How to friend a dog?
How to make friend with a dog? The first time meeting a dog is like an encounter with a stranger, more outgoing ones might look at you, perhaps sniff you, or even jump on you if he has a bad habit; others might flee, bark, or show their teeth. This dog did neither. He did not even look at me. Whenever I get within half a meter of him, he briskly walked away like a fish, always facing the direction of his owner, who was 30 meters away. This is Jedi, my friend's border collie which I needed to train.
Before any dog training can begin, a relationship needs to be established. A dog will try to figure out what you want and what you don't only if he pays some attention to you and sees value from you. Much like human Psychiatrists always chat and make patients relax at the first session with any new patient. Befriending dog is simple: make him see value in you. Even humans love to befriend those he or she sees value: fun to talk to, good looking, useful connection, part of social circle, etc. The difficult part is: in a way acceptable for the particular dog. Much like humans, each dog has his own character. One might love being gently rubbed on his back and shows his belly to you a few minutes after you meet (a symbol of trust); Another might back off when any human hand moves above his head. The character of a dog depends mostly on his past experiences. For example, I have met a dog that hides behind his owner whenever any Asian male walks toward him. Upon asking, the dog was rescued from the streets of Shanghai, and likely suffered from violence from cleaners. To ensure effectiveness and success, we shall always start from the most subtle interaction with the dog. If the dog feels comfortable, after much repetition, we can move up the ladder to a slightly higher level of intimacy. This is because overly intimate behaviour (e.g. trying to touch the head of a frightened dog) will lead to bad impression and potential distrust, which may be hard to repair. Being conservative, on the other hand, does not cause negative effects. A super outgoing dog will not like you less just because you touched his cheek instead of head. In fact, when you will know when there is enough trust between you and a dog. Your interaction will naturally upgrade. It is the same between humans. You will not ask a stranger about his or her family, income, political opinion, etc., even though many people are perfectly comfortable discussing at least some of the topics. Instead, you always start from the most subtle ones says, weather. As your bond grows, you will naturally feel comfortable to discuss deeper topics.àp Following are the steps I took with Jedi. I moved gradually from the most subtle interaction to the most intimate. Throughout the process, I rewarded each time Jedi performed the desired behaviour: Attract his attention with food At the beginning, even though I brought him more than 30 meters away from his owner, he still constantly faced and looked toward him. Jedi avoided me whenever I walked toward him, so I had to keep the leash very short, only 1 to 2 meters long. When I held a treat close to him (within half a meter or so), he move his head, pay me take a glimpse over me, eat the treat, then immediately faced back to his owner again. Whenever his head moved toward me, I always marked with a clear and enthusiastic "Yes!". I knew that his owner trains Jedi a lot, and established a strong bond. So despite feeling a little frustrated, this was more or less expected. After enough repetitions (half a pouch of diced sausage), Jedi started to sometimes not directly face his owner even when I was not holding treats over him. I moved to the next step. Reward the smallest hint of attention It was time to introduce operant conditioning, as Jedi finally showed some variation in behaviour (rather than constantly facing the same direction). I patiently stood beside, calling Jedi's name once in a while. I rewarded whenever Jedi showed the subtlest hint of attention to me- such as when he faced 30 degrees away from his owner in my direction, or turned his head toward me. As the diced sausage that once filled an entire pouch disappeared, I could feel his interest in me grew. Once in a while Jedi would voluntarily turn around and look at me. This is the time to reward heavily - I always praised immediately, saying things such as "Yes! Yes! You are such a good boy. I want you look at me. Thank you so much!". As I spoke, I gave 2, 3, even 4 pieces of sausage, as opposed to the usual one piece. By doing so, I effectively told Jedi that facing me and looking at me is a very good thing, and would be rewarded. Offering verbal marker immediately ("Yes!") was important as there is a time gap between his action (e.g. look toward me) and Jedi receiving the treat. By the time he ate the treat, he might have performed another action, or be not even looking at me. Verbal marker ensured that he understood which action he was rewarded for. Even though half of the time Jedi still faced his owner, he would walk around, and approach or look at me every minute or so. Time to transition to the next step. Reward the more desired action Since Jedi frequently paid attention to me, I started differentiating between the reward for different level of "paying attention to me". For example, I gave two pieces of sausage if his eye stayed on me for a couple seconds, and only one piece if his eye crossed me, but did not step. This directed him toward behaving in the desired way. As time went by, I started raising the bar. For example, I did not offer reward if he only looked at me for a few seconds, but only when he walked toward me while looking at me. The key is not to raise the bar too high, and ensure that the dog receives a treat frequently enough. Otherwise you risk losing his interest. Have fun! By this time, Jedi and I had become acquainted, and were on the right path to becoming friends. It was time to start playing games, a more fun and equally effective way to foster our bond. Fetch may be difficult without training, but you should be able to play more basic ones, such as tug-of-war, free shaping, training basic behaviors (e.g. sit, touch), or just rubbing parts of body that he enjoys. I chose to spend the rest of time offering him an intellectual challenge - free shaping him to stand on a mat. At the end of the 2 hour session, I sat down with my friend. Jedi walked around us, and at times touched my leg with his nose. When I rubbed his back, and held his face with my palms, I saw happiness in his eyes, and his tail slowly wagging.
Zhang An Zhi
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