Jump to content
BC Boards

Recommended Posts

I use positive reinforcement techniques with my pup, and while she enjoys her little treats and toys, I can't make the sessions fun enough. I'm constantly working on a prompt Sit and Down, and often times she will stare at me for a second before complying or slooooowly set her butt on the floor. I've seen a number of wonderfully trained puppies who are eager and happy to sit their bottom down at the drop of the first letter, and honestly while I want that same speedy response, I also want that happy, smiling glimmer in my dog's eye when she executes a command.

 

My problem?

 

Making the commands more fun!

 

Unfortunately I can't come up with ways to do that! She enjoys her treats but she's more bouncy and engaged when I throw one of her favorite toys in as a reward. I've been using the clicker to reward the fastest responses, but she lacks the immediate execution and the eagerness to respond.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm most concerned about obedience commands at the moment. Sit, Down, Heel, walking on a loose lead... I've tried to find ways to turn training into a game so it's more enjoyable for her. I've only been able to teach Stay in that way (when we'd play Hide-and-Seek) and I'm admittedly stumped on the other commands. :wacko:

 

This is the sort of behavior I'm striving for:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=KmvVJssfLDE

Link to post
Share on other sites

How old is she?

 

I would keep training sessions really, really short, and make most of it about playing, not training or repetitive commands. Make her excited for the opportunity to do something. Reward with a lot of playing, running, tugging, just being silly with her, and then go into the next cue. The higher energy level you give off, the more excited she'll be and the faster she'll respond.

Link to post
Share on other sites

What is the age of your dog? How long are the training sessions? Does she do better at the beginning of a training session than at the end? If so, the session is too long. Don't judge your dog based on what other handlers are doing with their dogs.

 

It seems like you are working mainly on putting some manners on your dog. Great, but probably boring to the dog. Mix it up with some fun games (the Hide-and-Seek game you mentioned) or some fun tricks. Think about what you wrote:

"I've only been able to teach Stay in that way (when we'd play Hide-and-Seek)"

To me, that suggests that incorporating play into the training will have your dog responding better. There is nothing wrong with using toys as a reward if that is what she prefers.

 

One specific trick I used for teaching sit/down was to play "Puppy Push-Ups". Ask for a sit, then a down, then a sit, etc.

Start with only a sit and down, then add repetitions once the dog really knows what you are asking for. Keep your voice high and happy, and there is nothing wrong with using a little body language to add to the game until the dog is really familiar with the verbal commands. Once they have done a sit and down, pull out the toy and party, party, party.

 

I am sure others here will have good suggestions.

 

Jovi

Link to post
Share on other sites

I also would urge you to keep things super short. You can set a timer for 5 minutes and stop no matter what when it goes off. Heck, try 3 minutes as well.

 

The second thing to keep in mind is that she will give back the energy you give her. Better to skip a session than bring haste or fatigue to a training session.

 

 

There is no harm in using the ball if she'll bring it back and continue the game. As soon as that butt touches the ground, mark with a "yes!" and toss the ball. It can be litterally 2 feet away but it can help keep the energy up

 

If you'd like to use food - it should be high value (I have a container of roasted chicken hearts in my fridge right now) and she should be a little hungry. Nothing like teaching a 7pm class and folks just fed the dog at 5pm! Better to skip dinner or feed a smaller meal after training than having a full and sleepy dog.

 

The final thing that comes to me (not knowing much about your situation) is to make the food reward an event. Michael Ellis talks about this with The Power of Training with Food. I think there are also some clips out there on You Tube. But the basic idea is to give the food in you hand movement by moving your hand around, getting excited in your voice and body language and making it more of an event.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks guys for the suggestions!

 

Oh right, Luna's about 9 months old now. And it's true, sometimes I go a little too long, I get bored myself! I try to keep it 5-10 minutes but... well, maybe I ought to set an egg timer for myself. :P

 

Puppy push-ups! That's hilarious! I've been doing that myself, but she gives me this look like "Are you kidding me? I JUST sat up!"

