It’s wonderful to live down the block from an excellent clicker instructor who has room in her classes for your dog and plenty of time to coach you and give you advice and assistance in your training. Unfortunately very few of us live in Perfect…
We’re left on our own a lot of the time, trying to come up with our own training plans, our own goals. Is there any sport in the world where coaching is held in less esteem?
These Levels are written for those who want a coherent training plan. They aren’t aimed at obedience competition, or agility, or tracking, or any other particular sport or job. They’re aimed at producing a dog who is a willing partner, eager to learn, happy to work, and having the basic civilization necessary to allow her the access she needs to do her job and to allow you the confidence to enjoy being and working with her.
In order to compete in obedience trials, a dog must learn to reliably sit, stand, down, stay in all those positions for varying lengths of time, heel, and come. In order to compete in agility, a dog must learn to weave, jump, go through tunnels, walk the dogwalk and the teeter. Herding, tracking, drafting, Rally-O, schutzhund, conformation, water trials, flyball and scent hurdle races, retriever trials, sledding, freestyle – every dogsport has its own set of required skills. Yet as I attend competitions, training sessions and practise matches, I see again and again that the true failures trainers and dogs have in these competitions is NOT so much in the skills written down in the rules for that sport, but in the unspoken skills.
Dogs arrive at the competition already exhausted from the car ride. They go all weekend without relieving themselves. They lunge and snap at other dogs. They cower from loud and unusual noises. They whine and fuss in their crates. They wander off in the middle of their performance to visit other dogs, people or bushes. They mat dive for lost treats. They pretend to do the work but without any thought of teamwork. Or they perform brilliantly outside the ring and lose their minds completely once they cross the threshold. Trainers and dogs go home frustrated and annoyed.
The “secret information” these trainers are lacking is this: a great competition dog requires THE SAME skills as a great pet. How far a trainer goes toward perfecting those behaviours is entirely up to him. Obviously a household pet doesn’t require the same degree of training as a Service Dog. Getting a first-level obedience title will not require the same amount of training as making the National Finals in agility. The BASIC skills, however, are exactly the same, and that’s what this book is about.
When you’ve completed Level One, you are starting to see that you can communicate with your dog.
A Level Three dog has most of the skills he’ll need to make a great pet. More to the point, you’ll have the skills you need to teach him any further skills specific to your own household.
By Level Five, you and your dog are really communicating and already have most of your travelling and public skills as well as many of the behaviours which lead directly into specific skills required for specific sports. You’ve done a lot of work on attention, teamwork, and duration of behaviours.
Level Six and Seven – well, now you’re getting into elite competition and public access dogs. I’m confident that a Level Six dog is a month away from virtually ANY first-level competition title, because she has ALL the unwritten behaviours and many of the written ones down pat. That month is for teaching skills specific to the competition, but the important skills of concentration, teamwork, willingness and ability to learn, looking for results, and understanding that to get what she wants she must figure out what you want and give it to you – these skills are already firmly installed.
I don’t take that “one month from a title” statement lightly. I’ve done a lot of testing on it. Giant Schnauzers are large, passionate, German working dogs. Giant Schnauzer people tend to call them “stubborn” and talk a lot about “staying on top of them”, so they’re naturally skeptical of clicker training. At American Nationals they have “Games Day” where everyone brings their sport equipment and everybody gets to try it. I arrived with a 6-year-old Level Seven bitch (Song) for a seminar I was booked to give, which practically nobody had signed up for (“Cookie pushing doesn’t work on Giants, you have to stay on top of them!”). At Games Day, I showed her a flyball box. I clicked her for targeting the box with her paw. I clicked her for targeting the box with her paw and tossed a ball at her as a reward. I told her she had to go over a jump to target the box, the ball would jump out of the box, and then she had to bring the ball back to me over the jump in order to get to do it again. Then two jumps, then three, then four. I taught her flyball in one 6-minute session. At this point, people who competed in flyball started asking me what team she was on and how many titles she had. Was she as well trained as a dog with flyball titles? Of course not. She’d need a lot of practise to get really good at it. But at that point, she could have run on a team and done the job. Six minutes.
