Clicker Training – Open a draw

What is clicker training?

Clicker training uses a clicker (small box) that makes a ‘click’ sound to mark a desired behaviour from your dog which is quickly followed by a treat. 

Who is Louis?

Louis is a 9 year old Jack Russell / Corgi cross. He is an old dog who loves to learn new tricks!

What is the training method?

  • The training session used shaping.  The end goal is defined (pull the tug to open the draw).  Any initial step towards that goal is rewarded. Subsequent small steps towards the goal are rewarded until the end goal is reached.
  • The cue (command) is only added once the behaviour is being reliably performed.
  • The dog gets several breaks during the training session.

Louis learns to open a draw

  • This is the first time Louis has been trained using a clicker.  This video shows the process of him learning.
  • Louis is very food motivated which is great for clicker training.  Notice in the video how initially he is very distracted by the treats and by my hand.  It is only towards the end of the session that he properly focuses on the task rather than where the food is.
  • Louis gets frustrated a few times in the training session where he sits and looks at me, whines, or barks.
  • The clicker is used as feedback during the training. My verbal feedback to Louis is minimal since he can easily get over-excited.  Occasional verbal feedback of “good boy” is however given for breakthroughs.
  • I guide Louis to the tug with my hand to help him, especially if he gets stuck.  I gradually reduce this as the session progresses.

Products used

The treats used were Natures Menu (95% meat)


Do you and your dog want to learn clicker training?

Learn more about clicker training your dog.


Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

Recall with scent work

Recall problems

Owners can find recall difficult due to their dog being distracted by the environment. The distractions could be people, other dogs, birds, or just following a natural scent. This is despite the fact that the dog may have a good relationship with their owner and be happy to take treats.

Scent work

Scent work / nose work involves your dog searching for a scent which they are rewarded for finding. The scent may be food with the reward being the food found. The scent could alternatively be something novel (e.g. catnip or specific essential oils) which is rewarded with food once the scent is found.

Scent work is a great activity since the dog uses its nose which is linked to the olfactory bulb in their brain. Using their brain will tire a dog out much more than just using their legs.

Recall using scent work

It would seem intuitive that coming back for a treat is rewarding, however for a highly motivated dog having to work for that treat can be even more rewarding.

Case study: Mabel the Cockapoo

Mable can get very distracted by everything in her environment including other dogs and birds. She can also get distracted following a natural scent.

This groundwork training session aimed to get Mabel more focused around her handler by utilising her interest in following a scent.

Getting her to use her nose (and therefore her brain) makes recall more interesting and makes being around her handler more rewarding.

This is the first time Mabel has done scent work so was learning the process as she went along.

Exercise one: Recall and follow the treat

In this exercise the treat is thrown out when the dog comes back so that she has to use her nose to find it.. Working for the treat in this way is more rewarding than just being given it.

Exercise two: Recall and find the treat

In this exercise when the dog comes back, she is sent out to search for the treat. The treat is hidden when the dog is not looking. The dog is asked to sit when she comes back to give the exercise some structure, so she is ready to look for the treat when the cue ‘find it’ is given.

Note how easily Mabel gets distracted even once she has come back. She becomes more focused as the session progresses.

Exercise three: Recall and follow the treat toy to release the treat

In this exercise when the dog comes back, the Clam toy, which contains a treat, is thrown out. The dog must therefore follow the toy and then work at getting the treat from the toy.

Note how Mabel becomes distracted by a dog in the distance but then goes back to trying to get the treat from the Clam toy.

Summary

  • Coming back for a treat is rewarding.  Mabel using her nose to find the treat can be even more rewarding.
  • Scent work exercises are focused around the handler.  This helps strengthen the dog-handler bond. 
  • Mabel using her nose will tire her out much more than just using her legs.

Products used

Groundwork

Groundwork training is where I help train your dog for you. This can be the perfect solution if you are stuck on a specific behavioural problem and don’t know how to move on.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

Craig Ogilvie – Interactive Play Workshop

CPD – Continuing Professional Development

As part of my CPD (continuing professional development) I like to keep up with what others are doing in the dog training world. I recently attended Craig Ogilvie’s Workshop on Interactive Play.

Workshop

I was hoping this would be useful since I regularly deal with training clients who have issues with their dogs and play. Some run around with a toy and won’t bring it back, some bark madly when a toy is produced, and some, to their owner’s amazement don’t want to take hold of the toy at all!

