Thursday, September 30, 2010

We have great walks

Megan and I talk about polite walking on a regular basis! My dogs... are not necessarily brilliant, but when we're actually going for a walk they're good. Otherwise I would not be able to walk three dogs that, together, outweigh me. Most of the walk is spent on a slack leash.

What have I done to make our walks go well?

**Each dogs has been trained separately before they were walked together. Blaze had several years of practice before Luna came. I walked Luna separately to teach her walking before walking them together. Griffin had walking training before joining the group. I also did a few walks of just Griffin and Luna or just Griffin and Blaze.
**I carefully chose what equipment to use. On our exercise walks, Blaze wears a head halter and a over-the-shoulder leash. This gives me two free hands to hold the others. He learned early on how to pull very well towards something he wants, the head halter keeps me from getting pulled over on that small chance he does see something very exciting. Luna is on a martingale (so she can't escape!) and a regular leash. Griffin is on a pulling harness and leash or a pulling harness and canicross belt. The harness does allow him to pull a bit more than on a collar, and it gives me less control over his head, but if he does pull, the force is distributed much different than on a buckle collar and I do find it easier to restrain him.
** I take treats. I don't need to use them for the entire walk, or for any of it. But I do reinforce good choices. If a dog stops to smell something and moves on? Treat. If a deer is sighted? "Dogs Sit!" and lots of treats.
** I plan my path. After we sight an animal, I turn and go the other way. There isn't any good reason for me to head in that direction. Not only would I be more likely to get pulling, but the dogs would get aroused and be more likely to pull later on in the walk. We vary our path. Every day we have a few different paths and places to turn. If I know we saw a squirrel in a location, we'll avoid that spot for a few days.
** I don't allow crazy pulling. If there's a lot of pulling, I manage the situation. Call the dog back to me. Hold a shorter leash, use a higher ROR... I don't continue that direction. And I typically head home. And that dog gets more training before going out with the group again.

Off leash dogs can't pull. Most of Griffin's early exercise was off leash walks. He did not practice pulling!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Clicker Training IS important!

A few weeks ago I posted about this Ian Dunbar clip discussing puppy training and how certain types of training are ruining puppies.

I was surprised that the clip did not get more attention from dog enthusiasts, but thought I must have missed some of those posts or been on the wrong lists. Or that clicker enthusiasts were great and were not reinforcing undesirable behavior.

Today, I woke up to an email from one of my favorite people. And in the email was this response page.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Broad Jump Session 4

Here are a few clips from our fourth broad jump training session. This was taken for part of the advanced obedience skills workshop that is tomorrow.

Placement of reinforcer is typically out front. We will do most of our repetitions with the reinforcer out front.

The second part will be to add in the Front. Initially I cue it but soon the completion of the jump will be the cue to turn.

We will be going back and doing a ton more repetitions with the reinforcer at the other side of the jump.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rule Ten

An often overlooked part of training plans is the plan for how to respond to errors. It can be hard to decide on the best type of response and it can be even harder to remember your plan when it is needed. Many games and activities have rules. At 4-H camp we have rules. This year, we started Rule Ten.

The full definition:
If your dog misses an obstacle or makes a mistake, keep running. We will do training and discussion later. Maintain speed now!

The short definition:

Speed can be more challenging than precision for many teams and we want to encourage full speed from early on in training. Many times errors are made, it’s a handler mistake and stopping the dog will only slow him down in the future because the silly humans sometimes stop without warning.

While simple, Rule Ten is much harder to apply in real life. Here’s a clip of Griffin and I this week. The first sequence went great. During the second, you can see my slight pauses every time Griffin makes an error. I soon remember Rule Ten and keep going. On the third sequence, I time my cues better and we have no errors.

One very smart camper did stop when she made a mistake. When I said “RULE TEN!” she turned to me. “But this is a chain of behaviors. If I keep going, I reinforce the mistake.” I told her she was very smart, and that yes this is a chain, and yes continuing can reinforce performance. In the case of agility sequencing, once your dog is familiar with obstacles and how to turn, mistakes can often be a handler mis-cueing or a dog not ready to perform at that distance or with that set of cues’ If we never addressed the underlying training and handling issues, we would have a problem. But at the time of the error, keep running!

Like all rules, there are exceptions to Rule Ten. For many beginning and intermediate level students… it’s very important!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A close look at the Drop on Recall

A few weeks ago I was really wondering about how exactly the dogs move for the drop on recall. And then I thought about all the other parts. Unsurprisingly, the answer I got was, "It depends." Different dogs have different ways of dropping and there is more than one way to correctly drop. I haven't gotten any feedback as to whether there is a more efficient, effective, or preferred way.

I was unable to find any drop on recall videos in slow motion to look at how the dogs move. Thanks to the technology I didn't know my computer had and my new camera, here are some Downs with my dogs. Some of the Downs were from a standstill, others were in motion.

There are about 4-6 drops for each dog, the clip is about two minutes long. What parts do you see drop first? Do you see movement indicating the dog is about to halt? Watch the heads. Watch the placement of the legs. Watch how the dog stops. Watch how the body (and not the legs) moves as the dogs drop. I've watched this about twenty times already and I still don't know everything I'm seeing.

I would love to see slow motion videos of other dogs lying down, and especially any drop on recalls.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Camera!

My camera has finally been replaced. Technology has progressed so fast in the last few years. I'm on my fourth camera in about 7-8 years. The only SD card I could find was a 64mb card from my first camera. I took four pictures and it was full! FOUR pictures! I could take at least a hundred with that first camera!

So, after buying an 8GB card.... I'm now just lacking in daylight for more pictures and to work on some video clips for the advanced obedience skills workshop this weekend.

Here's one of the four:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stay Training: Part 1

Griffin and I have been working on stays. A few months ago it seemed like we would never be ready to compete. And now I'm trying to find opportunities to be in a group stay!

We've worked on several different pieces to get to where we are now and we still have more training to get to the point where we are ready to actually compete. Here's a few of the pieces we have been working on.

Frequent Feeding: Step forward to feed, without a marker, after a varied length of time. Over time, the period between feeding increased. The food is not a release. The placement of reinforcer ("Head straight, chin tucked.") inform my dog that he is not getting up.

Consistent Releases: We have a specific way to release from stays. This is always used at the end of stay exercises. I feed after the release. Sometimes we do exercises where I release after variable periods of time. Click (or mark) the release and feed.

Distraction Training: Gradually increase distraction levels. Up to and beyond what is ridiculous and practical. We use a very high rate of reinforcement and lots of repetitions.

Lots of Sit Stays: As Griffin is a dog more likely to lie down from a sit... we mostly work on sit stays.

Starting out of Sight Stays: With a barrier close to the dog's location. Shoulders behind the barrier...return and feed. Behind the barrier and return to feed. Behind and pause and return to feed.

Location Changes: Practice in a variety of locations. If we're practicing at home, vary the location in the room or direction we are facing.

Watch the Body Language: Early on, Griffin was very alert in his stays. We've been working to shape a more relaxed and comfortable position. I reinforce for anything that looks better. If we were really dedicated, we would do something like the Karen Overall Relxation Protocol. But I'm not quite that dedicated.

Make Stay an Active Position: This sounds like it counters the previous aspect. But I assure you, it does not! During these sessions, I challenge Griffin, but just barely, and reinforce him when I see him shift to the proper position or away from the distraction/challenge. Throughout his training, I reinforce this type of decision.

We're currently doing stays at 1.5 times what is needed for novice. I can go up to 25 steps away. I can be out of sight for 1/4 the Open time. We can have high level distractions (tossed items near by, people walking past, running past, throwing things).

Our next steps will be : increase duration (especially for out of sight stays), increase distraction level, work with other dogs nearby, set ups with other dogs (where dogs "break"), increase handler distance, work in new locations. I know I need to also put "roll onto your hip" on cue and to work on more down stays.

Enrichment: Purpose

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

Our last piece of enrichment variety is not listed on the 'Shape of Enrichment' chart, but definitely deserves a mention with our dogs. A friend wanted to know where, for the lack of a better term, 'drives' fall into the chart. I didn't know. So I gave up trying to wedge them elsewhere.

Breeds were originally developed for a specific purpose. Even if our dogs have not been used for that purpose in more recent years, they are physically and likely mentally able to do at least parts of the task. Not all of them necessarily want to or can... but where applicable, it can be enjoyable for both dogs and humans to experience parts of that original purpose.

Look into the history of your dog's breed, or the best-guesses if you have a mix. Give your dog opportunities to get to try out those activities or an appropriate modern variation.

Golden retrievers were originally gun dogs, to bring back fallen birds. While that wasn't something I needed done, or a type of competition I'm very interested in... We still used pieces of those behaviors and experiences.

Griffin gets time to run off leash over large areas.

He gets time to swim.

We play retrieving games. Initially with toys, but now also with bumpers.
We've done some foundation hunting training. Learning to hold items still. Return directly to heel with the items. Go out a far distance to retrieve. Stay put until sent.
And a few months ago we got the opportunity to see what Griffin would do on real birds:

I love these pictures... but unfortunately I can't look at them without thinking "And THAT was the day he got Lyme..."

Blaze is also a golden, he gets more retrieving time (with toys!) than Griffin because he likes it more. He's had foundation field work and a chance to be on birds too, but that is a story for another day. He does not get as much running or swimming due to his behavior problems and the safety concerns. But I do try to let him be a golden.

Luna is a golden mix. Probably with a herding breed. She doesn't care about retrieving and doesn't appear to have any interest in herding, though she does love to chase (and probably kill) small animals. She does get a chance to run in our fenced yard, she likes to chase a toy on a rope, and she loves to explore and smell. We go on walks in the woods, on leash or the longline and sometimes I stick smelly things in the yard just for her to enjoy. I've thought about taking a herding lesson, but she is so shy with new people, I didn't think it would go well.

