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Friday, October 8, 2010


By Emily Larlham

The Need for a New Term:

A type of animal training exists that involves no forms of intimidation, confrontation, violence, reprimands, or domination.

This non-violent type of training has gone under many names: “Clicker Training,” “Positive Training,” “Positive Reinforcement Training,” and “Reward Training,” among others. However there is a need for a more specific, more accurate, more inspirational term. This is because the above terms have been used so loosely in recent years that they may soon lose their original meanings altogether. How has this happened? Trainers who use compulsion methods may incorporate a clicker (a noise maker to mark desirable behavior) and refer to themselves as a “Clicker Trainers.” Trainers who use painful or intimidating methods may include food or toy rewards in their training and refer to themselves as “Reward Trainers” or “Positive Reinforcement Trainers.” It is already possible that a member of the public may seek the guidance of a trainer who claims to be “Positive,” only to find out that this trainer routinely uses physical violence towards animals.

I propose a new term that trainers and members of the general public can use to refer to this type of modern training – a training system that is not only humane, compassionate, and reliable, but is also based on the latest scientific studies. Because this form of training constantly incorporates the latest and most reliable scientific findings, and because it furthers an evolutionary movement toward a more harmonious relationship between humans and the animals who live with them, it shall be referred to as Progressive Reinforcement Training.



Sunday, August 1, 2010

Here are a few reasons why one shouldn’t use Positive Punishment:

Positive Punishment is defined as adding anything that will decrease a behavior (this could mean anything from saying “no!”, “eh eh”, or using physical Positive Punishment- choking, shocking, kicking, smacking etc)

Here are a few reasons why one shouldn’t use Positive Punishment:

1- Without perfect timing, intensity and consistency, the intended positive punishment actually becomes abuse.
2- The dog learns to avoid the punisher in order to do undesirable behavior.
3- It can cause irreversible emotional damage to the dog or human, even irreversible changes in the brain.
4- Positive Punishment is scientifically proven to increase stress hormones, arousal and aggression.
5- Animals habituate to positive punishment – meaning the intensity will have to keep increasing.
6- You cannot make children, dogs or anything for that matter reinforcing for a dog using Positive Punishment, you can only suppress the behaviors punished.
7- Positive Punishment causes dogs to hide their warning signs before a bite.
8- Dogs trained with punishment feel trapped when with owners, as leaving a ‘stay’ or leaving the owners side to escape from a child can cause punishment. Dogs that feel they have no escape tend to bite rather than move away.
9- Intended punishment can actually INCREASE the behavior you wished to extinguish. As attention was provided.
10- - The punisher becomes less reinforcing to be around for the dog. If you use punishment with your dog, there is no way to compete with the reinforcement value of other things in the environment. Your dog will find other stimuli in the environment more reinforcing than you because the dog has a history of punishment with being near you.
11- Dogs who are punished do not offer behaviors as readily, so they are harder to teach new obedience behaviors, sports or tricks.
12- People who use positive punishment will punish more readily in the future as it is positively reinforcing to use. Using punishment causes ones own behavior patterns to change towards dogs and people. Some people will find that they cannot stop using positive punishment even if they want to, and will need to seek help to change their behavior.

-Emily Larlham

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How to solve:

Barking at the door towards visitors

1- Counter condition the dog to the sound of the gate and the door (knocking, doorbell, the handle moving, the door opening)

2- Change your dog’s emotional response to a person coming in the door (you, family, friends and strangers)

3- Management- avoid triggers to promote a less arousing entry

Dogs bark at the door when guests arrive because they are aroused, excited, fearful or startled.

1- Counter condition the dog to the sound of the gate and the door (knocking, doorbell, the handle moving, the door opening, footsteps outside)

Counter condition your dog to triggers that happen prior to a visitor walking through the door. This means basically create a positive and calm association to all the sights and sounds that happen before and as a visitor arrives.