Then we moved on to the carts. This took longer. We worked for half an hour on the cart. At the end of that time, she could do everything she needed to do except for two specific skills: confidently starting a heavy load, and turning the sulky by sidestepping to the right. And she had a start on those. Half an hour. Last year I taught my Level Six Portuguese Water Dog (Scuba) to do the first-level Drafting Test in a week of light work. (Bear in mind, conditioning is another story).
Then we went to a field covered with large Rubbermaid containers for people to hide in for the dogs to find. After ten minutes, the person in charge of the field said “Sue, if you’re going to tell people she doesn’t do Search & Rescue or tracking, try to make it look like she doesn’t know how to do them, OK?” Ten minutes.
At the end of the day, the seminar was booked solid.
Last summer Scuba earned the first-level herding title (TITLE, not Instinct Test) in three weeks.
Why are these things possible? Simply because the dog already knows we’re a team. Already WANTS to learn new things. Already understands self-control. And is comfortable with strange dogs, strange people, strange equipment, and strange situations.
I’ve chosen these behaviours as the important steps in making a dog a partner and team member. At later levels, the trainer can begin choosing specific channels leading to his own particular sports interests or, like me, work on them all to give the dog the greatest versatility:
1. Come. From running back and forth between two people, to coming through other dogs and people, to formal Recalls.
2. Contacts. An agility skill with applications in many areas. You can stop the dog where you want, when you want.
3. Crate. The dog learns to be confined at home, in the car, at the vet. To enter the crate willingly and stay in it – calm, quiet, and relaxed.
4. Distance. The dog learns to respond to cues near you AND away from you.
6. Down-Stay. In sight, out of sight, confidently, quietly.
7. Finish. Lateral movements for carting, obedience, agility. To return to Heel position from anywhere.
9. Go To Mat. Anchor the dog in a place anywhere so you can do what you need to do with the dog quietly and confidently out of the way.
10. Handling. Manipulate the dog’s body in any way, cut toenails, groom, repair.
11. Heel. Total concentration and total position control.
12. Homework. Various questions to give the trainer a good grounding in the theory behind the training.
13 & 14. High and Broad Jumps. What sports DON’T require confident, clean, enthusiastic jumping?
15. Leash. I’d call Loose Leash Walking the hardest thing we’ll ever teach a dog!
16. On The Road. Concentrating on training all behaviours in strange places two Levels below the current Level ensures the dog is able to perform in many locations, and ensures the handler understands that “He does it at home” is NOT a reliable indicator that he can do it elsewhere!
17. Retrieve. My personal indicator of true communication between a dog and person. A TRAINED retrieve of any article.
18. Scenting. Add a little fun and amazement to your training schedule.
23. Target. With paw and with nose, targeting is the basis of hundreds of behaviours and an easy way to lure many others.
24. Trick. I use tricks to explain the various ways there are to get behaviour, to teach the dog and trainer to be creative, and to remind the trainer of why he got a dog in the first place.
25. Watch. A concentration and duration behaviour, difficult and important.
26. Zen. The more the dog wants something, the harder he has to think about giving the trainer what HE wants. A perfect explanation of life and training!
The rest is up to you. Let’s clear up a few points and then get started.
The Levels are an example of “splitting”. All the general things a dog needs to know are split into specific behaviours (like Sit and Target), and then split further into small chunks that, barring specific behavioural problems or disabilities, can be taught in a couple of weeks or months. The Levels are designed to give dogs and handlers a clear path to follow, a reminder of things that might be neglected in training, and a good cross-section of necessary skills. Each behaviour starts easy, and gets more and more difficult as the team progresses through the Levels. Skill is based on skill, proficiency on proficiency.