How do you give your dog opportunities to be a dog?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Enrichment: Food

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

Introduction: Toys
Social Enrichment
Cognitive Enrichment
Home and Routine

It's easy to fall into the pattern of always purchasing the same treats and food for your dog. But variety can provide good experiences for your dog and help further your training.

Varying Food
Look into varying the food and treats you use for feeding toys and training. Use different types of meats, cheese, and textures of foods. Use different temperatures for foods. Frozen cheese is different from refrigerated cheese and that's different from warm cheese. Use dog food, canned food, and biscuit textures.

Varying Presentation
Food toys. Go look at the first part to see more about using food toys with dogs. Feeding can be done in other ways too. Use meals for training, feed a few pieces for each correct repetition. Scatter food in grass, snow, tall grass, or a shallow pool of water. Hide the food in small bowls throughout your yard or house.

How do you provide variety with types of food and food presentation?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Training Group: Stand for Exam

Griffin is a very friendly golden retriever. He likes people. He really likes it when people look at him. And he is super happy when people touch him. He wiggles and moves closer.

So... the stand for exam is just as much of a challenge as it is for my scared dog Luna.

We've worked enough at home that I'm able to do an exam and he will stand still. But it's another story for others to touch him.

1) Pass bys: Someone else walked past. I clicked at the closest point for a still dog. I fed in position
2) Petting: Our helper would stand close to Griffin. Touch on the shoulder. I clicked for still, and I fed in position. The extent of touch was increased
3) Sniffing: Our helper held out a hand. Griffin was clicked for still, I fed in position. This was the hardest piece. We started with the hand further away but Griffin would move to sticky-touch. When the training plan changed to the hand poking him, it went MUCH faster and within 10-15 repetitions the hand could be held anywhere. The one time he moved drastically, it was -away- from the hand!

And after all those parts, we put it together and he did very well. Now we still have to practice with other people he knows and work up to complete strangers, but.... we have a very solid start!

Griffn's Wednesday class

Griffin and I are in a Wednesday CGC class at PosiDog. We somewhat do the group exercise, but also work on our own things in a group environment.

Stays: I still need to do a post about all of our stay training. We were doing 1+ minute Sit-Stays with me 6ft away and 30 second stays with me 20 steps away. He was NOT getting up and NOT lying down. He had a very happy face.

Go Outs: Again, we have a big training plan for this and I'm conflicted on teaching it one way only or doing a few different things. I sent him out to a clip, out to a wall and out to a chair. He was heading out FAST.

Rolling Over: We progressed to me partially standing and the behavior still offered. It's adorable!

The "Reaction to a Neutral Dog" CGC exercise. We were paired with a young BC on his 5th week of class. His owners had adopted him a week or so before starting class and WOW has he progressed! Griffin was ADORABLE and gave a halfhearted glance towards the people, but kept his focus on me. We were parallel walking with the team and did some pace changes and the different kinds of 180* turns. Maybe we'll be ready for an APDT rally trial at the end of Oct? We couldn't get too close as the other team is just learning this exercise, but I was very happy with Griffin's performance.

Heeling: Very nice duration. Great outside turns. Maintaining position very well.

Tuck Sits: Many repetitions on clicking for tucking his feet properly (bringing the rear feet to the front).

Next week I should write a few notes before class so that I'm prepared with what we really need to work on.

I ordered a new camera...and it'll be here next week! I've VERY missed having a camera!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Enrichment: Sensory

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

Introduction: Toys
Social Enrichment
Cognitive Enrichment
Home and Routine

Find different types of surfaces your dog can interact with. Ask him to jump up on a rock or bench or log when out walking. Play with cardboard boxes at home. Get some straw or wood chips to put in your yard. Make a leaf pile or a pile of snow. Brushing, if your dog enjoys the process, can be a form of tactile enrichment. Have a variety of toys for your dog to interact with, look for different weights, shapes, sizes, and textures.

Animal scents can be purchased at hunting-camping stores. Get animal bedding from a petstore or a friend. Get different types of food or bring in cardboard boxes from the grocery store. Let your dog smell you after you've been out and about. Luna loves to do this!

Offer your dog a few pieces of different foods. You can use different types of dog food. Different 'people foods.' Different types of treats. Varied cooked vegetable/fruit pieces*.

Play music or leave the TV on while you're home or away. Find some animal sounds to play for your dog. The internet is a great resource for unusual sounds!

Play with a toy on a long rope. Let your dog watch wildlife outside (provided he is still fairly calm). Walk in new areas and constantly try to visit new locations. Vary the time of day so you see different people and activity levels.

Three goldens on an off leash walk. They're exploring an area with cow manure smells and wildlife smells. Note the two puppies on the front were having their first cow-smell experience and just stopped to smell. Griffin has been doing this for two years, he ran ahead and then looped back to get the others!

