Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Agility Table, how does it relate? Milton Ontario Dog Training

The table in agility might be one of the most "obvious" pieces of equipment, it's a table, what can really go wrong? But there is plenty that can go wrong, and I have seen it happen many times.

A lot of times the focus is on the harder pieces of equipment, such as the teeter and weave poles, or difficult jump sequences. The table just doesn't seem as important because at first glance, the obstacle looks very simple, however, it is not. Many a dog has pooched (pun intended) a run due to lack of proofing on this piece of equipment.

A dog won't "down" on the table in the rain, refuses to "down" after another dog has been on it, doesn't like the surface texture, hasn't been trained to "down" any where at any time, waits until the 6th time you repeat down before she complies, prefers to sniff than lay down. The dog has never been required to "down" ... if he doesn't, oh well, just try again.

How does this relate to training when you're not interested in competing in sports with your dog?

Well, you may think down is simple and obvious once the dog "knows" the command, so you over look "proofing" the "down". Most dogs tend to be contextual learns, meaning, that sure, they can "down" on the carpet in your living room, but "down" can mean something totally different on the sidewalk outside your home if you have not trained them in that location as well.

Proofing a command by repetitive practice on all surfaces, and in all environments that you think you will need the command in, is vital in order to have a dog that will respond to you where ever you are. Over looking simple things, such as this, may result in confusions for your dog and frustration for you. This goes for all commands, not just "down". Sits, stays, comes etc., all need practice in different environments. This doesn't mean hours on end, but rather a few minutes here and there weekly in order to get and maintain the training that you are hoping for.

Another important factor that is often overlooked is the requirement of the command. If you never require that your dog responds, then don't expect her to respond in all situations or under distraction. Requiring a command means there is a consequence for misbehaviour which can take the form of a verbal or physical correction once the dog fully understands the command. Of course, to be fair, you need to be sure that your dog is well aware of what the command is before you start correcting for lack of response. This means that you've taught the command in all situations with many repititions, and the dog can comply without a lure, coercion or being physically placed. In other words, if you don't require the down at home, why should your dog down on the sidewalk or the agility table. This applies to any and all obedience commands.

Here's two videos of table training with two different dogs. One is experienced, and just practicing, the other is new and just learning. Both are "proofing" their "downs" on a different surface from a normal down.

If you are interested in learning how to proof your dog for all commands, or are looking for help with basic training or issues that you are having with your canine, please feel free to contact us at and check out the website for details on our training

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Website - Dog Training in Milton

The new website is up and running!

Please check out for information about lessons and what we offer.

Group classes will be starting soon.

Please don't hesitate to email if you have any questions.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Correct or Ignore? Milton Ontario Dog Training

I am a huge proponent of positive reinforcement dog training. I think you can accomplish great things with this type of training, however, there are downsides to the positive only training that is highly popular right now.

Many people who work exclusively with treats and/or toys do not know how to properly fade out the reward, and there for create a dog who will only work for a bribe or when food is present. A good number of owners end up with an "I won't do it unless you show me the cookie" type dog, because proper fading techniques were not taught. Constantly shoving treats in your dogs mouth every time she does something you ask instead of also utilizing praise and petting as a reward can cause this to happen.

Another down fall is that all meaningful negative consequences are removed from training. This means that there are no corrections utilized to help the dog improve their behaviour. Some will tell you that ignoring the dog during an inappropriate reaction is just as good and will garner the same result as administering a well timed correction. Though this may ring true for some dogs, or some situations, it does not ring true with all dogs during all situations.

For example, if your dog loves to chase squirrels while you are trying to walk him, and loves that more than anything, ignoring him will not make even the slightest difference in that behaviour. Often times a redirect is suggested, utilizing a toy or treat, however, if squirrels are your dogs favorite thing above all else, a redirect on it's own will also not put a dent in this inappropriate behaviour. A correct and redirect, balancing the approach with a negative consequence for the wrong behaviour and a positive consequence when the dog focuses back on you, will offer the most effective solution.

There is also the problem with dogs who are high drive (meaning they are, hmm, how shall I put it, insane about certain rewards ie. food, toys etc.) staying in that state when solely utilizing a source of major excitement as a reward. Some trainers will tell you that it's rare to come across a pet dog that is high drive .... I disagree. Training these dogs in drive, with no consequences can create over excitement, over stimulation and over action. This type of training is fantastic when you are looking for a sport dog, a dog that you want "on" all the time during training. But when you are just looking for a well behaved pet, who can compose herself in public, and not be super excited all of the time, then other methods need to be investigated in order to decrease the drives in those wonderfully crazy, high-drive pets, and utilizing voice and petting as a reward as well as adding some appropriate corrections will help owners reduce the insanity that is high drive.

In the pure positive world of dog training, where ignoring the bad and rewarding the good is your only option, there lies a problem of balance in the method. The problem of doing away with any corrective measure is that you are decreasing the amount of tools that you can use during training, and in decreasing these tools you end up with a dog that can never fully realize its potential. Balance is the key during any training, and allows effective and fair communication when done correctly.

Of course, there are steps to take before any corrections should be introduced during formal training. A dog should be taught in a gentle manner what she is suppose to accomplish. A lure and reward, a clicker session, a physical manipulation can all show the dog in a fair manner what you are expecting. The key is to teach before correcting. You want to be sure that your dog is well aware of what is required before adding a corrective consequence during training. You don't teach a child how to read by spanking them, so don't expect to teach a dog who to sit by popping them on the leash.

That being said, there are certain canine behaviours that require corrective consequences without teaching, such as lunging at other dogs on a walk, constant pulling on the leash, inappropriate jumping, humping and bumping etc. These are what I like to call natural behaviours, that occur without training, and can require a correction to reduce the natural tendencies without teaching anything first.

As stated in the first paragraph, sometimes ignoring an inappropriate action from your dog will provide an excellent result, this is an option that should also not be discarded. During agility competitions, there are no physical corrections, but if your dog has deliberately brushed off your commands, ignoring her after the run, and going straight to crate time instead of receiving her highly coveted tug or treat will, in many cases, make the dog think twice about being sassy. A high drive dog who adores the reward will work harder, and better next time in order to receive that reward - no physical correction needed.

Utilizing any corrections must be timed properly, fairly applied and be appropriate for the situation. Once you have achieved success repetitively in your training while teaching the dog what it is you require, you can add in appropriate corrections for the dog brushing you off when he surely knows the command. If you are sure your dog now know the word "sit", and she deliberately ignores your directive, a minor leash pop, a voice reprimand or a physical touch/manipulation to get them into position is fair. And please note, when I say physical touch I mean an attention grabbing tap, not a kick, hit, punch or otherwise abusive behaviour.

Please do not think badly of yourself if your dog needs to be corrected. There are so many ways to train and get your point across to your canine companion, and really, there is no right or wrong way (unless it is abusive), so keep your mind open to all options during training, especially if you get "stuck" and need to search your trainers tool box for a different method.

If you are unsure of of how to reward or correct properly or would like some guidance on the topic, please contact a professional in your area. Someone you are comfortable with, and someone who is willing to utilize different methods in order to get the results that you are looking for.