Training dogs to say please by sitting for everything they want seems simple, but the concept is so new to most dog owners that they frequently continue to reward exactly the opposite of what they want. Our class of beginning dogs is doing great overall. They have good focus outside and can walk on loose leash but we know they can improve even faster if they are diligent about their own and their pooch’s behavior in the house. So tomorrow we’re holding most of the class in a real-life home situation and playing the Learn to Earn Scavenger Hunt Game!
Here’s a preview of what we’ll be doing in class tomorrow!
The beginning of class will consist of learning a few new exercises and practicing on some current ones. Then the Learn to Earn Game will take place during the second half of class and involve 7 Say Please by Sitting Missions. Here are some of the missions as illustrated by our UC Davis student assistants.
Different missions start and end in different locations in the house.
Participants will go to the door and have their dog sit and remain seated when they answer the door.
If their dog is comfortable with guests, they will let the guest greet the dog. If the dog is nervous with guests, the “trained guest” will face sideways and hand the dog treats so the dog learns good things about unfamiliar people. Once the guest has greeted, she will leave.
Then the participant will step outside to check the mail and pick up a prize while the dog sits patiently.
Oops, Jonesy decides to dive out the door when he sees that he gets to greet someone. The handler should anticipate this and block him or hold the leash while she gets down to his level to control him for greeting.
Here she holds his collar and gets down to his level so that she can reward him easily for good behavior.
With the Learn to Earn exercises, the dog is attached to the owner on leash and follows the owner around the house. Every time the owner stops, the dog should sit or lie down patiently. This requires a lot of food, petting, and praise rewards at first until it becomes a habit. Once the calm, controlled behavior becomes a habit and the dog regularly looks to the owner for guidance, he no longer needs to be on leash in the house. And when he’s “perfect” overall, he does not need to sit for everything in the house—he just needs to continue behaving politely —e.g. no nose in the refrigerator or barking for attention, or jumping on people, or dashing out the door.
Here the participant has her dog lie down while getting a treat for herself and her dog out of the refrigerator.
Then she “accidentally” drops the super yummy dog treat on the floor and makes sure her dog has a fantastic “leave-it.”
We frequently practice down and sit stays outside with distractions. With the Learn to Earn game we work around every distraction possible. In laundry mission the participant must walk with the dog at their side around the house and then go into the laundry room and fold four towels.
Dogs also need to be calm and behaved while we’re working. In this mission the dog must lie down quietly and calmly when the participants sits down and works at the computer. At first the dogs may be very intense about looking at their humans but as the treats rate slows down, the dogs learn to rest or sleep. We often use a MannersMinder to help reward calm behavior since the treats can be given at automated rates.
What do you think this mission is for?
These are a few of the games we will play tomorrow for working on exercises that train impulse control. The goal is to make focused and calm behavior a habit so that they can face the more distracting situations of the outside world!
NEXT blog: An update on how students did.