Terrier Tested: Interactive Foraging Dog Toys, Free Range Bullie, Gentle Leader, Sure Fit Harness & Supplies (Not Balls)

IMG_1587I have these dog goodies linked on this site so my clients can find the best items at the best prices! I mention many of these items during group and private dog training sessions.

You can get these toys at many stores. I SHOP at AMAZON and SIT STAY for the best deals from reliable sources. My 10 year old Australian terrier,Bentley, loves each of these items (well, except for the head collar). Each item has been “terrier tested” for durability!

Here, you can find foraging /food dispensing toys, gentle leader head collars, squirrel dude, fire hose dog toy, and other How’s Bentley approved dog supplies and equipment. Just click the image to shop at Amazon. I get a small percentage of whatever you buy, but I’m not making a living at .40 cents per $10. 🙂

Here’s the Fire Hose toy for the Fire Hose Game. The Fire Hose Game is a simple solution for friendly dogs that get excited and jump on visitors. The toy floats and is great for games of water fetch. Fire hose is tough! But, this is not a chew toy, your dog can dismantle it by attacking the seams. The unique texture of the fire hose makes this a hit with all puppies and dogs.

You can use this free range bullie stick to condition your dog to “love” his dog bed. The free range bullies do not stink like the Merrick bullies stocked at local pet supply stores. CAUTION, This chew has the potential to turn Fluffy into Cujo! Read about Food related aggression by clicking anywhere in this sentence.
Click here for free instructions for teaching your dog to want to GO-TO-PLACE. .

The tug a jug is a commercial version of water bottle toy. This thing is tough! Bentley will carry it in his mouth, jump up into a patio chair and drop the jug on the rock patio. I keep waiting for it to break, but no cracks yet! This is better for medium or large dogs. Bentley is about 20 lbs., and the toy is on the large size for him.

The Gentle Leader Head Collar offers the most control among head collars. It does take a bit of learning to use, and is not for all dogs or people. It will not fit dogs with flat faces. I refer to the Gentle Leader head collar as a nylon valium. It has a natural calming effect on some dogs. If you are fitting and using without a trainer’s help, CLICK the image to order from Sit Stay which includes a dvd video. Gentle Leader, Medium w/ DVD

Not all harnesses are created equal. The Premier Sure Fit Harness is the best harness out there! You do not have to slide your dog’s leg through a loop or buckle it on the belly. Other brands are a nightmare to fit and the dog can slide out of the harness. In addition, many of the harnesses do not distribute the force of the leash to the dog’s body, as a good harness should. If you have a small dog, I recommend a small, Premier Sure Fit Harness. Sit Stay has a great price. CLICK the image to visit Sit Stay and shop for Premier Sure Fit Harness.
Sure-Fit Harness, X-Small, 1/2

Say, regardless of the equipment you like, you’ll need a 6 foot, leather training leash to teach Basic Obedience COMMANDS.

Here’s a link to Amazon, who has the best price for a braided, 6 foot, 1/2″ leather leash.

The Busy Buddy Squirrel is one of my favorite hollow rubber foraging toys. I like this design; the opening has rubber fingers that keep the dog kibble from falling out. Your puppy will have to work for the food! The squirrel design is cute, but Bentley keeps running to my patio door when I ask him to find the squirrel. It’s one of our favorites!

Kong- Hmm. . . what can I say? Everyone should have 2 or 3 of these! The kong is an all time favorite and tough foraging toy for any dog or puppy. Amazon has excellent prices on these famous Kong toys. You an get a large kong for under $8. Order two or three and follow my frozen chicken broth recipe for crate training help. The kong provides excellent foraging and entertainment value. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, order the ultimate black kong!

Pet Food Regulation? – March 2007 Pet Food Recall Brings Guilty Plea by Chem Nutra

AUstralian Terrier, Bentley

Many of us know that several pet foods were recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2007. As the investigation unfolded, additional brands and/or products were added to the recall. Most of the major brands were affected. How could so many different brands contain the same source of contamination?

