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Training in Hot Weather
The Formality of Training
The Non-Compliant Dog
How big should your dogs world be?
Secret Training Weapon: History of Reinforcement

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Training in Hot Weather

Training in the hot weather – no one likes to do it! I’ve always wondered what people who live in constantly hot locations – Arizona, Las Vegas etc – do about the hot weather when there’s dogs to be trained. Does everyone just rent air conditioned training buildings?
 
Luckily, Oregon is really only truly hot for a few weeks out of the year. Here’s some of the ways I’ve found to cope:
 
Train early! It really, really, really is worth it to get up an extra five or ten minutes early and do a very short training session, especially if you’re working on something that’s high energy like recalls or jumping.

The Formality of Training

When many dog owners view highly-trained dogs, especially dogs competing in the obedience ring,  they see a picture of strict formality. The handler stands straight as an arrow and verbal commands are often brisk and firm. There is no talking to the dog during a training exercise and only limited praise afterwards. The dogs are not performing for rewards; the handlers are not carrying rewards. Everything is as tight and polished as a military drill.
 
I think this gives people the idea that in order to get their dogs to look like those highly-trained ones, they should look and act just like the handlers in the ring.

The Non-Compliant Dog

Before determining that your dog is truly non-compliant, make sure of the following:
 
Is your dog in any pain or is it feeling unwell? Often the first signs of illness will be non-compliant behavior. Years ago I was called out to work with a dog who was causing some trouble in the yard. He was digging in the flower beds and then refusing to move out of them. This sounded bad, but when I went to see, the dog was obese (like, morbidly obese.) The yard was out in full sun and the dog would drag himself, panting, to the only shady cool spot (the flowerbed.

How big should your dogs world be?

I always pick up great new methods and techniques whenever I attend a training conference or seminar; sometimes I also pick up good concepts or “themes” for training. At this most recent seminar I attended about working with fearful, aggressive or reactive dogs, a discussion popped up about how “small” a dog needed its world to be on any particular day or any particular time, and it was great so I thought I’d share it with you!

Many fearful, anxious, reactive, aggressive or stressed dogs simply can not cope with too much at one time.

Secret Training Weapon: History of Reinforcement


Many dog owners search and search for the correct tone of voice, hand signal, or word to get their dogs to do what they want. If there was just a magic “tone” that would get the dog to come when called, for example! People will try a friendly tone, a calm tone, a warning tone, a growly tone. Maybe a new tone works once or twice, but then it stops working, and the owner is back on the search for yet another tone. Or hand signal. Or body language and posture. Or whatever.

Now, tone and body language and hand signals and cues definitely all figure in to your dog’s obedience, but not in the “magic” way that many people think!

How E-Collars Work

Some people swear by electronic collars (also called “e collars,” “stim collars,” or “shock collars”),  and some would never even consider putting one on their dog. Recently several countries in Europe have begun banning them; the Humane Society of the United States and the American Veterinary Association have officially recommended against them, and the number of both professional trainers and pet dog owners who use them is greatly reduced.
 
So how do they work? And what makes some people such believers in them?

The Beauty (and necessity) of Maintenance Training

Once your dog has received basic training, great! You have put a lot of time into training your dog. He’s functioning at a high level. You’re having a great time taking him out and about and doing all kinds of fun things together. Your friends and neighbors are jealous. Everything looks great.
 
As the months go by, however, there’s a little slip here and a little blip there. Your dogs once good leash-walking skills are now “usually” good leash-walking, but sometimes he pulls towards things he really wants.

What to do if your dog doesn't like treats or toys

Every so often there’s a dog who does not really care to work for treats or toys or praise; it may enjoy those things but not care enough for them to have a motivational impact. What do you do about these dogs?
 
The long answer is that you slowly, over time, build up the “value” of the treats, toys and praise – hand-feeding meals is a time-honored way to develop more food drive, or making the dog work for some or most of his kibble (“no free meals!”), and spending time encouraging your dog to play with you (in some cases, especially with rescue dogs, you have to literally teach them how to play), and building your relationship with your dog until your praise really starts to have meaning for him.

Using flashcards in training!

I’m experimenting with a new system for homework – one of the things that gets tough for more advanced dogs is just keeping track of everything you need to practice. It’s easy to practice the things that are easy and fun, but harder to remember to practice things that are more of a challenge. And what about the things your dog learned two months ago, but you haven’t really made use of; is he going to forget all of those? 

I tried making some flashcards for my own dog Halo, and so far so good.

Training with Compassion and Respect

Throughout all training, you must respect the dog. Respect the dog, its history and experiences, its learning process. More than a few times, I have seen people rescue a dog, often a stray off the streets, have it for a month or two, and be bewildered by its fear and aggression. Their reasoning is the dog has nothing to fear now, since it’s got a loving home, and the aggression is just plain uncalled for.
 
Now obviously you’ve got to change this behavior (I’m not saying that it’s acceptable!
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