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Should my child walk the dog alone?
Should my dog greet other dogs on leash?
Reality Check for Rescue Dogs
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Training Tips

Should my child walk the dog alone?

A dog can be a kid's best friend. Kids tend to love dogs! And if your family has a dog, it probably won't be long before your child is asking to take the dog out alone, without adult supervision.

Think carefully about your answer on this. It's going to depend on several factors, including your child's skills, the dog's skills, and the environment. Here are some things to consider:

Size of child and size of dog. In general, a dog that's 30% or less of the handler's body weight is going to be relatively easy to control.

Should my dog greet other dogs on leash?

It's pretty common for people walking dogs to let the dogs approach each other, sniff, greet, maybe play and interact. But it this always the best choice?

Be careful if you decide to let your dog meet/greet an unknown dog being walked by an unknown person. All dogs can be unpredictable, especially ones you've never met before. If your dog has a negative experience -- maybe the other dog growls or attacks -- this could have long-term effects on your dog, especially if it happens regularly.

Low Motivation

What does it mean if your dog has "low motivation?"

It's not the end of the world if you hear a trainer say that about your dog! Unlike a child whose "low motivation" might predict years of difficulty and poor performance in schools, dogs with low motivation are often very successful at being great pets, and behaving just fine.

Dogs who have high motivation are usually the ones who pull on the leash, steal food, and jump all over you for attention. They want stuff, and they're not afraid to go and get it, even if this means getting in trouble or going against the wishes of their owners.

Controlling Resources

A lot of still-common, but old-fashioned training advice these days comes from some studies that were done on captive wolves back in the 1980's. Videos of these groups of unrelated wolves placed artificially in "packs" showed the wolves frequently fighting and struggling for physical control and social dominance. A pack-based theory of dog training emerged from this, promoting the idea that the basic relationship dogs have with others is an often physical fight for dominance. 

New Training Frontiers: Mimicry Part III

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!

Too much science and not enough action?

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.

New Training Frontiers: Mimicry Part II

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.

New Training Frontiers: Mimicry Part 1

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.

Working from Home

 
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 park.

Test Your Training!

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 you’re doing.
 
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.
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