The Peeing Post

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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Dear Dog Friend,

Last time, I left you with just the theory for training the dog to stay in a crate.

I remember promising that I would give you the practical version also.

Before we get serious, I have to pass on this little piece of text I got from Yvette, a very valued subscriber:

Looking for the perfect partner...

If you want someone who will do anything to please you, get a dog.

If you want someone who will bring you the newspaper without tearing through it first for the sports page, get a dog.

If you want someone who'll make a total fool of himself because he's so glad to see you, get a dog.

If you want someone who eats whatever you put in front of him and never says his mother made it better, get a dog.

If you want someone who's always eager to go out any time you ask and anywhere you want to go, get a dog.

If you want someone who can scare away burglars without waving a lethal weapon around, endangering you and all the neighbors, get a dog.

If you want someone who never touches the remote, couldn't care less about Monday Night Football, and watches dramas with you as long as you want, get a dog.

If you want someone who'll be content just to snuggle up and keep you warm in bed, and who you can kick out of bed if he slobbers and snores, get a dog.

If you want someone who never criticizes anything you do, doesn't care how good or bad you look, acts as though every word you say is worth hearing, never complains, and loves you unconditionally all the time, get a dog!

On the other hand...

If you want someone who never comes when you call him, totally ignores you when you walk in the room, leaves hair all over the place, walks all over you, prowls around all night and comes home only to eat and sleep all day, and acts as though you are there only to see that HE's happy...Get a CAT!



As you know, dog have owners, but cats have staff. I think it was a cat who said that, probably this one:

Self-esteem is healthy!


OK, back to serious stuff! (I have nothing against cats - I just like dogs much better...)



Adding an end to the CRATE exercise...

You probably realize that the training I outlined in the last Peeing Post will keep the dog in the crate forever, if it works...

Oops...

You need two commands. One for getting the dog to go into the crate, and one for releasing the dog from its obligation to stay in the crate. This goes for almost all commands that don't request an action which automatically stops itself (like one bark, for instance).

 

The BREAK command

Let's discuss the last command first. I like to refer to it as the dog's BREAK command. You can use it as a universal command that means "I have no more jobs for you right now - you are free now to do as you please, as long as you obey the fundamental laws of the pack."

The training is very simple:

You give the command (remember, you need a very careful choice here! "OK" or "That's good" are totally unacceptable! They could kill your dog! Seriously.) - I will just use "BREAK" as illustration, ignoring that it is a bad choice, but it is for YOU to understand, not the dog!

So, what is your incitement? Simple: open the door to the crate and encourage the dog to come out and say hello to you.

Well, the dog's reaction is fairly obvious: it will come out of the crate. If not, you have to figure a better incitement!

The reward is also very obvious: the dog will most likely enjoy its freedom - hopefully it will even enjoy greeting you!

The trick in the training is that all these four components must be experienced in exactly this sequence for the dog - with no other experiences wedging themselves in-between any two adjacent boxes!

Command

-->

Incitement

-->

Reaction

-->

Reward

The result will be that the dog will learn to "jump the gun" on the incitement and start the desired reaction immediately on the command, expecting the reward:

Command

-->

Reaction

-->

Reward

While the incitement's role obviously is to make itself redundant, the importance of the reward never becomes redundant. If you remove it, you destroy your own training results. And it goes fast!

 

The CRATE command

Your "CRATE" command goes in a similar way:

  1. You give the command (your chosen word for this exercise - remember: no usual common English words!)
  2. You use an incitement, i.e. you make to dog go into the crate (you can use a leash, a treat, or whatever will work).
  3. As a result of your well-chosen and well-applied incitement, the dog will perform the reaction you want - it will go into the crate. If not, you have to pick a better incitement!
  4. You then reward the dog for being such a good learner. (This can be tricky, for the dog will not very likely want to stay in the crate very long. You therefore have to close the door and let the dog have a reward that makes it worth its while before it wants out again. A good reward would be something that will take the dog's mind off the fact of the door being closed, so it does not connect going into the crate with being trapped. A good bone is a great reward for this. Multiple treats are also useful.)

In principle, this is really simple. In reality, you might have to fight all kinds of problems. Identifying an incitement that will work reliably can be a huge challenge. But the thing is that you either do it or give up the training! There is no such thing as getting results from a training methodology that does not include an effective incitement.

You might have to spend weeks and months on developing an incitement that will work reliably. If your dog freaks out every time it comes close to the crate, you have such a problem to overcome. This could be a very good reason for getting professional assistance...

The reward can be tricky too. Not that the reward itself should cause problems, but the problem will often be that the dog will experience the discomfort of being crated before you can extend the reward to it - and in such case, it might not enjoy the reward at all. If this happens, no learning will take place, and you can keep doing this forever, without a shadow of any results! This is where another experience can "wedge" itself in-between two boxes, in this case the dog's reaction (going into the crate) and the reward. If panic or discomfort strikes the dog before it will enjoy the reward, or if the reward is not enjoyable for it, then you do not have a training method. You are just wasting your time and exerting cruelty to your dog.

