Dog Training & Wellness Services

DogRelations™ NYC dog training is really about positive reinforcement training in an enjoyable and life enriching way. This means giving your dog a clear understanding of behaviors you want to encourage while having fun and developing a close relationship. Dogs thrive on honest, direct and consistent communication, just like friends who completely trust and rely on one another.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

TRAINING YOUR DOG WITH THE RIGHT REINFORCER FOR THEM

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A reinforcer is pretty much anything that will make a learner understand that they did well, that they understood, that communication was successful.

With puppies and inexperienced dogs in particular food is a great choice because food is inherently good because it is a primary need (meaning it is necessary to sustain life and therefore is difficult to misunderstand).

In scientific terms a reinforcer will act to make a behavior stronger in the future. The consequence of a reinforcer usually is a feel good about yourself emotion that will encourage the animal (including a human animal) to repeat the behavior that has paid off in such a great way.

When I go work out and afterwards I am in a good mood and my thighs are less jiggly I will be encouraged to go work out again. The workout acted as a reinforcer, a motivator even though the workout might not have been easy. So for me a reinforcer does not have to be food but a great consequence. This is also known as the Premack principle which basically says an unlikely behavior (me working out) is reinforced by a consequence of feeling good and looking good. Knowing that, I am encouraged to work out more often even though I need to be guided through the procedure by my trainer.

Anyway: the reason why I am so excited about expounding these banal morsels of common wisdom is that sometimes it is actually hard to find reinforcers.

I recently was asked to work with a tiny little poodle that was 7 years old and had zero “training”.  She had never been taught anything, not even “sit”. Her human works in an emergency room and discovered that she is able to bring her dog to work with her if the dog had a certain set of skills. I was asked to teach her those skills. Since those are fairly basic I thought: easy! NOT SO FAST!

In her first lesson I realized that she simply had no motivation to even try to understand what I was luring, gesturing, or accepting even in the tiniest increments. I was finally able to get her to go onto her own bed and sit and lie down but she was always looking away from me and she was clearly not happy.

Next lesson 2 days later: She is scared out of her mind. She will not take any of the rather high value treats I brought. She refused to play with her favorite toy. I let her sit in my lap. I stroked her. I tried to give her some scrambled egg which was in her food from breakfast. NOTHING.

I went through a list of potential aversive agents in my mind: Was it the collar and leash I had put on her? I took everything off… just in case. Was it that the door between us and her guardian that had been shut to give us a distraction free environment? I opened the door. She ran in and jumped onto the bed in that room.

I fessed up to her guardian and told her how terrified her little dog was. Too scared to learn anything in the lesson so far. Did anything happen? We went through a list of all possible aversive events: no real reason that we could determine.

Then finally I said: do you have any cheese? Yes,  she had cheese and no she didn’t mind if I tried to teach her on the bed!

BINGO!

LOCATION and CHEESE made the huge difference. She was like a different dog! Almost instantly she gave me voluntary sits, “sit to stand” and “down” and was so proud of herself! She didn’t want to stop. Her guardian was thrilled that I didn’t give up and I was thrilled that we found a way to get her off on a great start after all.

So here is to not giving up! Here is to always trying something different until you have a molecule of function that can be built on. Learning takes place in an environment that provides safety. Think outside the box when it comes to reinforcers!!!!!

This little poodle is certainly the first dog who had a lesson on a beautifully made bed next to her favorite pillows being rewarded with strings of parmesan flakes. But we are all filled with pride and looking forward to the next lesson!


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Read More at https://www.dogrelationsnewyorkcity.com/training-your-dog-with-the-right-reinforcer-for-them/

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Dog Training Tips: The Problem With “STAY”

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NYC Dog trainer Elisabeth Weiss works with small dog

Remember the coloring books you had as a child where you needed to try and stay INSIDE the lines?

A long time ago I wrote a blog post discussing “inside out training”. I discussed the idea that people tend to get a behavior by drawing a line in the sand, namely by correcting a bunch or errors (going outside the lines) until the dog performs a behavior that does not “go over the line”. In the meantime that actual behavior that needs to be nurtured and painted in deeper and deeper colors so it becomes joyful and expressive stays “empty”.

