Champion” is very mischievous and has bundles of energy, but working with him to learn new “tricks” helps to use up some of this energy while, at the same time, creating new positive behaviours!  (I put the word “tricks” in inverted commas as even behaviours like “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “come”, “leave it” etc. are taught as “tricks”.)

As most of you probably know, Jambo is the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to achieve the Title of Trick Dog Champion.   He achieved this title at just 16 months old!   I think you could say that Jambo is a typical “Bully” – he has a lot of energy!  He was a very “nippy” puppy and he was also the ultimate thief – his favourite game was “snatch, grab, run and destroy”!   How did we go from this to him being a Trick Dog Champion?  The answer is simple – I use rewards!

All dogs (in fact all animals) learn in the same way. They repeat behaviours they find rewarding and they avoid doing things that they find unpleasant.  You can therefore train with rewards or punishment.  You can reward them for walking on a loose leash (reinforce the behaviour you like and want to see more of) or you can punish them with a choke, prong or e-collar.   If you choose the punishment route, it will work, but at what cost to your dog’s physical and mental well-being and at what cost to your relationship?   Why train with force, pain and fear when you can train with rewards?

Positive Reinforcement Training Uses Rewards Not Force!

Some people mistakenly believe that “Strong” dogs need a “strong” hand.  There is lots of talk about being your dog’s “pack leader”; about not letting them “dominate” you; that you need to have the physical strength to be able to handle one of these dogs; that you need to “keep them in their place” and “show them who is boss”,  that you have to be a certain sort of person to “own” one of these dogs!   I’ve got to admit that when I read a lot of the “training” advice written about “strong” breeds it makes me despair.

I’ve had the pleasure of being “guardian”/”Mum” to a Dobermann, two Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a German Shepherd Dog.   I was brought up with German Shepherds, Border Collies and Chow Chows.   Apart from the Border Collies, I think all of these breeds are what people would call “strong” dogs.  My dogs have always been loved and cherished as an integral part of my family.   Of course we have certain “rules”, but I don’t use fear, force or intimidation to implement them.   It’s quite simple really:  I use rewards and reinforce the behaviour I want to see more of!

a Sam and Bess collage 2

Any animal can be taught using Positive Reinforcement so there really is NO excuse for using force!   Take the time to teach your dog what you want them to do and reward them for doing it!  It doesn’t matter what breed of dog it is.  Remember all animals can be taught in the same way, so why use force when you can use rewards?   No excuses and no exceptions.  If you don’t have the time then maybe you shouldn’t have a dog…

a j and t o steps

Aggressive training can actually lead to aggressive behaviour.  If you have a “strong” dog you are under a greater obligation than ever to train them properly and make sure that they are well mannered members of society.  Don’t make your dog fearful/aggressive by “training” with fear, force and intimidation!

“Trick” Is A Very Powerful Word!

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So, why do I like doing “Dog Tricks” with Tessa and Jambo and why do I think everyone should do them with their dogs?

