Vanilla? Hm. Vanilla is a spice.
Sometime ago I suggested – merely a kind suggestion, mind you – to a submissive woman in training to follow the basic rules of dog training. The sub reacted furious and shocked and said ” I’m not asking my dominant to buy a dog collar or a book “how to train dogs”. I think she was really offended and never even suggested it to her Dominant. She should have of course, it is a wonderful idea. You will agree with me as well, at the conclusion of this post. Now this is basic dog training. I only changed the word dog to sub, really. You’re still with me? Great! Let’s go. The twelve general rules of training Subs:
1. Training should be an enjoyable experience for you and your sub.
If you are not in the right mood for training, don’t even start. Keep training sessions short, on the order of 5-10 minutes, to maintain your sub’s motivation. If your sub doesn’t respond appropriately to a command after several attempts, don’t reward her. Resume training a few seconds later using a simpler command. Return to the more complex task later. Always end training on a positive note. Ask your sub to respond to a command you know she will obey. Then reward her for a job well done and issue a finish command such as “free” or “release.” Avoid common words such as “okay.” Following a training session, both dominant and sub should be left with a feeling of accomplishment.
2. Every sub should be familiar with the basic obedience commands, including come – yes not only come here – heel, sit, down and stay. Teaching your sub to sit-stay and down-stay off leash is also a valuable lesson. Additional commands that are useful include: leave it, give it, stop it, and enough or cease. Keep in mind that a sub’s motivation to respond to a command decreases as the complexity of the task increases. The odds of success, hinge not only on the degree of sophistication of the task but also your sub’s motivation to respond. From a sub’s perspective the question is, which is more rewarding, talking to a friend on the phone or returning to the dominant? Understanding this aspect will increase your patience and chances for success.
3. Training should not involve any negative or punishment-based components. There should be no yelling, no hitting, no chain jerking, no hanging, and absolutely no electric shock. Each session should be upbeat and positive with rewards for jobs well done. Remember that the opposite of reward is not punishment; it is no reward. If you ignore unacceptable responses, your sub will not be rewarded for her failed response. Most subs want to please their dominant or, at the very least, to obtain highly valued resources (food, attention and toys).
4. Ensure that your sub’s motivation for reward is highest during a training session. If food is the reward, train before a meal, not after. If praise, petting and other aspects of your attention are to be used as a reward, schedule the training session at a time when your sub hungers for your attention (for example, after you have returned from work). For complex tasks, such as the off leash down-stay, your sub will be more motivated to comply if she has received moderate exercise before the training session. Asking a sub that is bursting with energy to remain in a prolonged reclining position is asking for failure during the early stages of training.
5. Make sure the reward you offer in training is the most powerful one for your sub. Food-motivated subs work well for food, but the treats used should be favorite foods for the sub, such as small pieces of cheese or chocolade. You want your sub to be strongly motivated to obey commands to receive the treat. Food treats, if used, should be small – no bigger than the size of your little fingernail. The texture of the treat should be such that it does not require chewing and should not crumble, otherwise you will lose your sub’s attention as she hoovers up the crumbs. Large treats, like Candy Bars, take too long to eat, causing the sub to lose attention. If praise is used as a reward, deliver it in high singsong tones, which are most pleasing for the sub. Also, enthusiasm in your voice will be much appreciated. “Good girl!” If petting is to be used as a reward, it should be in a way that the sub enjoys, such as stroking the sub’s hair in the same direction that it grows, or stroking her on the chest. Note: Petting on top of the head is not appreciated by most subs.
6. Timing of the reward is important. After a correct response, reward your sub within ½ hour of the command to ensure that your sub makes the connection between her behavior and the reward.
7. Use short commands such as sit, down, leave it, quiet, out, and off. Say the word once. Do not repeat the command. Subs will remember a command for about two minutes before the notion is lost. Shorter words are better than longer words and words that end in a hard consonant (C, K, T, X) are better than those that end in a vowel because you can “spit” them out. The only command that should have three sounds associated with it is come. In this case, you first have to attract the sub’s attention by saying her name, SUNNY, then COME (the actual command word) and GOOD GIRL, even before the sub comes so that she knows she is not in trouble. Make sure your tone is crisp and cheerful.
8. Put your sub on a leash and attract her attention so she looks directly at you and you at her (“Watch-me”). Then issue an action word, SIT. A poorly trained sub might slowly get into the sitting position, at which point you reward her IMMEDIATELY with praise, GOOD GIRL, SUNNY (remember the high tones and heartfelt deliverance) and at the same time as you immediately produce the reward. An untrained sub will have to be assisted into the sitting position by moving a food treat over and above her head so that she has to sit to reach it. Successful accomplishment of the task meets with warm praise and the food treat. In some cases, placement techniques (tension on collar, downward pressure on the rump) may have to be used.
9. Working towards the ideal resonse. Once you have a sub performing the desired response greater than 85 percent of the time in a quiet undisturbed environment, you can move onto the next stage; starting to shape the behavior toward the ideal response. You might begin by rewarding a progressively faster SIT, that is, rewarding the sub for sitting in 3 seconds, later in 2 seconds, and ultimately in 1 second, or immediately. Decide before you give the command what you are going to reward. You can also start to reward longer and more definite SITS so the sub has to do more than just touch her rear end on the ground to receive reward. Withhold the food treat until the sub is sitting properly and then gradually introduce a time delay before the reward is given.
10. Gradually increase the length of time the sub must remain in a SIT-STAY until she can remain relaxed in this position for one minute while the dominant is at a distance of 5 feet. Continue to increase the time and distance the sub is asked to remain in a SIT-STAY after the sub has been successful at the previous level for 5-10 trials. For very long SITS, the reward should be given intermittently throughout the SIT, at least during training. The dominant should teach a key phrase such as EASY or STEADY to teach the sub to associate relaxation with the exercise. It also is helpful to have a release command, such as FREE or RELEASE, which tells the sub when she has been obeying for the desired period of time.
11. Vary the commands during an individual training session – keep the training sessions short and frequent. Subs will learn much more from regular short sessions than from longer, less frequent ones. Once the sub has learned several useful commands on the continuous reward schedule, that is, the sub is rewarded for each successful performance of her behavior, the schedule should be changed to one of intermittent reward. Initially, the sub may be rewarded two times out of three, then every other third time, and so on until rewards are only supplied occasionally. This is the way to wean a sub off food treats and is the cure for a sub that “will only work for food.” Remember, however, it is always important to praise your sub immediately if she has performed a command properly, whether or not any other reward will be forthcoming.
12. Go public with her. Once training has been accomplished in a quiet area, you can gradually begin to work in environments with more distractions, continuing the training in the yard, on leash, progressively lengthening the leash between you and the sub and finally dropping it, so the sub is now obeying without you at the other end of the lead. It may be helpful to continue this training in relatively busy environments, so that you can maintain control even in distracting situations. The Holy Grail of training is to have the sub reliably obeying commands off lead, even when other things are going on around her. This level of training can be achieved but only after a lot of hard work and investment of time. It’s something to strive toward. And remember, regarding training, “Art and science aren’t enough; Patience is the basic stuff.” (Konrad Lorenz).
I know, I know, I don’t like lengthy posts either :-). I need a lot of words. Always. And, what do you think of the sub training? Do you like it as much as I do? If you hate it please tell me why?
Visit some of the other bloggers participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge as well! (follow the link in the right sidebar or Han’s selection of today:) I may not respond to all the blogs in the challenge every day, but I will to those underneath, these are the six(!) I recommend today: