Dog Training Tip: Keep Training Sessions Short

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The other day, while watching television, I used commercial breaks to practice a few things with our Sam. In the two minutes of time, we were able to work on combinations of sit/down/stand/stay, hand targeting and weaving through my legs. In another break, I took out my circular pie pan and practiced stationing to it (going to it and standing with his front two paws on it). When the commercials were over, I gave Sam his ‘All Done’ release cue and stopped to focus on my program again.

training a dog to hand targetHere is my point. That sort of impromptu, every day teaching sessions are awesome to build into your day. The most effective training is done in short intervals, ending on a positive note, so that both you and your learner can really focus.

There are so many behaviors you can work on in a minute or two minutes time, and even just as you go about your day. Here are just a few suggestions:

Sit and/or down/stay – adding distance, duration and distractions

Recall – ask your dog to sit, walk to another part of your house and call him to come (or course, giving him a nice reward for getting to you)

Body touching – if your dog does not like to be touched in certain places, you can spend time teaching him that touches are the predictor of food or play

Tricks – work on teaching your dog some new and fun behaviors

Crate games – reinforce your dog for running and staying in his crate or bed

What ideas do you have for making the most of that minute or two with your pet?

Caring For Your Dog’s Paws In The Snowy Winter

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With another snowy winter day here in Cincinnati, I have a winter weather safety reminder from your pet. In snowy weather, please remember salt and chemicals are unhealthy for your pet and should be wiped off as soon as he/she comes inside. Also, be aware of ice balls that can form between the pads and toes if your dog has a lot of fur on his/her feet which can add to the problem of retaining chemicals.

a snow and winter tip for caring for your dog's paws to keep him safe

Habits Of Good Dog Training To Improve Shaping Skills

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Training using shaping is teaching a behavior by teaching successive approximations or steps toward that final behavior. I wrote about shaping in a previous post. Here are some tips for improving your shaping skills.  To read my original post, please click here.

dog training tips to improve shaping

Dog And Pet Training Tip About Management

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My today is about the importance of management in dog and pet training success: The reason management is so important when it comes to training in the most positive way is two fold, being able to control our pet’s access to doing what we do not like (and getting reinforced for it) and being able to set it up so that our pets can practice making choices we do like (and reinforcing them for those choices).

importance of management in dog and pet training success

Dog And Other Pet Training Tip

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A dog (and other pet) training tip:  remember, you don’t need to plan out an hour of your day to work on teaching skills. Actually, short sessions are much better as they allow both you and your student to stay focused. And you can build training into everyday life such as asking for a behavior before giving your pet anything of value from an open door to a meal to playing with a toy.

motivation quote by Zig Ziglar

Ask Yourself – Are You Setting Your Dog Training Up For Success?

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Last night this cute little guy was my demonstration puppy in a behavior class. As he and his parents found seats in the back of the room, I had them put him on the ground. There he was a bundle of happy-go-lucky spirit so excited by the new smells and friendly humans that surrounded him. His tail was wagging back and forth as he went from person to person, sniffing the floor, soliciting attention.

I asked the question, “In that moment, would I be setting him up for failure or for success if I asked him to do a behavior he did not yet dog training with positive reinforcementhave on cue in distracting environments?” (or something like that)

There was a resounding answer coming from the tables..”failure.”

That was exactly the answer I was looking for. That question is such an important one to ask ourselves often when it comes to our expectations with our pet. As teachers, it is up to us to make our classroom conducive to learning for our students.

Some of the ways we set our pet up for success are by teaching in an environment where he is not distracted beyond his abilities to remain focused and at a time when he is motivated for learning, breaking the behavior down into approximations our pet can easily learn (please see my post on shaping), and using reinforcers that are of value to our student.

Some of the ways we may set our pet up for failure are repeating a cue over and over again (a sign that our pet does not know the behavior well enough),  not managing the environment to prevent practice of unwanted behavior, not spending the time to thoroughly teach and proof behaviors with a variety of criteria (only proceeding as our pet shows us he is able to succeed), not making the choice we want our pet to make the most valuable choice for them, and  asking for the behavior in an environment that has strong competing reinforcers which your pet has learned offer greater value than listening to you, and trying to teach at a time when our pet does not have the motivation.

In last night’s classroom, if I had asked my demo puppy to sit when he just came into a new environment with so many fun things to explore my chances of getting his focus would have been greatly diminished.

When I did most of my demonstration work with him was later in the class when he was able to focus…and then he came when I called, he sat quickly when asked, he walked on a loose leash at my side around people (with reinforcement from me), and I was able to teach him to stay seated while someone approached.

My Furry Valentine Is Cincinnati’s Pet Adoption Mega Event

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All too often puppies and dogs find their ways into shelters, for many reasons, often for no fault of their own. They are the victims of circumstances beyond their control, like an illness or death in the family, divorce, growing family, family relocation, or improper training and preparation from owners.

