|Barked: Sun Jan 20, '13 11:52pm PST |
|My service dog is force free trained, as are all the other dogs I train. Basically, you need to focus on being a really good teacher so your dog knows what you want and doing what you want pays off more than anything else possibly could so the dog participates in your training all of their own free will because you've given direction and because it's an enjoyable process.
So I reinforce desirable behaviors. With undesirable behaviors, I remove reinforcement for them or I redirect the dog to an alternative behavior. I don't use corporal punishment or intimidation.
Problem: Dog pulling on leash outside the home.
A solution: Practice heel in the quiet house until it's a default behavior. Then slowly raise criteria for the dog so you're setting them up for success. Practice heel when your house is noisy and busy until that's down pat. Then move to outside in the yard. Then a five minute walk on the sidewalk when no one else is likely to be around. Then a five minute walk on the sidewalk when other people and dogs are out and about. Then a ten minute walk. Go from there. It's all about achieving behaviors in steps so your dog is set up for success instead of setting them up for failure and having to issue corrections.
Problem: Dog gets excited and jumps on you during play.
A solution: Reward the dog for having all four feet on the floor and slowly get them excited in increments so they can retain self control and keep all four feet on the floor.
Problem: Dog barks and lunges at other dogs on leash.
A solution: Counter condition the dog to other dogs while on leash so the dog loses their negative association towards other dogs.
It's basically a reward system. I have a Facebook group called "Force Free Service Dogs" if you'd like to learn more and see video examples.
It's really worth it. Not only is it an incredible feeling you get when you know that you're doing such a good job training and the dog works with you instead of against you, but the dog will often offer more behaviors because they don't fear repercussions for possibly doing the wrong thing. Ginger comes up with new tasks all the time all on her own and all I have to do is reinforce them. Less work for me. The beauty of it is that when properly executed, the dog often will only offer desirable behaviors because you teach them the skills they need to make the right decisions and on the odd occasion they offer an undesirable behavior, it's so easily phased out when you don't reinforce it or ask for something else instead. But since this kind of training teaches the dog a way to make intelligent choices, you'll often have intelligent disobedience in life threatening situations.
One time Ginger and I were walking to the elevator when she broke her heel and started pushing me away from the elevators. I ignored her and kept walking but she persisted. Since I couldn't find the stairs, I kept persisting and she finally relented. I got to the bottom and there were fire engines and ambulances and a smell of burning plastic in the air. Ginger smelled it wafting up the elevator shafts and worried that it wasn't safe. Since she didn't fear repercussions, she had no problem trying to warn me. If I was in the habit of issuing corrections, she may not have been so brave.
We were lucky that it didn't turn out to be serious but if it had been, she could have saved my life.
But this is all hearsay. You won't ever know the benefits until you try it for yourself. If you have a competent trainer to guide you, what can you loose?
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