leave a message: info@red-star-kennel.com

977 Scott Road, Hudson  |   (715) 386-2197

How compartmentalization creates perfection in dog training

      To  compartmentalize your dog training means to take every behavior that you teach your dog, and break it down into as many separate behaviors as possible, all in order to create perfection in the performance of the finished behavior.  Compartmentalizing addresses all of the finer details of the exercise, and pieces them together carefully and methodically.  

Within our dog training, we are trying to avoid conflict as much as possible.  Conflict can come about in training when a dog is either refusing the behavior asked, or anticipating the behavior asked.  Although there are other elements of conflict, these two are the most common within dog training.  With compartmentalization, comes the ability to mark (marker training) and reward the dog at the precise moment within the complete exercise, as opposed to just rewarding the dog at the end of the completed exercise.
 
We also do not want the dog to get bored within the training, which can result in a lackluster performance.  By breaking exercises down and being able to address each fine point, you have the freedom to work on certain problem areas while putting other behaviors on the “back burner” for a bit.  
Coupled with marker training, using a compartmentalized approach to your dog training can also assist in creating a performance bursting with enthusiasm and integrity.  By breaking each exercise down, the dog ends up receiving many rewards for small jobs.  Think of it as your boss asking you to retrieve a file for him or her and upon delivery rewards you with a hundred dollar bonus.  Your level of motivation will immediately spike the next time he or she asks you to do some other small, seemingly meaningless task.
 
Later, you can vary the moments when you mark and reward, which will maintain the drive in the dog.  By varying your moments of mark and reward in training, the dog has a higher level of focus and commitment.  This is achieved by the dog not knowing when the mark is going to happen exactly, but yet still maintaining an anticipatory state of drive assuming the mark could happen in the next moment.
 
If we take heeling for example, the completed exercise itself can be broken down into several components.   Here are just a few of the components that you could potentially train separately.
 
: Head position (in place)
: Body position (in place)
: Forward movement 
: Backward movement 
: Left turns (in place)
: Right turns (in place)
: Left turns while moving
: Right turns while moving
 
These are literally just a few of the components needed to create beautiful heeling.  Once these pieces have been taught separately, you can then systematically chain them together, one behavior at a time,  moving step by step to the end goal: your finished heeling routine.  However, within this process, you always have the freedom and ability to maintain your drive and focus by going back and rewarding just one of the various pieces you have combined to create your finished behavior.      
 
When understood and implemented correctly, compartmentalization allows a trainer vast amounts of freedom within their dog training, and can develop a stellar performance in the dog.
 
Take care and safe training

Can you manage bad behavior with obedience training?

Often times dog owners deal with bad behaviors like excessive barking, jumping on people, pulling on the leash, chewing household items, etc…. I think most dog owners find these behaviors to be unwanted, and difficult to deal with.  So the logical question is “Can I manage my dog’s bad behaviors with obedience training?”

       The usual inclination dog owners might have is that they need to enroll their dog in a obedience training class.  While it is true that teaching a dog basic obedience and other training strengthens the bond between the dog and handler, stimulates the mind and body of the dog and can potentially give you a set of useful tools in life, we find that if we incorporate obedience training into the behavior problems we encounter in our social lives before the obedience training itself is finished, we lose those valuable obedience behaviors we worked so hard to create.
 
For example, if my dog jumps on people when they enter my house, and I command the dog to sit or go to a place, the odds of my dog staying fixed in the position in the presence of such a strong stimulus are slim at best.  Therefore, I lose the integrity of the behavior when the dog releases itself, and the dog ends up jumping up on the person anyway, which in itself is reinforcing.  So its a lose-lose situation. 
 
I think the key to perfection in dog training is to follow a certain protocol to achieve, and maintain the behaviors we create.  The dog, at that point understands the protocol and works along accordingly.   Through countless repetitions, we fade the rewards, increase the duration of the exercise, proof the behavior in controlled environments with controlled levels of stimulus, and then bam!  The behavior is perfectly trained.  Which to us, means the dog executes the behavior on the command alone, with no visual cue from the handler as well or presence of reward, and with no assistants from collars and leashes.  And lets not forget that the dog should perform the behavior anywhere anytime, regardless of the level of distraction, or external stimulus.
 
Again, if we do not follow our protocol and throw these precious behaviors around socially, so to speak, we sabotage our training that we work so carefully to create.
 
But, there is always another option in managing unwanted behaviors which is much easier and does not do any damage to our precious obedience behaviors.
You just have to teach your dog that certain things in life are not allowed.   
 
Simple as that
 
Take care and safe training

1 fundamental tip for developing a solid “stay” behavior

One of the first exercises we learn in obedience training is the “stay” behavior.   In fact, it is not uncommon to see this behavior taught in the first class or lesson.  This is because it is a fundamental behavior needed for any obedience routine, let alone its value in daily life with our dogs.   From leaving your dog in a sit-stay at the end of the driveway while you get the mail, to leaving your dog in a down-stay while playing frisbee at the park.  The stay behavior could possibly be the most valuable behavior next to recall in all of our dog training.

It seems as though many people run into conflict when teaching this behavior.   The conflict normally results in the same problem, which is the dog breaking its stay behavior before being released.  Why the dog breaks its stay could fall into a couple different categories.

One expression of the dog breaking its stay could be that it is insecure in its environment.  The fundamental problem with this particular expression is not so much a training behavior, but more of socialization issue.

The most common expression of this is that the dog is in anticipation of the release and lacks the patience to hold its position.

And yet another reason could be because the dog is either bored or distracted, and breaks its stay because ultimately the dog does not value the exercise itself, or the exercise is somehow unclear to the dog.

All of this being said, we have found that if we apply one concept to our stay behaviors, we do not encounter the problems in training that we have witnessed with other training methods.