Taking your dog for a walk can combine all the above Your dog will feel different surfaces and interact with objects you come across. He will smell lots of different people, dogs, and animals that have been in the area. he will get to eat the variety of treats you brought to reinforce attention and good walking. He will see and hear people and animals and other things in the environment.

* Remember, sugar free candy, grapes, raisins, and dark chocolate are very dangerous
in small amounts!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Enrichment: Home and Routine

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

Introduction: Toys
Social Enrichment
Cognitive Enrichment

You can change the types or locations of bedding. Toss an extra blanket on top of the dog bed. Move the locations of the crate, or set up an extra crate.
When Griffin was using the soft crate on a daily basis, when the dogs were loose, Blaze would love to hang out in there. The covered-darkness and location were much preferred to the location of his wire crate. My dogs can't have bedding in crates (...chew chew chew), but they do get bedding when loose or for a short period of time in their crates.

For those of you with a bit of yard space, provide some changes out there. Have an area for digging. Have a pool for water play or to find dropped treats or toys. Let some of the grass grow up taller. If you have multiple dogs, a few shrubs or furniture in the middle of the yard can be very enjoyed by the dogs. My dogs love to have items to race around and jump out from behind. Place new things (or even just cardboard boxes) out in the yard when your dog is not looking.

Daily Routine

Some predictability is good, but, as I keep saying, variety is important too. Try to vary part of your schedule. Instead of using food toys in the house, take your dog out to the yard. Do training while on a walk, or play a bit of tug in those locations.

How can you vary your daily routine or parts of your dog's home?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Enrichment: Cognitive

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

Introduction: Toys
Social Enrichment

Food Dispensing Toys
We know all about food dispensing toys. Crystal and Maisy have a fabulous post about these toys. Having a variety of toys will allow you to rotate. Some types you can make harder by stuffing the toy with balls or stuffed toys or crumpled paper. If it's a bit harder to get the food to come out, your dog will be more challenged. Different types of kibble will come out in different ways.

Training Sessions
My favorite thing of course! I've probably said it a million times, but this year at the Midwest Vet Conference we had the usual talks on puppies and problem prevention, but also several talks on senior pet behavior issues. And a constant was that we need to continue challenging our seniors as a way to prevent or slow cognitive decline. So... puppies or old dogs and everyone in between. Get some training done. This can on occasion be running through the behaviors your dog knows, but also make those skills harder or teach new behaviors.

If you're having trouble coming up with new things, get a book about a dog activity you don't participate in. Or better yet, sign up for a class.

Novel Experiences
Like we talked about in part I, variety is key. Experiencing new things in and of itself can be an enrichment exercise. Think about scents, foods, and different shaped items. Give your dog a whole fruit or vegetable (with supervision!), and watch as he interacts with it. You can get various animal scents at camping-hunting type stores. Or get pet-store bedding or bedding from pets belonging to friends. Pick up a few boxes at the grocery store (...note some types of bugs live in cardboard... maybe this is an outside game?...).

Soon to come: Housing/Habitat Enrichment

Monday, September 13, 2010

Enrichment Variety: Social

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

Now, not all of the categories and activities will apply to all individual dogs or households. Everyone will need to use the most appropriate options!

Dogs can have interactions with other dogs and even other animals. My dogs get interaction time with each other every day. In the house, they have different types interactions than when outside in the yard. In the house, there is more wrestling and chewing of hooves next to each other. Outside, there is more chasing, running, and rough play.


Luna used to get to go to the dogpark to play with other dogs. Griffin used to get to play with other dogs at scheduled play times. He's now not as interested in other dogs and our schedule doesn't allow for as much playtime. Luna lost her interest in playing with other dogs as she aged.


My dogs do still get time around other dogs... in training class and when we pass other dogs in public. That type of interaction also goes under the "sensory" category, with the visual, olfactory, and auditory components. For dogs who are not appropriate to play around other dogs, but can walk well in public without being stressed, this can be a great way to provide good exposure to other dogs. It's not the same level of "social" as real interactions, and maybe the professionals who wrote the chart would not count these pass-bys as social enrichment, but I sure will. Even with a brief glance there's a bit of communication going on!

We can also have interactions with other species. Those in multi-pet households sometimes see this. My dogs occasionally interact with my cat. They see, smell, and pass the cows on a regular basis. One year when I bottle raised a calf, the calf treated Blaze just like a mother!


It's much easier to provide dogs with social enrichment through humans. There are many different types of people that dogs can meet. Very reactive dogs obviously shouldn't be in a position that is very stressful or putting any humans at risk. But shy dogs and those who are safe at a distance can still be around people they are comfortable with.
Dogs can interact with family members and friends, but strangers also provide another aspect of enrichment. My dogs sure treat different 'categories' of people in varied ways. Kind of like that socialization post last week... we need to provide variety of humans to maintain manners and friendliness.

The chart lists an "other" category, but I don't find these to be as important with dogs.

What types of social enrichment does your dog get? How do you provide variety? What "other" types of social enrichment do you use?

