Dog Training & Wellness Services

DogRelations™ NYC dog training is really about positive reinforcement training in an enjoyable and life enriching way. This means giving your dog a clear understanding of behaviors you want to encourage while having fun and developing a close relationship. Dogs thrive on honest, direct and consistent communication, just like friends who completely trust and rely on one another.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Rethinking Reward Based Training

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NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Reward Based Training

When I walk around the city I see all these dogs trained with different approaches. Putting aside the sad fact that there are way too many pinch collars and choke chains around there is an encouraging number of dogs who are taught with reward based training… or let’s say: a version of reward based training.

Here is where I still see that there is a missing link of understanding at least in the way I see reward based training really working.

The easiest to explain this is by using the famous example of “sit”.

When I ask a dog owner if it is okay to give their dog a treat after a polite encounter with Zeldi so I can reward both dogs, the answer often is: Sure! But “HE HAS TO SIT FIRST. MAKE HIM SIT!”

That tells me that this human feels that the dog “must” earn the treat. Which is what they were told. Fair enough.

What they do not see is that if a dog has truly learned that sitting will get him the treat they will offer that behavior voluntarily and automatically as soon as they realize a reward is in play.

The dog understands that he can control his life with the “sit” behavior. So rather than understanding it as a compulsory exercise from the dog’s point of view it would be so much clearer if both human and dog could experience it as yet another opportunity to get access to something fun, rewarding and satisfying.

Instead of barking or pawing or jumping your dog will offer the behaviors that he knows will pay off. That works both ways: From the human point of view: a polite dog. From the dog’s point of view: knowing how to earn the things he craves!

It’s really that simple.


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Protected: Forced Socialization and Bite Inhibition

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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Training your dog with positive reinforcement

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NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Training your dog with positive reinforcement

Just because you say it, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen

I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about a dog’s learning process is that they think the dog can conceptualize new verbal input.

Let’s take the famous “sit” example.

What actually makes the dog understand “sit” and perform the “sit” reliably is the fact that the behavior is being rewarded. Not the fact that you say the word, not the fact that you might try to get the position by various means; it is the fact that the correct result is being rewarded!

It is the pay-off. The more, the better.

I just came across this excellent recap from Clicker Expo and Dr. Susan Friedman‘s presentation: Ideas that should die: Outdated, outmoded and misunderstood behavior science. Here specifically I am referring to the blogpost by Mary Hunter of Stale Cheerios “Misconceptions all around us“. Hunter sums up Dr. Friedman’s talk with this:

“So remember – cues don’t cause behaviors. Animals (and humans) do certain behaviors because of past consequences. If a behavior is happening consistently in response to a certain cue, this is because in the past, when the animal did this behavior when this cue was given, the animal received reinforcement.”

Another event that caused me to write this.

Just yesterday I got an e-mail from a client who recently adopted a Schnauzer-Terrier mix who has been displaying resource guarding behaviors. We had discussed how to deal with this in the one lesson we had after the initial consultation. What the client, a first time dog guardian, has trouble understanding is that all practiced behaviors are self-reinforcing, so thinking that “it will go away as the dog matures” is an ill conceived thought process. But what I found more alarming is that instead of “confessing” to me that the behavior was escalating they talked to people who suggested things like shaking a can filled with pennies when the puppy growls to protect her space or worse: pinning the puppy in an alpha roll and screaming at her “no growling!” which makes my hair stand up on end (and my hair is quite thin) and just makes me want to throw up.

Now in terms of genetic predisposition: I don’t know why the shelter thought it was a good idea to let a first time dog guardian walk home with such a mix. See the genetics part of Dr Friedman’s lecture. But the idea that generally people have such trouble wrapping their heads around shaping a behavior only in terms of reigning in the unwanted is troubling me greatly.

Many unwanted behaviors happen because the human has inadvertently provided reinforcement for those behaviors. As part of our private training we teach you how to become aware of how you interact with your puppy or dog and give you guidelines that will help you avoid pitfalls while having a loving, caring and fun relationship with your dog.

Looking for a highly certified, experienced dog trainer that will teach with effective positive reinforcement techniques? To learn more about our dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Practical Manners Training for Puppies

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NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Teaching your puppy practical manners

At DogRelations in New York City, we focus on training polite manners within a practical context. This enables clients to elicit “good behavior” from their dogs instead of correcting them verbally. We show your puppy how to “settle, sit and wait” automatically making the specific circumstance the cue. It will focus the dog on your actions and make the dog quite “busy and attentive” to opportunities to earn your rewards, affection or an opportunity to play with a favorite toy. Rewards will entice your dog to repeat those actions and before you know it your dog “knows” what to do! It will also minimize nuisance behaviors because those behaviors will become less and less interesting because they simply do not pay off.