  • Reason no.1:  Doing Dog Tricks is my way of “training” Jambo and Tessa!  It’s simple really, I like “training” to be fun and doing Dog Tricks is definitely a lot of fun!
  • Reason no. 2:  Doing Dog Tricks uses up some of Jambo’s boundless energy.  Jambo is a “full-on” dog with lots of energy.  If left to his own devices some of this energy would be used up doing things I’d rather he didn’t do.  In Jambo’s case this would most likely be in the form of stealing things and then chewing them into pieces!  Teaching him “tricks” like “drop” and “fetch” has saved many an item from this fate!
  • Reason no.3:  Doing Dog Tricks is such a fun way of teaching new behaviours!  By naming behaviours “tricks” I think less “stress” is put on the dog or person and the whole “training” scenario is seen in a different light.  It’s almost like we’re learning in the playground rather than in the classroom.   It’s a very “informal” way of teaching and I definitely think you learn better if you are having fun and come to your “lessons” with enthusiasm rather than trepidation.
  • Reason no.4:  Doing Dog Tricks deepens the bond I share with Jambo and Tessa.  We definitely spend a lot of quality time interacting with each other, sometimes all together and sometimes one on one.  As the tricks get more complicated you learn to work together in order to work them out.  My input is just as important as theirs and any behaviour learnt is a result not only of my teaching but of their enthusiastic response to it.  The “tricks” we do are a result of the bond we share, the “work” we do together, the reinforcement they receive and our mutual respect and cooperation.
  • Reason no.5:  Doing Dog Tricks actually means that I improve my own skills.  Most people can teach their dogs to sit or lie down but as the “tricks” become more difficult you find your skills as a teacher improving.  You have to get your timing right (“mark” the exact behaviour you want); you have to give clear instructions (“cues” need to be precise and very clear so as to communicate the behaviour you want); you learn the “power” of different reinforcers – how to reward your dog appropriately and thus reinforce the behaviour you are teaching, making it more likely to be repeated… Food is the first choice when teaching a new behaviour as you can quickly and easily deliver the reward without interrupting the flow of learning but you also need to think about the “value” of different types of food as well as how you deliver it – Straight to the mouth; by placing on the floor; from a bait bag; from a “reward station”; by throwing it infront of them, behind them… How you deliver the reinforcement can have a big effect not only on the energy of the behaviour (whether they carry it out slowly, quickly etc.) but also on how precise that behaviour is; you also learn to use other rewards like tug, a ball, a frisbee, praise, play, touch… environmental rewards eg. your dog sits politely and gets to greet someone or your dog comes back to you and you let them go play again; you have to motivate and teach with enthusiasm – If you aren’t enthusiastic about your lesson why should your dog be?; you learn about the importance of the 3 D’s  (distance, duration and distraction), all of which have an impact on what you are teaching; you learn to use different “markers” for example a clicker, a marker word (mine is “yes”), a tongue click, a clap of the hands… even the next “cue” can be used to “mark” the previous behaviour!  You also learn how to “read” your dog. You learn more about their body language and what they are “saying” to you (whether they are tired, feeling stressed, want to carry on, enjoying the learning process etc.); you learn when to increase “criteria” (make it more difficult) and when you need to “regress” (go back a step)…

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I also think that anyone who has a “powerful” dog has an obligation to make sure that they and their dog are the best ambassadors possible for their breed.  This is especially important when we are talking about breeds that are stereotyped in such a way that almost everyone has a preconceived (and mostly negative) view of what these dogs are like and how they behave.  How could I possibly ask people not to buy into that stereotype if, for example, as we walked down the street I were struggling to hold on to Tessa  and Jambo, yelling at them to stop pulling or to leave something or perhaps yanking on a prong collar?  Doing Dog Tricks isn’t just about waves, bows and kisses.  Doing tricks and using reward based training means, not only that both Tessa and Jambo listen to me, but also that lots of basic behaviours have been so reinforced that when I ask them to do something for me they do it.

Here are a few “Novice” Tricks:  Fetch.  Drop it.  Leave it. Target work.  Come.  Down.  Sit.  Stay.  Walk on a loose leash.  Do they look familiar?  We call them “tricks” but, as you can see, they are basic “obedience” behaviours!  I think if everybody were to teach these behaviours  as “tricks” we’d see a lot less people shouting at their dogs for being “disobedient”or for not “obeying” a “command”.  Just changing the words “obedience behaviour” to “trick” and the word “command” to “cue” changes the way people think about their dogs – they suddenly start teaching them rather than berating them!  They reward them for getting it right rather than punish them for getting it wrong.

Wow, the word “trick” is actually a very powerful word!  It literally changes peoples’ attitudes to “training” their dog and, because they have such fun doing them, they are much more likely to continue with their dog’s “education”!

Jambo – Mischievous Puppy to Trick Dog Champion!

