Friday, January 25, 2013

Movin' and Groovin'

 I'm a multi-tasker.  I'm that person who is trying to make breakfast and prep dinner at the same time. The person who is using a walk with a stroller, and dogs as a warm up ... dropping them off at home and then heading back out to do a training run for a marathon or half marathon.  
 Once again, my husband an I are moving to another duty station and are in the throes of chaos. This presents many, many...many opportunities for my inner secretary/event coordinator/household CEO to shine.  As crazy as this time is for my family, I can't help but see the strain it puts onto our quadrupeds. 
I have see this as an area to continue to incorporate into my multi-tasking, always keeping them in the forefront of my mind.  Right up there with my child and coffee. : )
Now, if you are like me, I can tell you that this is a great experience for learning how to practice/polish some of our obedience skills, while refreshing leash skills.  I LOVE exercises that tackle several behaviors at one time!
  Today, EVERYTHING is the house is being loaded onto a truck... which means open doors.  I decided to take this time to leash up the boys and have them tag along everywhere with me...even while just sitting and blogging.This has been particularly great for Linus because he is by far the most overzealous walker I have owned.  He STILL, at age 5, requires refreshers every so often that, yes there is indeed a human attached to him!  
 I also know that we will be hitting the road soon to drive to visit family, and then on to our new home.  Grooming is a must!  
 What many dog owners don't realize is that the activity that most of them DREAD, is one of their dogs' most favorite times.  Granted, if you have a dog that is spooky on the bath time, it isn't fun and can be an awful time.  I'm happy to offer advice if you fall into this category... just message me! 
 Spending time brushing/bathing your dog is one-on-one time for them.  They love that attention, and let's face it... they like to feel good.  How wonderful do you feel after having someone wash/cut/style your hair??
 There are other advantages to spending time grooming (at least weekly, more frequently if you own a long-haired breed).  Namely, being in the know of their physical condition.  You can spot lots of lumps 'n bumps when you are brushing out your dog.  Many times, an owner will not be aware of scratches/cuts until there is infection or noticeable agitation to the dog. 
 It's also a great time to teach commands such as : Stand, Stay, and to be calm during handling. 
I will be offering weekly advice on these steps to give you tips on practical way to work with your dog, indoors given the season.  Please take advantage of the fact that if you do have a dog in serious need of obedience training or just a refresher, the familiar and calm surroundings of your home are the ideal spot to begin.  There will be few distractions to interfere with your work! 
This week, I will take you through indoor leash training and sit/settle. 
Enjoy and happy training!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Time To Love

Over my morning coffee this morning, I read a disturbing and rather heart-breaking post on Facebook.  A friend of mine from KS had posted that a friend of hers had her dog stolen right out of her yard yesterday.  The thief even took off the dog's collar and hung it on the kennel as  a final "I took your dog" token.  The house sitter did say that she had seen a boy walking down the street with a white dog (Baxter), but by the time she reached the house and realized this, the boy was no where to be found.
There are several things that are disturbing here:
Why would the house sitter leave a dog, unattended, while she was away from the house?
WHY would a kid think it's OK to just TAKE something (or someone) who doesn't belong to them?! Why hasn't a parent reported a dog... assuming the dog made it to a home environment.

My biggest fear is that this sweet, little rescued dog has been taken to bait for fighting.  I don't know if this is really much of an issue in that area... but the situation lends itself to wonder.

Things like this tear me up and will bother me for a long long time.  I can only pray that this person has just taken Baxter because they wanted a dog for themselves.  I pray that they will return him safely.

I can also ask all of you to recommit to your own dogs' safety/well being.
So often I hear from people that are at their breaking point with their dogs' behavior... they have virtually no affection for the dog.  This is heart-breaking.  Your dog DESERVES to have you spend time loving, playing, and training it!  YOU brought the dog into your life, now make both your lives happy by investing in your relationship!

Ask yourself how you would feel if suddenly, you came home and the dog was gone.  No idea who took them, what's being done to them.  You may say that you "wouldn't care"... but stop that attitude and THINK.  Would you really not care?  Possible abuse, neglect, death by baiting (if a person isn't willing to get a dog honestly, they WON'T be genuine in their care).

