Saturday, January 15, 2011

Know When To Fold 'Em...

What does a Kenny Rogers song have to do with training your dog? Oh come know us better than that. It's got everything to do with it!

One of the most important tools you can have in your dog training toolbox: the ability to know when you or your dog are juuuuuuust about to quit. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Kuna is a quitter. What can I say: He's been clicker trained from the start and he's a happy-go-lucky guy but darn it, you put him in class for longer than 4 minutes and he QUITS. Raise criteria in the same 2 minute session!?!? Pssssssssss....

Bizzle's a marathon trainer. Like a Duracell battery (ding, dong. DING!), she will keep repeating the same behavior over and over as long as that's what keeps getting reinforced. You can raise the criteria easily with B, as long as it's done simply and in baby steps. And Don't. You. DARE! end that session early or you'll have one pissed off puggle on your hands.

Sarah will change the game on her own. You may be targeting for one second and suddenly, she doesn't want to play that game anymore. Now she wants to play "Paw". Then she's done playing "Paw" - now she wants to play "Sit". Sarah will only last about 30 seconds this way, since "if I didn't ask, you don't get paid." She's also MANIC when it comes to treats. You've got to take it very slowly with Big S...or she'll eat your hand! Ewww...

Don't be afraid to study your dog - take notes, use video - anything you need to do to better understand your pup and make learning more enjoyable is Kahuna's K9s approved ;)

Happy Training makes Happy Dogs!


  1. Great post!

    I have a hard time with "Just one more time..." sometimes. I like the phrase Know When to Fold 'Em

    One place this is especially important is with fearful dogs or dogs that tend to shut down in certain situations.

    It is our experience that if a handler is running a counter conditioning or desensitizatio protocol it is extremely important to Get Off the Table before the dog has the negative reaction we are trying to desensitize or counter condition.

    Good gamblers get off the table before they lose their money, and only bet on sure things.

    Nothing is worse than proving that the session always includes reactivity, the session always ends with shutting down, or the session always includes the undesirable behavior.

    Our classes take place in public and we'll often send one of our clients home after 15 minutes of great work with a challenging dog.

    The first time we ask them to leave they are surprised. It makes us proud when, a few weeks later, they ask if they can leave because the dog is about to pop.

    Once again great post.


  2. Happy Training makes Happy that! Gus is always so proud when he performs a task we've asked him to do. Happy training also makes happy parents :)

  3. Ron, Thanks for the EXCELLENT comments! You made so many brilliant points: it's hard for us to stop a session sometimes...maybe because we feel like we're so close. But, like you said, if we end on a good note both the trainer and the learner are looking forward to the next session!

    Thanks for the great convo!

  4. Thanks Lori ;) isn't it just the best feeling ever when you're dog WANTS to learn? And a smiley Gus makes for happy Gus-fans like this dog trainer ;)