Tag Archives: Dog Training

Teach Your Dog ‘Lets Go’ In a fast fun and effective way

A short video to explain how to teach your dog to ‘lets go’ which means stop what ever you are doing and follow in my direction. This is a great cue to use so you never have to use your dogs leash as a rudder or a steering wheel. If you have a leash reactive dog and you need to move your dog away from a problem area without causing any additional tension then the ‘lets go’ cue is great for managing your dog within its environment

Teaching Your Dog ‘Lets Go’

An Outline of The Four Quadrants of Operant Conditioning

Niki Tudge Copyright 2009


There are four types of operant learning, defined as such because the behavior operates on the environment.  Two of the quadrants of operant conditioning strengthen behaviors, referred to as reinforcements. The other two of the operant conditioning quadrants weaken behavior, referred to as punishments. The quadrants are referred to as a negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, negative punishment and positive punishment.  The terms positive and negative do not describe the consequence, they indicate whether a stimulus, has been added (positive) or subtracted (negative) to increase or weaken the preceding behavior (Chance 2008 p 126).


Both positive and negative reinforcement increase the strength of the behavior due to its consequence.  With positive reinforcement the behavior is followed by the appearance of or an increase in the intensity of a stimulus. The stimulus is called a positive reinforcement as it is something the subject seeks out therefore it reinforcers the behavior that precedes it.  With negative reinforcement the behavior is strengthened by the subject’s ability to avoid or escape an aversive stimulus, thus negative reinforcement is sometimes referred to as escape-avoidance learning (Chance 2008 p 129). An experience must have three characteristics to qualify as reinforcement.  The behavior must have a consequence, the behavior must increase in strength and the increase in strength must be a result of the consequence (Chance 2008 p 127).


As behavior is the function of its consequences and whereas reinforcement strengthens the likelihood of a behavior then punishments reduce the strength of the behavior. Punishers are aversives and something a subject works to avoid. When an aversive event is added to a situation then positive punishment has taken place. Negative punishment subtracts something from the situation, like privileges, and is sometimes called penalty training.  Experiences must have three characteristics to qualify as punishment. First, the behavior must have a consequence, second the behavior must decrease in strength and finally the reduction in strength must be a result of the consequence (Chance 2008 p 208).


Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior, Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Common Myths in Dog Training

Common Myths in Dog Training by Niki Tudge Copyright 2011

There are so many myths in dog training and far too many to detail here. The myths that are most misleading and have the most impact on the living conditions of our pet dogs are the following.

1.      Myth #1 – Dogs that do not learn are stubborn or stupid.

This is very inaccurate. Like Humans, dogs learn at different paces and are motivated by different things. Dogs also have different drives and sensitivities. Many dogs fail at training due to inappropriate training methods, poor instruction or a lack of clear and concise cues or simply because owners expect them to learn just for the reward of pleasing the owner. As an example, your dog’s physical condition and health must always be considered. A dog that is suffering from hip-dysplasia may not be able to do ‘sit’ and ‘down’ exercises.

  1. Myth #2 – Puppies cannot go to training class until they are 6 months old.

This myth originates from the days when training incorporated many harsh leash and collar corrections. Using the proper modern methods, puppies can join a well-run puppy class when they are 10 weeks old.  You can start training them at home the day you bring them home using the new more effective methods.  It is important to socialize your puppy as soon as possible by exposing it to as many new people and things as you can. This will help your dog grow up to be behaviorally healthy.

  1. Myth #3 – My dog knows when he has been bad since he looks guilty.

We all love to attribute human emotions to our dogs. In most cases humans make these comments when they arrive home or catch a dog soon after it has exhibited a behavior that it has been punished for. The look of guilt is actually a look of anticipation of something unpleasant about to happen since the dog has learned that if it does this and then the human appears, it is punished.  The dog is displaying appeasement behaviors which are intended to cut off conflict.


4.      Myth #4 – My dog does this because they are dominant.

This is one of the more popular misconceptions used by dog owners when they are trying to explain an undesirable behavior their dog is displaying.  Dominance actually describes a social relationship between two or more individuals. Dominance is not a character trait. The APDT notes that “Despite what many people believe, dogs do not spend their time seeking to establish control over humans.” Dogs display behaviors that work for them. If your dog runs through the door before you it does not mean he is dominant. It simply means your dog is excited to go outside and does so in a rambunctious manner because they have not been taught to sit and wait for the door to open. If your dog pulls on the leash they are not being dominant. They have simply learned over time that if they pull to get to the smells or to explore what they want and you follow. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends that veterinarians not refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that follow from it.


