Teaching "solid" Behaviors

Discussion in 'Training Challenges' started by brodys_mom, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. brody_smom Experienced Member

    So many of the books and articles I have read about treating fear-based aggression tell me to start with teaching a solid Sit, Watch and Stay. The Stay I have had some success with, but the Sit and Watch are iffy. He is getting much better at sitting and waiting before I open the door to go out, but how do I go about getting that quick response every time. It seems when I am training, specifically for Sit and Watch, he will do it pretty well because we are doing it over and over and he is not really thinking about something other than what he needs to do to get the treat. My thinking is that I need to mix in other cues so he has to pay attention to what I asked for every time in order to get the reward, but when I do this, he seems to get tired or bored or something else, and shuts down. By this I mean he will lay down on the floor or walk away or start scratching instead of doing what I cued. Sometimes he will just sit there looking at me, waiting me out. I should really start timing him, because it seems like 30 seconds or more have gone by since I gave a verbal cue, then he will finally think, "okay, I'll roll over". Any suggestions?
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  2. southerngirl Honored Member

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  3. brody_smom Experienced Member

    This is mostly what I have been doing, since we both find basic commands so boring to do in sessions. We have been working on a "close loose-leash" walk, not quite "heel" yet, but he sits quite well nearly every time I stop without any other cue besides just stopping. Sometimes if he is looking at something and forgets to sit, I back up a couple steps and tell him "get in" and he sits in heel, or pretty close to it. Sometimes I will have a handful of something tasty that he wants and I will ask him for Sit and he will just stare at me like he has never heard the word before. Then he will very slowly lower his backside, as if he's really not sure this is the right thing to do. "It's so crazy, it just might work! Hurray! It did!"

    Watch, or Look, as I have been calling it, is much more difficult to get. He looks at me a lot throughout the day, but I don't always have treats or clicker. I will say "yes" and scratch his ears a bit. Outside the house, there are just too many distractions, so he doesn't Look very well unless he is on leash and he knows I have treats. It is very important that I get this one solid before I begin the behavior modification for territorial aggression, but it's taking much longer than I had hoped.
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  4. MaryK Honored Member

    Southerngirl has given you excellent advice.

    With the 'look' have some treats handy in your pocket and when he just looks at you, say 'look' then mark with 'yes' and give him a treat. Hold giving the treat (NOT the mark) a few seconds longer each time to keep his gaze on you.

    Dogs will learn in THEIR time, never forget that. They'll 'get' some tricks so quickly you wonder if you're seeing things. Did they really learn that that fast? And others, they'll take as long as they need to learn them, you cannot rush training a dog. Or for that matter put a time limit on how long you want to wait until they 'get' any particular trick. They're just like kids. Some will learn maths quickly and easily and struggle with English, others learn and love English and struggle with maths.

    Patience is the key to dog training. Never, never let your impatience or frustration show through, not in any way at all. If YOU feel frustrated or impatient, even if you're NOT apparently showing it, your DOG will DEFINITELY pick that factor up and he too will then get upset and frustrated.

    Dogs are amazingly sensitive to our moods, so if you feel frustrated, a perfectly normal reaction at times, then just finish on a 'high', something Brody knows well, then walk away and try again later when you're feeling relaxed.

    Also, don't do one trick over and over again. I know with my dogs they'll look at me (Ra Kismet had a real 'mule' look) as if to say "Hey Mom don't you know this trick?" "Isn't it about time you 'got it' ". Vary the tricks, do a few of one he knows, then throw in the one you're working on, then do some he knows well. And ALWAYS finish on a 'high' note with a trick he can easily do!
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  5. kassidybc Experienced Member

