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Discussion Starter #1
As some of you know, I took the suggestion from this forum to teach my dog the "go sniff" command to create a way of rewarding her. (She isn't all that interested in food on walks, and she is entirely uninterested in toys outside of the house or the yard.) I've just been teaching her what "go sniff" means, and I think she's getting it. My dog loves sniffing. That makes her happy and that improves our relationship. Giving her more time to sniff is good in its way, but now I'm not sure of the next step -- how to use the command?

In order for "go sniff" to be a reward, she can't be sniffing all the time on her own. But I'm noticing that after I've given her encouragement to sniff, she sniffs 70% of the time on a walk regardless of the command (i.e., her head is low searching for a scent, or her nose is on the ground enjoying the bouquet of flavors "hmm, oaky, with a fruity finish"). So now how can I turn "go sniff" into a reward? Do I need to prevent her from sniffing without my permission?

If I need to prevent her from sniffing, I cannot see how I can do that. That means I need to put some sort of harness on her head so I can keep her nose high. That doesn't make sense to me. I've tried lifting her up a little bit on her harness as we walk. That prevents her from putting her nose down, but that's comfortable for neither one of us.

A second problem is that I cannot always tell when she finds something interesting. So one thing I've been trying is that once she begins to urgently sniffing at something, telling me that there is something interesting here, I pull her away, ask her to do something (usually "sit"), then I "reward" her by letting her sniff (i.e., I give a second command "go sniff," mark with a clicker as she gets her nose on the ground). I have tried giving her her favorite food, but she doesn't seem to care about that. But it's hard to do this consistently when she wants to sniff 70% of the time.

Moreover, she has habits like crisscrossing in front of me, getting behind me, or pulling away from me, and I've been trying to correct them. But now she's doing these behaviors more all for the sake of sniffing something. In other words, sniffing has caused her to take steps back on her walking manners.

I'd love to hear your advice on this matter.
 

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I think you might need a slightly different approach. First, though, I'd like to be clearer about what you are trying to reward her FOR with this command.

What does the dog need to do in order to "go sniff" and get a reward?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
This came out of a discussion on another thread. My dog doesn't care much for treats and toys on walks. So I need to find a way to reward her FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR. Someone suggested controlling the sniffing behavior to make the chance to sniff something as a reward.

As for what counts as good behavior, I'm starting with paying enough attention to me as to obey a simple command that she has no trouble obeying inside the house. So I'm beginning with the simple command of "sit." I'm hoping to expand that to paying attention to the human walker generally, but I don't know what's possible. As I described in the other thread, her behavior has caused serious injuries to her human walkers, and I think it will cause serious injury to her one day.
 

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If I need to prevent her from sniffing, I cannot see how I can do that. That means I need to put some sort of harness on her head so I can keep her nose high. That doesn't make sense to me. I've tried lifting her up a little bit on her harness as we walk. That prevents her from putting her nose down, but that's comfortable for neither one of us.
She's not engaging with you. Sniffing is more interesting than you are (from her point of view). So mix up your walk - change pace (go from walking, to running, to jogging), change direction, come to a complete stop, then carry on.

A second problem is that I cannot always tell when she finds something interesting.
None of can.
But it's hard to do this consistently when she wants to sniff 70% of the time.
This is fixed by the advice given above.

Moreover, she has habits like crisscrossing in front of me, getting behind me, or pulling away from me, and I've been trying to correct them. But now she's doing these behaviors more all for the sake of sniffing something. In other words, sniffing has caused her to take steps back on her walking manners.
How did you improve her walking manners last time?
 

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Well... I'm just going to say that I think "go sniff" as a reward is a dubious approach to rewarding. The problem is exactly what you said, namely, that your dog's brain is ALREADY hard wired to the nose, so telling a dog to "go sniff" is like telling a duck to "go swim". It's not a reward, it's already hard-wired instinct.

