This video clip shows Brian working with two of his own dogs. Apart from verbal praise at the end of the exercise, Brian gives no verbal cues to his dogs. Instead all their instruction is in the form of eye contact and pointing. This demonstrates exactly how much dogs are able to ‘read’ our gestures, facial reactions and of course directional pointing. Follow this link to the video clip. Better than a Chimp – demonstration – YouTube
When using treats training your dog, they are not all created equal. All dogs will have treats that are more valuable to them and those that are less so. The most valued treats will usually be something like cheese or cooked chicken, then frankfurters or similar and finally kibble. While having a pocket full of kibble is great to reward your dog and reinforce already learned behaviour, it’s just not up to the job when learning a new behaviour, especially if that new behaviour is recall or impulse control. When you’re teaching your dog new behaviours, it’s important to keep them motivated and interested. One of the easiest ways to do that is with a high rate of reinforcement (how often you give rewards) and to reward with something your dog finds valuable. In order to give your dog lots of treats in a short period of time, keep them small. You can always give a handful of treats if the behaviour warrants it. In order to maintain your dog at a healthy weight remember to take into consideration how many treats they have consumed during the day. Remember, your voice, your praise and your touch i.e. stroking them are also rewarding for your dog and are something you always have with you. The environment is also rewarding to your dog. So vary your treats depending on the activity and get practising your “Oh good boy!” voice. Continue reading Not all treats are created equal.
A dog’s brain is more complex than you might think. Although we are genetically closer to chimps, dogs can understand finger pointing better, as chimpanzees have difficulty identifying objects of interest based on gesture. Pet dogs are highly receptive to both verbal and non-verbal communication from the humans in their family. However, recent research from Froniters in Psychology found 80% of untrained, stray dogs successfully followed pointing directions from people to a specific location or object of interest. This result indicates that dogs can understand complex gestures by simply watching humans as a result of 10,000-15,000 years of domestication. Bear that in mind next time you think your dog doesn’t understand you. They are constantly reading and interpreting micro-gestures we may be unaware we are even making in a bid to communicate with and understand us. That’s why we start with visual cues when we are shaping a behaviour.
Brian’s knowledge and insight is invaluable and after just a few months is already making such a difference to the training and relationship we have with our dog. He’s helped us understand more about dog behaviour, how we’ve impacted on our pups development and offered us lots of practical skills and techniques to try at home. It’s been hugely refreshing and so useful for building confidence and making sure we’re doing the best by our dog and encouraging positive development. We’ve still got a little way to go, but have already noticed great results which is hugely rewarding. Brian is a brilliant trainer, who offers clear explanations and shares his wealth of experience generously.