How long it takes each individual dog and trainer to get through a Level from scratch will depend on many things – the skill and experience of the trainer, the amount of time spent daily or weekly (or monthly) in actual training, whether time must be spent overcoming problems such as a lack of interest in food or previous training that the dog may have. When I designed the Levels, I was thinking that the average trainer and dog could average them out to about a Level every two to three months. My puppy and I, starting from scratch, have finished Level Three at five months of age (three months of training), but that was averaging about 8 hours a week of actual training time, and Level Four is going to take us longer than that. On the other hand, I have a student who is working through the Levels casually, when he feels like it. He’s been working on Level Three for over a year now.
There are three useful ways to get behaviour.
WAITING: Dogs don’t sleep standing up. Even the most active puppy eventually lies down. Click it when it happens. Advantage – totally easy for the trainer and the only way to get behaviours like shaking and sneezing. Disadvantage – not useful for behaviours the dog doesn’t naturally do. Tip – set yourself up for success. A wet dog is more likely to shake than a dry dog.
LURING: Use a treat or a trained target to move the dog’s head to get the behaviour you want. Nose is lured up, tail goes down, voila, sit! Advantage – also easy for trainer and dog, the fastest way to get many behaviours, and most lures produce an automatic hand signal for the behaviour. Disadvantage – if you use the lure too often, the dog will not perform the behaviour without seeing the treat. Also gives the dog the option of deciding the behaviour isn’t worth the treat – such as going in a crate. Tip – get rid of the lure as quickly as you can.
SHAPING: break the behaviour down into its tiniest parts and reward the dog for finding each part. Advantage – allows you to get behaviours you couldn’t possibly get any other way, teaches dog and trainer to be creative, overcomes fear or reluctance by asking for tiny steps instead of huge lumps – “I’m not asking you to get in the crate, I’m only asking you to LOOK at the crate… ” Disadvantage – tough to get started without someone to show you how. Requires the trainer to actually think. Tip: in the beginning, write out a list of at least ten steps for each behaviour, and if you haven’t shaped a behaviour before, start with something that isn’t important to you (get the dog to roll over, or spin, rather than heeling or weave poles) so you can get frustrated but not hysterical.
In actual training, these three methods are rarely isolated. Training involves the artful combination of all three methods into an explanation your dog can easily understand.
QUIET HANDS, QUIET BODIES, QUIET MOUTHS
When a good dressage rider goes through her routine with her horse, she appears to be doing nothing. Her hands barely move, her body barely moves, and any words she says are whispered. This is the ideal for dog trainers as well – quiet hands, quiet bodies, and quiet mouths. Concentrate on what your hands, body, and voice are saying to the dog. He’ll learn faster and easier when he’s not distracted by extraneous motion and noise.
CLICK EQUALS TREAT
The click tells the dog that she did what you wanted. You go to work, at the end of the week you get paid. The dog goes to work, when she hears the click, SHE gets paid. EVERY CLICK IS FOLLOWED BY A TREAT. Click MEANS treat. It doesn’t have to always be a food treat – it could be a toy, a good cuddle, a tug, a door opening, or anything else she wants. For ease of delivery and developing a flow of training, though, food will be your primary “weapon”.
Another important part of clicker training is that THE CLICK ENDS THE BEHAVIOUR. If you’re asking for a 10-second SitStay and you click at the end of ten seconds, THE BEHAVIOUR IS OVER. If the dog stays where she is while you deliver the treat to her, that’s fine, but if she gets up and comes to you to get it, that’s fine too. If you want to work on returning around behind her to heel position, you’ll be clicking when you’re behind her, or not until you’re back in position. The click ends the behaviour.
80% RIGHT or TEN TIMES RIGHT, ONE TIME WRONG, or 300-PECK DURATIONS
t’s not easy to decide when to ask the dog for more. She’s doing a 5-second DownStay – hurray, who would have imagined this little bumblebee of a puppy would EVER actually stay in one spot for 5 seconds? But now what? Do you go on practicing 5-second Stays forever, or what?