There are two principles you need to apply here, imo. First you need to understand conditioning, both "classical conditioning" and "operant conditioning" to understand well enough how to train the dog for a specific skill. There are many books and online resources that will help you with that.

In the last sentence I didn't use the word "specific" randomly. Specificity of the skill (one action) and consistency of the command + hand-gesture (one command) must be very clear to the dog. It must be 1:1. Researchers showed how important this is by training dogs to perform several actions using the same command. When the command was given, not surprisingly the dog would randomly perform one of the conditioned responses.

So, for example, walking manners. Some dogs will find this easier than others but if you want the dog to stop sniffing something and walk then use a command like "leave it" and just keep walking. Train a specific command that means we're going and you need to stop sniffing. In my case I taught my dog to respond to the command "let's go". The command is always the same and the "gesture" is that I raise my hand. The command and the gesture are both important because the dog will respond significantly better if you use both. This has also been proven in research. In the example above, raising the hand (making a gesture) is important for another reason. I can call my dog back, for example, on a beach where he might be slightly away from me and not hear the command because of the sound of the waves. Just raising my hand will cause him to come, provided, of course, that he sees it.

For walking manners I just trained two commands. "Let's go" and "get between" (in Dutch I say "kom tussen"). The same command "kom tussen" is used when I'm walking with someone else or alone. It's equivalent to "heel" in the sense that he is commanded to walk beside me. I don't train a bunch of different commands for the same thing (ie. walking beside me) so even if people think it's weird that I tell to dog to get between when I'm alone with him, the DOG knows EXACTLY what I want him to do. Keep it simple to set the dog up for success.

As for rewards. Go sniff is going to frustrate you and confuse the dog. I would personally find another way and/or look for a "higher value" treat. One that the dog can hardly resist. I'm not a big fan of hotdogs, for example, but I spoke to someone who said their dog was uninterested in treats until she started training with the miracle of hot dogs. Try different things. My dog responds to a lot of treats but is especially wild about cheese. When we go out for our little training sessions and he thinks I'm going to give him cheese his attention is focused beyond belief. What I'm trying to say here is to first look for a kind of traditional treat that you can combine with the clicker that the dog will kill for.

Last thing is that when you're training, do it often but keep the sessions short. 10-15 min training sessions are long enough. I usually do a few minutes of obedience during our longer walks. A few minutes at a time spread over 1-2 hours as we're walking. If you do more than that then you might be discouraging your dog or making the walk "a drag" to the point that the dog won't enjoy it. It is highly important for the dog to enjoy the walk.

Does any of that help?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
How did you improve her walking manners last time?
By doing a number of things, including following:

So mix up your walk - change pace (go from walking, to running, to jogging), change direction, come to a complete stop, then carry on.
First, I had to get her to obey commands outside of the house. For whatever reason, her owners taught her one or two commands, but it seems like she associated them with being inside the house, not with being inside the house. So I'd ask her to sit right before we leave the house. Open the door, take a few steps out, then ask her to sit again. If she ignores the command, back to the house. Repeat. Then I gradually expanded the range.

Mixing up the walk has to be a regular lesson in every walk. Jogging has been a bit of a challenge because the dog doesn't get that if she decides to go smell something when she's behind you, you cannot see her, and she'd just get violently pulled ahead.
 

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So, for example, walking manners. Some dogs will find this easier than others but if you want the dog to stop sniffing something and walk then use a command like "leave it" and just keep walking. Train a specific command that means we're going and you need to stop sniffing. In my case I taught my dog to respond to the command "let's go".
Currently when I walk my dog, I'm constantly saying "leave it" and "let's go." She knows these two commands, and follows them a good percentage of the time. But I have to say them constantly because she is constantly (or 70% of the time) wanting to smell things. The rate of obedience differs during different portions of the walk.

