Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ian Dunbar Seminar: Train the Opposite to Solve Behavior Problems!

Ian likes to solve common behavior problems by making the problem the solution. To do this, he teaches his dog to do exactly the behavior he doesn’t want. I’ve heard this advice before, especially when it comes to excessive barking- usually, people say that you should teach your dog to bark on cue, and then don’t cue it, but Ian explained it a bit further: if you train one behavior, you often get the opposite for free, so you might as well take advantage of that.

The way Ian does this is to get the problem behavior on cue, and then when the dog naturally does the opposite- being quiet to take a breath for example, you can get that on cue, too. He yo-yos between the two behaviors so that the dog understands the difference, using treats at first, but eventually using the problem behavior as the reward for the good one. Once the dog fully understands both cues, if the dog engages in the problem behavior, Ian simply redirects the dog with the cue for the desire behavior. Makes sense!

He identified seven common behavior problems that people have with their pet dogs, and how he trains the problem to find the solution. Here they are:

1. Hyperactivity
For hyperactive dogs, Ian teaches “jazz up” and “settle down.” First, he trains the dog to go crazy on cue. He recommended jumping around, giggling, and generally acting like a kid. (Bonus points if you actually have a kid to help you with this!) Then, he goes dead still, and the dog usually calms down too. You can read more about this in his own words here.

2. Excessive Barking
For excessive or problem barking, Ian teaches “woof” and “shush.” He finds that for most dogs, you can provoke the barking by ringing the doorbell (or having a friend do it for you). Then, after the doorbell stops- or when the dog stops- you can cue the dog to be quiet. I really liked that Ian teaches his dogs to bark once- and only once- when the doorbell rings. He wants people to know that he has dogs, especially if he isn’t home. You can read more about this here.

3. Jumping on People
His cues here are “hug” (so cute, but that might only work for the taller dogs- or at least the ones more agile than Maisy) and “sit.” You can read a bit more from Ian on dogs jumping up here.

4. Pulling on Leash
Ian, with his malamute loving ways, teaches his dogs to pull on leash, and I can’t think of a better reward for dogs who were originally bred to pull sleds. Alternate pulling with walking nicely (or even heeling), and both you and your dog get what rewards out of the walk. Interestingly, the information on his website (see it here) does not talk about teaching the opposite.

5. Grabbing (“stealing”) Objects
Teach the dog to “take it” and “drop it” on cue. Bonus points if you teach a “leave it” or an “off” cue for those dead animals you simply don’t want your dog grabbing in the first place. Here is some information on how Ian teaches it.

6. Dog Moving at the Wrong Speed
How do you teach a border collie to go faster? Teach him to go slow first! This is apparently good for agility dogs, where you might need a bit more control as you teach the obstacles. Then you can cue the dog to go faster. And once he understands what it means to speed up, you can cue the running dog to move even faster yet! Here’s a video on Ian’s site. This concept could also be helpful for pet dogs on walks.

7. Running Away
Many, many dogs not only fail to come when called, but will actually take off in the other direction! Ian solves this problem by using chase games. Take off running in the other direction, and your dog is sure to follow. I am not sure if Ian teaches the dog to run away on cue by chasing the dog or not. There is a little on training a recall here.

Have you used any of these things? I do play opposites for the recall- I call it the Come! Go! game. I personally haven’t had much luck with the jazz up/settle down games, although Maisy’s hyperactivity is probably anxiety-based. I haven’t tried the game since she’s been on meds, but I bet I’d have better luck now. Anyway, I’d love to hear if you’ve solved a problem by training the opposite.


Louise Kerr said...

Hi Crystal
I used this method for my reactive miniature poodle who barks. She is allowed two barks and then is cued to be quiet. Then is allowed two barks again and is cued again. I also found the recall good for a belgian shepherd that wanted to run off. He got very confused when I told him to go and go to the point where he stopped running off, as the treats on the verandah were too enticing. The rest is intersting and food for thought.
Regards Louise Kerr

Crystal said...

Thanks for the comment, Louise. I've always been afraid to try the barking thing- Maisy often throws behaviors like crazy. Of course, she's not a huge barker (her whining is actually more annoying).

Ninso said...

I haven't tried any of this, but I do use a similar concept in teaching stay. It makes sense to me that a dog understands a behavior better when he understands the opposite, so early on in stay training I teach a release, release often and reward the release (as well as rewarding in position). This way, "stay" becomes "sit/lie there until I tell you to move" instead of "sit/lie" there. Seems to work for me, at least.

