Category Archives: Positive Reinforcement Training

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

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.

In Defence of All Muzzled Dogs!

And why everyone should “muzzle train” their dog!

I was in two minds as to whether to write this article but I thought it important to do so for the sake of many people and their dogs.

Jambo, my beautiful Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and I recently took part in an event to help raise money for our local dog rescue, 4 Paws Adoptions. Jambo had his very own kissing booth and was able to help out some of his less fortunate canine friends by selling kisses! When photos of Jambo in his kissing booth were posted on Facebook there were an awful lot of negative comments. Why? Because Jambo was wearing a muzzle! Many people stated that they thought it was cruel to muzzle him, some said that we were giving the breed a bad reputation and many more said that they would never put a muzzle on their dog! I understand that muzzles can sometimes look a little bit scary but I was amazed at people’s reaction and that is why I thought I should write this article. In defence of all muzzled dogs and their owners/guardians!

Jambo's Kissing Booth:  A muzzle didn't stop Jambo from sharing his kisses and raising money for our local dog shelter, 4 Paws Adoptions!
Jambo’s Kissing Booth: A muzzle didn’t stop Jambo from sharing his kisses and raising money for our local dog shelter, 4 Paws Adoptions!

There are diverse reasons for using a muzzle and I think that every pet owner should teach their dog to feel comfortable and relaxed while wearing one, so that, if the time comes when a muzzle is required, extra stress isn’t placed on their beloved companion!

Many veterinarians and groomers will muzzle your dog. Sometimes when you visit the vet’s your dog will be taken into the back for treatment. If your dog shows any signs that they may bite, they will be muzzled. If your dog is not used to wearing a muzzle then this is going to increase their fear and anxiety and could mean an escalation of their nerves the next time you visit the vet’s! Some of you will be thinking that your vet doesn’t require you to muzzle your dog but I assure you, if your pet is unfortunately in a lot of pain or injured then a muzzle will and should be used to protect those that are caring for him. In this situation a dog’s reflex reaction can be to bite! You yourself should also muzzle any dog that is injured before you attempt to give first-aid. A dog bite will still be reported to the relevant authorities whatever the circumstances and the last thing you would want to do is add to an already worrying situation.

A muzzle can be an indispensable tool when working with an aggressive dog. The muzzle allows you to work on a programme of behaviour modification using force-free methods to help overcome the dog’s reactivity. A muzzle allows the trainer to work in the vicinity of other people and dogs, keeping everyone safe.

I would go as far as saying that if your dog acts aggressively towards other dogs or people, they should be wearing a muzzle when in public. The muzzle will not only protect other dogs and people it could also protect you and your dog! If your dog bites someone, you could be fined a substantial amount of money and your dog could be seized and even euthanised! The muzzle shouldn’t, however, be used as a substitute for working on your dog’s issues as this could lead to an escalation of their reactivity. If your dog is overly reactive you should not take him/her to places frequented by lots of people and dogs. You should work with a certified force-free trainer who will use positive reinforcement, desensitisation and counter-conditioning, in a behaviour modification programme.

Breed Specific Legislation in some countries requires that certain breeds of dog must be muzzled and on leash when in public. This is the reason why Jambo has to wear a muzzle. Although I vehemently disagree with legislation that targets specific breeds, failure to abide by the law could result in a hefty fine and even the seizure of your beloved pet! You may be lucky and not have this type of discriminatory legislation where you live but what would happen if you were to travel somewhere that dictated muzzle wearing as mandatory? How much happier would you be if you knew your dog was happy to wear a muzzle? Some countries also require muzzles for all dogs over a certain weight. Local legislation where we live now requires all dogs that weigh over 20 kilos to be muzzled and on leash when in public. This is the reason why Tessa, my beautiful German Shepherd must now be muzzled when we go out. I advocate against Breed Specific Legislation, which “condemns” a dog because of the way it looks without taking into account the way it behaves. I do, however, acknowledge that having these restrictions placed on us is much better than an outright ban (which some breeds face in some countries).

"The Canine Crusaders", Cobalt and Sapphire, campaign against BSL in the UK.  They have to be muzzled when in public but that doesn't stop them looking amazing!  Their muzzles are often bedecked with jewels!
“The Canine Crusaders”, Cobalt and Sapphire, campaign against BSL in the UK. They have to be muzzled when in public but that doesn’t stop them looking amazing! Their muzzles are often bedecked with jewels!

Muzzles can be an invaluable tool to use while introducing your dog to another dog, a cat or any other animal that is to become a member of your family. The muzzle can give you peace of mind while you employ a programme of desensitisation.