When you elicit or teach a behavior though you start with a little dot that gets reinforced and reinforced and painted over and over so that the colored field gets larger and larger and when the behavior is fully “filled out” or “shaped” then you have taught the behavior.

In other words you don’t teach what NOT to do.

Recently a very dear client mentioned her dog has to learn how to stay; she asked me “what is the signal for that? She needs to know STAY.”

I tried to explain that the hand signal or the verbal cue could be anything she wanted it to be, but the process of staying is only associated with the cue after the process is understood. Sure you can use a signal that kind of implies a holding back or staying back but how appealing is that to the dog who wants to be with you naturally?

So again: we have to reinforce the behavior, fill in the painting, grow the nascent behavior into a fully comprehended experience before we can expect a “stay”. Otherwise stay means nothing. Asking a dog to do nothing is very hard. So we have to teach other behaviors which require voluntary stillness on cue for “stay” to have meaning for the dog. If you want a happy and frustration free “stay” you better create a very elaborate association with lots of delicious food, praise, and games that follow. Reward the experience of remaining in one spot by making it very desirable to the learner, otherwise where is the motivation to “stay” in one spot?

I have found that asking the dog to stare at a cookie is really helpful once they understand the concept of “leaving something” or waiting for permission to take something. But again that needs to be taught as a game that pays off.

All duration behaviors need to be taught in short increments which actually could be seen as back chaining the behavior also. Start at the “end” of “stay” in other words just before you are going to release the dog or start playing with the dog when you return to the dog. It is always easier for the dog/puppy to learn that on a geographically defined area, a mat, a platform, even a towel could do sometimes.

Once you have a very solid stillness you can make it harder by increasing distractions, movement/distance away from the still dog and/or adding weird noises.

Once you have that: insert a cue. That, ladies and gentlemen, can be ANYTHING your heart desires from a hand signal to the presence of the mat itself to putting on a hat… really! It is most important to choose something that is the most fun, easiest to remember, and will always make you smile.

I taught Zeldi to do a specific leap when I say the name of a favorite restaurant in Vienna. Granted that is a fun behavior in itself, but naming it Figlmueller makes it automatically hilarious for me too. She will NEVER feel I want her to do something boring and tedious.

The worst thing you can do is make a still behavior a drudgery for both of you. So again, make it a desirable game and you will be much more successful, and success breeds on itself, as we know!

Good luck and let me know how you fared!!


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

The post Dog Training Tips: The Problem With “STAY” appeared first on NYC Dog Trainer.


Read More at https://www.dogrelationsnewyorkcity.com/dog-training-tips-the-problem-with-stay/

Friday, 5 July 2019

Why is a Behavior Consultation important for Dog Training?

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NYC Dog Trainer Elisabeth Weiss walking two dogs

Very often dog guardians reach out to a trainer or behaviorist when something with their dog’s behavior goes awry. The neighbors complain about barking, the dog is still peeing and pooping inappropriately in the house when they should be house trained, the dog has bitten someone or has been destructive in other ways.

When I receive these inquiries I offer them a consultation. Why is that important and why don’t I just go and “fix” the dog? It is important for people to know that when it comes to changing their dog’s behavior, they have to change how they behave towards the dog.

Inadvertent reinforcement is a huge component of behavior problems. When we look at the root and reason for behaviors we inevitably see a sequence:

Antecedent  – Behavior  – Consequence

In other words: an Antecedent would be a circumstance that causes a Behavior to happen, what then follows would be a Consequence.To achieve Behavior Modification we have to change up the previously established chain of events to get different results as consequence.

Let’s say the dog jumps up! So the sequence could be:

A         human appears at door.

B         dog runs and jumps up to greet

C         human wrestles with or pets dog while yelling “no” or “down”.

Consequence pays off for the dog in terms of intense attention from human.

What does the dog learn?  ZIPPO! Will the dog stop jumping? No.

Not only will you be caught in a continuous loop of repetition but by practicing the behavior you are actually reinforcing the behavior albeit mostly inadvertently. As practice makes more perfect the dog will improve their jumping or barking, he will bark louder and jump higher and get even more excited with each opportunity to practice.

Behavior modification:

        human appears at door

B         dog runs to human and wants to jump up

C         human turns around and walks out again

This consequence is disappointing and surprising to the dog. The dog gets no attention. Not even a reprimand. After a few repetitions the dog will try something else and the human can now start to intervene and redirect the dog towards a behavior that the human can reinforce purposely, the result is that the dog learns to offer this new behavior happily and voluntarily because it truly pays off for them.