    I'm a little confused. Does he know look, and just doesn't do it with distractions? Or he just doesn't understand the trick at all?
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  6. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I'm not sure. He has quite a few behaviors that he will do quite well most of the time, but not always. It's hard for me to tell if he is not responding to a cue because he doesn't understand it, or if he just doesn't feel doing like it. Many times I have asked for a particular behavior that I'm pretty sure he knows, and he doesn't do it immediately, but if I wait long enough without repeating the cue, he eventually does it. I don't think he's guessing, because it's always the very next thing he does. There are some things he seems to not like doing, so he will offer me something else instead, like spin instead of roll over. With look and sit when we are out on a walk, he is very good at doing them without being cued (other than me stopping), so I am constantly saying "yes" or "good" then treating. But if he is distracted by something, he won't respond to verbal cues until I move him backwards and get his attention.
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  7. kassidybc Experienced Member

    So, if you are somewhere with zero distractions, does he know look well? If he doesn't respond very well even with zero distractions, you may want to try teaching him "look" a different way.
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  8. kassidybc Experienced Member

    Maybe instead of doing a session with a bunch of different tricks, try doing the same trick over and over again (he doesn't get tired or bored doing that does he?) but then add in a sit or a watch every once in a while.

    Does he seem to enjoy trick training? If so, stopping a training session early would be a negative thing for him, right? Maybe since he takes so long to respond (like in your roll over example), you could time him, or count in your head. Don't make it too difficult for him, but don't give him too long either. Give him a command, and wait 15 seconds (or however long you think is best). If he doesn't do what you told him to in that time, just walk away and stop the session. If he finally does it after you are waking away, just ignore it. If he does do it within the time, reward him and continue training (unless he is getting tired of training, in which case continuing would not be a positive thing). Eventually he should realize that if he doesn't do it quickly, he doesn't get a reward, and the training stops. Once he understands that, I would slowly decrease the time he gets to do the trick. Eventually he should be responding immediately!
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  9. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I wish I could read his mind. Sometimes I'm really not sure what he knows, because for some reason he chooses not to respond. Like this evening I had a little bit of feta cheese left after dinner and I showed it to Brody to see if he was interested. He seemed very excited, but when I told him to sit, he just stood there. I waited, maybe 5 seconds, then he sat. I asked for a down and a roll over. He went down, then stood up and did a spin. I tried again. Sit, down, roll over. He did sit, down, but refused to roll over. I decided he didn't really want the feta.

    Finding a location with zero distractions is hard. If there is one fly in the house, Brody will spot it. Or he will get an itch he just has to scratch, right after I give him a cue.
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  10. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I have been cutting sessions short when he stops responding to cues, but I have been feeling guilty about it. I know I should be ending a session on a positive note, but I can't seem to hold his attention. Some tricks he seems to enjoy, like figure 8s and weaves through my legs. Paws up and jumping onto our retaining wall really excite him. I can't ask for too many of these as he gets noisy and over-excited, sometimes a bit nippy, so I get him to sit in between, and he does that quite well. We've been working on "get in" (sit in heel position) on our walks, and he is starting to pick it up, but when he's distracted, he really doesn't respond to any cues until I move him away from the distraction.
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  11. MaryK Honored Member

    The majority of dogs love some tricks, like some others and don't really like a few tricks. It's a matter of being consistent too - I noticed you use either "Yes" or "Good' as your marker. Use just ONE marker, YES is the advised one as it's short and you don't normally say 'yes' to your dog when not training but will say 'good' or 'good boy'.

    Plus do not use a clicker and the word yes, what happens is it diminishes both markers. One or the other, never both at the same time.

    With treats, it really does pay to have some always handy. In your pocket, keep the least messy ones, in different places around the house where you can easily reach them, so that when he gives you a behavior you want, you can immediately MARK the behavior and treat.

    Also, make sure you are always consistent with your cues and hand signals. Does it sound/look, in some instances, different from the last time you gave the cue? And are you asking for too many 'tricks' in a row? Plus do you keep repeating the cue? Repeating a cue over and over becomes 'white noise' to a dog (and to humans too if they're like me I HATE any one keeping on at me and turn a totally deaf ear). Also are you using really high value treats? Especially for the tricks Brody's not so keen on.

