Tag Archives: dog training

Philosophical and Social Implications of Dog Training in Society and on Communities

I started this article for a new project I am working on. As I was writing, it occurred to me that pet owners and others may benefit from some of the information.

Let me start with a synopsis of my bio. I first started training when I was around 11 years old. In high school I was fortunate to train with William Koehler. After high school I started training dogs in Long Beach and Paramount California. I worked for several security companies and even managed one when I was around 19 or 20. I have trained police dogs and dogs for television and film. In the early 80s I started doing positive reinforcement training using food. At that time training with food was very much discouraged by most dog trainers. In the mid 80s I had a cable TV program and I have written two books.

The Benefits Of Dog Training

Showing the benefits of dog training - this Labrador Retriever is sitting nicely at the door
Showing the benefits of dog training – this Labrador Retriever is sitting nicely at the door

Dog training can teach people how to better manage behavior. While we are learning about managing our dog’s behavior we are also learning about managing behavior in general. The style of training used will orient a person towards different aspects of behavior management. A soft style of training will teach soft styles of getting behavior. A hard style will encourage a more straight to the point hard style of behavior management.

While these two styles of behavior management can be thought of as opposites, they each contain a bit of the other. I like to think of each style a bit like the concept illustrated in the yin yang symbol. Even in the black there is some white and in the white there is some black. One training style can be thought of as feminine and the other masculine. It is good to know about each style of behavior management, even if you prefer one over the other.

If you prefer the soft style of training, that’s great. For society to evolve, the soft style is probably going to be the one that leads toward survival of our species and the world. If you prefer the hard style that can be good too, others will appreciate your ability to take control and lead as well as value your effectiveness. We need to understand that we live in a culture that’s ruled by the hard style of behavior management. When navigating life we need to be aware that our culture relies on primitive and punitive rules more than on love and acceptance. I also enjoy history so let me make an observation and comparison about this in relation to the prevailing religion in the United States.

Religion controls lot of our behavior so I think it’s appropriate to mention it in this section. The moral rules that govern society are more in line with a 4th century army general = Constantinian, than the Christianity taught by Christ. While Christ could be aggressive such as when he gave exploitive bankers a thorough whipping, he was primarily an advocate and promoter of the soft style of behavior management. As world cultures continue to mature those working toward a just society need to refine and integrate soft styles of behavior management while navigating a world controlled by the hard. Training with a reinforcement oriented system can show us the way to a better world.

Responsibility

It’s every dog owner's responsibility to have their dog under control
It’s every dog owner’s responsibility to have their dog under control

As I have mentioned in my Book “Best Friends Learning Together” I think dog owners need to be more responsible that other citizens. We need to set an example and be at the forefront of keeping dogs a socially acceptable part of our culture. This is an area that encompasses the larger culture we live in as well as the micro dog cultures we inhabit. As B.F. Skinner alluded to, we all come under the control of our culture. We need to make sure there are positive dog cultures out there to support the further development of dogs and humanity.

Just as animal rights initiatives have changes social norms so too will new forms of dog training. It is very likely that rules from dog training will play an important role in the development of our nation’s cultural. The foundation for these changes were made in the 50s and 60s, but putting them into practice is easier said than done. I believe many of these practices will start in dog sub cultures, then work their way into the larger national culture. The difficult part will be for the positive dog cultures to not become the thing they want to replace. This is an interesting phenomena that occurs when groups begin to feel self righteous. It can be observed not only people but to some degree in animals too.

What behavior is essential for being a good neighbor?
One practice that makes dogs more socially acceptable and helps to safeguard the health of others is picking up after our dogs. If we expect others to accept our pets we need to be good neighbors and make sure our dogs are not a nuisance. Training your dog can also help by ensuring the dog in your care has good manners when in public. Dog training will also decreases the chance a dog will be aversive or disrupt neighbors when it is at home as well.

Dog Ownership And Public Health
Dog owners can play an important role in public health. The whole adopt from a dog pound movement was really in response to a government problem that started as a solution to a public health policy. When the government decided to remove dogs from their natural environment and impound them they created several other problems. You need to understand that caring for and housing a lot of dogs cost a lot of money. Impounded dogs also created a big public relation problem. It turns out the public was not happy with dogs being scooped up and killed in mass. To solve these problems local governments used animal rights groups to promote cost reduction spay, neuter, and adopt programs. People who are interested in animal welfare have an incentive to help the animals and local governments have a huge incentive to save money. Putting the blame of overcrowded dog pounds and the killing of impounded dogs on others has also helped solve some of their Public Relation Problems.

