Your Puppy is Unique – Bad Dog Agility Academy

Your Puppy is Unique

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  • Janet says:

    I really need some suggestions on what to do about a really reactive 9-month old mini American shepherd. I’ve had Deuce about 3 weeks now. He seemed perfectly friendly when I first met him, and he went to the vet and pet store the first week without any problem. But after that he became very reactive to anyone coming anywhere near (except me). I have no idea why. I won’t be able to do anything with him if I can’t take him anywhere, so everything else seems not very important. I wrote a long message here about what I’ve been trying and my discouragement with this, but I’d really rather discuss this privately, if that’s possible.

  • Jill Cohn says:

    I have never used a toy as a training motivation tool, only treats. Sometimes Freck gets so excited at the start of a training session he will perform every trick he knows before we even start the session because he wants the treat so badly. Maybe a toy can help his anticipation.

    • Sarah Baker says:

      I would definitely use toys and treats! Next time you have a toy out, try asking for some behaviors and see if he can do them. Reward by tugging!

      There are a couple of things I would do for him running through all his behaviors. First, you can start sessions by rewarding calm behavior, then when he is a little settled, cue a single behavior and reward. Many dogs will run through their behaviors when those behaviors have not been put on stimulus control so I would work on that as well. Here is a little blurb on verbals:

      Verbal Cues
      Dogs learn context and visual cues much easier than verbal cues. When you want to teach a verbal cue, try to hold completely still so there is no movement on your part to distract your dog from learning the verbal. Say the verbal cue, pause a brief moment, then follow through with the signal your dog already knows.
      If you have shaped a behavior, add the verbal cue right before you think your puppy will do the behavior.
      If you are capturing behaviors, say the cue right before you think the behavior will happen or just as it happens. I frequently teach cues by naming then as they happen naturally. Your dog stretches, say stretch! Your dog races toward you, say come!
      Because verbals are so difficult for dogs to learn, I am very careful to only add them when I know the behavior I want will happen. For example, I do NOT say come when my untrained puppy is chasing a bird. I DO say come when he is already coming. I am also careful to give most cues only when I know my dog is paying attention to me.

      Duration: If you want a behavior to have duration, be sure to release your dog from the behavior. For example, I do not want sit to mean sit for a moment and get up when you want to. I want sit to mean sit until I release you or cue you to do something else. So, after I cue each sit, I will release my puppy before he gets up on his own. If he gets up before I release him I will re cue or wait for the behavior, then release.

      Stimulus control: Having a behavior on stimulus control means the behavior only happens when you cue it. If you teach your dog a behavior that you only want done when cued, be sure to only reward the behavior when you cue it. For example, I teach my dogs to jump up on me, but I do not want them jumping up whenever they want to. So the behavior is only allowed when I cue it. It can also help to reward your dog for NOT doing the behavior when you do NOT cue it. So in the jumping example, I would heavily reward NOT jumping up on me when I do not cue it. Putting unwanted behaviors like jumping up and barking on stimulus control can help prevent them from happening when you do not want them to.
      What verbal cues does your dog actually know? Test them sometimes by holding completely still when giving the verbal cue. Stand upright, put your hands behind your back and give one verbal cue. Does your dog do the behavior immediately? If not, they might still be relying on a physical signal from you or an environmental prompt. If they do the behavior, is it to criteria? Does it have any duration? Or does your dog immediately start throwing out every other behavior they know as well? Many behaviors I want on verbal cue so my dogs can do them without looking at me and on stimulus control so they only do them when I cue them to.
      Verbals can be difficult for many dogs so have patience : )

  • Alan Armstrong says:

    Hi Sarah, I am very excited about this course. I have a 12 week old Sheltie (not my first) and I am very excited about the ‘green field’ aspect of a new puppy but also feeling the pressure of OK what do I need to be doing first (or not doing) to effectively train my dog. This course seems like it will be very helpful.

  • Heike Rivera says:

    sarah i am working my way through the first lessons to get ready for our new pup and one of the questions i have is did you introduce the Clicker right away?

  • Jill LaGrange says:

    I can relate to your comments on difficulty. This really helped me renew my commitment to shorter training sessions and increase the rate of reinforcement. Thank you

  • kwagner36@wi.rr.com says:

    In the past, all my dogs ended up being only food motivated and not at all interested in tugging due to my rewarding with food. How can I avoid this from happening or is this addressed in later units?

    Kerry ( person) and Tlyda ( BC rescue pup)

    thank you Sarah!

    • Sarah Baker says:

      It is all about a balance. Use play as a reward as much as you can, especially for active behaviors. When you want to use a toy, you may want to put all food away. I also work on tug, drop for food then tug again to build equal value. I will often begin and end training sessions with play. I often have multiple toys and let the dog pick which one they want most.

    • Sarah Baker says:

      Watch the playing in class video. That was when I was having trouble getting Skeptic to play with me in a new class environment.

  • kari.massoth says:

    I have had a Weim and a Dobe…now a Working Kelpie, he has been the easiest with sleep and potty breaks, not with leaving things alone (my plants) after a correction or diversion. This is great material so far! Thanks Sarah!

    • Sarah Baker says:

      You are very welcome! I recommend using more management and teach alternative behaviors when you can anticipate behaviors you do not want. I am glad you are enjoying the class!

  • Caperkea says:

    Sounds so much like my Treva, who had the unfortunate luck to have a rare type of elbow dysplasia and had surgery at 7 months and had 4 months of limited activity. Not easy with a vocal, high drive field Lab. SO much for health checks on the parents!

  • cynthia says:

    Thank you Sarah! My new dogs have had me in tears with frustration, but they are improving and I am learning a lot: especially what you have said “walk away & rethink!, constantly evaluate criteria and rewards/rate of reward.” I am looking forward to this course.

    • Sarah Baker says:

      I have been there with the frustration. Skeptic has been quite the project but all my hard work is definitely paying off and I know yours will too! Welcome to the class!

  • Header says:

    Can’t wait to do the rest of this class. My Arthur sounds like a baby Skeptic.

    • sarahdogs says:

      I hope you have fun with Arthur! If things are not going to plan that is okay! Just put the puppy away, evaluate and lower your criteria, raise your rate of reinforcement and things should improve. Skeptic sent me back to the training board again and again. He sure did make me a better trainer!


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