Thursday, April 25, 2013

Teaching "Down"

As you know, when training a dog, there are several different methods to teaching a behavior or a command. When it comes to our dogs first learning a specific gesture we prefer to use positive reinforcement. Which includes a clicker, small soft treats (or their meal time food) and a happy ready to work pup. There is a communication barrier between us and our k9 kids. They do not understand what you are asking of them UNLESS you show them. Dogs in general are not naturally defiant so if you have to keep repeating a command to your dog over and over and over, that means your dog does not fully understand what you are asking of them. To learn more about clicker training please take time to visit one of our favorite sites Karen Pryor Clicker Training

Today we are working with rescue dog Uma. She is learning the basic concept of the "down". We start off by getting her attention and luring her into the position we want, which is - down. At this time you will not be saying the word "down". You want your dog to get the gesture/motion of "down" first. When you give the hand single and your dog downs a few times, then you will be adding the word. Now, some dogs take a while to understand what it is you are trying to get them to do, so have patience and allow the dog some time to think.  You may have to click and reward for the dog just looking at the floor. Eventually, that will bring the dog closer and closer to a "down". It's like a puzzle, you have to figure out all the piece to make it come together. You have to figure out how to HELP your dog understand this new command. It takes time and lots of patience.

Once your dog is getting the hang of the "down" motion, you will then add the vocal command "down" with the hand gesture. Click and treat for them going into position. Keep training sessions short. If you notice your pup getting bored get their attention, lure them into a down and end on a good note. Try again later on :)

Over time your dog will get better and better at understanding what you want of them. You will be able to replace the clicker with the vocal "marker word" - YES and their treat will be a pat on the head or back from you.

Quick break down:
1) Have on hand clicker, treats (or meal feeding) and a ready to work pup.
2) Get your dogs attention
3) Lure your dog towards the ground. When they go into a down (or even look at the ground) CLICK & TREAT.
4) Lure your dog to the ground a few times with OUT saying a word.
5) When they start to grasp the "down" motion THEN add the word "DOWN".
6) Keep sessions short & end on a good note
7) Have patience
8) Have FUN!
9) Do this often

If you have a deaf dog, use a small flash light in place of your marker/clicker. Flash the light towards their eyes and then treat. Deaf dogs also pick up on face expression so be happy when your dog is learning and gets what you ask of them. Some times we use a "thumbs up" for the dogs we are working with as a marker.

If you have a blind dog, hold the treats to your dogs nose and slowly bring your hand with the treat to the ground. Let your dog try to get it out of your hand, you will see their body get lower and lower to the floor. When they "down" click and open your hand so they can have their reward. 

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