5.      Myth #5 – Positive reinforcement training is not preferable with large breeds.

Positive reinforcement is the common protocol with marine trainers and many trainers of exotic animals, such as those trainers preparing animals for movie roles. If the methods work with whales, dolphins, lions and bears then there is no reason they should not work with large breed dogs.  Research supports the consensus that using aversive training methods on fearful or aggressive dogs creates fallout and leads to aggressive tendencies, learned helplessness and anxiety disorders. Reward based training helps empower animals, creates confidence and develops strong trusting and safe relationships between dogs and their owners.

What’s the Reality of Reality Dog Training?

The recent popularity of dog training reality shows has impacted the dog training industry in several ways.  The most important and deceptive component of most dog training tv shows is how quickly behavior problems are resolved. Good dog training takes patience, consistency and commitment. Like any new skill, learning needs instruction, practice and more practice. The skill has to be learned, practiced in several environments, proofed for consistency and then integrated into everyday life. This does not and cannot happen in 60 minutes. As stated on the APDT website, “You’ll see many TV dog training programs where very intense problems are seemingly ‘cured’ in just a few minutes by the change of body posture on the part of the owner or by uttering a particular syllable in a certain way. But in reality, long-term training and behavior problems are just not going to go away in minutes!”


How Will Your DogSmith Approach Your Training Problem?

So you contact your local DogSmith, what next. Well if it is a simple case of dog training we will agree on the skills you and your dog need to learn to accomplish your goals, we will schedule some private lessons and we will begin the training. If your dog presents with more complicated behaviors such as fear, anxiety or aggression then we approach this very differently. We need to understand how your dog is interacting with the environment so we better understand what is going on.

Although each behavior case presented to The DogSmith will vary the professional process for working through all cases remains fixed. The DogSmith will  first  established that the presenting case falls within their scope of services offered and that it falls within the boundaries of their knowledge and skill body . Your DogSmith Behavior Consultant must then consider the vulnerability of the animal and its inability to offer informed consent. We will review with you our disclosure process, this includes  statements regarding conflicts of interest concerned with the animal’s welfare, the behavior change methods to be employed and the parameters of confidentiality and privilege relating to local and state animal controls, ordinances and laws. A DogSmith will not embark on dispensing advice to a client until these important disclosures have been communicated and a training agreement signed.

Our  next strategy is to conduct a functional assessment.  The final product of this functional assessment is a contingency statement.  The contingency statement identifies the stimuli, SD, that reliably evokes the behavior and the distant antecedents that motivate operations and set the context for the behavior. The postcedents are also identified and those that are functionally related to the behavior are labeled as consequences. In English, we now understand what is causing the behavior and  how it is being reinforced so we can recommend the correct protocols to change it.

Next, working with you, the client, realistic training goals are set. The training plan is then implemented using the least aversive and invasive training procedures possible to achieve your goals. We coach you  on how to perform the necessary training skills and we then set your homework  based on your  individual skills, competency and time constraints.

The training plan is closely monitored so our progress can be assessed. Your  DogSmith will supervise your training plan through generalization of the trained skills. We will then prepare the case closing documents and discuss them with you. Your DogSmith will then check back in with you from time to time to ensure your success is maintained.

Schedule a FREE consultation today with your Local DogSmith.

What and How Much Can a Puppy Learn?

Well first of all let’s define a puppy. In The DogSmith puppy classes the dog must be under the age of 6 months, however a dog is not considered an adult until it is 12 months of age.

It is a great idea to get your puppy into a well run and safe puppy class when it is several weeks old. Begin your puppy’s education before any problematic behaviors can develop. If you wait until your puppy is 4-6 months of age then I can guarantee you are probably already experiencing some jumping problems, nipping problems and maybe some potty accidents. This means when you start your training program, at the same time you are trying to build appropriate behaviors such as sit, down, come, stay etc you have to work on reducing the other problematic behaviors. This often causes frustration for owners and this is when we begin to hear comments such as “my puppy is dominant” or “my puppy is stubborn” when really the puppy is just exhibiting the behaviors that it has learned from its environment during its early months of development.

At The DogSmith we encourage puppies into class at around 9 weeks of age; puppies are capable of learning some really nice behaviors even at this age, more importantly we can teach the owners how to manage their puppy’s environment during these first weeks so they do not inadvertently teach the puppy inappropriate behaviors. In my opinion the most important thing we need to teach our puppies is that training is fun and people are safe. If you want to raise a socially sound dog that can solve problems and live comfortably around your family then stay away from aversive and invasive dog training methods.

