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Importance of 'all' basic skills?

Discussion in 'Training & Behavior' started by Molehs, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. Molehs

    Molehs Puppy

    Last September we adopted Windy, a 6 year old staffy mix from a local shelter. I know she's had at least some training. A few times a week for the last couple of weeks I've been putting more effort into working on the basics with her, "sit" "stay" "come" "(lay)down". I've discovered a few things.

    As soon as the treats come out, she instantly follows me or sits patiently when I stop moving. I'm not sure how train to 'sit' if she is always in the position before I have a chance to say anything. As well she has ZERO interest in going back up to a 'sit' from 'down'.

    Also discovered that she is generally unwilling to go to a 'down' on hard floors, wood or tile. Almost looks as if she is very uncomfortable with it either physically or emotionally. But all other activities she has the energy and attitude of a puppy.

    On carpet she is more than happy to go 'down' but quickly flops onto her side or back. The only way to get her up is to either walk away or tell her to 'stay' and then call her to 'come.' And if I 'stay' her, I can go to the other room wait a bit and either call her or go back to her and most of the time she hasn't moved.

    So 'stay' and 'come' are progressing very well, but not so much on the specific 'sit' or 'down.' For the most part I'd be content if she'll hold a 'stay' for the UPS guy or a guest coming into the home. Is the position all that important?

    The ideal end game is that on walks or when we go camping this summer she'll not feel the psychotic urge to meet every person or dog that we pass or passes by. But for the time being, until winter breaks, I'm working on the indoor basics.
  2. BCdogs

    BCdogs Good Dog Staff Member Super Moderator

    You can still reinforce the sit when she's already sitting. I actually had to do this with one of my dogs for "down" because it was sooo hard to lure him into it. So every time I saw him doing a down on his own, I'd mark it quickly with a "yes!" Followed by "good down!" And he got it eventually. You can do the same with the sit.

    As for getting her back into a sit from a down, use a treat to lure her up then mark when she does sit up. Put the treat in front of her and slowly lift it above her head. She should follow it and end up sitting to keep it in her sight.

    I do find stay to be extremely important, so I'd definitely keep working on that too.
  3. MikeSEA

    MikeSEA Puppy

    Maybe it's on the list, but since you mentioned camping, you might also want to work on some form of drop it and leave it for things like dead animals, standing water, etc.
  4. busannie

    busannie Puppy

    A lot of dogs know "sit" to mean "butt on floor", and not necessarily to mean "butt is on floor, front legs are upright". For example, one of my dogs will be standing on his hind legs begging, and when I tell him to sit, he'll just sit on his butt while front legs are still up begging- to him this is "right" because I've never taken the time to affirm exactly what sit is. You have to teach them to go from a down to a sit, just as you had to teach to go from a stand to a sit. Probably the easiest way is by luring, just pull a treat up from her nose when she's in a down, and mark the sit/reward, and once she's consistently doing it, pair it with the word "sit".

    For her anticipation of sitting when treats come out, try not cueing her to the fact that you have treats, so you can direct her to sit, then reward with a surprise treat, say from your pocket. Do this is a low distraction area, while she is already attentive to you, so she is likely to succeed, particularly if you are still using luring to get the behavior normally. This way she'll learn that you may always have treats, not just when she can see/hear them. If sit is still her default, you can mix it up a little by also teaching/rewarding "down", "stand", "heel", and even "look" (focusing on you from any place or position), and you may find that she offers other stuff then, or if nothing else, you can get her to change positions yourself.

    She is probably reluctant to down on hard floors because it's not as comfortable (does she normally lay on them, or seek out a cushy resting spot?), it's up to you whether you want to accept "no" as an answer on that or not. Personally, I would encourage her to do it, just so you have the behavior as an option if needed (use super good treats when you know she's hungry), but not make her do it unless needed. My old dog has always hated to down on cold/wet/hard surfaces, and I did push her to do it regardless, but later considered that it was probably a pretty miserable thing for her and would ask her to sit or stand in those situations instead. My younger dog uses down as his default waiting behavior- never taught, it's just what he does- and will lay down anywhere (I was horrified when he laid down on a bank of snow the other day while waiting for me to shovel, and he's always laying in the gravel driveway when we're out doing stuff) if we are standing in one place long enough, but I still try to consider his comfort level when I ask him to do something, and probably wouldn't ask him to down on those surfaces. So my vote on that would be to teach it just so she understands it applies to all places, but don't ask her to do something which could be uncomfortable unless needed after she knows it.

    To control her flopping on down, hurry to mark/reward her before she has a chance to flop, and if she flops, ignore her, make her sit or stand again, then down her again. She will figure out that flopping doesn't get her a reward, but laying upright does. once she understands, you can lengthen the amount of time you expect her to stay upright for a reward using the same treating criteria.

    Make sure that when you have her in a stay, you don't always call her to you as a release, but sometimes go back to her and release her. Some dogs learn to anticipate the recall from a stay, and this will help to prevent that.

    It's up to you whether you want to be a stickler for position on the stay. For many dogs, "down" is the easiest/most reliable "stay" position, but if I'm just doing x or y real quick and don't want the dog following me, I'll stay him while he's standing and he'll hang out till I get back. Sometimes he'll have sat or downed in the meantime, or possibly moved a hair, but he's pretty much where I left him and I'm good with that. If I don't want him to move, I sit or down him then leave him- he'll stay in those positions until released. For him, "stay" means "don't follow me/wait here", so it's a rather informal behavior in our case, but I use it daily, though I also have the more "formal" sit/down (stay) options to keep him completely still. It's really dependent upon what you need/want, but if you want her to stay while people are coming/going, I would teach sit or down/stay, as it will be less likely that she will break that and greet.

    I would also work on teaching a focus or look command, so you can get/keep her attention on you, as this helps immensely with dogs that are super happy and overstimulated by everyone/thing in the environment. Good luck in your endeavors :)
  5. xchairity_casex

    xchairity_casex Good Dog

    Personally I think using a clicker to free shape would be helpful for this girl and you!

    Free shaping with a clicker is basically not giving any form or direction (no leading into position with your hand, no verbal commands in the beginning)
    and clicking and rewarding hte second she does the behavior you are working on.

    So, for example, lets say you want to work on her learning the sit command.
    You would put some treats into your pockets and a clicker in your hand, when her but hits the ground you click and reward
    after a few reps of doing this you can begin to add the verbal cue "Sit" while you click and reward.

    It is the same with the "down" command, you see her go down you click and reward, after a few reps you begin adding the verbal cue "Down" to the action.

    This can help her learn better because you are not directing her, so her little brain has to work out what it is you are wanting from her, and you will see that once she has a few behaviors in her head she knows works.

    So, lets say you have been free-shaping for several weeks sit, down,focus,etc.

    You grab some treats and stand there, she thinks
    "OH! treats! I know how to get those treats!"
    "maybe I will try to sit! that gets me treats sometimes!"
    so, you will see her sit, and she may sit for several minutes waiting before realizing that must not be the action you wanted from her
    so then she will think
    "OH! I know! this one works too!"
    and she will lie down
    If that does not work she will continue going through each and every behavior she knows that has worked in the past.

    Which is nice because- she will always be focusing on how to please you to get the reward.
    She will be actively working to please you.

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