Susan Garrett — Master Dog (and Human) Trainer

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Susan Garrett (@susangarrett) is an incredible dog trainer. She has a B.Sc. in animal science, and for more than two decades has been one of the most consistently successful competitors in the sport of dog agility.

Susan has been on the podium of the world and national championship events more than 50 times, winning those events a total of 38 times.

Her book Shaping Success (The Education of an Unlikely Champion) was selected as the 2005 dog training and behavior book of the year.

 

What separates a good handler from a great handler?

  • Mental game
  • Ability to train their dog and to outrun their dog.

What differentiates Susan’s approach to training from others?

  • Reinforcement programs
  • Being intentional and purposeful with every training

Susan contrasts choice-based training with punishment-based and reinforcement-based training.

  • There are 3 types of training:
    1. Punishment based
    2. Reward based (often with food)
    3. Choice-base
  • There are rewards but only after the dog made a choice.
  • The dog’s make their own choice but must live with the consequences of it.
  • Susan has four games based on choice.
    • It’s Your Choice:
      • By closing your hand on the food when the dog has an unwanted behavior, they learn to act a certain way.
      • He only gets the food when the dog stares at the food not acting up when the hand is open.
    • The three big reinforcements for a dog
  1. Food: Orijen Treats
  2. Toys: Classic Kong
  3. Permission to do things
  • Dogs react to what is being reinforced

What’s the best way to train with games?

  • Everything the dog does must pass through you.
  • You must be consistent.
  • Crate games:
    • The crate is their spot. No one’s is going to bother him in there.
    • Create a safe space for the dog.
    • At the beginning, you close the door each time the dog wants to get out.
    • Eventually you can replace the crate for a dog bed.
    • It’s the foundation for choice-based training.
  • Restrained recalls:
    • Ask someone to hold your dog while you move 5 feet away.
    • The dog will chase you when you call his name.
    • Eventually the dog will learn to run when his name is called.
  • Collar grab game:
    • Each time you give a treat, grab the collar.
    • Your dog will learn not to be scared when you grab the collar.
    • Don’t let the dog see the food until you have the collar.
  • Call Once:
    • Combination of collar grab and restrained call
    • Call his name, grab his collar and give the cookie.
    • Perfect for including kids and partners into the training.
  • Shaping behavior is letting the dog make their own choices
  • Dogs that Listen
  • 30′ Training Lease

What to do when you’re reacquainted with your dog after a long absence?

  • Principle of the transfer of value
    • Feed your dog by hand
    • Food must be earned
    • Creates a better, stronger bond

The dos and don’ts of getting a new puppy (and how it ties in with trying to do 10,000 kettlebell swings in 28 days)

 Susan’s first 24 hours with a new puppy

  • Play tug with them to build an interaction of choice
  • Go back between playing, sleeping ad eating
  • 2 hours before bed, play with them and give them a last drink for the night
  • To stop a puppy from waking you up in the middle of the night you just put his crate on a chair and the chair next to your bed.
    • If he needs to go to the bathroom, just take him but don’t interact with him or stimulate him
    • If you do, you will create the expectation that the puppy should play in the middle of the night
  • Always take them to the bathroom on a leash, even if you have a fenced in area
    • If they don’t learn to go on a leash, they never will

 What’s clicker training?

  • Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training
  • It’s a bridge to mark what behavior we like and the reward.
  • It’s a conditioned reinforcer
  • You can use a unique word or a pen that clicks
  • It’s best for a small behavior you want to change
  • It’s not really appropriate for a recall
  • A clicker is precise like a scalpel
  • It can also be used for an incomplete movement/behavior
    • To start the learning of a new trick

Why negative reinforcement isn’t as effective as positive reinforcement — even for people.

  • You probably won’t catch your dog at time right moment and there will a dislocation in time
  • All punishment have a fallout that suppresses a part of the behavior
    • They still do the behavior when you are not around

How do you avoid doling out negative reinforcement when bad behavior is exhibited?

  • Don’t give your dog opportunities to make mistakes
    • Don’t let a puppy wander around the house unsupervised
  • Create games to shape good behaviors
  • Use an X-pen to confine your dog when you leave a room
    • Put toys in the pen to make it fun for him.

What’s the difference between X pen versus tethering?

  • Tethering is using a leash to keep your dog around you in the house
    • It removes choice
      • Choose to want to spend time with you versus being obliged and attached to you by a leash

What is jackpotting, and what does science say about its value in training?

  • Jackpotting is giving your dog lots of treats once a day as a surprise for doing something good (e.g. 10 treats instead of the usual 1 for a trick)
  • It has zero value in training and may even negatively impact it
    • It increases the variability of responses
    • The Best Animal Trainers in History: Interview with Bob and Marian Bailey

Why do chickens make excellent subjects for a trainer trying to understand positive reinforcement?

What she thinks about failure proofing behaviours

  • The three Ds: distance, duration, and distractions are used to change the context
  • Start the three Ds in the crate to really create good behaviors and then take your dog in the real world and reinforce those behaviors.

What to do when a dog is training you?

  • Recognize that you are being shaped
  • When the dog does it the first time don’t change your behavior but when he does it the second time, take away privileges or put him in the crate.

What are some of the common mistakes Susan sees people making?

  • Before a training session, play with your dog to get his heart rate up
    • It’s to get them hyper-focused and eliminate distractions

Is there a way to calm down your dog in excitable situations?

  • Back away to a more remote area where there are less distractions and work your way back

The concept of “Don’t”

  • Most people try to train from the world of “don’t,” but dogs only understand “do.”
  • The understand behavior

Reinforcement and it’s other uses

  • Even AcroYoga uses positive reinforcement.
  • Coaches don’t tell people what they don’t want, they tell what they want
  • Striving to become a better trainer for the benefit of your dog makes you a better person.

Tools to bring home for your dog before you adopt

Who are the trainers you recommend or don’t recommend?

  • Bob and Mary Bailey
    • The Best Animal Trainers in History: Interview with Bob and Marian Bailey — Part 1 and Part 2 by Dr. Sophia Yi
  • Online learning
    • There are less distractions
    • You can pause a video and replay it.
  • Stay away from old school training that is punishing or scaring your dog

Where can people find Susan?

Twitter | Dogs That Listen | Susan Garrett Agility Training | Facebook | YouTube

 

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