 

I need to give her credit though, she's been much more responsive to Down ever since I incorporated the frisbee into things. It's true, sometimes getting crazy with my dog is the best way for her to have fun learning! (more fun for me, too!)

 

As far as getting bored throughout the session... She has generally the same energy level from start to finish. I can tell she gets tired of the treats, though... but when I bring out the toy she's ready to go! Maybe I should use play as the high-value reward? Maybe distributing treats less regularly would make the treats that much more worthwhile to work for?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael Ellis has been mentioned in already.. In one of his videos he talks about being exciting to the dog, in a clip he shows a dog react to its owner who is very quiet and somewhat monotone, and then the same dog working with him, looks like a different dog. I really took that clip to heart and it has made a huge difference in my dog training, I am not a silly happy person by nature but my dog thinks I am......

My husband calls our dog a child as everything he does is exuburant and says its all my fault for encouraging him.... I just grin and say perfect.

Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as getting bored throughout the session... She has generally the same energy level from start to finish. I can tell she gets tired of the treats, though... but when I bring out the toy she's ready to go! Maybe I should use play as the high-value reward? Maybe distributing treats less regularly would make the treats that much more worthwhile to work for?

 

Make your sessions as short as necessary - 5 minutes, 3 minutes or even 30 seconds! My rule is that the dog should be begging to continue working with you when you finish.

 

High-value treat: is defined by the dog, not by the handler. What does YOUR dog get excited about? I have a dog that likes butt scritches. She will take a treat, but she LOOOVES her butt scritches. Again, just because other handlers use treats a lot, doesn't necessarily mean that they are the best reward for YOUR dog.

 

Jovi

Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael Ellis has been mentioned in already.. In one of his videos he talks about being exciting to the dog, in a clip he shows a dog react to its owner who is very quiet and somewhat monotone, and then the same dog working with him, looks like a different dog. I really took that clip to heart and it has made a huge difference in my dog training, I am not a silly happy person by nature but my dog thinks I am......

My husband calls our dog a child as everything he does is exuburant and says its all my fault for encouraging him.... I just grin and say perfect.

Hmmm, I guess I really must be boring her then! I'll definitely try to be more exciting and see how it goes!

 

Make your sessions as short as necessary - 5 minutes, 3 minutes or even 30 seconds! My rule is that the dog should be begging to continue working with you when you finish.

Oops, yeah, I'm totally guilty. I definitely carry the sessions too long. I've gotta train myself to keep it shorter! :lol:

 

I'll try this stuff later for our next training-- ahem-- play session and see how she responds. Brief and fun... such a simple concept, but wow have I got some work to do! :rolleyes:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Less is more, especially when perfecting a behavior she already knows (like sit and down). If she gives you one fast sit or down or whatever, stop! Reward and don't ask for that behavior again during that session.

 

Make it fun by keeping sessions short and by being upbeat and enthusiastic yourself, but don't ask for too much repetition. Its boring and can be counterproductive and may even cause her to start questioning herself and/or you. Practice makes perfect, but practicing doing something the 'wrong' way can do more harm than good. (She sits like you asked, but if she sits slowly 3-6 times, that slow sit is what she's just practiced and that's what you'll likely get next time too.) Give her time to think things over and then when you go back to it during the next session, she's more likely to do better.

 

Or if her mind works like my Meg's, if you ask for the same behavior more than twice 2-3 times she thinks she must not have done it right (why else would she have to do it again?) or there must be more to it and she'll start ad-libbing trying to figure out exactly what it is she has to do to get it perfect. (This is great when there really is more to 'it', but when she had 'it' to start with she can lose 'it' if we don't stop before this point.)

 

Have fun!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the great input!

 

So last night and this morning I've made sure to keep things fun and incorporate as much play as possible! I'm pretty sure she didn't even know it was training, she seemed to enjoy it!