There are three ways to measure success. The first is from the Baileys. When you’ve got 80% success, ask for more. So if you practise ten 5-second DownStays and she gets 6 of them right, that’s only 60%. You need to practise more at that level (or less if it’s really ugly). When she gets 9 right, that’s 90%, you can move on to a 6-second Down-Stay.
The second is mine. When she can give you ten right, you can risk letting her get one wrong. So, when she gives you a 5-second DownStay ten times, you can push the envelope and ask for 6 seconds. In reality, this is pretty much like Baileys’ because most people wind up doing eight instead of ten anyway.
The third is a variation of Alex Kurland’s. I think I like this one best. It’s generally referred to as “300 Peck Heeling” (or 300 Peck Stays, or whatever). Starting from scratch, ask for a 1-second DownStay. C/t. Then 2 seconds. Then 3 seconds. Then 4 seconds. Then 5 seconds. Then 6 seconds. Then 7 oops, she broke. GO BACK TO ONE SECOND, start again and build back up. The dog herself will tell you where her threshold of understanding is, and when she’s moved it. And if you think about it, this is really the same as the other two. When you’re working on a 10-second DownStay, you’ll be doing ten c/t before you ask for 11. And when you get up to times when going up in one-second intervals isn’t necessary (352 seconds, 353 seconds… ) you can start increasing in 5 or 10 second intervals. Let the dog tell you when.
Dogs are superstitious animals. They watch very carefully for one thing to predict another. The sound of the refrigerator opening predicts food. The sound of the car pulling into the driveway predicts the owner entering the house. They learn predictors that we’re not even aware of giving. When I’m getting ready to go out my dog has no obvious way of telling whether I’m planning on taking her with me or not, but if I’m taking her, she’ll be jumping and wagging around the door, and if I’m leaving her behind, she’ll be ready to get in her crate.
No wonder, then, that they learn cues no matter how sloppy we are when explaining them.
For our purposes, though, the dog will learn more accurate responses to your cues if you introduce them correctly.
When you first explain a behaviour, say nothing. Let the dog concentrate on learning what you want. Get the behaviour first. Then wait for the dog to offer you the behaviour on her own. Once you can predict that you’ll get the behaviour you want, just the way you want it, you can start using it WHEN THE DOG IS GIVING YOU THE BEHAVIOUR. You’re not using the word to tell the dog to do something, you’re merely saying the word so she can associate the word with the behaviour she’s offering you. Do that enough times, then test her understanding by saying the word and see how she responds. If she hears the word and gives you the behaviour (“Wait, wait, ‘Sit’ means fold up my back legs, right?”), great, click and treat. If she hears the word and does nothing or gives you a different behaviour, go back to pairing the word with the offered behaviour for another few days.
And of course, once you have the cue attached to the behaviour you want, use the cue to get the behaviour. If you use the cue and DO NOT get the behaviour – well, in my book, once is a fluke. Twice is a problem. When you find yourself repeating a cue, or you cue a behaviour and get something else or something even slightly not-right, STOP USING THE CUE! Go back, retrain the behaviour, reattach the cue, and go on from there.
No matter what the problem you’re having is, there are three areas to look at to find a solution.
The first is Criteria. Criteria is what you’re expecting from the dog. Poor trainers ask for a lot in one lump. For some reason, this is called “lumping”. Lumpers look for a complete, perfect behaviour from the beginning. They want to tell a dog to stay, toss a dumbell across the room, tell him to get it, have him bring it back and sit perfectly straight in front of them, hand it to them, then return on command to heel position. That’s a big lump. And if something goes wrong with part of that lump, it’s very difficult to fix it, buried as it is in the middle of the lump.
Great trainers, on the other hand, split behaviours into tiny bits (surprisingly, this is called “splitting”). There’s no problem correcting a poor dumbell pickup if picking it up has been taught in six small stages. Simply identify which of the six stages has the problem and retrain it the way you want it.