I went into the workshop with my pre-conceived understanding of what toy play is; a part of the predatory sequence. So, was I right? Yes… but the focus also needs to be on the human side of the interaction. Craig summed this up as “The toy is the bridge between owner and dog”.

Even with the best knowledge of dogs it is not always easy to teach others. Craig however was not only knowledgeable but also personable and incredibly enthusiastic.He appreciated that dogs learn best when they are having fun and applied this to his human students too.

Some people can feel a bit silly being seen playing with their dog so it was a big ask to get participants to do this in front of an audience. Craig’s super-motivating style however seemed to get even the shyer participants running around as if no one else was in the room.

Most of the dogs at the workshop were larger breeds such as Labradors, Boxers, and Rottweilers but there were also mid-sized dogs like Border Collies, Bearded Collies, and Cocker Spaniels. At the smaller end of the range there was also a Jack Russell Terrier. Craig adapted each session to the specific needs of dog and owner and used appropriate equipment with each. The sessions with each dog where kept short since it was physically and mentally demanding for dogs and owners. Just like any training, little and often is best.

There is an old wives tale in the dog training world that the human should always “win” the toy during play. This seems to be a throwback to old-fashioned and discredited “dominance” theory. How much fun is it to play a game and never win? Craig emphasised that we need to let our dogs have some fun and so win the toy!

I left Craig’s workshop feeling really enthusiastic and ready to try to replicate some of that enthusiasm with my clients and their dogs.

One of my favourite dog toys is the tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug. Check out my review.

I would highly recommend Craig’s workshop for dog enthusiasts as well as other professions in the dog world.

Craig also has a book out… though obviously it’s not as much fun as attending one of his workshops!

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

My dog training method

I often get asked what is my dog training “method”? Is it reward-based, positive, dominance, science-based …?

How I train a dog

I want to reply that it’s a bit of science, a bit of fun, and a bit of making it up as I go along.

Science-based dog training

… but the question probably means “do I use dominance-based or science-based training”?

That’s an easy answer since dominance-based training is really just mumbo-jumbo!

Punishment and / or reward

Once that question is out the way the next question might be, do I use reward, punishment or a combination of both to train dogs?

The answer to this question could be a little more confusing since the science of behaviourism allows for the use of punishment to change behaviour!

A brief history of dog training science

During the development of Psychology, experiments on animals established that if you provided specific consequences (rewarding or punishing) to a behaviour then the behaviour may increase or decrease in future. The science of behaviourism was born. It did little, however, to consider what the animal was thinking or feeling since it only considered the behaviour.

Dog cognition

Understanding what an animal is thinking (cognition) is very difficult (even in humans) and what it is feeling even more so.

Modern Psychology not only studies behaviour but also cognition (perception and processing of information “thinking”) AND emotion.

Dog emotion

Considering emotion is important because it is a factor that influences behaviour greatly in both us and our dogs.

How would you feel…

Imagine you try to learn a totally new skill, especially something you don’t have a natural aptitude for (e.g. dancing or a new language). You go to the first class, the teacher asks you to lead with your left foot or to conjugate a verb. You lead with your right foot or get your verb endings wrong.

How does your teacher respond? How do your feel? Embarrassed, angry, defensive, frustrated?

What is your dog thinking and feeling

How would your emotional state affect your next attempt? Would you even come back to the next class if you had a bad experience?

Now imagine you are training your dog to sit. The dog has learnt this perfectly in your living room. At the roadside you ask the dog to sit but he doesn’t do it even though he knows how to. Why not, and what do you do next?

You could push your dog into position or yank up on the lead. Did that work? Yes!

It sounds like you have just used pain or discomfort to train him to sit by the roadside. But… what about his emotions?

The question should have been why did the dog sit at home but not at the roadside? At home he had practised sitting many times and hopefully been rewarded for it with treats, toys or even just a happy “good boy”. He also faced few distractions and hopefully felt safe at home. Outside there are other considerations. Cognition being the first. Could he hear you properly over the traffic noise? Were you standing by his side rather than in front of him like you do at home? These “perception” factors make the task much harder for your dog.

The second consideration is emotion. Is your dog fearful or perhaps just overwhelmed by the sight and sound of the traffic as you ask him to sit by the curb? Misunderstanding your dog’s emotions at this point is likely to lead you to feel frustrated and emotional yourself. Take a step back and think about why you dog is not doing what you asked. He may have understood what you wanted but is his emotional state preventing him from responding as you wanted?

So, what would I do in that situation?

I refer you back to my training method of “…. a bit of making it up as I go along.”