I've also used the same concept to teach an "off" (of furniture). I've taught the "up-up" and "off" at the same time as opposite sides of the same coin.

Crystal said...

Ninso, interesting. I've always been told not the reward the release- that the reward is being released. Your take on it is interesting. I might try playing with that- I don't have a good stay with Maisy yet.

Kristen said...

With Blaze we did a lot of these...barking, jumping up, and chasing...the only one that worked with him was using chase and recalls together. We saw a short term improvement in his recalls. Barking made him bark more... jumping made no change.

I've been too scared to try the barking one with Griffin.

Where is the line between training opposites and paired cues?

I just haven't found it to be as efficient to do paired/opposite cues, esp with client dogs...there's a point where I see an increase in the undesired behavior before it tapers off and that can be annoying/scary for the owner who wants it to STOP NOW.

Stays and release: I don't typically teach it as a pair either, but if your release is a trained behavior on cue (and it should be!), you can use it to reinforce a stay, just like you can with other behavior chains. The release is only cued if the dog is staying/still. There's a good video on youtube of this...I haven't been able to find it the last few times I looked.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I teach rise/drop and cool down/rev up this way. But for most behaviors I find it easier to focus on what I want the dog to do and have a high rate of reinforcement. If it's a behavior the owner never wants the dog to do again I find it is simpler. Unless the dog has a history of practicing that opposite behavior and finds it highly rewarding. In that case it can go faster putting it on cue and letting the dog earn it.

Lance loves to bark so I taught him bark/quiet. Sometimes just saying quiet isn't enough, but he will always shut up if I first tell him to bark and then ask for a quiet. But Vito's barking stems from his reactivity and he can't control it. He doesn't know bark/quiet and I don't think it would help him because he's not doing it for fun or from excitement. Could be wrong though!

I do train the release before I start stay work. The dog can't learn what stay means if he doesn't know when he can get up! But once I start working on stay I want to reward during it, preferably multiple times during the middle of the stay, not right before the end. I stop treating the release although I do make sure my dogs get up.

I don't know about that slow down/speed up thing. I would NEVER tell my dog to slow down on course, even when first learning. I want everything done at speed so in the learning stages you make things easy enough so that it can be done at full blast. If I taught a slow/fast away from the agility course I don't know how well the dog would generalize. The same as how Lance often needs to be told to speak (even though he's already barking) to then listen to my quiet, I just can't see it being effective in agility.

Crystal said...

Kristen- I'm glad to hear that my skepticism re: barking isn't completely unfounded, although I do find it interesting that Laura's Lance sometimes need to be told to bark before she can ask for quiet. That amuses me.

Kristine said...

Thanks for providing all of this fantastic information!

For Shiva's hyperactivity I have used the "jazz up" method you mentioned and it does work for me. She calms down, or rather gives the appearance of calming down, now on cue. It's just turning that appearance into the real thing. :-P But we're getting there.

One thing I have done also was recommended by Susan Garrett. Because Shiva loves to run, I have put that on a cue word as well, in hope that it would make it easier for her to understand when it is time to run around and when it is time to work. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes she runs no matter what I say. But as a concept, I think it is interesting and probably depends a lot on a dog's motivation.

So, I guess our problems haven't necessarily been "solved" by training opposites, but they have gotten better. And it has helped make me a more creative trainer.

Crystal said...

Kristine, you are quite welcome!

Re: the jazz up/settle down method: While I could get Maisy to lie still, it was a quivering, vibrating "settle" that ended as soon as the exercise was over. I was never able to get the fake relaxation to carry over into real relaxation, and it didn't even last very long.

Original_Wacky said...

As far as the recall, Missy doesn't care one whit if I take off running the other way, if she's loose, she just wants to run all over. We're working on it, but I think it will just take a lot of time. And with her barking, she's reactive to anything too close to her 'territory', and it's self-rewarding, so that will likely take a whole lot of work as well. I mean, how much more rewarding can it get than barking, and the thing goes away? (Mailman, garbage trucks, doorbells, etc)

Luckily, she loves car rides, so I can usually get her to jump in if she does get loose, otherwise it turns into a game of waiting for her to run by and catching her attention with toys or treats.

Now, the Lab I had years ago did learn to be quiet from barking being on cue and teaching the opposite, before I had much of a clue about clickers, rewards, and training, I just went by instinct, and that worked.

Crystal said...

Oooh. I don't need it often, but the running the other way trick is my emergency back-up plan. It never fails.

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