All posts by Andrew Ledford

I have trained security dogs, police dogs, movie dogs, and a whole lot of pet dogs. I have helped people with all types of dog behavior and training problems. There have been hard to control service dogs to tiny toy tea cup breeds. I have been training dogs since was 11 years old, although I usually don't count my years of experience until after the age of 18. I like all animals but have a special fondness for dogs. My two big passions are helping people and dogs. You can read more on my personal site or G+ profile

Questions About All Positive Reinforcement Training

I want to address a very common misunderstanding about dog training. I have written about the subject of all positive reinforcement training and using aversives in training quite a bit. I always think I have nothing more to say about it, then some time passes and I read an article that gets the old wheels moving again.

Training Clickers Are Often Used By Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainers
Training Clickers Are Often Used By Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainers

Usually it is an article by a dog trainer. I generally don’t pay much attention to what other dog blogs are saying about this. Now that I have dog blogging friends on Google Plus I read a lot more general dog blogs. I find it interesting that the all positive reinforcement doctrine has moved to become such a pervasive dogma. It does sound warm and fuzzy, but is it really best for our pets? I also have to ask are the promises of all positive reinforcement really true?

There are also other questions that need to be asked about the promises of all positive reinforcement. There is the moral question, when is it okay to cause discomfort? Another question that I toil with and one where I usually differ from most is, what are my client’s personal rules? My strategy for helping people is different than many trainers I know of.

Slip Collars Are Often Associated With Trainers Who Use Negative Reinforcement
Slip Collars Are Often Associated With Trainers Who Use Negative Reinforcement

If this wasn’t enough I have even more questions. Are all aversives bad? Is there ever a time when an aversive is not aversive? Is it possible that what is aversive to an individual now could actually become something positive in the future?

There is also the fact that our society is based in punishing others and getting revenge more than loving our enemies. While people may want to be positive reinforcement oriented our society insists on a punishment based orientation.

To me all of these are interesting questions.

I plan on exploring these issues in a series of future posts

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
Southern California Dog training
714-827-4058

Training a Pit Bull in North Orange County

Leash Training a Pit Bull in North Orange County
Leash Training a Pit Bull in North Orange County. Notice the leash grip. Even when relaxed maintain good form

I have a few picture of a pit bull I am training in the North Orange County area of California. This dog does present some challenges. The first is gaining the dogs trust. Getting this dog to trust me took a little effort. While she is not exactly happy to see me she does tolerate me and is responding to training. You will see in one of the photos she is taking a treat from me. Although you may also notice she’s displaying is a bit of avoidance while getting the treat.

This dog usually shows more avoidance in the house and around its owner than it does when I have her by myself and away from the house. If you have a difficult to train dog give me a call for a free phone evaluation.

Treat Training a timid Pit Bull In the OC
Treat Training a timid Pit Bull in the OC It is worth noting my positioning. I am turned to the side one hand behind my back and head away from the dog. I am presenting a nonthreatening posture while maintaining safety

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

Almost Awesome Dog and Christmas Tree Lane

Merry Christmas dog people. I am sure you have heard that a trained dog is a happy dog. Well, I do have vested interest in statements such as this. But let me tell you a story about Christmas, lights, and dogs.

It was not so long, long ago…

There was a dog trainer and he had this really awesome dog, well this story isn’t about the really awesome dog, it’s about the other dog the trainer had. The other dog was very good, just not awesome.

And the dog trainer he was like a workaholic. He was dog training all the time. Oh, sometimes he would work on his website, but mostly he was dog training.

In southern California there is a place called Christmas tree lane. They have big Christmas trees and during the holidays the whole street is lit up with Christmas lights.

The dog trainer had a friend who wanted to see the Christmas lights so he took his friend and his almost awesome dog to look at the lights. He knew he would also get to talk to people about his dog and give out a few business cards as well.

German Shepherd Dog And Christmas Lights
German Shepherd Dog And Christmas Lights

After seeing Christmas Tree Lane they went to a house that was built by his favorite treat. No, I’m not talking about dog treats, I’m talking people treats. Yah, it was built by ice cream.

There is, or at least was a famous ice cream maker’s house that would get all decked out for Christmas. They would have baby Jesus and reindeers and all kinds of Christmas stuff.

People would come from all over the world to see the house that ice cream built. Here are some picture of that famous house and the almost awesome dog of that very same dog trainer.