As a society we need to be careful with our animal control policies or we’re likely to create some undesirable long term side effects. Many of these policy changes have roughly paralleled a PR strategy to change the term dog pound to the euphemism animal shelter. But I believe a rose by any other name smells the same. Over the years it has been very interesting to watch animal control policies develop. It is also insightful to observe how other countries are addressing the same issues.

When the government’s response to animal centric health issue collided with public sentiment we saw the impact dogs can have on culture. However, I believe it’s economics more than anything that’s helping to change the dog pound system. Official policies and public sentiment both have positive and negative effects on our dog populations. Depending on future policies some of the negative effects could be very long lasting. The positive effects can also be long lasting. Hopefully the positive benefits will not be drowned out by the punitive nature of society.

Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic diseases are animal disease that can be transmitted to humans. While most people don’t think too much about these, there are some that need to be considered. There are also new diseases evolving the capacity to cross the species barrier all the time. Developing an awareness of zoonotic diseases and good animal husbandry practices plus good hygiene will allow pet owners to be part of a public health solution. There is a growing movement called the One Health Initiative that I think all people should be familiar with.

The One Health Initiative
This is the wikipedia.org definition of One Health
One Health has been defined as “the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines — working locally, nationally, and globally — to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.”

Many of the serious diseases of humanity are those that started in animals and crossed the species barrier to humans. I think one of the biggest reasons to be proactive with our animals is to make society better for both people and animals.

The single most important precautions dog owners can take to keep society safe while safeguarding their dog’s well being is to properly vaccinate their dogs.

Social And Cultural Implications of Dogs In The Community

Well behaved dogs have a cohesive effect on local communities
Well behaved dogs have a cohesive effect on local communities

Well behaved dogs have a cohesive effect on local communities. Where anti social dogs tend to have a disruptive effect on the community. This was clearly illustrated with a trip I recently took to a local park. I had a very amiable dog and another person at the park had an out of control and very aggressive dog that they could not handle. The aggressive dog made it so I had to leave the park and I’m sure other people with dogs left soon after I did. That one irresponsible dog owner disrupted the tranquility of every dog owner who was visiting the park. In fact this one out of control dog had the potential to disrupt the lives of the whole neighborhood. I’m sure it also intimidated many non dog owners too, especially those with small children. In contrast my dog was happy to see other dogs as well as people and encouraged positive social interaction with people.

As people see each other in the neighborhood on a regular basis they get to know each other. This begins to form the network that is so important for a sense of community. I would venture to say that in general people who walk their dogs on a regular basis know more of their neighbors than those who do not have dogs. Those who walk their dogs also know the neighborhood better and can tell you about the condition of the neighborhood and what kind of people live in the immediate area. We also know about safety issues, park activities, if park sprinklers are working properly (a big deal during drought in the south west) and who the homeless are and when they’re at the park. Dog walkers are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood.

Getting back to health, walking a dog has many health benefits. Walking the dog is a great way to encourage not only more social engagement within the community, but also a way to improve the health of the community. I know many people with diabetes who are suppose to do more walking. They tend to enjoy walking more if they have a well behaved dog to share the walk with.

Teaching about responsible pet ownership also improves the quality of life in a community by helping to control nuisance dog behavior and can provide guidance for long term harmony between animals and people, which ultimately impacts both public safety and public health.

By studying dogs we can get a better picture of natural systems. When we understand natural systems we will be able to make better decisions. Making good decisions about natural systems helps create well planned policies that have long range implications.

If you know about dogs you know about life!
Andrew Ledford

Dog Training Season Begins 2013

Leash Training a Pit Bull in North Orange County
Leash Training a Pit Bull in North Orange County

Families with dogs this is the beginning of the dog training season. Yes that’s right, starting today here in California and many other states we get an extra hour of daylight with the beginning of daylight saving time.

Now my evening classes will start being done with a little more light, instead of being done when it’s dark.