How did we achieve this?

The answer is simple – with Positive Reinforcement Training!
No force, no fear, no intimidation, no manipulation, no compulsion…..

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Using positive reinforcement is not only based in science, it is also a fast, effective and fun way of teaching your dog new behaviours.

It establishes a pattern of learning and trust allowing you to bond more deeply with your dog. You can increase desired behaviours and decrease unwanted ones.  Positive reinforcement training uses rewards not force.
Many behavioural problems can be solved by channelling your dog’s energy into something constructive. You can convert your dog’s energy and drive into productive behaviours.  Is your dog constantly getting himself into trouble?…. “Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog Champion” is very mischievous and has bundles of energy, but working with him to learn new tricks helps to use up some of this energy while, at the same time, creating new positive behaviours!

 

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Jambo is one of the “infamous” Bully breeds.  He’s also the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a Trick Dog Champion! So maybe “famous” would be a more fitting description than “infamous”!

He achieved this title at just 16 months old and we did this using positive reinforcement training!  I think you could say that Jambo is a typical “Bully” – he has a lot of energy!  He was a very “nippy” puppy – we nicknamed him “crocodile” as he would come at you “snap, snap, snap”!  He was also the ultimate thief and very destructive!  How did we go from this to him being a Trick Dog Champion?

The answer is simple – We used rewards!

All dogs (in fact all animals) learn in the same way – They repeat behaviours they find rewarding and they avoid doing things that they find aversive. You can therefore train with rewards or with punishment. You can reward them for walking on a loose leash or you can punish them with a choke, prong or e-collar.   If you choose the punishment route it will work, but at what cost to your dog’s physical and mental well-being and at what cost to your relationship?
Why train with fear when you can train with rewards?
Force-free Training shouldn’t just be an option it should be an obligation!

Jambo – The Story So Far.

Jambo’s Story so far:  Dog Tricks, Positive Reinforcement Training and how B.S.L. impacts on his life.

 

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Jambo is our second Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Our first beautiful    Staffy was called Samson – he was the most loveable boy ever, calm, good natured, playful… He died at the age of 11. He was able to spend his life in freedom without the restrictions of BSL.  His best friend was our Dobie/German Shepherd, Bess, who was a couple of years older than him.  We would go for long walks in the countryside and on the beach where they were able to run around and have fun and freedom.
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A couple of years after Bess passed away we added Tessa, our beautiful German Shepherd to our family. She and Sam became best buddies but she only had his company for a couple of years as he was already 9 when Tessa joined us. Tessa was nearly 5 years old when Jambo came into our lives.  We knew we would like another Staffordshire Bull Terrier but we could never have guessed the impact this little puppy was to have on our lives!
Jambo was born in May of 2012. His pedigree name is “Warrior For Life” but I wanted a name that would reflect his personality and not be too “hard”.  I also wanted to name him after our first Staffy boy, Sam.  Jam rhymes with Sam and Jambo is the Swahili (think “warrior”) word for “hello” – Jambo just loves to say hello to everyone he meets.
Jambo proved to be extremely loving, very mischievous, inquisitive, energetic and quite a handful!  I started teaching him the basics straight away but as he got a little bit older I also wanted to do something fun to use up some of his boundless energy.  Hence began our journey into doing Dog Tricks, which we were introduced at a Trick Dog Seminar given by Nando Brown.  Breed Specific Legislation was also now in force in Spain (it entered in vigour in 1999) and I wanted Jambo to be an absolute example of how amazing the “Bullies” are.  I think that if you have a breed affected by legislation in this way then you should do your utmost to show everyone how wrong it is.  We were out to smash the stereotype!
Jambo got his first Dog Trick Title at just 7 months old and by 14 months old already had 7 Trick Dog Titles including “Expert”.  We also worked on general obedience and agility… We train everything using Positive Reinforcement and love to point out to people that it is a total myth that you need to have a “stronger” hand with this “type” of dog!  I am not Jambo’s leader and I don’t command him to do anything. We work together as a team and he gets rewarded with food and play and cuddles and fun.  I firmly believe that we would never have achieved what we have if I had tried to train him in any other way.  The main thing Jambo and I do is enjoy ourselves!
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At only 16 months old Jambo achieved what no Staffordshire Bull Terrier had done before – he became a Trick Dog Champion!  We immediately launched his Facebook page, Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog, to celebrate his Trick Dog Champion Title and to promote doing Dog Tricks and Positive Reinforcement Training.  We hoped to inspire others to do more with their dogs.  We also wanted to do our best to help break the stereotype of the “Bullies” and show the injustice of B.S.L.!
In 2013 he was featured as Dog Of The Week for Your Pit Bull & You.                                                                               Picture
 