    Patience is the key with training and remember it's not the dog who makes the mistakes it's US as trainers who make the mistakes.:D

    For example, I haven't done Agility work for ages, and cued Leaf the wrong way for a particular obstacle. Result - instead of going over it she went UNDER it! Fortunately our trainer spotted MY mistake and corrected ME. End result Leaf went through the little hoop like a champion. I had confused her, and myself had 'brain fade' on that one as it's a long time since I've done puppy agility, once I got it right so to did Leaf.(y)
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  12. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I guess I'm a little confused about markers. I haven't taken a clicker class at all, just read about it and watched videos. I was under the impression that the clicker or marker word was only used until the behavior was learned and repeated. I don't take my clicker on walks with me as it seems to attract attention, and I don't want people looking at Brody if I can avoid it. I may have used the word "yes" and the clicker together once or twice, but I don't make a habit of it. I think of "good" as more of a praise reward than a marker, and will usually say it at the same time as I am feeding treats or scratching his hears, patting his chest, or whatever. Now that I think about it, I probably say "yes" as a marker, especially for recall, then "good" as praise either before (as in, when he is on his way to me on recall) or at the same time as a food or affection reward.

    I can't really say if I am asking for too many tricks. Our sessions don't last long, most of the time. In the beginning, when I first started training Brody, I would run out of treats before he was ready to quit because I had a higher reinforcement rate. Lately, he is quitting on me and I still have lots of treats left because I am expecting him to do more before he gets one. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe I am asking too much. When I start a session, I always ask for a sit first, then a down, then a known trick, such as spin or sit pretty before he gets a treat. If he does the trick quickly, he gets several treats. If I have to wait, only one. Sometimes he doesn't do it at all and I have to reset him by clapping my hands, moving backwards and calling him to me. Sometimes he will stop at sit and not go down. I don't repeat the cue unless I think he was distracted or wasn't watching if it was just a hand cue.

    I understand the importance of muscle memory and reflex when it comes to speed of response, which is why I was trying to just train for one behavior at a time. I'm talking specifically of things like sit, look, come, not tricks. I don't really care how quickly he responds to tricks right now, as I am trying to really focus on basics so I can work on behavior modification. I throw a few tricks in here and there to keep things fun, and also make sure he's paying attention, but we don't really do any hard ones, and I don't ask for more than 2 or 3 in a row.

    If I want to spend time working on one specific behavior, let's say "look", and I want him to respond quickly every time I say the word without distractions, how do I make sure he is actually responding to the cue, and not just spontaneously looking at me because he knows I have treats? I know this is okay at the beginning, and that I should say "look" when he looks at me, but there should come a point when he knows the word and should respond to it after I say it in anticipation of the treat. I feel we have been doing this for a long time and still haven't reached this point. I wonder if I did something sneaky, like say "look" then click to get his attention, then treat. If I gradually delay the click until he looks at me, this could work. Is this clicker abuse, or is it okay?
  13. kassidybc Experienced Member

    Hm... I think that would be clicker abuse, but maybe not. Maybe try holding a treat between your eyes and click when he looks at the treat. Then after he's used to that slowly begin moving the treat to the side, but don't click for looking at the treat, click for looking where the treat was (he should be making eye contact then, since the treat was between your eyes). Just another method of teaching it, but maybe it would work better for him.
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  14. brody_smom Experienced Member

    We're way past holding the treat between my eyes. Been there, done that! That's why I'm having such a hard time. It's not that he never makes eye contact. He does it all the time when I have treats in my hand. How do I get him to the point where he will look at me when someone is walking past at the foot of the driveway, rather than barking and lunging at them. He wouldn't look at me if I had pants made of liver! I know there are many steps in between where we are and where I want him to be, I just don't know what they are!
  15. kassidybc Experienced Member

    Well, I would say try to incorporate it into your daily lives, but don't try it anywhere that you think he won't do it. If someone is walking by the end of the driveway, don't ask him to look unless you actually think he will do it, because otherwise you are saying look, he isn't obeying, and he is being rewarded for it by being able to bark and lunge at the people. Slowly make your way up to there. Like I said, incorporate it into your daily lives. Just always have some treats on you around the house, and every once in a while when you are walking around the house, tell him to look. When your doing housework, tell him to look. When your on the computer, tell him to look. You get the idea. Then try upping the distractions. Be playing tug of war, and in the middle of it tell him to look (don't do that until you think he can handle it).

