Is Tug Of War A Good Game To Play With Your Dog?

Is Tug Of War A Good Game To Play With Your Dog?

Tug of war is a very common game that many dog parents and trainers use to either just play or train their dog.

Tug of war game is basically a game where you get a rope or a toy, you give it to your dog to grab and then you start pulling. A lot of dogs love this game.

So is it a good idea to play this game?

Yes, BUT you need to be careful with 3 things: 

  1. Your dog needs to knows how to release on cue when you ask. 
  2. Never let your dog get aggressive while playing. 
  3. You need to know how to finish the game, not your dog.

Tug of war should be a game. Every game has rules. There’s no such a thing where a game doesn’t have rules. That doesn’t exist. If there’s no rules, there’s no game and if there’s no game there’s no fun. 

Try to go to a soccer field, throw a ball and explain no rules. Then add unruly kids with no boundaries. See what happens. GOOD LUCK! Obviously that’s no going to end up well. 

So if you want to play tug of war make sure you master those 3 things. 

What problems can tug of war cause?

Tug of war can become problematic If you can’t master those 3 things. If you can’y control the game I would not advice to play tug of war. Why? Because tug of war is a game that nurtures and encourages prey drive behavior. This is not a bad thing on itself, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it can lead to all kinds of direct and indirect problems.

A Direct problem is your dog getting aggressive while playing and developing resource guarding aggression. 

An indirect problem is that your dog learns to get his or her way. This not only can damage your relationship, but can show up in other behaviors or situations. Your dog starts learning that when he/she gets aggressive you listen to him/her. Aggression slowly gets reinforced because it works. And precisely because It works, your dog will try it in different situations. 

NEVER reinforce aggression or leave it unchecked. “This is when I hear stories like: “Out of the blue my dog did this or that . _- I was shocked!” It wasn’t out of the blue. It’s was slowly brewing because you did not pay attention to important details. 

Having said that, is not that hard to put some structure and rules while playing tug of war. If you do so this game not only can be a lot of fun, but it can be a great activity to your dog out.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved January 2023

Are Dog Parks A Good Idea?

Are Dog Parks A Good Idea?

Are Dog Parks a good idea?

In my opinion the answer is YES, but like with most things it comes with some trade offs and responsibilities. I disagree with trainers that discourage people from using dog parks instead of training people on how to use them.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of the park you need to consider 3 things: 

  1. To raise and to have a well behave dog
  2. To have a solid recall 
  3. To look out for aggressive dogs or owners that are not paying attention to avoid trouble. 

What are the benefits?

Dog Parks or dog Runs are a great opportunity to let your dog off leash, socialize with other dogs and run for a bit if that’s what they need. Dogs usually love going to open outdoor spaces for a change and be around their own peers.

 If you live in a city, It’s also a great opportunity to be outdoors and get some fresh air. A lot of dog parks  are also beautiful. If you love nature it’s a great way to re-connect or disconnect from our daily routines. 

I truly believe that the benefits of Dog Parks and Dog Runs outweighs the drawbacks by far. In many cities and towns it’s a privilege to have spaces for dogs where they can socialize and run safely off leash. We should keep advocating for dogs with this kind of wins. 

I also think that is been a huge win from the dog community efforts. We should embrace it not criticize it. 

Why do dog parks have a bad rep?

I’ve  heard a lot of trainers and read many blogs not recommending Dog Parks because it’s going to ruin your dog’s training. I personally don’t make decisions out of fear. I think you’re much better off giving exposure and teaching coping skills to your dog than avoiding and making their world smaller out of fear. 

The other argument against dog runs is that things can happen in parks. Although this is true,  crime also happen in cities or towns. That doesn’t mean we need to run to the hills and live in the mountains out of fear. 

Why some dog trainers hate Parks?

This is usually because they are not specialized in Behavior or Family Dog Training. They try to impose their obedience training routines to their dog in the park. They get frustrated because other dogs jeopardize their training. This is fundamentally the wrong place to do this.

