Cracking The “Come When Called” Code: Your Dog’s Best-Kept Secret”

Cracking The “Come When Called” Code: Your Dog’s Best-Kept Secret”

“Come when called,” commonly known as recall training, is arguably the most critical cue for any dog owner to perfect. While it may seem straightforward, there are numerous nuances to consider, and overlooking them can jeopardize your results. However, there’s a hidden secret that can make all the difference in your recall training journey.

Factors such as avoiding the use of food lures, gradually phasing out treats, mastering your body language, comprehending reinforcement, success rates, and introducing distance and distractions are all essential components of recall training. But there’s one element, often underestimated, that can have a lasting impact on your dog’s recall. On the flip side, if you get it right, recall training becomes a breeze. So, what is this elusive secret, and how can you unlock its potential?

To uncover this hidden gem, we first need to acknowledge that there are five crucial stages of recall training. Among them, the initial stage is the simplest yet most vital: “CLARITY.”

Let’s deep into the concept of clarity and understand why this stage, and the correct sequence of events, is of vital importance. As Winston Churchill once said, “Luck is in the taking care of the important details.”

The first stage, “CLARITY,” centers around making the command or cue “come” absolutely clear in your pup’s mind, and ensuring it works like a well-oiled machine.

This means that when you say “come,” your dog should respond fast and automatically. This process is known as “conditioning” or, for those interested in the finer details, “classical conditioning.” Why is this so crucial? Because this is what imparts the true meaning of “come” to your dog. You are conditioning your dog to have an automatic, immediate response to the word “come.” It’s not a thought process; it happens automatically and is rewarded. Understanding this concept is essential.

Let’s illustrate how classical conditioning works with a simple example: think of a dog, a bell, and hidden food. You ring the bell and then present and provide food. Crucially, there should be a delay between the bell sound and food delivery. If you repeat this process enough times, something fascinating occurs. When you ring the bell without offering any food, the dog starts salivating. Essentially, the value of the food becomes associated with the bell.

The bell alone, without food, now triggers salivation. It’s essential to know that salivating is an automatic response, not a conscious decision. In other words, the dog doesn’t choose to salivate; it occurs automatically through association. This process is known as conditioning, more specifically, “classical conditioning.”

Understanding the difference between triggering a response (classical conditioning) and reinforcing a response that already occurred with food (operant conditioning) is crucial for establishing clarity from the beginning.

Why is this understanding important? Because reinforcement (operant conditioning) rewards a behavior that has already happened, while an automatic conditioned response (classical conditioning) initiates the behavior. These are two entirely different processes, each serving a distinct purpose over time. This is a point that many people often overlook or misunderstand.

But let’s get practical, as promised. Here’s how to create that automatic conditioned response and discover the hidden gem. Pay close attention:

Important Tip: In Stage 1, your dog should be excited and a little riled up. Without excitement, you won’t achieve the speed you need in your recall training.

Stage 1: CLARITY! Your goal in this stage is to ensure that the command or cue “come” is crystal clear in your pup’s mind and that it works.

To establish this clarity and a strong conditioning foundation from the outset, conduct your training indoors, free from distractions and at a close distance. Why? Because distractions and distance can interfere with the meaning and imprinting of the word “come.” In this initial conditioning phase, you’re imprinting a swift response in your dog when you say the word “come.”

Step 1: Begin by grabbing a treat (or your dog’s most high-value reward) and stand very close in front of your pup. Get your dog’s attention with the treat, but do not use it as a lure. Simply show the treat to your dog.

Step 2: Say “come” and pause for half a second. Then move away quickly and backwards, facing your dog. Be cautious not to trip over any obstacles behind you.

Step 3: When your dog comes to you, deliver the reward as close to your body as possible. Do not ask your dog to sit or wait. Just provide the reward. You are teaching one thing: “come,” and that’s it. Introducing other commands or cues at this stage can hinder clarity and the conditioning process. This is particularly true at the beginning when you’re teaching your dog what the word “come” means.

