Monday, September 30, 2013

Mental Health Days

This weekend (and part of last week) I decided to take some Mental Health Days - aka BE LAZY :). So sorry for not posting on Thursday and Friday but my brain was on hiatus. I am guilty of over-scheduling myself, everyone who knows me knows just how much I live by my calendar and I'm always cramming something else in. Well Thursday I decided to hibernate. No joke. I didn't do ANYTHING Thursday night or Friday night or even this weekend. It was glorious...and very unproductive :). The dogs loved it!!

Baron was very happy - check out his cheezy grin :).
Sometimes there are just those days when you've had enough and you need a break. We've all been there and honestly, I don't give myself enough breaks because I hate to feel unproductive. But as counterproductive as it seems to be to not do anything with your way-too-long-to-do-list (you should see mine, talk about too long!), sometimes you simply need some time to recharge. There is nothing wrong with cutting yourself some slack and taking a break :). I have to tell myself that all the time and I hardly ever listen, but luckily I have back-up naggers (aka dogs) that insist I slow down and spend time enjoying them.

Rookie got some precious ball time. 
They thoroughly enjoyed spending all weekend with me - romping through the backyard, having mini training sessions, and lots of cuddle time in bed :). We love cuddle time. Well most of us love cuddle time, there is that ONE that loves to run and run and run and run...oh Bourbon.

He doesn't really ever stop moving. At least in this video he's not screaming, that's always really pleasant :). But at the end of each day, there was utter contentment and silence in my house. Oh I love the sound of nothingness :). And of course they love their 'momma time.'

They were all tuckered out :).

What do you do to keep the 'world' at bay and give you time to breathe?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Training Tips: CGC Summary

This concludes my Canine Good Citizen (CGC) series on the preparation for each individual exercise and offering tips for practicing in order to successfully pass a CGC evaluation. Test Item 10 was covered previously.

A Few Final Resources

The AKC has a wonderful webpage with tons of resources on it detailing everything you could ever want to know about the CGC. A few things you'll find on that page:
  • Dog Owner Resources (covering everything you can think of)
  • Finding Evaluators and Classes
  • CGC Products
  • After CGC: What Can You Do Next?
  • Customer Service Contacts
The AKC also has the below video available for perusing :). Please keep in mind they produced this as an example of an IDEAL test.

A Few Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that the reason for taking this evaluation is to push yourself to help your dog be a better behaved, more enjoyable family companion. As you and your dog work together, you will discover a bond developing that will lead to a better relationship. The CGC accomplishment is often the first step to a wonderful relationship with your dog and to many fun dog activities. Good luck! :)

Keep the AKC's words in mind:
If you and your dog do not pass, it is not a failure but an indication of where you and your dog need more work.

Don't forget to check out the other CGC test item's we've covered:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Where did the weekend go?

...c'mon let's go hide from Monday over here! Maybe the rest of the week won't find us either and we can come out again on Saturday!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dr. Ian Dunbar

Earlier this month I attended a seminar by Dr. Ian Dunbar in Iowa City and found it ... interesting. Especially considering I just went through a week-long, pretty intensive, seminar on Operant Conditioning at Shedd Aquarium. The differences were amazing and I have to say, I didn't agree with a lot of what Dunbar said.

Ian Dunbar with his dog Dune.
First, I was slightly irritated because his seminar was titled Common Sense and Cutting Edge Concepts, but nothing he covered was cutting edge. It was all pretty old school focusing on classical conditioning and seemed geared toward a pet owner with no training knowledge. I guess I was over qualified for his seminar :).

Second, almost everything he discussed revolved around puppies. Well, that doesn't really work in our world of rescues and shelters. We deal with adult dogs that already have baggage, not 'blank slate' puppies with owners that obviously care enough to put them in a puppy class to start with! Now I feel like I sound jaded and I hate that, but it's the reality for right now.

And lastly, he totally failed on his use of the science of learning terminology. For example, you can't change the definition of a primary reinforcer. I'm sorry but changing terminology to fit what you are talking about to a certain audience does that audience a disservice. Especially well-established terminology that is industry standard :). The correct terms for what he was talking about are conditioned reinforcers or secondary reinforcers. He also decided to rename a training technique to magically make it seem like it was something Sue Sternberg and him came up with. Um, sorry Dr. Dunbar the capturing/scanning training technique has been around for a long time, you didn't just invent it when you decided to call it "All or None" reward training. But nice try :). For someone not familiar with learning theory, they wouldn't even have noticed and that doesn't start them off on a very good foundation.

