A good example of different training techniques: When a dog jumps up.

March 29, 2010 at 7:10 am 12 comments

The other day I stopped by a place in Hollywood to pick up some stuff and I had Boogie with me. The first time I was here, it was quiet with only one person working there, so it was a surprise that on my return visit the place was full of staff.

One guy entered the room and shouted: “Look! It’s a bulldog!” (People often mistake Boogie for a Frenchie because of his big bully head)

Boogie was relaxed and friendly but I still did my usual spiel: “He is in training and he is nervous around strangers so please don’t get close”.

Guy exclaimed: “Don’t worry! I am a dog trainer! I know all about dogs and I can read dogs very well. He’s not nervous! He’s fine! ” And then he proceeded to babble on about how well dogs can read people’s energy, and that he could see that Boogie was not at all troubled by his presence.

I said, “OK, here is a treat that you can give him”. Which is usually what I do with strangers meeting Boogie for the first time.

Guy said “Sit”. Boogie sat and received the treat.

Then Boogie jumped up (friendly manner) and this guy STUCK HIS KNEE OUT at Boogie.  Poor Boogie jumped back and cowered.

Me: “Did you see that?!! Did you see him cower when you stuck your foot out at him? Please don’t do that!”

The guy: “Yes, I did that to stop him from jumping up. That’s how you train dogs not to jump up.That’s how I train my dogs not to jump up. You stick your foot out”.

I was horrified. I don’t know what disturbed me more – that a total stranger had taken it upon himself to *train* my dog without my permission (how obnoxious!) or that he did not even see or care that Boogie was cowering in fear as a result of what he had done. After spending months training this hypersensitive Boogie that “Strangers are OK”, this douchebag comes along and shows Boogie that strangers are not to be trusted and can strike out at you when you least expect it! You can imagine how disturbed I was by this incident… Yeah, I naively assumed that because the guy is a dog trainer, everything should be OK!

I said to the guy in my calmest voice: “My dog was kicked by his previous owners and it’s a big issue for him to have people stick their feet out like that”.

Later on, I realized that “kneeing a dog in the chest” is in fact a legitimate dog training technique. Sarah confirms that there are lots of old school Compulsion-Praise trainers who do this. Some also STEP ON THE DOG’S FEET to stop them from jumping up (!!!)

Check it out: Kneeing a dog in the chest to make him back off

And also the action of stepping forward and body-blocking the dog – which is what Cesar Millan, the world’s most famous old-school trainer does.

On the other hand… Back in the MODERN Clicker-training universe…

In our lesson yesterday with Sarah, we addressed Boogie’s jumping up behavior.

I’ll be honest – I LOVE IT when Boogie jumps up to say hello!!! Yes, I know it’s bad doggie manners but the fact is, I have come to rely on Boogie’s “jumping up” on a person to gauge whether or not he likes someone. If he is fearful or nervous around someone, he won’t jump up on them (he will avoid them) and this tells me that it is not safe to make him interact with that person. So really, there is reinforcement and relief for ME when he jumps up to greet a person. The problem is that I can’t stop him from doing it to people who don’t want to be jumped up on. Boogie could also suddenly get scared if someone stuck their face too close to his, and he could lunge up and nip.

I wanted to know how I could train Boogie so that I am not eliminating the behavior but managing it. Sarah said most importantly we want Boogie to check in with me first before greeting anyone. He should not be allowed to initiate greetings. Solution: Train a SIT STAY (= Duration Behavior ), and here is where it gets interesting because we use a clicker-training technique called backchaining.

Sarah:  Duration behaviors have three cue/behavior pairs.

#1 = “Sit” (butt goes down + duration–1 second up to one minute and beyond)
#2 = “Ok!” (dog changes position or gets up)
#3 = “Click” (dog orients to you and eats)

To back chain, we train these separate behaviors starting with the last one (#3) first…

#2 + #3
#1 + #2 + #3

We train the OK! (release) cue first before we add the SIT cue. (The “Look At That” game is another example of backchaining where we train the head turns before training the verbal cue) This is how I understand it in my own “non-scientific” terms: As Boogie learns that he will be rewarded with a treat (or freedom to get up and move) for every release cue, this makes it much easier to teach him that it’s a good thing to sit and wait for the release cue. I have a lot of practicing to do 🙂

Sarah’s video on Backchaining:

The results of which we would then apply to the scenario below:

Yesterday, we trained the separate behaviors then tried this out with a friend entering my apartment. Interestingly, when I gave the OK! cue, Boogie ran forwards to greet her without jumping on her.  Since our lesson yesterday, I have practiced this protocol with a few other people and it was interesting to note that Boogie sat, then went forwards and also did not jump up. Sometimes he wasn’t even interested in greeting the person and would instead go off and do something else or turn around and come back to me!

A much friendlier “No Jumping” training method that kneeing a dog in the chest, right?

