Blog

Jun 12

Ditching the Treats

Posted by Bark to Basics

One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to get your dog to listen without the need for constant treats. The answer – implement an intermittent schedule of reinforcement (i.e. reward your dog randomly for things she has learned and understands).

To better understand this, think about a person at the slot machine of their favorite casino. Humans spend hours sitting there, putting in money and pulling the lever, without being rewarded with a payout, all because they know a payout is coming EVENTUALLY, even if not for them.

This is exactly the thinking we want to instill in your dog. She will follow your instructions even without a reward because she knows one is on the horizon, eventually.

Please note – when teaching new commands, consistency and repetition are key! So when you start “sit”, you will likely be rewarding every time to build a pattern with your dog that we really like this behavior, and there is something in it for him if he listens. Randomly rewarding is a tool we use down the road, when your dog understands the behavior you are asking for.

So how do you do it?

For commands your dog knows reliably well (think you ask him to “sit” ten times and he complies without hesitation at least eight of those ten times) begin to randomize the rewards. Some “sits” receive a treat, some receive praise or a pet. Better yet, mix in “life rewards” (walks, dinner, you tossing the ball one more time) for following that command.

It is important when doing this to go against our human instincts and not follow a set pattern of rewarding (humans are so predictable!). Rather then rewarding every other time your dog follows a command (pups catch on to this very quickly), mix it up, so he may get two rewards in a row, then not another for the following three commands.

And while you’re at it, get those treats out of your hands! When my client’s pups are responding well we move to putting treats around the house in various locations. Then, when we ask the pup to “down” and she complies, we praise and go to the nearest treat location for a reward. Now your pup is figuring out just because there isn’t anything in your hand does not necessarily mean no reward!

Try these tips to take your training to the next level, and have a more responsive pup, sans treats!

More
May 9

Socialization, teaching the “come” command and more!

Posted by Bark to Basics

Check Out the Spring Newsletter!


More
Jan 17

Rain, rain, go away…

Posted by Bark to Basics

The recent rain in So Cal has many of my clients crying uncle. Formerly housetrained pups are pottying on the floor while others are going stir crazy from lack of exercise. Here are some tips to help your dog (and you!) beat the bad weather blues.

  • Establish good habits from the start with young puppies. Resist the urge to use potty pads when it rains (I know it seems easier now but see note number two below!). Instead take him outside and make a big deal about him going even though it is wet.
  • If your dog has a tendency to make potty mistakes as soon as the grass is damp go back to the basics. Take your dog out at regularly scheduled intervals (yes, this may mean you need an umbrella) and reward for pottying outside.
  • If your dog is particularly stubborn about going in the rain confine her to small area or room (think puppy potty training 101) and try again an hour later. Do not allow her full reign of the house until she is successful.
  • For active dogs the lack of exercise that often comes with inclement weather can lead to boredom (read: getting into trouble). Provide mental stimulation with training sessions, chews or Kongs stuffed with peanut butter and frozen, and inside fetch sessions. Try to get your dog out when there’s a break in the rain, even if it’s short lived.
  • Take some time to cuddle up with your pup for some extra love and attention, after all, isn’t that what rainy days are best for?

More
Dec 20

Crate Training, “Place” and More

Posted by Bark to Basics

Check Out the Winter Newsletter Today!

More
Nov 29

Your Dog’s Holiday Wish List

Posted by Bark to Basics

Your pup’s favorite things are a gift for them (and you!). Remember a tired, content dog is a well-behaved one!

  • Appropriate chews like bully sticks, Himalayan chews, antlers, beef trachea and duck necks
  • Daily exercise! This one is free, and good for you both! Shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes per day for more mellow pups, and an hour+ for young or active breeds.
  • Boredom busters – Kongs filled with frozen peanut butter, dog puzzles, or toys you can put small treats inside
  • Regular training. Even if your pup is a master of the basics, training is important mental stimulation and builds confidence. Incorporate tricks and other games into your routine to make things fun and interesting.
  • Quality time and new experiences – spend some down time giving your dog the love and attention he craves, or take her to new places to explore (parks, shopping centers, doggy daycare).
  • Structure! Believe it or not, dogs love clear cut rules and knowing they can depend on you as their leader. If being consistent isn’t your thing this one to add to your New Year’s resolution list!
More
1 2 3 9