    Hm.... Is he barking at the people because he wants them to get out of his yard? If so, maybe try getting rid of that behavior with a friend. Have the friend walk by the end of the driveway, when Brody starts barking and lunging, have them stop. He is being rewarded for the barking because when he barks, they leave! Make it so if he barks, they stay! When he goes quiet, have them keep walking! Eventually he should learn that barking=people staying in his yard, and being quiet=people leaving! Be careful though, he will get confused if he's getting different reactions from different people. You may want to try getting your neighbors that usually walk by to play along.
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  16. brody_smom Experienced Member

    We are actually working up to be able to have some staged "strangers" walk by slowly and reward for calmness. Then walk by and stop at the end of the driveway, then walk part way up, then up to the door, then knock on the door, then enter the house. It is going to take a long time, as he has shown fear-based territorial aggression and has nipped two of my daughters friends when they came to visit. That's why it's so important that I get the sit, look and stay very solid, because I can't begin to work on the major problem until I do.
  17. MaryK Honored Member

    First, never, never, never use the clicker to attract his attention. It's strictly a MARKER ONLY!!!!!!! As has been said above, using it to attract attention is clicker abuse! If you need to attract his attention, use a dog whistle, clap your hands but never the clicker.

    Secondly, forget what other people think of you using a clicker! It doesn't matter what they think, it's BRODY who matters. I've had people ask me about the clicker but never noticed, or cared, if they look at me oddly, after all I'm not beating the dog or anything awful! So take your clicker along on walks please!

    You use the clicker until the dog has firmly 'got' the trick (and trick can be sit/stay etc. not necessarily roll over, play dead etc.). And don't forget, Brody's still very young. He's what, about a year now? He's still going through his teen times and believe me even the best dogs can suffer from 'total and complete amnesia' during that period. It's normal! For example, my Rakins had a brilliant sit/stay and recall as a young puppy, then we hit around the six months mark and he developed total brain fade, complete amnesia. "Recall - eerh what Mom" He did still sit but oh brother stay - "hey what's that over there - must investigate NOW" that lasted for a looooooooooong time! I think he was over two before he started to regain his lost memory:rolleyes: But we still had 'moment's of forgetfulness for a while then suddenly "Hey Mom I'm soooooooooooo good look at my perfect stay!"O_o

    No two dogs are the same. Some take what seems like forever to become rock solid, whilst others will not really go through too much drama at puberty. Brody I feel, from all your posts, is one who's going through a lengthy teen time. My vet, and others, have actually said it can last until a dog is five years old! Thankfully all my dogs haven't take that long, but if they did, well you just have to be patient and keep on training.

    With 'look' you can see if he's responded - he'll be actually looking at you - sure it maybe a fleeting glance but CLICK AND REWARD AND PRAISE for even the shortest of glances. Try using a lure and raising to your eyes and the nano second he looks at you, click/treat. Rinse and repeat!

    Make sure the click is the second you get the response you're looking for - too long a space between the response and the click results in the dog giving you what he's done next. For example - ask for look and he glances up at you THAT'S THE MOMENT YOU CLICK - because by the time he's looking at what's happening over there - you've lost the moment click then and HE thinks "Hey that's what Mom wants - me to gaze into the distance or at the fly or........". You only have a very short space of time to click.

    With the reward, at first it's one second before you reward and once BUT NOT UNTIL you're getting consistent results do you start to lengthen the time between the click and the reward. But the CLICK STILL COMES IMMEDIATELY THE DOG OFFERS THE RIGHT TRICK (and remember sit/stay etc. are basic tricks).

