Dog Training, With a Pint of Guinness to Help

Using distraction, as a reward for correct response to commands.

The video shows novice dog, Hungarian Visla, Bruno, enjoying a game of chase with more advanced dog, Border Collie, Guinness. In order to allow freedom off leash, regardless of what’s going on, dogs need to listen, understand & respond to commands. When I ask Bruno & Guinness to perform a ‘down’ mid chase, their response must be non-negotiable, as one day it may save their lives. In addition, I don’t want all my hard work convincing a dog I’m the best fun, to be wasted as he gets too much thrill from playing with his own kind. The use of static commands (such as freeze, sit or down) during play, allows me to control the level of excitement. I can also cool things down if I feel the play is getting heated (both are adolescent male dogs), & stop & restart the game if it’s appropriate. 

Bruno has been working with me for quite a while. He had the potential to be highly strung & a bit silly around other dogs. He was ‘gung ho’ in his canine approaches & his body language was pushy. We worked really hard on ‘leave it’ at a distance on leash, gradually moving closer to the distraction as his responses improved. In addition, we worked on his distance ‘down’ & ‘sit’ commands. All are invaluable tools for off-leash control. 

Armed with the basics, Bruno then began lessons in the Premack principle. In human terms this is the equivalent of grandma saying ‘eat your veg first, then you’ll get cake. In dog training terms, it says to the dog, if you respond to my request, which is less desirable to you, you will then get to resume your fun (sniffing/chasing/cocking your leg etc), which is highly desirable to you.

Here is Bruno working on instant ‘sits’ while on leash a couple of months ago

In this instance, I want Bruno to learn that the quicker he sits, the faster he’ll be released to resume sniffing.You’ll notice in the video, that Bruno clearly recognizes that the release ‘Okay’ in itself is highly rewarding, as it becomes the signal to resume the fun. 

When Bruno was deemed proficient in all of the above exercises & he’d had plenty of interaction & training around boring older dogs to improve his general body language skills, it was time to introduce him to a little more thrill in his life. To proof all his prior learning.‘Hey Bruno, you know all those fun rules we’ve been working on? Well they still apply, even though your world just got a little more exciting’. Now here's where you can use a pint of Guinness to improve your training.

In the video, mid chase, the dogs are requested to lie down. Bruno seems reluctant to respond immediately, that’s part of the learning curve & will improve with practice. I want him to learn the following from the training session:

Even if you're having fun, you need to respond to things you have previously been taught & are good at.

The fun stops when I ask you lie down-the well trained dog you are playing with stops playing with you & only startsagain when you respond.

The sooner you respond (less desirable action), the quicker you'll get to resume your game (more desirable action).

Bruno needs more work, that’s clear, but he has just taken a major step up the learning ladder. He can have other friends, so long as I’m his best friend. Possessive, me? Never!


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