Nearly 3 million of them are euthanized every year in the United States.

My Furry Valentine Cincinnati pet adoption event

photo credit:
for My Furry Valentine

All I have to do is walk into my parents home where I am greeted with 40 pounds of love to be reminded these animals deserve places they can call home. I see all the time through my dog training clients and friends the beautiful gift of adoption.
Coming up this Valentine’s Day weekend is our region’s largest pet adoption event, My Furry Valentine. It will be at the Sharonville Convention Center from 10 am to 5 pm.

My Furry Valentine is hoping to find homes for 550 animals during the weekend event. The event is fun, family-friendly and free to attend. This year’s My Furry Valentine is hosted by phoDOGrapher and presented by Top Dog sponsors IAMS and Tri-County Mall with additional financial assistance from The Joanie Bernard Foundation.

Please click here to read my list of considerations before you go.


Dog Training To Prevent Door Dashing

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It was to be the second time I was helping a friend solve her dog’s door dashing problem. We were teaching her dog to lay down on a rug several feet from the door, and remain in that position, before we would open it. The ultimate goal: her dog would go to the rug on cue before opening the front door, and remain laying down until released.

The first time around, we ended training on a positive note when her dog remained laying down while I opened the door a small amount. Betty was to continue practicing in short sessions, always ending on a positive note (when her dog stayed down while the door opened a little) and wanting more learning. Betty (not her real name) told me and showed me that she understood how she was to teach before our next lesson.

However, when I got to her house that next time, the behavior had fallen apart. Betty was discouraged because she didn’t understand why.

We sat down for a few minutes as she proceeded to tell me in detail what had happened. “Most of the time’ her dog was able to remain in the down position near the door when it opened but “sometimes’ her dog got up and ran to the door, at which point Betty told her dog to go back to the mat and lay down. Then she gave her dog a treat for laying down.

That was really great feedback. I saw several things going on. Neither one had to do with a dog being dominant, bull headed, dumb or stubborn.

The first thing I saw was that all important phrase, ‘most of the time’ which tells me right away that her dog did not understand what it was she was supposed to do to earn reinforcement. If she did have a clear understanding, then she would have made the appropriate choice. With further questioning and watching Betty practice, I realized Betty was expecting too much from her dog too soon. She was taking too long to mark her dog’s choice of laying down which was not giving clear enough feedback for her dog.

The other thing that was going on was that her dog was actually being reinforced for a chain of behaviors (getting up, running to the door, going to the mat and laying down) which was serving to do the opposite of what Betty had intended. She was actually building value for getting up and running to the door because that resulted in her asking her dog to go to the mat, lay down and get an awesome treat.

What was our solution? We needed to provide very clear, consistent and immediate feedback to her dog of exactly the behavior we were teaching. And we needed to do that BEFORE the chain of behaviors began. Below is an overview of what we did (not in full detail).

using clicker training to stop dog from running out the door

We set out for our second training with me being responsible for the door and my friend responsible for marking her dog’s behavior (well, I was also responsible for making sure she marked the precise moment). This time as I moved toward the door and her dog remained laying down, Betty clicked BEFORE there was movement by her dog to clearly tell her dog, ‘yes’ that is exactly what I want you to do. We did ten repetitions of this and then stopped for awhile and came back to it. Very quickly we got back to where I could first touch the door and she could click for her dog remaining laying down, proceeded to my opening the door a crack and her marking her dog for remaining laying down in a little but longer increments (before there was any movement from her dog).

Then, when we were having success, we worked on more duration in tiny increments. I opened the door and this time we counted to two before clicking, then four, then back to two, then ten before marking with a click, releasing her dog and beginning again. Stopping and taking a break after about 20 successful repetitions.

It really did not take long this time before I could open the door fully and her dog remained on the mat until released after 10 seconds. The difference was in the clarity of our lesson.

Now the foundation was laid to continuing building on this skill with both duration and distractions outside the door. And Betty had a much clearer vision of her role as teacher.

It is important to remember, as your pet’s teacher, if your pet is not doing what you want in a training session, to think through your lesson plan and see how you can make it easier for both your pet and you to succeed.

Kids And Dogs: A Bite Prevention Tip

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I’m holding a parent/child bite prevention and dog training class on teaching Dog Super Heroes (ages 6 to 10) at The Dog Studio February 1. Please click here to register:

My Dog's Super Hero is a Cincinnati bite prevention and dog training class for kids by Lisa Desatnik

Dog And Pet Training Tip: Teach It As If You Are Teaching A Trick

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My challenge to you as your pet’s teacher (no matter what kind of animal your pet is): teach every behavior as if you are teaching a trick with lots of positive reinforcement.

dog and pet training tip: think of training all behaviors as if you are teaching a trick with positive reinforcement

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