Throughout many short and incomplete news reports, I noticed conflicting stories about the regulation of pet foods and the source of the contamination. Here are some facts about the regulation of pet foods and the pet food recall of March 2007.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that human and pet foods are safe and properly labeled. This leads us to believe the FDA is regulating ingredients, but this is not necessarily so. Many ingredients such as the meats, poultry, grains and by-products are considered “safe” and do not require routine inspection or approval by the FDA.


The FDA does not inspect or regulate the source or quality of ingredients that make up the protein and fat in pet foods.

The FDA does regulate the production and distribution of food additives, chemicals and drugs that are included in pet foods. In addition, the FDA regulates the proper labeling of pet foods. The order by which ingredients are listed on the label and any health claims on the label fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Health claims on labels relate to claims that a particular food is helpful in the treatment or prevention of diseases.

The FDA labeling requirements are in concert with AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). AAFCO is a self-regulating organization whose members primarily consist of representatives of the pet food manufacturers.

AAFCO is not a government organization and does not have any enforcement capabilities; however AAFCO is considered an authority on which ingredients and nutrients should go into pet foods.

The Pet Food Institute (PFI) is another organization involved in pet food manufacturing. PFI is the “voice of pet food manufacturers”. The primary function of the 50 year old organization is media relations. PFI represents 97% of all pet food manufacturers.


Pet Food Recalls

In March 2007, FDA learned that some pet foods manufactured by Menu Foods were causing illness and death among cats and dogs.

The USA company, Menu Foods, manufactures and packages pet foods for many of the major pet food companies. The companies give Menu Foods their recipes and Menu Foods manufactures and packages the finished products.

The source of the contaminant was an additive used in many pet foods, wheat gluten. The FDA does regulate the production and distribution of food additives. The contaminant in the wheat gluten was melamine.

“Wheat gluten is a natural protein derived from wheat or wheat flour, which is extracted to yield a powder with high protein content. Pet food manufacturers often use wheat gluten as a thickener or binding agent in the manufacture of certain types of pet food. Melamine can be used to create products such as plastics, cleaning products, glues, inks, and fertilizers. Melamine has no approved use as an ingredient in human or animal food in the United States.”

The FDA recall included numerous Menu Foods products manufactured for many popular brands of pet foods. Other food manufacturers were affected by the recall too. Several companies voluntarily recalled some of their manufactured products.

The wheat gluten originated in China and was purchased by Chem Nutra, Inc., located in Las Vegas Nevada. Chem Nutra imported the wheat gluten for resale to various pet food manufacturers. Menu Foods was one of the larger animal feed manufacturers that purchased contaminated wheat gluten from Chem Nutra.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was also involved in the investigation because some farm animal feed and fish feed contained the tainted pet foods. The animals and fish consumed the feed and were processed for human consumption. Scientists determined the risk to humans who consumed meat from the farm animals was very low.

On February 6, 2008, a federal grand jury returned indictments against several key individuals and companies. Two Chinese nationals and their businesses along with Chem Nutra, Inc and key officers were included in the indictments. Menu Foods was not named in the indictments.

Update: In June 2009, Chem Nutra pleaded guilty in the pet food recall case.

Happy Training
Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

Who is Regulating our Pets’ Foods?

bonzi_11Many of us know that several pet foods were recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2007. As the investigation unfolded, additional brands and/or products were added to the recall. Most of the major brands were affected. How could so many different brands contain the same source of contamination?

Throughout many short and incomplete news reports, I noticed conflicting stories about the regulation of pet foods and the source of the contamination. Here are some facts about the regulation of pet foods and the pet food recall of March 2007.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that human and pet foods are safe and properly labeled. This leads us to believe the FDA is regulating ingredients, but this is not necessarily so. Many ingredients such as the meats, poultry, grains and by-products are considered “safe” and do not require routine inspection or approval by the FDA.