The sound of the gate- Get someone to go and make the noise of the gate, while your dog is watching on leash. A millisecond after the noise occurs FEED a treat. Make sure the NOISE is the predictor of the food and not your hand movement. So be sure to only make any movements AFTER the noise occurs to deliver the treat.

Next proceed by closing the front door and continuing the exercise while the dog cannot see but can still hear the gate.

The sound of the door- Knock on the door while on the inside of the door with your dog. Knock softly and drop a treat. For some dogs this is such a trigger that you may need to start with the dog on the outside of the open door, so the dog is in a different situation than the trigger situation where the door is closed. Some dogs might even need you to knock on a table or the floor first before moving to the door because it is such a trigger already. Repeat this step until the dog is happily expecting a treat. You can then knock louder and louder, feeding a treat for each knock. Now have a friend or family member knock on the door while they are still in the room with the door open. If that is successful, have the person go on the outside of the door and knock while the door is closed. Opening it every once in a while so the dog can see it’s their favorite person on the other side of the door.

The doorbell- Ring the bell while the dog is outside with you. Feed a treat directly after the bell rings, making sure that the bell is the first predictor that a treat is coming and not your body movements. Repeat until the dog is comfortable, then move the dog back inside. Get a friend or family member to ring the bell while you are on the inside of the doorway. If the dog is relaxed and succeeding have your friend ring the bell with the door closed. Feed the dog after the sound of the bell for remaining calm. If the dog barks you can say “lets go” and move the dog away from the door on leash. Barking is reinforcing so you must not let it continue or you will literally be training the dog to always bark at the sound of the bell. This goes for any of the counter conditioning exercises.

Opening and closing of the door- Touch the handle, click and treat or drop a treat for the dog while he is remaining calm. Turn the handling click and treat- or simply feed the dog a treat. Jiggle the handle, click and treat. Go back a step if your dog gets too aroused. Or start with the door open as you make noises with the handle of the door. Obviously if your door leads to the street always have the dog on leash or a long line so that he doesn’t rush out the door.

Footsteps outside- For some dogs it’s the sound of footsteps coming towards the door that is a trigger. To solve this, go outside, and practice different walks up to your door with your dog at first, feeding the dog for watching and listening to you stomping and shuffling your feet. Then have a friend or family member do the same- feed the dog for staying calm while the noises happen. Feed the dog for orienting to the noise rather than just staring at the treats you are holding. Next close the door and feed the dog after each noise that occurs outside of the door. Open the door every once in a while to show the dog that it is just their friend or family member.

Ring the doorbell, knock on the door, make heave footsteps when you return home from work each day, so the dog has a positive association of you returning home with the sounds.

2- Change your dog’s emotional response to a person coming in the door (you, family, friends and strangers)

Start off with someone you live with (if possible) leave and come back through your front door without closing the door. Click or simply feed the dog for watching then come through the door, while standing calmly and doing nothing on a loose leash.

Next have the person leave, close the door and come back in immediately- you can feed or click your dog for remaining calm and relaxed for each of the triggers (the door noise, the person entering etc). Have the person go in and out, multiple times. You can feed or click the dog for the person leaving as well if your dog has issues with people leaving the house as well.

Now have the person ring the bell or knock (make sure you have worked on counter conditioning your dog to these sounds first before adding them into the mix) before he comes in. You can feed your dog for the noise of the bell, the door opening, as well as the person entering for remaining calm and relaxed. If the dog barks, simply say ‘lets go!” and walk the dog away from the door.

Now repeat all these steps with different family and friends, and then complete strangers to the dog. Make sure you keep the dog on a secure leash if your dog is reactive to people to avoid the dog biting the person if startled. When the person comes through the door, have the dog as far away from the door at first so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed. Also have the new guests first meet the dog on the street (as outlined in the management section) before beginning the more surprising greetings.

