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Still hanging in there after the first two posts of this series? Great!
If you’ve been playing along with the exercises in the previous post,
and all seems to be going well – your dog is correctly stationed and
waiting while you do your behavior demonstrations, and then responding
to whatever verbal cues he knows for the various
behaviors, and you’ve repeated sessions several times so it all looks
very easy, go ahead and do the following to check your dogs
understanding of mimicry so far:
First, do about 2-3 repetitions of your basic pattern so far: station
the dog, perform the behavior, cue “Your turn!
Dog trainers current on modern training methods make a big deal of
science; it’s really important. The laws of learning state that such and
such will result in such and such; rewards will tend to increase a
certain behavior; punishments will tend to decrease
a behavior; there are primary and secondary reinforcers; operant
conditioning will always have a classical conditioning tagalong, etc.
This kind of stuff is interesting to read and of course, really, really
important. I’m definitely not suggesting that people
should ignore the science behind dog training: in fact, it’s one of the
first things you should start to wrap your mind around, if possible.
Some of you have taken up or be interested in doing occasional
dog-sitting, or you might find yourself being asked by a friend to watch
their dog for a while, or you might be temporarily between dogs and
considering dog-sitting or fostering to get some extra
doggy joy into your life.
Dog-sitting is not all cuddles and romps and extra pocket money, though.
These will be dogs who you might not know very well, they will be
upended into a different environment and a different routine, and their
owners will be temporarily gone, so it can be
a tough time for dogs and their behavior can reflect this.
New Training Fronttiers: Mimicry Part II
In the last post we discussed the prerequisites needed for starting
Mimicry training. If you’re following along and have worked on isolating
six behaviors that your dog can perform fluently on verbal cue alone,
and you’ve figured out how you’re going to do
your stationing and have practiced that with your dog, you can go ahead
and get started!
Pick three of the six behaviors to start with.
Station your dog.
Perform one of the behaviors (for example, spin in a circle.
It’s a fun, yet complicated time to be a dog
trainer, as there are constantly new methods and techniques being
developed. One that I’m currently working on is “mimicry.”
Mimicry is simply learning something by copying it. Humans do it all the
time: “Do this,” I can say, and demonstrate a task like shortening a
leash or presenting a hand target, and the person can immediately do it.
Dogs, on the other hand, don’t really get
this. In fact it was long thought that they couldn’t learn by imitation
or mimicry at all, other than very basic things that young puppies
could pick up from their mother.
It’s (gasp) closing in on the Holiday
Season! If you’re a dog owner and want to travel, you now have to figure
out where your dog will stay while you were gone (if you can’t bring
him with you, anyway.)
Gone are the days when your one and only option was to leave your dog in
a metal kennel run in a big professional kennel building. Now there are
tons of choices. There’s in-home pet-sitting, where someone stays at
your house while you’re gone. Drop-in pet sitting, where the dog gets
multiple visits per day but is alone overnight.
Working from home with your dog sounds like a dream come true. Relaxing
mornings where you can get up leisurely and go out for a nice walk
before settling down in front of the computer for the day’s work. Your
dog will curl under your feet as you type away and send emails to
co-workers, supervisors and customers. In the afternoon, maybe you’ll
head to the coffee shop for a change of scenery; your dog will come too,
of course. When the work is done, you’ll sign off and head out to the
When many people set out to
get their puppy, they are prepared and expecting to get a great, perfect
one. They’re willing to put in the hours, the love, the money. And they
expect that what they ultimately will get out of it will be a dream
dog, the most amazing dog in the world.
That very well might be the case! But…hate to break it to you; the truth is that that “perfect puppy” is kind of a unicorn.
Your puppy was born with all sorts of
predispositions and an inherent temperament.
Testing out your dogs skills and your training
abilities in the competition obedience ring is a great way to see how
you’ve done, but even if you don’t want to compete (many people don’t)
you can still occasionally “test” yourself and your dog to see how
Dr. Ian Dunbar, the veterinary behaviorist who
popularized both puppy classes and positive reinforcement-based
training, uses the “test, train, test” method to ensure that your dog is
in fact making progress with its training.