The first element we want to develop is the bond between the dog and the owner. A lack of solid bonding can be easily identified, such as if the dog frequently disobeys commands, does not come when called, or runs away from the owner at the slightest opportunity. This behavior can upset owners who feel the dog is not loyal.
Increasing the bond is best developed through effective communication. Sometimes just the act of incorporating training techniques with your dog will increase the bond, with the ultimate purpose to develop a relationship based around trust and mutual respect.
There may be individual issues at play that have interrupted the dog’s bond with the owner. For this reason, it’s important for an experienced trainer to diagnose what the issue may be. Some culprits could include a lack of positive affirmations, accidentally rewarding bad behavior, or not incorporating important trust-building exercises or games with your dog.
CHARGING THE MARKER
One of the first steps of the training process includes charging the marker with something that’s meaningful. Through this, an action that is ordinarily mundane to the dog (the sound of a clicker, a vocalized command, etc.) obtains meaning through following it with what the dog wants (for example, food). This is how your dog will learn to respond to all of your commands.
During this process, we believe it’s important to understand the timing between the cue (the marker) and the reward. All we want is to mark the specific behavior that we desire from the dog. We are careful to include a split-second delay between giving the marker and reaching for or delivering the reward. This way, your dog understands the difference between the marker and the reward. Otherwise, dogs can become confused by things like misplaced body language, potentially ruining their training.
Through shaping it becomes possible to sculpt a dog’s behavior and actions. This is done through teaching the dog connections between desired actions and rewards. As a basic example, we would develop fetching commands by teaching the dog a connection between touching the ball with his or her nose, and being given a reward.
Shaping is also accomplished through luring. To effectively practice this, it’s important to start with food lures (some kibble), and gradually transition to verbal or hand signals. A final goal being to ensure the dog “knows” when an action is desired, which will result in a reward.
Through free shaping we can begin training the dog to the next-level, giving the dog a chance to think for herself about what behavior is expected in order to achieve a reward. Through this technique, the dog offers different behaviors, while the trainer marks the ones he wants to encourage through naming that behavior. This can be used to teach the dog more complex, multi-step tasks through behavioral momentum.
One of the most important elements of the training process is proofing. This is essentially “proving” that the dog can perform a desired action in a multitude of situations, consistently. As an example, proofing with markers and rewards could involve presenting a scenario to the dog in a new, distracting environment (around other dogs, a crowded place, etc). Will the dog pay attention to you, listen to the markers, or run away and do something else? To ensure a dog’s training is finalized and effective, we must proof the dog in a variety of situations like this.
As part of the proofing process, we also believe in fading away rewards. Ultimately, owners want their dogs to perform actions like sitting on command. However, obedience like this should be performed reliably whether there are rewards like food present, or not. We want to arrive to a point where the canine is happy to perform in all situations, with or without food or stimuli.
There you have it—our basic rundown and philosophy. For more information, we’d be happy to answer any questions about our training process, and what you can expect by working with us.
Just give us a call at 310-309-0338. We’ll talk soon!