ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Rewarding Attention

You, as mentioned, are really dealing with a baby and if I am working with a baby I am shaping their attitude towards the world. In the meantime we might be heeling or doing other exercises, but my primary concerns are shaping a good working attitude and a happy confident dog. A dog aggressed towards your dog and your’s naturally was distracted - the type of self control you describe "ignore that" is seldom present in a puppy. You'll get there -- I can heel my Belgian female and my Golden past dogs barking and lunging at them, have them down just feet from the "troublemakers" (said tongue perfectly planted in cheek) and they give these dogs absolutely no notice. But that takes time...both in terms of the fluency of one’s training and in terms of the dog's social maturity. I.E. you will get there - soon your Rottie will be out of adolescence she will still be interested in other dogs but will probably not have the "I must meet and play with everyone" attitude of the teenager. I'm sure you know that.

Now regarding this Zen business. You certainly could give your girl "the other dog" as a reward. I have used that with tremendous success and it's an exercise we use in my classes. I will match up compatible dogs AND if the dogs focus on their owners, or down, or heel beautifully they "get to go see the other dog" as a reward! The dogs LOVE it and wow you can get a LOT of self control even around dogs very quickly. I.E. playing for a few minutes does not make them loose focus because they get to play when they have focus! It works...holding the dog away from the world does not work.

I hold some agility classes at my facility. I don't teach them, but I hang out, assist and/or work my dogs in these classes. In them is a woman who has extremely strict rules for her competition dogs, one of which is "NO ONE is to feed my dogs" – well, her dog is all over the room begging for treats. He has done this for years. I've never seen her dog get a treat, but with great optimism he "works a room". In contrast all of my dogs can have a treat from anyone they can beg one off of, but my dogs are not going all over the room working the crowd...Why not?! Because they might get a treat or two wandering BUT if they remain focused on me the rate of reward is so high. I.E. you can stick with me and get a dozen treats or more or wander the room and get one -- my dogs make wise choices. Even if someone does feed them they will seldom stick around for more than one and will return to me for much crummier treats...Why?! Because they have found most individuals are very stingy whereas their owner is extremely generous with the treats. HIGH RATE of reinforcement.

Now this woman also seldom to never pays her dog for "hanging out" with her ...the dog only gets treats when working, never for standing around with her. So of course he works the room or races around over obstacles before being cued to do so -- when he is on the obstacles he gets treats...he's working. Standing around with her has "no payoff". And her "no one feeds my dog rule" isn't working very well either. <grin> Stubbornly she clings to her rule however. I wonder at times what she thinks when I have the extreme focus of an offleash young JRT for an entire class period and she is struggling with her "obedience breed" -- I'd ask a few questions or at least watch and learn from my neighbor.

I have dogs that are very high energy and "love to work" and so they certainly get treats when they work, but they probably get more when they are standing around -- that's hard. Racing through a tunnel is fun, fun, fun!

I'd use dogs as a reward. See if you can find a trainer or school open minded to this idea -- personally I wouldn't go to a trainer that didn't see the benefit of that...if one can find compatible dogs. Work this out with another dog owner. Surely there is at least one other "teenager" in class that would just love more than the most delicious liver to see a dog up close and personal from time to time.

The reward is determined by the dog and not by the handler...my mentor was going to breed her Terv stud to a cute little female after class. Just before she did this she realized she had probably the world’s biggest reward in the training building. Wow! Of course she did...she had him work for her heeling and so on. Then she gave her boy the "ultimate reward." The dog, after that evening (who was already a good working dog), would heel through fire for her for months afterwards!! He went for days with a "what ELSE can I do for you attitude". LOLOL A Terv is already zealous for an owner's attention, but he was off the proverbial charts after his jackpot.

Janet Smith
jsmith14@sprynet.com
copyright 2001 Janet Smith

 

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