Saturday, August 17, 2013

Training Stay vs. Wait

I train the wait command before I train stay. I don't have any reasoning behind this - it's just the way I do it.

Some people think stay and wait are the same. They aren't. Stay means "stay exactly where you are, don't move a muscle, until I tell you." Wait means "Stay exactly where you are and watch me for your next cue."

Good uses for wait:
- Prevent dog from charging the food dish
- Prevent dog from chasing
- Teach dog self-control (althoug, techincally, it isn't self control, since I'm controlling it... but eh, whatever.)

Here's some real world examples.

We are at the vet. A small dog starts getting mouthy. Bugs would really, really like to chase that dog down and maybe even bite it. Not on my watch, lady - WAIT. Because wait is a combination of focus and micro stay, her attention is on me 100% despite what's going on in the environment. Then I tell her to lie down and settle - and she does, because she's focused on me.

We are on a trail in the woods. Bugs spies a chipmunk. She starts pulling on the leash - but hold up. That chipmunk is headed for thick pricker bushes. WAIT!! She stops, looks at me, quivering and drooling.... that chipmunk looks so tasty, Mom! Now I say "Let's go!" which is her cue that it's time to get a move on. We walk off, the chipmunk safe from doberjaws and Bugs safe from the brambles.

So... how did I accomplish this?

First off, let me say that I am very lucky to have a dog who is intelligent and eager to please. If your dog isn't, you'll have to practice more frequently and be patient I firmly believe all dogs can learn this, with plenty of effort and consistency.

We started with treats. I placed a treat on the floor and said WAIT! with a hand signal.

Here's an example of the hand signal, with Bruno waiting and focusing....

Note that the hand signal is fairly relaxed - this isn't a firm palm forward like with a stay.

Anyway, back to business - place the treat on the floor and say WAIT with a hand signal. When the dog goes to get the treat, give the correction sound - ah ah ah ah ah!! - and visually block the treat for a second. Reinforce - WAIT. Good wait!

Your dog is still going to try to go for that treat on the floor, and that's okay. He only needs to wait for a second or two. Only mark and release when the dog is WAITING - not when he gets up to get the treat. If he has taken even one step towards the treat and you release and let him get it, presto! you just taught him NOT to wait.

Once he's waited for a second, mark (YES!) and release (OKAY!) and cue him to take the treat (Take it!)

Sometimes dogs are confused by this and won't go get the treat when released. That's fine - pick it up and give it to him while saying "Take it!"

Practice this lots of times throughout the day. You can use treats or part of your dogs daily diet, if you're watching your dog's weight.

Once your dog can wait for a few seconds, it's time to increase the duration of the wait. This shouldn't be hard to do, because you've practiced like crazy and your dog is awesome at the two second wait.

Now it's time to generalize. Start making him wait to go outside - if he goes out despite you telling him to wait, verbally correct and start over. (Note: Don't do this if he's been crated all day, has bladder control issues, or is learning housetraining.)

Be sure to give him a cue when he's done waiting - remember, that's the point of the exercise. Wait = wait right where you are for the next cue. You can cue anything, really. Like this:

(Cue)  Bugs, wait!
(Mark) Yes! Good wait! WAIT....
(Release) Okay!
(Cue) Now JUMP!
(Mark)  Yes!
(Cue) Down!
(Mark) Yes! Good down!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Busy Day!

We had a great day yesterday, full of success!!

First, Bugs and I went to the vet. She needed a nail trim, and I'm working on getting her accustomed to the dremel, but those nails just keep growing.

When we got there, we ran into a reactive German Shepherd on the porch who sent Bugs off. Instead of yanking on her and freaking out, we just moved to the side of the building, did a few obedience runs, and she calmed right down.

We went into the building and Bugs was amazing. She wasn't running all over like a jerk - she acted like the noble, majestic dog she was bred to be. There were many people in the waiting room and they kept asking me questions about her and remarking on her good behavior. Suddenly, a pomeranian poked his head around the desk and starting barking wildly at Bugs. She began to react and I quickly corrected her (verbally) and told her to WAIT.

She sat down, watched me, and waited, completely ignorng the pom!! The people in the waiting room were amazed at how well she listened. I shouldn't admit this, but I was amazed too - we've been working so hard on this command and she does awesome at home but the vet is a high-stress place and I really thought it would be hard for her to wait under such huge distraction. She sassed me the whole time she was waiting - grumbling under her breath - but I'm fine with that. Sassing Mom is just fine - barking and lunging at another dog is not.

She did have to be muzzled for her nail trim, because the vet techs were a bit intimidated by her, but I am okay with that. She's accustomed to wearing a head collar, so the muzzle was no big deal to her, just an extension of what she's used to.

After that, we went to Tractor Supply and got her a Kong Wubba toy. It's funny, when we're out in public, people either adore her, or they're terrified of her. We came around a corner in Tractor Supply and a group of men sidestepped us, and one of them said "Don't touch that dog!!" This is funny to me because she's so social with people, but of course if someone is intimidated by her, I am not going to allow her to approach them.

An old, old cowboy asked to pet her, and that was the cutest thing ever. This guy had to be in his late eighties or early nineties, and she just loved on him like crazy - no jumping or excessive licking, just a few kisses and tons of doberhugs. He was completely smitten. Maybe Bugs has a future in therapy work?

Then we went to the lumber yard for some supplies I need for a project. She had to stay in the Jeep for that, but was well-behaved. She never acts like a jerk in the car.

We topped it all off with a fun walk in the park. We walked the river trails and she was in heaven! So much to see and sniff!

Then we came home and had dinner, and of course Bugs slept like a log, because that's a busy day for a dobergirl.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bugs Has Been Busy Lately...

We didn't go to Schutzhund training.

Instead, we learned a bunch of new tricks!!

Bugs learned the names of a few more things, here's the entire list:
Bottle [as in water bottle]
Baby [stuffed animal]

She also learned to jump on cue which is very impressive to watch, as she goes from a down-stay to a massive leap in the air! We keep this to a minimum because her growth plates aren't closed yet and too much jumping can cause injury.

We've worked hard on the "wait" command and Bugs can wait a very long time without cheating. We've tested it up to five minutes, but I bet we could go a lot longer.

Bugs' favorite game is "Which Hand?" - I show her a treat, close my hand, and put both behind my back. She doesn't even go for my hand when I show them to her - she sits and looks for a few seconds, and you can see her brain working, trying to remember which hand the treat is in. She always gets it right!!

Bugs makes a really funny face when she's waiting. It's like she wants to sass me but knows it won't get her anywhere.....