Step 4: Repeat this process 3 to 5 times. Then take a break for 30 seconds, or wait until your dog becomes distracted with something else. Afterward, say the word “come” again. If your dog responds by coming to you, you have successfully taught your dog the meaning of “come,” and the conditioning is working. If your dog doesn’t come to you, wait for a good hour, and repeat steps 1 to 3 until your dog grasps the meaning of “come.” Stick with Stage 1 until “come” truly means “come.” Do not exceed 5 to 6 repetitions of steps 1-3, and always stop when your dog is eager for more.

Remember, you are merely associating the word “come” with an action (coming to you) and rewarding it with a treat, ball, or favorite toy. This initial stage serves as the foundation for your recall training. Without a solid foundation, all your training efforts may crumble. So there you have it, the key to unlocking the perfect “come” command!

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

 

How to Foster Confidence and Self-Esteem in Your Dog.

How to Foster Confidence and Self-Esteem in Your Dog.

How to Foster Confidence and Self-Esteem in Your Dog.

According to Learning Theories, Positive Reinforcement is widely recognized as the best and, in fact, the only effective way to impart skills and build self-confidence. However, there are two subtle nuances and flaws within this statement that deserve your attention:

1. Learning skills are distinct from behavioral skills.

2. Self-esteem and resilience also develop when faced with failure and adversity, not solely in times of success.

It is crucial to emphasize that Positive Reinforcement remains an essential tool for nurturing confidence and self-esteem in your dog. Positive Reinforcement stands as the primary method for teaching dogs new tasks or skills, as it hinges on motivation and rewards. Yet, it is not the sole element at play and for many dogs it is not enough.

Let’s talk about  those two very important aspects that you should consider to build self esteem in your dog:

1. Learning Skills vs. Behavioral Skills

Boundaries, rules, and discipline fall under the realm of social behavior and coping mechanisms rather than learning theory methodologies. These are two distinct fields. To illustrate, let me share an example:

Years ago, during my tenure as a jazz musician, I began teaching music to troubled kids in the South Bronx Projects. My teaching approach was rooted in positive reinforcement, yielding fantastic results. Why? Because there were two other staff members responsible for discipline; they adeptly set boundaries and rules, maintaining clarity with the children. My role revolved around the enjoyable task of music instruction, while theirs involved handling conflict and behavioral issues. It’s evident that these roles differ significantly.

I want to stress that, in behavioral training, there is no requirement for physical corrections or the use of tools like prong collars, e-collars, or choke chains. While these tools might have their place when used by knowledgeable trainers, they do not align with my training philosophy and are not, in my opinion and experience, necessary.

2. Self-Esteem and Resilience in the Face of Challenges

Teaching your dog to navigate through distressing situations contributes not only to enhanced self-esteem and resilience but also to self-control, a vital skill in behavioral training. Confronting unfamiliar or uncomfortable circumstances and mastering them cultivates resilience and confidence. This capability enables your dog to respond appropriately and independently when confronted with conflicts. The goal is to teach your dog the ability to cope and react autonomously when conflict arises. Which is what Behavior Training exercises are about.

Relying solely on Positive Reinforcement may lead to a constant need for redirection and the offering of alternative behaviors.

In contrast, behavioral training exposes your dog to stressful situations while maintaining a manageable level of discomfort (under threshold), allowing your dog to learn coping skills, independent thinking, and the power of true choice. This fosters self-control and the development of social skills not impulse control and obedience performance skills like “sit”, “down”,  “wait”,  “place”, etc 

Consider the following example:

If another dog barks and lunges at my dog, my objective in Behavioral Training is not to command my dog to “sit” and “wait”. Instead, my aim is to equip my dog with the skill to control his reactions. It becomes his choice to either ignore the dog, attempt to facilitate socialization, or move away. These choices come from my dog’s self-control, as opposed to my direct commands like “sit,” “wait,” or “leave it.” The ability to control his responses and remain in the “green zone” characterizes Behavioral Training. Conversely, instructing my dog to “sit,” “stay,” or “leave it” constitutes Obedience Training, focusing on conditioned learning from external cues.

Let’s take another example: jumping at guests. 