In my consultations I am able to teach clients how to think differently about how they interact with their dog and make them aware of what they may be doing to reinforce the unwanted behavior. I can intervene and change the behavior of their dogs before their own eyes. Yes, of course it helps a lot if I come and practice basic behaviors with the dog like sit/stay/go to bed and walk on a loose leash etc. to fluency… this will teach the dog to take cues from the environment and circumstances to help make them self confident and thinking dogs. But if the humans who live with the dogs don’t understand how much our canine companions love to please us and how they can stimulate and reward them for “guessing” right, the chances are they will not learn to avoid the pitfalls of inadvertent reinforcement.


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

The post Why is a Behavior Consultation important for Dog Training? appeared first on NYC Dog Trainer.


Read More at https://www.dogrelationsnewyorkcity.com/why-is-a-behavior-consultation-important-for-dog-training/

Friday, 31 May 2019

Dog Relations: Let Your Dog Be A Dog

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Dog Relations NYC trainer Elisabeth Weiss walking with Buddy

Very often the first thing we teach a puppy is how to sit. I am not quite sure when all of that started. I guess it is easy enough to teach and makes a puppy guardian proud.

However I have become tired of this cookie cutter approach. Not because I think that sit and wait are not valuable but because I feel that people start to ask for those behaviors under difficult or inappropriate circumstances. I also object to forcing the puppy/dog to sit by pulling up on the leash or pushing the butt down; even worse is to constantly ask the dog to sit when he is jumping.

If you want them to keep all paws on the floor then prevent them from jumping in the first place by rewarding them for remaining on the floor. Don’t wait until they start jumping.

When I work with a dog I feed the dog strategically in the position I would like the dog to be in. In other words: low and while the dog is still calm. With my puppy Snorri (who is huge!) this has paid off big time because he has taken to alternate and low positions when he greets humans or other dogs. He will play bow, offer a stand sideways to the human greeter, for small dogs he will lie down on the ground and other behaviors that everyone prefers over jumping, and he does so because I reward so highly for that.

In situations that I know are difficult for him I will feed his polite position. I know people think that I am constantly handing out behavior candy and they say stuff like “Ahh yes the treats…” but they don’t understand that there is a method to my feeding madness.

The reason I felt the need to discuss this topic is that I have lately seen a few examples of people who are so obsessed with the idea of “no jumping” that they won’t even let their dog/puppy play with another dog! Ironically, as the puppy sees the other dog and wants to play, they tighten the leash causing the puppy to stand on his hind legs and hop up and down on the restraining leash… while they order them in vain to SIT… something the pup cannot possibly do. The puppy is being punished for being a friendly puppy, for wanting to play and be social. It’s a double whammy of inadvertent reinforcement caused by overly zealous control. It’s quite troubling to me.

As much as I feel that a puppy should be taught to be polite in human and canine terms I feel it is cruel to smother their good instincts. Help them by showing them what we would like the greeting to look like and they will gladly follow your guidance.


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

The post Dog Relations: Let Your Dog Be A Dog appeared first on NYC Dog Trainer.


Read More at https://www.dogrelationsnewyorkcity.com/dog-relations-let-your-dog-be-a-dog/

Monday, 6 May 2019

Tips for Spring Dog Grooming in NYC

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Zeldi with a lovely hairstyle | NYC Dog Trainer Elisabeth Weiss Dog Relations

It’s spring and we look forward to warmer weather and nice expeditions to the country and the beach with our dogs. As delightful as the warmer weather can be it also brings with it the same question: How to beat the heat?

Snorri & Zeldi my two Briards | NYC Dog Trainer Elisabeth Weiss Dog RelationsI have two Briards with lush, long coats. I cannot tell you how often people ask me if I am not going to give them a haircut for the summer. They must be hot?

No way would I ever shave or clip them for reasons of climate!

By the same token I hear dog guardians proudly pronounce “He got his summer haircut! Now we are ready!” and I think: Really? Their coat protects from the heat as much as from cold!