 

Length-wise, I didn't make each session any longer than five minutes. I kept it to thirty seconds to a minute each time, but I did it throughout the evening and while I was getting ready this morning, and tried to make them something to look forward to. I also made sure to end on a positive note when she was having fun, to keep her wanting more just like the suggestion above. I myself wouldn't even call them sessions since they were usually so brief, but she responded with MUCH more enthusiasm!

 

I ended up using more toys than treats which she seems to respond better to, but I made sure to throw some other rewards in just to keep her guessing what she'd get next. :lol:

 

Unfortunately she did mix up the commands a few times, but it's mostly my fault since I haven't done as much work with Down as I should have up until now. I think she was also all caught up in the play, so I might just have to give her little breaks before she gets too wound up to think straight. Anyways, I don't expect perfection overnight. Actually I think Down might be her new favorite trick. Only a week ago she hardly responded at all, and now she drops with her tail wagging!

 

She improved almost 200% overnight just by making it all fun and games. Thanks guys! And she's thankful too! :P

 

If anyone has any interesting ideas for games to incorporate commands into (Like Hide-and-Seek or maybe some variation of Red Light Green Light), I'd love to hear them! I'm always looking for new ways to make obedience fun for the both of us.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That sounds awesome! Congratulations!

 

Don't worry about her mixing up the commands every once in a while. Just continue to reward the correct behavior (i.e. maintain the criteria) while still playing. She is still young so she can make a mistake once in a while - after all, one way to learn is to make mistakes.

 

Keep the happy times going,

Jovi

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the great input!

 

So last night and this morning I've made sure to keep things fun and incorporate as much play as possible! I'm pretty sure she didn't even know it was training, she seemed to enjoy it!

 

A good thing to remember when training your dog is that if both parties aren't having fun then you're doing something wrong. Incorporating play as a reward is a great idea, as well as silly, erratic and unpredictable (and fun!) movements. I'm also a HUGE supporter of teaching your dog tricks. In my experience, handlers get stressed out when they're trying to teach their dog stay, heel, come, etc, since those are seen as ~important~ but everyone is all smiles and fun when they're teaching their dog how to spin, bark, roll over and give a paw because these behaviours are low pressure and, some might say, trivial. However, as far as your dog is concerned, they're all the same. They're all one great big game. And they teach both of you how to work together.
And the more energy and enthusiasm you inject into your teaching, the more you'll get in return. That's how you get those wonderful, crisp behaviours and intense focus. And, as others have said, keep your sessions short.
Link to post
Share on other sites

I second what everyone has to say about making sessions short...and fun!!!

 

I train and compete in competitive obedience so I can let you know what I do...

 

I am a HUGELY motivational trainer(although not all positive, I do implore some negative consequences and the occasional correction if needed)....The best obedience teams to me are the ones who are look like they are having FUN together!! And keeping a young dog having fun and motivated throughout his/her training is key!!!

 

I'm a HUGE advocate for incorporating tricks into EVERYTHING!! And with pups and young dogs I do the same...what you are essentially teaching them is to WANT to train and work with you....you are teaching them how to learn...

 

So...I use a crate while training(I'm a big advocate for "crate games")..teaching self control, encouraging leraning and learning that the crate is not a bad thing......I use crates also because I am working multiple dogs, and I can pop my pup/dog in and out of the crate to keep sessions fun and short....they can go in there crate and have a "time out"..process things and I'll pop em back out 10 minutes later and BOY are they eager and excited to work....gimme more they say!!! I know alot of positive trainers who will use the crate for this "time out" if they are working with there pup/young guy and they seem to loose interest...I know Denise Fenzi also uses the crate some in this manner....again, would go through "crate games" DVD first...Can't just start shoving a pup/dog in the crate and have them spaz attack...that will make things not fun real soon!!

