Hard work pays off for Bella the Barker
April 19, 2010 -
I know positive reinforcement works. I use it every day. Scientific studies have proven it to be the most effective way to train. I’ve seen the amazing results that come from positive reinforcement. Yet, every once in a while, I have doubts. That doubt comes from seeing the dogs in my class each week and not seeing them get drastically better.I know positive reinforcement works. I use it every day. Scientific studies have proven it to be the most effective way to train. I’ve seen the amazing results that come from positive reinforcement. Yet, every once in a while, I have doubts. That doubt comes from seeing the dogs in my class each week and not seeing them get drastically better. I start to wonder (to myself – not aloud!), should we be using force to “correct” this behavior?? My rational mind says, “Of course not!” However, I’m like everyone else and want to see results. Then… I ask my student if they exercised their dog and if they practiced. After 8 years, I’m still surprised by the answer! They haven’t practiced and they haven’t exercised the dog!! Shame on me for doubting…
Bella is a 1-yr old Miniature Schnauzer who had a barking problem. She barked at people. She barked at dogs. She barked in the car. And you’ve heard a schnauzer bark right? Can you say ear splitting? Bella is lucky enough to be owned by a very dedicated Pet Parent. Before she came to our store at 10 months of age, she had been kicked out of another puppy class for barking and had been placed behind a barrier, moved far, far away from the action, and forgotten at another class (which was being held outside at a park with dogs, ducks, excitement, etc). Lucky for Bella, her Pet Parent didn’t give up. She signed up for 8 private lessons with Cindy, the other trainer at my store.
Cindy told her all the right things. For instance, Bella barked as soon as they got in the car. So Cindy told her to just sit in the car in the driveway and reward Bella for being quiet (they used a long-handled spoon with squeeze cheese to reward). Eventually, Cindy had her back down the driveway and reward Bella for being quiet while the car was moving. Then they drove around the block, then a little further, and then they could make it all the way to PetSmart. The Pet Parent would come early, so they could sit in the car until Bella was quiet in the PetSmart parking lot (it’s an exciting place after all). Only dedicated handlers would go through the necessary steps to teach the dog what TO DO (i.e. lay quietly on the seat) rather than punish the dog for barking.
Once inside, Cindy taught her how to set Bella up to succeed by keeping her far enough away from the action that she could be quiet and get rewarded. Gradually, they got closer to the people and the dogs and little Bella could still be quiet. They taught her to sit and stay and watch (look at the handler), all the while rewarding any little progresses. Bella did great! As the weeks went on, she learned to sit quietly at her handler’s side while someone approached to say hi. She could walk behind, beside, and in front of another dog. She could see people passing by the window and choose to look at her Pet Parent rather than bark. You can imagine how proud her mom was of her! Can you imagine how proud Cindy and I were of her mom?
When your dog is doing something that you don’t like, don’t resort to punishment. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Surely, your relationship with “man’s best friend” is worth doing right, so take the time to teach your dog the right behaviors. A well-mannered dog is a joy like no other.
P.S. When the Pet Parent sent me the picture to use for this blog, she included this note:
Bella's training sessions were the BEST of the BEST!!! Cindy was incredible with her. We were so disappointed in the two other classes we were enrolled in and left after two sessions. I called to find out about the Doggie Day Care for some socialization skills for Bella and found out about your classes. We came in the next day and met Cindy and couldn't wait to get started. I was sooooo discouraged with her behavior, but Cindy helped her become a different baby. THANK YOU, CINDY AND PETSMART!!!