Thursday, August 30, 2012

Training The "Untrainable" or I'm Wrapped Around My Dog's Paw

     Hi everyone! It's ME and Dachshund Mommy here today to tell you all about my training.

     You see, it isn't really training; I simply have my mom wrapped around my paw. I do something that's SO easy, and I get stuff in return! Piece of cake!

     It's actually a bit more complex than that, but whatever floats Nola's boat ;)
Every since Nola was a tiny baby, she's had the incredible desire to learn. Not to please me, but to LEARN. I've never seen a dog who actually likes to learn. It's fascinating to watch the wheels spin in her head as she works out a command/trick/word.

     Before I get any further, let me state that I am not criticizing or attacking anyone's training methods. I'm only telling you what works for me and my dog, and giving you the scientific evidence as to why PR works so well. 

     Nola is training with ONLY Positive Reinforcement (PR)!!! 
I strongly disagree with any other form of training. And don't even get me started on Cesar Millian! The whole Dominance Theory is outdated and has been scientifically debunked. 
Check out these links if you would like to learn more:

Are Dogs Pack Animals? This is one of my favorite articles on the topic. 
The Dominance Controversy  As is this one.
Nonlinear Dogs
Myths About the Dog's Origin and Nature
Dominance and Dog Training
Beyond Cesar Millan
Cesar Millan, Dog Whisperer: An Alternative Approach
Wolf Status and Dominance in Packs This is a more scientifically written one, but worth a read. 
ClickerSolutions: The History and Misconception of Dominance Theory
The Social Organization of the Domestic Dog Very long and deep article, but once again worth it. 

Dogs are not wolves, any more than humans are apes. 
Example: You take two puppies from their mothers right after birth. One was born to a captive wolf, the other to a feral dog. You hand raise both of them (separately), give them the same amount of socialization and training. The dog that was born to a feral mother is a happy, well adjusted, trustworthy pet. The wolf, born to a captive mother who was accustomed to humans, is a nervous, reactive, unpredictable wild animal. See the difference? Dogs are not wolves.


     I use clicker training with Nola, just minus the clicker. Yes, even though it's in the name, you don't have to use a clicker to clicker train your dog. I use a vocal marker ("Yes!") in place of the "click". 
With clicker training, the click or verbal marker lets the dog know that they just did something great, and a reward is to follow. This has been the fastest and most effective way to train Nola. She does anything at all I like, it's an immediate "yes!" followed by either a treat, praise or toy. She quickly puts 2+2 together (hm, I just did something that made Mom really happy and I heard the good word followed by something I love. I'm going to do that again!) and offers me the behavior again. "Yes!" and reward. See how fast and effective that is? 

     I also use free shaping with her. Free shaping is where you see your dog do a behavior you're interested in and you give a click/verbal marker to let the dog know you like that. Do that till the dog gets what you like, then add a cue word. Congrats! Your dog just learned something without doing a training session. 
I free shaped Nola's habit of jumping onto furniture or putting her paws on my leg. Now she hears the command "up!" and either puts her paws up or jumps onto something (depending on the hand signal given). 

     On choke, pinch and shock collars:
They are tools, but tools that should only be used in the hands of someone who knows how to use them. And that's not many people. I personally think choke, pinch and shock collars should be banned except in very specific circumstances. 
There are so many other humane options out there! Thousands of harness and head halters to fit every dog! 
Nola is trained off leash primarily, but always wears a buckle collar and for walking uses a Pupia harness (the only one she can't slip) and a 6ft leash. 

Videos to check out:
My two favorite dog trainers on YouTube are Kikopup and Tab289. Both use strictly PR and clicker training, and they're my go to YouTubers for training. Tab289's video on dominance is a must! It's right up there ^ so check it out. 

Teaching Recall:

     Teaching recall isn't as hard as it first seems. The 3 most important things to remember are:
1) NEVER call your dog for punishment or when you're angry 
2) Reinforce every single time your dog comes to you, either with food, play or affection/praise 
3) Don't teach your dog that the word "come" means the fun is over (i.e. you leave the dog park, beach, in the yard, ect). When you're at the dog park, for example, recall your dog every 5-10 minutes and reward, then let her back off. Make it a constant guessing game, and make it that coming to you is better than anything she's leaving behind.

