Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Trick and treat tuesday: Let's start at the beginning

I've decided to start doing a themed tuesday post, and the upcoming Halloween inspired me! I've seen a few people around having them (love the ones from Bodhi!), that's a bit of fun and I'm hoping it could be useful for other people too, in case they stumble onto this. Mawson promised he would help me write those.

Trigonometry tuesday? What is mum talking about?? I don't need to know that! Or maybe that's to help me better my agility skills??? What was it again for those angles? Python gorgeous? Pitas gore? Pfff too hard, can't remember... Ohh food! Let's sit, she won't resist my cute puppy eyes and will give me the treats, mwhahaha.

First though, I thought it was crucial to set some good basis. For any training, either obedience, tricks etc. The most important thing is to be in a good mood. Believe me it can be pretty frustrating to teach new things, even more when you have a little pup thinking that the passing fly is much more interesting than that stupid sit you keep asking. Now if that frustration is exacerbated by you being in a dodgy mood or tired, that is a full recipe for disaster. Trust me I've done it, it doesn't end well... And that can have some pretty negative effects on any training and bond you have with your monster. So best to not go there.

Well if she was giving more treats, I wouldn't be looking at the flies, would I?

You need to use a happy voice and LOOK happy too. Dogs are very sensitive to your  body language. Keep smiling (not with the full teeth out though! Some dogs might mistake that for a threat!!) make the whole thing a positive experience, with plenty of praise. All dogs respond in different manners, but I know that harsh reprimand wouldn't work with Mawson. He would shut down and go in his shell, because he is a sensitive little soul. And actually, there are very few dogs who would answer well to reprimand. The best tip I got was from an instructor in my 1rst level obedience class. The first and only class at that level I did, as she passed us to the next level straight at the end... She started the class by asking us to space ourselves, get in front of our dog and just with our voice make our puppy wag his tail happily. For some dogs it's not too hard as they just don't stop wagging their tail, but to a scaredy puppy a bit lost in his obedience class it is a bit more work. However, if you can do that easily, then you are ready to start :)! 

Hey, I hold on to wagging my tail a bit longer to see how far she would go in the crazy voice department.. I tell you pups, it's worth it, don't give in easy!

There are a few different manners to teach tricks. I'm adding link from one very good puppy course we took with Mawson with Get Smart Dogs, as they explain it a lot better than I would (I would ramble on again). Clicker training, and food luring. (I'm sure there are more but that's the main ones I know of). 
Particularly for tricks, you can also use what I call opportunity training, that is to say use a reward cue when your dog does something you would like to use in the future. In this case the clicker is great but a "yes" and a treat would work too, no words! Let your pup try and work out what he did to get the reward. That gets the dog thinking, and it is a great way to fix a training item firmly in the monster's brain. Then, when the behaviour is learnt, introduce cue words for the behaviour for future repeats. 

Food! Use the food one, come on! You know you want to. Mum, explain the food one better!!!

Concentrate on one thing by training session, not twenty, and get that thing repeated, for example 5-10 times. If the trick gets awry a couple of times, stop, sit back and think about the way you are training the task for a second. Maybe there is a way to break down the trick. Remember a trick will not be learnt in one session, little steps over a few days to a few weeks will do it. And I get such a kick when Mawson finally gets a trick we've been working on, that it's worth all the hair pulling (and I've still got fairly long hair!).

Mum, that kick you are talking about is my back leg....

For every training session irrespective of progress or success, it is very important to always finish on a good note. Even if the whole thing has been hard because you are just starting a new thing or because tonight mister pup is more interested by the colour of his nails. In this case end the session and pick something that pup can do well easily, for exemple a couple of sits, and praise and treat. Tadaaaa

Or just give the treats who care about the sits mum...

Mawson!... Ok, now that I went on and rambled about the basics, get ready and we'll get Mawson's tricks coming from next tuesday!

Oh my goodness, what has she invented now! I need my agent, quick...

yes mum?

pizza helps...

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