A muzzle may be used to discourage a dog from picking up, chewing, eating and ingesting foreign objects. Supervision, management and positive reinforcement training should also be used.

There are a few different types of muzzle but the main ones are basket muzzles and mesh/nylon muzzles. For most situations, I recommend a basket muzzle. Although a dog wearing this kind of muzzle can look a little scary to people who aren’t used to seeing them, it allows the dog to pant (and therefore regulate their body temperature) and to drink. It’s also easy to feed your dog through the slots in the muzzle, which is an absolute must for carrying out your positive reinforcement training! Mesh/nylon muzzles do have their advantages too as they are ideal for quick use, for example a visit to the vet’s and can be easily folded and put in your pocket/bag. I wouldn’t, however, recommend them for longer periods of time as it is more difficult for the dog to pant and keep cool. “Softie” muzzles can be an ideal option as they offer a comfortable fit that also allows the dog to pant but I wouldn’t advise them if the purpose for wearing the muzzle is a dog’s aggression. Please avoid using Gentle Leaders, Haltis or other head halters as substitutes for a muzzle. They may partially close a dog’s mouth, but will not prevent bites!
Tessa and Jambo both have basket muzzles and nylon and mesh muzzles.

Please measure your dog carefully before purchasing their muzzle as it is important that it fit correctly! There are even sizes that are especially suited to shorted nosed dogs!
The soft muzzle Jambo wore in his kissing booth is cut in such a way as to be especially suitable for the shape of his face. It has a narrower band than the typical soft nylon muzzle and is also a looser fit, allowing him to open his mouth sufficiently to pant, drink, eat and of course kiss, while not allowing full opening or the ability to bite. It is also slightly padded to make it more comfortable. I chose this muzzle for the day as normally, if Jambo were to be wearing his muzzle for such a long period of time, I would use his basket muzzle (the blue Baskerville Ultra he is wearing in the photo below) however, I didn’t think people would appreciate a hard piece of plastic bashing in their faces!

Please "Muzzle Train" Your Dog so that they feel relaxed when wearing their muzzle.
Please “Muzzle Train” Your Dog so that they feel relaxed when wearing their muzzle.

Whatever the reason for the muzzle, whether it be dictated by law, to enable you to work on your dog’s reactivity issues or for that “just in case” future event when a muzzle might be required, it is absolutely ESSENTIAL to make sure your dog is happy wearing it! Here is a video that I made which shows you in simple, easy to follow steps, how to “muzzle train” your dog:

You want your dog to view the muzzle as something positive! If you follow the techniques I use in the video your dog will learn to love their muzzle!
Please remember: Don’t just use the muzzle for visits to the vet’s! Put the muzzle on your dog and do something they love! If they only ever wear the muzzle when “bad things” are going to happen, then they will quickly build a negative association with it!

Please do not put a muzzle on your aggressive dog and let him loose in the dog park! (Contact a qualified force-free trainer and work on his issues in a stress free environment.)
Please do not muzzle your dog because he is chewing your furniture! (Keep him away from temptation and provide him with lots of chew toys.)
Please do not muzzle your dog because he is reactive towards strangers/children/other dogs and they have come to visit! (Put your dog in a different room and contact a certified force-free trainer to work on his issues.)
Please do not muzzle your dog because he suffers from separation anxiety and can be destructive while you are out! (Contact a qualified force-free trainer to work on his issues).
Please do not muzzle your dog because he raids the rubbish bin while you are at work! (Move the rubbish bin!)
Please do not muzzle your dog and think you can safely leave him unattended!

When muzzles are used for the right reasons they can be a positive tool but they are not a replacement for training your dog!

Watch Jambo enjoying a “smooch”!

Please make sure to check out Sapphire and Cobalt’s Facebook page!: The Canine Crusaders – Cobalt and Sapphire.

You can visit Jambo’s Facebook page here: Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog.

Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you don’t miss any of our videos! http://www.youtube.com/dogtricksonline.

The next time you see a dog in a muzzle please realise that they probably have a very responsible owner who is doing their upmost to keep their companion and others safe. When more people begin to use muzzles in routine training, for travelling and even as an opportunity to do something fun with their dog, then their appearance will become less startling and hopefully, the stigma of the “aggressive” dog will disappear!

Remember to have fun with your training – Lots of positive reinforcement (rewards) and no force, fear, pain or intimidation!

To find a certified force-free trainer:

The Pet Professional Guild.
https://www.academyfordogtrainers.com/aboutgrads/Academy_Graduate_Referral_List.pdf
Victoria Stilwell Dog Trainers.

Karen Pryor Academy.

The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers.

Jambo says hello!
Jambo says hello!