     How I taught Nola's recall is actually pretty straightforward. When she followed me, she got a a verbal marker and a reward. 
Then later, if she was somewhere in the house I'd call her name. If she came to me, she'd get the jackpot of rewards. If she didn't, I hadn't introduced the word come, so she wasn't disobeying. It only took her a few times to figure out it's a great thing to come to Mom right when she calls. That's when I introduced the word "come".
Then we moved outside, following the same steps as above, except she obeyed the come command. 
When I felt she was trustworthy, I let her off at the deserted beach. She was perfect and continues to be! She drags her leash when we're in public and she's off, just so I can grab her quickly if need be.
I always have treats or a toy in my pocket, and reward her randomly for following and coming back of her own accord throughout the day. It's become something of a game, kind of like in this video:

Teach tricks!
In addition to the usual sit, stay, come, down, heel, teach your dog tricks! It not only sets your dog apart from your usual run of the mill pet, it's a huge crowd pleaser and confidence builder. Nola actually learns tricks faster the obedience commands. 
Teach them anything! Be creative and silly!
Nola's paw and wave trick:

Nola's "bang!"

Commands/tricks/words Nola knows:
okay (let off command)
leave it
over (jump over something)
get in (bathtub)
watch me/look at camera
fist bump
touch (target)
high five
give kisses
give (drop it)
easy (walk nicely on a leash)
go find (toy, person, minion)
you got mail!
pig pig
car ride
Her "aunts" and "uncle"
Who's here?
Where'd they go?
go get it
be cute

Dogs learn infinitely better by being taught what they should do, rather than what they shouldn't. 
Don't set you or your dog up for failure! "Oh, I have a Dachshund, they're way to stubborn for training". Clearly not! Don't limit yourself with stereotypes.
Quit while you're ahead. Stop the training session with the dog wanting to continue, rather than when it's frustrated.
Mental exercise (training, food puzzles) is just as, if not more, important as physical exercise. 
Don't train when your dog is tired, hot, sore, stressed or right after a meal.
If your dog is having trouble learning a new command, fall back on one she knows well. A boost of confidence.
Training makes your bond with your dog stronger.

     This post is turning more into what technique I use to train Nola with and what she can do, rather than a step by step thing. Oops!  Sorry for the novel :)

     Now you're probably thinking, "damn, that dog is perfect!". She's not. I am so! Like I said, she's not. She's smart, and she knows it. She has mild separation anxiety, is petrified of garbage tucks, is demanding, doesn't like people outside the family and is nervous around big dogs. 
But, she's my perfect dog, which is why it works.

     Well, that's it! I hope we covered everyone's curiosity! Soon there will be a page (that's frequently updated) of my training put up, so keep an eye out for that.

     If you have any questions about this posts, or questions in general, please leave them in a comment below. If I get some questions, Monday's post will be a Q&A!

     Hope you enjoyed how I'm trained!

Kisses and Tail Wags and Hugs,
Dachshund Nola and Dachshund Mommy
"up" allows me to verbally place Nola where I want her 
Serious impulse control. This is her "wait" command and yes, those are treats.


  1. Oh Nola, you are so wise!! Look at all you can do. Sometimes I am amazed at how many words dogs can pick up. I love your up! And look at you staring at all those treats. Such a good dog. Hope you are having a good one!

  2. I completely agree with you on the positive reinforcement. That's how I train Blueberry and I also do the reinforcement when she is doing something I haven't even told her to do. It's how she's learned to stay across the room and patiently waits for me to walk towards her and then I treat her. I'm definitely not as good as you are with all those commands! I usually teach one at a time otherwise I am the one that gets confused and I don't know what I want from her, then that just frustrates her.

    I just started making her wait for me to release her from a sit/stay when I put her food down and she learned it in like 3 lessons - which is super fast for her!

    Love that Nola knows so many tricks and yes she's perfect - for you! That's all that really matters, right?

  3. Did SHE just say your NOT perfect? Goodness Nola, I can see that you have more Dachshund Mommy training to do!! Maybe some subliminal messages while SHE's sleeping will do the trick. Keep whispering in her ear "Nola IS perfect, Nola IS perfect."

    And seriously.... WHO likes garbage trucks??

    From one perfect doxie diva to another ~ I love ya sweetie Nola!!

    Lily Belle
    We BFF's gotta stick together on this one!

