Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fly Ball!

This is Roxy being taught something brand new with the clicker today.  Notice how she runs around a bit in the start.  She is offering behaviors that have been clicked recently hoping to get clicked for them this time.  However, I just wait a bit for her to come back round, I repeat what I want her to do, then start clicking ever time she does what I want.  Notice this video is just over 5 minutes.  After this I took her outside to play ball.  Dogs do best and learn better in short bursts just like this.  Now she is sleeping because she is worn out!  Keep your sessions short, but do them often. I will do this again tomorrow as well.  If you dog gets really excited like Roxy 5 minutes is good, but if your dog takes a bit of time to warm up to things, then 10 minutes might be better. Watch your dog, and if you sense they are getting too frustratedT it may be time for a break on that subject.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Back to the basics....How to use the clicker

Today I thought I would go over how to start using the clicker.  If you are someone who has heard about them and thought, well that sounds good, but really how do I get started.  Well here you go:

First, pick up your choice of clicker.  My favorites are the "Star" clicker and the "Big button" clicker

Next pick your choice of treats, something easy to give out, and something they can eat very quickly (or if your dog is a toy nut, and not so hot on treat, use a favorite toy).  Make sure the treat has a strong smell factor for your dog, their sense of smell is akin to our sense of taste, the reason they "wolf" their food and treats down is because they don't taste as much as they enjoy the smell.  The treats I like to use the most are the Greenies Pill Pockets, the capsule size ones.  They come 30 to a bag, and just one can be broken up into 10-20 small bite size treats.  So really one bag has about 300 treats per bag!
They come in Chicken, Peanut butter, Beef, Hickory Smoke, and if your dog has allergies, they also come in Duck!

The third thing to do is bring your dog in a quiet room, or by yourself in the backyard. Call his name, when he looks at you, click the quickly offer a small bit of your chosen treat.  Wait till he is looking away again, call his name, and as soon as he looks at you, click and quickly treat.  Now in the beginning, you will need to treat fairly quickly, but after he has it down that the click means a treat is coming you will easily have 30 seconds to get the treat to him (which is quite a bit of time).  Do this 5-6 times until your dog is looking at you pretty quick when you call his name.  If they look like they are waiting for the treat as soon as you have clicked you have your foundation laid!

Here is a clip of Roxy and I to help show you what I mean. Or just watch it below...


Video 1

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The visual guide "Speak" and "Quiet"

In case you are more of a visual learning like I am, this will take you through the steps I talked about in the last post


Sunday, January 20, 2013

No more barking Please!

Ok I started this as a response to a request on the facebook page, and it quickly became rather lengthy  so I decided to turn it into a blog post instead. Enjoy!

Barking is one of the top reasons people get upset with their dog.  There are several reasons why dogs bark. (by the way do you know that adult wolves don't bark, only the pups do, one more way we know that dogs are like big wolf pups as far as maturity goes) One reason is they are bored, what do we all do when we  are bored? We tend to find something to fill in the time with, such as surfing the Internet, eating, or some other mindless hobby. Dogs don't really have hobbies, so when they get bored, they tend to get into trouble.  Sometimes a dog finds that it becomes self rewarding to hear itself bark, because it gets a reaction out of something around it, or it just likes the sound of it's bark, sometimes we never really know.  Other times dogs teach (or reinforce) themselves to bark at people walking by the fence (which is part of fence aggression) or at other dogs or animals running around because it makes them feel like they have a job.  Bark at the people and they go away, bark at the dog and it leaves.  Other reasons dogs bark is because they are anxious, and unlike people they are unable to calm themselves down.  Dogs live in the present (which we would do better to emulate a lot of the time) and that means that they can't simply think, "mom just left, but she will be back in just a bit", or "oh no, there is that scary looking such and such again, but everything will be ok". Living in the moment means if they are scared of something or if you leaving makes them nervous, they are thinking something more like "mom is leaving, she is going to walk out that door, will I ever see her again!" or "there is that scary dog, oh he is so scary, what I am going to do, is he going to eat me today..." and so on.  They don't think about yesterday when you came home after only being gone an hour, or how  you always come home after an 8 hour work day.  They can't tell themselves that the dog across the street won't hurt them, they are just to immature in their thinking to do that.  So what does all that mean, and how does that help you get your dog to stop barking as much?