Jambo Recommends Fit For A Pit – Great Stuff For Your Dogs!

Jambo’s Hierarchy Of Rewards!

a remember to reinforce

Whether teaching Jambo new behaviours or reinforcing ones he already knows, we implement a “hierarchy of rewards”.

There are “lower level” reinforcers that are fine at home without any distractions or when reinforcing a behaviour that he finds very easy to do and there are those reinforcers that are at the “top of the tree”, the real “big guns” that we use to reinforce something very difficult.

Small pieces of food are the main reinforcer/reward we use as I can deliver it to his mouth quickly and therefore maintain a high rate of reinforcement but we also use certain “non-food” items, which include everything from balls to tug toys, access to things he wants and even people!

Jambo’s “hierarchy of rewards” isn’t static.  What he finds rewarding one day might be of little interest to him the next.  If he were reasonably hungry and in a non distracting environment he would probably find kibble/dry dog food reinforcing for a behaviour.  If, however, we were to try and do that same behaviour in a more distracting environment, at a greater distance or perhaps when he had just eaten, then the kibble would be of very little, if any, value.  If Jambo was in a playful mood then his tug toy would have a much higher value than if he was ready for bed!

air dried beef heartham and cheeseBig-Als-MeatballsIF

The main thing to remember is that just because because you think something is a “reward”, it doesn’t mean that your dog does!  Some dogs will do just about anything if you throw a tennis ball for them to chase, while others would much rather that you go and get it yourself!

How enthusiastically would you work if your boss said that he wasn’t going to pay you anything and that, in future, you would just receive a pat on the back?   Perhaps, worse still, that, as his subordinate, you would just have to do as you were told?   You might still do the work (especially if you thought you might be punished for not doing it)  but would you be happy and would you work with enthusiasm?  Jambo loves to share a “cuddle” with me but that doesn’t mean he would want to “work” for them!  A cuddle from “Nando” though, who he doesn’t see very frequently…

The things that Jambo places at the top of his hierarchy will not be the same for your dog!   His “big sister”, Tessa has no inclination whatsoever to play with a “boomer ball” and it would therefore not even make it onto her “hierarchy of rewards”.   For her, kibble (dried dog food) would hold much greater value!  One of Tessa’s biggest value reinforcers is going out for a ride in the car!  Our last Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s highest value reinforcer/reward was his “tugga” but, as you can see from the following table, it’s actually of quite low value to Jambo.  The table does not include all of the food items that we use as reinforcers as there are so many, but I have attempted to include the main ones.

I think you will all be surprised at what is at the top of Jambo’s hierarchy! 

a hierarchy

Jambo’s highest value reinforcer:  “The Nando Boomer” by Jambo® coming to your high street soon!

Jambo’s Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion.

Jambo and Tessa’s YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/dogtricksonline.

Post published with the permission of Nando Brown:  https://www.facebook.com/InTheDoghousedtc  https://www.facebook.com/Incredimal  https://www.youtube.com/user/InTheDoghouseDTC

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!

The Proof Is In The Pudding!

a profile pic of jambo on skateboard

This is a copy of a recent article that I wrote forThe Pet Professional Guild: “Actions Speak Louder Than Words!”  (pages 38 and 39)  You can read the full magazine here:  BARKS from the Guild Magazine Summer2014