Enrichment Variety: Toys

Everyone knows that it's important to provide enrichment for our dogs. I'm constantly working to be better at providing a variety of enrichment activities for my dogs as well as helping clients better provide enrichment experiences for their pets.

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

When I talk with students, we talk about different types of toys. Some toys go in multiple categories. Some dogs only like certain categories. Not all types are good for all dogs.
Training toys: Things pulled out for training, put away at other times. Some of these fit in other categories.
Tug toys:... toys we play tug with!
Fetch toys: Toys we fetch with.
Chew toys: These can be nylabones and bones or varied dried animal parts.
Kongs: Have their own category. They aren't quite chew toys, we don't have the dogs chew off pieces, but they aren't the same as other food dispensing toys either! Kongs can be stuffed solid, frozen, or filled with big dry biscuits.
Food dispensing toys: These are all the things we put our kibble or treat pieces in. Lots of nose pushing or pawing is used to make food come out.
Dissecting toys: Things we can tear apart. Most dogs used stuffed toys this way. Or paper.
Puzzle toys: Nina Ottosson type toys. Not something the dog does on his own without supervision.

But I hadn't thought about putting enrichment into the categories that "The Shape of Enrichment" uses. I've taken the chart and looked at applications for dogs. Part II soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book 3: Brain Games for Dogs

_Brain Games for Dogs_ by Claire Arrowsmith

I read this while waiting to start a lesson earlier this week. The topic of 'games' came up during the lesson, and the student said "So, are there really games?" My reply was something along the lines of, "Well, to be blunt, I think we put the word 'Games' with activities to make people like them better."

I thought this book would be filled with various games... but it was primarily dog tricks. The format was like most of the picture-oriented training books. Carefully cropped pictures and 1-2 sentence blocks here and there.

The whole thing was about positive reinforcement, some clicker use, and some luring. It was fairly well done and it was the first time I'd seen a paragraph on record keeping in this type of book!

On the other hand, nothing stood out to really make it different from so many other tricks or 'games' books.

I would pass this on to what types of people...? Someone wanting an easy to read trick book.
Will I re-read this? No.
Favorite part? The paragraph on record keeping. It's existence made me very happy.
Least favorite part: Not so many games.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"My puppy/dog is well socialized!"

I hear this a lot too.. "My puppy is well socialized."

- "Because I have 4 other dogs."
- "Because we have 3 kids."
- "Because it's Christmas and the family came over."
- "Because we go to the park."
- "Well, he will be after his vaccinations. We'll walk at the park so he sees other dogs."
- "We've done dog socialization but he still needs people socialization."
- "He's well socialized with people, but still needs dog socialization."

At the Midwest Veterinary Conference last year, Lore Haug CABC, CPDT, DACVB, MS said something I thought was especially clever. Good socialization is about positive experiences, "not bad, and NOT neutral!" And that really is a key piece with puppies. Just because you walked through a busy park and your puppy was fine, your puppy was having a neutral experience. We want that extra bit of food and play and attention that makes it a good experience!

Puppy socialization is never "done." You can accumulate more good experiences and the more, the better! Dog and people socialization is not about walking past. But having good interactions. It's not about meeting a few or even 25 people. It's about a lot, and variety (and good experiences!).

But the part that makes me very sad is that while the public has a growing understanding of puppy socialization, the common view is that this is about people and dogs. We need to have good experiences with handling, noises, smells, sights, sounds, surfaces, interactions, new environments... people and dogs are just components of that. This other stuff is super important while a puppy is developing!

Puppies are a lot of work. Last spring, I was training two golden retriever puppies. They were about 16 weeks old, well past their primary socialization period and had never been outside of the kennel where they were born. Most of the 'training' time was spent on everything in that above list, trying to teach the puppies to be brave and love the world and be curious and to just have a ton of great interactions with the world. We would walk in town many times per week. A person walking past? Treat. A dog walking up? Treat. A car driving by? Treat. A skateboard! Treat. A statue. Treat. Shouting. A treat. Kids running. A treat. They're doing quite well now.

And our adult dogs need ongoing socialization, but not necessarily the extent that puppies do. Shy dogs especially need to be out and about having good (not bad, not neutral!) experiences with the world. And many shy dogs tend to regress if you don't keep up with their work.

Griffin walked up, and the puppy rolled over. Tail tucked. And peed. He was a puppy that did become a normal puppy after having good, not neutral, experiences with the world.

Griffin: "Are you okay? Did I say something?"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cow Hoof Party

Megan introduced us to cow hooves. I bought a few at the pet store. $1 each. Not too bad. But the dogs liked them. REALLY liked them. We went through one per dog per week. And they made me buy more. I couldn't not buy them!

So... we found some online and on sale and bought a lot. It was a good price...supposedly a quality product. And now I have super happy dogs:

We tried to get a group Sit-Staying photo with the giant boxes. But Luna was guarding the boxes so Griffin wouldn't come near

So I gave up on that and watched the dogs grab hooves, chew for a few seconds, grab another. Steal abandoned hooves. And take all finds back to their individual stations.