Most trainers do obedience training by putting their dogs on high arousal, high dopamine or high motivation mode. This dogs are usually focused on a task and/or on the trainer not on the other dogs. This tasks are usually commands like: “wait” (pent up energy) and release : “get it”(release of the pent up energy). Basically you’re putting your dog in the wrong state of mind and with a tunnel vision focused on you not on the environment around them. This can cause several potential problems: 

1 Your dog will miss social cues from other dogs. 

2.Your dog will get frustrated with other dogs for getting in the way of his obedience. 

3. If your dog is highly trained to the level of ignoring distractions, then other dogs will get frustrated with your dog for ignoring them. 

So, what kind of training should I do in dog parks?

A park is where you should focus your training first on behavior and social skills not on obedience. Social skills, self control and boundaries is what’s  going to give true freedom to your dog. When your dog has good social skills you’ll be able to let your dog off leash out of trust not out of your ability to micromanage every step out of the way.  

What’s the real issue?

The big gap between a well behaved dog and a dog with advanced obedience skills is greatly misunderstood. Behavior skills are based on self control. Obedience skllls are based on impulse control and high arousal training (high dopamine). A lot of dog trainers are confusing people with this, because they don’t know what they don’t know.

If you keep putting your dog on high drive obedience training in a dog park at some point your dog is going to get into trouble or attract trouble. This can feel very good and empowering for the human, but it’s not giving the dog the opportunity to cope and learn how to behave in the environment they’re in. This is basically the difference between behavioral training and obedience training.  Behavior Training is focused on the state of mind of your dog not on high performance. I’m not saying you should not do any obedience training in the park, but the main focus should be on behavioral training not on obedience training.  

In conclusion

I’ve been going for over 15 years to dog parks in different countries and it’s been a great source of joy and happiness for me and for my dogs. My dog’s training have not been ruined by other dogs. As a matter of fact its’ a great place to practice advanced ‘Recall’, dog socialization and build self confidence if you put some effort into it. 

I have hundreds of case studies where Dog parks and dog runs had helped dogs in many different ways.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved December 2022

What’s The Science Behind Dog Training? Part 2

What’s The Science Behind Dog Training? Part 2

Operant Conditioning 

Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which an individual’s behavior is modified by the consequences that follow it. The behavior itself is referred to as the operant, and the consequences that follow it are either reinforcing or punishing. Reinforcing consequences increase the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated in the future, while punishing consequences decrease the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated.

Operant Conditioning With Dogs 

Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which a dog learns to associate a particular behavior with a particular consequence. In the case of dogs, operant conditioning can be used to teach the animal to perform a specific behavior in response to a particular stimulus, such as a command from its owner.

This method of learning employs rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence (whether negative or positive) for that behavior.“If you do this : “sit”, you get this: “reward” or if you do this : ¨unwanted behavior¨ you get this: ¨punishment¨.

How does it happen with dogs?

One of the most famous examples of operant conditioning in dogs is the “sit” command. When the dog sits on command, it is typically rewarded with a treat or praise from its owner. Over time, the dog learns that sitting on command is a behavior that is rewarded, and it will be more likely to perform the behavior in the future. This is called Positive Reinforcement, but there are three other ways or quadrants in operant conditioning:  Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment

Science can be confusing?

Let’s bring some clarity. Science works with definitions. There are four quadrants of operant conditioning: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment. The scientific meaning of positive and negative are different of what you might think. Positive and negative in scientific terms has nothing to do with good or bad. Positive means you’re adding something and negative means you’re removing something. Reinforcement means you want to increase the likelihood of a behavior to be repeated and Punishment means you want to decrease he likelihood of a behavior not to be repeated. Let’s break it down:

