Need new training ideas

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Herpaderp-apotam- us
Barked: Thu Feb 28, '13 5:17pm PST 
I'm a little embarrassed to be asking for help but you guys always give such great advice so here it goes:

I run group training classes at a local store. In this particular class I have two long time students - one has taken at least a dozen classes with me, the other maybe half as many. There are two other dogs in the class that have previously taken one class with me. This is an advanced adult class.

I have run out of ideas for things to teach them. I feel like we've covered all the basic commands, a fair number of tricks and we've done a lot of proofing for all of them. I'm hoping you guys can shoot me some ideas for what to possibly teach them next. A couple things to consider:

- They're all small dogs, if that matters
- Two are extremely quick learners. The other two are smart but very nervous and shy.
- Likewise, I have two types of owners: two who seem to "get" the training very quickly and are much more into shaping, marker training and being patient for results. The other two get impatient easily and will try and push the dog into a sit if it takes them too long to respond (even though I've chastised them a number of times for doing so).

So, any ideas? I'm open to anything: tricks, commands, anything. Like I said, I feel a bit embarrassed asking for advice since I'm supposed to be the trainer, but I'm truly out of ideas.

The Monster
Barked: Fri Mar 1, '13 5:28am PST 
You can start teaching more advanced tricks or teaching them the basics of a sport like Rally. I find people really enjoy starting into Rally, and it's a great introduction into dog sports in general. You can also consider teaching some nosework behaviour. Teach cues to be understood entirely on verbal, entirely via signal, when the handler's back is turned, when the dog is across the room, etc.

Again, I'd probably print out the CARO or APDT Rally signs, teach each individually, talk about how the sport is meant to flow, then start chaining stations together. Eventually you can be setting up entire courses for them, grading them on their performance, etc.

We'll also bring out puppy agility equipment when we have a more advanced class. We may shape the dog to take a jump, or introduce it to targeting with nose/paw, introduce it to a wobble board, etc.

Also, teach shaping in general. It's a fantastic skill for a dog to have, and most people haven't given it a try. Start out with 101 Things To Do With A Box.

Lenny -The- Wrecking Ball
Barked: Fri Mar 1, '13 5:12pm PST 
I was going to suggest Rally related things as well as introduction to some agility equipment if tricks aren't really what you're looking for (tricks are endless). smile

You can also ask your students for ideas, maybe they have something they've always wondered how to break down and teach their dog but could never really figure it out. Maybe think of a couple things on your own and then have them suggest/decide on one thing to add. I think that could really add a cool aspect to an advanced class.


Herpaderp-apotam- us
Barked: Sat Mar 2, '13 5:56pm PST 
Thanks for the suggestions guys!

I did agility stuff last week and the dogs had a lot of fun on it. I actually don't know that much about Rally, so I'll have to do a bit of reading up on it first, but I think that's a fabulous idea.

Noms for the- pug...
Barked: Sat Mar 2, '13 10:07pm PST 
When I taught advanced classes, we did a lot of the rally and agility stuff too. Those are great ideas and people can have a lot of fun with them.

We also tried to do games that got the students more involved. One of my favorites was a version of Simon Says. We would go around the room. The first student would choose a behavior that could be done quickly (sit for example) and ask their dog to do it. The second student would ask their dog to do the first behavior (sit) and then add another behavior (let's say down). The third student had to ask their dog to sit and down and then come up with a third behavior (maybe stay while they walked to the end of the leash and returned). And so on. Depending on the size of the class, we might go around the room 2 or 3 times until it reached the point where people couldn't come up with anything new or we started forgetting the chain. I think I like this exercise so much because as a trainer it gave me a breather but it also made the students think which is something they need to do outside of class anyway.

One interesting thing I've seen done is heel or loose leash walking on a streamer. The leash would still be attached for safety but the owner would actually walk their dogs around the room using only the streamer. The goal being not to break the fragile paper streamer.

Another thing that the daytime instructor often did was take the dogs out around the block for real world practice. This would depend on where you teach and a lot of other factors. I could never do it because I was the evening trainer and I didn't like the idea of walking around downtown after dark. But during the day, the trainer would take all the dogs out for a walk downtown, passing cars and people and whatever happened to come their way. It gave the students a chance to practice outside of the classroom setting that their dogs had become really familiar with by that time.

Let's play tug!!
Barked: Tue Mar 5, '13 11:09pm PST 
If none of the dogs are reactive, what about switching around the dogs and the owners? You could start with something easy, like name conditioning or voice conditioning, where the owners are just talking and feeding treats, to build some relationship. I think it could be very educational for the impatient ones to see the patient ones getting (probably) quicker results and (certainly) better retention. Have you freeshaped a behavior in front of the class? I think watching the instructor in general is very worthwhile. I had read a lot of dog books and done a lot of training on my own before we took a class, but I learned a lot from watching our teacher. One thing that jumped out at me was that the teacher unconsciously always used a 4-part command: attention-getting noise (ex. cluck or kissy noise), name call, voice command, and finally hand signal. That combination seems to be almost 100% effective in moderately distracting environments.

Freeshaping with Smokey was a steep learning curve for me. At first, he would get frustrated or overwhelmed really quickly and walk away or sit and stare at me. I had to get a quieter clicker (iClick), sit instead of standing, make my body language open and relaxed, start using a light, happy "try again" as my no reward marker, and start using a lot of calming signals. I find that yawning or licking my lips is very effective in relaxing him and getting him back on track when when he's missed several prompts in a row. Do you think any of that would help your nervous pups?

Have you worked on fetch at all? Some things to try: running away while calling the dog once he has the ball (sometimes works, sometimes dog drops the ball or ignores), trading a treat for the ball, and/or backchaining the retrieve, possibly starting with a lower value object than a ball, so that it's interesting only for the bounty on its head and the dog isn't tempted to play keepaway. There's a good birddog video floating around; I'll dig it up if you like. Not to overstate things, but a really solid fetch can change a dog's life, because a lot of owners are too lazy to exercise the dog if it means they have to exercise.