German Shepherd And The Christmas Ice Cream House
German Shepherd And The Christmas Ice Cream House

The moral of the story is, if this almost awesome dog wasn’t trained it couldn’t go mingle with all those tourist and tourist buses and babies and traffic and crazy holiday cheer.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

Beginning Leash Training With An Aggressive Dog

I was working a dog in North Orange County tonight and got to thinking back when I first started training her. This particular dog is one of the bully breeds and she is not all that friendly with most strangers. The training techniques in this article go over how I started leash handling with this particular dog. I have to say I did a lot of just getting to know the dog before we started the leash training.

When I first started working with her on leash I did what is called a loyalty transfer. This is where you walk next to the owner and the dog and then the owner give the new handler the leash and falls back.

Chow Chow With Muzzle
Chow Chow With Muzzle

The first part of this exercise is walking next to the owner and the dog without getting bit. If the owner/handler can control their dog, not getting bit is usually not all that difficult. With unpredictable dogs or where there may be an accident I recommend the dog wear a muzzle. The photo is of a Chow Chow I worked the same way. However I thought the chow might bite more seriously than the pit bull. Not that I wasn’t a little extra cautious with the pitty. But the pit bull showed more avoidance than the Chow did.

Once the dog will let me walk next to the handler I’ll have the handler do right about turns. How this is accomplished depends on how much experience the handler has along with how much control they have over their dog.

During the right about turn the dog is close to me and moving by me at the same time. Hopefully in a way where the handler can move the dog further away if it should decide to sample some Andrew Ledford flesh. Also this move should put me in a position to move out of the dog’s reach, if everything works as a choreographed move.

If you are doing this with an inexperienced handler don’t plan on it going real smooth. An inexperienced handler often will let the dog get too close or turn at the wrong time. Both of these can have negative consequences and should be anticipated.

Once the dog is doing nicely at the turns I will begin walking on the outside of the handler/dog team. The trainer needs to be able to read the dog at this point and judge the proper distance.

When the dog is somewhat comfortable with the trainer waking on the outside it’s time for the trainer to resume the standard position. From the stander potion of the trainer next to the handle the transfer is made.

After the transfer is done a whole new dynamic is introduced along with a different set of handling skills.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

How Important Is It To Hold The Leash Properly For Training Your Dog

While working with a new client I was once again reminded how important holding the leash properly is for training your dog. I use four standard leash grips and one prompt.

  1. The alpha grip
  2. The double alpha grip or baseball bat grip
  3. The drop grip
  4. The left hand check (this is for dogs walking on the left side)
  5. Left hand prompt used with beginning dog that walk in front of the handler.
Double Hand Leash Grip Used For Dog Training The Alpha Grip
Double Hand Leash Grip Used For Dog Training – The Alpha Grip

The first four are most important for controlling wild out of control dogs. These five essential leash grips are important for all type of leash training. I use the same grips with slip collars, pinch collars, martingales, harnesses, and head collars such as the gentle leader. While the use of each type of restraint is different the leash grips used remains the same.

As I travel around the area I live I can’t help but notice a large number of pregnant women. I think we are in the midst of a mini baby boom. How does this tie into leash grips? Well, I have modified some of the basic grips to specifically work for pregnant women. If you are pregnant and especially if you are in the later stages of pregnancy I suggest you talk to your doctor before you do any dog training. Getting your doctors approval is even more important if you are training a large dog. Even if you have a small dog and we choose to use a target stick for training, leash handling is still a significant part of dog handling.

You will notice in the target stick training video I use a clicker. It may be of interest to know I have also developed leash handling protocols for working with the clicker as well. I awhile back I was working with a client on some target stick training who had worked with a fairly famous clicker trainer. What amazed me was that the clicker trainer never taught them proper leash handling for clicker training.

When you work with me you will see that I have broken all the training techniques into step by step procedures. This way anyone who practices can learn proper dog handling and training skills.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

Habits and Catching a Door Bolting Dog

Last night I was training a dog that knew every route away from and back to its house. The interesting thing is that if I did something out of the ordinary, such as go down an ally or through a strip shopping center the dog acted like we should not be going that way. It did not act this way only once, but whenever I took it someplace new. I have to add that this dog is very sensitive.

Labrador Retriever Running
Labrador Retriever Running

We can use this tendency to use the same route with dogs that bolt doors and escape. There are escape artist dogs that I want walked the same way every time they are taken out. Usually away from traffic. Then when the dog does get out it is often possible to jump in the car and drive the opposite direction meeting the dog as it is running away from the house. This way the dog ends up running toward the owner. Many dogs are happy to jump in the car if they have a chance to. This simplifies the act of catching door bolting wayward dogs.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

Potty Training In The Rain

Southern California doesn’t get a whole lot of rain. When we do get rain a lot of our dogs don’t like it much. The dog that is staying with me for a homestay board and train program is one of those dogs.

