2-minute-dog-trainer, the touble with Tempest

Sometimes training isn’t so much about teaching skills or behaviors.

Sometimes it’s about attitude adjustments.

Tempest has decided that he’s got time on his hands while he runs, jumps, enters tunnels, and does contact equipment.

In his spare time he wants to “buzz” his handler and bite her.  Well, not actually bite, just snap his teeth in a very happy, threatening, and loud manner in the general neighborhood of my hands and butt.

He started this behavior a week ago and it escalated this past Thursday. 

We’ve actually helped people with their biting dogs for many years. I created a training protocol for Banner (in 1999) called “My Dog Bites Me” through which Tempest will get to work.

My philosophy behind “My Dog Bites Me” is that:  1) the dog doesn’t automatically know that we don’t like his inappropriate herding behavior, and  2) we can apply positive reinforcement and negative punishment to influence the biting dog’s behavior.

In this training protocol we set up equipment in a large oval, the shape of a simple race track. The training, afterall, needn’t involve “handling,” no fancy sequencing.

Instead, we focus on simple movement forward without biting (or barking for that matter), and the simple race track allows us to focus on the dog, not the equipment.

We begin by performing ONE obstacle, and rewarding the dog for not biting or barking during that performance.

If the dog bites or barks, we turn our back (“shunning” the dog) and walk away. We return to the start line, at which time we again focus on the dog and bring him to his spot on the take-off side of obstacle one.

We repeat obstacle one perhaps a dozen times, rewarding the dog with food when he performs quietly, focused on the work, and shunning the dog, returning to the take-off side of obstacle one without comment when he barks or bites.

The more we repeat obstacle one, the stronger our dog’s understanding will be regarding the behavior we want versus the behavior we don’t want. We certainly do not want to hurry through this phase of the training.

When our dog is performing obstacle one quietly and with focus, we add obstacle two. Increasing the sequence at this point is going to no doubt result in barking and biting. When we know what to expect we can be prepared for it.

The instant we hear barking or see biting or snapping, we shun the dog and walk back to the take-off side of obstacle one. We repeat obstacle one – reward or shun – repeat obstacle one – reward or shun – repeat obstacle one until the dog has successfully repeated obstacle one 3 times without biting or barking.

Then we try to add obstacle two to the sequence again.

We build the sequence in this manner.  After three successful performances of a particular sequence we add another obstacle.  If the dog fails at the larger sequence we return to the smaller sequence and try for three successful performances.

We build, and build, and build until the dog understands that the entire sequence is to be done quietly and with focus on the work.

We’ll see what Tempest makes of this training protocol. <g>

In other news, I’m working on a few TDAA projects:

1) establishing a new TDAA_trial_hosts@yahoogroups.com mailing group for our host clubs. Cheryl Hoffman already has one list, with 58 members.  There are 71 host clubs, so I’d like to get everyone on the list, obviously, so we can post new programs and processes as they occur.  Not so obvious is Cheryl’s dislike of Bud (and me, by association), so establishing a new trial host list was a necessary duplication of effort.

2) working with the membership roster (680+ members) and getting invitations sent to as many as possible to join our TDAA_members@yahoogroups.com list.  The list currently has only 268 members, so lots of folks have chosen not to join the membership e-mail list. We want to emphasize the benefits of membership, including:  1) involvement — receipt of the TDAA newsletter AND the ability to submit positive ideas for programs and processes, as well as  2) perks — such as access to on-line dog records, and a guaranteed invitation to the annual Petit Prix.

3) collection of TDAA tasks and jobs to our place in Ohio. The jobs of TDAA have been scattered to the four winds, with three satellite offices in Illinois, one or two satellite offices in Wisconsin, one satellite office in Oregon, etc.  The work is getting done, but every query involves countless e-mails and lots of digging through old files. As soon as everything is at our place we’ll be documenting systems and figuring out how to streamline them.

4) working on the 2011 Petit Prix — we’re days from an announcement of location, a few weeks from a premium. I’m so proud of our dedicated host clubs who have stepped up asking to host this national event. TDAA club owners are energetic, intelligent, and highly driven — like our little dogs. <g>

Details will be coming later to our various lists ….

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