  4. OH NOLA this is just a SUPERB Post... It is Just how I learned all my stuffs and then the way Ernie was taught, too. PAWSitive Rewards is the WAY TO GO.

  5. This was a FANGTASTIC post... and it's given me some thoughts about training Newbs. We've been able to teach a few things, but he is still having a difficult time adjusting... so that slow going is making me hesitate pushing lots of new things on him... but if he can associate the 'good word' for EVERYTHING, then that might help his HUGE anxiety issues.

    You've given me a whole lot to think about. Thanks!! xx

    Shelle, Milo, Dixie and Newby,

  6. Well....that is great Nola. You do such a great job at learning.

    Jazzi and Addi

  7. Wow, Nola, you have so much self-control! I could never wait for my treats!


  8. We know all about dominant, untrainable little dogs in our house!
    What great tips, I will try and use some of them if they will let me.
    Lynne x

  9. Nola is very smart and so is her trainer:) You are doing so many great things there. Mom uses a lot of the same techniques but she says we can't get anywhere near that many treats or we would be really fat.

    One mistake she thinks a lot of people make is not using a specific word for a specific action. If you use different words for one action, it is a lot harder to get the response you want and very confusing for the dog.

    We really enjoyed your post.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  10. Fabulous post! I love it and I have to say I've chuckled in an embarassed way all the way through. I DON'T spend enough time training with Flo or Elsie. As for that list of commands Nola knows... what a show off! Have a great weekend. I shall be working on improving Flo's vocabulary. Starting with 'Flo'! :D

  11. are amazing!!! And please thank your Mommy fur the wonderful tips.

  12. You know I like Q&A! What was the hardest trick or behavior to teach Nola and if you think you know why, why? Has there been any tricks or behaviors that you know Nola knows but she refuses to do them or "plays dumb." In my opinion, Greyhounds are masters of the "playing dumb" technique. How do Auggie and Boston do with training. Which brings me to another thing...If we don't see Auggie in some cute clothes soon, he may lose his cross-dressing status.

  13. We totally agree with your opinions on training. Rubie is smart and eager to do "anything" for a treat. Very food oriented. She is also schnauzer stubborn when she is not in the mood for doing what I want her to do.... but food always wins out!

    Well done on your work with Nola!

    Rubies mum xxx

  14. I have the worst trainer in the world!
    Hmmm.... I know some commands... but I don't do it on command!
    Good job Nola and Mom!
    Kisses and hugs

  15. Nola, you are so smart. I love watching your videos. I can do some things too, but not as much as you. Mommy and I will work on a few new things and thanks for all the advice.

    Loveys Sasha

  16. I totally agree. Whisky was trained exclusively on positive reinforcement as well. Granted she is no Lassie but she is trained to what I want her to know / do. I do the same with the cats and while they are trainable, they are a little more challenging. The key points are to be patient and most of all, consistent.

  17. wow that is a massive list of commands, bloody well done guys, i got stormy pretty well behaved now but he only knows a few commands. im gonna have to start trying out a few more im feeling quite jealous of your huuuuge list :)

    excellent post :)

    Charlene and Stormy

  18. Sigh! I have been using positive reinforcement with Cinnamon, but it is a long road! Perhaps it is because of her genes. She is 1/3 dingo. She is getting better, but I've never had this much difficulty training a dog before.
    Thanks for reinforcing what I thought about CM and the way he works.
    Nellie's Mommy

  19. Man! Nola sure knows a lot of tricks. I am especially impressed that she can spell out "YUM" with her treats:) I have had some dogs that were extremely easy to teach tricks to and some that just would not learn anything I tried to teach...obviously I am not that great of a teacher. It really isn't due to intelligence either. I have had several very intelligent dogs which I could not teach. I am sure someone else could have had better luck with them. I really forgot about clicker training though. I think I am going to give it a try with my little missy this weekend and see if I can get her a new trick. She only knows about half a dozen commands right now, but she is super smart and likes to learn so I should work with her more.

  20. This was a great post, I love how you explained positive reinforcement in such an entertaining way! Sometimes people make it sound like training is a chore, when it's really a fun way to bond with your dog and help make them an even better dog to be around. Especially loved when you said that she's not THE perfect dog but she's YOUR perfect dog. Awesome!

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