Running Jambo’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion has brought me into contact with a lot of people and pages that are passionate about the “Bully” breeds and want to see an end to Breed Specific Legislation.  All these people and pages have one thing in common: They believe that the “Bullies” are unfairly discriminated against not only by legislation but also by the public in general.
It does, however, seem quite contradictory to me that, although all these individuals and pages look to convince the general public that the “Bullies” are not to be feared, that they aren’t inherently dangerous and that they are in fact just like other dogs (many would say better), they also believe that they need to be trained with a “stronger” hand.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I see these very people (and sadly I even include rescue shelters) talk about these dogs needing a certain kind of owner, one who will be able to be an effective “pack leader” and not let their dog “take charge”!
I find it very difficult to understand how someone can say these dogs are no different to other dogs but also say that they need to be trained differently. They seem to believe that although positive reinforcement training may well work for some breeds it isn’t going to work with the “Bullies”!  One post will show a picture of a “Bully” giving kisses and the next will show a picture of one wearing a prong collar. One post will be a story about an amazing “pit bull” therapy dog and the next will be advising their fans to make sure they “show their dog who is boss”!
I was absolutely stunned when an article which I had posted, explaining why prong and e-collars should not be used, actually received comments from people who said they were “sad” and “disappointed” to read this. They believed that thousands of dogs’ lives had been saved by rescue shelters using these tools to change the aggressive behaviour of dogs in their care and that, without the use of prong and shock-collars, these same dogs would not have survived. They were “disappointed” and “angry” that I was saying these collars had no place in training! These are very strong words and very strong opinions.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that I think Jambo’s page shows just what can be accomplished without the use of these punitive tools, many of these individuals could not or would not be convinced.  What amazed me the most was that they weren’t even willing to listen to the reasons why these tools shouldn’t be used! One individual even commenting that she couldn’t understand how I could say that prong collars or e-collars were a “punishment”!  Despite explaining that the reason these “training tools” work is because the dog stops doing what he is doing, for example pulling on the leash or lunging, in order to avoid the prong collar being jabbed into his neck or a shock being received and that these “training” tools might well stop a behaviour but at what price to the dog’s physical and mental well-being, many of these individuals were so upset by what I was saying that they decided to “unfollow” Jambo’s page!  I was absolutely flabbergasted to see that they would rather continue to treat their dogs in this way than even listen to an argument for training without force!
The “pack leader” mentality is, unfortunately, so ingrained in some people’s minds that they cannot even consider the possibility that it could be wrong!  How do we get through to these people when there are still shows on the television with thousands, if not millions, of fans that regularly feature dogs being alpha-rolled, choked, shocked, kicked, prodded, poked, sprayed…?
How do we show these people that in order to successfully advocate for the “Bullies” and against breed discriminatory legislation they really do need to stop saying that you have to be a certain sort of person to “own” one of these dogs?… They need to stop propagating the myth that these dogs can only be “trained” using force! They need to stop saying that you need to be a “pack leader”. They need to stop “abusing” the very dogs that they are advocating for!  How can they expect to convince not only the general public but also legislator’s that the “Bullies” shouldn’t be treated differently to other dogs if they themselves continue to say that they need a different method of training?… I don’t doubt that these people want the absolute best for their dogs but they need to realise that what they are doing to them on a daily basis is not only detrimental to their pet’s well-being, it is also propagating the myth that they are indeed different to other dogs! Their treatment of these dogs actually facilitates legislation against them! Not only that, but these punitive “training” methods and tools could also turn out to be the very reason their dog “bites back”!

So how do we convince the general public and the “powers that be” that the Bullies shouldn’t be discriminated against?  How can you we convince people that they don’t need to use force to train their best friend?  How can we be “the best ambassadors” possible?

Positive Reinforcement Training Uses Rewards Not Force!

I believe the only way we are going to do it is through actions!  We need to show everyone just what our dogs are capable of when they are trained with rewards and not force.  We can write as many articles as we want (and yes, there will be people who listen) but as the saying goes “the proof is in the pudding”.  Let our actions and those of our dogs be the “pudding”! There are disc dogs, agility dogs, fly ball dogs, obedience dogs, trick dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, dock dogs… who all happen to be “Bullies” and who have been taught using positive reinforcement! There are also lots of amazing family pets freely offering their kisses, cuddles and good behaviour who have all been trained without force!  My beautiful boy, Jambo, is the First Staffordshire Bull Terrier To Be a Trick Dog Champion! (click the link to watch his Trick Dog Champion video).  He achieved this title at just sixteen months old and guess what?  I didn’t need to use a prong collar or give him any electric shocks!  I managed to teach him all the behaviours using tiny pieces of food, a tug toy, a boomer ball and lots of love, patience and consistency!

The more people see and hear about these dogs, who I believe are a testament to Force-free Training, then the more people will be convinced that what they themselves are saying is true – “The Bully breeds aren’t any different to other dogs!  They are not to be feared! They aren’t inherently dangerous!”  They are, in fact, just like other dogs and guess what?…   They can be trained in the same way – without fear, force or intimidation!

So, how do I believe you can be the “best ambassador possible” for the Bullies?  Show people that they aren’t any different to other dogs in the way that you train them!  Show everyone that there is absolutely no need to use punishment when you can use rewards!  Celebrate the achievements of all those dogs that have been trained using rewards!  Share training articles and videos that show people how they can effectively train their dog without being a pack- leader! Train your own dog without force!  Show your friends and neighbours what an amazing dog he is!  Let your actions and your dog’s actions speak for themselves!  Maybe we need to stop telling people what they shouldn’t do and show them what we can do! 

The “proof is in the pudding” after all!

#Jambo

You can view Jambo’s Trick Dog Champion video here: Jambo is the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a Trick Dog Champion!

We Are All Individuals!

Breed Specific Legislation categorises a dog as dangerous simply because of what breed it happens to be.  This is the same as if we were to say, for example, that all people with long blond hair should be put in prison.  A few people with long blond hair have indeed acted aggressively so it makes total sense to lock them all up!  Oh gosh, what am I saying?  I have long blond hair, better incarcerate me now, just in case!

