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Boston Terrier Training

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

Positive Reinforcement

One way to explain positive reinforcement training is giving a reward for good behavior (that reward can be praise, petting, treats, toys or just attention). This means that the behavior the dog exhibits at the moment he is rewarded will be more likely to occur in the future.

Positive reinforcement encourages your dog when he is doing something right. This is a way of communicating your wishes to your dog - they want to please us we just need to learn how to tell them what we would like them to do!

These lessons will show you how to teach your dog to pay attention, understand your signals and how to let him know when he is right. Positive reinforcement will help you to build a strong relationship with your dog based on trust and cooperation. This training allows you to assume the role as the leader in your relationship with your dog without force. These lessons and tips will show you how to teach your dog that being attentive to you will give him access to the things he considers important - food, play, toys, walks, other people, other dogs, car rides, swimming, belly scratches. You can use all these things as rewards for paying attention to you. By using the things you provide for your dog on a daily basis you can establish yourself as a caring and loving leader.

So get yourself some great treats and toys for your dog and read on!

How to be a Good Reinforcer

  • Be quick. You need good timing.
  • Be Generous. Use lots of reinforcement.
  • Be unpredictable. Change when, how & how much you reinforce.

Tips for the Trainer

  • Focus on and reinforce the things your dog is doing right.
  • Remember that the reinforcement you use must be reinforcing to your dog. Every dog is different. Some dogs are food motivated, some are praise motivated, some are motivated by toys - what really gets your dog interested?
  • Keep your training sessions short and interesting - five minutes or less. Many short, daily sessions a few minutes at a time.

Your Tools & Commands
Teaching Attention, The Bridge, The Lure, The Target

The following lessons will give you the tools to teach your dog the behaviors you desire such as sit, down, leave it, stay and house training too.

Set your dog up for success! It is the trainer's job to make the exercise a success, not the dog's. Once he is well trained, you can expect him to obey you and execute the commands you give him, but in the meantime, while you are in the training process, you must create the success. For example, you could help by minimizing distractions, using treats to increase motivation, trying a different tone of voice, etc.

Before you begin, you must first decide on the commands you will teach your dog. You will use a combination of hand signals and command words to tell your dog what you would like him to do. You will use a Bridge word or sound to indicate to your dog that he has done what you asked. You will give a Reward to reinforce the desired behavior. You will use a Release word to let your dog know when he has completed the command and can relax.

Choose one word for each command and use that word consistently. It is important that the whole family uses the same word for each command to effectively communicate with your dog.

For example, if you say the word "sit" to teach your dog to move to a sitting position and the word "down" to tell your dog to lie down, and someone else says "sit down" to tell your dog to move into a sit position, you will confuse your dog and make the training process take longer. Be precise.

The Bridge - a word or sound that means "You are right!" The Bridge is used at the exact second your dog does what you want. By teaching your dog a bridge word you can communicate to your pup more precisely what you are asking him to do. Some examples of good Bridges are the words "Yes", "Good" or a clicker.

The Lure - use a lure to show your dog what to do without using your hands or a leash to push/pull him into position. Hold a treat or toy in your hand and let your dog see it. You can use a lure to lure your dog into a position or to look where you would like him to look.

The Target - train your dog to Target your left hand.

The Lessons

Attention | Training the Bridge | The Lure | The Target | Ring a Bell

Attention - The first step

Attention is what makes training your dog possible. Your dog is paying attention and learning things all the time. Teach him how to pay attention and learn from you.

To Begin:

Observe your dog. Whenever you notice him giving you quiet attention reinforce him calmly with your attention: a touch, praise, part of a meal - something you think he would like.
Immediately ignore any pushy or rude attention.

Teaching Attention

1. Begin in an area where your dog finds you interesting, speak your dog's name one time only, clearly and softly. When your dog looks at you, instantly praise him while he continues to look. Reward him with tiny pieces of treats, part of his meal, favorite toys or something else that your dog finds rewarding. Repeat this 5-6 times a day.

If your dog jumps up on you, immediately lose interest in him. Look at the ceiling and withhold the reward. The instant his feet are on the ground continue your verbal praise and the reward you are using. (This is also the basis for teaching your dog not to jump up on you.)

In the beginning you can use a lure to help your dog look at you. Hold the treat up near your eyes to help him look up.

2. As soon as your dog begins to get the idea, don't have food or rewards visible when you speak to him. Produce the reward as soon as he comes and looks at you. Remember to vary your rewards (food, toys, games, rubs, hugs).

3. If he doesn't look at you when he hears his name, try hiding on him or try whipping out his favorite toy and playing with it by yourself. Ignore him if he tries to join in. Produce something yummy and eat it by yourself (or if you don't share your dog's taste in treats pretend to eat it!) Use your imagination & make it worth his while to look at you.

4. Begin training in an area your dog finds you fascinating - maybe the kitchen.
Gradually move to other locations and introduce distractions. Practice outside, at the park, in the pet store. In more distracting situations you will want to use higher value rewards.