On our website you can watch some really nice videos of puppies who are just four months of age demonstrating sit-down, stay behaviors, come, up and off and walk nicely. We also have a really nice E-Book that covers all the behaviors you can begin to teach your puppy under our proprietary MTR Program. These behaviors are categorized under management tools, relationship exercises and training skills. Feel free to grab a copy and begin working through them.

Here is a copy of our DogSmith Skill Training Card for puppies, your local DogSmith will covers some or all of these skills in your Puppy Class depending on the number of dogs in class, age of dogs in your class  and your individual goals. What you and your dog will learn from a DogSmith puppy class is how much fun training can be and that the working relationship between people and dogs should be fun, effective and non damaging both mentally and physically for your and your puppy.

The DogSmith One-Hour Skill Speciality Class – Register Today

The DogSmtih is introducing its new one-hour skill specialty class. If there is something in particular you would like to learn, or a skill you would like to polish up then register for a one hour class with your Local DogSmith Certified Dog Trainer & Dog Behavior Consultant

Class – Start Date
Day and Time Location Cost Register
DogSmith Skills Tune-Up 1 Hour Specialty Lesson
Thursday 3 PM Oxford, MS
Oxford Pet Resort & Spa
18.00 Register
Are your pooch’s skills getting a little rusty? Maybe becoming a little sloppy or inconsistent? Then you need our Skills Tune-Up session. The DogSmith Skills Tune-Up is a quick 1 hour refresher in a group environment. Just the thing to sharpen up any skills you want!


What are Prompts in Dog Training and When Are They Appropriate?

A prompt is an antecedent strategy used to increase the likelihood of a behavior so it can be reinforced. It occurs before the behavior. We have to evoke a behavior so we can reinforce it to put it under stimulus control. Prompts can be food lures, voice prompts, equipment prompts and/or physical prompts where the dog is physically manipulated into a position. At the DogSmith we make use of food prompts, voice prompts, equipment prompts but we never physically manipulate a dog into position.

Prompts are appropriate when they can easily elicit simple behaviors without being invasive or aversive and when they can help prevent frustration and maintain training momentum. Prompts are also appropriate when they can be faded easily allowing the target behavior to come under a discriminative stimulus, a cue.

Prompts are inappropriate when they are invasive as they interfere with the conditioning process. Physical prompts can be very difficult to fade out of the antecedent strategy as they may elicit emotional responses that hinder the generalization of the behavior. An example of this is pushing on your dog’s butt to achieve a “sit” The process is not always pleasant for the dog so the association with the training process is not pleasant, this hinders the dogs learning. You also want a dog to sit without the use of prompts so it is best to use only the prompts that are critical from the onset to evoke the behavior.

Capturing behavior is more preferable if we can use that process, capturing is a postcedent protocol; it takes place after the behavior has been presented. When you capture behaviors it is easier to put them under stimulus control as you don’t have the chore of fading out all the prompts you used in the first place such as food in the hand to lure a dog into a sit.

Teaching a Dog to “Sit”

Here is how we teach a “Sit” Behavior as an example. The end behavior we are looking for is a “sit” when we say “sit” or give a clean concise hand signal. We want the “sit” behavior to be under the control of both these cues. We need the dog to “sit” reliably without the use of food or prompts.

Teaching a dog the ‘sit’ behavior can be done by capturing or luring.  Capturing the behavior is preferential so the food lure does not have to be faded from the antecedent package. Whether the ‘sit’ behavior is lured or captured as soon as the dog’s rump hits the floor the behavior is marked and reinforcement is delivered. The dog is reinforced for a one-second “sit”, this is repeated five times. Between each trial the dog is encouraged to move forward by the handler moving backward and calling the dog’s name.

The “sit” behavior is then built into a short duration behavior by reinforcing a 3-second “sit” and then 5-second ‘sits’ in sets of five trials. When the dog will “sit” reliably for 5 seconds, if the behavior has been captured, we then introduce the hand signal and verbal cue ‘sit.’ As the dog begins to “sit” we give the hand signal to sit. If the ‘sit’ behavior has been lured this is when we begin to fade food from the hand motion.

When the dog is reliably sitting for 5 seconds from either a hand signal or the verbal cue ‘sit’ we then switch to an intermittent reinforcement schedule. At this juncture we will decide if we are going to build on the ‘sit’ behavior in terms of a duration behavior or a distance behavior, working on only one dimension at a time until the terminal behavior is achieved. When new dimensions are introduced then the reinforcement will be put back to a more frequent schedule.

So when training a dog only use prompts if you have to. Capturing simple behavior is far more effective. For more instructions on how to train your dog you can download our FREE DogSmith MTR e-book. Click here