The FDA does not inspect or regulate the source or quality of ingredients that make up the protein and fat in pet foods.

The FDA does regulate the production and distribution of food additives, chemicals and drugs that are included in pet foods. In addition, the FDA regulates the proper labeling of pet foods. The order by which ingredients are listed on the label and any health claims on the label fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Health claims on labels relate to claims that a particular food is helpful in the treatment or prevention of diseases.

The FDA labeling requirements are in concert with AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). AAFCO is a self-regulating organization whose members primarily consist of representatives of the pet food manufacturers.

AAFCO is not a government organization and does not have any enforcement capabilities; however AAFCO is considered an authority on which ingredients and nutrients should go into pet foods.

The Pet Food Institute (PFI) is another organization involved in pet food manufacturing. PFI is the “voice of pet food manufacturers”. The primary function of the 50 year old organization is media relations. PFI represents 97% of all pet food manufacturers.

Pet Food Recalls

In March 2007, FDA learned that some pet foods manufactured by Menu Foods were causing illness and death among cats and dogs.

The USA company, Menu Foods, manufactures and packages pet foods for many of the major pet food companies. The companies give Menu Foods their recipes and Menu Foods manufactures and packages the finished products.

The source of the contaminant was an additive used in many pet foods, wheat gluten. The FDA does regulate the production and distribution of food additives. The contaminant in the wheat gluten was melamine.

“Wheat gluten is a natural protein derived from wheat or wheat flour, which is extracted to yield a powder with high protein content. Pet food manufacturers often use wheat gluten as a thickener or binding agent in the manufacture of certain types of pet food. Melamine can be used to create products such as plastics, cleaning products, glues, inks, and fertilizers. Melamine has no approved use as an ingredient in human or animal food in the United States.” US Food and Drug Administration. (2008, February 19). Charges Filed in Contaminated Pet Food Scheme. Retrieved March 6, 2008 from http://www.fda.gov/consumer/updates/pet_food021908.html

The FDA recall included numerous Menu Foods products manufactured for many popular brands of pet foods. Other food manufacturers were affected by the recall too. Several companies voluntarily recalled some of their manufactured products.

The wheat gluten originated in China and was purchased by Chem Nutra, Inc., located in Las Vegas Nevada. Chem Nutra imported the wheat gluten for resale to various pet food manufacturers. Menu Foods was one of the larger animal feed manufacturers that purchased contaminated wheat gluten from Chem Nutra.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was also involved in the investigation because some farm animal feed and fish feed contained the tainted pet foods. The animals and fish consumed the feed and were processed for human consumption. Scientists determined the risk to humans who consumed meat from the farm animals was very low.

On February 6, 2008, a federal grand jury returned indictments against several key individuals and companies. Two Chinese nationals and their businesses along with Chem Nutra, Inc and key officers were included in the indictments. Menu Foods was not named in the indictments.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner, Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer

Private and Group Dog Obedience Training, Memphis TN

How’s Bentley

Member: APDT

AA-3 Markers, Reward System, Rewards Awareness Program (NILIF)

quickstart3jpgWhat are Markers?

In order to communicate, it’s helpful to teach the animal a few phrases, actions or events that have specific meanings. I refer to these signals as markers.

Markers can be words, phrases, noises, sounds, hand signals, flashes of light, stomps on the floor, touches, odors or other stimuli the animal can sense.

Professional trainers teach and use multiple markers to give the animal constant feedback. Interrupt markers rarely affect the dog’s long term behaviors, but are useful when we want to interrupt a behavior for the moment.

Reward Markers

Some markers communicate praise and motivate the animal to perform the behavior again. I call these reward markers.

The timing of the marker is important. For best results, the trainer delivers the reward marker the instant the animal performs the desired behavior.

The reward marker tells the animal the instant in time that he or she has succeeded.

