Here at Pet Waggin’, we believe that continued education is essential when it comes to animal caretaking. Our staff are passionate about their work and are always eager to learn new things about training, walking, and animal care.
That’s why we, once again, teamed up with an amazing Long Beach local dog trainer, Jill from Underdogs Long Beach. (You can check out our last workshop here!) We met up for an all staff workshop at El Dorado Park in Long Beach.
Our focus and theme for this workshop was Shaping Behavior. Our entire Pet Waggin’ team was there bright and early, leashes in hand with their own dogs… or with a client's dog, ready to learn. We thought we’d give you a little peek at the workshop and what we covered. We also included some fun videos, so be sure to give those a watch!
Clicker training, which is also called mark and reward training, is used as a part of positive reinforcement training. The concept is fairly simple; when your dog does what you want, you click a clicker and then instantly hand your dog a treat. Your dog starts to associate the sound of the click with the correct behavior. If you want to get technical, this is known as a conditioned reinforcer. When your dog hears the click, they know they did the right thing, and a treat is on the way.
Obviously when it comes to rewards based training, timing is everything. That’s why clicker training is helpful for shaping behavior. The click (or whistle, or snap, the sound doesn’t matter) marks the correct action. That’s how your dog learns that the treat they get is for their bottom hitting the floor… and not because they jumped up.
During the workshop, we learned about what a marker is, the mechanics of the clicker, and why it’s such a useful tool in dog training and dog walking. Then we put what we learned into action, practicing clicker conditioning with some dogs.
Shaping is a training technique that helps break down a behavior into smaller steps… instead of teaching something complicated all at once. For example, if you were teaching your dog to shake… instead of going right for the paw, you would start with sitting and then move to the action of them handing you their paw. A clicker is helpful when it comes to shaping… which is why we focused on clicker training first.
As with any training, it’s important to let go of expectations and work with your dog as they try to figure out what the heck you want them to do.
To really help everyone understand shaping, and why you need to be patient and eliminate expectations, Jill clicker trained one of our human staff members! Melissa wasn’t told what she was supposed to be learning… she had to figure it out just through the clicks. Just like the way your dog is learning! But don’t worry; we didn’t just clicker train the humans, we also worked on a fun little shaping activity of getting the dogs to knock over their water bottles.
Relax On a Mat
Getting your dog to be able to relax is more important than you think. It’s less about obedience and more about getting your dog to control their impulses. If your dog is easily excited and prone to being distracted, Relax On a Mat gets your dog to relax their body and ignore any ruckus that’s going on around them. As your dog gets used to this behavior, they may even put themselves on their mat (or blanket, or pillow) if they start to feel overwhelmed.
Of course, practice makes perfect. So we put our new clicker training to the test, working with our dogs to get them to Relax On a Mat. Since we were having our workshop in the park, it was a great way to practice in the real world where there were tons of distracting sounds and smells.
Shaping & Loose Leash Walking
It would certainly be easier, but we all know that dogs don’t come pre-programmed to walk on a leash. Pulling and wandering are leash walking behaviors that need to be addressed for your safety and the safety of your dog. Ideally, your dog should walk on a loose leash. This means they are walking next to you and maintaining slack in the leash. If you’re walking your dog on a shortened tight leash, they haven’t yet mastered loose leash walking.
Shaping is useful for directing your dog to walk on a loose leash. Clicking and treating as they maintain slack in the leash reinforces the behavior and puts them on the right track. If your dog reverts, and it can happen either through circumstances or a boundary-pushing pup, then the trick is to figure out why your dog back slid and review the shaping technique.
Getting a chance to practice shaping and loose leash walking during the workshop was great for the dogs that were there. This is a skill we will use everyday, and it will make our walks that much more satisfying for the pups in our care.
Dog training isn’t about forcing a new behavior on your dog. It’s about figuring out why your dog may be behaving the way they are and working to direct that behavior into something more desirable. There are no bad dogs… there are dogs that don’t know what you expect from them and who can benefit from proper training. Our workshop with Jill emphasized that successful training relies on paying attention to your dog and determining their needs.
We are so excited to apply what we learned to our Pet Waggin’ clients. The more that we know and learn about pet behavior, the better we can meet our clients’ needs and make sure they are happy and healthy while in our care.
We would like to thank Jill again for taking the time to do this workshop with us. She is a dynamite trainer and made our session so much fun for both the humans and the dogs. If you’re looking for a dog trainer in Long Beach, give Underdogs Long Beach a call.