Puppy Pre School - Week 3
Increasing training task difficulty and introducing commands from new people
Increase the difficulty of the recall. Do not show the puppy that you have food on offer before calling him.
Always set-up for success – only ever call “come” when you know the puppy will respond correctly. This rule applies throughout the dog’s life. You know the dog will respond correctly because either you have competently trained him to perform above the current level requested, or you are in a position of control (long lead, enclosed area, etc), should the dog fail to respond correctly.
When you give a command, you must be prepared to follow it through – mean what you say.
The food treats will now become a reward after the dog has performed the down or drop. You will no longer use the food to lure the dog to lie down - he will perform the exercise “on faith” that the food will arrive after the command has been correctly followed.
When your dog is confidently performing the down or drop on faith, we can commence reducing the amount of food treats being used. In a training session of, say, 10 drops, one of them will not be paid – not the first and not the last.
You will praise the dog for lying down and then give a release cue without having paid a food reward. This occasion will be followed up with further drops that are paid.
At the next training session, you will fail to pay two of the ten drops performed and three at the next session. You may need to do several sessions at each level if your dog is not highly motivated. When you have reached the level of paying only 50% of correct responses, you will need to vary the level of reinforcement from one session to the next. In one session you might only pay three of ten correct responses, but in the very next session, you might pay six of ten correct drops. Aim to pay the best responses ie the quickest, the straightest, etc.
Use a lower rate of reinforcement when training in an easy situation for the dog, such as at home in the kitchen. Use a higher rate of reinforcement when training in a difficult or distracting environment for the dog, such as at the park or out in the street.
Encourage visitors to your home and people you meet in the street to reward your dog for sitting. If your dog greets people by sitting to gain their attention and/or food treats, you will be avoiding other problem behaviours such as jumping up or crotch sniffing.
Ensure that your puppy is reliably giving up toys to you during games of fetch or tug-o-war. Say the command, “leave” or “give”, then reach into your pocket for a treat – hold it to the puppy’s nose. When he gives up the toy to eat the treat,
praise him or her, then using the release command, “okay”, offer the toy for another game. Should your puppy not give up the toy to eat the piece of food, take the collar in your left hand whilst holding the toy still in your right hand, effectively stopping the game. As soon as the puppy gives up the toy, out of boredom, praise and offer the game once more.