But lest you think it was a total bust, I did walk away thinking about a few things:

  • Emergency recall vs. Emergency sit/down: I like the idea of an emergency stationary position because sometimes it is also dangerous for them to try to get back to you. I will be investigating this idea :).
  • Condition (for emergency cues) that louder is better: We all know that when you get into an emergency and your adrenaline is flowing we tend to shout. Word just burst out at full volume and sometimes that can scare our dogs or make them think that we are angry with them. So this idea is to condition them to think that the louder the voice the better. The louder I yell a cue at you, the better the reward will be for listening. Interesting thought process.
  • Using problem behavior as a reward: Dogs express many problem behaviors because it feels good to them, so putting it on cue and then using it as a reward is interesting. Like barking - it can be very self-rewarding for dogs, so he says to put it on cue and then teach an incompatible behavior (like quiet). Then when your dog has performed something wonderful and it's appropriate for them to bark, you can give the bark cue and it will be self-rewarding. I have put bark on cue before (with Monday) but I have never used it as a reward. Again, an interesting thought.
Dr. Ian Dunbar is considered one of the most innovative trainers in the field. He has done a lot of impressive things - wrote 6 books on training, developed one of the earliest puppy training courses in the country, and in 1993 founded the Associate of Pet Dog trainers (APDT) whose mission is to promote better training through education - but I wonder if the times have caught up with him.

Well I can cross him off my 'seminar bucket list' :). You can always check him out on

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Training Tips: CGC Test Item 10

The tenth is my Canine Good Citizen (CGC) series going through each of the CGC exercises and offering tips for practicing in order to successfully pass a CGC Evaluation. Test Item 9 was covered previously.

Test Item 10: Supervised Separation

This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain its training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, "Would you like for me to watch your dog?" You will give the leash to the evaluator and go out of sight for 3 minutes. You may tell your dog to stay if it already has a down or sit stay. The dog does not have to stay in position but it cannot continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. The evaluator is allowed to talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts.

So Your Goal: To have your dog remain calm with a 'stranger' while you are out of sight.

Training Tips

This test does have some practical value. It comes into play anytime you leave your dog in another's care and you're out of the picture - grooming, doggie daycare, boarding, pet sitting, vet, etc. Even if you were out walking with a friend and decided to stop at a store for something - you would hand your dog's leash to your friend while you ran inside.

Many owners find it challenging to develop this skill with their dog. Most either have the confidence to handle it or don't :), but if your dog doesn't there are ways to help build it. Three minutes sounds like a short time, but when you are actually experiencing it, it starts to feel like quite a long wait! The easiest way to train this exercise is to have a helper who your dog knows well at first. The helper will hold your dog's leash while you go out of sight (mimicking the test). When you practice you want to make sure you gradually lengthen the time you leave the dog. Don't go too far away too fast or your dog will not be successful. Once your dog can handle separation for at least a minute, you want to make sure you start to vary the amount of time you are gone even as you build up to the full 3 minutes. That way your dog doesn't start to anticipate your return (we all know dogs can tell time!!).

Once your dog has been successful for 3 minutes with a helper they know, try it with a helper they don't know, but make sure you go back to shorter amounts of time. Don't assume because they can do 3 minutes with someone they know that they will be able to do 3 minutes with someone they don't know. Then once they can do the full 3 minutes with someone they don't know, take your practice on the road! Practice at new places so that your dog understands that this doesn't just happen at home, it can happen anywhere. When you start practicing at a new place, first use a helper that your dog is familiar with and start with shorter amounts of time, gradually building back up to 3 minutes. Then when they are successful in a new place with a familiar helper for the full 3 minutes, try it with someone unfamiliar going back to shorter amounts of time. When you change a variable (either familiar vs. unfamiliar helper or comfortable place vs. novel place) you want to make sure that you lighten your criteria (amount of time) so that they dog can still be successful.

