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THE ON/OFF SWITCH


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#1 beachdogz

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 08:50 PM

Hijacking this quote from another thread:


“There is an on off switch, but you have to train it in by not playing frisbee for four and 1/2 hrs.”


So I’m intrigued. What exactly is the on/off switch and how do you train it?

My BC is not what I would classify as hyper. She wants to play ball a few times a day – she loves to squeak the ball, or she loves the ball on a rope that she twirls with in a circle before shaking it to death.

When she does want to play ball, she pesters you - squeaking the ball as she pushes it on you. Sometimes she wants to play with the tug toy and does the same. And she is obsessive during the intense times of play; then she calms down and quits.

And the “boof” barking that was discussed in another thread: when she wants something – to go out, to play ball, for you to get her ball – she non-stop “boofs”. No on/off switch there.

I’m not even sure she needs an on/off switch…she will quiet down and just lay next to you in between her play periods.

But I am curious as to what you all refer to when you refer to the on/off switch, so I’d like examples as to when you should train one, why you want to train one…and how you go about training it.

Thanks
B
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#2 juliepoudrier

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 10:21 PM

Example of when and why you'd need an off switch: I work from home, but full time for one company. I write articles and produce a magazine for the company. Because I write from home, I often have to conduct phone interviews or have teleconference meetings. None of these things fits into a regular schedule as I have to time interviews, etc., at the convenience of the folks I need to talk to, and they aren't all on Eastern standard time. In general, when I am working I can't have a dog throwing toys at me, or squeaking them at me, or barking or anything else like that. It's annoying and certainly unprofessional if the person on the other end of the line can hear it all.

I don't set out to specifically train an off switch, but my dogs learn from early on that bothering me isn't going to get them anything but ignored or corrected (which would be something like "go lie down"). I initiate play, etc., and if I'm busy, they can come ask to go out, but that's about it. They soon learn that if I'm working at the computer or on the phone, they better not bother me. Now, if I scoot my chair away from my computer, well then they automatically jump up and assume it's time to go do something....

The whole point is that you don't let the dog set play times for you by demanding it. Play happens when the human is ready and able to play and at no other times (at least for play that requires a human). It's human initiated, not dog initiated. They catch on pretty quickly to the futility of begging for play when the human isn't interested. If the dogs persisted in throwing things at me or squeaking toys, etc., all of that stuff would simply be put out of reach.

I don't know if that actually answers your question, but that's how it works around here.

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#3 in2adventure

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 10:51 PM

MY definition of an ON/OFF switch in a dog is any dog that can relax outside of work or play. When we come in the house, both my dogs are content to settle onto a couch or, if they're not really tired, to play by themselves or with each other. The inside play is calm and not rambunctious. This is something that hasn't been taught to them. They are naturally easy going.

I have friends with dogs that NEVER settle unless locked in their crate. They constantly poke at everyone, run, jump, whine, cry, pace, etc. Gotta gogogo all the time. They have to constantly be watched or they get into trouble. A few of these dogs are very well trained in the outside world, just horrible house manners IMO.

I'm sure you can train a dog to be mellow in the house or yard, I just think some come that way naturally.
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#4 bsms99

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 11:29 PM

I think mine came mellow. I think it helps to have a calm older dog in the house to set a good example. Also, an older dog doesn't put up with never-ending puppy play, and he will 'turn them off' better than I can.

I've READ that you can initiate training by having a spot (large pillow, blanket, etc) where you force the dog to lie down next to where you are sitting. Put a leash on them and put your foot on the leash with very little slack. AFTER the dog calms down, even for a short time, reward. When the dog goes nuts over the reward, ignore. Start with as little as a minute, and extend times. Use the same command - "Chill", etc. Eventually, the dog should learn that lying on the blanket quietly gets intermittent rewards, and any noise/movement gets him ignored. Once they experience the joy of relaxing, they will continue on.

So I've read. My two puppies are reasonably mellow by nature. I have a very calm older dog who will NOT tolerate interrupted naps. They both have figured out that lying on my feet when I'm at the computer gets them occasional pets while keeping them close to any future action. I'll admit, I kind of like the idea of training them to "Chill", particularly since the Border Collie pup's nickname is "Little Dude"!
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#5 beachdogz

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 08:27 AM

I don't know if that actually answers your question, but that's how it works around here.
J.


Actually, that does answer my question. That is basically what I do, and I use the word "enough". I was just wondering if there was anything specific that was done.

bsm99
I've READ that you can initiate training by having a spot (large pillow, blanket, etc) where you force the dog to lie down next to where you are sitting. Put a leash on them and put your foot on the leash with very little slack. AFTER the dog calms down, even for a short time, reward. When the dog goes nuts over the reward, ignore. Start with as little as a minute, and extend times. Use the same command - "Chill", etc. Eventually, the dog should learn that lying on the blanket quietly gets intermittent rewards, and any noise/movement gets him ignored. Once they experience the joy of relaxing, they will continue on.


This is interesting and I'm sure it could be done.

in2adventure
I have friends with dogs that NEVER settle unless locked in their crate. They constantly poke at everyone, run, jump, whine, cry, pace, etc. Gotta gogogo all the time. They have to constantly be watched or they get into trouble. A few of these dogs are very well trained in the outside world, just horrible house manners IMO.