  1. Positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior is followed by a pleasant consequence, and as a result, the behavior is more likely to be repeated in the future. In other words you’re adding a factor (Positive) to increase the likelihood of a desired behavior (Reinforcement). For example, a dog who receives a tasty treat for coming to you when called is more likely to come to you in the future because the food is the adding factor that will increase the likelihood of your dog coming to you (the desired behavior).
  2. Negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior results in the removal of an unpleasant consequence, and as a result, the behavior is more likely to be repeated in the future.  In other words you’re removing a factor (negative) to increase the likelihood of a desired behavior (Reinforcement). For example, when working with a dog that is scared of other dogs. When another dog is near by, you wait until the dog offers a particular behavior (such as looking to you before allowing the dog to move away. Here, the behavior of looking at you after seeing another dog is being reinforced by taking away the scary situation of being too close to another dog.
  3. Positive punishment occurs when a behavior is followed by an unpleasant consequence, and as a result, the behavior is less likely to be repeated in the future.  In other words you’re adding a factor (Positive) to decrease the likelihood of an undesired behavior (Punishment). For example, if a dog is “zapped” with an e-collar (adding factor, Positive) for attacking another dog, the behavior of attacking another dog is less likely to be repeated in the future because the shock is an unpleasant consequence (Punishment)
  4. Negative punishment occurs when a behavior results in the removal of a pleasant consequence, and as a result, the behavior is less likely to be repeated in the future. In other words you’re removing a factor to decrease the likelihood of an undesired behavior. For example, a dog jumps on you and you remove yourself turning your back and ignoring your dog (Removing factor, Negative). As a result, your dog will be less likely to jump on you because the result is the loss of your attention which will decrease the likelihood of the undesired behavior (Punishment). 

What you need to know.

It’s important to note that operant conditioning is based on consequence regardless wether the consequence is good, bad, pleasant or unpleasant. The effectiveness of the punishment and reinforcement depends on the intensity, consistency and timing of the outcome. Also, it’s important to consider the ethical implications of using punishment, since it could lead to negative effects on a dog’s emotional and physical well-being. 

I personally use Positive Reinforcement to train dogs on obedience and to teach them new behaviors. I use Classical Conditioning and  Behavioral Training based on Emotional States of mind to modify and eliminate unwanted behaviors. Behavioral Modification Training is based on emotional responses and States of Mind not on consequence to manipulate behavior. To learn more about B.M.T (Behavioral Modification Training) click here: 

Why is B.F Skinner important in dog training?

Burrhus Frederic Skinner is referred to as the Father of operant conditioning, and his work is frequently cited in connection with this topic. His books initiated his lifelong study of operant conditioning and its application to human and animal behavior.

Here are 3 of his key Principles:

  1. Behavior that is positively reinforced will reoccur; intermittent reinforcement is particularly effective
  2. Information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced (“shaping”)
  3. Reinforcements will generalize across similar stimuli (“stimulus generalization”) producing secondary conditioning

Overall, Skinner’s work on operant conditioning has helped to bring clarity on the mechanisms of learning and behavior, and has had a lasting impact on the field of behavioral and social psychology. 

In conclusion

In conclusion, operant conditioning is a type of learning in which an individual’s behavior is modified by the consequences that follow it. There are four quadrants of operant conditioning: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. Overall, operant conditioning is a powerful tool for training dogs and other animals. By associating specific behaviors with rewards, trainers can help animals learn to perform a wide range of tasks and behaviors.

 © Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved January 2023

What’s The Science Behind Dog Training? Part 1  

What’s The Science Behind Dog Training? Part 1  

Classical Conditioning With Dogs

Classical conditioning is a type of learning that happens unconsciously. It occurs when an animal associates a particular stimulus with a response.. When you learn through classical conditioning, an automatic conditioned response (salivating) is paired with a specific stimulus (a “bell ring” followed by a tasty treat”) This type of learning is commonly observed in dogs and other animals.

How does it happen with dogs?

In classical conditioning, a dog learns to associate a particular stimulus, such as a ringing bell, with a response, such as salivating. This association is made through repeated experiences where the stimulus and response occur together. For example, a dog might learn to salivate when it hears a bell ringing if every time the bell rings, the dog is given food. Over time, the dog will begin to associate the ringing of the bell with the expectation of food, and will start salivating at the sound of the bell even if no food is given.

Science can be confusing?

