Some of our Akitas currently looking for new homes.

Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 25

Training Methods


The next question that arises is "what kind of training should I do?" When I first started, mumble, mumble, years ago, everyone used the same basic methods for training. Over the ensuing years, learning research has supplied additional tools for working with dogs. Plenty of books on dog training are available, and most areas have some sort of training classes available. To a certain extent, how you train will depend on the methodology of your trainer.

The method I first learned has now garnered the rather unappealing name "force training." Here, you put the dog on a lead and choke collar (we didn't even have pinch collars when I started) and gave a command. If he did it, you gave him lots of praise. If he didn't, you gave him a quick jerk with the leash to get him to do whatever you were working on and as soon as he did it or was in position, gave him lots of praise.

Back in the dark ages, no one even considered training a dog until it was six months old. This, of course, made the dog harder to train, both because he'd been learning on his own all along and because he was that much bigger than a puppy. So, maybe part of the "force" was because the dog was just harder to work with.

Finally, some enlightened people, Dr. Ian Dunbar among them, advocated working with puppies. The age to start formal training then halved to three months. This type of training goes by the more attractive terms of "lure" or "food training." It is grounded in the surety that puppies will do almost anything for a food treat or a favorite toy.

Using natural actions, the puppy is persuaded through use of the lure to perform. For instance, if the lure is held slightly behind and above his head, he will have to look up and sit to get it. Likewise, held between his feet, he will tend to go down to get it. The lure, coupled with a command and praise teach the dog. When the command and action are firmly associated, food rewards are decreased and eventually ceased.

Bill Bobrow one of our most successful obedience trainers cautions that older dogs may not work all that well for food rewards unless they are encouraged to do so as puppies. This applies also to baiting dogs in the conformation ring. He also points out that food rewards may not be enough with Akitas and that sooner or later you will have to resort to some type of physical correction.

His comments reminded me of a young male I was working on the down-stay. As his hormones have kicked in, he's become increasingly reluctant to down in the presence of adult males. A few nights before at class, I had given him a down command along with one of his favorite goodies. He started to go down, taking the treat in his mouth. Then he stopped, looked at the adult male next to us, spit out the food, and sat up. There and then, I decided it was time for a different training technique.

Much to my surprise, I found an even newer technique which uses food too but couples it with what psychologists call an event marker. The first people to introduce this training method to the world of dogs came from dolpin training at marine exhibitions. While they use whistles with the sea mammals, with dogs most use a clicker (those toys we used to call "crickets").



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