I am a firm believer in what Jean Donaldson calls ‘pumped up socialization’, you can’t say that a dog is fully socialized because there will always be situations and/or events that it has not encountered before. If, however, you are constantly striving to introduce the dog to the new, no matter what their age and in a constructive way, then you can ensure the dog has ‘bounce-back-ability’. In other words when it does meet something outside of it’s experience it will be able to cope better. I have been lucky in the past as a police dog handler because these dogs, inevitably, encounter a huge range of situations and environments.
I don’t have that luxury with Dana, so I will be making a concerted effort to look for socialization opportunities. So far, she has accepted everything thrown at her without any problems, but, I can’t rest on my laurels and assume everything will go this well. Fortunately she is very good in the car, which will make our ‘exploring’ much easier and more interesting.
We have a nice sit now, introduced with food, so the next step is to use the hand gesture and voice but not have food in the right hand. The treat is in the left hand behind my back, so that I can still reward but the dog isn’t just following the food. I will also start to sit her before ‘life rewards’, eg letting her off lead.
I have also introduced the down from the sit, again with the voice and hand movement containing a treat. At first when rewarded she would sit straight up again, so I simply delay giving her the treat, whilst still praising with the voice.
I continue to emphasise the recalls, these are easy without distractions. I have found that toys, tug of war, and play are more reliable rewards for the dog, than food, when attempting recalls for a distracted dog. So toy training is a vital part of my dog’s upbringing, although I will be very careful until after she has finished teething. I particularly like rubber rings, you can throw them to roll, and have a tug of war (which I am quite happy for the dog to win). I never use Kongs to throw for dogs as, in my opinion, the uneven bounce is good for terriers, but not for longer backed dogs.
Reinforcers & Punishers
I have already mentioned the ‘good girl’ becoming a conditioned reinforcer.
I will also teach the ‘no’, however, I am using the word in the sense of something that will make a particular behaviour less likely, e.g. not rewarding if a behaviour is incorrect. It is not necessarily aversive, e.g. a check with the lead. You cannot train a dog without it understanding the word ‘no’, but it doesn’t always have to be a negative experience. Where possible, it should be followed by an opportunity to reward the dog for a correct behaviour.
Dr Roger Abrantes is involved in a fascinating project in Tanzania training Gambian Pouched Mouth Rats, to detect mines and tuberculosis, (http://www.apopo.org/home.php). They start by teaching the rats three commands;
Keep doing what you are doing.
Do something different.
Return for your reward, (banana & crushed peanut).
The second command could be considered a ‘no’, but they are not punishing the animal for it’s actions, merely asking for a change.
It’s amazing how much more popular you become when you have a puppy. Dana must wonder about the hordes coming to visit, which of course is very good for her socialization. We are at the ‘bite inhibition’ stage where she is allowed to bite but not too hard, once that control has been learned then she is taught not to bite, a vital learning process for future behaviour. I keep forgetting just how sharp puppy teeth are though!. We are also managing the chewing, not by telling her off, although she does need to learn ‘no’, but by providing an alternative toy (or carrots) that she can chew.