Be adaptable! In this case I might simply ask the dog to sit a step back from the curb to give him space from the traffic. If that doesn’t work, I might practice on a quiet street with no traffic. If that doesn’t work then perhaps the behaviour at home was not as good as I thought it was so I would go back to practising there first.

Don’t assume that if your dog does not respond as you want, he is being “stubborn”. He may not understand you or may be stuck in an emotional state.

Using punishment may worsen your dog’s emotional state and cause him to lose trust in your relationship generally. He may then shut down and become reluctant to try new things.

About me

I set up Rainbow Dogs in 2004 and started studying for a degree in Psychology as a mature student soon after.

I use science-based and reward-based positive training methods since they work whilst keeping your dog in a healthy emotional state.

I try to consider the thoughts and feelings of my clients as well as their dogs during my training sessions.

How to compare dog trainers

There are so many things to consider when looking for a dog trainer. Check out this handy list.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

You are doing it all wrong!

What’s the best way to train a new puppy or to work on a dog’s behavioural problem?

The answer is to take unsolicited advice from a random stranger!

ONLY KIDDING!!!

How do I deal with those “you are doing it all wrong, you should do it like this” people?

The first thing is to do is stop being so British about it!

Brighton & Hove is generally a lovely friendly place but that doesn’t mean to have to do what any old random person tells you to do. Take responsibility and remember that your dog is totally dependent on you so if that means getting away from that scary person then do it.

If you are not happy with what someone else is doing then take control. That means you don’t have to be polite and let a stranger pick up your puppy or stand by as their dog is being too rough with yours. You can, and should, take control and walk away.

What random advice might you get?

Just let him off lead – it will be fine 

It will not be fine if your dog has not learnt recall and runs over to an aggressive dog on lead or a scared child.

Just let them sort it out

This is usually what someone says when their over-boisterous dog is terrorising yours. In this situation trust you instincts and walk away.

You need to show him who’s boss

This is someone who “trains” using fear and pain.They have probably seen a celebrity trainer on TV and now consider themselves equality qualified.

The list of bad advice is endless!  

What not to do

It may be tempting to get into an argument with the other person. However, this may well cause your dog distress. People that know it all will not be open to reason. Just smile, say thank you, and walk away.

My experience

I constantly get told by clients they are overwhelmed by the contradictory advice they get from random people in the park and on the internet. I always try to give clients the reasons for my training advice and methods rather than just telling them what to do.

A real life example

I was working in the park with a client. I was assessing the dog and working on managing his behaviour and helping improve it.

Behind us is the park expert with her unsolicited advice. My client says thank you and we walk away. We walk along further but she catches us up. More expert advice which would have made the dog’s behaviour far worse. My client thanks her again and suggests we walk in the other direction.The expert is now shouting after us how she has had dogs for 20 years and is just trying to help. She probably did have lots of experience owning her own dogs but that does not make her an expert. Luckily my client had excellent social skills and could confidently manage the situation.

Take home message

Having a new dog will mean you get to talk to lots of new people in the park which can be lovely. You don’t, however have to take on board everything people tell you.Trust your instincts and get some professional advice if you need help.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

When should I neuter my dog?

One of the questions I am regularly asked by new puppy owners is “how old should my dog be when I neuter him / her”.

A very simple question without a simple answer

It is one of those “hot-button” topics for many people that can evoke equally passionate arguments from pro and anti-neuter advocates.

I always try to take a pragmatic view in dog training so that seems like a reasonable way to approach the sometimes emotive question of neutering.

These are some of the things you may wish to consider:

  • The physical health of your dog
  • The behavioural well-being of your dog
  • The needs of the owner
  • The needs of society

The physical health of your dog

What does your vet say?

A visit to your vet should answer this question, right? Well, no. You are likely to get a range of opinions from your vet. In my experience some will say do it as soon as possible, some say wait until about six months (or after the first season for a bitch), some will say only do it if required for veterinary reasons. No consensus at all!

A common reason for neutering given by some vets is the reduced risk of cancers. In bitches this could be mammary tumours and male dogs testicular or prostate cancer. Ask your vet to talk you through this.

What does the research say?

Research into the consequences of neutering should inform your decision.

This research however by its nature is difficult the conduct. The ideal, but impractical, method would be to follow a group of neutered and unneutered dogs of both sexes and multiple breeds over their lifetime to determine the consequences of neutering. An alternative method has been to retrospectively analyse data collected to look at significant effects. Good research requires good data with reasonable sample sizes. In the US research with Golden Retrievers (a very popular breed) has given some insight. However it would be wrong to assume that the results of studies on one breed can be generalised to all.