 Well first of all the more exercise you give your dog the less energy they will have to be anxious. (I know that very well from experience) and thus not feel the need to bark as much.

Second, try teaching your dog something new for 5 minutes every day (it can be the same new thing all week if needed) and that can include when it's ok to bark and when it's not.(by the way did you know that learning something new is like going for a short walk as far as using up some of your dog's energy) Better yet do both, a walk and teach them something new.  For example, someone knocks on your door, in my house, it's ok for Roxy to bark and let me know someone has knocked (I don't always hear it) however she is to stop as soon as I tell her enough.  When your dog can bark on command it is self reinforcing and barking when you have not told it to becomes an unrewarded command that they will quickly fall out of habit of doing. (if you were given a piece of chocolate every time you dug a hole in the lawn for a month, then suddenly stopped getting any after that would still want to go to the bother of digging holes anymore if you suddenly stopped getting rewarded for it?)

Teaching your dog to bark on cue goes something like this: Grab a clicker,

and a bag of treats,

(these are my favorites to use, I have had very few dogs ever turn their noses up at them)

then find a way to get your dog to bark. (a few posts ago I put a couple of links to sites that have recordings of doorbells ringing, or people knocking on doors and here is one of them http://www.sounddogs.com/results.asp?Type=1&CategoryID=1021&SubcategoryID=56)  
When your dog barks, click and treat.  At first your dog will be quite bewildered that they are getting clicked for barking, but they will start to catch on pretty quick.  Then you start giving the command "speak" or "bark" and then only click them for barking after you have given that command. (you can keep the stimulus going for the first little bit, i.e. whatever you are using to make them bark) Then slowly fade the barking stimulus out by using it only every other time and if they are waiting for  your cue, the drop it to every 4 or 5 times, till you feel like you can drop it all together and only give the "Speak" cue.  Now over the next few days (or weeks) make sure you are using that either when you want them to bark (like when someone knocks at the door) or just as something fun that you can do (when your have someone over and you want to show them how smart your dog is), or just randomly throughout the day.  Now your dog will expect some sort of reward (for those unfamiliar with how the clicker works, it is a reward in and of itself, as well as the treat that follows) whenever it barks, if it does not get the reward, it will feel gypped and therefore will stop barking randomly.  Unless you have taught your dog to bark at a specific cue (such as the doorbell ringing) I would make sure your dog gets rewarded (not always with a treat or the clicker) whenever you ask him to "Speak" that way it continues to reinforce the fact that barking is something to do on cue. (some of the best rewards for your dog is your once they have learned something is your excited praise, a belly rub, or a short play session, as well as a treat every once in a while)

Third, if your dog is barking at a window or a fence as people and other dogs go by it is most likely getting aroused with no other way of blowing off the steam. Therefore (and this will take time and energy on your part) I would grab your clicker and a couple bags of Greenies Pill Pockets (a low calorie, healthy, easy to break into small pieces, and eat treat) and when your dog sees someone at the window and they start to bark call his name, when he looks at you click and treat. Say the work "Quiet" or "Enough", and if he stays quiet click and treat again. The same method can be used when someone is at the door, or when the mailman comes, etc. For this one to work the best your dog will need to be trained to first look at you whenever you call his name (that is one of the reasons that is the first thing I teach in my classes).  The way to do that is simply clicking when your dog looks at you when you call his name, that does two things, first, if your dog has never worked with a clicker before that will teach him what the clicker means, a treat is coming, second it will teach your dog that looking at you when his name is called is always a really good thing (and this comes in handy more times than you can shake a stick at!)  So now that you know your dog will look at you when his name is called you can move on to asking for it either right after the first bark or two or just before (if you can get it set up, like if he tends to always bark at the mail man, sit by then window before the mail man shows up and call your dogs name and tell him quiet and click for the him being good before he has a chance to bark at the mailman).

The fourth way you can help your dog remain calm and not bark as much comes in a couple different ways, first there is a product on the market called D.A.P. (that stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone).  It is the same pheromone that his mother excreted while nursing her puppies, so it gives them that happy good feeling. Or you could get some therapeutic grade lavender oils and rub them into his ear, paw or chest, or diffuse it into the air. (I do happen to also sell some if you are interested  and it does help). Being therapeutic grade means that the oil is tested to make sure there are no harmful chemicals that are trapped in the oils that would then be transferred to your dog.