As for rewards. Go sniff is going to frustrate you and confuse the dog. I would personally find another way and/or look for a "higher value" treat. One that the dog can hardly resist. I'm not a big fan of hotdogs, for example, but I spoke to someone who said their dog was uninterested in treats until she started training with the miracle of hot dogs. Try different things. My dog responds to a lot of treats but is especially wild about cheese.
My dog responds to food inside the house, but not outside the house. I've tried: chicken (her favorite), steak (likes), bacon (indifferent), hot dog (indifferent), shrimp (doesn't like), peanut butter (indifferent), duck (ok), cheese (prefers gouda and American cheddar to parmigiano-reggiano), beef liver (likes), and probably a few other things I don't remember right now, in addition to the bags of treats you can buy from stores (she prefers to the cheap ones to the expensive ones). BUT SHE LIKES THEM ONLY INSIDE THE HOUSE. She will "do anything" for chicken, BUT ONLY INSIDE THE HOUSE.

Once she's outside, her natural behaviors (attacking a prey, sniffing, focusing on "dangers") are way more rewarding to her than anything I can give her. When she's really focused on something, waving her favorite treat in front of her nose, or even putting it in her mouth, does nothing. I've tried tapping her, covering her eyes, turning her head with my hand, etc. Sometimes I can get her to accept a treat, but it's like asking her to do me a favor. Sometimes she holds the treat in her mouth -- her favorite, the chicken -- and after taking a few steps, she spits it out.

Does anyone have a dog that spits out a favorite treat?

The thing that works to get her attention when she's that focused is to keep walking. That will yank the leash. She will pay attention to me and, after taking a few more steps, she will do "sit" or whatever I ask of her.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I think my dog reads this forum, because today she was such a well-behaved doggie on our walk!

Incidentally, I exaggerated -- she does respond to treats outside the house, but a lot less than inside the house. Today I used beef liver. She ate it in the first third of the walk as a reward for doing stuff. In the second third, she started doing things like knocking the treat out of my hand after obeying commands. So she was still obeying, but she was giving me freebies. At one point I just stopped trying to give her treats because it was clear she just didn't want any.

In the house, though, she'd greet the beef liver with great enthusiasm.
 

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hmm... you would normal expect that the dog would have figured out walking on a leash by then :D.

When I was teaching my dog how to walk on a leash I needed to walk long distances. He's a poodle and even now (he's 3 1/2) the first few minutes of a walk involve him being on high alert and checking out his environment.

The long walks wore him down to the point that he just "walked'. I call it "travel mode". The head and tail relax, the ears are back and he just walks. At first I needed to delay training leash skills until I saw the head and tail in travel mode. At that point I could train him for "get between" and "let's go" and set him up for success. Once he got it when I handed it him on a silver platter then I could work on the commands when he was slightly distracted.

Even today if he's reactive to something (usually a cat and sometimes birds) then I need to make him stop and then wait for those ears to go back down before resuming the walk. The whole approach is designed to set the dog up to succeed. If I know he's not going to listen to "let's go" when he's found a cat to play with behind a bush then it's better to just back off and wait until his head comes back to earth.

I also found that one of the leash skills is the human skill with the leash. I just use a slip lead like the one in the picture below. Hold the loop in one hand, cross the leash across your body with the dog on the opposite side of the body as the hand holding the loop. The hand that isn't holding the loop is holding the lead close to the dog. The lead should be slack but short so that the dog can't take off in front of you to cross over to the other side. With this you can steer the dog to stay next to you while training the command to walk beside you. Once the dog has it figured out then you can start to hold the lead in the hand on the same side as teh dog. I just roll up the excess length between my fingers when I do that so I can let it slip out if he moves around a bit.

Using this, my dog just sort of figured out himself that if he wants to cross over to the other side that he has to cross over behind me (where I give him the room to do that) and not in front. Maybe you can use that. I would also recommend checking out some youtube channels. There are dog trainers (and some pretty good ones) who have channels and I find that resource very helpful. Leash training, in particular, isn't an obvious skill for the dog or for the human. Think of it like dancing a tango. The dog has to learn how to tango but if you can't lead then the dog can't follow. I find leash training to be a lot like that.