Think of people who live in the desert who wrap themselves in wool blankets. They are not masochists, they know what a shading effect these heavy blankets have. I would never consider shaving my dogs. Dogs can only perspire through the tongue and the paw pads to keep themselves a bit cooler… skin exposure would only risk sunburn and additional heat exposure.

The article below explains in more detail why double coated dogs should not be shaved.

Dogs Naturally | Should You Shave Your Dog This Summer? | Dog Relations NYC

https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/why-you-shouldnt-shave-your-dog-in-summer/

But double coated dogs aside: why shave at all? If you feel you need to give your dog a summer haircut then cut the hair down to one inch in length, please!


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

The post Tips for Spring Dog Grooming in NYC appeared first on NYC Dog Trainer.


Read More at https://www.dogrelationsnewyorkcity.com/tips-for-spring-dog-grooming-in-nyc/

Friday, 29 March 2019

Insights from a Dog Trainer: Food – Motivator, Reward or Distraction?

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Insights from a Dog Trainer: Food | Motivator, Reward or Distraction? | Dog Relations NYC

As I was walking to training appointment I was followed by a puggle who wanted to greet me. Dogs follow me in the street quite often and I am always delighted. The man holding on to the leash was somewhat surprised and said: “Oh you must have treats on you!”

I confirmed his suspicion and admitted that I worked with dogs so I had goodies in my pockets and in my bag. He then surprised me by saying: “We were never able to train this dog: He is so food motivated.”

I didn’t say it but thought: Are you kidding? Food motivation is a gift from heaven.

But I guess you have to know how to use it.

After reflecting a bit about what he said and combining it with the ideas of “clean” training and how to reward effectively I think I now understand what he was talking about.

If food is constantly dangling in front of the dog, if food is used to lure the dog all the time they are so intent on looking for food and how they can get at it that they are in fact not learning anything.

It’s the kind of situation in which we get the famous: He’s not going to “do” it if there isn’t any food involved. When dogs are in that “Gimme the food NOW drooling state” they are really way too distracted to think about what we are asking them to do. They are not motivated to learn how to get the coveted food. They will not gain any understanding of other signals that would get them to respond appropriately to get access to the desired food reward.

I guess that is how food gets a bad rap from a certain segment of the population who may share this mindset:

The dog should perform because the dog is supposed to be ‘obedient’. I want the dog to love me and do it for me and not for the food I give him.  Food is considered a bribe.

Well yes, if you constantly bribe your dog you are in effect doling the food out for free. If you give food for a behavior well done you will get voluntary offers for that behavior!


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

The post Insights from a Dog Trainer: Food – Motivator, Reward or Distraction? appeared first on NYC Dog Trainer.


Read More at https://www.dogrelationsnewyorkcity.com/food-motivator-reward-or-distraction/

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Teaching and Eliciting Voluntary Compliance for Grooming and Medical Procedures

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I can’t touch her ears!

She hates the brush!

He shakes on the way to the groomer.

Isn’t it an oxymoron that on one hand we “spoil” our beloved dogs with the fanciest beds and coats, find the greatest joy in giving them a toy they love to play with but when it comes to taking them to the vet or groomer we show much less concern for the emotional state of our pups.

Oh…he’ll get over it!

Yes, he HATES going there and the vet tech has to hold him in a stranglehold when they take his temperature. We have to muzzle her when she gets a bath. All of a sudden, the puppies’ suffering becomes a thing they just have to deal with.

WRONG! Teaching your puppy to accept being handled, brushed, having their nails clipped and accepting injections is possible and will make your and the dog’s life a whole lot better.

Does it come naturally? Not necessarily!

Is it a whole lot of work? Not really.

Planning ahead is key and realizing that stopping in at the vet’s just to get them a cookie without “having anything BAD happen to them” will not solve the problem.

Even if your tiny puppy lets you handle their feet, toes and ears, and lets you take stuff out of his mouth that does not necessarily predict that this will be the case a couple of months down the road. Be happy but practice anyway!

I think if the goal is to make our dogs’ lives as stress and fear-free as possible that teaching them to accept grooming and medical handling voluntarily should be seen as basic as teaching them to sit or recognize their name.


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

The post Teaching and Eliciting Voluntary Compliance for Grooming and Medical Procedures appeared first on NYC Dog Trainer.


Read More at https://www.dogrelationsnewyorkcity.com/teaching-eliciting-grooming-and-medical-procedures/