Verbal Reward Markers

Saying “Good boy”, the instant a dog sits, is an example of a primitive, reward marker. I refer to this as a primitive reward marker.  Dogs hear the words “Good Boy” many times each day during normal conversations and, in these situations, “Good Boy” is not used to mark an instant of success.

Food Reward Markers

Using a food treat to tell the dog the instant he succeeds is a great method to communicate and to motivate.

When I pop a tasty food treat into Bentley’s mouth, the instant he sits, I am communicating to him about the correctness of his behavior. And, I am motivating him to sit more often, now and in the future.

The delivery of the food treat is both a marker for success and a reward which will motivate Bentley to sit more often.

Delivering a food treat for sitting is effective, but it is not a very accurate method to mark an instant of success.

By the time Bentley gets the treat for sitting he has licked his lips, tilted his head, looked up, and performed numerous behaviors.

How would Bentley know that the instant he touched his rump to the floor was the instant of success? He wouldn’t. That’s why this method usually requires several repetitions before the dog finally understands.

Food treats are excellent rewards but inefficient markers.

How can you mark the instant of success with food if your dog is not next to you, or your dog is not hungry, or you have no treats, or your dog is on a diet, or your dog is ill, or you want to increase a motion behavior such as jumping over a bar or running fast!

In those situations, using food as a marker for the instant of success is not practical.

Conditioned Reward Markers

If you wish to teach an animal very quickly you will need an instant reward marker that has been paired with the delivery of food.

Pairing the marker with food is called conditioning. The marker is called a secondary conditioned positive reinforcer or conditioned reward marker. A conditioned reward marker will elicit the same involuntary “oh goodie” brain chemistry responses as does a piece of food.

My favorite audible, conditioned reward markers are: the sound of a clicker; the words “good”, “kick” or “tic” (spoken sharply – like a sound), or the letter “X”.

If the dog is deaf, I might use a thumbs up signal, an exaggerated head nod, or an exaggerated blink of both eyes with a head nod, or the flash of a led light. If the dog is deaf and blind, I might use the vibration of an e-collar that is set on vibrate.

Conditioned reward markers:

  • have been conditioned or paired with food and elicit the same involuntary  “oh goodie” brain chemistry responses as does a piece of food
  • are short and sharp, sounds or signals that are different from everyday sounds and signals
  • provide the animal with immediate  feedback
  • are teaching tools used to communicate the instant of success
  • can be discontinued once the animal learns the behavior

Using a conditioned reward marker will increase your significance to the animal!

From this point on, in this text, I’ll refer to a conditioned reward marker as “marker”.  When you read the verb “mark”, it means to deliver the marker and follow it with some sort of reward that the animal desires.

Since the marker elicits an involuntary, desirable, physiological response, the animal will become aware of the behaviors that cause you to deliver the marker.

Your animal will choose to perform behaviors that make you deliver the marker. Now you have a willing student. Your animal wants to cooperate!

The conditioned marker becomes the actual reward. The animal will perform for the sound of the marker, and the marker will act as a reinforcer.

The goodies delivered after the marker maintain the “power” of the marker.

Conditioning a Reward Marker

The method to establish a conditioned reward marker is to use classical or pavlovian conditioning to pair (or associate) a marker with the primary reinforcer of food.

Regardless of the marker you choose, the steps for conditioning the marker are identical. You only need to condition the marker this one time. Your animal is not asked to perform a behavior during the conditioning process.

Do this when the animal is attending to you and not distracted. Do not speak or touch the animal before, or after, you deliver the marker and the treat.

Remember, a marker can be any signal the animal can perceive. My favorite audible, conditioned reward markers are: the sound of a clicker; the word “good”, and  the letter “X”.

Here’s how to condition a reward marker.

You are not asking the animal to perform any behavior during this process.