Yes that’s right, daylight savings time starts today. Here in California and many other states we get an extra hour of daylight. That means it will be light when people get home from work. Which means more people will be spending time with their dogs after work.

Spring is the time of the year when people spend more time outside with their dogs. When spring is in the air people are walking their dogs and taking them to the park. Don’t you think it is a good idea to spend some of that time teaching your dog a few useful skills?

Give me a call and we can start a dog training program tailored to your dog’s personality and the dynamics of your household.

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

 

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

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

 

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.

Taking Real Bone From Resource Guarding Dog

Results of an in home dog training program showing the owner taking a high value bone from the dog
Results of an in home dog training program showing the owner taking a high value bone from the dog

Don’t try this at home. This is for entertainment purposes only. If your dog shows any signs of aggression consult with an experienced dog trainer. Don’t attempt to correct aggression problems by yourself.

This is the second part to the video showing the results of training a boxer dog with low level resource guarding. We started training with low value toys. The next step was to teach the dog to let people take its rawhide bones. Finally we have reached a point where we can take a real bone from the dog.

Man Training Dog With a High value Resource - Bone
Man Training Dog With a High value Resource – Bone

In the previous post and video you got to see me taking the bone, now you’ll get to see how the dog does with its owners. I’m in the first few seconds of the video but then the owners come onto the picture.

Most of the videos I do are hopefully going to be rather mild as far as violence goes. I try to work below the threshold of aggression. Working a dog below the threshold of aggression is something I can do most of the time. Confrontations do occur, but I try to keep them to a minimum.

If you like to see growling dogs I may have a video coming soon with a bit more growling. I have not decided if I am going to post it or not. In that video the dog is growling when we first meet. More than half of that first lesson was growling. Fortunately, so far I have not had any growling while I’ve had the leash in my hands.

More video of the boxer dog giving up a high value beef bone. I’m coaching the owners as they work the dog. But this time the video is also showing the owners working the dog and taking its bone.

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

Resource Guarding Taking a Real Beef Bone From Dog

Dog Training High With a Value Resource The Real Bone
Dog Training High With a Value Resource The Real Bone

Here is a follow up blog post and video showing the results of an in home training program with the boxer dog who had low level resource guarding.

Don’t try this a home. This is for entertainment purposes only. In this video I get a quick update on how the dog is doing with dropping and giving up toys as well as things it steals.

Then the big unboxing of the beef bone. It’s really more like unwrapping. I prepare the bone for training and then it’s test time.

Dog Training Resource Guarding With The Real Bone
Dog Training Resource Guarding With The Real Bone

Will all the training we worked so hard on pay off? Will this boxer be a good boy or will he bite the hand that feeds him?

The remainder of the video is me working the dog. I will be performing several different techniques during the training lesson. The primary goal is to take the high value resource (bone) from the dog without aggressive or possessive behavior. I expect him to “react” to the command by letting me have the bone and taking the food treat. You will notice that I do use techniques other than just taking the bone to make the dog feel more secure in this type of competitive scenario.

While this is the big day and in some ways a test for how the dog is doing, it is still a training session. That is why I’m taking the bone and not the owners. Usually I’ll work the dog before I have the owner do the drills. During most training sessions you will see me handling the dog first. Don’t miss the upcoming video. The next video in the series will show the owners taking the bone from the dog. Since we are still doing training with this dog the dog is kept on leash. I explain a little about keeping the dog on its leash toward the end of the video.

Stay tuned for the next video, same dog channel (site) maybe a different dog time. This video was done in Orange County California. So far I have not established a release day or blog/video schedule. I have been doing at least one new blog post and video a week, sometimes I do more than one. It takes a considerable amount of time to do some of the edits so I can’t do too many. A five minute video and blog post can take between 5 to 20 hours to complete. It depends on how it was shot. Most of these posts + videos take a fairly long time to shoot, and edit. Writing the post is usually not that time consuming. They are short and typically highlight what the video is about.

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

Beginning Target Stick Conditioning With Clicker Video Baby Boomer Dog Handling

Target Stick Dog Training
Target Stick Dog Training

Beginning Target Stick Training Video

Using a target stick for dog training isn’t only for Baby Boomers. However, as I get a little older I find it mighty helpful for training small dogs. You may ask, helpful for what? Well when training small dogs bending over hundreds, even thousands of time a day can get tiresome. Bending in itself isn’t so bad, but moving a small dog around while bending can put extra strain on one’s back. The target stick lets you move or lure the dog without bending.