The behavioural well-being of your dog

Asking your trainer or behaviourist should give you an answer then? Again, there is little consensus between different trainers or behaviourists.

It is widely believed by owners that neutering will “calm down” a dog. This is however a major simplification.

Some male dogs will have poor recall because they have an overriding drive to seek out a mate.

Some male dogs will get themselves into trouble with other dogs by attempting to mount.

Does your male dog “have” to be kept on lead because of his hormone driven behaviours which restricts his general quality of life?

Neutering, however is not a “silver bullet” to behavioural problems for all dogs.

The needs of the owner

Do you have more than one dog in your home? How will you prevent unwanted mating.

Do you have good general control of your dog?

Can you cope with a bitch in season twice a year for three weeks at a time?

Do you plan to show your dog and therefore are required to keep him / her entire?

Do you plan to breed from your dog? Is he / she a perfect example of the breed with no health or behaviour problems? Have you considered all the implications of breeding?

The needs of society

In the UK there are thousands of unwanted dogs in rescue. Many of these got there through sellers wanting to make a “quick buck” by selling puppies to owners who did not research dog ownership sufficiently. Deliberate or accidental breeding of your dog just adds to this problem.

Is your dog a sex pest? Does he try to hump everything in sight making life stressful for other dogs and owners?

What do other owners do?

I asked the question “At what age (if at all) would you neuter your dog” on a Facebook Group that advocates positive dog training methods. The group is used by trainers and dog owners interested in training. This is not a scientific study but just a snap-shot of opinion!

I received 638 responses within 24 hours. The four main responses were are as follows:

  • Between 6-12 months: 25%
  • Between 12-24 months: 44%
  • After 24 months: 12%
  • Never: 19% 

Conclusion

Some people have very strong views pro or anti-neutering. For those people who do neuter there has been a general shift in opinion from neutering at six months to waiting until at least 12 months.

Do your own research since everyone’s circumstances will be different!

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

Review: tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug for dogs

There are many excellent dog toy products on the market but unfortunately many more that are not fit for purpose.

One product I always take with me to a dog training session in a tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug.

Why do I like tug-e-nuff?

The tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug has these features that make it perfect for working with a dog outside:

  • It’s real rabbit skin!  This will trigger your dog’s prey drive.
  • The bungee part means when the dog grabs the toy the tug is super rewarding and acts as a shock absorber for your arm!
  •  It has a loop handle so I can keep hold of it securely.
  • It is very high quality.  I have been using the same one since 2015 and it’s still going strong.

So how do I use a tug-e-nuff bungee? 

It can be used as an indoor toy but I use it exclusively as an interactive toy out on walks. Dogs that are distracted on walks need something to break through to grab their attention.

When I first present it to a dog they don’t grab it. They just stand and sniff it intently for a few seconds. This is why I use the rabbit skin version!

They then grab hold of it and tug. I get them into a super exciting tug game to reinforce it strongly.

Once it is primed for the dog I then put it back in my pocket ready for action.

Dogs that have a desire to chase bikes, skateboards, joggers etc can then be given the tug game as a super motivating alternative.

It can also be used as a reward for a dog with poor recall, especially for dogs that are not very food motivated.

To maintain the toy’s high value, I only use it when outside on walks. I would never leave it down as a chew toy since being rabbit skin your dog will likely want to “kill” it as quickly as possible.

Available in 3 different colours

Orange
Purple
tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug for dogs blue
Blue

Please let me have your feedback below if you have tried this product.

Do you need help with your dog chasing things he shouldn’t or with his recall? Please contact Rainbow Dogs for help training your dog around Brighton & Hove.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

My dog is not interested in food!

My dog is not interested in food is something I sometimes hear from new clients. When I look down I often see a well feed or overweight dog looking back at me.

Food is a biological need for all of us including our furry friends.

What owners usually mean is their dog is not interested enough in the food they are offering at that moment in time.

Most puppies start their life with us enthusiastically eating what is put in front of them but over time some realise that if they wait us out then we will give them something “better” e.g. a little bit of gravy poured over their dry kibble or even a tin of wet food. As time goes on they may wait for some fresh chicken to be mixed in. We have then created a “fussy eater”.

It could be time to get your dog weighed and checked over by the vet and reduce his food a little if necessary. It’s great if you are spending time training your dog with treats but you may need to reduce his daily food allowance a little to compensate.