Does that help?


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I'm not a fan of slip leashes other than in high risk situations, when the dog could escape a normal collar or harness and bolt. There are dogs who will continue to pull against them, to the point of injury.

But - genuine question - what is the purpose of the stopper tab thing if it sits above the loop that tightens?
 

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There is one more general point I think I should add. I used to train scuba divers and I myself am a technical diver with 36 years of diving experience. I focused on the novice courses because I felt that this is where I had the most added value in helping students build a solid skills foundation.

Imagine, however, if I had demanded of my students that their skills were as good as mine after just a few tries. It would be a ridiculous expectation and the students would fail to meet the bar, right? In order to train a diver to my level of skill I need years, not days or weeks or just a few tries.

I think people do this with their dogs. I see people expecting their dogs, for example, to walk flawlessly on a leash after maybe 4 or 6 hours of training because their trainer at the puppy course showed them how and the dog performed well at the the puppy course that day.

Just like a novice scuba diver, a dog will understand after a few repetitions how to perform a skill. However, they will initially only be able to do it under perfect conditions (no distractions, not tired, not hungry etc.). Only after many repetitions will they be able to perform the skill flawlessly in good conditions and then many MORE repetitions before they can do it while distracted in some way.

It's all about breaking a skill down into it's smallest component pieces (just like training a diver) and then repeating that skill over and over again, even once you think the dog "gets it". \

Baby steps. It's all about taking baby steps.

Don't forget, most people spend 20-40 hours training their house pet. A working dog, like a seeing-eye dog or a police dog will receive basic training on the order of 5000 hours... AND under the tutelage of a professional.

My point here is to expect of the dog what the dog can do and then raise the bar slowly. Training is taking baby steps and your best quality as a trainer is patience. Endless patience.
 

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I'm not a fan of slip leashes other than in high risk situations, when the dog could escape a normal collar or harness and bolt. There are dogs who will continue to pull against them, to the point of injury.

But - genuine question - what is the purpose of the stopper tab thing if it sits above the loop that tightens?
I use two leashes. The slip leash was handy when teaching him how to walk on a leash. The other leash I use is longer and attaches to a 3 point harness. I prefer that one because the dog has more freedom. The slip leash was to teach him NOT to pull. Obviously if your dog is a massive puller then you'll probably need to re-think the slip lead idea for safety reasons. On the subject of not pulling. If the dog is pulling on the leash then the idea is NOT to pull back. The idea is to make the dog stop and sit (or whatever, as long as he isn't moving) and the wait until his head descends back down to earth.

I don't know if that will work for evry dog, but it worked for mine.

As for the tab. The dog MAY figure out that by backing up and lowering its head that the leash will slip off. The tab stops the loop from opening up enough for that.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts on the various subjects and for taking the substantial amount of time and energy to put them in writing. I especially appreciate dogslife's effort. Let me emphasize that I am looking for a way to reward my dog when she is outside the house. This is primary.

I do not recall reading a training book or watching a training video that doesn't involve using a reward (usually food) to motivate the dog to behave in a certain way. So we need to start with finding an effective reward before I can take advantage of anything else in this thread. That's where I'm stuck.
 

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Let me emphasize that I am looking for a way to reward my dog when she is outside the house.
Well.... I don't want to become augmentative but frankly, this is NOT what you are looking for.

Think it through. You want to reward your dog for a purpose. You don't want to reward your dog randomly. You are trying to train your dog (operant conditioning) and you want to find a way to make that operant conditioning work even though your dog doesn't see food as a reward.

There are 4 ways of going about operant conditioning (see image under).

1) Positive punishment: (ie. ADDING something that the dog doesn't like). This could be hitting in an extreme case (just to make the point) but anything that the dog doesn't like will work. A loud sound or bad smell when the dog exhibits an undesirable behaviour will also work.

