Lockdown Learning

We might not have been able to go to training or compete in any trials over the last couple of months, but we have been very fortunate that our club has organized some amazing dog trainers to present webinars for our members.

Thank you to Ruth, our club president and to Julia, our head instructor and OIC for organizing these events.

The 3 speakers we have had so far have all been different types of people from different walks of life involving dogs. Peta Clarke is an exotic animal trainer and also trains dogs and other species for television, movies, musicals and commercials. Steve Austin trains dogs for detection work. This can be anything from detecting for conservation purposes, effluent and water pipe leaks, bacteria in bee hives or detecting drugs and explosives. Lauren Langman is an Agility winner at Crufts and has a successful international dog training business. Although all quite different, they all share a passion for dogs, as well as some common threads about dog training.

They all agree that positive reinforcement and negative punishment is the way to train their dogs. When your dog does a behaviour you want you mark and reward. When the dog makes a mistake you just withhold the reward. This way your dog will never be afraid to make a mistake and will always be willing to have a go. If you have found the reward that your dog regards as high value, by withholding it when he makes a mistake will make doing the correct behaviour even more desirable as this will be highly rewarded.

Positive punishment is not used and takes away the drive and enthusiasm of the dog.

Play lots of games and make training and being with you the most fun the dog has in its day. Playing games builds your dog’s confidence and the relationship your dog has for you.

The delivery of the food is important. Make it random and keep the dog guessing. Consider a poker machine concept where the dog continues doing the behaviour knowing it will eventually be rewarded and sometimes may receive a jackpot. And the position where the dog receives the treat is also important. Consider delivering it behind you if your dog forges ahead.

Don’t over train your dogs. End the session with the dog wanting more. Don’t train your dog sport every day, but play games every day.

Keep training sessions short and sharp. Only train for a few minutes or less at a time and do this frequently throughout the day.

Ditch the bowl. All the dog’s daily food allowance should come via you the owner or from enrichment games.

Only reward the dog when it has done a behaviour you want. All rewards have to be earned.

Not all rewards are equal. Some foods or toys may have a higher value to your dog than others. This is up to your individual dog, it is not your choice of what you think has high value.

Your dog is an individual. Train the dog in front of you. Behaviour is the study of one.

Dogs need to be in a calm state to learn. Scatter feeding on the ground and walking in figure of 8’s is a calming exercise for a dog. Scent games where the dog is allowed to sniff and forage for food is also calming.

Aggression in dogs is usually the dog feeling fear which is an emotion. To change the way the dog is feeling, we pair the trigger to their fear with something pleasant such as food. This is not reinforcing the aggression, we are changing the emotion.

Have a good attitude to training, set some goals, break training down into smaller sections and enjoy the dog you have. Be positive and focus on what you want.

We still have a few more webinars to go, so it is well worth registering and finding out what these international and Australian dog trainers have to say.

Some of the information may be knowledge you already know, or you may need to be reminded for it to sink in. Sometimes a different dog trainer may present the information in a way with a different example and that helps you understand how it applies to you. Either way, these are great opportunities not to be missed as we take advantage of these great trainers having time for us in these unusual times where they are not able to carry out their usual job or be out competing or touring.

More information about these speakers as well as the upcoming webinars can be found on our club Facebook page.

Detailed Accounts can be found in this blog, or click on the links above.