    And remember, when he offers up a trick you're not asking for, he's TRYING to understand what you want! Again, be very clear and concise when training, if you're not sure or in even the slightest way give a misleading cue, he'll get confused and offer you what he THINKS you're asking for, so it's up to you to make sure you know what you want and give the right cue. We all make mistakes, even top trainers have made a boo boo, and they know it, laugh and let it go.

    Dog training is fun but it can also be frustrating at times, happens to all of us. But the main thing to remember is that Brody will learn in HIS time not yours and mistakes are the trainers fault not the dogs! And if he still hasn't got a trick, then go back to basics and take BABY STEPS, very small steps. It can be a year sometimes before a dog finally 'gets' something even something very basic, because he may not like that one. Rakins took ages to 'get' drop, and even when he consistently 'got it' it was never a favorite trick of his. Hold on to your patience and keep training, you've got one very smart dog, he deserves your patience, time and effort. And don't forget he's watching your reactions, any sign of frustration and he'll both feel and see it. Dogs are very smart, they learn a lot from watching how we behave, they're really good at that, and will pick up every small nuance faster than we even realize we've given them that cue.
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  18. MaryK Honored Member

    Go back to basics!!!!!!!!!!! Just because you've been there done that doesn't mean stop doing it if your dog still hasn't got it yet. Do it all again, maybe with some 'light' distractions, just keep on reinforcing it all the time. Doesn't matter if you've done it a thousand times before, obviously Brody hasn't quite made the connection when there are distractions. Patience and at times repeating the basics is the key to successful dog training.:)
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  19. jackienmutts Honored Member

    I totally missed this thread, so just read from the beginning and will toss in my two cents. I think you've been given lots of good advice. You need to step way way back and start over. It sounds like Brody does not always know what you want and so often guesses. You say he sometimes will even sit and scratch an itch when you ask for a behavior. Dogs will deflection scratch to calm themselves. And it's possible when he's giving you things you didn't ask for (a spin instead of a down, or a roll-over instead of a sit, etc) that he's guessing, just tossing out what he knows, hoping one of them is right. It sounds like things aren't quite clear to him, and sometimes he just lucks out and gets them right. When a behavior (trick, command, call it whatever you'd like) is solid, you should be able to smack down a $20 bill and know that your dog will do "it" every time, and win any bet anyone wants to place. It sounds like it's more of a crap shoot right now with Brody.

    You're working with lots of things here. You have a dog who's trying to learn, and his life is full of "issues" - everything to him is not only distracting, but he's got to make sure it's not scary. I think you've got to step way back with him, and slow down. Learn how to use a clicker - it's an amazing little piece of plastic. There are loads of youtube videos showing exactly "how to" use one. Mary described it well above - and a video will show you in-depth. The instant the dog gives you the behavior you're looking for, click/treat. Click always means treat. My dogs come running if they see me get the clicker out. Once a few years ago, we were training and I ran out of treats, and left it on my desk. I was in the kitchen getting more treats, and heard something "clank" on the kitchen floor. Makena had brought the clicker into the kitchen and dropped it behind me - uh, mom, we're not done yet! That's how we all want our dogs to feel about clicker training! [IMG] You also said you'll ask for a sit, then down, and look etc, then give a treat. Pay Brody better, and more often!! If you were at work and only got paid every once in a while, but weren't really sure if/when you'd be getting a check, how hard would you work, really? Pay him well!! And make sure your treats are high value - you're in training, prepping him to step out in the scariest of worlds. Sit - click/treat. Down - click/treat. Look - click/treat. Spin - click/treat. Etc.... Treats are cheap. [IMG]

