Blog

Learning and Training Your Dog from Home

As the current virus pandemic spreads, our institutions are shutting down or people are self-quarantining (probably a good thing to decrease contamination as much as possible).

The good news: if you need dog training help, we have an online dog and puppy training class, and just recently upgraded our distance consulting services, where you can get help by phone and email. See the links below to learn more.

Dog and Puppy Training Class

Distance Consultations

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Here is a bit of good news from the CDC:

“CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.”

I hope everyone stays safe.

By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS

Raymer Family Dog Training News: March 2020

My dog, Mocha, turns 10 years-old this month. In honor of her, I’m creating a coupon for our online Dog and Puppy Training Class. Use the button below to enroll in the class with $50 off during March:

Here are the class details.

The class includes: puppy class material, obedience behaviors, tricks, solving ordinary behavior problems and involves as much coaching and help as you need.

In addition, my new videos and class creations will resume shortly. My pets ended up at the veterinary clinic plenty of times already this year resulting in a delay of other projects.

One of my Academy for Dog Trainer colleagues, Zazie Todd, has a new book out. If this is anything like her blog, it will be amazing and packed with dog behavior science. I can’t wait to read it.

By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS

Fatal Dog Bites

Fatal dog bites are very rare, but obviously worth attempting to prevent if possible.

Factors thought to contribute to human fatalities from dog bites include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Male gender
  • Intact reproductive status
  • Poor health
  • Late and inadequate training and socialization
  • Lack of supervision
  • Defense of territory or puppies
  • Hunger
  • Predatory experience
  • Pack-dog experience
  • Age
  • Size
  • Behavior of victims
  • Absence of other people in the vicinity

These are hypothetical factors. There is not enough data to rely on them currently.

(Mills, 2017, p. 161).

Patronek study data from 2000-2009 dog bite fatality cases.

  • Absence of an able-bodied person to intervene
  • Incidental or no familiar relationship of victims with dogs
  • Owner failure to neuter dogs
  • Compromised ability of victims to interact appropriately with dogs
  • Dogs kept isolated from regular positive human interactions versus family dogs
  • Owners’ prior mismanagement of dogs
  • Owners’ history of abuse or neglect of dogs

This is from case-series descriptions, so is not complete evidence of risk.

Victims are often the young and elderly.

(Mills, 2017, p. 174).

It’s worth noting that there is zero evidence that dog breed plays a role in fatal dog bites, despite media and others promoting this as if it’s true. Individual dogs of any breed can bite with serious or lethal force. Breed specific legislation designed to ban certain dog breeds has not worked as a preventative to serious dog bites. Instead communities should focus on controlling the factors above (in the Patronek study) to prevent fatal dog bites.

References:

Mills, D., & Westgarth, C. (Eds.). (2017). Dog Bites: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. Sheffield, UK. 5M Publishing Ltd.

[ISBN: 978-1-910455-61-6]

Note: There are graphic photographs in this book that may be distressing to readers (for example, crime scene photographs designed for professionals who deal with dog bites).

By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS

Training Methods to Use

Introduction

This List will be updated occasionally to cover the most current dog training methods.

There will also be further explanations for dog training concepts in the future.

Overall Methods to Use

Positive reinforcement training – rewarding dogs for desirable behavior in order to increase the probability they will perform that behavior again.

Reward-based training – this refers to using primarily positive reinforcement, but also takes into account trainers may remove rewards or opportunities to perform a behavior for incorrect responses.

When training in this manner dogs learn very quickly via discrimination learning. They get rewards for correct responses, and no rewards for incorrect responses. It’s not aversive or harmful to dogs and it actually speeds up learning when they get some incorrect responses as it allows them to pinpoint what was correct.

Desensitization – exposing a dog to stimuli (things/events) at a level below his fear or upset-threshold, and increasing access or intensity towards the stimulus always under-threshold as the dog becomes comfortable at the current level.

Counter-conditioning – training a dog to accept something he has a negative view of by pairing the scary thing with rewards to create a positive association or emotional response towards it.

DRI (differential reinforcement of an incompatible behavior) – this is a concept for teaching a dog with rewards to perform a behavior that is incompatible with an unwanted behavior. Some examples include:

  • Sit-stay at the front door, instead of rushing through it.
  • Pick up and hold a toy, instead of barking.
  • Walk calmly on leash, instead of pulling.
  • Stand next to people, instead of jumping on them.