Science works with definitions, so sometimes it can be confusing. But once you learn the definitions you can start putting the pieces together. Let’s deep in with some terms so we can break it down into first principles:

There are several key terms that are important to understand when discussing classical conditioning in dogs. The unconditioned stimulus is the stimulus that naturally creates a response, such as food causing a dog to salivate. The unconditioned response is the natural response to the unconditioned stimulus, such as salivating when food is present. The conditioned stimulus is the stimulus that is initially neutral but becomes associated with the unconditioned stimulus through repeated experiences, such as the bell ringing. The conditioned response is the response that is learned through classical conditioning, such as salivating at the sound of the bell.

What you need to know. 

Classical conditioning can be a powerful tool for training dogs, as it allows trainers to associate a desired behavior with a particular stimulus. For example, a trainer might use classical conditioning to teach a dog to come when a specific whistle is blown. By repeatedly blowing the whistle and giving the dog a treat every time he/she comes, the dog will learn to associate the sound of the whistle with the expectation of a treat and will eventually come automatically when it hears the whistle.

Who is Pavlov?

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who is best known for his work on classical conditioning.

In Pavlov’s famous experiment, he trained a dog to associate the sound of a bell with the presentation of food. Initially, the dog would salivate at the sight of the food. However, after being trained, the dog would begin to salivate at the sound of the bell alone, even in the absence of food.

Why is Pavlov important in dog training? 

Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning has had a profound impact on the field of psychology, and is still widely studied today. It is a fundamental concept in the study of behavior and learning, and has been used to explain a wide range of phenomena, from simple reflexive responses to complex cognitive processes.

One of the key features of classical conditioning is that the response is automatic and involuntary. In Pavlov’s experiment, the dog’s salivation in response to the bell was not something that the dog had to think about – it was a reflexive response that occurred automatically.

Another important feature of classical conditioning is that the response can be transferred to other stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus. In Pavlov’s experiment, the dog’s salivation in response to the bell was not limited to the specific bell that was used in the original experiment – the dog would also salivate in response to other bells that were similar in tone and pitch.

Overall, Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning has helped to shed light on the mechanisms of learning and behavior, and has had a lasting impact on the field of psychology.

In conclusion

Overall, classical conditioning is an important concept in the study of dog behavior and is a useful tool for trainers. It allows dogs to learn new associations and behaviors through repeated experiences and can be a powerful tool for shaping or modify a dog’s behavior.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved December 2023

Brain Training For Dogs

Brain Training For Dogs

Training a dog is an excellent way to strengthen the bond between humans and their best companions. Training a family dog might not mean what you think it means. While traditional dog training methods focus on teaching obedience commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” brain training for dogs involves engaging the animal’s cognitive abilities to improve overall behavior, self control and  problem-solving skills. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of brain training for dogs, some dog activities to try at home, and how these activities can help improve your dog’s overall well-being.

Benefits of Brain Training for Dogs

  • Improved cognitive function: Just like humans, dogs experience age-related cognitive decline as they get older. Engaging in brain activities can help keep their minds sharp and prevent cognitive decline.
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills: Brain training activities can help dogs learn how to think through problems, calm down and find solutions. This can be especially useful for dogs who tend to get anxious or destructive when left alone.
  • Increased mental self control: Too much over-stimulation can lead to behavior problems in dogs, such as destructive chewing or excessive barking. Engaging in self control brain training activities can provide much-needed skills to help prevent these types of behaviors.
  • Improved overall behavior: By teaching your dog to think and problem-solve, you’ll be helping them become more confident and well-behaved overall.

Dog Brain Activities to Try at Home

There are many brain training activities you can try at home to boost your dog’s cognitive skills and self control . Here are a few ideas to get you started from the most effective ones to the least. 

  • Self control games: Teaching your dog to perform activities slowly and calmly not only activates your dog’s brain power, but also teaches your dog to embrace and master calm energy. Calm energy is still energy and a very powerful one that most trainers don’t pay much attention to. An idea for this is to teach your dog to slowly walk up and down the stairs. Another good game is to teach your dog to walk through doors after you or enter a new space slowly and calmly and stay calm. 
  • Impulse control games: Games where your dog has to slow down and wait for a release are great for brain training because they require your dog to use their problem-solving skills to figure out how to get the treats or rewards from you. Is actually the waiting and self control that makes them tired and calmer not so much the physical activity. 
  • Obedience training: Obedience training is a great way to boost your dog’s brain power. By teaching your dog commands and getting them to follow them, you’ll be helping them to think and process information.
  • Training games: Games like hide-and-seek can be great brain training activities for dogs. These types of games require your dog to use their nose to problem-solving skills to find you or a hidden object. Be careful not to overplay these games ( 5 mins is good) since some dog breeds will go onto “tracking mode” and will get them overstimulated and a little crazy. Calm sniffing for something is different than “tracking down”  with overexcitement. You probably don’t want a police dog, you want a calm family dog. These are VERY different ways of training. 