You can practice for this test by yourself if you don't have access to a helper, but it's a bit more difficult. At first you want to work on your 'stay' cues - simply tell your dog to stay and walking a few feet away but standing with your back to your dog (so still in view at this point). Taking away the eye contact can be similar to going to out of sight for some dogs. Then when your dog can handle that, tell them to stay and go around a corner so then you are out of sight, but use a long line so that your dog is still safe if they break their stay position (and this will allow you to be able to tell if they have moved). Then practice that by gradually building up the amount of time that you leave them in their stay. A dog with a solid stay will generally hold that position for the 3 minutes and many dogs are comfortable being left with a cue that they are familiar with. The 'holder' at the test will be an unknown variable, but if your dog has a solid stay they shouldn't be bothered by them.

Next week I'll return with a few overall tips for preparing for test day along with some resources that are helpful for taking the CGC test.

Don't forget to check out the other CGC test item's we've covered:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Backyard Acrobatics

Last week Monday ripped almost the entire pad off one of her back toes. It was obviously very painful as she hasn't been putting any weight on that leg for the last week. So imagine my surprise when we are outside for a potty break after dinner and I find this:

Gee, sure doesn't look like her foot hurts huh? It's amazing what a little arousal and adrenaline can do :). It's why whenever you take your injured dog to the vet, all the sudden nothing is wrong and the vet can't get a pain response. Little boogers :).

Do your dogs 'forget' about injuries when they are excited? 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Beluga Encounter

While I was at the Shedd Aquarium, I got to experience pretty much the best thing EVER - getting in the water with a Beluga whale. It was awesome and amazing, and actually pretty indescribable. Although, I'll try to describe it for you here and now :).

The Belugas!

These whales look happy ALL THE TIME, they have these soft, squinty eyes and big smiling mouths. Uber-cute! I don't think they ever have a bad day. Every time you look at them, you can't help but smile in return. Instant bad day fix right here.

See, don't they look happy??
Belugas (also called 'white whales') are actually one of the smallest species of whales, ranging from 13 to 20 feet long. Their white coloring and prominent foreheads make them easily identifiable, which totally works for me as I have a hard time describing things. This is easy - they are that small, white whale with a giant forehead :). And they don't have a dorsal fin - no mistaking them for sharks!

Belugas generally live together in small pods and the ones at the Shedd Aquarium are no exception. They have 5 Beluga whales that live together. And get this - their average life span in the wild is 35 to 50 years. That just seems like a long time (even though I know we humans live longer), maybe because I am comparing it to dogs who only live like 15 years. Belugas are social animals and love to play. I swear these guys have a sense of humor :).

Doesn't it look like he is going to bite Ken's butt??? :)

Fun Fact: Unlike most other whales, the beluga has a flexible neck that enables it to turn its head in all directions.

Think the exorcist, haha :). 

The Encounter

Duhn duhn duhn - oh wait that's for sharks. I guess there isn't one for whales *shrugging shoulders*. All joking aside, these whales are pretty big and still dangerous, even though they are 'small' in the whale world. But I still donned on waders (and I mean waders) and climbed down into the Beluga whale habitat. The water was COLD (which I guess make sense since the whales live by the Artic, LOL) but still I wasn't quite expecting that. Luckily our waders were dry suits so I was completely dry and moderately warm underneath.

The first order of business was to let the whale get introduced to us and say hello. Not like you can shake hands and exchange greetings, but he swam down the line of us (there were 4 of us and 1 trainer per whale) and checked us out.

*Disclaimer: You'll have to excuse the quality of these photos as they were taking on my iphone by someone obviously not familiar with an iphone camera :). 
Checking us out and making sure we were of the friendly sort :).

Then we each fed the whale to further establish a rapport. Their primary reinforcers are fish (obviously!) and then we used secondary reinforcers of tongue tickling, clapping, and splashing water in their face (yes they do love this).

I actually didn't mind holding the fish. It wasn't as gross as I thought.
The first time we fed them, we put the fish directly in his mouth.
The second time, we had him suck it from our hand underwater. That felt really cool!
Then we got down to business and we got to cue them for behaviors. The trainer had the whale lay out in front of us and present us with his side so that we could all touch him. They feel pretty cool, it's really hard to describe but they are softer than you think :).

