Twosday Training Tip
TIP #1: FADING FOOD REINFORCEMENT
Why fade the food? Because no one wants to carry around food all the time, and we want dogs to respond regardless of whether food is present.
Use life rewards early on when you train a new behavior. As soon as you are getting a reliable response to a new cue - a solid four out of every five trials - start interspersing non-food rewards with food rewards. For example, throw a ball or bring out a favorite squeaky toy to reward your dog occasionally, while continuing to use food rewards for the rest of your dog’s responses.
Begin asking for more tricks per treat. In the beginning when your dog is learning something new, you should reward each right response. But once he has the hang of it, start asking him to do several cues in a row before he gets a treat, so you start establishing the idea that he doesn’t get something every time.
Vary how often you reinforce, and what you use to reinforce with. You might give a treat for a single response, then a treat after three responses, then a ball toss after two responses, and so on.
Eventually use more and more life rewards and fewer treats. Keep it varied to keep your dog guessing - it’s exciting not to know when the next reward will come and what it will be.
If your dog’s behavior starts to break down and become less reliable, that’s a clear sign you are getting too stingy. Be sure to reinforce more often and with better rewards. Check that the rewards you use are actually interesting to your dog. It’s not reinforcement if the rewards used are not increasing the desired behavior.
TIP #2: CHEW THIS, NOT THAT
Puppies chew to explore their world as well as to relieve the pain and irritation of teething. What many dog owners don't seem to realize is that while puppies sooner or later get beyond the stage where they feel compelled to put their teeth on everything they see, mature dogs also need to chew to exercise their jaws, massage their gums, clean their teeth, and to relieve stress and boredom. It comes as an unpleasant surprise to many owners that chewing doesn't end at the age of six months when all of the dog's adult teeth are grown in.
Puppies develop chew-object preferences in the early months of their lives, hence the inadvisability of giving your old shoes or socks as chew toys. If you give your baby dog the run of the house and he learns to chew on Oriental carpets, sofa cushions, and coffee table legs, you will likely end up with a dog who chooses to exercise his jaws and teeth on inappropriate objects for years to come. You'll find yourself crating him frequently even as an adult dog, or worse, exiling him to a lonely life in the backyard, where he can chew only on lawn furniture, loose fence boards, and the edges of your deck and hot tub.
Instead, focus your dog's fangs on approved chew toys at an early age and manage him well to prevent access to your stuff. In this way, he'll earn house privileges much sooner in life. By the end of his first year, you'll probably be able to leave him alone safely while you go out to dinner or shopping - or even while you're away at work.
- The Whole Dog Journal
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Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, IAABC-ADT, FFCP, CTDI