Homework- My Dog Has C.L.A.S.S.
Welcome! Here are the weekly handouts for the My Dog Has C.L.A.S.S. class. You and your dog will get out of it what you put into it. Practice what you’ve learned every day but keep it fun. Turn training into a game. Ask your dog for something (such as a sit or down) before giving something that he or she wants, such as a game of tug, dinner, a ride in the car, a chance to go outside, some time on the sofa with you, etc. Think of more things your dog likes and values and use them as rewards.
Probably the single most important concept for you to know and remember is that training is all about building a relationship between you and your dog and providing or controlling consequences for the dog. It’s important to remember that all animals repeat behaviors they find rewarding. Behaviors that are not reinforced in any way will fade and eventually extinguish.
Dog-friendly training works by reinforcing desirable behaviors with praise, treats and play. Undesirable behavior is either not rewarded, prevented from being self-rewarding through appropriate management of the environment, or redirected into an incompatible activity that can be reinforced/rewarded. Corrections (such as the use of time-outs), when indicated, are used to instruct rather than to punish the dog and are never physically painful or emotionally abusive.
Please keep your instructor informed if you have any questions or can’t attend class.
Being Polite at the Food Bowl:
Your dog should learn to wait for the food bowl until released to eat out of it. At mealtimes play the Airplane Game with the food bowl. Lower it slowly. As long as your dog stays in position (usually the sit) you will keep lowering it to the floor. Bring it back up and out of reach anytime she gets out of position. The bowl gets lowered all the way to the floor only if her butt remains in place. Release her to eat when she is sitting and waiting politely. (Do not say “stay”; have her learn to have patience and impulse control on her own without you telling her what to do every step of the way. She needs to internalize this not wait for you to constantly direct her.)
By week 3 (or sooner) you should not be using a treat to lure into a position. You should only be showing and giving the treat after your dog successfully does the behavior. If you still are, please phase it out quickly. Work on moving into different positions (sit from down; down from sit) without your lure. It’s time to make the leap, trust your dog, and stop! You don’t want a dog that will only listen to you when you have a treat in your hand. Also, place your treat pouch behind you. Don’t make the treats so obvious.
Keep track of your pet’s progress so you will know if you are going too fast or if you can add in more challenges. If your dog does an exercise correctly 5 out of 5 times you can make it slightly more difficult. If he or she is right 3 or 4 out of 5 times, keep doing what you’re doing until it’s close to perfect. If your dog is only correct one or two out of five times, you need to make the exercise easier.Always strive to keep your dog successful so training stays fun and motivating.
Clicker: You should be fading out the clicker for the skills your dog has mastered such as sit. The clicker is used to teach new behaviors; it’s not needed for skills your dog knows well.
Rewards: It’s also time to start using a variable rate of reinforcement. What this means is that instead of treating every time your dog does something that you ask for (and that he has mastered) you will treat in a more unpredictable fashion. Definitely reward when your dog delivers outstanding behavior such as a super fast down or something done in a very distracting environment. Don’t move to variable rewards too soon, but once your dog is ready for this reinforcement schedule, he will actually perform better!
Adding the cue: If your dog is completely understanding your commands and doing it the first time asked when you use the hand signal, and without a treat in your hand, start adding in the name of the cue (such as “down”).
Passive Attention: Don’t forget to keep rewarding when your dog chooses to look at you. The more you reinforce it the more often your dog will think it’s valuable to check in with you.
When you ask your dog for a stay, be sure to use the release word you have chosen; it’s not ok if your dog makes the decision when to get up. Maintain your criteria!
You may now be adding distance to the stay exercise. Be sure not to go too fast too soon. Keep your dog successful. That might mean making it easier by not going so far away, or coming back and rewarding sooner. If your dog keeps getting up when you move away, start by just moving your feet in place. Then take a half step back and return immediately and reward. If you train in a logical, step-by-step fashion your dog will learn without begin confused.
How about teaching a trick to your dog? It’s another fun way to engage with your dog and let your dog use her brain (and burn some energy). Here are a couple of links to get you started.
Try rewarding after your dog successfully completes two or multiple cues in a row such as sit, down, sit..
Stay. By now your dog should be doing some great stays and not moving until you release. As you know, the stay exercise has three components: duration, distance, and distraction. Let’s put them all together! When you are moving away from your dog, be sure to go back and reward his great stay often; don’t always move away and then call. Your dog will begin to anticipate this and will start self-releasing.
Goals: If you have been working hard you may be able to move 10-20 feet away from your dog while he stays. The goal is to have him staying for 30 to 60 seconds between treats for a total of 3-5 minutes. You are right on target if he will stay with you clpaain gyour hands, stomping your feet, tapping the ground, talking on a cell phone, etc.
You want your dog to be walking on a loose leash and be able to pass treats on the floor with “leave it” (no yanking the leash!). For recalls, your goal is to have your dog respond with one cue even around mild distractions.
Stay! Putting It All Together
Graduation! Job well done. In your final class you will get to do a mock evaluation to see what you need to work on. When you are ready, register for a real evaluation to get your first C.L.A.S.S. Dog BA level certification.
My Dog Has C.L.A.S.S. is a three-level evaluation for students to demonstrate the real-life skills of their dogs, as well as a knowledge assessment of the students’ understanding of basic dog handling and care. Watch this video to see what the test is all about.
The C.L.A.S.S. Student Handbook is another resource for those participating in the program. It will give you greater understanding about dog training and behavior, as well as how to prepare for a successful evaluation. You can find a copy here.
Keep having fun with your dog and don’t stop teaching and learning. Continue to challenge you and your dog with new skills. Take another class. How about Nose Work, Fido Fun & Games, or Intro to Agility, to name a few possibilities?