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Address: GSROR
P.O. BOX 1356
Fort Morgan, CO
80701-1356
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Tracey’s Training Tips

GSROR is delighted to welcome to our team, Tracey. She volunteers her time helping with any behavior issues and basic obedience/training questions for the dogs in the rescue. We have a special section in our newsletters and on our website dedicated to Tracey’s Training Tips. In these articles, Tracey will share her knowledge of dog training, dog behavior, canine body language and life in general with a dog. Her articles will provide some interesting information, suggestions, and tips in the hopes of helping new and seasoned owners continue to establish a lifelong bond with their canine family member.

Fall 2012
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

(For ease of explanation, I will be using male gender pronouns when describing “your” dog)

Before you teach your dog anything from “lie down” to “fetch me a cold one from the fridge,” I’ll let you in on a little secret dog trainers use to be successful…they break down the desired behavior or chain of behaviors into pieces, rather than trying to teach the whole. In other words, they SIMPLIFY the activity for the dog.

For instance, let’s take the basic idea of teaching “lie down.” Whether the luring, capturing, or shaping method (see Oct. 2011 Tracey’s Training Tips for definitions) is used, the act of lying down can be broken up into parts which can be taught separately. First, a trainer might teach a dog to “sit.” Then, the trainer might teach the dog to bend his head down towards the ground. Finally, the trainer might teach the dog to slide his front paws forward until he is in a “down” position. The particular steps don’t matter so much, as long as each step along the way is understood by the dog and the end result is the desired behavior. Perhaps you want your dog to lie down from a standing position with his front legs going down first and then his bottom hitting the ground? In that case, the first step might be to teach a “bow” (or the dog’s elbows touching the ground) and then, teach the dog to rest his hips/bottom down to the ground from the “bow” position.

Now, let’s take the more complicated idea of teaching “fetch me a cold one from the fridge.” Again, various training methods can be used; however, only one element is taught at a time to simplify the activity. Basically, the activity is broken up into the following parts: person signals the dog (any kind of cue will do, like a word or a hand gesture), dog walks into appropriate room (the kitchen), dog approaches the fridge, dog grabs the handle of the fridge, dog pulls on the door, dog reaches head into the fridge, dog recognizes appropriate item (a cold one), dog grabs the item with his mouth, dog backs out of the fridge, dog closes the door, dog exits the room, dog returns to the person, dog relinquishes the cold one to the person. Whew! There are a lot of parts to that trick! But by teaching each part individually to the dog and then starting to link the parts together (chaining), eventually, the dog will be able to do the entire trick in one shot. For behaviors or tricks as complicated as this one, most trainers will prefer to teach the final part first and work their way backwards (back chaining). The reason for this is so the dog will remember the last parts well from doing them so many times and will remember the first parts well because they were taught most recently. (Might sound complicated, but it works.)

Why would a trainer simplify behaviors?

  1. How would you prefer to learn a poem? One line at a time or the entire thing in one reading? Exactly. One line or one part at a time is much easier.
  2. If the parts are easier to learn than the whole, then the dog is much more successful at learning AND the trainer is much less frustrated.
  3. When a dog is successful and the trainer is not frustrated, both are eager to continue the process of learning, making the entire experience much more pleasant.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to determine all the parts that make up a behavior or trick. But with practice, you will get better at seeing the parts and knowing the best way to teach them to your dog. Then, before you know it, you’ve got a dog doing exactly what you taught him to do and your family and friends will be amazed!

Remember to have fun with it! Dog’s love learning new things and they are excited by the things they DO know!

 

Content Copyrighted 2012. Tracey Derheim. All Rights Reserved.