Saturday, November 01, 2008
We love our new dog! He is a mutt from Newfoundland... and I swear the Newfoundland mutts are the best in the world. Something about that cold, damp climate makes for great temperaments.
When Ziggy got here last Saturday, he was completely untrained. He didn't come when he was called. He wouldn't sit unless you were actually holding a piece of food. He didn't know how to walk on a leash without pulling your arm off. He was, in other words, a complete blank slate.
Luckily, because he was very well loved (if completely undisciplined) by his previous owner, he isn't filled with bizarre little traumas and anxieties. He is just a sweet, lovable goofball.
With our last dog, we used a traditional training method that used negative correction combined with reward to get the behavior you wanted. It was a combination of snapping a choke chain with offering treats. Frankly, it had it's limitations. Sadie, our old dog, was dog aggressive and no amount of leash popping seemed to help her get over that.
So, with Ziggy, we have been trying something new: positive reinforcement only. No corrections with the collar, just using a clicker to identify success and then offering a treat. I have been working with him all week, and in just this short amount of time, he now can walk on a loose leash, he sits on command and is learning to lie down and come when called. It is awesome!
What is so wonderful about this is that it starts to develop a real relationship between the human and the dog. It becomes an issue of communication, rather than punishment. I forces me to think about what behavior I do want, rather than what I don't. For example, he jumps up on people to greet them. I want him to sit.... so when he sits, I reward him with lots of praise and petting. Now, he drops almost immediately because he knows that that is how he gets greeted.
It is interesting to approach a relationship from the positive rather than negative. I bet it works with humans, too!