Focusing on the Positive Behaviors You Wish To See

Dogs generally do what works in their favor. You can therefore manipulate the behaviors they perform most often by simply rewarding those behaviors and ignoring behaviors you don’t like. This will give the dog a clear path to what will and what won’t work, benefiting both dog and human. The process is an encouraging and warm environment that is constantly interesting and fun.

Dog Cognition

Research has shown us that dogs respond very well to human gestures such as pointing and eye movements. Using hand signals, head tilts and eye movements allow your dog to take cues from your body language and their surrounding environment. You’d be surprised how effective this kind of non-verbal communication is. Learning is best done in a calm and communicative atmosphere allowing the dog to think things through and also allowing the dog to experiment. Yelling, nagging and corrections are not helpful in the learning process because it does not provide the dog with any specific information. Dog cognition is a fascinating world to tap into and will definitely improve your communication levels with your favorite four-legged friend.

Incorporating Training Throughout Your Day

Because “Sit” Is NOT a Trick

Want to teach your dog a “sit” with distractions? Ask for a sit and put on your coat! Ask for a settle and tie your shoelaces! Walk around dusting or vacuuming the apartment. Ask the dog for a leave it, load the dishwasher and allow the dog to lick the dirty dishes as a reward when you release him!

A well-educated dog knows that what you say or do is full of opportunities to earn great stuff.

“Sit” is not a trick that your dog performs out of context but is an offered behavior. Instill confidence in your dog by allowing your puppy to figure out on his or her own what you are suggesting. The other advantage of using physical cues along with verbal cues is that once the skill is fluent the cues are interchangeable. That means when you don’t want to say something you can just point. That comes in very handy when you are having a conversation on the phone or you are working on your laptop and you want your dog to settle on the bed.

We’d Love To Help You Out!

If you have a new puppy or you feel like what you have been taught in puppy kindergarten does not help you have a well-behaved pup, we would love to work with you both! DogRelationsNYC offers practical dog training for Manhattan dogs and their owners. I am proud to have worked with many clients and helped establish positive, trusting communication in a respectful and safe atmosphere. If you have suddenly found yourself nagging your dog and feel like there is more negative behavior than positive; don’t become alarmed or frustrated! We can help you have the relationship that both you and your dog deserve together!

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Protected: What Is the Most Valuable Treat for Your Dog?

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Crate Training 101

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Manhattan Dog Trainer | Dog Relations NYC | Puppy relaxing in his crate

Patience, kindness and persistence go a long way when teaching any new skill in life. This is of course also true when it comes to introducing a crate to your favourite four-legged friend. When done correctly, this experience is rewarding and positive for you and your dog. Simply throwing a treat into the “cage” and locking the door behind is not what we are talking about here. A happily crate trained dog will enter their crate voluntarily and enjoy the rest and relaxation this safe haven provides. Even though some dogs take naturally to the crate don’t expect your dog or puppy to automatically like being in there. DogRelations NYC offers the following tips to help you think about this as a process to make both you and the dog happy and successful. Alternatively, we offer private crate-training sessions if you need a little support or inspiration. Susan Garret has her “Crate Games” on YouTube that are excellent to check out as well.

But… It Looks Like a Prison!

Sometimes looking at a crate and thinking of locking a dog or puppy in can cause some to react negatively to crate training. Yes, crates look like prisons; however, they offer safety and security. Realize that a crate is just a temporary means or safe containment that allows puppies and dogs to feel they are an integral part of the family even during bedtime and nap time etc.

Starting As a Puppy Is Ideal

Incorporating new habits while young is the perfect scenario. Building lasting, lifelong, healthy habits is always a positive thing. However, it IS possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Many loving homes adopt elderly dogs or adult rescue dogs and are able to teach them to love their crate later in life. The idea is to convey to the dog that this is going to be a wonderful new game that will make the experience fun and rewarding. By all means never rush your dog into a crate and leave the house. Just as you give them plenty of time to teach them a new behavior be sure you are allowing adequate time for them to get comfortable being in the new crate.

Desensitizing the Crate

Whenever you are teaching your dog something new and possibly scary make “training time = game time = mealtime”. Toss treats or bits of food into the crate and see if your dog enters to follow the treat. While you are luring the dog into the crate always move the crate door at the same time and reward the dog at the back of the crate. Open the door, and deliver a treat at the back of the crate to make the back area of the crate “hot” and appealing and associate the door opening with a treat appearing at the back of the crate. Once the dog learns that they will not care about the door closing. Remember that one hugely important role of crate training is helping with house training. Dogs do not pee or poop where they eat and sleep.

When you are not crate “training” leave the door open and leave super high value presents/treats inside the crate for your dog to find as pleasant surprises. Put something familiar such as their dog bed or one of your worn T-shirts inside the crate before inviting them in.