He has won rosettes and trophies for Obedience, Agility, Tricks, Best Dog, Best of Breed.  He loves people and loves playing with other dogs.  His photos and videos have been shared by DDA Watch UK who work tirelessly to help dogs and families affected by B.S.L., as well as by many other groups fighting against breed stereotypes and Breed Specific Legislation.  Picture
 
At the end of the year he was honoured to be named as “Dog Of The Year 2013” by In The Doghouse DTC in recognition of all we had achieved and for his work as a Bully Breed Ambassador. Picture 
 
His name has become synonymous with Force-free Training and helping to break the “Bully” breed stereotype.
He is one of the dogs being featured in StubbyDog Project’s spay/neuter campaign and his photo will be on posters and flyers distributed in vets’ offices across the U.S.A.
His story has been shared across the Web and some of his trick videos have recently been airing on “Talent Hounds” a T.V. show on The Pet Network in Canada.
Despite all of Jambo’s accomplishments, his training and his good character he is classified by the authorities as a “Potentially Dangerous Dog”!   Jambo was born into B.S.L. and although there is no outright ban on his breed in Spain, B.S.L. affects everything we can and cannot do.  Jambo had to be registered as a Potentially Dangerous Dog.  He has to be kept on leash (1m) and muzzled when in public. We have to get an annual veterinary health report stating the inexistence of illnesses that could make him “especially dangerous”.  He has a microchip – the number of which is registered as that of a potentially dangerous dog.  He has to be enclosed by walls of at least 2m high (or kept on a chain – which we would never do as life on a chain is no life at all) and put in a secure location should visitors come to our home.  He has to be registered with the local town hall.  He cannot go near any area designated for children (play ground, park, school).  I have to have a Potentially Dangerous Dog handler’s licence; a psychiatric report; no criminal record; a physical report stating I am able to “handle” him; public liability insurance for at least 175.000 euros. I cannot walk or transport more than one “dangerous dog” at a time…. Fines for infractions are up to 115.000 euros and the authorities have the right to seize and destroy if they see fit!  The following breeds come under BSL here in Spain:  American Pit Bull Terrier; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; American Staffordshire Terrier; Rottweiler; Dogo Argentino; Fila Brasileiro; Tosa Inu; Akita Inu.  Different states/regions also include other breeds eg. some areas include the Doberman, others all Mastiff types and others the German Shepherd Dog.  Legislation also includes any crosses of the above breeds and any dogs with the “right measurements” – width of chest, head, mouth; length of leg; weight; short hair….a bsl muzzle blue
There’s to be no running free in the countryside or on the beach for Jambo…. 
By sharing Jambo’s photos and videos we hope to show everyone how awesome the “Bullies” are; To show how Positive Reinforcement Training is the ONLY way to train; To show that you don’t need to be a “Pack Leader” or bully your dog just because he happens to be a “Bully”;  To show the fun you can have doing Dog Tricks and finally, to spread the word about the injustice of Breed Specific Legislation.  Whatever breed is targeted, B.S.L. is, at its best, “racism” and at its worst genocide…..