Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Some Training Ramblings ! Why Iike to teach three or more behaviours to a puppy

Many pet owners come to classes and are only interested in teaching the sit and down as they won’t really use the stand in day to day life except for examination or if they plan to show the dog.

So why it is useful to teach 3 behaviours,  the sit, stand and down to a puppy and not just sit and down.

These are some of the first behaviours we start teaching a puppy, they are simple, easy and can be lured with food creating a nice positive force free introduction to learning/training

A puppy will follow the food lure and then eventually the hand movement without food in it, and we then add words called cues or commands

The puppy will mainly at first actually be watching your hand movement and food and not really listening to the word. The hand movement is a visual cue and the word is a verbal cue.

At first for the behaviour (sit, stand or down) to happen the hand movement will probably be needed and it wont happend just on a verbal cue. This  movement needs to be faded out gradually and then the behaviour will happen on just a verbal cue

Things to consider :

Sit and Down only
If you just teach the sit and down the puppy cannot get it wrong and may not learn to listen to specific cues but just to do the 'other' behaviour it knows when you say a word. The perception is the puppy is learning correctly because it is getting it right. If the puppy is sat and say down it only knows one other thing to do so will get it right, if the puppy is in the down and you say sit, its going to get it right.
You can test this by saying sit if the puppy is already sat or another random word and see if the puppy lies down.

Sit, Stand and Down
If you teach the three behaviours, you can mix them up so it is unpredictable and the puppy can make errors. If the puppy is in the sit and you say down it now has a 50/50 chance of success, this means you can test if the dog is listening to the specific words (sit, stand and down) The puppy is now learning the skill of listening to different verbal cues.
Another common handler error that can happen is the handler cues stand to the puppy which is already in the sit and it lies down, then the puppy stands as there was no reward for the down. If the handler was to reward the puppy, the puppy learns not to do the stand on the ‘stand’ cue, but to throw its repertoire of behaviours at the handler and it eventually get the right one and gets rewarded. The puppy then learns to just throw behaviours and it eventually gets paid. Therefore the hander must only reward if the correct behaviour occurs on cue straight away

I like a dog to make errors so it can compare and then demonstrate true understanding, however I never allow a dog to make more that 3 errors, I reset the dog up for success after two. If a reward is withheld then it enables the dog stop and think what was different. Too much failure is frustrating and the learning experience becomes negative, even punishing. Think about how you have felt when you have repeatedly failed at something? Also consider how rewarding it then is to get it right? This is very fine balance and it needs to be adapted to the individual dog. Learning to fail and try again is very valuable learning and life skill for a puppy.

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