FIRST: DISREGARDING TRIGGERING OBJECTS
REWARDING A DOG DURING TRAINING
Rewarding your dog at the right moment is crucial in order to get results. That is why we suggest you teach your dog a conditioned reinforcer.
A conditioned reinforcer is a sound the dog learns to associate with pleasure. For example a clicker, a click with your tongue, zip, tip, or another sound you want to teach your dog which is fast and easy for the handler. A conditioned reinforcer is not a reward in itself but rather a promise of a reward. So when the dog hears the sound, they get a reward.
When your dog has learned the conditioned reinforcer it helps you to reward the dog at the exact moment they are displaying a desired behaviour. Start teaching the conditioned reinforcer by making the sound of your choosing and giving a treat right after. (For example a click with a clicker and a treat.) Do 7-9 repetitions and keep a short break, max 1min. After the break you may do another 7-9 reps, then have another break. Usually dogs learn the conditioned reinforcer very quickly and respond to it. However, you do want to generalize the conditioned reinforcer in as many places as you can so that your dog learns to react to it in other places too and not just your home.
PRIMARY REINFORCER (THE REWARD)
A conditioned reinforcer is always followed by a primary reinforcer, meaning the reward. It should come right after the conditioned reinforcer so there’s not enough time for additional behaviours in between. This will make it easier for the dog to understand what is expected of it. Always make sure before starting training that your dog thinks the reward is good enough.
WHEN TO REWARD YOUR DOG?
Throughout the whole process the dog gets rewarded for the same thing. EVERY TIME the dog looks away from the object (disregards it), click and treat. The sound should come quickly so that the dog understands what is expected of it and the reward immediately after. During training, the dog should never be commanded, told no or lured, the point is for the dog to display the behaviour spontaneously, which will make the pattern stronger.
Reward the dog graciously also when it keeps looking at you as if to ask ”what’s next?”, this way we signal to the dog that it is beneficial to look for eye contact with the handler when coming across another dog. Don’t wait or ask the dog for different behaviours such as sitting, eye contact, etc. All disregarding should be rewarded immediately in order for the dog to understand what it needs to do for a reward.
- Make sure your dog knows the conditioned reinforcer. (for example the clicker)
- Make sure each time that your dog thinks the quality of the reward is good enough. You may have to alternate between different ones.
- Make sure your dog is motivated to train.
- Plan your walk and the time of the walk in a way that allows you to distance yourself from other dogs.
- If necessary, move to the other side of the street or change direction so that the training doesn’t take a step back.
BEGINNING TO TEACH YOUR DOG TO DISREGARD DISTRACTIONS
Teaching a dog to successfully pass another dog begins with training the dog to first disregard easier objects. Your dog should be on a leash so that it can under no circumstances get to the object. That enables them to offer the desired behaviour. The dog shouldn’t be commanded at any point but instead encouraged to figure out what is beneficial for them on their own. In the beginning you shouldn’t set the criteria too high and demand the dog locks eyes with you. It’s enough when your dog looks away from the object and for that they get an immediate reward (click and treat). This exercise is best to do with many different objects and in various different places so that this behaviour becomes familiar to your dog even before the actual training with other dogs. Spontaneously looking away from distracting objects should become a way of life for your dog.
- Pick an object you want the dog to disregard. It should be something fairly easy for example a toy, a boring bone, a piece of trash, etc. Once you’ve picked an object, leash your dog.
- Place the object close enough to spark your dog’s interest but make sure the object isn’t too interesting.
- When the dog looks away from the object, the handler uses the conditioned reinforcer accompanied by the primary reinforcer, the reward (click and treat). Repeat this step until your dog is no longer interested in the object. Straight from the beginning, you should also reward the dog graciously when it no longer even tries to look at the object: this way we are further reinforcing the desired behaviour.
Nera and the bear:
Jade and the suspicious person:
In the videos below Jade continues training with the person.
- When the dog is no longer interested in the object you may continue to shorten the distance. It can be done 1-2m at a time (varies individually). The distance is shortened until the dog and handler can be around a meter away from the object and the dog doesn’t pay any attention to it. Only when the dog can be near the object and show that they are no longer interested in it, may you move to the next step.
- When your dog doesn’t show interest in the object that is still, you can start practicing while you are moving. At first the handler and the dog walk past the object from afar so that the dog is still able to look away from it. The distance should be shortened 1-2m at a time according to the dog’s progress. When the dog is able to walk past the moving object even from a short distance, you can move on to step 4.
- Next you should pick a more difficult object for your dog to practice with, remember that your dog should still be leashed.
- Again, begin with a longer distance and once your dog is able to look away and no longer shows interest, move on to the nex step.
- The distance is shortened 1-2m at a time, every time your dog’s interest has fully gone out. The goal is that your dog can be within 1m from the object without trying to reach it.
- After the dog can be close to the object without being interested in it, you can add movement. Same as before, the handler and the dog walk past the object from a distance and then that distance gradually grows smaller according to the dog’s progress. Once the dog is able to look away from the object within a short distance, you may proceed to a more difficult object.
- First, a more challenging object is picked. If there are more people available/present, you may want to try a moving person or a toy moved by a person or other objects another person can provide.
- The distraction provided by people should be very subtle at first: walking, small hand movements, etc.
- The distance must be long enough for the dog to be able to disregard the distraction and look away and that distance may even be longer than in the previous exercises.
- Again, the distance will be shortened 1-2m at a time, once the dog no longer shows interest in the object.
- When the movement of the person is increased and the distraction becomes more challenging, the distance to it should be increased as well.
GENERALIZE THIS BEHAVIOUR WITH DIFFERENT OBJECTS AND DIFFERENT LOCATIONS
These exercises should be done with as many objects as possible and in as many locations as possible throughout the whole training process. The better this behaviour pattern is generalized, the easier it is for the dog to offer this behaviour in different situations.