Working on sit-down-stand.
Toby was my first dog, and I trained him haphazardly. I didn't know how. I didn't take a class because I didn't know there were classes. (And maybe there weren't, back then. This was a long time ago.) When I ran into a problem--he was terrified of his leash, for instance, or he wouldn't come when I called but instead ran off into the woods--I called the vet. The vet was the only person I could think of who might know what I should do.
I was lucky that Toby loved the tennis ball; all of his life, after puppyhood, I had him under complete control just by holding up a ball. He would fixate on that and ignore everything else--barking dogs, romping children, screeching trains, bounding rabbits, he didn't care. He cared only for me, and the tennis ball.
I taught him to drop the ball by bonking him on the nose and saying, "Drop it!" It only took two or three bonks before he just automatically dropped the ball at my feet from then on, and his whole life he always dropped everything instantly upon command.
Rosie plotting something diabolical.
When we got Boscoe, I learned that hitting a dog, even gently on the nose, even to train it, was Wrong. Now, there were Classes. Doug took Boscoe to classes at what was then called Pet Food Warehouse, and they learned the choke-chain method of dog-training. Choke chain is a misnomer; the chain does not choke a dog, not at all, but only pinches its skin for a fraction of a second before it is released.
Boscoe learned very well, so well that he was always the model for the other dogs in the class, but then Boscoe was a Border collie and would have learned well no matter what. I picture Border collies in the wild, feral Border collies, sitting politely and heeling and coming when called and not wolfing their food and doing the dishes immediately after eating and never leaving the house without first making their beds.
By the time Riley came around, choke chains were taboo. I am taking my life and my reputation into my hands just confessing to you that we once used one. No, for Riley it was clicker training. With clicker training, you have to be coordinated. You have the clicker in one hand, a treat in another, the dog's leash in another, and you do hand signals with the other. At least, that's how I remember it. I am not agile, and I only have two hands, and so I had a lot of trouble with clicker training.
You tell the dog to Sit! as you make the hand motion for Sit! and as the dog sits, you click the clicker and immediately give him a treat. The instructor did not like me--that is, she didn't like Riley, and so by extension she did not like me. Riley was four months old when we got him and he was an unhappy, nervous, frightened dog. The instructor had a big German shepherd that she wanted to demonstrate on, but every time she took him out of his crate, Riley went ballistic with fear, and so she had to keep putting her dog back into his crate. She was not gracious about this.
And so she took out her frustration on me. I'd be doing the hand signal, and clicking, and treating, and she'd stand off watching me critically and then say, "You're not clicking fast enough. You have to click before his butt hits the ground or it doesn't do any good. And you have to give the treat while you're clicking, or they don't make the connection," and then she'd stroll off and leave me alone in my shame and my seething.
Rosie loves the tennis ball, but not the way Toby did.
Now we have Rosie, and now we have yet another style of training. So far, anyway--at least, in puppy kindergarten--the training has been all treat-training. We give treats for sit and treats for down and treats for wait and treats for this and treats for that, and we play the "drop it!" game in which we distract the pups from chewing on our socks and shoes and other contraband by scattering treats across the ground and merrily singing, "Drop it!" And ostensibly they abandon the sock and scramble after the treats and eventually they will abandon the sock on the command, no treats necessary.
We shall see.
My experience has been that all dogs are smarter than I am, and they always know when I am packing treats and when I am not, and they are obedient when a treat is forthcoming and they may or may not be obedient otherwise, depending on their mood.
No matter how stealthy I am, Rosie sees the motion of my hand slipping into the treat bag, and she abandons the sock before I can say "Drop it!" She hears the crinkle of the plastic bag and is at my side, sitting nicely, long before I can say, "Come here!"
So how will she ever learn these commands?
How many treats is this slipper worth to you?
If I don't have treats, I can slide my hand into my pocket and crinkle the empty sack all day long and she will just laugh at me and continue to eat my sock.
Both clicker training and treat training are all about positive reinforcement. I have been told by obedience teachers that one must NEVER yell at a dog, or hit a dog, or punish a dog. And yet .... and yet .... What if they're in the act of peeing on the rug? What if they're rummaging in the garbage? What if they're chewing on my arm? I understand that redirecting is a good idea--Silly dog, you don't want this nice stinky garbage, you want this squeaky toy!--but frankly it does not always work. I have shoved all kinds of temping things under Rosie's nose while she is chewing on my sleeve; she doesn't want them. She wants my sleeve.
Fortunately, I think I have found something that works. Since I wrote about Rosie and her wolverine fits, she has not had another one. There has been the occasional high-spirited nip, which I have stopped by shutting her jaws with my hand and saying, "No!" But there have been no more fits, no more hysteria, no more out of control tantrums. I put it down to the fact that she didn't like reading about herself in the blog. Don't hit your dog, don't punish your dog, but when the chips are down, a little public shaming might just do the trick.