I was surprised no one hovered right over the box or even tried to guard it... the plan was "snatch a hoof and leave" for every dog!

Agility Lesson 1

Yesterday Griffin and I had an agility lesson. Finally. I wasn't very prepared in a lot of ways, but I'm glad I finally scheduled the lesson and just got it done!

A few things we didn't do so well:
- Test your reinforcers. I'm used to normal dogs. I took his fish treats he was eating in class on Weds. I took his favorite cream cheese. And some lunch meat. We stopped at the store and bought some cheese. But during the lesson I forgot to open the cream cheese. And he wouldn't even take the mozzarella. The instructor commented that we needed higher value reinforcers. We definitely needed something else... but he wasn't much more attentive the days I used canned tripe!
- More environments: Griffin worked a bit and then wanted to explore the room and get water. When we did a controlled distraction exercise he quickly returned his focus to me (that's an exercise we work on ALL the time and gave him a familiar context for (not) interacting with the environment. We need to get to the point where the environment is automatically cueing him to look back.
- Water. Make sure I get him to drink a lot before class. Make sure I frequently take water breaks (using the cue "water!" to reinforce behavior. He likes that cue!). Make sure bowls are picked up. He had found one I didn't see....
- Obstacle focus: When he's working, he's nowhere as obstacle focused as Luna or Blaze. That's due to just not having very many agility hours yet. I can send him ahead and he's great. But if he's moving with me he really is just watching me. This was problematic because I expected him to take obstacles and sometimes he would not.
- WRITE DOWN QUESTIONS! I forgot the few I had, and only remembered half of one... My excuse? We've not been in class since June and only had 4 weeks there.... it's almost a good excuse....

What went well:
- Griffin jumps well. That's probably due to the jump training we've done. But I like to attribute it to the Susan Salo CleanRun article he ate as a puppy. That makes for a better story. Still, we haven't done THAT much jump training... and now we've had two instructors comment on this.
- Good stays. I don't do a lot of leadouts when working on my own. Because if you are using a lead out (stay until cued to start the obstacles), then you have criteria there AND criteria on the obstacles. I mostly only used a lead out to move a few steps to the side. We did some sit stays and more stand. A few times I didn't cue him before moving a away or he started to scratch and then forgot what he had been doing.
- Relaxed Down: When I would talk with the instructor, Griffin would lie at my feet. All on his own. Uncued. And flop on a hip. And put his head down. And stay there for a LONG TIME. OFF LEASH. STAY THERE!

It will probably be 2-3 weeks before we can get another lesson, part will be our scheduling availability and part of it will be the training progress I want to see before going again. If we're paying for the time, we might as well be ready to do new stuff!

What we need to work on:
- Control water access in a training environment. The day before at work we had decided NO MORE water bowls around the room when Griffin is loose. NONE. Cue him to water and to Outside.
- Get offered attention in new environments WITHOUT the context of "This is the game where you pay attention."
- Put a verbal cue to our recall. I don't use our verbal cue. So he never not comes to it. But he also never gets the chance to come and be reinforced. Ahem.
- Improve our informal recall.
- Work on contacts and weaves so we can use those during lessons.
- Practice a couple sequences we did in class...with cameras and/or mirrors.
- Obstacle focus
- More tugging and play.

I don't have any pictures of Griffin doing here's Luna two years ago:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Puzzle Toy

I've been admiring the Nina Ottosson puzzle toys for a few years, but I just haven't brought myself to making the purchase.

When making an important order from, I saw this puzzle toy and even if it wouldn't last as fell into the shopping cart.

We LOVE it. The dogs ALL want a turn! It's adorable! And I like it too.

No, it's not something we'll use every day. I'll probably give everyone a turn a few times a week.

Great things:
- Cost
- Dogs like it!
- A great way to test out puzzle toys before getting the more expensive and hardy toys.
- Does not scratch easily

Not so great things:
- Hard to clean. I'm worried about washing it and getting the wood wet. It is sealed but doesn't seem to be the strongest.
- Durability concerns long term
- It made me want to buy more puzzle toys.

The dogs all used their noses to find the uncovered treats, but then wanted to paw at the other sections to make the circles open up. I set it on a chair for Blaze (to avoid the paws!) and with the others I was sure nothing happened for pawing and treats were dropped on top when nosing happened.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Competition Obedience Pieces

As usual, we spend our Weds PM in a CGC class. Griffin and I work on competition obedience behaviors off in a corner.

Today, I had 100% attention. Even during the restrained recalls when he was held by a human friend. And in fact, he didn't want to go near her. She happened to be standing in a corner where the flyball box was and he would jump into his agility "2on2off" position. It was adorable.

