Using a dog to teach another dog? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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Using a dog to teach another dog?

How many of you with multiple dogs use one dog to teach another dog? Just curious how people use this to their advantage so that I can learn too. I know trainers use their trained dogs to help with training.

I've a foster dog that doesn't look like he's been trained to learn anything so learning is still quite a concept to him. This morning, my trained shepherd taught the foster shepherd to get on a picnic table and a big rock. The foster dog wouldn't do it for me initially, he thought the table is an obstacle to walk around, so I went home to get my own dog to show him. Then, suddenly, the foster got it quickly and proceed to jump on every picnic table that we pass by after that. It's like a light bulb went off on his head. I love this, or am I doing this wrong?
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 05:07 PM
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I use my trained dogs to teach new dogs to swim and dock dive very frequently.

I also use them for training as calm dogs to work on reactivity in client's dogs, and as calm dogs to boost confidence in shy clients or fosters.

Other than that, they only really teach each other to eat poop. XD

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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 06:27 PM
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Dogs seem to be able to teach one another social behaviors pretty effectively. In formal training/artificial behaviors, it's less clear-cut to me.

I think Claudia Fugazza might be doing some work based on social learning theories, although I am not familiar with her methods and not sure whether she is working on having the dog imitate the human, other dogs, or both. But if you're interested, she has a DVD set here: Welcome to Dogwise.com

Purely anecdotally, in my dogs, I have observed that Pongu can learn from watching Crookytail.

Here's a blog post about one instance I observed at the dog park a few days after Crookytail arrived from the shelter: Merciel's Dog Blog: A Quick Episode From The Dog Park

And here's another episode:


Background on that youtube: At the time, I was trying to get Crookytail to target the box lid with a paw touch as an early step in a trick that I was attempting to do with him. He had just gotten proficient enough for me to attempt making a beginning-stage video clip of that step, so that was my original goal in filming him.

Pongu was not involved in that trick and I had never asked him to target the box lid; at that time Pongu and I were concentrating entirely on some Level 3 Rally exercises that he was having trouble with. So Pongu was never asked to do the paw-touch-to-box-lid movement, but he was frequently asked to hold a Stay on the mat while it was Crooky's turn to work. Because Crooky is a slow learner who takes FOREVER to do anything, Pongu had seen Crooky trying (and failing) that exercise for several days.

Apparently that was sufficient for him to identify the correct movement, recognize when Crooky was screwing up, also recognize when I was getting annoyed with Crooky by my tone of voice, and then step in and be a smug little butthead about shoving Crooky aside and offering the desired behavior in his place.

So clearly Pongu is capable of learning by observation. However, he is the only dog I've had who has been able to do this consistently (Crooky has shown a weak ability to learn via observation in fits and starts, but nothing reliable), and it's sort of useless to me in training, because he already learns faster than any other dog I've ever worked with. The quickest approach is always just to train Pongu directly.

I do train one dog in front of the other in order to get the observer to be more energetic when they switch turns -- Dog Mob will try to out-do each other and compete for my attention, so it's a good motivator -- but that's the only real use I've had for training one dog in front of the other.

These are just my observations, though. It's an interesting subject for sure.

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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 06:45 PM
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My 14 YO Golden taught the 2 YO GSD how to use the dog doors and how to work the watering trough. She also is teaching the younger dog about patrolling the yard periodically through the night. So I am convinced that you can use one dog to train another and they seem to learn much faster and retain the training much better.

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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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I've seen the poop being taught from one dog to another.

I did noticed the foster started to try out the water, then swim, after watching my dog having a ball. At first he was cautious then couldn't resist jumping after my dog after some observations. Some things seem easier taught between dog to dog.

Merciel - I really like your video. That was so cute!!! When you said "come on", Pongu took it as his cue to come, told Crooky to watch and learn, and showed how it's done. and Pongu yawned at the beginning of the video. Haha.
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 06:54 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rbeckett View Post
So I am convinced that you can use one dog to train another and they seem to learn much faster and retain the training much better.
I think so too, plus they seem to enjoy it. Trying to exploit this and see what else I can use this for.
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 07:00 PM
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Dogs are amazing at reading each other and copying behavior. If they see a dog do something and get rewarded, they absolutely will copy that behavior.

My own dogs are essential to rehabilitating some foster dogs -- I literally couldn't do it without them. They teach the foster dogs to trust us, and help the foster dogs learn how to behave in the house.

When a shy, psychologically shutdown little 6 mo. old pup refused to walk because she was terrified of the great outdoors, my big, nurturing senior dog got her moving. She would follow him anywhere. So I clipped them together for the walk, and he taught her how to walk on a leash. She just copied everything he did, and it's how we broke the cycle of her splaying in the driveway refusing to walk. He did more to rehabilitate her in the first few weeks than I did. Of course, he arrived in a similar state ten years earlier, so I think he just intuitively understood how to help her.

Now that little girl (who was a foster failure) is my Rehabilitator in Chief. When a dog suffers from debilitating shyness or arrives psychologically shut-down, she's magic. She can read them, teach them how to play again, and draw them out. She teaches them to trust me.

My little one learned to play fetch by watching an older dog, and copying that dog precisely. It's kind of awesome, as the dog who taught her to fetch was an old girl who passed away last year...now when the little one fetches, she has the mannerisms of the one that passed, so it's like a ripple of that beloved old dog is still with us.

Last edited by Magwart; 07-12-2013 at 07:04 PM.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 07:06 PM
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I think this is great that you and your well trained dog are doing this. I wish more trainers would use this approach in helping with fear and aggressiveness.
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 07:10 PM
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Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear L View Post
Some things seem easier taught between dog to dog.
IME, social behaviors and inherently rewarding behaviors (like "oh, swimming is fun and not scary!" or "here is a good place to chase squirrels!") are easily taught from dog to dog.

Formal training is probably harder to carry over because it's not obviously rewarding. There's no intrinsic reason that hitting a box lid with a paw is a thing that a dog should want to do. It's not fun like swimming, it's not inherently rewarding like food or water, and it's not a relief like going potty outside (which is something that Crookytail has taught several foster dogs -- a lot of our fosters are extremely reluctant to go potty until they figure out where the "right" place is, but obviously it's a big relief once they finally do go!).

I suspect, although I will probably never be able to prove this, that the reason my dogs will engage in ridiculous arbitrary behaviors after watching other dogs do them is because they have a long history of being trained by motivational methods and so they're very willing to experiment with stuff that has to be absolutely nonsensical from their point of view. They have learned that sometimes doing that nonsense stuff wins a big jackpot of fun. Foster dogs don't imitate those behaviors because from their point of view, based on their life experiences, that stuff makes no sense at all.

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Crookytail the Tigerwuff, RL1, ITD (Akita mix, b. Jan 2011)
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-12-2013, 08:10 PM
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I've always used another dog. Whether it be the hounds treeing a cat, flushing upland, retrieving downed waterfowl, the new guy always run with experts. I'm sure same can be said for any other sorts of training. Goodluck with your ventures

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