A lot of trainers see slip collars on most of the dogs in my videos and think I don’t use positive reinforcement. Well the slip collar is there for safety. A high quality slip collar is the safest collar for an urban environment.

Conditioning your dog to the target stick is most easily done using a clicker. Yes the little dog from Long Beach is back for some additional training. In the beginning part of the video I’m getting the dog to touch the stick at the very end. That is the target. I usually start this training very informally. As you will notice while the dog is on its bed. Once the dog is comfortable with touching the stick inside the house we’ll move to the backyard. The backyard training is not in the video. Then we go out into public. Training in public and around distractions adds a whole new dimension to the exercise and needs to be done at a speed that is right for the individual dog. Don’t go too fast. When transitioning to public training it’s better to over train with low level distraction than go too fast.

While I don’t usually talk a lot about clicker training I have been using a clicker before it was popular. When I first started doing clicker training they were call party crickets or party clickers. You had to buy them at toy stores. I think I still have a few of those lying around somewhere. My Labrador Retriever who was in television commercials and film was trained with a clicker. That dog was trained with an all positive approach for about the first three years I had him. We would work between two to four hours a day training new and basic behaviors.

Although I don’t call myself a clicker trainer I have developed specific techniques for handling a dog while using the clicker. I am amazed that a lot of trainers who claim to be clicker training experts have not done the same. How do I know they haven’t? Well I don’t really. However, when I work with clients who have done training with one of these clicker experts and they can’t handle the clicker and the leash or the dog at the same time, I have to wonder. Usually I will ask specifically about what kind of handling was taught, assuming they just need a prompt to remember. Often all I get is “I wasn’t taught that.”

As I mentioned Baby boomers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from using a target stick. Some sensitive dogs do better when they’re at a distance from people. For these dogs the stick can be a helpful intermediate step. The target stick is just one tool to help work thorough training problems or speed up the training process. There are some trainers who really like using a target stick and they have built whole target stick training systems. This can have some benefits. I have used different types of sticks, wands, staffs, canes, scepters, and wooden swords as training tools for years. When used with positive reinforcement and/or as positive reinforcement (something the dog likes) these tools can have a positive and dramatic impact on a dog’s behavior.

Wishing you the best in dogs and in life,

So Cal Dog training
714-827-4058

Video Remedial Sit With In Home Dog Program

Showing a dog training around distractions in the act of sitting
Showing a dog training around distractions in the act of sitting

One of the great things about in home dog training is that we can go back over previously learned skills when needed. In this video I will cover the beginning Sit using the leash and collar. While I am using a slip collar in the video you can do this with any type of collar. The technique even works with a head collar such as a gentle leader. Another advantage of a series of in home lessons is that they help reinforce previously learned material and techniques.

Hand Position For Training Dogs to Sit Using the Leash and Collar

Thought this video you will notice that distractions affect humans as well as dogs. When distractions are combined with the extra stress of working in public, performing fine grained behaviors can be more difficult. It may not seem like following directions, such as having the dog sit, would be difficult. But add some big flying bird, and the whole scenario changes.

Since timing is one of the most important parts of dog training you will notice that I repeat myself until I get the response we need. That is unless the situation has changed enough that the behavior I was targeting is no longer the best response.

From doing these videos I think I may go back to a more formal and traditional obedience training format for giving instructions to the dog handler. I think these videos are a great learning tool for everyone.

The video starts with a little information that could prevent you from injuring your dog. It then moves to leash handling and the actual technique. I have developed a step by step training system so that anyone can learn to control their dog. Even if you don’t have the best timing or coordination. If you practice and follow each step you will be able to train your dog.

Next you will see me walk the handler through doing the exercise properly. Towards the end I get a report on how the dog is doing with giving its special high value bone. You will see in this video we are still training in Irvine.

We provide training services to all of Orange County, Long Beach, and the Los Angeles metro areas including the San Gabriel Valley, South Bay, and West Side. Adaptive Dog Training™ conveniently offers customized In home training to a large portion of Southern California’s most dog friendly communities. 714-827-4058

Wishing you the best in dogs and in life