Touching the Beluga whale.
Feeling their 'bump'. It's like an extremely large muscle
and they can actually move it around quite a bit
Then we got to ask for behaviors! The best part :). We asked for hand targets, for blowing on your hand underwater, for a kiss, for a head bump (putting your forehead against theirs), and for him to spit on us. Yes, we asked a whale to spit water on us. I couldn't say no, because really how often are you going to get a chance to have a whale spit on you?!? Beluga's like to spit water so the trainers had to put it on cue so that they could extinguish it and keep it from happening when they weren't expecting it :). Like I said, I'm sure the whales have a sense of humor!

Blowing on my hand underwater.
Hand targeting.
Kissing :)
He's spitting on me. It was so cold!!!
More spitting :)
I really, really liked tickling their tongue. I don't know why, but it was pretty cool. Their tongues are much softer than you would think, kind of like a dog's tongue as opposed to cats.

Tickling the tongue!!! :)

The Take Away

I want a whale. I am pretty sure I could fit a baby one in the bath tub. :) Okay okay, maybe that won't work but it can still be a dream of mine! 

It was really interesting to see how well the whales responded to each of our cues even though they weren't familiar with us and didn't have any kind of bond with us. Yes the real trainer was right there with the whistle and food, but we were still the ones giving the hand signals and asking for the behavior. Plus, while we made every effort to give the hand signals exactly like the trainer shows us, I'm sure there was a lot of variance looking at it from the whale's perspective. They still performed regardless, which tells us that they really, really know what each of those cues means. There wasn't any hesitation and there weren't any wrong responses. It was quite nice to see how confidently they did each behavior and how eager they were to do the next behavior. That's what needs to happen more in dog training!!

More Belugas Please

Here are a few videos from one of the training sessions with an experienced trainer. I really enjoyed these sessions and seeing what some of the 'fun' behaviors entail. The whale looks happy and eager the whole session and seems to really love to interact with the trainer. It looks like a play session :).

What do you think? Do you think your dog's training session looks as fun as these sessions? Does your dog look as happy as the whales? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New USDA APHIS Guidelines are Bullshit

*Disclaimer: I am going to try not to rant. I am going to try really, really hard not to rant. Sorry in advance if I end up ranting :).

On Tuesday, the USDA announced that APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has revised the 'definition' of retail pet store in the Animal Welfare Act. Sounds good huh? The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has been pushing hard to crack down on puppy mills and regulate the internet sales of dogs. Great intentions, sure, but you know what they say about great intentions...well, here is our road to hell.

It Begins

So while HSUS has been telling the public this is to 'fix the puppy mill problem' the actual reality of this regulatory action is violating the Fourth Amendment rights of everyone with a dog and punishing good breeders or 'hobby breeders' who actually do things right. In government terms they are revising and updating the 'Retail Pet Store' rule or RIN 0579-AD57. But that actually affects more than you think, the government loves to sneak things in while you are focusing on a different point. Gawd, I hate politics. Let's review:
  • The definition of a retail pet store updated to state - A place of business or residence at which the seller, buyer, and the animal available for sale are physically present so that every  buyer may personally observe the animal prior to purchasing and/or taking custody of that animal after purchase, and where only certain animals are sold or offered for sale, at retail, for use as pets.
  • Ironically enough, actual pet stores are not required to be licensed and inspected under the AWA. Regardless of the fact that they are supplied by the puppy mills and have crappy living conditions, nice huh?
  • Also, if you have four or less breeding female dogs, cats, and/or small exotic or wild mammals on your premise than you are exempt from the licensing and inspection requirements.
  • But what do they define as a breeding female? Is there an age limit? Any guiding factors? Dr. Rushin (a Veterinary Medical Officer listed on the docket) had this to say - "We will determine a breeding female dog by our determination if its a breeding female. If we think it has a capacity to be bred, it's a breeding female." Great, so they are just going to make determinations on a whim. I love their determination skills. Maybe I just love the word determination. What I also find ridiculous is who says that the 'breeder' is breeding all of their females?? But the government says they COULD be bred so obviously that means that you WILL <inserting eye roll here>. Government says sorry you have 5 intact bitches, you have to comply, BAM. This alone will affect the small-scale breeders (think show, performance, etc.) who usually keep multiple intact bitches but don't breed multiple litters a year. Do you think these 'breeders' should have to keep their dogs under AWA regulations, which does not allow them to keep their dogs or whelp their litters in their homes? <see last bullet point>
  • Section 2146 of the AWA explicitly authorizes inspections of licensees to determine compliance with the AWA.
  • So this also subjects people's private homes to possible unannounced government inspections for AWA compliance. Hello, anyone heard of the Fourth Amendment?!? That whole unlawful search and seizure thing?!?
  • The AWA responds that such inspections are limited to only those areas that impact the well-being of the animals, such as areas where food and medicine for the animal are stored.
  • So how does raiding 'selected' parts of my house work? I'm pretty sure the Fourth Amendment covers the whole house. You certainly can't get to parts of my house where food and medicine are stored without going through other parts. Interesting tactic though.
  • There would also have to be compliance with 9 CFR part 3.
  • 9 CFR part 3 is an extremely long document detailing the conditions of proper housing. It's all rather sterile :). Anyways, in recap it requests you to not raise your litter in your nice house but rather move it a sterile concrete kennel with no furniture. But hey it'll have a nice floor drain and sprinkler system, that's what matters after all. Nevermind that a puppy's socialization period is between 3 and 8 weeks and they need to be exposed to as much LIFE as they can be so they won't be scared later. Nope, we'll just stick them in concrete kennels outside with limited human contact. How is that not a puppy mill again??