So, make a list if you have to.  What are your dogs' needs and entitlements?  What would need to be in place to make you a happy dog owner (be specific)?  Now, make a plan of action.  Get a trainer, contact me if you want... anyone.

Just remember that there are times to step away from your own situation, and be grateful that at the end of the day, your dog is snoozing safely in your home.  You know you love them, and care for them... or that you have recommitted to them.  Love them. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A night At The Casino: Day 1 results of teaching "Wipe Your Feet"

Well , well, well... who would've seen this coming?!  So, as a follow-up, I wanna fill you in on how the boys did on our introduction to our new cue.  It was fun for all, and there were a few night at the training casino would be complete without them! 

Those of you who may actually know my boys know some very basic personality traits.  If not, here's a little background:

Thomas (11 yr old hound mix)- LOVES food, can be very aloof if you can't compete with something "better", sometimes afraid to try the "in between" steps (it's major and sudden leaps for him... right or wrong).

Linus (5 yr old yellow Lab)- LOVES LOVES LOVES food, LOVES me, LOVES life, takes NOTHING seriously, often I am competing with his excitement over food to get him in a place of learning so he can actually EARN the treats.

Last night, a couple of hours after everyone had had dinner, I broke out 2 junk towels, some diced up refrigerated dog food, and a clicker.  Pups followed of course. 

We sat in the living room, a little bit of space between them, and towel in front of each dog.  One at a time, I showed them each a treat, laid it on the towel, then folded the towel over to cover it. 

This is where we combine some shaping and luring. 

I simply tapped the towel in front of each boy and said "find it", a cue they know but generally use their nose for locating something. 

Linus dove in with his schnoz, which was great, but the click/treat was delayed until he SET A PAW ONTO the towel, or move towards the towel if he was not going to be so eager.  In his case, he stepped on the towel quickly, so the click/treat was delivered.  We worked on that for a few repetitions.  He even did a couple of really, really good swipes with his paws at the towel.  That, my friends, is jackpot worthy! 

Meanwhile, I was encouraging Thomas.  He has a tendency to either just freak and start throwing out his token behaviors (i.e. shake, high five, speak, spin).  However, once I started clicking/treating his paw movement in the same way I was rewarding Linus, he started focusing.  But, he kept lying down thinking that was what I wanted (as if we were practicing "Go Lie Down". 

The kicker... at the very end of the session, I turned to Thomas to find the smarty paws actually grabbing the towel in his teeth to pull back the towel so he could get the treat.  LOL  LOL 

Overall, it was a great start and I look forward to practicing again today! 

Let me know how you and your dogs are doing!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tricky Tricks

So... I'll be the first to say that as a trainer I am rarely interested in teaching tricks.  I mean, call me crazy, but between real life demands, a child, a husband in school and training for cycling/running events, I'm not all that concerned with teaching my dog to chase his tail or to "play dead" (why would I want to picture them dead, anyway?).
BUT... I love a good trick that is applicable to every day life.  Things like teaching my boys to close a door for me, pick up their toys, etc. make my heart sing!  And truthfully, trick training is an amazing way to just have some fun with your dog and see what you can accomplish together.
Next on the agenda in our house, and I have no idea why it has taken this long to get to it, is "Wipe Your Feet".
After literally years of keeping a junk towel on hand, I have decided that the time has come!  My boys are bright and so I would like to think of myself as a competent trainer... so here we go!

Now, there are a couple of ways you can go about training tricks.  Namely, shaping or luring.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this stuff, I'll briefly describe them here.