In this example, I’ll use an audible marker, the letter X, spoken abruptly, like a sound

Speak a crisp “X”; give a food treat. Wait until the animal has finished eating the treat. Say “X”; give the animal a food treat. Repeat 3-5 times.

Using the Reward Marker

Once conditioned, you will deliver the reward marker the instant your pet does what you want. It marks the instant of success.

The marker is not used to interrupt or to get the animal’s attention. It is used to mark the instant of success!

The conditioned marker becomes the actual reward. The animal will perform for the sound of the marker, and the marker will act as a reinforcer. The goodies delivered after the marker maintain the “power” of the marker.

You’ll always deliver some sort of reward after the marker.

For example, you might follow the marker with food treats when teaching new behaviors or when working in distracting environments. A simple “thank you” or quick pat may follow the marker in less distracting situations.

With some animals, it’s better to follow the marker with a food treat 3-5 of every 10 times. It really depends on what the animal wants at that instant. If you have a ball crazy retriever, the toss of a ball might be better than any food treat.

The timing of the marker is very important, because it tells your dog the instant of success.  The delivery of some sort of reward after the marker need not be immediate. You might mark an instant of success (with the marker) and then trot off with your dog to get a food treat out of your cabinet.

The reward marker serves two major functions. It tells the animal the instant of success and it motivates the animal to perform the behavior more often.

Once your pet knows the instant of success, and is motivated to perform, you may stop using the reward marker.

Even when I don’t use the reward marker, I always acknowledge cooperation with praise or touch or maybe even a food treat.


Reward System

What exactly do you have that your dog wants from you?

You own (and have complete control of) a few rewards that your dogs may want from you. These are food, attention and touch (F.A.T. or FAT).

Understanding how to make your dog aware of the FAT and understanding how to manage the delivery (or removal) of FAT is the key to using a successful reward based training system.

Food

Food is food treats or a whole meal. I own and control the food. Bentley cannot receive food from me unless I choose to give him the food.

Attention

In this context, attention is any interaction that does not involve food or touch. Examples of attention are eye contact, verbal praise, walks, toss of a ball, car rides, et cetera.

I own and control my attention. Bentley cannot receive attention from me unless I choose to give it to him.

Touch

Touch is interacting with your dog via you hands. To social mammals, touch is very important and a sort of social bonding exercise.

We’ve all seen the apes or monkeys on Animal Planet. The lower ranking members often touch and groom the higher members. Grooming is performed by subordinates.

When you pet and touch your dog, the dog views it as a sort of grooming. In some ways, you are telling your dog that you are lower in rank and he or she is the king or queen. Yikes!  Kings and queens do not often follow the demands of lower members.

Most normal dogs seek out touch by jumping up, nuzzling our elbows with their muzzles, moving next to us, et cetera.

For some very confident assertive dogs, this is a statement about controlling resources and the hierarchy of social status. For others it is not an attempt to establish ranking, but an indication of the need for normal social interaction. It depends on the individual dog and the context.

I own and control my hands. Bentley cannot receive touch from my hands unless I choose to deliver the touch to him.

Access to Natural Rewards

Natural rewards fill the internal and external environments. In some situations, we can control our dogs’ access to territory, thus indirectly control the available rewards.

Providing access to areas that contain or trigger natural, internal rewards is another consequence that you may (or may not) be able to control.

Bentley likes to chase squirrels and bark because he likes the rush of adrenaline that floods his brain. The adrenaline rushing through his brain is the reinforcer for ‘hunting squirrel behavior’.

Squirrels are in particular areas. When walking on lead, I can choose to move Bentley closer or nearer to the area containing squirrels.

I can release him and give him access to the areas that contain squirrels.

Bentley likes to smell mulch, because his olfactory senses are stimulated. The stimulation of his olfactory system is the actual reinforcer for ‘sniffing mulch behavior’. Mulch is in the environment.

I can choose to give Bentley access to the territory that contains the mulch.