I'm sure some dogs are just hardwired to be hyper and active, but I also think you could curb that by this type of training.
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#6 Root Beer

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 09:36 AM

So I’m intrigued. What exactly is the on/off switch and how do you train it?


This is one of those things that I know when I see it, but have never really thought about putting a definition into words.

I guess I'd say that an "on" switch is the dog's ability to shift from everyday life mode and move into focus on a particular task.

And I'd say that the "off" switch is the dog's ability to disengage from a task or mindset and shift back into everyday life mode, or "at ease".

In sports a dog that does not have an "off" switch will hyperfocus and go a bit crazy when it is time to be at rest and disengage from the task. You train an "off" switch so the dog can relax in a crate or at your feet when it is not his or her turn.

A dog without an "on" switch is one that tends to disengage from a task and has difficulty really get into it mentally. People call lack of "on" switch "lack of drive", but in my experience it's pretty much the same thing. I've actually found that putting an "on" switch onto a dog that lacks innate drive can be much more difficult than training an off-switch on a high drive dog (provided the dog is mentally sound).

But I am curious as to what you all refer to when you refer to the on/off switch, so I’d like examples as to when you should train one, why you want to train one…and how you go about training it.


I used CU to teach Dean an off switch. The mat work and Look at That game worked like a charm with him. He was a dog who would go ballistic at Agility class and now he lies quietly and watches the other dogs with interest, but does not fixate or hyperfocus and he remains in his right mind. That's the kind of off switch I love.

Interestingly, I've worked for years to put an "on switch" on my mutt. She's a total couch potato, low drive dog. She can get going when she wants to, but generally she's not a drivey dog at all. I have really struggled to get her "on" in the context of Agility. She has made nice progress, though, and lately she her level of drive has surprised me.

One of Speedy's mental issues - one that is not totally fix-able - is poor off switch. He has a very low stimulation threshold and when he goes over, he really goes over. But with CU work, he is actually starting to improve and his off switch is actually developing after all these years.

I don't think of the off-switch so much in terms of everday life - dog pestering for play, etc - but more in sport terms. I think that is just where it has come more into play for me.

I want to train an on or off switch on my dogs so they can fully enjoy the dog sport scene and so they can enjoy the sports themselves. A dog that does not have an off switch gets so mentally wound up that he or she can struggle to perform and it is not a good experience for dog or handler if the dog is going nuts the whole time. A dog that does not have an on switch can literally end up doing nothing. A dog with an appropriate on switch/off switch can enjoy the training and trial environment and fully enjoy the sport at hand.

Of course, I also want my dogs to have a good on/off switch for the sake of everday quality of life, as well. It's really a matter of mental balance in the dog. That's definitely important to me.

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#7 JohnLloydJones

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 10:34 AM

I don't set out to specifically train an off switch, but my dogs learn from early on that bothering me isn't going to get them anything but ignored or corrected (which would be something like "go lie down").


That's pretty much it. Our normal schedule is morning walk, grab breakfast and check my email, then feed Senneca. She knows how long I need to check my email and will come when she thinks I've spent enough time. Occasionally, I have to respond to something or wait for a reply, so i take a bit longer. She understands "Wait", pretty well (also when delivered as "You'll have to wait, I'm busy") and flops back down again. She also knows that bothering my wife -- who is a softer target -- works. These dogs are quick to get a measure of you.

#8 Shetlander

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 03:31 PM

As others have stated, the off switch is simply a way to describe a dog who is able to relax and chill out rather than being constantly busy or jumping out of his skin if he hasn't had his usual daily exercise and activity. A dog with a good off switch also understands "no" when he wants to play or do something but that is not a good time for you. Best of all a good off switch is a godsend when the dog can't have his usual level of exercise because of bitter cold temps or being on restricted activity per the vet or you are too sick or dealing with a crisis.

I frequently get told by people that Quinn is a mellow dog but he did not come to me laid back or mellow by any stretch of the imagination. Of course he was only 9 weeks old at the time, but he was constant motion, into everything, no attention span, jumping onto tables and counters like a cat and not especially impressed or entranced by me. But by 6 months he became the best puppy I ever had around the house. A very consistent schedule with lots of play and exercise as well as lots of down time went a long way to getting him to that point. Since I work full time, he spent a good part of each day crated with a break at lunch time for pottying, play and a snack.

Fetch toys have always been put "up" when I was finished playing with Quinn. When he would jab at me with a regular toy, I would sometimes engage in a quick game with him or tell him he needed to take the toy elsewhere. Once they learn no means no, they are easy to redirect. Personally, I couldn't stand having a dog that would "boof" at me until I did what she wanted but it really is one of those things we decide for ourselves as far as what we find acceptable. And sometimes what we find acceptable at first becomes less so when the behavior escalates or circumstances change. I know there are things I'm fine with my dogs that other people are not and vice versa.

Oh, the one thing I want my dog to "boof" at me is when he needs to go out to potty. I always appreciate that sort of input. :rolleyes:

Liz


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