5. You should begin to see a marked increase in your dog's attentive behavior, especially when he hears his name. If you are not seeing improvement, make sure you are not using his name to scold him. Check to be sure you are not nagging him & saying his name over and over.

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Training the Bridge

Use a Bridge - a word or sound that means "You are right!" at the exact second your dog does what you want. A bridge word or sound marks the split second between your command ("sit") and the dog's action (sitting) before you can give the treat. (See Be Quick above)
Some examples of good Bridges are the words 'Yes', 'Good' or a clicker.

The bridge will help you communicate to your dog that they are right. It connects (bridges) the time between your command, your dog's response, and your reinforcement (reward). It allows you to pinpoint the exact moment that your dog is right. They will soon learn that when they hear the bridge, the behavior they are doing is going to get them their reward! This encourages that good behavior and allows them to associate that behavior with the commands that you give.

To Begin:
Choose the word or sound you will use to tell your dog he is right - the reward is coming.

Choose a quiet time when your dog is doing nothing right or wrong and say the word or sound. Immediately smile and give your dog a treat. Repeat this 10 or 20 times until he is looking at you expectantly every time he hears the Bridge. An excellent time to teach this is by hand feeding a meal.

Now you can practice using the Bridge at the second that your dog is doing something right. Remember - good trainers are quick. Practice using the bridge when you see your dog doing something right.

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The Lure

The lure will help you teach teach your dog to pay attention to your hands and allow you to teach your dog a hand signal for each behavior. You will eventually phase out the lure and continue using the hand signals.

1. Put a treat in your hand so your dog can see it. Use your hand to lure the dog into the position you want. When he is in position, immediately use your Bridge and give him the treat. Remember to smile & project positive energy.

2. When he is reliably performing the behavior you want, continue to use the lure, but no longer give it to him. Use your Bridge, but have the reward come from somewhere else - a treat from your other hand, from your pocket, from another family member, from the counter. Now is also a good time to vary the types and the amount of the reward you are using. (food, a toy or a game, access to outside or a ride in the car - some are big rewards and some are little rewards - you will be unpredictable, variable and generous!)

Phase 2
Now, use your hand with no food in it to lure your dog into position. This will now become your signal to get the behavior. If your dog performs the behavior, use your Bridge and give him a great reward. If he does not respond, drop your hand to your side and quietly give him a few seconds. If he still doesn't respond, ignore him for a little bit and try again.

You can use a lure to help teach many behaviors like sit, down and target.

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1. Start in a quiet place when your dog is anxious to do something with you. Put a handful of treats in your right hand and stand or sit in front of your dog.

2. Put your left hand, palm open, close to your dogs nose, he will probably reach out and sniff it. When he touches it - give your Bridge and then treat & smile.

3. Repeat step 2.

4. After a few repetitions most dogs will ignore your left hand and stare at the hand with the treats!
When this happens you can speed things up by using a lure. Holding a treat in your right hand, put it behind your left hand. Keep your left hand close to your dog's nose. He will accidentally touch your left hand while trying to get the treat. Immediately give your Bridge and then treat & smile.

5. When he is consistently touching your left hand, gradually withdraw your right hand. Keep your left hand close to his nose.

6. When he is consistently touching your left hand without the lure, gradually move your left hand further away so that eventually he is moving forward to touch your left hand.

7. When he is reliably moving to touch your left hand, you can begin to move your hand and Bridge him for following it.

8. Remember to keep the sessions short & stop while your dog (and you) are still interested. Targeting can often be taught in a few short sessions. Try it while you are hand feeding a meal.

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Teach your dog to ring a bell

This lesson uses the Target command to teach your dog a new behavior - ringing a bell.

1. Hang your bell on (or near) the door that you use to bring your dog outside to go potty. Be sure your dog can reach the bells easily. Choose a command that will mean "go outside." We use "outside". (If you are training an adult dog, you probably already have a word that you use with your dog for "outside".) We use Poochie-Bells that slip right over the doorknob and can be customized.

2. Hold a treat in your right hand, place your left hand (your target hand) in front of your treat hand and touching the bells. When your dog's nose touches your target hand, let your hand quietly ring the bell. Use your bridge word and give the treat.

This will get your dog used to touching and hearing the bells. It will give a positive association with the sound of the bells. Gradually move your target hand from in front of the bells to behind the bells. When the dog sniffs the treat hand his nose will contact the bells. When the bells ring, use your bridge word and give the treat.

When your dog is reliably touching the bells with his nose to get the treat, move on to the next step.

3. Repeat the above exercise (#2) and add your "outside" command. When your dog's nose rings the bell, say your bridge word, open the door and take the dog outside and give the treat. You can practice each time you want to take your dog out to potty. Ask him to ring the bell before you open the door to outside. Very soon you will hear the jingle of the bells when your dog wants to go outside.
Watch Bergamot and Emrys demonstrate.

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