Workout Wednesday -Pre-Christmas trick practice
Puppies love interacting with us and feeling part of the pack. As long as we set the rules and consistently kept up the rules, our puppies will have healthy and happy lives with us.
Part of playing together is creating new and fun ways to enjoy the human-doggie bond.
With Jaxon, I have the best time just ‘mucking about’ doing tricks. Now a doggie knows that if they perform, more than likely they will be rewarded. Tricks are a great way to show off your dog’s special skills – especially at Christmas time.
If you can teach your puppy a few tricks, they are guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
As always, I break up any training I do over ten minutes a day -or five minutes at each end of the day around meal times.
At the moment we’re practicing all of our tricks to go and visit the family in country Victoria. With four young kids to please and countless adults, Jaxon will be working hard for Christmas treats.
Our special crowd pleasers are ‘roll over’, ‘speak’, and ‘sneeze’. Yes, that’s right – sneeze!
Jaxon is a small and bossy pup. When he was younger, he loved to be in control. Sometimes when I asked him to do something he would ‘huff’ at me. I learnt from a great instructor that it’s important to get your pup working positively with you, and that means turning negative behaviours into positive ones.
Sounds simple enough, but the trick to capturing a behaviour and turning it around is, like anything else in your pup’s training, down to great timing and positive reinforcement.
I often use a clicker in training at home as it helps me to accurately mark a good behaviour. Once reinforced, your puppy will soon know there is a treat following that click sound. You can also mark with a word like ‘Yes’, which effectively does the same thing.
So, I was getting to the point where working with Jaxon was throwing out a lot of huffing. He was effectively blowing me off. All that changed when the clicker came out.
Putting him in a down, stay, I waited patiently for the first huff. As soon as it arrived, I clicked and rewarded. Now this really spun Jaxon around.
All of a sudden, he was being rewarded for something he knew I disliked.
I waited again. Sure enough the huff came, swiftly followed by my click and reward.
This is when I could really see Jaxon thinking about what was happening. A third and fourth time, and Jaxon connected that ‘huff’ was a getting him a treat.
At this point, when the dog connects the behaviour, you keep moving forward.
Over the course of a week, I followed the usual method of reinforcing and building on good behaviour. Morning and night we slowly built on the trick.
First adding the Yes in with the click.
Then we added the signal – I use my left hand and point to my nose.
Finally I added the word ‘Sneeze’ as the last step.
Every time, marking and rewarding the correct behaviour.
Sometimes Jaxon will try a bark instead (probably because I taught him speak, which maybe sounds like sneeze?). In the cases when he gets it wrong, I let him fail and say ‘uh-oh’, then try again. The next time he gets it right, he gets a jackpot.
The final step is phasing out the treat. You start to treat the dog once every few times rather than every single time.
I’m pretty proud of that trick with Jaxon, and most pleased that I was able to turn a negative into a fun and positive trick for others to enjoy as well.
Jaxon’s rewards will come Christmas day, when he can sneeze for his supper (singing is next on the list but we may need lessons from our mate Roy!)