So lumping is one major problem in the Criteria department. Another is forgetting exactly what your criteria was. Sure, you can change your mind about what you want when you see what you THOUGHT you wanted isn’t going to work. And if you don’t care how she holds the dumbell, that’s fine too. But if you DO care and you’re clicking the dog for holding the dumbell in her molars one day, behind her canines the next day, and between her incisorsgthe next day, you’re not going to get any consistent behaviour from the dog.
When you have a problem – or, preferably BEFORE you have a problem – why not write down your training splits for each behaviour, and exactly what your criteria is for each small split?
The second problem area to examine is Rate of Reinforcement. Effective trainers give information to dogs at a rate up to five times faster than less effective trainers. Sophisticated clicker-trained dogs can work for several minutes at a time with no further information from their trainers, but even clicker-savvy dogs will quit if they aren’t getting enough reinforcement.
Beginner dogs don’t have the stamina of their more advanced sisters and are frequently labeled “stubborn” or “bored”. In reality, these dogs just need more information. In the first stages of training, a dog should be getting clicked at LEAST every couple of seconds. A dog that can’t seem to focus on the training can frequently be brought back by ten or twenty treats given, one at a time, as fast as the trainer can hand them over. This is called Rapid-Fire Reinforcement. Sometimes you can almost hear the dog saying “Oh! THIS is more like it! There IS a reason to play this game!”
And finally, to solve a problem, look at your Timing. If you’re getting behaviour that follows or precedes the behaviour you really wanted, you probably aren’t hitting the correct behaviour with the click.
TESTING THE LEVELS
Take the Levels as seriously as you want to. If you’re looking for suggestions of new things to teach your dog, that’s your choice. If you want to sort of play along, that’s fine too. If you want to use the Levels as a plan for training your dog, I have some hints about passing the Levels.
If you have a friend to help you, or training buddies, ask your buddy to “judge” you and your dog as you challenge each behaviour. That way you’ll both get used to performing in front of other people. If you don’t have a friend you can borrow, you can test the dog yourself on most of the behaviours, especially in the early Levels. Don’t cheat though! The dog will need to be competent in early behaviours to be able to do well in later ones. For my own dogs, I don’t count them passing a behaviour until they can give me that behaviour “cold” on a day when we haven’t been training it.
All behaviours in a Level don’t have to be passed at one time. Test your dog for each behaviour as he’s ready for them. In fact, you can challenge any behaviour at any Level at any time, you don’t have to pass all the Level One behaviours before testing a Level Two behaviour. Remember, though, that the purpose of the Levels is to show you where there might be holes in your training, so if you skip a behaviour, be sure to go back and pick it up before you get too far beyond it in other areas.
Print out a checklist. I printed a list of all the behaviours at each Level with a very short note about how to perform each one, laminated it, and put it on a string so I can hang it around my neck with my clicker so I know what I need to practise.
BLUE AND RED – FOODLESS BEHAVIOURS AND OPTIONAL BEHAVIOURS
Some behaviours are printed in blue. These must be tested with no food or clicker (or toys) on you, on the table, or anywhere in the room, ring, or testing area. Why? Because nobody wants to spend their entire lives walking around with a pocketful of dog food. Because you can’t take food into trials. No matter what future is in store for the dog, she needs to perform without the lure of food or treats in front of her. We have to build faith into her – faith that she WILL be rewarded, whether or not she can see or smell the reward when she’s asked to do the behaviour. So the “blue behaviours” start early – in Level 2 we’re already asking her for some of that faith.
