Monday, November 30, 2009

Stages of Learning

There are four basic stages of learning for dogs.
1)  Acquisition
2)  Automation
3)  Generalization
4)  Maintenance

During the Acquisition stage of learning, a dog learns the a particular new behavior is rewarding through prompting and shaping.
Shaping  is basically teaching a dog through small steps.  An example of this would be trying to teach a dog to go on his matt or place.  Place the matt a few feet from the dog and wait for the dog to look or take a step toward the matt, reward.  Next the dog steps away from the matt, you do not reward.  It is basically like playing the game "Hot or Cold."  As the dog moves closer to the matt, keep rewarding.  When the dog works out in his mind that this is what you are looking for and makes it all the way to the matt, greatly reward for a job well done.  This is using shaping.

Capturing a behavior is basically waiting for your dog to do something you like, then rewarding him for it.  An example of this would be waiting for your dog to naturally "wipe" his feet after going number two, and rewarding him for the behavior.  Capturing a behavior is catching your dog in the act of a desired behavior and rewarding them for it.

During the Automation stage of learning, the dog automatically will give a specific behavior to a cue without being lured or prompted.  An automation response is when the dog moves into the down position every time you say "down."

During the Generalization stage, the dog learns that the response should be the same, no matter if a different person gives the cue, or if the cue is given in a different location.  Dogs do NOT generalize well.  Owners should practice all known cues in as many different places with as many different people as possible.

When a dog is complying consistently with a cue in many situations 90-100% of the times, he is in the Maintenance stage of learning.  You can feel comfortable that your dog has an understanding of the cue once he has reached the maintenance stage.  When the dog makes a mistake, you must go back to practicing an easier version of the cue, or "Go back to Kindergarten."  

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Homework Dog

Our dogs generally want to hang out with us no matter what we might be doing.  Today Nekita decided my boyfriend needed some help with his homework, although she doesn't seem to find math very interesting.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Breed of the Month--Chinese Crested

Chinese Crested

Color:  Any color or combination of colors.
Height:  Males:  11-13 inches/  Females:  9-12 inches
Weight:  Varies, no more than 12 lbs
Life Span:  10-12 years

Breed Health Concerns:  Allergies, patellar luxation, dental problems, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and skin problems (hairless).

Coat:  Two Types:  1) Hairless, has a silky, soft, flowing hair on head, feet, and tail.
   2) Powderpuff, has a double coat with a short, silky undercoat, and a soft, straight outer coat.
Country of Origin:  China/ Africa

Visit the American Kennel Club for breed standards and more information.

The hairless breeds of today have evolved from mutations that have occurred in past pariah-type puppy litters.  With such a unique appearance in the dog world, they Chinese Crested came to be very popular in Africa, China, Mexico, and Spain.

Many people fall in love with the Chinese Crested because it is affectionate, lively, and playful.  Proper socialization is very important in this breed to keep him comfortable with strangers and more outgoing.  This breed likes to dig and climb.  The Chinese Crested has a hare foot, making it able to hold food, toys, and even people.

Chinese Crested dogs get some of their energy out by following family members around in their daily routine, but do need a good walk daily as well.

Chinese Cresteds have no odor and are very clean.  The hairless kind needs to be bathed on a regular basis as well as have oil and/or creme applied to help protect it's skin.  The Powerpuff variety needs regular brushing, as the undercoat will become matted if not tended to.  Both types are naturally resistant to ticks and fleas.

The Chinese Crested will comply with basic requests and responds well to positive training.  Making training a game for the entire family will help this breed have fun and learn more quickly.