Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hodge podge of successful moments

 This weekend was a hodge podge of little successes.  So many little lightbulb moments for us to celebrate :)

1-George continues to do a super awesome job being able stop himself from machine gun barking and throwing in a few lunges for ultimate drama when he sees another dog...hard to believe with a cute little face like that. After the attacks and off leash rushes, George became 'sensitized" to unknown dogs period. Whether they were stationary on the opposite side of the street, playing or ignoring us all together, by default all unknown dogs had become 'unsafe" in George's eyes.   We still have a ways to go before Car Crash games but we're getting there. The anxiety that pushed him over the edge, atleast is dissolving.
Even when he puffs up now, he can and does choose to work through the drama on his own.  I praise all the calming signals he offers up to deal with the stress and it gives him a job to do, other than barking and lunging, so we can just continue on our merry way.  His success is not dependent on me doling out treats...classical conditioning portion of our training for this part of our rehabilition "checked off" our list :) 

Now on to more functional rewards and operant conditioning, with a few treats every so often thrown in for a job well done :)  Whether or not the other dog is moving, looking at us or ignoring him...atleast he's been consistently choosing NOT to continue the rest of his schtick.

2-Working towards  CGN-Canine Good Neighbor with Keegan (I want to do it with Daizy too) has been a really good way to hone in on proofing polite social interactions.  Inappropriate ones too!!!  After being swarmed in class practicing the interaction heard was grueling.  Not kidding.  Rita, (Dogsmart trainer) is so very strict about standards, there's NOOOO way that anyone will pass unless we have proven ourselves.  No free titles given out there!  They test your relationship to the max, and if there was any indication that we needed help (after the exercise) we'd work on D & CC'n.  The extreme flagged our homework :)  They're fair but very strict on quality and proofing behaviours for worst case scenarios.
After class we took advantage of being in town and  proofed our walking on a busy street.  Me holding an iphone (across an intersection as well) with 4 dogs in tow.  No jumping up to greet people or being frightened by cars or buses or horns!!! Here's one intersection I video'd while walking, just to prove that we had our groove on.  I'm sure people thought we were nuts, or I was a dog walker.....

3-Sunday's long story short, lost dog was found just around happy hour.  We had spent the day hiking the trails around where he (Benny)was last seen.  Cat Lake.  Maren FOUND him!!!  I brought Daizy n Keegan to sniff Benny's dog bed in the morning  and played "find it" with the bed...which I will have to add to our "find it" games....only hiding dogs...just incase I ever have to say "find Daizy..." They are such keen'll be something fun to add to our out and about hikes. First round I took Daizy n Keegan and hiked with Christine and her shelties. Round two searching I was on my way with George n Taiki....Maren called to say she found Benny!  We hiked a bit then joined in to celebrate with Maren.  Cat lake is actually really pretty.  Daizy n Kee did a super awesome job sticking close by and walking beside me then waiting until I released them to go have some fun.  It was great to spend the day outdoors.
Trails around the lake

The lake and us

Returned later with George and Taiki

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Head Halters (Gentle Leader)

Interesting post on re: using head halters vs flat buckle collar from Susan Garrett.  I so agree with Susan, especially for puppies that are out of their minds excited about life (Daiz n Kee), and have a tough time trying to calm themselves and focus on one thing at a time.

I'm not a fan of leashing dogs up to collars, it's just not healthy to put all that pressure around their necks, and also...if you want to hear horror stories about what happens when someone uses a collar as a "training tool" or 'steering wheel" and it goes very wrong...I've got a few!  Well more than a few not so happy ending statistics.  I truly don't understand how people justify using a collar and leash as a "correction" tool when it can do so much harm, not only to the neck but also for the relationship.

My fav is a Gentle Leader, if we're talking head halters.  They are so beneficial, especially to help calm (acupressure points) or save one's back or arm from being pulled out of the socket when you're working with dogs who have impulse control issues.  Dogs can still play ball/ frisbee/explore... whatever...and are happy little campers.

I use them from time to time with both Daiz and Kee, depending on how my back feels, and if we're going into an exciting environment (ie..recently Keegan's insanity over squirrels).  One little excited jump ahead can have me flat on my back.

Only thing is the dog must LOVE (be conditioned to love) the halter and OWNER must not use it as a steering wheel...
Cant tell you also, how helpful they are when you're working with dogs who lunge at other dogs or people....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Finally pulled together a sneak peak of what we cover in dog classes. Just a little teaser to send out for those wondering what they've signed up for! We need to make another taking the skills out into real life, but I think this was a good start!
ps. I love the wagging tails, relaxed happy faces and Daizy's jumbo perky ears when I dumped the toys on the ground :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

George's new job

George's progress of recuperating from dog attacks, either they're off leash dogs rushing directly at us barking, lunging or George ending up in a dog's mouth... is going really really well!!!! 

