Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Puppies and Positive Training

I learned about positive training when I first started working with Barley's reactive dog trainer. It was clear from the beginning how much Barley loved it. Everything was a game and everything involved lots of praise and lots of snacks. Eventually, it became second nature and we just quit thinking of it as  training.

Now that I have my 8-month-old puppy Rye, I'm learning to appreciate positive training all over again.

The biggest area where positive training has been coming in handy has been introducing Barley and Rye. Thanks to positive reinforcement games like It's Your Choice, the One-hour Down game, and What's That have already provided her with a strong foundation for staying relaxed and looking away from triggers. Now, we just have to keep our fingers crossed that that foundation plus the right combination of treats and praise helps convince her that the little hellhound that's moved into her house isn't that bad. Rye, of course, has to learn all of those basics on top of learning that her sister is the coolest thing in the world.

This is how big dogs show self control.

This is how baby dogs show self control.

I'll be having weekly updates on how that's going for us, but there are a lot of other ways that positive reinforcement is making Rye a better puppy and helping us connect more.

Loose Leash Walking
This is a big deal for me. Barley and I obviously walk a lot. I'd like to be able to walk with Rye, too. However, I'll never be able to walk both of them together if Rye doesn't learn how to walk loosely. Barley does not tolerate breaking the rules and will pounce on Rye if she doesn't listen to me, so it won't be safe for Rye to walk with her sister if we don't master this. Thankfully, we have a game for that. When we're out walking, I drop a treat behind us and keep walking (slowly since Rye's leash is short), and Rye gets it; then when she catches up to me in heel position, she gets a "yes! good girl!" and a treat beside me. Then we repeat. This game helps build value for staying at my side. Eventually, we work up to more and more time between dropping treats behind us as she gets better at staying beside me. After she gets the hang of it, we'll be more unpredictable about when she gets the treat for heeling, but since she's still a baby, right now, she gets lots of rewards for doing the right thing.

This is how walks start out with Rye.

When you don't have enough treats to convince your puppy to look at the camera and to walk nicely, this is what you get.

Not perfect, but much better than the start of our walk.

The Halti
Even though the shelter didn't list hound on Rye's breed description and the shape of her nose is very collie, the inner workings of her nose are all hound. She loves to sniff and walks with her nose to the ground (until something exciting like a leaf catches her eye). I'm not sure we'll ever completely master loose leash walking, but my parents' dog is a hound mix and got much better when they started using a head collar. Right now, I'm using positive reinforcement to help Rye think her Halti is a great thing.

Give It
Rye is very toy motivated, so we're also using toys as rewards. When she's playing with a toy, I'll walk up to her, tell her to give it, and take the toy. When she gives it up easily, she gets a "yes! good girl!" and then I immediately toss the toy for her to chase, so she starts to learn that giving me the toy doesn't mean she's never getting it back. She's starting to bring them back to me on her own now.

Stairs
When our trainer was here, we discovered Rye didn't know how to go up the stairs. I knew she wouldn't do the basement stairs yet, but those are a little scary looking. However, she was terrified of going up the stairs to the bedroom and library. With a little positive reinforcement, she got over that quickly. Following a trail of treats made it easier to go up, but she still wasn't crazy about the idea. She'd make it up a few stairs and then turn around (even when she only had one step left to go!), so we took baby steps and worked on having success with 3 steps several times. Then we added a couple more. Eventually, she made it to the top--and now I can't keep her from running up and down the stairs.




Positive reinforcement makes training fun for Rye. It's so fun to see her start wagging her tail as she catches on to what she's being asked to do. I'm so excited to see her confidence grow as we continue our training. In the 2.5 weeks we've been together, Rye and I have bonded and she's become more relaxed in the house.

We're linking up with Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop that begins on the first Monday of each month and continues alls week. Be sure to check out al of the great posts to see what training everyone else has been working on.

14 comments:

  1. Its always a bit funny to me that so many dogs do not like stairs. I think we have had to work on all of our dogs and stairs. A couple stairs, no problem but a whole flight and they did not want to climb them.

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    1. I know! It was so funny to me. She'd seen Soth run up the stairs on several occasions and usually where he goes, she goes, but she just danced around at the bottom trying to figure out what she should do.

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  2. Positive training is so important. Everything has to be fun, start small and work up to bigger things, and have a lot of patience. Madison is graduating from Puppy Einstein next week and will start Obedience 1 in February. She does really well, but lessons need to be short and fun. Rye will do awesome as you work so well with your pets.

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    1. I'm glad Madison's doing so well in puppy class. Rye's doing great with our at-home lessons, so I can't wait to get a little more feedback from a trainer in class. We'll have to compare notes :)

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  3. Rye is making so much progress! She is adorable. The only stairs Mr. N has ever balked at were these open spiral ones. Which looked kind of dangerous for humans too so can't blame him! Thanks for joining the hop.

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    1. I don't blame Mr. N for that, either! I always get nervous just looking at stairs like that on HGTV! I wasn't crazy about our basement stairs at first, either, but I'm hoping Rye gets over that soon because the dog shower is in the basement--it's so much easier to use than the upstairs tub.

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  4. My sympathies to you and Barley. Puppies are the wooooooorst. ;)

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    1. As far as puppies go, this one's not too bad ;) I am missing my afternoon naps, though! This puppy never rests!

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  5. I wondered from the pics if she was houndy! Thank you for sharing your training with us.

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    1. The shelter paperwork says nothing houndy, but she's very houndy on walks! They also said Barley, my older dog, was part blue tick coonhound, and she has absolutely no houndy tendencies :)

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  6. Rye is coming along so well, and learning so much! I wish I'd known about positive reinforcement when our beagle Kobi was young (and our current girls too). He never walked good on a leash until he was much older. We went through I don't know how many harnesses before finally finding the Gentle Leader which helped to an extent.

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    1. She is catching on so quickly! Sometimes I wonder why I taught her to go up the stairs because once she caught on, she can't get enough of running up there!

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  7. I may need to borrow your leash walking idea. I have been walking both puppy-girls at the same time since May, but the pulling (not always, but often) is really out of control. Now that it's icy, it's a much bigger deal. I don't want any of us to fall. I plan to "boot camp" loose leash walking over the holidays ... individually with them. I don't care if it's a perfect heel, but I don't want them out ahead so much and pulling that they break my natural walking stride. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. The leash game is working really well so far! We haven't tested it out very much on the actual road because our street was a sheet of ice all weekend, but we've been playing inside and in the yard and she's catching on quickly. I'm the same way about heeling--I like for them to know it so that if I need to get them under control when we see a distraction, they are close by, but I don't mind them going out a little farther to sniff as long as they aren't pulling. Good luck with the training!

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