Archive for July, 2010

What Poker Machines Can Teach Us About Dog Training.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Ever played a poker machine (also known as slot machine or fruit machine)? They can teach us a lot about how to keep our dogs interested in us and training!

These clever machines have Fancy Graphics, Sounds, Music, Lights, Mega Jackpots, Maxi Jackpots, Mini Jackpots, Free Games, Bonus Rounds, Features, Double Ups, Scatters, Wild Symbols, Multipliers and more, all designed to keep you entertained, feeling like you’re winning, therefore playing more. People play these machines for hours upon hours often against their will or better judgement. Many people are utterly addicted to them.

Now imagine yourself as the poker machine that your dog is playing. What fancy gimmicks do you have? How do you keep your dog interested in playing the training game with you? Have you become boring with your reinforcements? Do you automatically reach for the liver treats to reward your dog for everything? Worse still do you expect your dog to work for praise alone now? Yawn.

If you want to keep your dog interested in you and training then you’d better get creative with your rewards. When you’re predictable your dog gets to make an easy choice between what you want him to do and what he wants to do. Why would he come away from the smelly dead thing in the bushes when he knows the reward will be a tiny piece of liver, or worse – nothing? If he’s never sure of the payout and occasionally he wins a Mega Jackpot he may be more inclined to participate with more enthusiasm in the future.

Keep your reinforcements interesting and varied. Don’t fall into the trap of using food rewards all the time. Work out what your dog likes and use these things as rewards and stop giving them away for nothing. Does your dog like to play tug, fetch or ‘go find it’? Does your dog enjoy treat dispensing toys, puzzle toys, interactive toys? Does your dog like car rides, walks, meeting people and other dogs, sniffing trees etc? Does your dog like petting, attention, sitting next to you on the couch, having a cuddle in the bed, going outside, coming inside? Use these rewards as gimmicks to keep your dog interested. Keep him guessing so he’ll keep playing with you.

What’s that you say? You want him to work for praise huh? Oh ok then, well next time you’re sitting at poker machine I trust you’ll settle for a cheery ‘Good Person’ as you sink your money into the slot. Hopefully you’ll find the praise motivating enough to keep you playing.

What Poker Machines Can Teach Us About Dog Training

So You Think You’re Rewarding Your Dog?

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Reading through literature on dogs you often come across authors who refer to some dogs as ‘Head Shy’.  The theory is that a ‘head shy’ dog finds being petted about the head unpleasant or aversive. I would argue that the absolute majority of dogs are ‘head shy’; rarely do I encounter a dog that actually enjoys being petted about the head, especially by strangers. I know of some dogs that will tolerate it but the dogs that actually enjoy it are few and far between.

In dog training classes I watch with dismay as handlers click, reward and then apply an aversive – the head pat. Often I’ll try to explain to the handler that the dog does not enjoy the head pat and may therefore avoid repeating the same behaviour in the future for fear of the same outcome. Usually the handler is quite shocked by this revelation, often to the point of complete denial. “But he loooves it!” they claim, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I then point out the ways in which the dog is trying desperately to communicate his utter distaste for the head pat which include one or more of the following:

  • Ducking away from the hand
  • Yawning
  • Lip Licking
  • Blinking
  • Turning away
  • Freezing
  • Jumping up
  • Frantic behaviour
  • Rolling onto its back
  • Flattening itself on the ground

Occasionally the client will heed my advice and cease petting the dog about the head, much to the dog’s relief. Often my advice falls on deaf ears and clients continue to ‘reward’ their dogs in this manner only to later claim there’s something wrong with the training method because their dog still won’t ‘obey’ despite being ‘rewarded’.

Recently I had a client claim their Beagle was ‘dominant’. Puzzled, I asked the client how he had arrived at that conclusion. The client explained that the dog would ‘drop’ on command for his partner and other people but not for him. He had read somewhere that the ‘drop’ position is a ‘submissive’ position and since the dog would no longer drop for him he assumed it was trying to assert its ‘dominance’. I recognised this client was probably doing something the dog didn’t like since he would ‘drop’ for everyone else except this handler so I asked him to cue his dog to drop and nag if necessary until the dog complied. It was clear the dog did not want to comply; he turned his head, avoided eye contact, licked his lips and yawned. Finally, under pressure, the dog slowly complied. Immediately the reason he was avoiding ‘dropping’ became apparent. His owner was excited (he has a BIG personality) and squealed and petted (read roughed him up!) around the head! Case solved. The dog had come to predict that dropping for this guy meant getting roughed up about the head as a ‘reward’ and since the dog found the ‘reward’ aversive he avoided it at all costs.

