Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Don't stop now

Training Ditto is so much fun, she is so into her food and toy, she picks things up so quickly and always gives 100%. Being the behaviour geek I am, the socialisation training just gets my brain going into a frenzy.

Sunday night’s puppy class have just completed their 10 week socialisation plan and diary, and although not everyone chooses to give them to me to read through, those that have, have done a fantastic job. These first time puppy owners are setting exercises, breaking them down, attempting them, noting strengths and weaknesses, asking me how to improve areas of weakness, going home and kicking ass! I was so proud to hear one of last year’s puppy graduates has been accepted as a PAT (Pets as Therapy) dog showing just how great the results of socialisation work within the D-Force classes are.

So where do so many people go wrong:
  1. stopping socialisation – allowing issues
  2. going for gold (flooding) – forcing issues
  3. not raising criteria – training issues

Issue one comes from the attitude ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’. For example ‘my puppy has met a child, had no reaction, job done’. Remember the developmental stages puppies go through, these will affect your puppies reaction to a stimulus, puppy needs to meet children at every stage of its development, regularly and confidently. I describe this attitude as ‘allowing issues’ i.e not enough socialisation training allows issues to arise nothing has been done to prevent these ‘negative behaviours’.

Issue two is something that many owners do subconsciously. The attitude ‘he will be fine, throw him in the deep end’ can perhaps cause the most detriment in socialisation training. Lets take a puppy party, 8 puppies are let off lead in an enclosed area. The puppy may learn to become a victim or a bully, this may then become a ‘learnt behaviour’ so by ‘forcing’ the dog into this environment rather than gradually building it up and by taking no control (regular recalls, quite time ect) the dog learns undesirable behaviours.

Here is an analogy for problem 3 - Imagine a 30 year old man greeting someone with ‘ga-ga’ and a smiley wave, instead of shaking someone’s hand politely like we have been brought up to do, this is the result of not raising criteria with age. In a canine, the equivalent behaviour when meeting a human would be lots of hyper, frequent licks and a body out of control rather than sitting and waiting to be invited to say hello. The dog has been taught that people are great, but not to show some self control before being invited.

Below are extracts from one of the diaries from a D-Force puppy owner. What is brilliant is how much care is taken to avoid the three above problems.

Puppy age: 8 weeks
Overall aim: Teach a polite meet and greet with humans
Aim for this session: increase confidence to approach people
What happened: met 10 people all gave puppy treat and gentle fuss. Puppy grew in confidence did not back away. Man in hat was scary!

(In-between 8 and 10 weeks lots of hat work)

Puppy age: 10 weeks
Overall aim: Teach a polite meet and greet with humans
Aim for this session: Sit before meeting person
What happened:  Met 10 people. Asked puppy to sit before meeting each person, rewarded (high value) and then released to greet stranger who gave reward (high value)

Puppy age: 12 weeks
Overall aim: Teach a polite meet and greet with humans
Aim for this session: Puppy offers sit position when in front of stranger
What happened: Met 10 people. Had to prompt the first 3 sits and then puppy offered last 7. Slight caution of man in hat. Need to go back to high rewards from lots of people in hats.

Who is willing to be honest? Most dogs will react to a certain stimuli in a non-ideal manor. Identified it? Hattie’s (my 10 year old retriever) is loud Lorries (probably because you don’t see many in my village), Cody’s is cows (seen a lot but never did any ‘socialisation training’ specifically on cows). Form an initial plan including your overall goal. Have a go and see how you get on. And let’s prove that socialisation does work outside the critical period!

Step 1: From a large distance from stimuli push feed or play with dog. Don’t push your luck and move closer until your dog is ready. This step should last a week. No ‘commands’ are being asked for just to have a good time whilst the stimuli is present.

Club Dog - Mika

No comments:

Post a Comment