Friday, October 2, 2009


Here's a recap of the last week. Trick class on Saturday went well. One big difference between training Bella back in the day and what I'm experiencing training Darcy is that Bella offered up LOTS of different behaviors. She was always on the move. Darcy on the other hand, tends to just stick with one or two behaviors. The trainer in me knows that this is because she hasn't been trained before (or possibly wasn't trained with positive reinforcement) so she doesn't realize that she can get good stuff for more than just Sit and Down. For those of you wondering what positive reinforcement training has to do with not easily learning new commands here's the explanation. When a dog is trained using predominantly punishment (yelling, hitting, leash corrections, shocks...) the dog becomes afraid to try new things in fear that it may be the "wrong" behavior. Often dogs trained like this will for a while seem very well behaved because they just sit there but when you try to teach them anything else they are very reluctant because they don't know when they will get hurt.

So I've been trying to play the "do something new game" (not a good name I know!). This is where the owner just grabs a handful of insanely good treats and waits for the dog to do something different. The dog sits and gets a treat but if they sit again they get nothing. They have to do something different. That may be tilting their head, scratching their ear or even sniffing their butt. Once they get the idea that they can try different things it is much easier to train because they become creative. Here's a video of Darcy playing the game:
With Bella I remember often starting out teaching one behavior but she did something cute so we taught that instead.

On a different note, we are trying something new with leaving Darcy alone. We are trying her without the crate. Yikes! Suddenly she started freaking out in the crate again and now we can barely close the door on the crate because it is so bent out of shape. Unfortunately we can't even baby gate her into a room (which is what "trainer Lisa" would recommend) because she jumps or climbs over our gate. I've left her alone on the first floor twice now (once for over two hours!) and so far so good. I am very worried because the other day while I was home she chewed a 3 inch diameter hole in our living room couch. I think I will get one of those Kong launchers to keep her busy and we'll hope for the best. That is what the really educated trainers say - "hope for the best"! :)

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