Behaviours printed in red are optional. Different trainers have different goals for their dogs. Some trainers (especially trainers in the early stages of crossing over from traditional training to clicker training) are leery of teaching a conformation dog to Sit, or to Watch while moving. A trainer might not want a very young, very old, or “otherwise enabled” dog to jump, or see any future use for scent discrimination. At each Level from 3 on, there are optional behaviours. In Level 3, there are eight optional behaviours. To pass the Level, the dog must test out four of them. In Level 4, he must also pass 4 of the 8 optionals. In Level 5, 8 out of 11. In Level 6, 8 of 16, and in Level 7, 10 of 16 must be passed to earn the Level. Before you get too far into Level Three, it would be a good idea to read through the rest of the Levels and mark which optional behaviours you want to work on, as behaviours at more advanced Levels will usually depend on the foundations you’ve laid in earlier Levels. For myself, my dogs and I will be working through ALL the behaviours in all the Levels – I want them to be as versatile and knowledgeable as possible.
A GREAT DOG-BALANCING GAME – MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE
Get enough people to sit on chairs in a circle so that the circle is closed – that is, once the dog is in the circle, she can’t get out again. A class is a good number of people to play with. OR you could play with fewer people if you had a corner or exercise pen panels to block parts of the circle for you. Everyone has good treats, and the trainer sits in the circle with the other people.
Now, this game is played in two different ways, depending on the wishes of the trainer on any particular day. The object of the game is to balance the dog. Shy dogs, stand-offish dogs, and dogs who are reluctant to meet and greet other people play one way. Bold dogs, gladhanders, and dogs who ignore their trainers to go visiting play another way.
For shy dogs, everyone but the trainer feeds the dog. Sometimes we have to start playing the game with everyone averting their eyes and holding out one open hand with a treat on it. sometimes we have to drop treats on the floor near the dog to get her started. Her trainer doesn’t feed her, but can say hello when she stops by. The others can call her or not call her, depending on how she’s reacting. Eventually, people can put one hand out so the shy dog has to touch the hand to get food from the other hand, but no one is trying to catch her. This is a totally positive experience for the dog and by the second or third time she plays, she should be clamouring to get into the circle. She’s being balanced toward being more calm, relaxed, and friendly.
For the gladhanders, the game is played the opposite way. Everyone has treats, but no one will give any to the dog. The whole circle plays hand Zen with her except her trainer. No one will reward her in any way. No one will talk to her, look at her, or pet her. If she puts her paws up on someone, they’ll stand up or turn away. Zero interaction when she’s talking to a person. The OTHER people, however, are all trying to get her to come to them, calling “Here, doggy, doggy” and “Doggy want a cookie?” snapping fingers and whistling (don’t call her name, please, that’s not fair). But when she gets to them, they totally shut down. Sooner or later, probably by accident, she arrives back in front of her trainer who gives her five treats in a row, one at a time, then waves his hands and tells her to “Go on, go play”. At this cue, the others in the circle start calling her again. And pretty soon, the gladdest hand in the litter won’t leave dad for any money! You can also play floor Zen with everybody putting their foot on a treat.
One of the many things I like about this game is that it convinces the dog that people may be completely useless without convincing her that people are mean or scary.
Play this for a few minutes before the start of every weekly class or get-together. After a few weeks, which game you play will be based on the attitude of the dog on that particular day, and you’ll know, at that point, that the dog is well and truly balanced.
IN THE GAME
Being “in the game” is a way of describing the absolute FIRST thing you MUST have before you train or work your dog in ANY situation. It’s the bottom line. I offer, for instance, two people, each working a dog in agility. One dog isn’t sure how to do weave poles but is paying attention to the situation and trying hard to figure out what the trainer wants. The other dog knows how to do weave poles perfectly but keeps wandering off to visit the sidelines. Which dog do I want to be working?
*I* want to be working the one that’s in the game, even if he doesn’t know anything about what he’s supposed to be doing.
So many people get hung up in being upset because the dog is “refusing” to do the weaves, or “blowing off” the weaves, when what they need to do is get back to the bottom line. The weaves are nothing if the dog isn’t in the game.
