Nena & Me wrote:With this new approach I am taking I can see the results immediately. She places her paws on the sofa, but when she is ignored she moves on to the next thing. Could it be that when she was always trying to get on the sofa before and I told her 'down' she took it as positive reinforcement? I mean, I was giving her attention. She likes attention any way she can get it. maybe she knew that by touching the couch I would look at her? Now that I don't I can see out of the corner of my eye how she stares at me and waits for me to turn my head.
This is all so great to hear, Emmy! Dogs love and crave attention. Of course they love positive interaction (such as playing fetch or being petted). But, if you're too busy to interact with them positively, they'll seek out negative attention from you just as quickly! From personal experience, here's a scenario that I often faced. As I studied for an exam, Diesel would continuously place his frisbee in my lap and look at me like, "Ok, mom, it's time to go play and you really don't need to study!" Because I would be trying to study (and thus ignoring him), he would decide to change his tactics - he would change his positive attention-seeking behavior to a negative one, his favorite being find Evee, pounce on her, and bark continuously in her face. I would then have one wild dog in a barking fury and one annoyed dog growling nonstop. Diesel knew that this behavior would get my attention almost immediately. And it always did - I would eventually cave in and go scold Diesel for "being a brat". As humans, we communicate verbally - we respond to our dog's behavior by scolding our dog. Whenever any displayed behavior receives a response from us (even if it's verbally scolding our dog), that behavior is reinforced. In a dog's mind, any behavior that we pay attention to (and thus satisfy the dog's desire for attention) is effective and the dog will maintain that behavior to some extent. Any behavior that is ignored (such as what you're seeing with Nena) will eventually disappear. Diesel learned that if I ignored his positive-seeking behavior (trying to get me to play with one of his toys), he could always revert to a negative-seeking behavior (i.e. annoying Evee to no end) in order to get my attention. A way to work on this is catching the dog being good and always reinforcing the good behavior. This could include praising the dog when he is chewing on his bone instead of your shoe, petting the dog when he is laying down by your side quietly instead of jumping all over you, clicking and treating the dog when he returns to you (for any reason) while at the dog park, etc. Any behavior that is reinforced (whether positively or negatively) will be repeated in some degree so reinforce only the behaviors that you want repeated!
As far as the behaviors that just cannot be ignored (chewing on your shoes or chewing electrical cords), I would personally try to divert her attention. Does she know recalls yet ("come" or "here")? I would appear to ignore her negative behavior (that way you're not reinforcing it negatively and she thinks she's not getting your attention), go into another room, and call her to you. As soon as she recalls, give an immediate click and treat (mark the desired behavior as soon as it happens). Then I would try to get her to either play with one of her toys or chew on one of her bones. In the meantime (while she's distracted), go retrieve your shoes and place them out of her sight (or try and cover/hide the electrical cord). Go back to Nena and praise her immensely for staying occupied by playing with her toy or chewing on her bone. This is what I would do but hopefully others have some say on this subject!
A couple things about clickers --- clickers work on the basis of operant conditioning. A click is simply a marker signal. It tells the dog exactly what he was doing right at that point in time. Behaviors marked by the click (and therefore reinforced), are more likely to happen again. When the trainer "clicks" and marks the behavior, the dog is given a high value reward (either food or a toy, whichever your dog will work the hardest for). This method is very successful with many dogs because it pairs an event marker (the click) with a reward. The dog then associates the sound of the click with a positive reward, making the click a conditioned or secondary reinforcer and rewarding in itself! One thing I wanted to point out (since Sicily appears to be devoid of clickers lol) is that you can use a marker word (I personally use "Yes!") instead of a click. The principle is still the same - marker signal (which becomes the secondary reinforcer) followed by high-value reward (primary reinforcer). Because you're just starting to work with Nena, make sure that you maintain an extremely high rate of reinforcement (i.e. click/"Yes!" and reward her incessantly)!
Karen Pryor is the pioneer in the clicker-training world of training. I highly recommend her book, "Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs", to help get you a solid foundation in clicker-training. She also has a website, http://www.clickertraining.com/
, which has free training articles, training tips, and even blogs where she answers some frequently asked questions. I highly recommend that resource as well!
Anyway, I didn't mean to write a novel! I hope that some of this helps and that you continue having success with Nena.