Dogs jumping results from overexcitement and human reinforcement. In Behavioral Training, the goal is to teach your dog to manage his excitement during guest interactions, preventing jumping from occurring. This avoids the need for correction or redirection. Dogs naturally greet by sniffing and investigating, not by jumping. In Behavior Training we’ll teach the dog to greet guests without jumping. 

In Obedience Training, the objective is to condition your dog to “sit” and “wait” for guests. The issue with Obedience Training arises when dogs lack self-regulation, potentially breaking the “stay” command or barking while in the “place” position. The fundamental problem with this approach is that your dog is “waiting”. At some point you have to release him/her. When you do, then they usually jump on your guests. The other problem is that a lot of high energy dogs, who are usually the jumpers, will bark excessively while waiting in their “Place position”. Teaching your dog to “wait” on Place is not the same as teaching your dog to greet your guests without jumping. 

Behavioral Training exercises and methods are designed to teach your dog self regulation and independent thinking. This eventually translates into social skills and coping skills which will enhance self esteem and self confidence. Obedience Training is designed to condition your dog to obey your cues on command with positive reinforcement. Very different outcomes and methodolgies.

Trends and misleading mantras:

Now, let’s address a recent trend promoting the idea that confidence and self-esteem can only be nurtured through positive reinforcement, banning the use of the word “No,” and cautioning against establishing boundaries.

This mantra goes as follows: “Never tell your dog ‘don’t do that’; instead, teach them what to do.

As with any decision in life, there are trade-offs to consider. To adhere to this mantra, you must navigate a complex labyrinth of environmental control until your dog reaches a state of readiness. This complexity arises due to a lack of clarity regarding boundaries.

In my experience, this mantra has led many dog parents to frustration, failure, and considerable distress for extended periods of time. It does not apply universally to all dogs. I am well aware of this because I find myself busier than ever, inheriting dogs that have gone through programs and protocols failing to establish clear and direct boundaries.

There are methods to impart clear boundaries and rules without resorting to force, corrections, or dominance-based Alpha theories. This reflects my vision and what I have successfully accomplished over the past 13 years designing exercises and routines to teach dogs self control through Behavioral Training.

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

     

     

    How Can I Discourage and Stop My Puppy From Barking Excessively 

    How Can I Discourage and Stop My Puppy From Barking Excessively 

    Puppies are a lot of fun, but when fun turns into too much stimulation, they can also be quite vocal. Barking is a natural behavior for dogs, but excessive barking when it gets out of control is not. It can also become a nuisance and cause disturbance to both you and your neighbors. Fortunately, there are ways to discourage your puppy from barking excessively. 

    The first step to addressing excessive barking is to understand why your puppy is barking in the first place. There are different reasons why your puppy might be barking excessively. Here’s a list of the most common ones: 

    1. Overexcitement and/or overstimulation. This could be triggered by you coming home, you getting their leash, playing with too much excitement or too much stimuli overload in the environment. This is usually caused by the lack of self control. This barking will often be with a wagging tail, happy mood, spin in circles, some nipping and running to play chase, ears perked and head held higher. 

    2, Attention barking (usually reinforced unconsciously by humans). This barking is usually high pitch, annoying and relentless. Their tails may be straight or wagging, with their ears down/natural or at attention. Be careful with this behavior. If your dog is  barking to get your attention or treats and they get what they want when they bark, you’ll be reinforcing and encouraging the excessive barking. Be aware that negative attention it’s still attention and will reinforce the barking. 

    3. Triggered by a noise or sight (ex: a dog passing by your house or the mail man coming in). This type of barking usually triggers an automatic emotional response in your dog that spirals up into an uncontrolled barking. 

    4. Territorial barking (guarding or protecting). Your dog feels the need to protect your house. These barks will usually be deeper and may have a growl associated with them. They will also be fairly continuous and incessant. With territorial barking the body posture is usually leaning forward, tail is up and wagging, ears and and eyes are up and alert. It could be followed by a bite. This may happen at a later puppy stage 4 months and older. 

    5. Fear barking. Insecure/fearful dogs will show body language leaning backwards and backing up while their barking. Tail might be between the legs and tense, hackles raised, and low head posture. Some insecure/fearful dogs might bite and lunge when you turn your back on them and move away. 

