One of my jobs as a professional dog trainer is to quickly troubleshoot a situation to solve a problem and save my clients training time. I feel incredibly lucky to train dogs for a living because I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with thousands of dogs over the years.
Besides the thrill of the initial greeting, I get to spend quality time figuring out specific ways to make training more efficient. Each dog has taught me a bit more about what works in a given situation and quite frequently something that worked well with one dog does not work with another.
Often times novice trainers will call a dog “stubborn” because they don’t know other ways of teaching or motivating their dog to perform. A lack of options and knowledge can put a wrench in the best intentions. Today is my first post in an ongoing series of dog training strategies and terms that you can use when working with your dog.
Dog training is like any other profession. Individual concepts and techniques might not be too difficult to learn, but the true skill comes with gaining comfort with the big picture and understanding which technique to use in a given situation. It is important for anyone working with a dog to understand that training dogs is a learned skill and is based on the science of animal behavior and learning. As you gain more dog training knowledge, you should try other techniques and see what works the best. If you have read any of my other posts, you probably already know that I ONLY recommend positive reinforcement techniques and completely disagree with the use of choke chains, prong collars, shock collars and other abusive techniques for training.
Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts. I first heard of the Term “Feed for Position” while watching Bob Bailey’s Chicken Camp while I was attending the Academy for Dog Trainers in San Francisco, Ca. Bob Bailey is one of the worlds foremost experts on animal training, and has trained over 140 different species of animals and thousands of individual animals.
Bob Bailey still conducts Chicken Camps in various places to help trainers refine their timing and training skills. Chickens move so quickly that the thinking is that once you can train a chicken, dogs are easy! "Feed for position" refers to rewarding an animal after the behavior is performed in a strategic position, which allows for the trainer to achieve a fluid motion to the next training step resulting in more efficiency in time and motion. For instance, if you want to work on teaching a dog to sit, you can mark the behavior when the dog sits and then reward a few feet in front of the dog so she has to stand up in order to get the treat. Then you can immediately work on another sit, creating a fluid training experience.
My two favorite examples of this occur when I am working on “Go to Bed” and “Take a Bow”. When I am training a dog to Go to Bed I mark the behavior with a ‘click’ when the dog is lying on the bed, but I hold the treat off the bed a few feet away so she has to get up and walk over to get the treat. This way, I can quickly get another repetition without wasting time. The other example is when I am working on Take a Bow. The biggest challenge is making sure the dog does not lie down but moves into the bow position, holds it and then stands up.
So, I will ‘click’ when the dog is almost lying down, but then quickly take the treat and move it horizontally in front of the dog so she has to stand up in order to get the treat. Look for other dog training terms that I will be discussing in the future. I want you to learn how to train and understand the terms that are associated with training. In the future I will discuss blocking, the four quadrants of reinforcement, premack’s principle, habituation, desensitization, flooding, extinction bursts and more.