Bentley likes to watch out the window and bark at passing trucks. The release of adrenaline that occurs when he barks out-of-control is the actual reinforcer for bark at truck behavior. I can choose to open or close the blinds.

Free FAT

When my father was growing up in north Mississippi, oranges were not readily available. To a 5-year-old child in that environment; oranges were considered more valuable than candy. When he received an orange or two for Christmas, he was excited and happy. He was very interested in where the oranges were grown and how they were delivered. He was aware of the oranges because oranges were a special treat.

In today’s world, oranges are usually available at any grocery store. Anyone who has the money can obtain an orange. For these people, oranges are not special treats. These people rarely think about how the oranges came to be and who delivers them.

No animal will spend energy to obtain something that he or she already owns. Rats don’t run through mazes to receive a piece of cheese if cheese is placed at the starting point.

Most dogs harvest our attention and touch anytime they want, regardless of their behaviors.

Most dogs already receive free FAT. It’s part of their environment from day one. Just as very young children have no idea that the air inside our homes is conditioned and this conditioning requires electricity, controls, equipment and money, dogs have no clue that we are delivering the FAT.

Sample Rewards for Dogs

Rewards are context specific and individual specific. One dog’s reward could be another dog’s stressor!

Use whatever your dog likes! Here’s some rewards I use with Bentley.

  • Silent smile (attention)
  • Thank you (attention)
  • Excited praise (attention)
  • Applause (attention)
  • High pitched noise such as “bee bee bee bee) (attention)
  • Toss of a ball, game of fetch (attention)
  • Quick round of tug (attention)
  • Rough play (tug-spin, chase, pinch flank, pull tail) (attention & touch)
  • Food treat (food)
  • Car rides (attention)
  • Walks on leash (attention)
  • Opportunity to investigate / sniff items brought into the house (access to territory)
  • Open back door (access to territory)
  • Signal to perform a favorite command – i.e. Bentley loves to spin on command (attention)
  • Command for “Tough Boy” (scratching ground with feet and paws while growling, barking)
  • Release to sniff items on walks (access to territory)
  • Opportunity to chase squirrels (access to territory)
  • Soccer ball play (attention)
  • Pat the dog (attention & touch)
  • Brush or groom the dog (attention & touch)


Rewards Awareness Program


Before we can teach a dog via a reward system based on food, attention and touch (FAT), first, we must bring awareness to the FAT.

My Rewards Awareness Program is a slight adaptation of well known, popular protocols. For years programs such as “Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF)” by Dr. Victoria Voith have been discussed in the world of applied animal behavior.

Many of these programs are touted to be rank reduction, alpha or leadership programs.

Since people don’t compete with dogs for food, territory or reproduction rights, I believe the successes of the programs are rarely related to alpha concepts.

The Rewards Awareness Program is not only an awareness program for the animal, but an awareness program for people.

The program teaches people to examine and change their behaviors in order to modify their dogs’ behaviors.

Once people understand how their interactions influence their dogs’ behaviors, the stage is set for a cooperative partnership.

To begin this program, make the delivery of food, attention, touch, and access to territory, contingent upon your dog’s willingness to cooperate with you.

This means you should not leave food out all day for your dog to snack as he wishes. Remove your dog’s food bowl (with any left over food) after 10 minutes.

Once your dog realizes that the delivery of FAT is an immediate consequence of his or her behavior, your dog will examine his or her behaviors and try to perform behaviors which earn the good consequences.

When this occurs you’ll have the tools to motivate your dog to learn and perform. You will have a marvelous reward system in place!

Only deliver FAT (or anything else an untrained, soliciting dog wants at that instant) after he or she complies with any simple request, thus indicating a desire to cooperate.

The idea is to teach your dog that FAT is not free. Don’t allow him to demand and harvest your attention and touch without cooperating.

