Dog training theory: moving beyond basic dog training.

Dog training theory utilizes basic as well as advanced dog training techniques. Basic dog training usually consists of commands such as: recall, sit, down, stay, and leave it. Even if you are completely new to dog training, I encourage you to start thinking about advanced dog training concepts. In a previous article, I discussed how to develop  secondary rewards such as praise, petting, and emotions to encourage a dog to do desired behavior. Dogs that are used in a working environment (bomb detection, narcotic detection, search and rescue, guard dog work, etc.) are trained by using toys. Toy training encourages dogs to think at more complex levels. For the general pet owner, toy training for dogs is one way towards solving a wide array of behavioral problems. And toy training for dogs and puppies is something that you are able to start  with right away.

Every dog should have a number of  toys to play with. Go to any pet store to find a wide assortment of toys for dogs and puppies. More specifically, each dog should have low level toys and high level toys. Low level toys are toys that are always available for the dog to play with. High level toys are only available when the owner decides. The dog owner also decides how long the canine can play with the high level toy. Usually only in small amounts.

When you first get home with the new toy, act as if you have a prized possession. Sneak into the house with the pet store bag as if you are carrying a kilo of the finest truffles and you are concerned about the dog eating them.  In front of your dog, slowly and  with excitement, take the new toy out of the bag to create more interest. If the toy is a squeaky toy,  start squeaking it and acting as if the new toy is really interesting to you, the dog owner. Throw the toy up in the air and catch it. Throw it around with your partner, and playfully tell your dog that it is not for her. Don’t have her chase you with the new toy. And don’t chase your dog with the new toy. But playfully tell your dog that this new toy is not for her. All the time, you are squeaking it and acting as if it is fun. This is the essential part of creating a high level toy. A dog or puppy is more fascinated about the toys he doesn’t get to play with. It’s your job to create interest in the toy. I want you to continue this process of playing with the toy but not letting your dog / puppy have it. The total time of doing this, over several days or weeks,  should be about four hours. Remember, your dog has low value toys that are always available. So we are not depriving her. We are not being cruel. We are setting the stage to teach your dog to listen in stressful situations.

If your dog gets a hold of the new toy, then playfully act upset, as if that wasn’t supposed to happen. Gently scold the dog and tell her that she wasn’t supposed to get the new toy and take it away. Spend some time playing with it yourself, then put it on a shelf or table where your dog can almost reach it. If she goes for it, tell her that the toy is not for her in a good natured way. Playfully (not sternly) tell her not to go for the visible toy. When you tell her not to go for it, the desired reaction is that she tries harder to get the toy. This is called a reversal. So if she is not trying to get the toy, you have to soften your approach.

For pet owners, high level toys can be used for general dog training. Once a high level toy has been created, we will use that toy to teach the dog to delay her gratification. She can do advanced toy retrieve exercises  or stay exercises where the reward being used is the high level toy. If we can make the dog behave nicely around a high value toy, then it becomes a substitute for teaching a dog to behave nicely around a new person, another dog, or another cat. If I can teach a dog to run after a toy and then half way to the target, I call her back, tell her to turn around and go after another toy of lesser value. Then, this dog would be less likely to be defiant in states of arousal. Generally, pet owners have difficulty controlling their dog in situations that are exciting for the dog. We use toy training to practice for those high intensity situations. If she can listen in the simulated situation, then she can do it in the real life high intensity situation.

To make toy training work, the owner has to first create the interest in the toy. As I mentioned above, interest is created by not letting the dog or puppy get the high value toy. After this is done, the owner controls the amount of time the dog / puppy can play with the high value toy. If the playtime with the new toy is controlled than it can be used for various behavioral problems including destroying items when the owner is away; aggression towards other dogs, aggression to humans; separation anxiety; leash lunging; running away; and aggression towards cats. A big part of dog training is teaching the dog to be patient and to be less reactive.

Dog training theory: control the toys, then you control the dog.

In some situations a dog is given a squeaky toy, and the dog takes possession of the item until she destroys it. Pulling apart the toy until the squeaker is disintegrated. I discourage the dog owner from allowing this. It is the owner of the dog that decides how long the dog can play with the high value toy. Control the toys and you control the dog.

In this article, I am sharing with you the same information that I would share with you during our first meeting. Thereby, I am saving you time and money on your dog training expense. If you do this high value toy training preparation and the first lesson advice before we meet, then we will move faster in training your dog / puppy.  We may be able to address behavioral issues during the first lesson rather than the second or third meeting. Visit the home page for a list of issues that can be addressed.

If you can call your dog away from a high value toy, then you can call your dog away from a wide array of stressful confrontations. High value toy training is practicing for stressful situations when you absolutely need your dog to listen to you, the owner. High value toy training will be fun for your dog / puppy. She will be excited to play with the toys when you finally take them out for those special times. If you don’t train your dog to high level toys, then she will create her own high value toys. Usually a dog’s self created high value toys are lunging at other dogs, barking at the mailman, chasing cats, attacking birds, killing geckos, etc. Many of these unwanted behaviors are immensely enjoyable to a dog. So training a dog / puppy to high value toys is a way to prevent bad behavior.  The first part to training a dog / puppy with high value toys, is to create interest. So go to the store, get some new toys (it can’t be old toys), introduce the new toys in the manner I describe above. And contact Anthony Ohm at 808-927-3997. Let’s get started on training your dog / puppy to be happy and well behaved.

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