This brings me to the point of the size of the crate. Make sure the crate is small enough that the dog can lie down, turn around and stand up but no larger than that. Otherwise your learner might be tempted to sleep on one side and pee/poop on the other. The crate is not a crate unless the door is closed. It basically turns into a bed. It will not contain the dog which means that the dog can pee on the rug and chew your furniture.

Benefits of Crate Training

How great will it be to know your dog can easily and safely travel in your vehicle or in an airplane? Or that they are not getting into anything while you are out of the house? No more worrying that you will find your favorite pair of shoes eaten or your couch cushions torn apart or your computer cords chewed. Protect your belongings and your home while establishing a healthy sleep/travel/safety routine at the same time. A truly crate trained dog will experience crate time as a reward and look forward to relaxing and munching on favorite treats in there. If DogRelations NYC can help you in your crate training endeavors, please don’t hesitate to call! (917) 783-1473

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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Protected: Exercising Rover When Its’ Cold Outside

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Monday, 30 January 2017

consequences for nuisance behaviors

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One of the first things I taught my puppy Zeldi is to settle on the floor during food preparations, human and canine.

She knows that very well. as soon as I pull out the bowls and fill them with their food she knows to settle. She also knows to settle while the humans are having their food.

As a reward both dogs get either table scraps or their favorite yogurt cheese after the humans eat…and yes, sometimes while we eat. As long as there is no jumping and begging. I admit to enjoy feeding my dogs treats.

Sometimes we just have a yogurt cheese party, as I call it. I am at the counter and the dogs get tiny pieces of yogurt cheese.

Zeldi who is going into an adolescent phase and is “testing” boundaries started to bark and moan to get treats. Of course my partner reacts by saying stuff like; this is unacceptable, stop, AHEM..etc etc. I say: please, don’t give her attention for that. So he stopped ( which I appreciate a lot).

But that was not clear enough of a sign for Zeldinchen.

So, just as I taught her to settle, by slowing down or stopping food preparation when Zeldi broke her “settle” I decided to present her with a consequence that really would bring the message home to her that the vocal complaining, demanding to be given morsels of food would not work in her favor.

This is what I did: I gave Petzi a treat when she yowled. I will say that it felt a tad cruel.

However after one repetition she figured it out!

She stopped!

So again: don’t take the “ignore” the behavior literally if the behavior you are trying to extinguish is self reinforcing.  Yes, it might be seen as “negative” punishment (removing something desirable) but the dog can earn what they want very quickly by offering a highly rewarded replacement behavior.

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Thursday, 26 January 2017

“Greed” in the context of dog training

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When talking about greed in the context of teaching dogs I think of three things:

 

1) The lack of generosity in rewarding behaviors you want to promote

2) Asking for too much too soon.

3) Taking offered behaviors for granted

 

Let me explain what I mean.

1)

It seems to be part of human nature to blame dogs for their “mistakes” or “mis-behaviors”. Humans also tend to feel that there is a certain preconceived limit on how often they will or will not reward behaviors. Some kind of judgment like: “She should know this by now”.

 

Well frankly, you cannot predict a dog’s leaning curve nor can you really know in advance how often a behavior needs to be rewarded for that behavior to truly become the first offered behavior replacing the nuisance behavior or even just establishing the behavior as an automatic polite behavior or a taught trick behavior.

What one should be thinking if the dog reverts to an old behavior or does not understand what is expected of him next is: “Oh, I need to reward the desired behavior more, I have not made it clear to the dog.”

In other words: the dog does not really fully understand what he should be doing, the reward delivery was not clearly marking the part of the behavior that needs reinforcing. And who’s “fault” is that?

2)

A good example for “asking too much too soon” is when you make an exercise much harder right away or you ask for a different version of the behavior (in a different context, in a more distracting environment, with less of a cue or even too many repetitions without rewarding). All of a sudden the teacher will be disappointed when the dog gets confused or gets stressed out.

3)

Sometimes a dog will offer a wonderful behavior on their own. As teacher you are thrilled that you can add that to the repertoire of behaviors your dog will offer. So you think: “Oh, we have that down! I don’t need to practice and reward that!” Wrong. If you don’t reward on a good schedule the behavior will begin to weaken whereas other behaviors that had to be taught carefully and rewarded on a regular basis will be offered with more enthusiasm.

Those actions can be described as “greedy” from the human point of view in the context of teaching a dog.

What should we keep in mind?

It is best to train “in the moment” without putting pressure on the dog or oneself in terms of a time limit or a lofty goal.

Don’t ask for a better, faster or bigger response before the previous step is not totally secure and cemented. That is true for the teacher and the dog.

If you see that a behavior is difficult for a dog physically, stop and teach something different or a different version of that behavior.

Be flexible!

Reinvent the exercise.

Take a break and give the dog a break.

Good teachers tend to blame themselves since it is their job to be able to estimate correctly what the learner needs to be successful.

So next time you are angry because your dog failed to understand something, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you have been acting in a “greedy” fashion.

 

 

 

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