Those are what I deem the most interesting parts. There are plenty more and they deal with other animals besides dogs. So be in the know. Read the guidelines. Realize that what they say it covers and what it actually covers are two different things (since when is this new in politics??). All this bill does is slaughter small, responsible hobby breeders and pave the way for the puppy mills to own the market. Puppy mills are already paying these fees, so what is going to change for them? Nothing. They will still be able to sell puppies over the web and still have several hundred breeding dogs. Pet stores are getting supplied by puppy mills, what will change for them? Nothing, they are exempt. The details are scary people.

Has it occurred to you yet this is NOT making Internet sales illegal? (Which wasn't that the whole point of this revising issue?) Nope, it is simply requiring those breeders to be USDA licensed. It's not making puppy mills go away, it's only decimating the small-time dog fanciers who breed to actually improve their breed of dog. So if you want a puppy from a responsible breeder who raises their puppies in their home, sorry no luck. For those of you who enjoy having purebred dogs as part of the family, get ready to welcome a puppy mill lemon as your only option in the future.

Educate Yourself.

Over legislate much??

Please use the APHIS comment form and tell them how this is a poorly thought out rule.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Training Tips: CGC Test Item 9

The ninth in my Canine Good Citizen (CGC) series going through each of the CGC exercises and offering tips for practicing in order to successfully pass a CGC Evaluation. Test Item 8 was covered previously.

Test Item 9: Reaction to Distractions

This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select only two of the following:
  1. A person using crutches, a wheelchair, or a walker (5-ft. away).
  2. A sudden opening or closing of a door.
  3. Dropping a pan, folded chair, etc. no closer than 5-ft. from the dog.
  4. A jogger running in front of the dog.
  5. A person pushing a cart or crate dolly passing no closer than 5-ft. away.
  6. A person on a bike no closer than 10-ft. away.
(Note: since some dogs are sensitive to sound and others to visual distractions, the examiner will usually choose one sound and one visual distraction).
The dog may express a natural interest and curiosity and/or appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.

This shows a walker being used and a crate dolly. Photo taken from Desert Dogs.

So Your Goal: To have your dog remain calm if a loud noise or visual distraction happens nearby.

Training Tips

Life is full of unexpected noises and your should be able to react calmly to most of them. Through exposure to everyday situations, your dog has probably learned to ignore the distractions generally used in this test. But, if your dog rarely sees a bicycle or has taken to barking and fence running when it sees a jogger, you may have some work in store. :)

The goal of this test is to determine if your dog is able to settle after an initial startle response, without bolting, barking, cowering, whimpering, or otherwise showing excessive fear. Acceptable startle behavior includes turning, backing up a step or two, sitting, moving slightly away without pulling you, or looking to you for direction. Each evaluator will have a different take on how much of a fear response is allowed so it never hurts to ask them what responses they would consider not passing if you are worried about your dog's response.