My trick this time around was to put calming signals on cue when I notice him using them with our crew.  I watch George like a hawk during interactions,.any time George provides polite feedback to them,  tons of fun stuff happens, tons of sweet talk and even my body language supports his decision to hold out just a little while longer and they will get the message and leave you alone or stop doing what annoys you. 

This gives George a job to do when he begins to feel stressed or if he feels the need to "control" the situation...instead of acting tough...he sends out calming signals :)  We're working also on a combination of BAT, CC, D & C and what I call J.A.C.K :)

Here is one of the few calming signals I've put on cue.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tiny little box that makes a happy sound = $2.50

$2.50 9yrs ago...This past weekend was really interesting and the theme each day came back to the fine balance of raising criteria and fading clicker and use of food once a behaviour is established.  It's a process that needs to be repeated in each new environment until both you and your furry pal, know the drill with your eyes closed.  Even D & Cc issues or BAT you've got to be selective and increase criteria sub-threshold otherwise you'll feel like a pez dispenser and their behaviour either plateau's or gets worst.

I LOVE this blog post written by Dr. Ian Dunbar. reinforcement-schedules
Please read Dr. Ian Dunbar's reply to Lee Charles.. I think it is gold in summing up how to streamline the process.  "Hi there Charles. Ask Bob. However, I would imagine he means that "every time a dog meets criterion you would reward him." However, the criteria are progressively refined (tightened) as the dog's behavior improves. For example, if training a dog to pay attention,  first you would reward if the dog glances at you, then a look for one second, then two seconds, then three, five, eight, ten, fifteen, twenty and so on, until when the dog is cued he is expected to look at you for 30 seconds. So, when the dog looks at you, he is NOT rewarded every time. However, if he meets criteria, he IS rewarded every time. If the dog looks at you for less than 30 seconds he is not rewarded but if he looks at you for more than 30 seconds he is rewarded, i.e., we only reward above-average responses. Carefully and progressively refining criteria in clicker training is exactly the same principle as test-train-test and rewarding the dog on a differential reinforcement."

I learned with Daisy my brainiac 9yrs ago that I needed to make a conscious effort to increase criteria each interaction otherwise she gets frantic and starts offering all sorts of stuff up that has been rewarded in the past while working her self into a frenzy.  The other side of the coin is a dog (George...) will just shut down and offer nothing.

Being systematic and deliberate pays off. It's essential to ensure I don't create a routine that the dog becomes conditioned too. I find that once you do...if something "out of the routine" happens...then it causes an over reaction (or shut down) which is counter productive to what you are trying to achieve in the first place.

Back to the reason I started this blog post...clicker stuff!  Sunday I went to our Squamish Pause for Cause w/ Keegan and Daisy to support our local SPCA.

Here's a highlight from our soggy day...a trick competition. We were the last to show a couple tricks.

I did a quick talk on clicker training,  talk about how I use a ensure people hear me's used as a tool to capture a behaviour you'd like to see more often and put it as quickly as possible on handsignal or verbal cue (within 3 reps with Daisy), vary the rewards asap (play, environment, toys, sweet talk, cuddles), then fade the clicker and transfer the value for the behaviour to that cue word, add distractions and take the show on the road.

In my experience if you do not raise criteria asap and breakdown the behaviour so that it's a piece of cake for the dog to quickly grasp what the end behaviour is, you end up using a clicker as a crutch.

Just like the bad rap of using food has with some people... a clicker can become so exciting that it becomes a distraction and arouses the dog up to the point that they're no longer really concentrating on achieving the next step in the sequence of event you are trying to teach.

Friday, September 10, 2010

UNDER-I love thinking of ways to Globalize cues

When Keegan and Daisy play, Daisy often goes under's very cute.

Tonight I thought I'd see if she understood when I ASKED her to go UNDER Keegan..

You can see she was a little confused but she did figure it out with help from me using my hand as something to target. Kee was sooo very patient! I LOVE my GUYS..they're so much FUN! I'll have to refine this cue, but I'm so impressed that she actually understood!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Simple cues sure come in handy!

I came home late from work, too dark to play outside, so we had a little fun inside learning something new :)
I LOVE being able to help them out using cues they understand to chain behaviours together!

Less than 1min to boot for Daisy! I'll have to give it a try with Keegan and George too! I'll probably need to approach it differently with each of them. Just like us...some things come easy for some and others it takes a bit more creative thinking.