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Dog Training 101 ~ Foundation

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Discipline must be administered in varying degrees in accordance with the crime and the frequency of the crime. The only way for your dog or anyone to properly learn is to have the inappropriate behavior interrupted while it is happening, and then have the dog or individual redirected to an acceptable behavior or activity. Only then can this be called a correction. In another words, if you want to teach the dog, interrupt their behavior, then immediately redirect it to the right behavior and then reward enthusiastically. Our foundation in our learning program is to have our dog respond in a certain way when they hear our voice commands. After all, off-leash means no physical control over the dog with a leash or our hands. The dog must want to be with us and not be afraid of us; this is what we call respect.

We use three commands in our foundation:

“Good” (delivered in a soft tone) which means yes, that is what I want.

  1. “No” (delivered in a sharp, abrupt tone) which means stop that behavior and pay attention to my next move or command.
  2. “Ah, Ah” (delivered in a sharp, abrupt tone) which means if you continue a “No” will result. In another words, a warning tone, which gives the attentive dog the opportunity to comply without punishment.

For the dog to respond properly to these commands, it takes some programming to be effective. The dog must, on the subconscious level, respond appropriately to the commands.

Most of us are familiar with Pavlov’s Law. Pavlov was a scientist in the 19th century whose great discovery was that of condition response learning. What he did was take a group of dogs, one at a time, and attach test tubes to their cheeks to measure the response of their salivating. He set up a situation where he would ring a bell (as the signal), then present a plate of food to the hungry dog (as the motivation), and the dog would salivate (as the behavior). The response was measured, then the dog would receive the food (as the reward). After a series of repetitions of this exercise, he found that the dog would respond with the same intensity of salivation even when the food was not presented. Which led to the conclusion that behaviors could in fact be triggered with a signal without the motivation or the dog thinking about performing the response or not. It became an automatic response when hearing the signal. This is the response we want when we say “Good” during the training of our dogs.

Food is a primary reinforcer. So the formula for programming or training is: apply the signal for the behavior with motivation, wait for the behavior, when you see the behavior you want, trigger your reward signal (“Good”), then apply your reinforcer; either primary (food) or secondary (petting, toys, freedom or play). The two ways to train are: to influence the behavior to happen through manipulation or motivation and then reward; or wait for the behavior to happen on its own.Y our dog may get stimulated from a dry cookie, but will get extremely excited when offered a piece of fresh, cooked liver. Your signal will trigger the response you program into your dog. I recommend you make the response very intense for the most attention.

We don’t want to hurt or instill pain in our sessions because this alters the dog’s mood from a happy worker to a sad performer. In our formal training program, we never want to use a high intensity punishment to ruin the dog’s mood, so we train where applying a high degree of force will have the greatest impact in the dog’s mind. *Richard Mason

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