It seems she doesn’t mind going out in the rain for fun, but she does not like going potty when it’s wet. Her finicky potty behavior means I need to spend a lot more time watching her when it’s wet outside. This is another case of behavior management. If I don’t have any other commitments or if I can reschedule other commitments I’ll wait for her to go. Along with waiting I’ll also offer a little encouragement such as exercise or play and more frequent visits to her potty spot.

If I have other commitments I can’t work around I’ll take this particular dog out for a walk. She will always go on a walk. While the walk is not teaching her to go in the target potty area it is not as much of a setback as an accident in the house.

My Favorite Dog Training Rain Coat
My Favorite Dog Training Rain Coat

The recent rain has been very light. When it’s raining, shall I say, like cats and dogs, it’s best to be prepared before you head out the door. During moderate to heavy rain I will have a rain coat by the door along with my hat.

My hat is always by the door. If you know me you’ll know I think a hat is essential equipment. There are several low overhangs in the yard and it seems if I forget to wear my hat I always hit my head on one of those. Even in a light rain a hat is mighty handy for keeping the mega water drops coming off the trees from running down your neck.

Other helpful rain gear includes rubber boots or rain shoes and an umbrella. I find an umbrella gets in the way of handling the dog so I don’t use one. But for dogs that take a very long time they may have a purpose.

That is gear for getting out into the rain, but how about coming back inside? I recommend at least having a rug or towel down for the dog to step on as it comes in the door. Some people like having a towel by the door to dry the dog as well. It’s better to take a few minutes to dry the dog as opposed to having the dog shake dog smell water on the walls and furniture.

The take away is think about what you will need before you need it. Plan ahead and get everything ready so you’ll have all of your training supplies and equipment ready at the right time.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

 

Persistence and Training Your Dog

Persistence And Dog Training
Persistence And Dog Training

I am working with a large and a fairly active dog at the moment. What made me think of writing this post is that she has a short attention span and she needs to continuously be reminded to behave. Let me clarify that, she responds to her environment and displays behaviors all the time. What I need to do is remind her to behave in a desirable manner. 714-827-4058

As I work with her I’m reminded that persistence is one of the most important elements to training difficult dogs. Being persistent means getting up every time the dog is doing something it shouldn’t. You need to be willing to get up and insist the dog do the right thing. You do not need to be overbearing, just persistent.

Being Persistence Makes Dogs Well Behaved
Being Persistence Makes Dogs Well Behaved

Being persistent also means stopping what you are doing to reward the dog when it’s doing what you desire.

Sometime the dog needs to wear its leash so you can conveniently and calmly make the dog behave. Other times it means always having food rewards available so you can increase the amount of time the dog performs the appropriate behavior. Toy management is also a good tactic for encouraging good behavior with some dogs.

A girl I once knew called my persistence

Being persistent at my house with a aboard and training dog
Being persistent at my house with a aboard and training dog

being stubborn. I never thought of persistence as an undesirable trait until I met her. That is what happens when you’re life revolves around dogs. Training dogs for a living is not an easy task.

I often sleep like there is a new baby in the house. There are feeding schedules than need to be maintained and constant cleaning. Then there is the potty training. Making sure the dog stays out of the trash and doesn’t chew the house or wiring is an ever present duty. I believe it is much like raising a small child.

The take away from this is, be more stubborn than your dog. Or you could say be more persistent than your dog.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

Be Aware Watch Your Dog

Can you hear the dog chewing, panting, or yawning? Can you hear the dog when it is getting off its bed?
Can you hear the dog chewing, panting, or yawning? Can you hear the dog when it is getting off its bed?

Awareness plays a huge role in dog training. Today I’m going to touch on some elements  that will help when training your dog. Awareness is especially useful when working with difficult to train dogs. 714-827-4058

There are several kinds of awareness one needs to consider when training. The most obvious is to be aware of what the dog is doing. A little less obvious is environmental awareness. Self awareness can also be helpful. Sometime self awareness impedes progress and sometimes it accelerates it. To know when to call attention to this element of training is something a skilled instructor should be aware of. The handler should develop positive self awareness as part of the training process. The last type of awareness I want to mention is awareness of the instructor or trainer. A novice dog handler will learn better if they are aware of what the instructor is doing. Some elements to pay attention to are, what direction are they facing, where are their hands, what is the foot work like? If you get the foot work right you will often be positioned to naturally do the right training moment.

In order to know when to give commands and reinforcement you need to know what your dog is doing, has done, and is going to do. How do we know when our dog is behaving, about to behave, or has behaved?