One of the members of my family happens to be a gorgeous Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Where we live (Spain) he is categorised as a “Potentially Dangerous Dog”.  Strange wording in itself as surely all dogs are “potentially dangerous” if treated in the wrong way?  This Breed Specific Legislation affects him and all of us in many ways, none of which happen to be good.  Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not, however, affected by B.S.L. in the UK, unless the authorities decide that they are “pitbull type” (don’t get me started on that one!).  How can a breed of dog be dangerous in one country and not another?  Are Staffies born in Spain somehow more dangerous than those born in the U.K.?  But wait, it gets even more ludicrous. The list of potentially dangerous dogs in Spain includes the following breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; American Staffordshire Terrier; Rottweiler; Dogo Argentino; Fila Brasileiro; Tosa Inu; Akita Inu.  Crazy enough in itself, but now here is the absolutely unbelievable bit… Different states/regions also include other breeds eg. some areas include the Doberman, others all Mastiff types and others the German Shepherd Dog.  If you live in my region then the Doberman is affected by B.S.L. but if you live 30 minutes away you’ll be safe as Dobermans aren’t on the list!  My beautiful German Shepherd girl isn’t considered “dangerous” where I live but we better not relocate to a different region as, if we were to do so, she would then become “dangerous”!  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…. Oh wow, guess I’m okay on the last point, with my long blond hair.  I better not cut it just in case!  Watch out though if you are a dog with short hair!  Thank goodness Tessa is a long-haired German Shepherd and not a short-haired one!  The same ludicrous situation is apparent all across the United States where, in some areas “pitbull type” dogs are legislated against and in others they aren’t!

Let’s go back a minute to my long blond hair and the fact that, based on the “logic” of B.S.L., I now need to be incarcerated just in case I act aggressively.  So, all people with long blond hair are exactly the same, aren’t we?  We all act in exactly the same way, have the same characters/personalities, the same thoughts and desires (to act aggressively)… We all definitely need to be “registered”, muzzled, kept on a short leash, locked up or maybe even given a lethal injection!  The general public would be much safer then, wouldn’t they?
Of course we aren’t all the same!  In fact, how ridiculous does it sound when you explain Breed Specific Legislation in this way?
Just as every person is an individual so is every dog! They have so many different character traits! They are also affected by the way in which they are cared for.  Mistreat any person or animal enough and eventually they will either give up, surrender, shut down… or they will try and protect themselves, fight back or even just lash out at the first person/animal they see!

Tessa and Jambo are definitely both individuals.  While out walking last night, I was thinking about how different they are in many ways. Tessa is extremely loving and gentle but doesn’t much like the company of strangers.  She really isn’t comfortable with dogs or people that she doesn’t know getting in her personal space.  She likes to have fun but anyone who doesn’t know her would probably say she is a bit “stand-off-ish”.  She’s just more at ease with those she knows.  She loves to go for rides in the car and long walks in the countryside.  She’s definitely not the life and soul of the party.  When we are out walking she really enjoys “reading the newspaper”, so much so that she has to read every single article and comment on it!  She likes to walk slowly and take everything in.  If she sees another dog or person in the distance then she prefers to go the other way and avoid them.  She’s quite elegant and ladylike in most ways but get too close and she might just decide to tell you to “get lost”!

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Jambo is the total opposite of Tessa.  He’s the life and soul of the party and wants to say hello to absolutely every person or dog he meets.  He gets so excited even just catching a glimpse of someone in the distance!  If they’re prepared to say hello then they better watch out!  He definitely doesn’t care about “personal space”.  I suppose you could say that he is very “touchy, feely”.  He loves to hug and kiss everyone!  Like Tessa, he loves to go for long car rides and walks but that’s where the similarity ends.  He has no time for “reading the paper”!  He’ll quickly check out the most interesting articles and very occasionally “comment” on them but then quickly has to move on to see what’s coming around the next corner.  Maybe there is something or someone up ahead.  He’s what I’d call a “full-on, loving, mischievous, little tomboy”.  He loves playing football, chasing around, rolling in the dirt and giving as many kisses as possible!

As you can see, they are both very different in many ways. They also have a lot of similarities though, many of which I believe are a result of the way we live as a family. They have both been taught using Positive Reinforcement. They have both been brought up in a loving home.  As a result, even though their personalities are quite different, they are both gentle and loving in their own ways. They are both totally different and yet they are both totally perfect!

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Is Jambo more “dangerous” because he is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier?  I’ll let you decide!

“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”!