Thursday, 9 February 2012

Conditioning to a clicker

I've decided to use a clicker to train Diesel, for consistancy and to improve the bond between us. Up until now Diesel had very basic training, he knew 'sit', 'come', 'stay' and 'paw'.

It seems he has mostly been lure trained (i.e shown the treat then followed it into the correct position until he sat, then given the treat), so I knew from experience that this could make clicker training difficult, as dogs who are lure taught often wait to be shown what to do rather than thinking for themselves and offering behaviours to shape (taking a small movement and building it up into a more complex behaviour or trick).

Having clicker trained my first Husky I knew the basics, but having struggled to shape any behaviours with her (having no known about clicker training until she was about 9 months old I had lure trained her) this was going to be a learning curve for both me and D.

 The idea behind clicker training is that once you have taught the dog that click - treat, you use the clicker to mark wanted behaviours, so when the dog does something right, you click and the dog knows that a reward will follow. Using a clicker means that it is easier to mark the correct behaviour, as it is the click which tells the dog it was right, not the treat (which takes longer to give than clicking). It also makes it easier to train dogs without having a treat in view, many dogs (having been lure trained) will not respond to commands if they can not see the reward, whereas clicker trained dogs know that treat will follow click even if they can't see one.

So using most of his dinner (not all otherwise he would be upset when the others got theirs!) we started. First I had to condition him to know that the click = reward, to do this I simply clicked then immediately gave him a bit of kibble (he loves anything edible, more stubborn or fussy dogs might need something like ham or chicken to get them to work at their best). After 5 or so repetitions of click/treat (C/T) I stopped and ignored him (he was sat waiting for the next one) and waited until he got bored and wandered off, then I clicked again and he came running over looking for his treat, SUCCESS! So he now associated the click with a treat, this ment we could start to teach behaviours.

There were only two things I had planned to train him during that session, and figured that doing those would use up the amount of food I had set aside, but the boy does have a well functioning brain somewhere in that big skull of his and he was picking things up so quickly that we ended up learning five!

Watch me (a focus command)
Down (lay down)
Touch (target my hand with his nose)
Gently (take food gently)
Spin (spin 360° to his left)

I'll go over these in seperate posts as I think this one is long enough already! But I am very very proud of him, and he is looking pleased with himself too! Already I can see he is responding to me better throughout the day and I hope this will be a big help when it comes to working with him outside around other dogs.

Bye for now,


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Story So Far...

Hi There!

My Name's Sid and Diesel is my 11 month old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross American Bulldog, who is dog agressive. I've created this blog as a place to post about our training, our progress, our setbacks, and as a place for me to occasionally vent when it all gets too much!

So.. The story so far...

Diesel came to us about 2 months ago, though we had known about him since he was around 6 months old. All our dogs have been rehomes and when Diesel's owner found out we were suckers for dogs in need of a home he asked us if we'd take him. By that point Diesel was in his 2nd home (not counting the breeder), by the time diesel came to us at 9 months old he had been passed back and forth a further 2 times.

We were told he was both dog and people friendly, having previously lived with 2 dogs, this was important to us as we already had 3 Siberian Huskies. Introducing him into the pack didn't go smoothly however, and he tried to attack each of our dogs, including the two bitches. We put it down to the stress of travelling and being moved around again (he had travelled to Ipswich from London), the next day we bought him a muzzle so he could meet the dogs safely without the restrictions of a lead, and after a few hours he was much less stressed and soon settled into life as part of a pack.

We thought that was the end of his issues, figured he was just stressed and that was over with, he had always greeted outside dogs politely, never giving us any indication of agression, so when we decided to take the dogs to the offlead dog park to play, it was only natural he came with us.

Bad mistake, after just 5 minutes he was highly stressed, he was panting (though it was cold), he was shaking, his eyes were bloodshot and any dog who came near him was a target for his agression. We were shocked, and he was taken home, leaving me at the park with the others to calm down (and let the huskies have some fun!).

Since that day he has shown agression to every dog he has met out on walks, he can no longer go offlead and has to be muzzled, though he has fantastic recall and will not actively approach another dog, I can not risk him biting an out of control dog who comes bounding over to 'say hi'.

So that's the story so far. We are working on his issues in the hope that he will soon become a happy, confident dog, rather than the stressed out pooch he currently is. He'll likely never visit a dog park again, but as long as he can enjoy a walk without getting stressed at the sight of another dog I will be happy.

Sid & Diesel