For example, if your dog jumps up on the couch uninvited, just stand up and walk a few feet away. Your dog will follow. Return to the couch and, before you sit, ask your dog to perform a simple behavior. Mark the instant of success, and invite your dog up on the couch.

Ask for cooperation before interactions take place. For example, ask your dog to sit or touch or spin or shake or down (or whatever), before you:

  • Touch, pet or groom
  • Attach the leash
  • Adjust the collar
  • Place the food bowl on the floor
  • Invite him or her up on your furniture or lap
  • Toss the ball
  • Go for a walk
  • Jump in or out of the car
  • Open the back door
  • Provide anything your pup desires

If your dog refuses to cooperate, do not repeat your command. Remove your attention. Turn your back, walk away or go out the door without your dog.

Re-engage in 5-10 seconds and ask again (assuming your dog knows how to perform the behavior you are requesting, assuming your dog is not distracted and assuming the environment is not too stimulating for him or her to perform the behavior).

Rewards Awareness Program Summary

Whenever your untrained dog is actively seeking an interaction with you, always ask for cooperation (a simple behavior) before you deliver any food, attention or touch.

The goal is to communicate to your dog that delivery of FAT is the immediate consequence of cooperative and desirable behaviors.

This Rewards Awareness Program has some exceptions. If your dog is voluntarily performing a desirable behavior (thus he is already cooperating), deliver the FAT without asking for additional behaviors. For example, if your dog is resting quietly on his bed, it’s okay to deliver FAT without asking for a simple behavior.

Once you have effectively communicated the concept of the program to your dog (in 3 -10 days), and your dog is volunteering polite behaviors, and your dog is not performing obnoxious behaviors, and you have started a training program – you have completed the Rewards Awareness Program. You can ease up on the rules.

If you notice that your dog is not cooperating, reenact the program.

Following this program will do as much (or more) to create a cooperative, senior-junior partnership between you and your dog as any other technique or suggestion.

How Much FAT?

If we deliver a piece of food, a quick touch and lots of praise for ‘half-way’ performing an already-learned command, we limit our abilities to hone and refine behaviors via the reward system.

Why would the dog try harder if he received a high level of FAT for a mediocre performance?

Deliver FAT at levels that are appropriate for the effort.

Dogs are not unlike people. We both tend to put out just the right amount of effort required to get our rewards.

For example, suppose a 6 year-old child is learning to print the alphabet. The very first time she writes the letter “A”, the lines are not straight. Even though the letter “A” is not perfect, the teacher praises her.

Six weeks later, the same crooked letter “A” does not prompt the same level of praise as the first attempt. For if so, the child will not be motivated to improve. In response to the crooked “A”, the teacher will kindly smile and say, “please try again”.

The teacher will ask for increasingly higher levels of neatness as the child’s skills develop.

We should always be aware of the level of FAT that we deliver and adjust the level to match the dog’s skills level and effort.

For instance, suppose I am teaching Bentley to sit on cue. The first time he sits, I make a big fuss and deliver a food treat, touch and praise.

Once he has practiced sit and knows sit, I will not deliver all three rewards when he sits on cue in a quiet environment. I might say, “Thank you” or deliver a smile. If the environment is very stimulating and Bentley sits on cue, I will deliver touch and praise. It depends on how difficult it is for him to sit in that situation.

If Bentley is slow to sit, I’ll just calmly say “thanks”, and then ask for a down, then a sit, then a down, then a sit. If he complies quickly with all the steps of the sequence, I’ll deliver touch and excited praise.

Although I’ll always acknowledge compliance with FAT, I rarely deliver high levels of FAT if I have to ask for a learned behavior (in a calm environment) more than once.

The point to remember is: our dogs will not give us high level performances if we pay them just as well for inferior performances.

As your dog’s skills grow, deliver FAT at high levels for only the best performances.

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Happy Training!

Alan J Turner, Companion Anial Behavior Counselor & Trainer – Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Training in Memphis, TN

Owner: How’s Bentley