Making sure that your incitement and your reward will work as intended is really nothing more than making sure you have the proper tools for your construction tasks. Building behavior patterns in your dog's mind is really what training is about - and without the proper tools, you build nothing but confusion. That's why it is so irresponsible to just claim that "this problem should be solved by this training method". What works as good incitements and effective rewards for one dog may not work for another dog. And, as you realize, the choices of incitement and reward constitute "your training method". The only "standard" you can (and should) use is "The Four Boxes" - but it is too general to be of much help, unless you understand what it implies and are willing to experiment with your choices before you put your training method together.

Mind you, once you give your command, you are committed with your blood and head to get that dog to perform, so you can reward it! There is no such thing as "let's try and see how it works!" When you give a command, you better be serious about teaching the dog to obey. Giving a command is like starting your plane down the runway. There is no option that says you can stop the plane half up in the air and start over! If you decide to go, you get that plane in the air. Period!

Yes, in my experience, this is the number one reason for most people to get such miserable results out of their dog training. Your dog expects you to be a great pilot. If you are not, it does not want to be in your plane. And seriously, I don't blame it.

 

Rewarding only the behavior you want...

So far, you have not left that crate while the dog was in it. You have made sure that the dog learned to enjoy its time it the crate. You might have spent several weeks on this, maybe a couple of months, if you had problems.

On the other hand, you have also ensured that you never gave your BREAK command before the dog was relaxed and showed no intention of getting out of the crate!

You realize that your BREAK command actually functions as reward for whatever behavior the dog shows prior to the command! You have to be very careful not teaching the dog something you don't want it to learn!

This is trap number 2. Most people walk right into it. They cannot handle the dog's barking, howling, or other behavior that expresses its misery. But you have to be firm. That's why you use the crate. The crate ensures that the dog cannot do anything it is not allowed to do, and the annoying noise-making will disappear when you abstain from rewarding it. Instead, you reward the behavior you want: a quiet dog that is lying down in its crate, patiently waiting. When you get that, you may use your BREAK command and let the dog out.

 

Strrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeetching time...

When you are certain that the dog will remain quiet in the crate for any amount of time, with you staying close to it, then it is time to gradually remove yourself to larger distances.

For start, you stay so the dog can see you. You wait there till the dog assumes the desirable behavior. I don't care how long time that would be, but YOU WAIT TILL IT HAPPENS! Bring a book and a good chair if need be, but do not go back to the dog before it lies down and shuts up. You want to reward desirable behavior, not unacceptable behavior.

Next step is to go out of sight, but you cheat: you use a mirror or a reflection in a window to control the dog's behavior. Again, when it does what you want, you end the exercise.

From here, you can move to another room, even out of the house. The difficulty is now that the dog might recognize the situation when you come back and this might trigger all the unwanted behavior again! But you know what you have to do: you take your chair and your book and wait at a distance until the dog behaves nicely as you want it. Then you go back to say hello and let it out.

Get the picture?

In principle, darn simple. In practical reality sometimes very complicated and very demanding on your part - especially emotionally. But you have to see it through. This is an important reason for the crate: you know the dog is not in serious trouble. It can't be - there is nothing in the crate that could represent any danger or cause any serious problems.

 

Changing location

Next step is to place the crate in a different location, and then carry out the exercise under these new circumstances. When you do that, you have to be prepared for the dog not knowing what to do when you give your CRATE command! Don't get mad - just help it perform, as you did for start. The dog cannot know this until you have taught it, and that it what you do.

Next comes putting the crate in a different room, then in the garage, then in the car. Always change only one parameter at a time - and change it as gradually as you can. Avoid big changes. The more you can make the new situation recognizable for the dog, the faster the learning process will go.

When you do this training right, you will accomplish several things:

Worth the trouble?

Absolutely YES!

Now, go and make it work. Tell me the story when you are done - or send me an e-mail if you run into problems you don't understand. But don't YOU jump the gun! Start from the beginning by identifying what incitement and what reward you can make work - before you even whisper your command the first time!

Have fun!

 

Mogens Eliasen

 

If you have any comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in general pertaining to dogs, please respond - if I can find an answer for you, I will!

If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, I will be happy to know about them. (Please no anonymous contacts, though...)

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SuperDog leaving a message



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Don't forget the Summer Camp! You can still sign up for the August camps (August 10-17 and/or 17-24). I am planning on also doing two camps in September (September 7-14 and 14-21) for those who cannot make it in the summer months. More information at http://k9joy.com/dogtraining/campcourses.html.

Be aware that camps get canceled if I cannot get at least 5 students - and I don't count any verbal promises as commitment unless they are followed by a payment. If you pay a deposit, and the camp doesn't go, your money will instantly get paid back. But if you don't pay your deposit because you are not sure if the camp will go or not, chances are that it will not go... In case there are 4 other people signed up and you hold back your commitment, I will cancel the course and pay those four their money back, and none of you will go. I don't do it just the day before - I do it a full week before!

Please note also that if you pay through PayPal, I have no way of escaping from refunding you a deposit from a course that does not run. It would shut my on-line business down immediately if I tried... So, if you want to go, you will have to show me a commitment to going if we get enough participants. I will, on my side, commit to doing it with just 5 students - and to pay you back immediately if I cancel the course because of getting too few. This makes my financial commitment 10 times as large as the commitment I am asking you...