Visual awareness

Awareness of the dog trainer
Awareness of the dog trainer

We become aware of our dog’s behavior with our senses. Humans tend to be visually oriented creatures. It is for this reason that you will often hear me tell dog handlers to “watch your dog.” Sight is the first of our senses used for dog training.

Awareness of the dog trainer
Within a training lesson the client watches how I perform a technique and then they model that behavior. With some additional instruction and feedback almost everyone can learn how to effectively train their dog.

Learning to model another person’s behavior is a useful skill in its own right. I go over the basics of learning how to see what others are doing and how to model behavior within many of my training programs.

 

Auditory Awareness can you hear what your dog is doing. Can you hear it getting on the counter or kitchen cart?

Auditory awareness
For most people sight is most important but we can also hear what the dog is doing. Having good hearing can be an asset when training dogs. You can often hear that a dog is going to misbehave. The audible clues can be panting, wining, barking, a wagging tail making noise, or the sound of the dog’s tags and collar. There are more noises to be aware of, but this should give you a good idea for the sounds you need to listen for.

Awareness of touch
Touch can also give important clues to what a dog is going to do. If you are training the dog on a leash, with time you may become aware of the dog’s behavior by how the leash feels. Is it made a little tight, is it made very loose? Does it twitch a little to the right or to the left? I think of this type of awareness as an advanced leash handling skill.

Your trainer approaching an active dog
Your trainer approaching an active dog

There are other tactile clues to expand your sense of awareness. Some of these are leaning, bumping, jumping, and grabbing. It’s best if one can respond before the dog has completed the behavior (been rewarded).

The off exercise and touching drills are meant to teach the handler to have better tactile awareness. I consider both sensitivity drills.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

I mainly serve Orange County, Long Beach, the San Gabriela Valley, Los Angeles Westside, South Bay, and the LA metro area. I do training throughout Southern California and have worked dogs as far north as San Francisco and East into Arizona. I am also open to teaching abroad. I have done some training in Taiwan.

Beginning Sit and Touching Exercises Plus Fetch

First in home training class demonstrating Sit, touching drills, and beginning the Fetch or retrieve.

Wolfhound Muzzle Touch
Wolfhound Muzzle Touch

We are back with the wolfhound from Anaheim Hills in Orange County. This in home training class presented some unique challenges. I did modify some of my standard techniques, however I don’t show many of these modification in the video. I feel most people will benefit more by seeing how the drills are usually taught.

We’ll begin with the sit with food drill. I go over the sit for food drill quickly. If you need to see how I do the beginning sit drill you may need to reference some of my other videos. During the sit exercise I go over taking the food gently from the owner’s hand. Forceful grabbing of food can be a problem for many dogs and there are several ways to work through over exuberant grabbing. Since this dog was grabbing the food in a frantic and unfocused way I recommend only rewarding gentle and focused food taking.

Next in the video I go over touching exercises using food as a distraction and reward. The touching exercises are part of the foundation exercises I teach. Touching drills teach the dog to be calmer when interacting with people and they teach the dog to like being touched in ways the untrained dog may find objectionable. The touching exercises are also helpful for working through avoidance behavior. Often it’s necessary to work past avoidance before a dog will reliably come on command.

The two touching drills I cover towards the beginning of the video are the muzzle touch and the occipital ridge (top of the head) touch. I mention the shoulder touch at the end of the video.

After we work on the touch drills we go outside where we learn how touch exercise can be applied to practical everyday situations.

Wolfhound Fetch Orienting dog to retrieve / chew toy
Wolfhound Fetch Orienting dog to retrieve / chew toy

Before I work on focusing the dog to its retrieve / chew toy I go over what kind of toy I would like this dog to have.

Some dogs really like to retrieve and some don’t. You’ll see my new big dog friend in not too thrilled about chasing and getting a toy some strange human is playing with. But, there is a little interest and that’s all we need. Follow the directions, even if your dog only shows a little interest in the toy and you will have a retriever in no time.

With my in home dog training videos I always try to have a little commentary by the owners. After the owner commentary I go over the shoulder touch. The shoulder touch can be a very useful exercise for out of control, hyper dogs as well as fearful or sensitive dogs.

This video and blog post took over 10 hours to complete so if you like it at all I would greatly appreciate a G+ if you have a Google account. If you don’t use Google I also like FaceBook likes and shares as well as twitter posts. Thanks for your support.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

I mainly serve Orange County, Long Beach, the San Gabriela Valley, Los Angeles Westside, South Bay, and the LA metro area. I do training throughout Southern California and have worked dogs as far north as San Francisco and East into Arizona. I am also open to teaching abroad. I have done some training in Taiwan.

P.S.

If you leave a comment and would like to change it or have it deleted just let me know and I will take care of it as soon as I can