    Once you have identified the underlying cause of your puppy’s barking, you can start working on a solution to address the behavior:

    1. Socialize your puppy

    Puppies that are not properly socialized may become anxious or fearful in new situations, leading to excessive barking. Socializing your puppy from an early age can help him become more comfortable in different environments and around new people and animals. Take your puppy for walks in different places, introduce him slowly to new people and dogs, and expose him gradually to various sights and sounds.

    2. Provide structured play and start teaching your puppy self control.

    Puppies that have excess energy and no self regulation may bark excessively as a way to release their pent-up energy. Providing structure play and teaching self control exercises will keep your puppy calm and content, reducing the likelihood of excessive barking. Take your puppy for exposure walks, play structured games where they slowly learn boundaries, and socialize them with well behaved older dogs that will teach them how to calm down.

    3. Teach your puppy the “quiet” cue.

    Teaching your puppy a “quiet” cue will teach him to understand when it’s time to stop barking. The quite cue is based on calming your dog down not on punishing your dog for barking. You can learn this technique in my online course Pawmos The Art of Dog Training

    4. Learn Behavior Training 

    Behavior Training is a powerful tool for training puppies. Rather than punishing your puppy for excessive barking, focus on self control exercises and activities.  Behavior Training is NOT about letting your dog misbehave and then correct, punish or redirect that behavior with treats. It’s about not letting the behavior to happen in first place when possible. The way to do it is to keep your dog in a sound state of mind or  “green zone”. Or bringing him/her back to “green zone” if he/she is already out of control. This will allow your dog to get better at social skills and coping skills in different environments

    Excessive barking can be a frustrating behavior to deal with, but with knowledge and consistency, you can help your puppy learn to bark less or stop barking . Understanding the underlying reason for your puppy’s barking, providing structured exercise, teaching the “quiet” command, and using Behavior Training will effective discourage and stop excessive barking.

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

       

       

       What’s Differential Reinforcement In Dog Training? 

       What’s Differential Reinforcement In Dog Training? 

      Differential reinforcement is a technique used in dog training that involves rewarding a desired behavior while ignoring or redirecting an undesirable behavior. This approach is based on the principles of operant conditioning, which suggests that behavior is shaped by its consequences.

      In differential reinforcement, the trainer provides positive reinforcement for the behaviors they want to encourage, while withholding reinforcement or redirecting the dog’s attention away from behaviors they want to discourage. This can be a powerful training technique, as it can help to establish good habits and prevent bad ones from taking hold.

      Types of Differential Reinforcement:

      There are several types of differential reinforcement that can be used in dog training, depending on the specific goals of the training program. These include:

          1.  Differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA): In DRA, the trainer reinforces a behavior that is an acceptable alternative to the unwanted behavior. For example, if a dog is jumping up on people, the trainer may reinforce the dog for sitting politely instead.

          2. Differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI): In DRI, the trainer reinforces a behavior that is physically incompatible with the unwanted behavior. For example, if a dog is chewing on furniture, the trainer may reinforce the dog for playing with a chew toy instead.

         3. Differential reinforcement of lower rates of behavior (DRL): In DRL, the trainer reinforces the dog for performing the unwanted behavior at a lower frequency. For example, if a dog is barking excessively, the trainer may reinforce the dog for barking less often.

         4. Differential reinforcement of zero rates of behavior (DRO): In DRO, the trainer reinforces the dog for not performing the unwanted behavior at all. For example, if a dog is jumping up on people, the trainer may reinforce the dog for keeping all four paws on the ground.

      Note that differential reinforcement is used in conjunction with other positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and play. The goal of differential reinforcement is to shape the dog’s behavior in a positive way, not to punish or intimidate them.

      Does it always work?

      Differential reinforcement in intense cases might not work well if you don’t take care of certain details. To effectively use differential reinforcement in dog behavior training, it’s important to identify the state of mind of your dog and the level of arousal. Redirecting and luring away your dog with a treat or “play toy”  is not an effective way of shaping any behavior. 