2) Positive reinforcement: (ie ADDING something that the dog likes). This is the "reward" thing that everyone is obsessed about .

3) Negative punishment (ie... NOT letting the dog do something it wants to do). for example, not letting the dog "sniff" might be an example of negative punishment.

4) Negative reinforcement (ie. removing something that the dog does NOT like). This is seldom applied but you could see it as somthing like "stopping piniching the dog" when it does what you want. This kind of training is fairly rare in my experience.

All 4 of those things are effective methods of operant conditioning. The most "gentle" one (positive reinforcement) is seen by many pet owners as the ONLY viable method but in reality any of these approaches will allow you to reach your goal.... your goal, of course.... is to have a acceptable walk with your dog.

To be perfectly frank, even trainers who think they are ONLY using positive reinforcement are usually using #1 #2 and #3.

For example I used #3 (Negative punishment) a LOT when teaching my dog to walk on a leash. He was allowed to sniff when he met my standard of "not pulling".

My point here is that I don't think you want to reward your dog as much as you want to find a hook to make your dog obey. You have more options available to you, even if your dog doesn't respond to treats, than you think.

Does that help?

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Discussion Starter #18
I appreciate your fondness of theory, but practical tips would be more useful in my situation. For example--

For example I used #3 (Negative punishment) a LOT when teaching my dog to walk on a leash. He was allowed to sniff when he met my standard of "not pulling".
How do you do this? I have tried exactly this method, and I wrote about it in one of the posts above (or maybe in a different thread), In summary, I cannot prevent the dog from sniffing unless I physically lift her up. So she walks on her two hind legs. I have actually done this and tried to walk her this way. But she clearly doesn't learn anything this way, and this is stupid and uncomfortable for both of us. How do you prevent a dog from sniffing?

Right now all I can think of is running. You run, and the dog runs and so cannot sniff. But then wouldn't the dog think running = one set of behavior, slow walking = another set?

I have successfully used #3 in another context. She used to ignore all commands outside the house. (I think maybe her owners cultivated a different behavior outside the house.) I made it clear ignore commands = no walk.
 

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I appreciate your fondness of theory, but practical tips would be more useful in my situation. For example--



How do you do this? I have tried exactly this method, and I wrote about it in one of the posts above (or maybe in a different thread), In summary, I cannot prevent the dog from sniffing unless I physically lift her up. So she walks on her two hind legs. I have actually done this and tried to walk her this way. But she clearly doesn't learn anything this way, and this is stupid and uncomfortable for both of us. How do you prevent a dog from sniffing?

Right now all I can think of is running. You run, and the dog runs and so cannot sniff. But then wouldn't the dog think running = one set of behavior, slow walking = another set?

I have successfully used #3 in another context. She used to ignore all commands outside the house. (I think maybe her owners cultivated a different behavior outside the house.) I made it clear ignore commands = no walk.
What worked for my dog might not work for yours but what I would do (and still do from time to time) is give him the "stop" or "wait" command as soon as he starts pulling. He obeys those commands very well so I can always get him to stop pulling that way. Once he's not moving I'll move forward to stand beside him and I just wait. I keep an eye on the ears and when I see the ears go down to a relaxed position I say, "OK". If he looks at me then we go again. If not, I wait longer. When I first started doing this it sometimes took several minutes of waiting before the dog came back down to earth enough to continue walking. The command I use to continue walking is "let's go" so I reward him after this period of waiting if he responds to "let's go". This is how I got him to obey "let's go".

That was step one. Once I got him to the point that the wait was short I started training him for "go between" (heel). What I did here is to break down the skill into smaller and smaller steps like I would if it were a diving skill. At first, to train "heel" I would make him stop, then I would get next to him, and I would say, "go between" the way I used let's go. The difference is that I would hold the leash in such a way that he had to walk next to me. In this same period of time I trained heel off leash by using high value treats and rewarding him for walking next to me. First for a few steps, then a 5 count (my dog can count to at least 5) then for a period of time with no feedback and finally on the leash. At the end, I shorten the "stop and wait" segment of the skill progressively until he would heel on command without going through all of the steps of the skill he already knew.

