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.|
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.|
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.
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.
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.