 

For teaching fast and fun recalls for obedience I use the "go get it" game"...my dogs LOVE this game and I willoften start out training sessions with my adult dogs doing this because it gets em all jazzed up!!! I have "rolly" treats..cheese balls or peanut butter captain crunch...show it to the pup or dog and chuck it(I do this in a ring..has to be a flat easily visible surface)...they take off after the rolling treat and right before they have it in there mouth I'll shout there name and a come command..they'll eat the treat and come tearing back in your direction..i'll throw another treat in the other direction...again repeating the come command and having them tear back at me....

 

Eventually I will teach the pup/young dog to come through my legs..so I open my legs and throw the treat in-between my legs....so when they are tearing back at me upon hearing there name and come command I throw the treat inbetween my legs, turn around and do it again...I and the session with throwing a toy inbetween my legs and tug after....

 

I add drop on recalls and fronts into this exercise as training progresses.....

 

This whole exercise gets the dog driving...it's fun...I'm incorporating commands...and I'm keeping the dog guessing!!! I know some traininers who do this entirely with toys stuffed in there pants and not food...same idea....throw a toy...once they get it call them...throw one through you legs...turn..call them throw...etc.. end with tugging..

 

I'm a big advocate for tugging also...keeps them engaged in you and it's FUN!! My dog love it and it's there ultimate reward...

 

I teach spins...I use them while heeling to mix things up/ and keep them in position and engaged....so I'll heel a few steps with a young dog and lure them to spin head out then get back in position and keep heeling...I'll also do leg weaves while heeling...it's great for a dog who forges...I'' heel awhile then ask for a few leg weaves then go right back into heeling...

 

I teach my dogs to back up...and this helps with training signals as I want no forward movement..so I'll have fun sessions of backing up..asking for a down thenback up ask for a sit....then reward by throwing a toy behind the dog..never forward....

 

Rewarding at the right time is crucial...don't be afraid to ask more of your pup...if you set a goal they will work to meet it....don't reward for EVERYTHING if you are trying to get certain behaviors like speedier commands....I kinda have a reward tier system....treats that aren't super high value, super high value treats...jackpot for awesomeness and a toy is the ultimate reward...So if my dog doesn't give me a speedy response...in a fun voice I'll break him and tell him to "try again"...and keep working for what I want...then HUGE jackpot and tugging or toy when he gets it right....

Link to post
Share on other sites

If anyone has any interesting ideas for games to incorporate commands into (Like Hide-and-Seek or maybe some variation of Red Light Green Light), I'd love to hear them! I'm always looking for new ways to make obedience fun for the both of us.

 

Ping Pong from Pattern Games is fantastic because it is easy for the dog to get, they enjoy it, it can be played just about anywhere, and it is a nice framework for training. And there is really no mental effort required, on the dog's part, to play.

 

Just one word of caution. As you are working to make training "fun", watch carefully for overload and/or burnout. Some dogs actually need quiet breaks to stay motivated and too much jollying up can actually cause stress. This depends entirely on the dog. Some can keep going and going and going like the energizer bunny, but some do need a chance to stop and think. (Another caveat: with an "energizer bunny" type dog, I would guard carefully about not creating a stimulation junkie by including quiet work, right alongside the more "up" kind of things)

 

Also, when you are introducing new behaviors, be sure to give your dog a chance to think. My youngest is a thinker. She needs to take her time and think as she is learning anything. Once she learns, she can go full speed ahead, but until she masters a concept, she is slow. Since I know this about her, I don't sweat her slow responses when she is first learning something. I know that once she masters it, the speed will come.

 

As you try different things, you will get to know your dog. What works for some dogs may not work for yours. Sometimes the opposite of conventional wisdom gets the results you are looking for.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your continued support and suggestions! All great information! There's so much that it's hard to respond to all the things I want to, but it's all helping me out for sure! I'll try out that training exercise for teaching her Back Up next!

 

All in all, lately we've both been looking forward to training a lot more than we used to, and she's definitely improving! Thanks again, guys! :lol:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...