So for a recap:
1. Wear your dog out as much as you can throughout the day
2. Put that bark on command
3. Teach the cue "Quiet" or "Enough" to signal when to stop barking
4. Use Pheromones or relaxing therapeutic oils to help calm you furry friend

So there you have it the best ways I know of to get your dog to not be quiet as vocal as he has been in the past and keep everyone's lives in "harmony"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What is a good recall?

Today's article comes from:

(and to read more great articles look here as well!)

Safe Off Leash?

Last weekend Jim, Willie, Tootsie and I stayed in a lovely log cabin owned by friends in the woods in eastern Wisconsin. I mention that because for the first time in her nine years of life, Tootsie got to run off leash in an unfenced area off the farm. Wooo Hooo! Some people might not understand what a huge step that was for a little puppy mill dog, but I’m guessing that many of you get it completely. I was over the moon with happiness that I could unsnap the lead, and trust that she would stop when told, come when called, and as importantly, get to sniff and explore with more freedom than she’s ever had in her nine years of life.
The decision I made got me thinking about the issue in general: When IS it safe to let a dog off leash? What do you need to know to evaluate the risk and decide whether to take it? I thought it might be an interesting exercise to list some of my criteria and decision points in regards to Tootsie, and to hear your thoughts and experiences in addition.
I should probably mention here that it is my belief that one of the things dogs want more than anything in the world is acertain amount of autonomy. Some dogs have a ton of it, others almost none, but surely every dog wants to be able to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it at least some of the time. Being off leash fulfills that to a great extent, but it also puts dogs at the potential of risk. So how does one decide when to unsnap the lead? Here are at least some of the things that need to be considered:
CONTROL: It is something of an irony that the more control we have over our dogs, the more freedom we can give them. Never is that more true when asking if a dog can be safe off leash, and it was the question I asked myself late Friday night when I decided it was 99.999% a sure thing that once off leash and out of the car, Tootsie would sniff around, relieve herself and then immediately come when I called. But how does one know if a dog will come when called in any context?  Ah, you don’t, not 100%, but here’s what I think you need to get to 99.9999%:
STOP ON A DIME: People often assume that all one needs to manage an off leash dog is a good recall, but I’m a big proponent of first teaching a dog to stop on cue. Asking a dog to stop on a dime might be critical for the dog’s safety, and if you think about it, that’s a very different exercise than asking a dog to come back to you. I can’t count the number of times I asked Willie to stop and stand still (I use “Stand,” a cue common in sheep herding that asks a dog to do exactly that: don’t lie down, but stop moving). Perhaps he was starting to sniff beside a partially frozen stream, or I wanted him to wait for me to catch up before he went around a corner on a trail we were walking.
Besides being a handy cue, I’ve learned it is much more effective to ask a dog to stop first before calling him to come back to you, especially if he is moving fast in another direction. Think about it: If a dog is running away from you, in order to back to you she has to 1) stop, 2) turn around and 3) come back to you. That’s three things, right? I’ve found it far more effective, especially with dogs who love to run, to teach them first to stop on cue before asking them to do a recall. It’s not all that hard to do: Just let your dog get a step or two ahead of you and say “Whoa!” or “Stand” and then reinforce with something ridiculously wonderful. Gradually use the cue when the dog is either 1) farther away from you and 2) moving faster. Try to keep those 2 components separate as much as you can, and gradually build up to asking the dog to stop while tearing off in another direction. Manage this carefully though and set your dog up to win: don’t yell “Whoa” when  your beagle is disappearing into the woods after a rabbit if you haven’t gotten full compliance at a much easier level. However, a good stop is not enough…. you also need:
A RIDICULOUSLY GOOD RECALL: Coming when called when there’s no environmental competition simply doesn’t count as a “good enough recall”. One of the reasons I decided to let Tootsie off leash in the woods last weekend is because we have spent several months working on her coming when called while running away from me at a dead run toward something she really, really wanted. I’ve worked on her recall ever since I got her a year and a half ago (if you missed those blogs, she had been a puppy mill brood bitch for 7 years). It took me months to let her off leash at the farm, and then only in specific contexts in which I felt her behavior was completely predictable. But it’s one thing to have a dog come when called in a predictable and consistent context. It’s an entirely different matter to be able to get a dog to come to you when it is already dashing away toward something it wants.