If your dog shows fear of unusual objects, sounds, or movements, you should help it by briefly exposing it to these things in a nonthreatening environment, and at a comfortable distance away from them. Praise, treats, toys, and playful interaction may eventually take its mind off fear and help it associate what was once frightening with positive experiences. As your dog becomes more confident, you can gradually bring the distractions closer.

When you feel like your dog can safely and successfully handle unusual objects, sounds, and movements, there are many ways to practice and prepare for the test:
  • Walk along busy streets to habituate them to all that traffic noise and motion.
  • Find a grocery cart in a parking lot and walk your dog around with it. Or try this with a stroller, moving dolly, or anything that's big on wheels. :)
  • Make some noise in the kitchen! Here's your excuse to bang on the pots and pans :). Start small and gradually build up the intensity of the banging.
  • You can always slam a few doors.
  • Make use of the driveway or garage floor to drop metal objects on.
Just remember to start your dog well away from the noise when it occurs first. Allow him to watch so he understands the noise is harmless. Your reaction needs to be negligible as well because if you respond with fear, your dog will too. All this practice takes time and actually this is stuff you should expose your dog to throughout its life, not just in preparation for the CGC test.

Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 10, Supervised Separation.

Don't forget to check out the other CGC test items we've covered:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Adventures in the kitchen - Peanut Butter Apple Biscotti Bites

Well I tried my hand at baking for the dogs again :). I had quite a run of successful recipes and I was feeling quite proud of myself. Almost proud enough to bake for humans! But I pulled out a new recipe to try the other day and well it just didn't work for me. I'm sure it was just user error on my part because as per usual, the recipe was from Doggie Dessert Chef and she makes everything look awesome :).

Please also note, these are gluten-free :).


1 Apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1/2 cup Milk
1 cup Soy Flour
1/4 cup Oats
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. I used parchment paper.
2. Combine dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Add apple, peanut butter, and milk to dry mix and knead until all ingredients are well combined.
3. Form dough into flat logs about 5 inches wide and 1 inch high. Bake on prepared baking sheet for 15-20 minutes. This is where I had problems. My dough was crumbly and I couldn't get it to form together, so I just went with it, LOL.
My version of 'logs' LOL.

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes then cut logs into 1 x 1 inch squares. This also didn't work for me because mine were already falling apart so I just tore them into chunks. I'm sure the dogs didn't even know the difference ;).
Not quite pretty squares :)

5. Place squares back onto baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until the pieces are dry and crunchy (I decided to not to do this step either because well mine weren't gourmet material, I was also sure the dog's wouldn't care, and the oven was making the kitchen hot!). Cool and refrigerate.
Makes 1 to 2 dozen.

Rookie was still excited to sample the wares and didn't care how the cookie looked.
Oddly enough they smelled delicious, just like peanut butter cookies!

Do your dog's still love homemade cookies even when they don't turn out perfectly? What is your dog's favorite recipe? My dogs are always hungry for new things!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Days

Hey look it's September! :) How did that happen so fast? Every September, the American Kennel Club (AKC) hosts Responsible Dog Ownership Days to bring to the forefront the responsibility it takes to have a canine companion. This hits especially close to home after hearing about two more Iowa towns that are looking at enacting Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) against Pit Bulls. This stuff seriously makes my head hurt (and well not to mention my heart!). If people were actually responsible owners, we wouldn't have such as thing as BSL.

There are many different ways you can 'celebrate' being a responsible owner:

  • Attend an event in your area. You can search the AKC's website HERE. There are many different kinds of events:
    • Breed parades
    • Obedience/agility/rally demonstrations
    • Microchip ID clinics
    • Health clinic/first aid for dogs
    • Therapy/SAR dog or Police K9 demonstrations
    • Free training classes with PAL presentations
    • Safety around dogs presentations for kids
    • etc. :)
  • If there isn't an event in your area, you can certainly host one by registering the event with the AKC HERE.
  • Sign the AKC Responsible Dog Owner Promise. You can go HERE to sign.