When you do have REAL guests. Getting them to leave and come back in the door multiple times can really speed up the process of calm behaviors when guests come over because you will be habituating the dog to people entering the house. Your dog should think that people come and go and it happens all the time. Not that they just come in once, and that is when the dog should get very excited.

Enter the house when you return home through the door guests will enter through, so it no longer abnormal to the dog to see people enter through that door.

Make your own daily greetings towards your dog calm and mellow. If you allow your dog to get excitable every day when you come through the door, how do you expect your dog to be calm when a visitor arrives? If you must have an excited greeting with your dog, enter the house, wait 5 minutes and THEN greet your dog excitedly. Firstly you will find your dog will be much calmer and secondly you will not be making ‘a person entering a doorway’ a trigger to get excited.

3- Management- avoiding triggers to promote a less arousing entry

Ask your guest to call when they arrive. Go into the street with your dog on leash and have the guest walk into your house while you follow the guest at a distance that your dog can cope with and be calm and take food at. For some dogs that might be 10 feet, for others that might be 20 feet at first. The guest can ignore you, or offer calming signals. They should not stare directly at the dog or shout “WHAT DO YA WANT ME TO DO NOW?” etc. They can speak in a soft friendly voice if your dog is ok with that. If you have more than one person living with you, you can get that person to go and greet the visitor in front of the dog while you stand back with the dog on leash. You would be feeding the dog for calmly looking at the two people greeting each other.

-Emily Larlham

Friday, July 16, 2010


My friend and co organizer of the SD Canine Freestylers is in a competition of the best dog trainer in San Diego! I did not enter because last year there were so many shock collar franchises in the competition that I thought it would be traumatic for me. PLEASE vote for Pam to promote POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT TRAINING to help make humane and the most effective training the new trend in san diego! Go Pam! You are brave!!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

SD Canine Freestyle Meetup- June

Izzie milliseconds from licking me in the face!

Wataru doing rear end awareness! He looks so happy!

What Splashers thinks of the other members! A big star!
Spirit does a downward dog
Rally's cute mug
Angelo struts his stuff

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to teach your dog to scratch your back

Newbear95 from youtube has some really inventive tricks that she does with her chihuahua. Here is a tutorial on how to teach your dog to scratch your back.

I gave the trick a try with Kiko, she simply loves scratching my back now!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

First 2 Weeks with a puppy

My new puppy is a terrier/chi mix. He is about 20 weeks old, 5 months. 

His pre existing issues were-
separation anxiety
house training
Timid with handling 

SO most of our training has been building the crate as a safe and wonderful place to be, as well as counter conditioning to me leaving the room while he is in the crate or loose.  
His initial behavior to being left alone for 10 minutes the second day that I had him was barking and howling and peeing and pooping in the crate and smearing it around on the crate walls with his paws.  Now after 2 weeks of tons of training, he settles and sleeps, and the other day I had to lure him out with a treat!  So I am very happy with how that is going!

The puppy hates grass, so I have also spend long hours standing in the yard patiently waiting.  The patience has paid off! :) 

Handling exercises 

What issues he didn't have but would be very important for  a new puppy in the first two weeks would be-
1- Restraint games
2- Reinforcing calmness rather than mouthing and biting 
3- Bite Inhibition

The first games we have been playing in these two weeks are-
1- default leave it from treats and bait bag while not working
2- positive interrupter/attention noise (I can call him away from playing with my other dogs already with the kissy noise)
3- Recalls
4- * Counter conditioning to handling!!!! * (the puppy was very hand shy)
5- Confidence on different surfaces using counter conditioning
6- How to follow a treat lure- (he would just pounce on my hand like it was prey rather than just follow it like a lure)
7- Crate games
8- Mat games
9- Settle
10- Loose leash walking
11- Touch with nose
12- Targeting with front paws
13- Building the tug and toys as secondary reinforcers
14- Basics of fetch

I constantly reinforce calmness and wonderful interactions with my other dogs, and interrupt him with the positive interrupter when play starts to get too aroused.  

So far so good!