Focus is the most important thing. And we had it! But we also were missing a few other pieces:

-Paws even after Finishes. Griffin likes to sit with his right paw out a few inches from the left. Not cool. It's not maintaining his tucked sit. So... we went back and worked on a tucked Sit. I did a bit of luring (gasp!) and would click him for moving his back feet forward. Soon he was tucking properly in front of me. We need some more work on this, I think he got sloppy while were dealing with the Lyme. This will need more work to fix and be reliable, but also as we get him back into proper working condition, all should be well.
- Sit Stays when he wants to lie down. One one hand, "Horray! Dog wants to relax!" and on the other "eeep! We've not had this before!" We had two Downs and then I got on top of a high ROR to keep him where he should be. Within 4 minutes we were going a minute between reinforcement. Note to self to practice more when he's tired!
- Stand for exam: There's a right foot twitch when I get into position. We practiced with physical pushing and me moving into personal space. Clicking for "dog still." and reinforcing. We'll do more to be sure the foot is still.

It was a good session and earlier we got about 18/20 aframe contacts. And had a great time with a-frame and tunnel discriminations. He was occasionally taking the Aframe when Tunnel was cued... but first session on this. We'll get better!

More adorable puppy Griffin!

Tomorrow Griffin and I have our first agility lessons in months... with someone we've not met before. And we'll play with a bunch of our new toys!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Preparing for Tricks Workshop

On Sunday we'll be having a Tricks workshop again. Last fall our workshop was divided into about 5 sections: Targeting/Nose Tricks, Foot Tricks, Moving Tricks, Props, Cues. We did a bit of training in every category, teams got to select the behavior to work on. With Foot Tricks, we had one team working on teaching crossed paws, another working on shake, and several to stand on a target.

I'm currently debating on whether or not to add in video clips and still photos to show how final behaviors can look and what specific "click points" to be looking for. I don't want to mess with technology, but on the other hand it could be very helpful.

We will keep the same format for the most part, I'll probably be adding in two sections for everyone. Reading cue cards and super simple discrimination!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Are Basic Dog Training Classes Failing to Prepare Dogs?

I love a lot of stuff Dunbar says and especially the way he doesn't mess around getting to his point. But for the last few years there's been a lot of stuff that's made me not so happy, and then today I found this video about his new speaking schedule.

Currently, I'm not teaching puppy classes, but I do get a lot of puppies in my basic classes.

At one place I teach, most dogs and puppies are working off leash within a class or two. [At the other...we apparently specialize in reactive and hard to handle dogs... so...not so much offleashness in basic class!]. As in, a couple weeks, and they're off leash for a few exercises. We could do more classical conditioning. We do some in class but it's so boring and so straightforward, I'm not able to inspire people to continue working. And socialization is outside of our range.

I would almost argue that the populations I work with do not need verbal control at a distance in high level distractions. Personally, my dogs don't really need that in their pet lives. Around here, most people just don't have the chance to give their dogs opportunities to run. Some go to dog parks, many have their own yard. Am I missing something about how my students interact with their dogs? Or even the average pet owner?

I'd love to know more about the populations Dunbar sees and the types of trainers he sees and figure out more about this disconnect....

Yes my students could do better, yes we can get better responses and reliability. but I'm impressed with what we do in a short period of time!

This doesn't typically bother me... but apparently it does today!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

So much to do, not enough time!

I have a feeling that many people go through periods of time where there is a lot of enthusiasm for a hobby and then the interest wanes as other things take over or 'life' gets in the way. And then interest comes back.

It's been a while since I've been super-inspired about training. In the last month I've at least been dedicated to multiple training sessions almost every day, some reading, and reasonable record keeping.

At the moment, I'm not entirely sure what's prompted me, but the entire weekend has had way too many moments of a very overwhelmed "TOO much to do!" I have a list of behaviors I want to clean up. Some I want to teach. Enrichment ideas to try. I have a stack of my new books and library books, and other books I just have. A few curriculums to do. Fall trial schedules and class schedules to look at. And some training things I just really want to get done and be proficient at. I'm having trouble sleeping, I end up getting up to do another training session or do a bit more writing. I have stack of books in multiple rooms. I read while I'm eating.

And I've come across some interesting things. Here's a piece on working with youth athletes. But some it applies to anyone learning a new sport/activity...and some applies to puppies. There's so much I don't know about teaching. I'm pretty competent at R+ with people and breaking things down and going at the right pace... but humans have language and I can use that!

And to end these not-so-connected thoughts... Here's a recently found picture of baby Griffin. I love this dog!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book 2: Get Connected With Your Dog

A few years ago I saw Brenda Aloff present at the IAABC conference. It was a really cool body language presentation. She had been trying to get a group picture with her dogs (and in fact, I think it's the one on the cover of this book!), there were many not-so-great pictures and silly dog moments. She used all of those photos, of the same set up, to talk about body language and where the dogs were uncomfortable with proximity and where they were trying to play with each other. And just how complicated body language can be, yet it's always a part of our interactions.

While Aloff supports positive dog training, I found _Get Connected with Your Dog_ to be primarily a manual on how to use negative reinforcement. She frequently references horse trainers, where negative reinforcement is the primary training method and seen as more than acceptable. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily fit well into a positive reinforcement framework and it would be very difficult for a beginner to differentiate. Yes, she uses R- well and it's the best written manual on non electronic collar R- training. But all the same... not what I advocate.

