Release Me!

Three dogs waitingHey! It turns out I have some bragging rights I haven’t collected on. So here goes.

Back in Spring 2013, I wrote two posts about practical issues with multiple dogs that were both quite popular.

A Secret for Training Two Dogs delineated a trick I learned about how to train one dog to wait quietly, unconfined, while another is actively trained.

The Right Word: Reducing Errors in Verbal Cue Discrimination is related to the first, in that it described how I taught my dogs their unique cues for individual releases. If you train more than one dog, and they are waiting quietly as mentioned above, you need to be able to tell one that it is her turn, right? And the others need to ignore that cue and wait for their own. I taught the individual release cues following the guidelines of errorless learning (which I refer to as reduced error learning, following the terminology lead of Dr. Susan Friedman).

Both of the above posts had movies attached with real life training.

At the end of the movie about teaching individual release cues, I was still working with the dogs one at a time, but I promised to show more as we improved. By this time,  almost two years later, I use these cues virtually every day.

It seems that stays, boundary training, and releases are trendy “show-off” exercises right now. So I’m going to show off a little, but I also want to direct people to the idea of using positive reinforcement to train these very useful behaviors.

As it happened, I taught the releases with almost pure positive reinforcement. There was a tiny bit of extinction, for when the dogs made wrong guesses, but I minimized that as well.

In today’s video I am showing the end behavior as I use it in my house. If you want to see how I trained it, click on the blog names above.

Link to the video for email subscribers.

Link to my YouTube playlist: Helpful Behaviors for Households with Multiple Dogs

I would love to see a proliferation of positive reinforcement based videos of individual releases and boundary training with happy dogs. Anybody else up for it?

Eileenanddogs on YouTube 

© Eileen Anderson 2015                                                                                                                     

25 thoughts on “Release Me!

  1. Love this! Always trying to work my 2 at the same time! I will watch these all over a few times. Thank you. And I have to share my latest delight/laugh…..I think my dogs may have Zen down now, I was trying to just give them a treat for coming to me rather than barking and jumping at someone who came in the door, and they were doing the “leave it” zen thing and waiting for me to click and drop the treat.

    1. Ha! As Sue Ailsby would say, You broke your dogs! Isn’t it great when that happens? “You sure I can have that treat, mom?”

  2. Awesome video, makes me wish I had more than one dog (well, almost…) so I could try this!

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that as a reason for getting another dog! Thanks Rose!

    1. Hah! You made me look! Yes, I got a couple little extras there from her, didn’t I?

  3. Really, really nice example of eager dogs who understand their job and have true joy in doing what they are trained to do.

    This is something I’d like to do with my current trio. It would take a TON of work but it would be a worthwhile endeavor. Perhaps a nice spring training project.

    1. Go for it! Yes, it’s some work, but I bet it will go faster than you expect. And it’s so handy once you have it! Thanks for nice words about my dogs!

  4. I am truly amazed at how well all of you work together! They are each so focused on you – I don’t know exactly how long it took you to be able to show off like that – but it was really wonderful to watch!

  5. Help! I have two, soon to be three dogs. My 12 year old mini doxie is much more attentive than our 7 year old yellow lab. As soon as I start working with him, either alone or with the doxie around, he just gets so spastic. Totally worked up and unfocusable. The only behavior I can really get from him reliably beyond sit is down because any work we do on anything ends up with him spinning in circles and panting excitedly. And when I try and put him in down/stay – which he will do, and work with the doxie, he hones in and gets in the way. Our 8 week old puppy comes home this Friday, and I hate to have to crate everyone in order to train only one of them, so I’m going to work harder on this with the lab, but I’m frustrated to say the least. I worked really hard to get him into a reliable down, but he just doesn’t seem to get anything else I try with him. Even yesterday, I tried getting him to settle before I fed him and he just was spazzed out. I finally got him into a sit before putting the food down. I’m just at a bit of a loss. Should I start treating him when he’s relaxed and calm on his own to reinforce that on an ongoing basis without working on anything specific?

    1. Kim, this is the kind of thing that is hard to talk about without seeing the dog, because that kind of arousal can have different types of triggers. I’m hoping someone with more experience will chime in here, but reinforcing a dog for chilling and relaxing can be very valuable. A couple of books come to mind: Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, and Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked out by Laura Baugh. They both cover behavior that sounds like what you are describing. Good luck, and again, I invite other comments if others have suggestions for Kim.

    2. I would also recommend the Control Unleashed program. I would recommend getting the puppy version, even though your Lab is not a puppy. It’s the exact same material, but the book is in a bit more of a user-friendly format, and the mat work is more detailed, and that is what is very likely to help your Lab the most. Besides, you can jump in and do the exercises with your new puppy at the same time!

      In that book I would look to mat work and “take a breath” as the first things to start with your Lab.

  6. As always, impressive Eileen. I love the way your dogs LOVE to work. You make it look so easy.

  7. Perfect tone to the the exercise and a refreshing joy to watch! Enthusiastic and engaged without any sense of being manic. Congrats!

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