Shaping simply is a waiting game in which you put your dog in the relative area that you need for the learning (in this case, it would be a mat or towel).  You arm yourself with a clicker if you use one and plenty of high-value treats.  From there, you simply allow the dog to start figuring things out. You have to have an eye for the slightest progression.  In this case, without prompting, I would click and treat the first MOVEMENT of a paw on the mat.  I wouldn't expect a dog to immediately start avidly wiping their feet.  As the dog sees the pattern that he is getting a treat each time he moves his foot, I then kick it up and delay the click/treat until there's just slightest bit more movement.
You build in this way, rewarding the teeny ting progressive steps until the dog has painted the ultimate picture.  Needless to say, shaping can take a long time.  Or not.  It really depends on the dog.  But the key to remember is that if you rush the learning process, the dog may learn the ultimate end steps of the behavior, but the earlier steps WILL unravel and they will be a jumbled mess! So take your time and work at your dog's pace. Not something our culture is geared for, I know.... just trust me.  : )

Luring is simply helping to put the dog into action, and then rewarding the compliance.  Sounds simple, and a bit faster than shaping, it generally is.  In teaching a dog to sit, a treat is held over the dog's head to encourage them to look up, then the treat is moved back toward the crown of the dog's head to lure the final sit.  This works beautifully.  As a caution, luring is ideal for fairly basic commands... and shaping is a great tool for the more complex tricks/behaviors.

You can always do a combination of the two... which is generally what happens.  : )

I will keep you posted on the progress of Linus and Thomas (my boys) in this endeavor.

Day 1: I will begin with a junk towel and a yummy treat.  For this, I want something super tempting and "fragrant".  I am going with a refrigerated dog food log that can be chopped into bits.

The towel will be laid out, dog watching process, and I will lay a treat on the towel and fold it over to "hide" the treat.

Next, I will encourage Linus to "find it"... a command he already knows and is in love with.  AS SOON AS he begins to use his paw to "dig" for the treat, I will click and toss a treat onto the towel for him.  Then, we will repeat this process.... a lot.  OK, not a ton of repetitions at once, I stick to 5-10 reps per session.  But, this will be our practice for several sessions until Linus is a star at it.

Stay tuned for the coming days and Linus' progress! Let me know how you and your dog fare on this impressive trick!

Remember, if you have questions, check out my business website and send me a contact email!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kids And Canines

Summer is a wonderful season for all sorts of activities. There are multiple sports, camps, and activities for kids out there. Signing your child up for a dog training class gets a few things accomplished at once... which I LOVE!
1) Your kids get to have a sense of pride and ownership in the family dog and what the dog is capable of doing.
2) The dog gets obedience training, which in my experience most family dogs don't get enough; and even if they do, continued training is ALWAYS 100% beneficial!
3) The dog gets to build a strong bond and working relationship with your child.
4) One afternoon or evening a week, you get to mentally exercise the dog and kid at the same time!

Starting July 28th (Thursday), I will be offering a Kids & Canines class that is open to kids ages 5-11. We will cover many useful things in the 4-week class, including: basic commands, leash skills (parental help where needed), Come When Called, basic care/handling, and what to do if your child encounters an unfamiliar dog.

Enrollment form and information may be found at the Bone-A-Fide Dog Training website. Please enroll by the 26th! Feel free to call should you have any questions or concerns!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Play Biting In Puppies

