Thank you all for the great information. Hudson and I did not take the test, but mostly because I was a mess and didn't think I could pull it together. I was preparing for my husband's memorial service the next day and it was more emotional than I was prepared for.
I am going to continue training Hudson and we will ace the test next time. I will continue with my current trainer, but also plan to take some classes from others just to get some diversity.
One thing that did become clear to me was that my reward-based training morphed into bribe-based training when I wasn't looking. So I am going to start over with the down command specifically and others too and focus on just where I have my treat. And also focus on other types of rewards.
I am also looking forward to seeing Susan Garrett and get some inspiration and rejuvenation for training Hudson.
Thank you all again and I will keep posting about our adventures.
It sounds like the food wasn't utilized correctly. It sounds like it's being used as a bribe.
It shouldn't be showing in your hand (try keeping it behind your back and only bring it back around once the cue has been obeyed). If he's not complying when food isn't present, that means that he's aware that you have food ready and waiting for him and that's the only reason he's complying. No offense but that's bribery. "Show me the goods and I'll show you the obedience."
The food may also not have been phased out properly to intermittent use to keep him playing the odds rather than relying on a reward each and every time.
I'd look for another trainer who utilizes food properly and can also help you find other rewards that your dog will work for to mix it up. It's easy to become overly reliant on food. But when you use different rewards, you become less reliant on a single reward and you and your dog have less dependence on one reward and bribery is less apt to occur.
Once I'm sure the dog understands the cue and thus is performing it reliably because it's been sufficiently reinforced, I phase out the food to maybe every other time and the time that I don't give food, I offer a different reward instead. Then I offer food only every few times. Then even less than that. But I ALWAYS offer a reward of some sort, even if it's just a happy voice and a smile. A dog knows that they got it right and learn that as praise. When you being happy with them is paired with good things, they associate it as a reward. Your marker should be nice and strong too. A conditioned response should be that they realize that they got it right when they hear the marker. This in it's self should become a reward, conditioned as a good enough thing to work to achieve.
Other things that can suffice as a reward vary so much and it really depends on your dog. I've seen so many people, including trainers, convinced that dogs love petting when I see the dog leaning away from their hand or eyeballing their hand with the whites of their eyes, when in reality, it's a pet or a correction and the reward is really the withhold a correction. If a dog really enjoys petting enough to consider it a reward, they'd lean into it. So if that's the case, you can offer a ear scratch in lieu of a food reward every time
Maybe your dog likes to fetch a tennis ball. You can try throwing the ball sometimes as his reward.
Maybe he likes baby talk, you can baby talk him silly as a reward.
Maybe he loves play, you can shove him around and growl at him if that's his thing. Maybe a quick tug on a rope. Or a quick game of chase. Or do all of the above and more. Work in some Premack Principal. Soon enough, if you're in competition or whatnot, just the marker should suffice, as long as you offer periodic rewards to keep up the positive association. No one works for free. Not even dogs. The marker has to keep it's value so it has to be charged on occasion.
These are just some examples. A good trainer shouldn't be overly reliant on any one type of reward or the dog and the humans become overly reliant as well. This is one of the reasons a lot of people believe that corrections are necessary. The fact is that the reward hasn't been utilized correctly and frankly, the fault doesn't lie with the dog so it seems hardly fair to correct the dog for poor training. It doesn't sound like you're considering that. I really admire that you're looking for another trainer rather than giving into an urge to take it out on the dog.
What outwest said is true. You should have a whole arsenal of rewards so you're never without a reward to offer your dog.
Susan Garret is great to look to for ideas on developing and discovering other rewards, although she can be quite dependent on tugs but whatever.
So glad that there are properly informed positive reinforcement dog trainers on here! She knows what she is talking about... Listen to her.
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I go to classes with three different people for obedience and regularly two different people for agility (sometimes a third). I think that you will get different perspectives form going to more than one person. You should feel free to pick and choose the things that make sense to you and ignore others. The different people will tell you different things perhaps, but it sounds like you need to have someone else looking at your situation.
It also sounds like you have been through a lot lately. Be patient with yourself and with Hudson. I am sure he has been and will continue to be a source of comfort to you after the passing of your husband. Having the chance to work with him and build your relationship with him through the course of the next few months will help keep structure in your life as you learn to live it on your own. When you are ready I am sure you will go into your CGC test with confidence and come out with flying colors.
Lily AKC: CGC CD HIT CDX, RN RA RE RAE RAE2 RAE3 RAE4 RAE5 RAE6 RAE7 Multiple Rally High Combined, NA NAJ; APDT: RL-1; CPE: CL1-R, CL1-H, CL1-F, CL1-S, CL1
Peeves AKC: CGC BN RN RA
Javelin AKC: RN (landed on Long Island July 10, 2015!)
TammyQ I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband. Even if Hudson had mastered a perfect down you did not need the additional stress of taking a test. I think you made a wise decision giving it a pass. Like Catherine I am sure you will ace the test when you do take it but if not that is OK too just have fun with it.
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