"The Peeing Post"

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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More Dog Training...

 

Dear $first_name,

Are you on your way to teach your dog the most fundamental exercises we discussed in the last issue? I hoped so! If you need any support, you can get a lot from my video "The Dog's Social Behavior" - which simply is based on a live recording of what I always require all my students to learn first, before we even talk about them bringing their dogs along...

You can also get support from my phone consultation service if the issue is too complex to warrant a diligent answer per e-mail.

But let us discuss some of the specifics for one of the most troublesome, yet utmost important exercises - getting the dog to come when you call it.

As with all exercises, we have four main components to our training method:

  1. A well-chosen COMMAND - that will not be any simple English word you would ever use for anything else than dog training... (it will most definitely not be the dog's name either!)

  2. An effective INCITEMENT - which is nothing more and nothing less than "whatever it takes for you to make your dog actually do what you want on your command" - your "trigger" for the desired performance.

  3. A clear understanding from your own side about what exactly you want to dog to do - the dog's desired REACTION.

  4. An effective REWARD that will make the dog want to do the exercise again, right away...

As you know, I like to represent these four events as "The Four Boxes":

Command

"FIDO!"

-->

Incitement

You give the dog an irresistible reason to come...
sound like a treat or look like a fun game!

-->

Reaction

The dog comes to you - immediately!

-->

Reward

You give the dog an attractive treat or some great play-time.

Let's discuss what this means. These four boxes are meant to represent four events that follow right after each other. They are all connected to sense impressions for the dog - something the dog experiences. Each box represents an individual experience the dog has. The key to the training being effective is that those four experiences follow in this exact sequence - and with nothing else that wedges itself in between any two of these events.

If you can establish this sequence - and repeat it a reasonable number of times, you will reach the goal: that the dog performs the action on your command - without waiting for the incitement to be applied or not. Neat, eh?

The number of times you need to repeat this sequences? Well, that depends mostly on you. If you choose an effective incitement, a command that is very easily recognizable for the dog, and a reward that just makes the dog go ecstatic, about a dozen times will do for you to see significant improvement. For smart dogs even less. The expected improvement will be that the dog will start the reaction before you get a chance to encourage it with your incitement. You should still use the incitement, just to confirm that everything is OK, but as you realize how redundant it becomes, you gradually reduce it down to nothing.

If you have seen no improvement at all after 20 times of using the sequence, you are doing something wrong. No dogs are that stupid...

Now, for you teaching the dog to come when you call it, you just have to figure out the three of the four boxes. The dog's reaction is "coming to you", so that is a given.

Your next task is to define the command. And, no, it will not be the dog's name. And it will not be "come". Most definitely not a combination of the two either. "Here" is just as hopeless a choice, not to mention "get over here!"... The reason is that you will not restrict yourself from using any of those suggestions also in other day-to-day situations that have nothing to do with dog training. When you don't restrict a dog training command to be nothing more and anything else than a dog training command, then you will confuse your dog by exposing it to your commands at times when you do not intend to train - and I guarantee that, in those situations, you will not follow through with your four boxes... The result is an ineffective training that does not give you the reliability you need. But worse: you get a confused dog - and your leadership position is in serious danger, because the dog will see you as an inconsistent fool - not as a competent pack leader...

Oops...

So, you are basically stripped of options. You are left with nothing - so if this is where your imagination stops, you simply give up - you will never be able to teach your dog to come when you call it....

Having digested my sarcasm, though, you now begin to think of good command words. You can find many. English words are OK - as long they are "weird" and not used for any other purposes, except maybe once in a blue moon every fourth year. Foreign words are even better, though - provided you don't speak that language at home! You should also make the command easy to hear and easy to distinguish from other similar words. One or two syllables will suffice. If you need to consider three syllable words, you need to check a dictionary first... Don't make it complicated for the dog.

You can sleep on it. But once you make your choice, you are committed, so don't be too hasty...

Next step is to consider the reward. Remember, the dog is no robot. It will work for pay. But with no reward, it will soon find excuses for not working - and you will have no way of making it... just realize that it runs faster than you.... And, by the way: would you continue to show up for work if your employer always cheated you on the pay check? Well, there you go!

The good news is that you have a lot of freedom in regards to what you choose as the reward. It does not have to be the same all the time. You can sometimes give a treat, sometimes start some fun play, like throwing a ball or a Frisbee. In other situations, you might take the dog for a nice walk or for a car ride (if it likes that...). A good one, of course, is when you have food ready - or have a good bone you want "somebody" to chew on for you...

The main thing is that you never cheat. The dog must be able to trust in your reward - and if it never knows what exactly it is going to be, it will work much stronger.

If this means that you have to carry treats around with you in your pocket all the time? Or a ball or another toy?