This is all about breaking the skill down into smaller skills and working on compound skills by first drilling the elements.

As I said, this is exactly how we train scuba divers for complex skills like removing a mask and replacing it while swimming. We don't remove the mask while swimming until we've drilled the elements like having a little water in the mask, more water in the mask, water in the mask for an extended period of time (say, 10 seconds), filling the mask, clearing the mask with a little water, then more water, then when the mask is full, removing the mask while stationary, then combining that with swimming (which has been trained as a separate skill).

If you asked a novice to remove a mask and replace it while swimming on their first try then they simply wouldn't be able to do it. In fact, they may never learn it if this is the only thing you try to drill with them. For EXACTLY the same reason most people have trouble training their dogs to perform compound skills. You have to break a skill into it's most basic elements and then build up the compound skill by combining elements that the dog (or diver) can already perform. Of course a dog is not a diver and most humans will understand the approach if you explain it to them but the dog won't. You'll have to rely on conditioning when training a dog to a much higher degree. As an aside, I should also say that my dog is a poodle and he's very clever. I think I could actually teach that dog how to scuba dive :D

Getting back to the dog: by doing the above (ie stop and wait at the first sign of pulling) it stopped the dog pulling on fairly short order. I think he started to realize that by pulling he DIDN'T get what he wanted.

Now on to sniffing: This is a two pronged approach but let me just say that I give my dog ample opportunity to sniff. I don't believe in training the dog to walk like a robot beside me when I feel like walking. He's a pet, not a working dog so I let him be a dog as much as I can (or have the patience for).

That said, when it's time to go, it's time to go, so :

1) if he is actively sniffing and I want him to stop so we can get back to walking I say, "Let's go" (the command to start walking). He usually obeys this command very well but if he ignores me then I walk straight across the front of him. This causes him to lift his head and turn. Then I just turn him all the way around, holding the leash short and say, "let's go" again. It's not very often that this doesn't work. I NEVER pull on the leash when he's sniffing and I want him to stop. I don't want a contest of wills with him, I want him to understand that when he listens to "let's go" that he gets a reward, even if that reward is me saying, "good boy!" in the same way I would if I were literally giving him a treat. It's reinforcement the desired behaviour.

2) He's different at night than he is during the day. Also, after a rain storm or whatever, he's going to get a major case of "snifferitis". The world must be a very different place when 90% of your brain his wired straight to your nose. I know this so at night I don't walk in places like the park with him because it presents him with too many stimuli. At night or when the goal is to make a long distance walk with him through the city I walk on a broad sidewalk that's much less appealing to the dog's nose. You just get fewer interruptions that way.

Any of that make any sense?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I want to thank dogslife for spending so much time and energy helping me solve my dog training problems. While they don't always address exactly the situation I was facing, they are always relevant and thought-provoking. I was able to benefit from them and get training ideas.

As for my dog, since I posted the last time I focused on reteaching her walking manners. It seems that the permission to sniff basically made her throw out all her previously acquired walking manners because sniffing is so fun, and I just had to retrain her. She learned faster the second time, and it seems that because now there is room on a walk for her to do an activity she loves (sniffing), she is happier and she obeys better.

The same goes for the "find it" game. After teaching her the game, initially I thought she somehow forgot everything else I taught her. But gradually I saw that sniffing was so absorbing she couldn't pay attention to me during the game. Even after the game was over for me, she was still playing the game. After the novelty wore off in a few weeks, she started behaving more normally even during the game.

Sure, when she smells something especially good, sees a "suspicious" person, or comes across her nemesis the friendly golden retriever (I don't understand why she hates such a nice dog), she ignores my commands. But I'll worry about that later.

Thanks, everyone, for all your input.
 
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