Specific Training Techniques to Use

Each of these are positive reinforcement methods:

  • Luring (or lure-reward training) – holding a treat (or a toy) to lure the dog into positions like sitting, lying down, standing, etc. Lures are usually faded or removed, so they are not required to do the behavior at the end of the process.
  • Capturing – marking a behavior correct as the dog does it (with a clicker or other marker) and giving a reward. For example, a dog lies down, you mark it correct with a click, and reward with a treat.
  • Shaping – rewarding behaviors in small steps, gradually working towards the final behavior. If the dog won’t lie down all at once, for example, you can reward him for sitting, then sliding feet out, then feet further out, until he finally lies down completely. This can be used with prompting (luring or targeting) or as a free-shaping technique (where you simply mark as correct and reward behaviors until you get the final one without any prompting or encouraging the dog to do the behavior).
  • Targeting – teaching a dog to touch an object or thing, such as a target stick or your hand, which then can be used to teach other behaviors. Dogs will follow the target like a food lure. Targets are faded/removed so they are not required to do the behavior at the end of the process.

Types of Rewards and Equipment to Use

  • Food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Allowing dogs access to sniff something or
  • Greet another individual
  • Play with people or other dogs
  • Providing a chance to go outside
  • Walks
  • Praise
  • Gentle petting
  • Marker or clicker training – to time correct behaviors with the mark/click and follow up with a reward to positively reinforce the behavior
  • Using harnesses attached to leashes for walks – since these won’t (or are less likely) to damage the dog’s neck/trachea compared to other types of collars.
  • Teaching dogs with rewards to accept veterinary or body handling procedures and grooming, baths, etc.
  • Socializing puppies and dogs – pairing neutral or scary stimuli/things with treats to make them positive.
  • Etc.

By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS

Training Methods to Avoid

Introduction

This article consists of a list of dog training techniques to avoid using. It will be updated as needed to cover new training methods.

The word “aversive” is a scientific concept from the psychology field. Aversive stimuli (or things) are anything dogs want to avoid because they are startling, scary, or painful.

When a dog is exposed to something aversive until he does a desired behavior and the trainer ends the aversive thing, that behavior can increase by negative reinforcement. The dog will do it again to end the aversive (scary or painful thing).

Or if a dog does a behavior and an aversive is applied to him, he will do that behavior less. This strategy uses positive punishment to decrease unwanted behaviors. Positive in this case is not a good thing, it simply refers to adding or doing something to the dog that is scary or painful to him. Whereas in the situation mentioned above, negative refers to removing the aversive thing.

Force training refers to using aversive methods. The trainer forces a dog to comply or do a behavior.

Overall Concepts to Avoid Using

  • Negative reinforcement (because it uses aversives)
  • Positive punishment (because it uses aversives)
  • Force training (sometimes also called compulsion training)
  • Balanced training (which means using aversives sometimes and good techniques like positive reinforcement sometimes)

Specific Techniques to Avoid

  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Startling
  • Yelling at
  • Thssst, or other sounds (used to scare the dog or are paired with a harsh correction)
  • Stomping near
  • Pressuring with your body – for example leaning over until it backs the dog up into a sit or down
  • Choke chains
  • Prong collars
  • Pinch collars
  • Shock collars
  • Remote collars
  • E-collars (electronic)
  • Pulling/jerking on leash with any type of collar
  • Slip leads used to correct dogs
  • Pinning Down
  • Alpha rolls (forcing the dog to roll onto his side or back and holding there)
  • Scruff shakes
  • Forcing to hold position (for example, multiple people pinning a dog down at a veterinary exam)
  • Hitting with newspapers
  • Throwing objects at dog
  • Spraying with water bottles
  • Drowning dog – dunking head into pool of water
  • Spitting on or in dog’s mouth
  • Jabbing dog in neck with hands/fingers
  • Ear pinching
  • CAT (constructional aggression treatment) – is a negative reinforcement method
  • Forcing dog over upset threshold
  • Flooding (forcing a dog into a scary situation until he submits)
  • Rubbing dog’s nose in house-training mistakes
  • Forcing dog to bite a spoon (to decrease taking treats hard)
  • Using airhorns to startle dogs
  • Using air cans to startle dogs
  • Using citronella spray as a correction
  • Using bark collars of any kind (citronella, etc.) as a correction
  • Using molding/modeling to force a dog into a position, like pushing on a dog until he sits or lies down
  • Electronic/invisible fences (that shock dogs when they get near the barrier)
  • Etc.

Note:

You may have tried some of these in the past, possibly even at the recommendation of a professional dog trainer, which could be upsetting. This article isn’t intended to make anyone feel bad. It’s basically a do-better-when-we-know better type of situation. The good news is it is very easy to switch over to reward-based training methods, and help your dog learn in a happy, fear-free way.

Additional note:

Some of these techniques are used in emergencies by professional dog trainers to stop dog fights. These are not training situations, where you let two dogs play and punish them for bad behavior, but legitimate emergencies where you have to get the two dogs to stop fighting and injuring each other.

So for example, normal training would never involve setting dogs up to fail so you could blast their ears with an airhorn or spray water in their faces, but in an actual emergency may use an airhorn or dump a water bucket over the dogs heads to get them to release their bites. And then the situation would be assessed to prevent the situation arising again in the future.

By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS