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Lyra – Maintaining a Positive Attitude while “correcting” a Dog

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Here’s a very short video of Lyra making a mistake on her “stay”.

I don’t ignore the fact that she breaks, but I go to great lengths to keep her engaged, even though she’s made a mistake.  This is particularly important in this training session because Lyra’s working for personal play only – no toys or food are available, and she knows that.

Just help the dog;  it’s no big deal.  Really.  She won’t take over the world.  She won’t think she’s “getting away” with ignoring me.  She WILL stayed engaged in the game, and that’s the hardest thing to get back if you manage to lose it.

I put her back with a cheerful attitude. I then reward a stay.   Finally, I repeat the originally intended exercise (a recall).

If she had continued to fail, I would have accepted that I was asking too much.  If that is the case, ask less and start over.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArsUYfpb-gY

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

18 responses »

  1. I like this a lot, thank you for showing it! I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and really like the way you teach your dogs. I recently tried using just play with my 10 month old dog (no toys or food) as a reward and she bites me! I see that Lyra does the same with your sleeve. Was she more mouthy with your body parts in the beginning? Did you do something to discourage it in any way or change the way she plays with you? I did read your post about your trip to the doctor….
    Also, when Indi realizes that I don’t have anything in my hands to play with and that I don’t want her grabbing my clothes, she goes looking for a “toy” usually a twig or leaf, something to have in her mouth.

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  2. Nice work Denise!

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  3. “If she had continued to fail, I would have accepted that I was asking too much. If that is the case, ask less and start over.”

    At what point do you decide you aren’t asking too much and she just doesn’t feel like doing a stay and/or it’s never been made clear to her what a stay is?

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    • putting her back makes it clear what her mistake was – I just don’t bother with the verbal/physical negative cues. Ending an exercise before I’ve finished something or repeating the exact same thing twice in a row both make the point pretty well.

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    • ah, second part of your question. “what if she doesn’t feel like it”. If she doesn’t feel like it and we’re doing active work (leaving a dog to complete an exercise) then I’ve done a poor job of making the work interesting for her. I take responsibility for that part. If it’s a passive stay (like in a lineup) where I don’t really want the dog excited or in drive, then I put them back with a neutral attitude rather than a happy one.

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      • As I see the video, you didn’t just put her back when she broke the stay, you engaged her in play and more or less praised her for following you back. It was interesting that she held her stay as long as she did the second time, but she may have been ready to break just before you turned, don’t know. I just don’t see how she knows what her mistake was, or that she even made one.

        Re “done a poor job of making the work interesting for her” – do you think the work will always be more interesting than what the world will throw at her thruout her career? Like if a bird lands in the ring or a squirrel runs up a tree in her line of sight?

      • I teach everything pretty much everything this way, so they figure it out. Mistakes aren’t important; being right is.
        FWIW, I cannot think of one instance where one of my dogs broke a stay, nor one of my student’s dogs, because they went to a distraction in a show.
        If a student comes to me and shows up with a stay problem, I might punish the dog for breaking by putting the dog away in a crate for a bit. And if one of my dog’s leaves training (whether on a stay or any other exercise) I end training. That is a punishment. But this video shows a young dog who was very enthusiastic and made a mistake. I put her back, which reminded her to stay put. That’s it. And it reminds me that I haven’t spent much time on stays recently.
        I often praise dogs that make mistakes. I know that is not intuitive, but I praise to keep them engaging me if I believe they are a little clueless about what went wrong.

      • “I teach everything pretty much everything this way, so they figure it out. Mistakes aren’t important; being right is.”

        I look at it as I am here to show them what is right and what is wrong, not waiting for them to figure it out. Its one of the reasons why I didn’t get into clicker training; I just don’t want a dog throwing behaviors at me until it hits the right one.

        “FWIW, I cannot think of one instance where one of my dogs broke a stay, nor one of my student’s dogs, because they went to a distraction in a show.”

        I guess it’s more of a problem with high prey drive dogs – I have field bred retrievers who live for chasing things.

        “If a student comes to me and shows up with a stay problem, I might punish the dog for breaking by putting the dog away in a crate for a bit. ”

        How does the dog know it’s going in the crate because it broke a stay? Do you make a game of going to the crate as you did when you put Lyra back in the video?

        “And if one of my dog’s leaves training (whether on a stay or any other exercise) I end training. That is a punishment. ”

        This one I really don’t understand. If a dog leaves training, it is because that is what he wants, so how can you doing what he wants (ending training) be a punishment?

      • “I look at it as I am here to show them what is right and what is wrong, not waiting for them to figure it out. Its one of the reasons why I didn’t get into clicker training; I just don’t want a dog throwing behaviors at me until it hits the right one.”

        either method works; just whichever you prefer with your dog.

        “I guess it’s more of a problem with high prey drive dogs – I have field bred retrievers who live for chasing things”

        actually, my dogs have very high prey drive. They’re bred for schutzhund. That’s why Lyra obsesses over movement and other dogs in public; she’s wired that way. But she’s improving so I’d say I’m on the right track.

        How does the dog know it’s going in the crate because it broke a stay? Do you make a game of going to the crate as you did when you put Lyra back in the video?

        No, if I’m punishing a student dog for breaking a stay, I usually say something along the lines of “are you tired?” and put them in the crate. However, that is almost always a “passive” stay (dog is staying for no real reason except I need them to stay while we talk) as opposed to an “active” stay (dog is staying to play some game that comes next, like recall or retrieve). Dogs that break active stays to do the activity normally don’t understand the idea of “stay until….”; Dogs break passive stays because they are bored and are looking for something else to do. So they go to the crate while we talk or finish whatever we’re doing. the passive stay is as close as i come to a true correction; I make no real effort to make it a fun exercise (honestly I dont’ know how to make it fun to do nothing for an extended period of time) and I will quietly put a dog back repeatedly (or crate them if it makes more sense) until they get it – the stay is required. This is a little complicated to explain because each dog is handled differently, and my dogs and my student dogs are not trained the same way. They have different goals, priorities, skills, etc.

        How do they know? I don’t’ think they do. Over time they stop breaking because they’d rather be out looking around then returned to the crate with nothing to do.

        This one I really don’t understand. If a dog leaves training, it is because that is what he wants, so how can you doing what he wants (ending training) be a punishment?

        If my dogs leaves training it is because training was interesting to the level of a 7, and watching the squirrel or some other competing alternative was an 8. I end training – now they have nothing because I don’t just let them stay there and watch the squirrel. Because I make training fun my dogs never prefer doing nothing to working.

  4. Helen Gruenhut

    These are the moments that I learn so much from. Thank you once again for sharing.
    I am just starting to teach a young, enthusiastic dog to stay; and this was a great teachable moment for me.

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  5. Very refreshing! I love this!
    So, technically, would this be an example of using a Least Reinforcing Stimulus (LRS)? I often see the term LRS interpreted as the trainer “ignoring” the animal for a few seconds (punishment) but I understand it to mean giving a small enough response to keep the dog engaged in the exercise without being rewarding. Which in Lyra’s case means a bit of interaction with you. Not that a descriptor term is necessary – if it works, it doesn’t matter what it is “called”! Just wondering…

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    • actually, I have no idea:). Lyra is a soft dog who is just starting out, so I want all time spent with me to be fun and reinforcing; I can get the exercises trained as part of the overall process. As I said to another person on facebook, if I were training a human who did not speak english, and I cheerfully ran them back and returned them to the spot, would the person figure out what I wanted? Yep. Might take a couple of returns, but yes, they would figure it out. So do dogs.

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  6. Love this! I agree mistakes aren’t important. I think with a bright dog, even if you’re cheerful, going back to the starting line is sucky to them. So doesn’t take long to get it. I also worked very little on stays, and duration. Yet on one of our first trials, during the group stay, a fight broke out, and every single dog got up but mine. He didn’t even look! He just stared at me with his wonderful grin. Play and relationship makes engaging with you more important than pretty much anything.

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  7. “Just help the dog; it’s no big deal. Really. She won’t take over the world. She won’t think she’s “getting away” with ignoring me. She WILL stayed engaged in the game, and that’s the hardest thing to get back if you manage to lose it.”

    Perfect. Thank you. This is a hard concept to grasp when you’ve been taught for years to “never let them get away with anything.”

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  8. What makes this concept important is the fact that want nothing but the best for your dog and that your doing this just because you want to know how they behave by which will help you and your dog grow a little much.

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  9. Pingback: The Week in Tweets (19th November) | Some Thoughts About Dogs

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