I was also surprised to hear mentions of "clickers and treats" "not working" without commentary on why or how it may have been misused or how criteria may have not been adjusted properly. There were a few errors with performance titles not being correct and a few training definitions incorrect as well. I was disappointed with the mentions on how the Get Connected Protocols were great when it seems like one has gone as far as possible with R+ and is still missing something in the relationship or training.

The book is very long and it may be able to have been condensed. Some of the analogies and descriptions or stories ran on for a very long time or seemed repetitive. There were periods where I read for a long time but did not feel I had covered much ground.

I would pass this on to what types of people...? Dog trainers who want a theoretical understanding of how R- can be applied and taught, but promise not to be using R-! Some of the sections may be very applicable for people who do well with analogies and longer descriptions. It also could be good for those that think R- requires a lot of force. It really does not, and sometimes it makes R- seem like a risk-free and appropriate option....this book sure makes it feel that way!
Will I re-read this? Not in it's entirety. But I will probably re-read parts.
Favorite part? The level of detail. The book makes me appreciate how much I do (or do not) tell clients.
Least favorite: Constant application of R-.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Healthy Future for Goldens

Health issues are not my area of interest. I like behavior. Genetics is confusing. All the little details and physiology stuff is complicated. I let Megan tell me all the important parts.

For a few months now, I've been hearing way too much about Pigmentary Uveitis (PU) in goldens. Typically this shows up in older dogs... dogs past breeding age. Providing a problem...because by that point, there may be offspring. And this definitely is not environmental.

But if your dogs who have been in the past are no longer being checked for various health clearances. How would you know if this came up? You wouldn't. Unless your dog began exhibiting clinical signs as a senior. And by then....there could be grand-puppies.

After seeing the way some very responsible, reputable, smart, smart, smart golden breeders are talking about this... they're terrified! The situation is so big and so unknown and there's a horrible feeling that the breeders and public and enthusiasts have no idea how big this problem is or will be. And seeing how sad these people are, and as I'm a 'big picture' person... I'm very sad too.

While there has been one study on PU and more work is being done, it's not moving fast enough for many. And while we know this type of problem is only impacting goldens. We don't know if it impacts golden mixes... so I'll be taking all three of mine in. And every year. Theoretically if it's caught early, there can be treatment to slow down the progression. But we don't even know if that's actually true.

And now... back to the regularly scheduled training discussion.

Will these dogs be impacted by PU? We'll only know with time and yearly eye exams.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Misunderstanding Dogs

Dogs being dogs...

Sometimes I get very sad when I hear about dogs being dogs and people just not understanding.

Puppies that get crated for zooming around.
Puppies getting whapped or having muzzles grabbed for being mouthy.
Dogs in a household not being allowed to play-wrestle.
Dogs not being allowed to chase each other.
Dogs only getting super hard and boring toys. No variety.
Dogs not being able to run.

Yes, there are appropriate reasons for all of the above. I can definitely understand why some families don't allow the above. Or why people may think these are bad ideas. I can be understanding!

It makes me sad to hear about puppies and young dogs especially, who can't do normal doggy things.

All said, I'll be putting in more of an effort for more dog-activity time.

More curriculum planning

After the discussion a few months ago, I've made many changes to our basic and agility classes.

Again, we're looking at additional changes and what classes to add to the schedule. We've had a few requests, like the "On leash agility." On Leash Agility is starting in two weeks, I'm very much looking forward to it. I've met a handful of the students already, either in previous classes or because I was present for their 'testing' date. Students do have to test into the class. Their dog should be able to eat, focus, and do work while another dog is working in the room. All the dogs are separated with solid (but not stable) barriers and they will be working on leash. Being able to eat and focus sets the teams up to succeed and have a good time. Dogs who are too overwhelmed by the presence of other dogs may be more appropriate for a basic class (again, with barriers) with less motion or in leash reactivity class.

If you were to be in any type of class, what would you want? I would love to work my dogs in a competition obedience class... or a class focusing on precise behaviors. During CGC class last night, I was working Griffin on our own behaviors...and we did a lot of using play and toys and petting as reinforcers, measuring to be sure it was actually reinforcing. He remained engaged and kept wanting more... our petting training has transfered to a reinforcer in a controlled classroom setting! Horray!

Luna would benefit from a shy dog class, specifically working on 'brave dog games' and good interactions with people. It also might be interesting to be in a class where I had someone working Griffin and they were doing behaviors near each other and occasionally together.

Blaze... well.. Blaze wants tracking class, but would benefit from just about anything. I don't know that a CU type class would make a big difference for him, but it would be more helpful than a rambunctious type class!

The dogs forced me to order more chews and toys today. They're so manipulative! We needed the stuff...and it was on a really good price...and other places weren't carrying it... What will they make me do next?!