I also observe this frequently in Recall classes. Excited by their dog’s willingness to come when called, clients drop down onto their knees to hug it and rough it up around the head. The result is a dog that is unwilling to come all the way and will usually stop around a metre and a half short of the handler or do a ‘drive by’ to avoid this display of affection.

Often what you perceive as rewarding and what your dog actually finds rewarding are two different things. All humans love to show their dogs affection but it’s important to understand that not all dogs like receiving affection the way humans display it. In my experience most dogs would rather forgo any type of petting when there are food rewards involved. Just as you would not want someone man-handling you while you enjoy a nice meal. Once you really understand what your dog finds reinforcing you will deepen your bond and your dog will be more willing to participate in training activities.

The 'Head Shy' Myth In Dogs

WIN AN APPLE iPad! Vote For Us!

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Vote for Urban Dog Training to WIN AN iPad!Vote for Urban Dog Training to WIN AN APPLE iPad!

Urban dog training has been nominated in the Top Trainer category in this year’s prestigious Paws & Claws Awards. By voting for us you are automatically entered into the draw to win the iPad.

Prizes

1st Prize – Apple iPad Wi-Fi + 3G Valued at $799.00

2nd Prize – A Two Hour Private Consultation Valued at $250.00

3rd Prize – An Urban Dog Training Course of Your Choice Valued at up to $250.00

4th Prize – A Nina Ottosson Interactive Dog Toy Valued at $45.00

To vote for us click here.

Terms and Conditions:

Vote for Urban Dog Training in the Paws & Claws People’s Choice Awards Terms and Conditions

  • Voting in the Paws & Claws People’s Choice Award is open to Australian Residents only.
  • Each person may submit only one vote.
  • Voting is online at http://www.pawsandclaws.com.au/paws_claws_awards_VOTINGFORM_10.cfm
  • Entries open at 8 am (AEST) on Thursday 1st July 2010.
  • Voting in the Award will close at midnight (AEST) on Thursday 26 August 2010. No votes will be accepted after that time. Urban Dog Training is not responsible for votes lost or delayed or not received for any reason.
  • All people who vote in the Award will go into the draw to win one of the following prizes, with winners randomly selected.  Once an entry has been randomly selected, it will be omitted from any subsequent prize draws. a) The first vote drawn will win an Apple iPad 16GB with Wi-Fi + 3G Value: $799.00 b) The second vote drawn will win a Private Consultation with Award Winning Behavioural Dog Trainer Danielle Dickinson from Urban Dog Training Value: $250 c)  The third vote drawn will win an Urban Dog Training course of the winner’s choice.  Value (up to): $250.00 d) The fourth vote drawn will win a Nina Ottosson Interactive Dog Toy. Value: $45.00
  • The draw will take place at 1pm on Saturday 18th September at Urban Dog Training 1413 Creek Rd, Carindale QLD 4153
  • The winners of the second and third prizes must be able to attend Urban Dog Training’s venue situated at 1413 Creek Rd Carindale QLD 4153 to participate in their prizes.
  • All Prizes cannot be transferred, exchanged or redeemed in cash.  The value of each prize as stated in these Conditions of Entry is stated in good faith and the Urban Dog Training accepts no responsibility for any variation.  Urban Dog Training reserves the right to substitute any prize for an item of similar value.
  • All prize winners will be notified by email on or about 20th September 2010, or otherwise as soon as reasonably possible following Urban Dog Training’s determining of the prize winners.
  • The names of the winners will be published on the Urban Dog Training website on Monday 20th September.
  • Urban Dog Training may use any information (including personal information) provided by any person who submits a vote to contact him/her for any reason in relation to the Competition.
  • The decision of Urban Dog Training in relation to any aspect of the Competition will be final, and will be binding on every person who enters the Competition.  No correspondence will be entered into.
  • If there is an event which prevents or hinders Urban Dog Training’s conduct of the Competition, or Urban Dog Training’s ability to deliver the prize to the Prize Winner, then Urban Dog Training may, in its discretion cancel the Competition subject to State Regulation or select other Prize Winners.  Further, Urban Dog Training may at its sole discretion recommence it under the same conditions.
  • Each vote must be made in accordance with these Conditions of Entry.  By submitting a vote in the Competition, each entrant agrees to be bound by the Conditions of Entry.  Urban Dog Training may at its discretion refuse the award any prize to any entrant who fails to comply with these Conditions of Entry.
  • To be eligible to win all required fields on the Paws & Claws People’s Choice Awards Voting Form must be completed correctly and a valid email address supplied for verification purposes.
  • To be eligible to win votes must be cast for Urban Dog Training in the Top Trainer category.
  • The promoter of the Prize Draw is Urban Dog Training www.urbandogtraining.com.au.

