Be like the tide in dog training

When the tide comes in it advances and then retreats, advances a little more and retreats again. We can use this principle for a wide variety of dog training applications.

1. When training a sit or down stay. Ask the dog to sit for one second, then two then three. When we think the dog is about to break the stay, release him and give him a break. The next “wave” might start at two seconds and advance until five seconds this time. Give a reward after every increment. The next wave starts at four seconds and we manage to get to 7 seconds. We have short breaks between waves and, during the first set of waves, we always aim to start and finish each one a little better than the one before. We then take a break and the dog is either done for the day or for a good while to let him recover and clear his head.

If we started the first wave at one second and manged to start the last wave at 15 seconds, we would start the  our next session at between five and ten seconds and hopefully advance to 30 seconds.

2. When training our reactive dog to be able to move closer to another dog. If, for instance we are working with a reactive dog and she reacts at 50 paces but not at 55 paces, we would start our first wave at 55 paces and reward her for non reactive behaviours around the other dog at this distance with the aim of getting a bit closer. Our aim on the first wave is to get to or just very slightly closer than the 50 paces our dog reacts at. We then back off and start again from 54 paces this time and work to get to 48-45 paces. We back off and repeat the process.

Again, we only push the dog very slightly in this first session, and if she offers any non reactive behaviour however short, we heavily reinforce it. We then call it a day and give our girl a break for that session.

If we started the last wave on day one at 51 feet, and ended at 42 feet, we start our first wave on day two at 48 feet and repeat the process. We push our dog very slightly and the back off, push her a little more and back off again. When we are making good progress, we back all the way off and give her a break with play or sniffing and start the process again.

3. If we are trying to desensitise our dog to having his nails clipped. We start by touching the clippers against his neck and reward. Then onto his shoulder, then reward. Then just below his shoulder and reward and slightly lower again and reward. Then we back off and start again. with this wave hopefully getting to just abouve his shoulder. Start again and repeat. you get the idea.

When we finally get to touching his nails with the clippers, we touch and then back off, put a little pressure on the nail and treat, a little more and treat, repeat and back off.

Eventually we get to the stage where we can clip his nails without reacting. It is a time intensive protocol but it means that in the long run the dog will look forward to having his nails clipped or an a minimum be neutral about it

These are just three examples of how to apply this principal to training or behaviour modification. if we continue to push the dog without backing off, the dog will eventually stop working as we are asking for more and more work for the same or reducing rewards. I use this often when working with clients and their dogs and found it to be easy to understand and apply.

As Bruce Lee said “Be like water”


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