Right. BUT. How to get a puppy in the game? I know people who start their puppies in the bathroom, where there are no distractions. No matter where you’re working, take great care to control the opportunities to do anything else. Then set yourself up for success so that the dog is going to be desperate to work. By this I mean work when the dog is hungry. Make sure she doesn’t have to go outside. Use at the very least her dinner, better yet, throw in an occasional bit of hot dog or roast. Or, with a Terrier, maybe one time in five or ten, you might hand her a real fur tug toy and play tug with her for a minute as a reward.
If you’re working with a hungry pup who’s expecting her dinner, and she wanders off to do something else, you can cancel the whole session and walk away yourself – taking her meal with you, of course. Then give her nothing until the next scheduled meal, when you start asking her to work again.
Notice when you’re working – is she really attentive for five minutes, then has trouble? Maybe YOU’RE slowing down your rate of reinforcement. When Stitch was 4 months old, the first few minutes of a meal, she was almost frantic to work, she was so hungry. During those minutes, she worked much better if I handed her three or four kibbles instead of one per click. Once her stomach realized it was actually getting fed, I could slow down and give her less. Other dogs might work for little to start with and then need more and more to keep them working. If I was working a dog whose interest grew less as we worked, I’d probably work with the first half of the meal, then jackpot a really good behaviour with the rest of the meal so I’m never working her when she’s lackadaisical.
If “in the game” is what you’re thinking of every time, all the time, when you work the pup, the pup’s body and mind will start getting in the game every time you start working. After awhile, it’ll become natural to both of you, but only if you keep it as the first and most important thing you ever teach the dog. And the more you practise it, the more natural it becomes.
Honestly, I just grit my teeth when I see people trying to do agility (or anything else with a dog) with the dog wandering around sniffing and visiting. These people may have been working agility, but they haven’t been working the DOG.
YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK!
Every time you give your dog a reward for a behaviour, you’re “banking” the behaviour. Think of putting a penny in a jar every time you give the dog a treat. Call the dog, she comes, a treat for her and a penny in the jar. She comes 100 times, you’ve given her a 100 treats for coming, and you’ve got 100 pennies in the jar. Let’s say that to your dog, coming is worth a nickel. Every time you call your dog and DON’T give her a treat, you’re spending a nickel out of your “come jar”. When you run out of money in the jar, you don’t get the behaviour any more. Dogs will work gladly on what you’ve banked, but they don’t work much on credit.
Each behaviour has a different value to each individual dog. To my dog, picking something up and giving it to me is a cheap behaviour. She likes to retrieve, it makes her feel good, and she’ll sell me retrieves 3 for a penny or 50 for a dime. Going in her crate, though, is an expensive behaviour. She’s a service dog, she’s supposed to be with me all the time. She’s USED to being with me all the time. Going in a crate and then having to listen to me round up my coat and the car keys is just plain insulting. Going in a crate is a 50-cent behaviour and I BETTER have 50 pennies in the jar before I ever THINK about putting her in that crate without a treat, or there’s gonna be trouble tomorrow!
WHAT ABOUT CRATE TRAINING?
Crate Training (teaching the pup to be happy and comfortable in a kennel) is in the Levels, starting at Level 2. In general, it’s best to go through the behaviours one Level at a time – that is, teach all the Level 1 behaviours, then move on to Level 2. This is because there are behaviours in each Level which complement and support each other so everything you teach supports other things that you’re teaching.
The crate, however, is a special circumstance. The purpose of the crate is to keep the pup secure and the house safe when you can’t supervise. Turning a new dog loose in your house when you’re not there (or not watching every second) is like leaving a toddler loose in your house when you’re gone. Or an untrained teenager.
I’d first suggest trying to find an alternative to putting the pup in a crate – the laundry room, perhaps, or an exercise pen. If that’s not possible, please train rapidly through the Crate behaviours in all the Levels without waiting for the rest of the behaviours at each Level. Above all, do NOT stuff the puppy in the crate and let her scream.
The first Training Levels were written for my competition students “back in the day” They’re here on this website, but they’re twenty years old and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking – and writing – since then.
The NEW Training Levels books are available now – click here.