Top 5 Must Have Dog Food Dispensing Toys

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Is your dog living on social security handouts? In the wild our dogs would have spent the major part of their day locating food. Nowadays our dogs are provided with their entire daily allotment of food in a bowl at the end of each day. This is the canine equivalent to social security payments – money for nothing! This food is then inhaled at warp speed and the dog is left with nothing to do. It is then up to the dog to find other, often unapproved, ways to stimulate itself.

Food can assist us in providing mental stimulation for our dogs in the form of food puzzles. Providing your dog with a variety food puzzles in the form of food dispensing toys ensures their long and often lonely days are full of fun and interesting things to do and discover. While your dog is busy trying to work out how to get his daily food from a toy he’s not vocally announcing his presence to the entire neighbourhood, landscaping the backyard or re-designing your furniture!

Here is a list of our Top 5 recommended food dispensing toys:

Kong

Super bouncy and irresistible. Kong is a puncture resistant rubber dog toy that helps clean teeth and massages gums. It is considered the world’s best dog toy for its legendary strength, quality and performance.

Kongs are widely used for therapy and prevention of boredom, separation anxiety and other behavioural issues. Regular use of Kongs can also improve oral health. Their unpredictable bounce lures most dogs into a game of chase, catch and chew. The hollow centre can be filled with food and treats. A dab of peanut butter spread around the inside is very effective.

Kong Dog Toy

Kong Dog Toy

Twist ‘n’ Treat

The Twist ‘n Treat is the first and only 2-piece adjustable rubber treat dispensing toy. The rate of treat dispersal can be adjusted to suit the interest and ability of the dog. When first introducing the toy to your dog, we suggest leaving enough space in the opening to allow treats to fall our regularly, so your dog can “win the game.”

Once your dog plays successfully with the Twist ‘n Treat, you can screw the opening tighter to extend the length of play.The adjustable opening allows the Twist ‘n Treat to be filled with a variety of hard, soft, and smear-able treats. Also great for dogs on raw food diets! Made of natural rubber.

Busy Buddy Twist N Treat

Busy Buddy Twist N Treat

Tug A Jug

The Tug-a-Jug provides a multi-sensory appeal to keep your dog engaged and motivated to play.  The unique design of this patented toy allows dogs to see, smell, & hear the treats as they roll around in the jug. The Tug-a-Jug not only dispenses treats, it can also be used for obedience training and feeding meals.

You can increase the degree of difficulty by placing various sized balls inside the jug with kibble or treats. As the balls roll back and forth, they act as a barrier and method of metering the food. By changing the size of the balls or the treats, the level of difficulty can be adjusted to suit your dog’s level of play and interest. We recommend using a couple of golf balls or small balls to begin with to build your dog’s confidence as he plays. Once he understands the new rules of the game, you can increase the number &/or diameter of the balls.

Tug A Jug

Busy Buddy Tug A Jug

Bob A Lot

The Bob-A-Lot recently won the bronze award for best new product at the HH Backer Pet Trade Show.  It can be filled with treats or food in a top or bottom chamber, and then must be manipulated by the dog’s nose or feet to extract the goodies inside.  Both the top and bottom chambers feature adjustable openings to regulate the difficulty in which the dog removes the treats.

It holds up to three cups of food in a variety of sizes, and is a great way to feed and exercise your dog.  The Bob-A-Lot is made from a durable polymer with an anti-slip coating on the bottom.  One size is appropriate for dogs of all sizes.

Bob-A-Lot

Bob-A-Lot

Buster Cube

Stimulate their mind. Make it easy or hard! The Buster Cube Food & Fun Puzzle is made in two sizes one for dogs under 10kg and one for dogs over 10kg. Fill with their daily food allowance and watch them work for their food. Great for keeping home alone dogs busy when you’re not there.

As the dog gets more experienced and empties the cube faster, it is possible to increase the level of difficulty and thus maintain the value of the cube. This is done by turning the cylinder towards maximum or minimum respectively in order to adjust the speed at which the food is released during play.

Buster Cube

Buster Cube