      Your dog should be presented to the situation where the unwanted behavior is likely to happen, but always below threshold. Any type of differential reinforcement technique should be performed while your dog is not on a very high arousal or over threshold. For example if your dog is reactive to other dogs, you want to keep your dog calm while reinforcing an acceptable alternate behavior. If you wait until your dog reacts and gets over threshold (red zone) differential reinforcement will not work and will likely make it worse. 

      Mistakes to avoid

      A common mistake when modifying a behavior with differential reinforcement is to praise or reward with a lot of excitement by default. Excitement in most situations is going to send your dog back over threshold or “red zone” if you are not careful. People tend to confuse excitement with good. Excitement is not good or bad. Excitement is in your favor or against you depending on what you are trying to achieve. For example: if your dog is barking excessively or jumping on guests, excitement is against you. In these examples you want your dog to calm down. It’s imperative that you learn how to praise and reward with calmness. 

      Trainers should also be consistent in their use of reinforcement and provide clear feedback to the dog when they exhibit the desired behavior as well as keeping the dog under threshold or bringing them back under threshold if they start getting out of control. 

      Differential reinforcement is a powerful technique for shaping a dog’s behavior in a kind way. By rewarding the desired behavior and not letting the unwanted behavior happen, trainers can establish good habits and prevent bad ones from taking hold. This technique can have certain nuances where professional help might be needed. With consistent training dogs can learn to behave in a way that is both desirable and rewarding for everyone involved.

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

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      How To Get Respect From Your Dog

      How To Get Respect From Your Dog

      Respect is commonly miss-understood with showing who is boss. It has nothing to do with this. Fear is not respect. You don´t ask, demand or gain respect. Respect is not something you necessarily achieve. Respect is something that you give and you get back in return. You can not force or convince someone to respect you. You have no direct control over this. It has to come from them. If you are respectful to people, people will be respectful to you. The same is with dogs. Understand that when dogs get out of control they are not mis respecting you. They are simply out of control and our job is to help them.

      The better question is, how do I give respect to my dog?

      The answer is simple: acknowledge and treat your dog as a dog.

      Let me explain. If I treat you as a dog, you´ll agree with me that I´m miss-respecting you. Well, if you treat your dog as a human you’re mis-respecting your dog. Your dog is not a human, your dog is a dog. Dog’s are beautiful creatures and they deserve to be respected for who they are.  

      I could write an entire book about how to acknowledge dogs as dogs, but to keep things simple here are 6 skills for you to be aware of how to give respect and get respect back from your dog:

      1- Instead of talking to your dog, listen to your dog.  95% of dog´s communication is through body language and energy. Meaning in silence. Yet 90% of my clients do not know how to communicate with their dogs in silence. Dog´s don’t understand English or Spanish or Chinese. They understand body language. Be curious and learn It!!

      2- Understand your relationship with your dog. Who is the parent? Who is the guardian? If your dog doesn’t feel your are making the calls don’t expect him or her to listen to you. Humans and and animals don’t listen to people who stay in the sidelines. They listen to people who take responsabilties and to people that make decisions. Respect the relationship and accept your responsabilities. Being a parent or a guardian comes with teaching boundaries and educating your dog. It’s work! It can be a lot of fun, but you have to know where your place is. Being a parent or a guardian is a privilege and your choice, not your right or entitlement. 

      3- Be aware of your state of mind and work on self control. If you are not in control of yourself don’t expect your dog to listen to you in a willing or cooperative way. What I mean by this is to be in control of your body language and your state of mind. This is a skill that you might need to relearn.

      4-  Be aware of your your dog´s sate of mind. Meet your dog where she/he is at and work from there. You have to be sensitive and react accordingly to your dogs state of mind instead of trying to impose your dog training program. Dogs are not computers or machines that simply obey to commands. 

      5- Clarity. Teach your dog with clarity. Be clear with what your dog can do and with what your dog can’t do. Always do so for your dog’s best interest. 

      6- Be present. Dog´s can’t live in the past or in the future. They can only live in the present. So don’t allow your mind to take over and navigate around time. Be present!!

      All these skills and tips are ways to give respect to your dog and a sure way to get respect back in return. 

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

      Never say NO to your dog?

      Never say NO to your dog?

       Should I ever say No to my dog?