P.S. While  I know that the old school Compulsion-Praise Training method may suit other people and other dogs, with a hypersensitive dog like Boogie who is prone to freaking out and snapping at people, it makes more sense for me to use Clicker-training and I am so grateful that this method exists!

Entry filed under: Social stuff, Training.

Another morning in Bronson Canyon Bye bye Boogs

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. barrie.lynn  |  March 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    1. the situation with the guy in the store fell apart the moment he required that Boogie sit in order to get the treat. You hadn’t asked him to cue a behavior for Boogie. You just said, here is a treat you can give him. That drive me BANANAS!

    2. That is an interesting way to look at sit stays but I do want to point out that there are just as many ways to train stays with positive reinforcement either with or without a clicker as there are to do so using positive punishment.

    • 2. lili  |  March 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Barrie – I got that he was seriously showing off! In the end I think I embarrassed him because I was clearly not impressed.

      RE: sit stays… yes, I am familiar with there being different ways to train this. The backchaining technique is totally new & fascinating to me but I can see (with Boogie’s responses) that it makes sense!

  • 3. Barbara and Daisy  |  March 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Daisy jumps on me when she is excited. I wonder if the “sit” before greeting calms this and lets our lovelies know that they have our attention so don’t need to jump up. After all, we are so much bigger!

    She hasn’t jumped on others, mostly she checks them out for treats, and if they come up empty she ignores them!

    • 4. lili  |  March 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      Hi B&D,
      Yes, I think so! And also – when someone approaches, it’s letting Boogie know that there is no pressure to go check them out before they even step through the door. Perhaps he gets less excited and anxious without the social pressure?

  • 5. Sarah Owings  |  March 30, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Ideally you won’t need to cue that sit either eventually. The person walking up to him should become the cue! When you think he is ready, try pausing a second or two before saying Sit and see if Boogie figures it out.

    There are several methods of teaching sit/stay, most involve feeding in position and not feeding after the dog gets up. And these can work fine, but in my experience, back-chaining makes things super clear to the dog that s/he is supposed to wait for the release cue in order to receive reinforcement.

    Also, as to why Boogie might not feel the need to jump up anymore. I think you are right. When there is a set rule structure, dogs may feel calmer. Jumping up is often an appeasement gesture. Maybe after a second or two of self-control Boogie feels less need to rush in and appease a new person because he has already offered a doggie calming signal (the sit). It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like those people he jumps up on, but he may still be feeling social pressure.

  • 6. Kelly  |  March 30, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Just wanted to say how refreshing your/Boogie’s blog is. I love positive trainers, and I love that there are people out there as positive and articulate with humans as Grisha and Sarah are — this will truly change the world! But I also love that you can just call it like you see it and call the guy a douchebag. I found this post quite empowering that way. 🙂

    For what it’s worth, one of the greatest gifts my reactive dog has given me is getting me over any self-conciousness about being an advocate for my dog, all day every day, even if it’s socially awkward because of some complete stranger’s assumptions.

    Keep doing what your doing!

    • 7. Lili  |  March 31, 2010 at 1:14 am

      Thank you, Kelly! 🙂

  • 8. Ashley  |  March 31, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I am also in the camp of loving my jumping dog’s greetings, but have seen (and been embarrassed) when it happens to someone who either wasn’t expecting it, or really was not happy that Pru jumped on them. I’m trying to change her behavior (and will try the method you are because it seems to work well) but I have many enablers around who also love it when Pru jumps on them.

    I must say, I am very impressed with the way you handled that douchebags unwarranted training. I would have gone off the handle (i.e. yelling, growling, threatening to sue.. okay.. maybe not that) like I did the time someone tried to correct Pru’s puppy nibbling by smacking her on the nose. So. Not. Cool.

    • 9. lili  |  April 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

      Smacking Pru on the nose??! I would’ve yelled at that person too!

      I hear you on jumping-up “enablers” 🙂 <– Yep. All my friends!

  • 10. bulldog training  |  August 15, 2010 at 4:29 am

    You know This is very ironic. basically explains it all.

  • 11. Notes from ClickerExpo (Friday) « Boogie’s blog  |  January 24, 2011 at 3:49 am

    […] THEORY, THE PREMACK PRINCIPLE, CUES, why BACKCHAINING is more effective than FORWARD CHAINING (Boogie and I have done some backchaining work with Sarah – scroll down). Like I said, more food for thought –> more ideas for […]

  • 12. Alex V  |  June 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    What a freaking douchebag. I would have wanted to kick him in the chest and ask him how he liked it. I had a similar experience at petsmart. I was browsing the collars when the in store trainer asked me if I needed help. I said no thanks. He then started to come closer to Bella. I told him to please not pet her because she is fearful, and he went into this long shpiel about how I need to alpha roll her and show her who’s boss. Yeah…. Righhhhtt. We got out of there before he could do any real damage.


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