Setting the Stage for Training

In This Chapter

^ Picking a training model ^ Establishing trust with your dog ^ Working on becoming pack leader term "training" is used to describe two separate and distinct concepts:

1 To teach Buddy to do something that you want him to do, but that he wouldn't do on his own. For example, Buddy knows how to sit and sits on his own, but you want him to sit on command, something he doesn't do on his own without training.

This concept is called action training. Action training relies mainly on using pleasant experiences, such as inducing your dog to sit with a treat. Teaching Buddy the commands "Sit," "Down," "Stand," and "Come" are examples of action training.

1 To teach Buddy to stop doing something he would do on his own, which you don't want him to do. For example, Buddy chases bicyclists, something he does on his own that you want him to stop.

This concept is called abstention training. Abstention training typically relies on unpleasant experiences. The dog learns to avoid the unpleasant experience by not chasing the bicyclist. For example, to teach Buddy not to pull on the leash, use a check. A check is a crisp snap on the leash with an immediate release of tension. In order to be effective, the leash must be loose before the check is made. Buddy can avoid the check by not pulling. Another example of an abstention exercise is the "Stay" command — don't move.

The Quasi training of Cece

For more than 30 years, we've had a multidog household and at least one cat, and have witnessed the abstention training phenomenon countless times. Our current menagerie consists of three Standard Wirehaired Dachshunds, ranging in age from 2 to 16, two Labrador Retrievers, 2 and 6, an 8-year old Landseer Newfoundland, and Quasi, an 18-year old male cat who was left on our door step when he was 6 weeks old. Quasi is an expert at abstention training.

When we got our youngest Dachshund, Cece, she was 8 weeks old. Naturally, she was quite respectful of the older dogs, but treated Quasi as though he was a stuffed toy. Quasi, who had brought up a number of puppies, was amazingly tolerant of Cece. When Cece got too rough with him, he would growl and hiss, and hit her with his paw. When Cece didn't get the message, Quasi finally let her have it — he hauled off, all claws extended, and swiped her across the nose. Cece screamed and jumped back in horror, her nose dripping with blood.

Was Cece psychologically scarred for life? Did Cece take offense? Did she go away and sulk? Did she hold a grudge against Quasi? Nothing of the kind. Cece didn't hold any hard feelings; in fact, she gained a little more respect for Quasi. They still play together, and they sleep together. The only difference is that Cece discovered an important lesson — unacceptable behavior results in unpleasant experiences. Incidentally, all the other dogs received the same treatment at one point or another.

Dogs already know avoiding unpleasant experiences is to their advantage because that is how they deal with each other. The training begins with the mother dog. When the puppies reach about 6 weeks old, she begins the weaning process. At that point in time, the puppies have sharp little teeth, not very pleasant for the mother when she feeds them. She begins to growl at the puppies to communicate to them not to bite so hard. She snarls and snaps at those who ignore her growls until they stop. An offending puppy may scream to high heaven and roll over on its back, having learned its lesson. The mother dog usually follows the disagreeable experience by an agreeable one — by nuzzling the puppy.

This chapter focuses on the different models of dog training, from traditional training to operant conditioning and clicker training. Although the dog hasn't changed, the approach to training him has been refined. We take you on a brief tour of the major training theories, their terminologies, and how they fit together.

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