That one concept is:

If you place your dog in either a sit, stand, or down stay, never release your dog from the behavior until you have returned to the position in which you left the dog.

What the dog learns through this protocol is that the only way it is ever release from its stay is if you are standing right next to him/her, in the heeling position (normally).  By understanding the exercise this way, the dog will never anticipate the release when you are away.  By having correct repetitions the dog will also learn it is never allowed to release itself.

If we do not follow this protocol in our training and release the dog while we are away from it, or heaven forbid recall the dog from a stay, we run a strong risk of the dog misinterpreting our sounds or actions for the release or recall, creating conflict.  And of course our goal number one when teaching a dog is avoiding conflict.

Its as simple as that.

Marker training: The game changer in all of dog training

Marker training is a reward based method of animal training in where a very clear or distinct signal (usually audible) is produced upon the execution of a behavior the handler approves of, or is trying to elicit.  The signal must always be consistent in sound (pitch and tone) and must be followed by a reward.  The signal also must not be accompanied by any other signal be it visual or audible.

This audible signal essentially means three things to the animal:

1.What they are doing at the precise moment of hearing the signal, is correct

2.They will always receive a reward

Read More

5 tips for socializing your dog

I think one of the most common questions we hear are often about socialization in one form or another.  New puppy owners are anxious to get their puppy out socializing with other dogs and people.  Or on the flip side, we get many, many calls about leash aggression in their dog and how they weren’t able to socialize it properly as a puppy.

For us, we like to create a dog or puppy who is socially neutral.  Meaning, they are not triggered by external stimulus such as other dogs, or bicycles, or children playing, squirrels, etc…  We find that a dog who is socially neutral or indifferent, is the most pleasant type of dog to handle, for obvious reasons, but also a pleasure to share space with, socially.  The dog is relaxed, and observant of its environment, without acting on its inherent sense of curiosity.

That being said, here are 5 tips to help you socialize your puppy, or dog.

Read More

5 keys to a successful dog training session

 

Often times we’re asked, “how can I get more focus and engagement out of my dog when training?”.   What we have learned throughout our years of training is that if we can control certain elements of our environment before and after the training session, we can achieve a higher state of intensity and focus in our training.  So, if we may, we’d like to break down 5 points that help us dramatically in the overall flow of our training sessions.

1. Use reward based training

Perhaps the single greatest realization in the last 100 years of dog training was the implementation of reward based training.  To put it simply the dog works for you, and you pay it for a job well done.  I think an easy analogy would be to ask yourself how you would feel if you went to work everyday, doing your best.  But, instead of receiving a paycheck your boss gives your a hug and tells you how wonderful you are, and how appreciative they are of your performance.  The reality is, as good as it feels to be stroked and praised, it feels a whole lot better to get paid.

If you can find the object of your dog’s desire, be it toy or food, you can teach your dog to work for that reward.  Using reward based training brings higher levels of drive, conviction, and integrity.

2.  Make sure your dog is hungry

Luckily for us, food drive is present in each and every dog, naturally.  But, like every other drive, the level of food drive expressed in the dog is going to be determined by a multitude of factors like genetics, breed, individual character, environment, diet, etc…  With respect to those factors, lets just say for now that we would like to achieve a higher level of food drive.

We find that mornings and evenings (when dogs are naturally the most active) are the prime times to train.  Conveniently, these are also the times when most people feed their dogs.  So, it only makes sense to train before feeding times.  These are also the times when the dog is going to be the most hungry and coupled with reward based training, you will be able to capitalize on this element and bring more drive and compliance to your training.

3.  Have a solid game plan

Having a game plan is essential to having a productive dog training session.  If we are training, we are always working on something or another.  Whether it be polishing up a behavior, or creating a new one, there is always something that is going to be at the forefront of the list in terms of the day’s session.Having an order and format to your training will help keep you on track, instead of meandering around the field wondering what you should work on next.  Having a logical flow to your training will create a rhythm to your session, also yielding a higher level of drive and commitment.

4.  Confine the dog before and after the session

Confining your dog before training is also a great way to increase drive, and compliance in your session.

Lets face it, when the dog is confined, life is pretty boring.  So when a dog is taken out of the confinement, they are usually pretty pumped to do whatever is presented to them.  In turn, think of a dogs mental state if we wake them up from a nap on the couch to train.  Obviously, the dog is not going to have the same level of motivation.  So this factor alone can make us more interesting and fun to the dog.  If we couple this usable drive with the fact that the dog is now hungry because of the time of day we are training, and the fact that we are using high value reward based training, you can almost instantaneously create much more drive and engagement.

It is also important to confine your dog immediately after your training session.  Dogs live in the present, truly.  So, if we confine the dog in a neutral place after training they will sit in confinement and think, or stew even, on the thing they were doing last before being confined.  Believe it or not, the dog will actually continue learning on its own, while being confined.  This is precisely the reason “time outs” do not work for behavior problems.  But, alas, that’s another blog..

5.  End on a high note

Another question we get asked frequently is “how long should my dog training session be?”

When teaching and advancing behaviors, it has been our observation that if you are able to finish your session not only on a successful repetition of the behavior you are working on, but also at the point where the dog has reached a maximum level of drive or enthusiasm, it yields the highest result of maintaining drive while advancing learning.

If we end our dog training session at a point where their drive to train has reached a maximum level, the dog brings this level to the next training session.  Thus, increasing drive.

On the flip side, if we end our session at a point when we have worked too much and the dog becomes bored, or non-engaging, we decrease the dog’s drive and work ethic.   Resulting in a less motivated effort by the dog.

These are just a few observations that we have been able to apply when we are training our dogs.

We encourage you to take these ideas and apply them to your own system of dog training and see if it yields the results we have experienced!

Take care and safe training