I was lucky here, because the farm provided the perfect set up. First, I have several fenced areas where I could safely let Tootsie off leash and work on her recall. The area around the house and barn is not fenced however, and has a road that runs by about 75 yards from the house, so I was much more cautious about letting her off leash there. In that context I first worked on teaching Tootsie to heel beside me as we walked from the house to the barn. She adores food, and so it didn’t take long to get a reliable response. Then I began asking her to stop or recall when I released her from the heel. I knew she would run straight to the barn, so I had no worries about her safety. I had her favorite food (chicken) in my pocket and asked her to stop the first time when she had just barely left my side. Gradually I began to give the cue when she was farther and farther away from me. Once I could get to her turn on a dime and run back to me even when twenty yards away I began to test it in other contexts. And sure enough, she flipped her little body in mid-air and came running.
CONTEXT: Location, Location, Location. Realtors aren’t the only ones who emphasize the importance of location. There are simply many places I would never let Tootsie off leash. Here’s an example: we went recently to visit a friend who lives in a suburb, with a small lawn between the house and the road. I asked her to potty before we went inside, and never would have considered letting her off leash in that context. Why? Because first, we were just too close to a road for comfort, she could have gotten into the road before I could blurt out a cue. Second, what would be the point? The cost/benefit balance was skewed far to the negative: the risk in no way was worth the pay off. At the cabin however, the closest road was a good 600 yards away,  and the payoff was huge. She got to be a dog off the farm for the first time in her little life, and although I’m sure some people would argue one should never take any risk at all, I’m not one of them. The only 100% guarantee of safety for Tootsie was to live in a cage, and she’d already done that for seven years. Enough is enough.
WHO’S YOUR DOG? If asked to name three things we all needed to consider before letting our dogs off leash, I’d say knowing each dog as a personality is the third. Tootsie spent 7 years in a cage, and didn’t know that the noises people made were meaningful for most of her life. She’s come incredibly far, but she’s still a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that I got at age 7 who had never been trained to do anything for most of her life. Willie, on the other hand, came with recall software pre-installed. I could just about take him anywhere and let him off leash, although I still don’t take chances, because, really, what’s the point?
NEVER DONE: One last point: Don’t ever stop “training your dog to come.” I still often reinforce Willie for coming when called, sometimes with voice, sometimes with the toss of a toy or letting him chase me as I run away from him.  And I’ll never stop watching Tootsie like a hawk if she is off leash, and reminding her how very, very fun it is to come when called.
Here’s the little girl now, rounding the corner of the barn when I called her back to me from a dead sprint. She looks so serious, doesn’t she? But damn, she sure comes running!
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: A bit of a sad day. We’ve had a doe fawn living in the Orchard Pasture all spring and summer. Something was terribly wrong with her, she clearly wasn’t able to cope with living on her own. She would run smack into the fences at a dead run and was never able to jump them like all the other deer. She did well over the summer when there was a lot of food, but because she stayed in a very small area there was no way she was going to make it through the winter. There was also the concern about coyotes; eventually they would have found her and killed her. And so I contacted a DNR warden who came out, agreed that she was probably blind, and that she would slowly starve over the winter. Deer can’t be captured and re-located (they die of stress, it is horrifically cruel to try to capture and relocate them), and it was inevitable that the coyotes would find and kill her. The warden agreed that she should be put down, and did so humanely with one perfect shot. I know it was the right thing to do, and I know that deer are as common out here as beetles, but oh lordy they are lovely animals, and I’m feeling a big of sadness that such a beautiful thing didn’t make it.
Here she was yesterday:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The evils of the Vacuum!

First of all I quite like my vacuum, thank you very much. For some strange reason Roxy does not.  Even my cats are ok with it, Roxy seems to think it is constantly growling and seeking her toys. (note she is not possessive about things normally).  However, turn that darn vacuum on when she is in the same room and she thinks it her job to forcefully remove it from the premises!