According to the AKC, last year more than 650 dog clubs and other organizations hosted events that reached millions of dog lovers and potential owners. That's a lot but it could certainly be more. There aren't any events in my area except the Des Moines Obedience and Training Club's show, which I don't think has anything special for Responsible Dog Ownership but it is a good place to go and talk to people about their breeds if you have questions.

I do hope you take advantage of whatever opportunities are in your area :). You can also check out the AKC's Facebook page and Twitter to see the latest posts regarding Responsible Dog Ownership Days.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Shedd Experience

This post has taken me a long time to write :), mostly because I don't even know where to start. The week at Shedd Aquarium covered so much that I probably have enough for a year's worth of posts! It's hard to figure out where to begin, what to cover, when to stop (because really I think I could go on forever, haha). So, with all that, I think I will start at the beginning, clever aren't I? :)

Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.
The premise of this seminar was the basic foundation of Operant Conditioning and how the science of it applies to animal learning no matter what species you are working with. I got to see a lot of that in action!! We watched multiple training sessions each day that worked with several different animals in multiple ways - dogs, whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, birds of prey, and lizards. The basic principles never changed, although sometimes the application did since obviously the animals are all very diverse :).

This is a video of Ken Rameriz working with one of the dolphins through the underwater viewing area's glass. The dolphin is receiving secondary reinforcers from Ken as feedback for performing cues correctly, and then he sends her to the surface to receive primary ones from another trainer in the actual dolphin enclosure.

Most of the training that Shedd Aquarium does is related to medical behaviors. It makes everyone's lives easier (animal, vet, and aquarist) if the animal willingly participates in medical procedures. Especially for the animal, as being restrained and forced into something is such a stressor and can have lasting negative impacts. This is something I walked away thinking about - what are some medical procedures my dogs can be trained to accept more easily? Obviously, nail trimming comes to mind because that is something that is performed often :).

Of course not everything they do is related to medical :). They have fun with their animals as well! A lot of the medical procedure cues are interspersed through the training sessions around fun cues that the animals like to perform. <hint, hint - think Premack Principle here!> Which brings me to something else I walked away thinking about - during their training sessions they go through many different behaviors even when teaching a new behavior. In reflection, at least from my perspective, in dog training when we want to teach a new behavior we mainly focus on that until we think they have it and then we start mingling other behaviors in. Which might increase the frustration and decrease the rate of learning. I am going to mull this one over and revamp some of my training sessions I think :).

Not everything was learning and work for us either, we broke up our 'training' (aka learning) sessions with moments of play as well :).

This is Tyler, a California Sea Lion, giving me a kiss :). We watched several training sessions with him and he was certainly one of my favorites. The other sea lion we worked with was Cruz, you can check out Cruz's story HERE.
Touching a stingray! These were much smaller than the ones
we swam with on our honeymoon but I was still excited :). 
Olivia, a Magellanic Penguin, visited our lecture room for a quick break.
She was quite cute and loved sitting in laps!
And of course the dogs. Who could forget the dogs?!? :) We got to watch all three dogs in training sessions, I must say I quite loved all three of them! They will be up for adoption in a few months, some lucky families will get some incredible dogs!! I might have to keep my eye out for Dory ;).

Bruce is quite a cutie, you can read about his background story HERE.
Dory is very smart and quite accomplished already.
You can check out her story and Coral's story HERE.
I didn't have any pictures of Coral, but I did find a video! Here is Coral during one of their emergency recall training sessions.

The most amazing experience of all was the Beluga Encounter. I have enough to write about that to fill up its own blog post so you'll just have to wait in suspense until next week :). But before I leave you, here is a short video of a Taegu Lizard targeting. Obviously, with the primary reinforcer being baby mice you can only get so many repetitions in while training in the classroom environment :).

Training is so fascinating. I'm pretty sure I am a training nerd, lol. But I have had great experiences and met some very, very, very knowledgeable people through my learning quest :). At the Shedd Aquarium Ken Rameriz is the Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Training and he was our 'trainer' for the week long seminar. I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak at a different seminar as well and he will be at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) conference this October so I look forward to seeing him again :).

Who are your favorite trainers to learn from?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013