Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday Training Class

Most Sunday's we take our dogs to a local training class. It's not that they're bad dogs, but we enjoy the training our dogs and always seem to learn something new. 

The training class is called Dog Training for People, it takes place at a local park. The training class focus's on teaching owners how to handle their dogs, using positive reinforcement techniques. Dogs and their handlers are split into two groups, beginners and intermediates. I love that no matter what level you and your dog are at, they'll never make you look bad or feel out of place. The trainers are always available to give you great advice and guidance whatever your problem.

This is not your typical training class. They don't teach you how to make dog sit, lie down or twirl around. They teach you the key skills necessary to handle your dog in situations faced on a daily bases. Your dog will learn how  to behave on the leash around other dogs and people. The benefit we've found with this training is that you start to enjoy walking and being seen with your dogs in public.

A couple of key rules make this an extremely safe environment in which to train your dog; dogs are not allowed meet or stare at one another. Staring is anything longer than three seconds. 

Marthina McClay in 'Dog Aggression or Leash Reactivity?' writes: -
"..When he sees the other dog “staring” at him, he may see it as the rude, offensive staring behavior mentioned above. He pulls forward and feels the pull of the leash. He feels restrained from being able to approach. Frustration ensues, and after a number of times he begins to feel frustrated seeing other dogs while on a leash at a distance. This is what is called conditioned frustration or leash reactivity."  

The training has taught us how to read our own dogs body language and has given us the techniques to keep them calm and under control in every day situations. Under control, means that our dogs stay focused on us even when passing other dogs on the street. Even when the other dog(s) are riled up or staring at our dogs. Abbey and Jake have learned several commands, one of the most important is the "look" command. 'Look' means make eye contact with us and hold it until we reward them. "Sit" and "wait" , when we're meeting other people and their dogs. In order for Abbey and Jake to meet other people they have to be calm and sitting otherwise they don't get to meet the person. In such a case, meeting the other person is the reward for sitting calmly. 

I believe positive reinforcement training works so well, because the dog gets rewarded for good behavior rather than being punished for mis-behaving or not doing what they've been asked to do. Positive reinforcement doesn't mean we're soft with our dogs. We just teach them what's appropriate. For example, jumping up at person, results in being ignored. Sitting calmly results in getting nice attention from the person. You can see their little brain working hard to work out what it is they need to do to get the reward. 

We've been training Abbey this way since she was four months old, she enjoys working hard for us. She's growing up to be a well behaved, well mannered dog. We're very proud of her for what she has become and how well she's handling the various life situations thrown at her. You can read about one of our proud moments from the previous blog called Look! I have manners.

Jake also enjoys this training too. He's very food motivated and loves to work for his food or simple to hear "Good boy!" 

I think if Abbey and Jake were to give a rating to this training, they would rate it 10/10. When we take them to training, they recognize where we're going and start singing (whining) in excitement for the last half mile. They look forward to seeing all of their friends. Probably the hardest thing for Jake and Abbey is to keep it together during the training class when one of the trainers walks by, for them this is the biggest distraction and the hardest test each week ;o) 

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