Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Clicker Expo 2016 Reno!

The weekend started with a day of chicken camp taught by Terry Ryan. IT.WAS.SO.MUCH.FUN.

Chickens in dog kennels. Very appropriate for us :)
Me and my hen. She lays white eggs.
It's So Fluffy!
Terry Ryan, me and Henrietta.

Then three whole days of non-stop learning and laughing. I can't even describe the amount of knowledge I gained or fun I had learning from the best of the best.

My daily Expo set-up :). I love learning!
Minnesota 2015 KPA Grads!!
Lori Stevens did some great demos with FitPaws and the Klimb.
My FAVORITE lecture. Hannah and Laurie were so great
and I am so excited to put this in action going forward!!
Photo booth fun with Hannah and other Fenzi students.
This was a great networking event!
YAY! This is so awesome to be a part of!!
Our brains hurt....
My suitcase was stuffed FULL.
I might have a slight KONG addiction...


Have you ever been to a Clicker Expo?

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Beautiful Walk In The Neighborhood...

Ah yes, the elusive Loose Leash Walking (LLW) behavior :). The one behavior everyone wants but has such trouble gaining!

I taught Rookie to walk between my legs as well.
This can help with loose leash walking :).

About 2 years ago (I can't believe it's been that long ago!!!) I did a series on the test items for the CGC test and covered LLW. You can find my LLW post HERE. I covered in that post the few different techniques I have used in teaching this behavior to my dog. I have since learned yet another! :)

Connect the dots is a lot like what I already do, but it gives you specific points to remember to reward at, which is always helpful!

Here are the steps:
Set up 12 or more 'dots' (whatever small objects you can use) in a straight line, about 4 feet apart. Practice this indoors or in the backyard (if you don't live in the midwest in January!) with minimal distractions. Try it without a leash too!!

  • Click as you approach the first dot. Stop, treat, then go on.
  • Click as you approach the second dot. Stop, treat, then go on. Repeat for remaining dogs, then turn and repeat the line of dots again.
  • Remove three dots from different parts of the line.
  • Repeat the exercise, cueing 'let's go' just before stepping forward toward the next dot.
  • Remove two more dots and repeat the exercise.
As you progress, set up your dots but space them irregularly. Once you are successful at several repetitions of that, add some MILD (let me repeat MILD) distractions, like toys or obstacles, on your dots course. Once you are successful at several repetitions of that (and remember to move around your dots as you do new repetitions), then begin practicing in slightly more distracting environments. I also like to change up what I am using as dots, and as you move into the 'real world' situations you can set your dots as landmarks (like mailboxes, or driveways, or trees, or hydrants, etc). You need to remember to introduce new distractions in a slow and controlled manner :). This is generally where people - exposing their dog to a high level of distraction and expecting too much duration between clicks.

As you make sessions incrementally harder keep these points in mind:
  • Do a quick warm-up by cueing 'let's go' and clicking and treating as the dog maintains a loose leash for 5 and then 10 pages, down the length of the room or around the perimeter.
  • When adding in distractions, watch for the instant the dog notices the distraction, and click and treat if the leash remains loose. You want to manage distractions at a level at which your dog can succeed.
  • Reward not just with food but sometimes with a few moments of play, or with permission to investigate a distraction (tell the dog 'go sniff' then stop and allow the dog to sniff and explore, or to pee :); repeat alternating between controlled walking and 'rest stops').
  • When you're increasing duration/distance, try to count steps and reward at 10, 20, 30, 40 steps, etc. But remember to alternate between fewer steps and more steps (don't always just make it harder!!).
The goal is to continue building the skill of loose leash walking in new environments, for a longer distance and duration, and in the presence of increasing distractions.

I will also give yet another source that I LOVE - Denise Fenzi! Yes, again :). Check out her post on LLW (she gathered some great techniques from quite a few sources). I love this excerpt from her post: 
Good luck! The name of the game with LLW is persistence. You mean it. You will not proceed forward if your dog is pulling. Before you head out the door, make a decision if this is a walk that you will manage pulling or a walk where you will train the skill of LLW.
Once you feel good about your LLW, don't get complacent! SLOWLY increase the challenge level for your dog. Start in your house! Can your dog LLW through your house, even there are other people there? Other dogs? Low value food on the counters? High value food on the counters? The trick to reliability is to add distractions, over time, and set your training up so that your dog will experience success. Remember, your dog has to learn what you want. Stay calm, positive and patient.
Just like a human child, they will get there but there are no shortcuts to training.
Monday is great for LLW but for heeling
(which is more precise) she's a forger!

How far are you in your training methods? Which method is your favorite? Tell me about your experiences!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Animal Madness {book review}

Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves

Laurel Braitman spent years studying animals, first as a biology major and then later as a PhD student at MIT. But it was her own dog Oliver that taught her something new about animal behavior. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, suffered debilitating separation anxiety, and may even have attempted suicide. As she struggled to help Oliver feel more at ease, Braitman began to suspect that nonhuman animals can lose their minds in ways that look strikingly like human mental illness. Thankfully, most of us can heal.