Play biting is a completely normal puppy behavior. Every time I work with a client or class for puppy obedience, I am almost immediately inundated with "How do we stop the biting?!"
First off, it is important to understand why they do it. Now, I'm not always one to focus on the "why" as much as the end goal and training it in, but in this case it does help.
Puppies are not born with an understanding of bite inhibition. That is something that is taught very early on, beginning with their mother and litter mates. That's why puppy play always appears so rough. You'll hear a lot of yelping and snarls. It is a hotbed of learning canine body language, vocalizations, and bit inhibition.
Now, you've brought home your new pup and after a couple of days they are feeling more comfortable with the family and soon the rough play biting begins. And we all know those little suckers have teeth like little razors! So... what do you do?
The first instinct is to just make it stop and teach them to never bite or put their mouth to human body parts. This is understandable, but a mistake in the long run.
If we teach a pup to NEVER bite, that's a pup that will potentially never learn to control the strength of their bite... which can be disastrous later in life. A great example is a dog that has been injured. I can say from personal experience, that I am so thankful that I taught my dogs inhibition early on. A couple of years ago, my older dog, Thomas, was seriously injured while staying at my parents' home for the afternoon. I raced to their house to get him to the vet. My first instinct after seeing how bloody and hurt he was was to pick him up and whisk him to the car. Dumb! As soon as I tried to hoist him, he yowled in agony and swung his head around as if to bite at me... thankfully he only gave a warning. I attribute this to his having been taught what is appropriate and what isn't.
With pups, and even young dogs that may have just never had much work done with them, I recommend lots of play! When the pup bites, IF it is uncomfortable, let out a loud "OUCH!" This will startle them. Quickly offer an acceptable object to bite at (plushy, Kong, Nylabone, etc.) and praise when they go after that. If the play biting is gentle, I typically stop playing/moving until they let go, and then play resumes while they are gentle and biting the toys. NEVER smack or hit the pup for biting! Again, it may be instinctual, but it can lead to a dog being head shy, becoming aggressive and trying to bite again, etc. For many ears, the thing that was recommended was to clamp the pup's muzzle shut while saying "No bite!" into their face. Two problems: 1) Dog can't breathe well with the muzzle clamped shut so they begin to panic 2) Most will snap at you again as soon as you release because this action makes absolutely NO sense to them. So you've just set them up to fail and to get punished again.
If you adhere to the technique involving play and simply yelling "ouch!"/redirecting the bite to an acceptable object, you will get results. Over time, the biting will become mouthing and then will wean off. No sweat! I have had the few pups that required a "time out", (a blog on how do give a dog a time out and how long it should last to come!). When correctly, it can really drive the idea home for the more obstinate pup/juvenile.
I hope that this helps get you started! But to recap:
1) Lots of play!!
2) When biting hurts, yell "OUCH!" to break their concentration
3) Redirect the biting to an acceptable object (Kong, plushy, Nylabone, etc.)
4) PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE the biting of the acceptable stuff!
5) Remember, it's just as important to know what you want them to do in place of the bad behavior as it is to stop the behavior itself! Provide TONS of things to preoccupy their natural need to bite/chew!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

I hear this question time and time again, usually in the form of: "Can they still learn?", "Is it too late to teach them?", etc. Time and time again I answer: "Dogs are never too old to learn, assuming there's nothing neurologically that would inhibit them."
What I really want to ask is: "Are YOU too old to learn?" You see, when most people come to me with this question, it is usually because they have put up with some behaviors, or settled with mediocre obedience/interaction for years and are finally wondering why other people seem to have amazing working/companion dogs. So the answer to the question does not lie entirely on the dog's capability.
To start though, because I am sure that if you are reading this, you have wondered whether your own dog is too old to be trained. Please don't take offense to my previous thought, it is merely an observation from my own experiences and it also is a great starting point to turn things around for the owner. In short, dogs, like us, are never too old to learn... unless senility has set in or some other disease. It is simply a matter of understanding that the dog has had numerous years to "get away" with certain things, or had few expectations put on them and that has become the norm... the routine. Dogs tend to be creatures of habit and they can get very comfortable very quickly. So... remember the old adage: "If you don't use it, you lose it!"
The important things to remember in taking on the task of training an older dog is that you simply must make it enjoyable and at least somewhat exciting! For many dogs, this is easily achieved because they relish the extra attention and interaction that they receive. Be creative! Make teaching come when called a game of chase or hide and seek (my personal favorite with my boys)! You will find that they will eat it up and learn very quickly when there are games and super rewards to be had!
Now... the tougher question I posed earlier: "Are you too old to learn?" My guess is NO! You just haven't been "using it!". There are a whole host of opportunities and resources for you to learn the tools you need for success and to have an amazing dog! The simple fact is that in clinical trials, positive methods are THE most effective way to train. I can speak from personal experience, that when I was first interested in training a dog of mine... in retrospect, I knew next to nothing about canine behavior! But I had a voracious appetite to read what I could and learn tools to improve my middle aged problem child! Then it donned on me: all too often we finish our schooling, find careers, and become soo specialized that we in essence forget how to learn or become to lazy to choose to actively learn! Please, please, please... do yourself and your dog a favor if you are in this position. CHOOSE to learn and to grow! CHOOSE to be the person your dog thinks you are! The reward will be soo much more than an obedient dog. In my case, that dog continues to be my inspiration as to just how capable not only an older dog can be with the right methods... but how capable we can be if we aren't content to let our minds go stale on learning.