    Granted, I didn't have quite all the issues with Makena that you're dealing with, with Brody. I did have severe (and scary) fear-based dog-aggression. Makena and I worked on things (like "watch me", and a good "lets go" and we'd do a fast turn-around on the sidewalk), but when "life" came walking down the street on a leash towards us (in the form of dogs), I started stuffing her mouth as fast as I could every single time, and I wouldn't stop stuffing til that scary dog was past. I don't know how many chickens gave over their lives for us - but I can say it was a lot. A whole lot (chicken, being her treat of choice, her most favorite thing in the world - it's her brownie fudge sundae). And she got "bite-y" most of the time, meaning my fingers were always getting snarfed, and it hurt. During those times, even tho she knew 'watch me', she physically couldn't do it. She had to watch the approaching dog. And sometimes she also couldn't eat - but usually she could, at least a little, especially if I started feeding soon enough. (I learned it usually came back to me - did I start feeding soon enough?) And soon she got to where she could eat - but it did usually hurt (me). But if I could keep her quiet and in control, then I felt we won - that day, that time. She never had to look at me, I never had her attention - all I asked was that she was quiet - and a chewing/eating dog usually doesn't lunge and bark at the same time. And little by little by little, she started giving me her attention - it became there's a dog, start feeding me, hurry.

    I'm not sure where you're starting with Brody. But when he's busy assessing the world for things that scare him, he physically may not be able to focus on you. Practice those things at home - but don't expect them to work like magic out in the world, at least not every time. Maybe they will - but maybe they won't. Just saying this because I know what my experience was. Every dog is different. I learned *with Makena* that she was more comfortable when she was looking at her scary thing. At least she knew where it was, that she was safe from it, that it wasn't coming any closer, and that hopefully it would be going away shortly. If I had insisted she focus on me, I would have taken that "control" away from her. As our journey progressed, she gained more and more trust in me - trust that I was going to keep her safe from all those scary dogs out there, that I wasn't going to ask her to meet any of them, and that if any approached, I'd handle them instead of asking her to. As Brody gains trust in you, he'll start easing up and letting you be more in charge of "the scary world" - but you have to earn his trust first.

    I know in another thread you said you had found a book that was helping you (can't remember which one now without looking it up) but if you'd like a recommendation for another which proved invaluable for us, it's: "Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog by Emma Parsons http://www.amazon.com/Click-Calm-Healing-Aggressive-Clicker/dp/1890948209
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  20. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Thanks, Jackie. I own and have read most of "Click to Calm". I'm also working through "Teaching with Reinforcement", by Kay Laurence. Before I got Brody, I watched a lot of kikopup and also 3LostDogs videos on clicker training. I thought I understood it, but maybe I'm still doing it wrong. I didn't think I needed to keep using the clicker for a behavior that I was getting already most of the time. I also thought the idea was to eventually be able to not treat for every correct response. Maybe I stopped clicking and rewarding too soon, and need to go back to carrying the clicker and treats constantly instead of just pulling them out for training sessions. I have been saying "yes" and rewarding with toys or praise and affection for good behavior or correct responses to cues outside of training.

    I like what you're saying about not requiring his attention when he is faced with something scary. I really couldn't see this happening any time soon. When we are on walks, he seems to me more curious than scared of things/people/dogs, but because of his history of nipping without warning, I am inclined to avoid people and always calmly change direction or pull off to the side and put him in a sit. He usually takes food no problem as long as the other dog is not barking. There have been a couple of times when he found a person particularly threatening and I had to force food between his teeth to get him to take the first piece. He obviously wasn't barking, but was just so focused.

    Maybe it's because he's getting calmer with age, or maybe it's because I have been managing/avoiding his triggers better, but he hasn't gone over threshold in a long time, and hasn't released his anal sacs in a couple weeks. For a while there, it was happening nearly every day (I didn't think those things filled up that fast!). But my kids would like to be able to have friends over to the house, and I don't want to live in fear of someone coming to the door while Brody is out in the yard and getting bit. (Oddly, our front door is on the side of our house, just inside the fence. Visitors can't knock on the door without opening the gate to the back yard.) I really need to work on his territorial issues. I have been taking him out to the front yard to hand feed him his evening meal while people watching. This is going okay as long as people don't come too close. If our next door neighbors are also in their front yard, or if anyone walks past on our side of the street, he barks loudly. Our front yard is only 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep, so I can't get far enough away sometimes to keep him calm. I was hoping I could teach him a solid "look" that would help with this, but maybe I just need to take something better than his dinner with me to feed him before he starts to bark.
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