As a historian of science, Braitman was compelled to dig through historical archives to uncover more than a century's worth of animal insanity tales. She also traveled the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them and discovered plenty of evidence of recovery: parrots that learn to stop compulsively plucking their feathers, traumatized elephants that form soothing friendships, and great apes that benefit from human psychiatrists. She found that these animals move on the same way we do: with love, with medicine, with behavior therapy, and above all, with the knowledge that someone understands why they suffer and what can make them feel better.

Showing how humans have interpreted the unquiet minds of animals, starting with Darwin's thoughts on his own dejected dogs, Animal Madness makes a passionate argument for seeing how their minds and ours are inextricably linked. Animals are us, it turns out, and they have lots to teach us about how to keep our sanity.

My Thoughts
I loved this book and found it totally fascinating. Animal mental illness has intrigued me since fostering Ice and I've read through lots of material in regards to this topic. Most of the stuff is rather dry :), but while this book was extremely well documented and scientifically grounded, I thought it was still easy to read and understand. Braitman personalized the book with her own experiences with her dog Oliver and collected lots of diverse anecdotal evidence from professionals in various animal fields. It covered the range of common mental illnesses such as depression, suicide, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

I recommend this book for anyone that lives with or thinks about animals :). As Braitman says in her conclusion, there is a great deal that the animal mind can teach us about our own minds. And beyond that, there is an immense call for changing the way we view and treat animals. It's always about treating one another as we would want to be treated :).

Check out the other books I've reviewed:
Dog is My Co-Pilot
When Elephants Weep
Scent of the Missing
Tell Me Where It Hurts
Little Boy Blue
Pawprints of Katrina
Hit By a Flying Wolf
What the Dog Knows
A Small Furry Prayer
Until Tuesday
The Dogs of Babel
Zoo Story
The Soul of All Living Creatures

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Story of My Life

How it usually goes....

What we aim for....well except for their lovely expressions LOL

How many 'takes' does it usually take you to get the picture you were hoping for?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Ding-Dong, Who's Here?!? Door Manners!!

So I had a recent comment about improving canine manners at the door :). First, I will say at my house my dogs are babygated away from the door so they are not allowed to practice bad manners. I employ this management technique and haven't actually done much door manner training, mostly because we really don't have visitors. This solution fits our lifestyle and works for us :), but it might not work for you!

When training door manners, I love using the 'Go to Mat' behavior. It's easy to use, universal (you can take that mat anywhere so can use at any house), and very black/white for your dog. But with this post I am not going to reinvent the wheel :). I'm going to take the lazy approach if you will, LOL! There are two AMAZING resources already for this behavior and they cover everything that I would write anyways.

Rookie demonstrating his Mat behavior
Please, please, please do yourself a favor :) and check out Denise Fenzi's Pet Dog Blog (just in general because it has great information!). But she does have a post up about teaching the 'Go to Mat' behavior:
Teaching your dog to “go to mat” is one of the easiest ways to solve an enormous range of typical puppy behaviors, ranging from jumping up on guests, to excessive barking (dogs don’t like to bark when they lie down), … Continue reading 
The other resource is a video from Dr. Sophia Yin. The Treat & Train (which is now called the Manner's Minder) can be a great tool in helping to teach the 'Go to Mat' behavior and getting them to stay there through some of the harder distractions (like someone at the door!). You still have to progress to that level of distraction through all the steps but it does help it move quicker in general. Check out her video here. We have a Manner's Minder and we LOVE it.

And that's that :). LOL, that's like the easiest blog post I have ever written (probably because I didn't actually write much!!). Happy Friday! :)

Have you trained a 'Go to Mat' behavior? If so, how/when do you use it? If you haven't, give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016

Train Your Dog Month!

Happy New Year! :) It's the sixth annual National Train Your Dog Month hosted by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). This year the APDT is focusing on everyday manners all family dogs should acquire. And hey that's a great a focus! :)

The APDT has a great program called C.L.A.S.S. (Canine Life and Social Skills) that covers all those everyday, basic manners companion dogs should have. C.L.A.S.S. is a three-level evaluation for dog owners to demonstrate the real-life skills of their dogs, as well as a knowledge assessment of their own understanding of basic dog handling and care. I have actually modeled my group manners classes after the C.L.A.S.S. program because I think it's a great comprehensive list of behaviors dog owners should strive to achieve. They have a general webinar giving an overview of each Evaluation test item and covers the Rules and Guidlines, you can check it out here.

I LOVE National Train Your Dog Month, but then again that's my world every month :). But this event does help promote the importance and benefits of training dogs to become happy and healthy companions. Again, pretty much my ambition every day! But too many dogs are turned into animal shelters each year for behavior and training issues that could be easily solved with proper socialization and positive, gentle, science-based methods of training. So hopefully this helps get the word out about training to more people! :)

The APDT will be offering a variety of free webinars with tips and tricks for teaching the 'basics' - sit, down, stay, wait, coming when called and walking on a loose leash. 

Let me know if you find any of them helpful! If there are any training topics you'd like me to cover, please post below! :)

About the Association of Professional Dog Trainers
The APDT is a professional educational organization of trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through using positive, dog friendly methods based on sound scientific principles. With over 6,000 members worldwide, the APDT provides professional dog trainers with a respected and concerted voice. The APDT promotes caring relationships between dogs and people and works to increase public awareness of dog-friendly training techniques. For more information, visit the website at