      There’s an advice very often given to never say No to your dog under the mantra : “Never tell your dog don’t do that, instead teach them what to do”

      The problem with this is that your dog never has a clear understanding of what not to do.  And that’s not fair. 

      Another problem is that in order to stop your dog from doing unwanted behaviors, you have to micromanage by constantly reinforcing alternative behaviors in a helicopter parenting style.

      Let me give you an example: If I go to a bank and you teach me 5 different things to do in a bank, but you never tell me that I should not rob it. Well, you can probably keep teaching me 10 other alternate behaviors and skills, but I still don’t really know that I shouldn’t rob a bank. Why wouldn’t you tell me that in first place instead of trying to micromanage every move I do with alternative behaviors?

      Teaching boundaries is the art of teaching your dog not to do things or doing things in a controlled manner out of independent thinking not out of micromanagement. 

      Can I teach boundaries without punishing or harsh corrections?

      You can teach boundaries and say no to your dog in a kind way without hurting your dog or without getting mad at your dog, but the focus should be on providing clarity on the boundary not on the alternative behaviors.

      Teaching boundaries does not mean punishing your dog for doing the wrong things. I don’t use or advocate for those methods. There are ways through cognitive learning and by using basic body language techniques through which you can comunícate boundaries to your dog effectively and in a kind manner. And by the way you don’t need to dominate your dog or use Alpha theories to teach boundaries. For more information about dominance myths read this article: Alpha Dominance Theories. Myth? Or Science? For further scientific proof here is a great article from an actual scientist Mark Bekoff: Dogs Display Dominance: Deniers Offer No Credible Debate.

      We need to have a clear understanding that boundaries are not part of learning methodologies based on Reinforcement. Boundaries are part of social behavior skills based on self control and a clear understanding of what is and what is not acceptable. 

      What are learnt boundaries? 

      A learnt boundary is you going to a bank and not robbing it; or you going to a store and not stealing; or you waiting in a line and not pushing everyone around to get in first.  

      You don’t get rewarded for not doing those things and you should not need to be offered an alternative behavior. You should have a clear understanding to not to do those things. You should also have the self control skills for not doing them.

      Here’s an example with my dog: A boundary is when I put my food on my coffee table and I teach my dog not to eat it even if he is laying down right next to me.

      My dog has a clear understanding of what not to do and he’s perfectly fine with it. He is not stressed because there is no confusion. Not only I’m very clear with boundaries, but I also taught my dog the self control skills needed to let things go.

      A boundary is not telling my dog to go to his place and stay there because I reinforced that behavior one million times. That’s obedience training. These are two very different concepts. Obedience training is about teaching new behaviors not about teaching behavioral skills.

      Why are boundaries so important?

       The lack of behavioral training is a huge problem because there is no clarity, there is no self control skills and involves helicopter parenting. Helicopter parenting kills independent thinking, autonomy and agency on your dog. It’s also exhausting and very time consuming on the humans. 

      Self control is very different than impulse control. 

      When you impose obedience training and helicopter parenting over behavior training with the mantra: “Never tell your dog don’t do that, instead teach them what to do” think what you are really doing. 

      You are basically going through a byzantine labyrinth of alternate behaviors in order to stop your dog from doing unwanted behaviors. This is based on impulse control not on self control. Impulse control is micromanaged . Self control is autonomous thinking. 

      Let’s be clear that when you condition your dog to do an alternative behavior with 1 million repetitions, you’re not giving  him/her a “choice”, which is the magic word used to convince people of these methods.  There is no choice here. Is either you do what i want or I’m gonna repeat this 1 million times and manipulate the environment until you do so. Then I’m going to convince my self that it was your choice. 

      It’s perfectly fine to use this method if your purpose is to teach your dog new skills, tricks or behaviors. I use it all the time and positive reinforcement is the best way to go. The focus here is on learning and reinforcing new behaviors.

      But this method and this mantra is a very inefficient way to teach boundaries. This is because your dog never learns what he or she is not supposed to do. Boundaries and rules are very necessary and needed information in order to adapt to any environment. They are also the best way to have independent thinking and autonomy without having to be micromanaged. 

       

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