Improving Your Dog’s Overall Well-Being

In addition to the cognitive benefits, brain training for dogs can also improve their overall well-being. By providing mental “work out” and “self control skills”, crazy or out of control energy is transformed into calm and sound energy. Remember that science tells us that energy is not either created or destroyed, it can only be transformed. 

Providing these brain training skills to your dog can help prevent boredom and reduce stress. In turn, this leads to significant improved behavior and a more harmonious relationship between you and your dog.

In conclusion, brain training for dogs is a great way to keep their minds sharp and improve their overall behavior. By providing mental self control skills and an outlet for their energy, you’ll be helping your dog live a happier and healthier life.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved  December 2022

How To Teach Your Dog Come When Called, Gravity. Part II

How To Teach Your Dog Come When Called, Gravity. Part II

Helping Amy Teach Her Dog To Come When Called

When Amy called me she was desperate.

¨Hey Gabe, Daisy loves going to the park, but the minute I take her off leash she runs to the water, which as you know is pretty far¨  She told me.

“What do you do when that happens?” I asked her.

“Well, I call her, but she doesn’t come. Then she takes off, so I have to go all the way to the water. She doesn’t listen to me.¨

¨Where are you when you call her? – I asked again

“What do you mean? I’m at the park¨

“Are you between her and the water, or is she between you and the water?” I replied

“I don’t really know, I guess she is between me and the water because I usually end up chasing her”

When I went to the park with Amy and her pup Daisy I saw exactly what was happening. Because I already new the deal I stood between Daisy and the way to the water. Then I told Amy:

¨When a I say come please drop the leash”

As soon as I said come, Amy dropped the leash and Daisy rushed to me. Well she didn´t rushed to me, she was rushing to the water, but I happened to be in the way.

We repeated this several times. Every time Daisy came to me I gave her some pads, and cuddles, I  played with her a little bit and then took her back to Amy to repeat the process.

In very little time Daisy was coming to me when I was calling her. But even more important she was not rushing to the water anymore. She was staying around with us.

Amy was astonished, she couldn’t believe it.

How did the dog learn to come when called so fast?

It happened fast because I didn’t impose a method to Daisy. I simply saw where gravity was and I used it in my favor instead of against me.

Amy was calling Daisy after taking off and from behind her. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was calling Daisy before she was taking off and I was on the way where she was heading. Gravity was in my favor not against me.

Note:  I never got into the WHY Daisy was going crazy about rushing to the water. I just noticed that she was fixated into rushing towards the water. We humans love to get into the WHY of things and create science fiction stories around it. Dogs don’t really care about our stories.

The really important thing here is not the WHY but the HOW. How Daisy was performing this behavior, what state of mind was she in? If Daisy would’ve been in panic mode this would´ve never worked. I would’ve taken a completely different approach.

Dasiy was not afraid, she was fixated or obsessed with the water. That’s why she was running. Typical Bulldog behavior. Daisy is a bulldog.

Fixations or obsessions have a clear straight line direction towards something. They are easy to spot.

Anyways, by standing between Daisy and the water I broke that cycle where she was getting stuck. By calling her name and knowing that she was going to come to me I created an association between the word  “come” and the action Daisy coming to me. Once you know what’s going to happen it´s a matter of repetition.

According to Einstein, and I quote:  ¨definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.¨

I would suggest to inverse this quote and use it for training : ¨do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results.¨

Make sure you use it wisely! 😉

© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT,  March 5th, 2018

Read Part 1 of How To Teach Your Dog Come When Called, Gravity.