Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Titbits or natural reward training plus the answer to everything
When you work and compete at the highest levels we increasingly focus on ours dogs. We are training and retraining them all of the time. Each day our routine is to fit in as much training as we can. One of the major benefits from all of our training was discovering new ways to train and helping one another to improve. I would lay tracks for you and you would do the same for me. Apart from training days with John Rogerson, we had no formal training classes as such. Our goal was in working with our dogs and proof of our success was in gaining the Tracking Dog and Patrol Dog excellent certificates or maybe to obtain the converted winners tickets.
Because of this free exchange of training information, it pushes handlers and their dogs to their limits. This also resulted in ever increasing higher standards seen in competitions as we learned new techniques. For all our training at such a level we use rewards and these could be toys or titbits. Trevor Ellis was telling me that in the Schutzhund competitions for the dogs training they place small titbits in each heel mark of each footstep on a track to attain the precision you see in their competitions.
To continue passing all this information on to other budding dog handlers Aaron has now entered onto my web site the first 15 articles. They are all free for you to read and make copies. If you do find that these do help you maybe, you may donate something to your local dog shelter.
I said very early on that a dog's basic rule is what is in it for me. Each thing they do must produce a good result or it will not do it again. Pavlov's experiments with dogs proved this for us all. This then begs the question if titbits are so good why do so many dogs still train with aggressive training using regimented and pain inducing collars. This is simply that few instructors are competitors and that using enforcement training does not require the need for us to understand our dogs and is much easier but it does not get the best from your dog.
I had a query the other day that because of the breed he was to purchase the recommendation is that it needs firm training and so choke chains equated to firm handling. This is not so. It is that the family must exert the fullest influenced over this type of dog. It is that some dogs of that breed can if the handler allowed the dog to become dominant then they could find that they have major problems. The first thing for the owner to check is if they actually have a dominant dog and are the owners capable of handling such a dog. Most breeders would be unlikely to let one of their pups that is showing signs of dominancy within the litter go to a home they felt the owner was incapable of controlling. This is logical as this would be very bad advertising for the breeder.
It is therefore only necessary for owners to assess or have their dog assessed and train accordingly. It is a bit unfair on a dog that is in fact very gentle in character to receive such harsh training using spiked pinch collars etc simple because of its breed.
Another reason we still use the enforcement methods is that it is easy to use once you see everyone else in the class prepared to use pain as a way of influencing the dogs. For any instructor to say that titbits, toys or using clickers causes problems in the future shows a lack of experience of high-level training.
It is unfortunate that people see dogs as aggressive animals when it is man who is far more aggressive than any other animal on the planet. It is man who teaches dogs aggression and to override their own genetic rules. Many people believe that dogs have a portion of their brain that is fixed for aggression and this is not so. I fed all my dogs with raw meat and biscuit so many times people would tell me that they would eventually "Turn". I hope by now reading the articles you know now that dogs that revert or turn when they become feral in fact loose their aggression.
The normal pack could never survive if the lead dog had to enforce control by biting the other dogs. Hunting with a pack where most dogs were limping was never an option. Dogs also accept new blood into the pack so it can grow and reduce inbreeding. It is true that protecting one pack from another where food is in short supply then killing members of the other pack does happen. Certainly the studies of feral dogs in New York and subsequently corroborated by my studies in Romania show dogs simply become beggars in family groups and tolerate humans within the same environment. They retain the belief in the infinite pack so true aggression of actually physical harm is rare.
Titbits or reward training is in fact the natural way our bodies teach us to survive. Do you remember the children's seek game of hot and cold? Our old brain and the same goes for dogs teach us what we need to do by chemical rewards. Sex is one of the easiest to use as an example because even without a book or any knowledge our bodies are telling us what to do by stimulating and giving rewards as we do things correctly. The body releases the reward chemicals immediately so like the hot and cold game humans and dogs know they are on the right track even if you do not understand what is happening.
Many survival-training aids will disappear if they do not serve a purpose. Take human babies as an example they can hang on the end of a table by their hands like hanging in a tree. After a while, this ability disappears. Our old brain is always working away in the background and it is surprising how it influences our daily lives. Our choice of partners you may think is just our choice but were we to analyse this we can find design traits that we in fact look for in our partners.
Dogs must learn survival rapidly before they enter the world so there are many defence mechanisms and survival training going on all the time. One such defence is if anything comes towards them, they should immediately back off. You will see a pup that encounters a scorpion for the first time back off if it comes towards it. The method to reproduce is here too so if a dog without reading a book it knows how to mate and multiply.
The chase game that dogs all play is the way the brain is teaching the dog how to chase game. Winston likes to chase in the long grass as if possessed. He does not know why but as soon as he goes into such grass, he runs at full speed and the end game is to try to crash into my legs to bring me down. He only thinks this is a good game but it is now one I do not play and so will subside in time as it serves no purpose. If allowed to progress he would start nipping me in fun to run again and then to play at biting my throat. We do not let this happen so the need disappears even if the wish to play the game remains.
Chemical rewards are the brains way to help train the dog to survive from all the breeds past experience. A dog may not know why it should play chase games with its siblings but it will increase its ability to hunt and to survive. Playing attacking games does the same to help the dog to catch its pray. Shaking things also produces a chemical reward as this is teaching it to kill. Rewards for chewing stimulate a dog to eat its kill. Place a dead rabbit in front of puppies and they have no idea how to get inside to eat the meat. This the brain caters for as dogs receive a reward for tearing things. Look at the expression on the face of dog tearing up paper. It is in ecstasy because of the chemical reward it is receiving.
As the body teaches dogs with such chemical rewards then it must also work if we give rewards to our dogs for obeying our commands. Winston is now like Pavlov's dogs and eager for titbits. I am in control of all the food so he is willing once he knows what it is I want him to do he will receive a reward. It is said that the quickest way to get to a mans heart is through his stomach. The same is true for our dogs.
If for instance you have a dog that chews your furniture, you can stimulate it to chew a hollow rubber toy that has food inside so that it gives a dog a reward for chewing that and not your Chippendale table legs.
There is nothing wrong in giving rewards to our dogs if they do as we ask. This is how the body works normally and if top handlers use rewards to aid training then everyone else can do the same. I know that you may not wish to train your dog to such a high standard but that in no reason not to use such methods. Some instructors will say that once you start to use titbit reward training you will always need to use it but this is not true. Where you may use titbits to encourage your dog to learn to obey a command, you can then just give them occasionally to reinforce the training but in other times, simple praise will suffice.
The answer to everything
If you remember the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the answer was 34 as scientists tell us everything is capable of expression mathematically. There is a belief that knowledge is the answer but take a modern rifle back to the Stone Age and it would be meaningless.
We say necessity is the mother of Invention but could it be we know the answers already. Are all the answers inside our heads or do we actually learn and discover by investigation. Leonardo da Vinci took a great interest in bird's wing design and in their flight. He then went on to make designs way ahead of his time but his era did not have any of the materials needed to build them. Look at the Laser. At first no one new what to do with this pretty light but look what we can do with it now. What about the atomic bomb conceived in theory but it would never have worked it were not for a demolition expert who was familiar and experienced with shaped explosive charges.
Even if we had an encyclopaedia that contained all the answers to everything unless we can also understand all the concepts, we cannot comprehend nor use such information. Having the information does not mean we can understand how we are able to use it.
That is why it is important that in order to train and retrain our dogs more successfully we must first learn to understand them.