We may ask our dog to come back in the park and when he does we give him a dry biscuit. The dog may have run back from playing with all his friends and so is a little disappointed and therefore next time does not bother to come back. You could try using a higher value treat like Natures Menu (95% meat) which are tasty and have a strong scent to make his recall worth while.

Perhaps you have a nervous dog and when friends visit you ask them to offer him a biscuit but he still keeps away. In this situation the dog does not want the treat enough to risk the meeting the scary visitor.

Your dog may not like travelling in the car so you try to lure him in with a treat but the fear of the car journey outweighs the pleasure of the treat.

Treats are incredibly useful for training your dog in a positive way but the benefit for him has to outweigh the cost.

If you are worried about your dog not eating enough then please get him checked out by your vet to rule out any veterinary problems.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with your dog’s behaviour.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

Proprioception – what’s that?

Most dogs love their walks; they get to run around at full speed and play with the other dogs in the park. Once they get home they sleep for hours until the next walk… right?

Some dogs, no matter how much “exercise” you give them still have energy to burn. Border Collies come to mind. Breeds of the “working” variety e.g. working Cocker Spaniels or working Labradors often don’t have an off switch either.

Perhaps the exercise they are getting is just half the picture? The organ that uses most energy is actually the brain so how do you work that part of your dog?

Opening your eyes is the first step. I recently went to St. Ann’s Well Gardens with a client with a high-energy Springer Spaniel cross. He loves to run around but also loves to be with his human. As we walked around the park we looked for things to do. There is a long log that is on its side on the grass. We lured Lord Nelson onto this with a treat which he was happy to take and then jumped off again. He jumped off because he didn’t have the balance to stay on and was also moving quickly. On his second attempt we used a second treat to keep him there. This was great fun for all of us. Next Nelson was asked to sit on the log, his back legs quivered as he did this as all the small mussels worked together to control this delicate manoeuvre.

We then set off to the next adventure in the form of a tree trunk. Nelson was asked to jump onto it which he was happy to do but did so at speed but then flew off the other side. The next attempt he took it a little more slowly and managed to stay on.

Around the park we found an upturned tree with a 30 degree incline which Nelson happily trotted up but then had to work out what to do at the end. He turned his body around slowly, a little unsure of what his back legs were doing, but managed it without falling off!

The next obstacle was the well itself. Nelson’s task here was to jump on and slowly manoeuvre around the edge. This was a tricky task since it was very narrow. Another great success for Nelson.

When we got home Nelson crashed out on his bed struggling to keep his eyes open.

 

This brings me back to my original question “Proprioception – what’s that?”. Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space. Anyone who has practiced yoga may understand how difficult it is at first to control our body slowly. With practice comes improved strength, flexibility, and balance. Slowing down so the mind has awareness about what their body is doing has similar advantages for dogs. The added bonus for a dog that has used his mind and body is he may then crash out after his trip to the park.

I call these training sessions Urban Agility since you use whatever your local park has to offer to mentally and physically work your dog. I can train these sessions with you or as part of my Groundwork service where I work your dog for you.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

Tellington TTouch Workshop

We have a guest blogger today, Maddy with Jake Dog A.I.D. assistance dog in training telling us about the Tellington TTouch workshop we attended.

Navigating the maze 

Myself, Jake my German Shepherd and our trainer Mike were kindly invited to attend a Tellington TTouch workshop held by Caroline of Stylish Fido in Steyning.  It’s a fascinating subject with lots of novel concepts to think about and use such as non-habitual movement, where a variety of obstacles and surfaces are used to encourage dogs to become more aware of where their bodies are in space.  The dogs were taken around a type of obstacle course known as The Playground of Higher Learning at the beginning and end of the day; Jake started out clumsily knocking over every single pole balanced on cones with his back feet, but by the end was walking perfectly through the rungs of a rope ladder laid on the floor.  The challenge as always with Jake was trying to keep all movements slow and deliberate, when he wants to do everything at top speed!

We were shown how various types of body wrap helped aid calm and relaxed behaviour, one of which was demonstrated on a nervous dog who attended and seemed to make a real difference. The TTouch harness that utilises a front as well as a back attachment point was also demonstrated, and the manner in which it works to prevent pulling explained; I was already a convert to this style of harness as the very similar Perfect Fit harness has revolutionised the way Jake walks on the lead. Of course we also learned the touches themselves and came home with lots of ideas on how to use them, for example touching around the mouth and gums to help release stress that would otherwise be expressed via barking. Overall it was a really interesting and informative workshop that I would recommend to anyone willing to think outside the box about canine behaviour.

Stepping over poles 

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.