Okay, okay, you caught us. We aren’t actually doing yoga with our dogs here. Though it may be fun! Joanie and I are attending Canine Good Citizen (CGC) classes every Sunday morning with Canine Lifestyle Academy so she can be CGC certified! There are a lot of pitties that have a hard time with the greeting other dogs and the greeting people portion because they are just. so. excited! Not Joanie, she is very nonreactive on her walks and greets people with all four on the floor. So passing her CGC is a piece of cake right? Well…
Joanie has a confession to make. She doesn’t know how to go down, how to stay, or how to come. So we are working on the basics!
Teaching a solid down is easier for some dogs than others. The trainers in Basic Manners 101 tell you have your dog sit, then put the treat between their front legs and slowly bring it out. For Joanie, as soon as the treat was near the floor her butt would pop up and she would start sniffing to find it. We really weren’t getting anywhere. Last Sunday I asked Meghan another way I could teach her.
I LOVE shaping. Shaping creates a very strong foundation for the behavior that you want. I started out with a clicker and a handful of treats. As soon as Joanie’s butt hit the floor I clicked and gave her a treat, then I brought a fist full of food down in front of her, making her work and figure out how to get them out.
As soon as her butt came off the ground, treats went away. It took about two 15 training sessions of this routine. Eventually she understood,”picking up my butt doesn’t get me anywhere, lets try something else”
The next step is the important part, ANY movement of her legs forward or shift of her body that goes forward gets a click and a treat. We want her to do more of that behavior. As Joanie starts sliding down, I bring my hand further out. If she picks up her butt, treats go away, but if she keeps moving forward, click and treat.
Then when Joanie was all the way down, she got the whole fist full of treats, lots of sing songy “good girls” and chin rubs. Then we go and try it again!
Notice that I never say the word “down”. Dogs don’t know English and Joanie doesn’t know what “down” means. If I start saying it without her doing it, the word becomes meaningless and if I said it enough without the behavior I would need to come up with a new word! So when do I add saying down? When I’d bet $10 that when I put my fist of food on the floor, she would go down.
Joanie is well on her way to becoming CGC certified!