She gets worked up very quickly when it is turned on.  Even when it is off she will follow it suspiciously, waiting for it to "growl" and give her licence to use force to remove it.  Now before the move (and the huge amount of stress that it added to her little life) I could just give the "Leave it" command and she would back off and just keep a wary eye on it. However yesterday when I turned it on she would "leave it" for 15 seconds, then she would dive right back in (as if it was the reason behind her stress issues).  So here is what I did (and will continue doing over the next week or so): 

The first thing I did was start using the vacuum without turning it on (I needed to know if it was the sound or just the motion that would trigger her need to attack it).  Turns out now it is just the motion of the vacuum. So I started clicking her for not going after it.  She could run around it and look concerned, but if she didn't attack it she got the click. 

(hope you enjoy Genesis, and let me tell you how hard it is to click, film, and run the vacuum!)

Now in this next clip I turned the vacuum on to see how much the previous clicking had helped. Watch her face as she still is concerned about the "monster" in the front room, but quickly changes into, oh boy I am getting clicks, watch mom, more clicks.  Then one of the cats walks into the room (off camera) and she is then more interested in the cat than she is in the vacuum. She will still need some more work (obviously) but, that is a very good start.  Now the consistency part can go to work.  Every time I bring out the vacuum, all I need to do is click her for watching me instead of the vacuum and, just like with the doorbell, she will become desensitized to the vacuum too!
Oh and by the way after working with her so much yesterday she was quite worn out!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The door bell blues no more!

Does your dog go crazy every time the doorbell rings, or someone knocks at the door? Do your sleeping babies get woken up or you feel like your dog turns into Jekyll and Hyde?  If you are like me I don't mind a couple of barks (I used to call Roxy my long distance doorbell because she would let me know someone was either coming to the house or if my doorbell didn't work, that someone was at the house) however I don't like it when dogs get all worked up and won't calm down, and if my kids get woken up because my dog was barking at the door, I am in a really bad mood before I even open the door to see who it is.  So how do you get your dog to either stop barking when you ask, or only bark once to alert you, you ask?  Most of the time I have told people to ask a neighbor to come knock at your door, or do some sort of set up, but it takes time, and sometimes the most convenient time for you is not so convenient for others. So here is what you do...

Here is a link to a website that gives you sound bites of different knocks on different types of doors:


and here is one that has the same thing for doorbells:


You might have to scroll through some of them until you find the one(s) that set your dog off, but then you simply play and replay the knock or bell and click when your dog does what you want.  That way if you have 10 minutes while you are waiting for something, pull it up and do a little training with your dog.

If you want your dog to not bark at all when someone is at the door it is best to desensitize your dog to the sounds above.  Simply click when the doorbell is rung, or the knock has played. Do this for even 2 minutes and most dogs will begin to equate the doorbell with the click.  Most of the time your dog barks is because they are anxious when they hear the sound.  It means someone they don't know is coming to the house, possibly inside, and that makes them slightly apprehensive, or on the other hand, if your dog is overly excited when he doorbell rings, you will want to click when your dog is sitting nicely and not barking. (A yellow lab comes to mind, but there are plenty of others who might fall in this category as well)

If your dog falls into the "other hand" category, here is what you need to do.  Before you start playing your sounds start off your session by asking for the basics (and click and treat for them even if you don't normally, this will tell your dog hey I am willing to pay even for small things today) It will make you dog pay closer attention to you.  So ask for a sit/stay, maybe a small trick or two, then make sure your dog is paying close attention to you by moving just out of his line of vision and calling his name, if he looks or comes to you click and treat.  Now you are ready to start playing  your sounds.  Play it once, if Fido starts barking or jumps up and runs to the door, calmly ask for him to sit, or come and sit (don't click until he is doing what you asked).  Once he is calmer and sitting you can click and treat.  Repeat as often as you need until he understands when the doorbell rings or someone knocks it pays to stay calm. (then you also need to give him plenty of praise when he is doing it right after that, most of the time just a "good boy/girl is good enough)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sit Spot Click comes to Portland!

Hello Portland! We made it! Sit Spot Click is now in the Portland area! Can't wait to help you and your furry friends!