Answer is YES. If you want a reliable recall, that is. I assume you are OK bringing your wallet when you go shopping, right? What's the difference?

Finally, let's discuss the incitement. The incitement is like the starter key to the engine. It is your "Dog Language translation" of what you really want your command to mean to the dog. Because the role of the incitement truly is to make itself redundant, it really does not matter what exactly you choose - as long as you choose something that works!

If you are using a fun ball game as reward, you can show the ball to the dog as an incitement. The sight of the ball or of your fake throwing it could very well work. If so, use it. If not, don't!

If you have the dog on leash, you can use a little tug on the leash to make it turn around and see you. It might work - but don't try to drag the dog back to you! That will for sure not work.

If you intend to reward with a treat, you can move your hand with the treat up close to the dog's nose and let it have a whiff of the goodie; then you can run backwards to follow up making the dog move some distance to come to you. You can add clapping your hands and using your voice in an encouraging tone. Anything goes that will keep the dog's attention on you and on the task of coming to you, so you can reward it.

There you go - your training method is ready to use! Next step is to actually get it all done in practice. For this, you start with the ABC's. You make the task so darn easy for the dog that you might cringe. But it is very wise to do so. You remember the nine times out of ten you must have success in order to proceed.... There is no room to fail, so you keep distances very short. You might even keep the dog on leash. You might do it indoors. You might be careful about when you use the command, so you only do it when the dog already pays attention to you - you only call when it most likely would have come to you anyway! See, this is smart. Because, every time you have a success, you add another picture in the dog's brain about what you want from it when you use your recall command. When you have about 1000 pictures of the right performance for every one (or less) of a less-than perfect performance, you have a reliable recall....

So, what does it take? Ten times a day for 3 months. That's it. If you are careful. The bad news, however, is, that for every one screw-up, you pay a penalty of minus ten. This means that you must do ten good sessions for every one you get done wrong, just to compensate for the negative impact of the bad experience...

So, you'd better do 20-30 good recalls every day.... Yes, you can do that. Each of them takes no more than 10 seconds. In total, for a day, that's 3-5 minutes... (Don't try to "get it all over with" in 10 minutes, doing 30 in a row - you should never repeat a successful training session right away, unless you want to confuse the dog - if it just did it right, what's the point in doing it over?)

When you take the dog for a walk, you have plenty of time to train this! You can also train it indoors. You can train it in so many situations during the time you want to spend with the dog anyway that you will not feel that you are adding any precious time to your busy schedule. If you do feel that, chances are that you are too busy to have a dog... Remember, the dog needs some 4-6 hours of meaningful activity. Minimum. Half of that time should be "devoted time" from either you or someone else in the family. That's more than ample time to do this training....

Just to make sure that you do indeed get the essence: you do not "train" your recall command when you need the dog to come. Chances are that this will always be the case when the dog is deeply occupied with something you don't want it to pay attention to - and that is also the time where your chances of success are slim to none... You pay your penalty in advance. If you try just 4 or 5 times with no success at all, you have blown your chances for success with that command. Your best bet is to start completely over with a fresh command the dog has never heard before - and then, this time, you discipline yourself to be more careful about not demanding results before your training is well consolidated. You cannot demand a child to read Shakespeare in grade two either...

I hope this makes some sense - if not, let me know!

 

Cheers and woof,

Mogens Eliasen

 

If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!

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P.S. If you do the training well and under strictly controlled circumstances that don't let you down, you will see significant results in just a couple of weeks, even with an older dog, and also when you change the locations and increase the distances. If not, you are not doing it right.

But don't even think about using your "old" recall command - whatever it was - for this purpose. "Repairing" an old command that does not work very well is not worth wasting any time on. Consistence is not a choice you have. Don't disregard the force of your own habits. When you start over with a totally new command word (that even feels awkward for you to use at start), you are much better protected against yourself and your own forgetfulness...

And remember: if you think it is difficult to remember this new crazy command word, how the heck do you think your dog will feel about it? If you cannot learn it yourself, then forget about teaching it to your dog... And seriously: if you train as often as you should, you will have no problem remembering. If your memory truly is a problem, you just provided proof that you don't train those 20-30 times a day - you probably don't even train once every day! Sorry - but in such case, I take no pity on you...

If you need live support then consider the possibility of joining me on a Camp Course or arranging to have me come for a weekend and teach all the people in your group to get this done right. Yes, we can do it in a weekend - it does not take more to give you the hands-on practical experience you need in order to see the first results - and from there, the rest is easy. It will actually take much less than a full weekend, so we can discuss also what else you want to have me do when I come. Pick a seminar or two - or let us talk about what other problems you would like to get a fresh view on and some hands-on practical coaching with. Check out what you can get me to do within the frames of Special Assignments - it is very feasible if you can get a group together of just 10-15 people...

Cheers,

Mogens