The Evidence for Positive Reinforcement Training In Dogs

by Pippa Mattinson, author of Happy Puppy Handbook, Total Recall and The Labrador Handbook.

3255835495_1c6b6a5c7b_oOver the last few decades there has been a huge swing towards less punitive methods of dog training. Watching a modern trainer in action is a very different experience from watching old school traditionalists. Gone are the barked commands, the emphasis on ‘respect’ or ‘dominance’ and even intimidation. In many cases the use of punishment has been entirely replaced by the use of food and games.

Is the move to positive dog training a good thing?

But hang on a moment. Aren’t we being swept along in the latest ‘fad’ or ‘craze’. Isn’t this just a passing fashion?  How are we going to control our dogs when we run out of treats? And what if we don’t want to wave food around or to ‘beg’ or ‘plead’ with our dogs to come when we call them?

In fact, let’s lay it on the line. Do these new fangled methods of dog training even work?

Read on at The Happy Puppy Site …

You Know You’re a “DogMom” When

Lisa Lanser Rose

you’re between the ages of 15 and 85 and feel you’re in your prime dog-rearing years. you think soccermoms and helicopter parents who put their children first are slackers. you’re…

Source: You Know You’re a “DogMom” When

View original post

7 Reasons I Love Dog Tricks

The Gloria Sirens

Maisie, Mick, and Lisa--Click to visit our Youtube Channel, Mick's Tricks! Maisie, Mick, and Lisa–Click to visit our Youtube Channel, Mick’s Tricks! If you like it, please subscribe!

From what I hear, it isn’t enough for a writer to sit around writing alone. You have to force yourself to become an extrovert and network and platform and find ways to reclaim your introverted self in a snap and write in the cobwebby corners of your now extra-hectic life. If you’re like me, and find all that self-promotion queasy and sleazy, you find ways to promote not yourself but other people and passions you share. So I’ve been busy working behind the scenes on The Gloria Sirens, plugging away on Mick’s book, and letting Mick take me out in the world. He’s three now, going on four, and helping me teach tricks at the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club. With Mick and Maisie’s help, (they are working dogs, you know), I’ve…

View original post 624 more words

Foster Dogs, Happy Places, and Crates of Our Making

As I work with more dogs, I only become more convinced that, as hokey as it is, dogs are people too, and also, (although it’ll raise hackles), people have dog in them too.

Baxter his first minutes exiting my car.

Baxter his first minutes exiting my car, all sunshine.

Case in point, this year-old foster dog, a Border Collie mix called Baxter. Baxter arrived after several days of travel, long hours in a crate, strange places, people, sounds. His medical records said he arrived at the shelter aggressive and severely emaciated. Most dogs I get after ordeals are withdrawn and hyper-vigilant. Traumatized. They’re refugees from unspoken wars. Until they can trust that they’re safe now, they conceal themselves physically and emotionally. They study my family closely, treading cautiously on the web of our densely-woven household culture. Depending on the severity of their stress levels, which vary not just according to history but toward temperament, it can take days before they relax enough to show me who they really are. It reminds me of children new to a playground, adults new a workplace, a lover new to a family. It shows emotional and social smarts to suss the situation.

Spiffy: "Want to get out of here? I'd like to show you my gray tie collection."

Spiffy: “Want to get out of here? I’d like to show you my gray tie collection.”

Baxter, however, is blessed with such resilience and irrepressible good humor, he leapt from my car into my household with a bounce and a grin. He blew into my dog pack like a young braggart, clapping everyone on the back, telling jarring jokes, and pinching Maisie’s backside with a wink. I thought he was wonderful–who wouldn’t love such big happy eyes and that roguish tail, carried high and always to one side?

My dogs, that’s who. As usual, Mick performed the circle-butt-sniff, wagged, and went back to his deep and serious work of Frisbee retrieval, which immediately rendered Baxter invisible to him. As usual, Spiffy fell madly in love for about a day, until he was convinced the newcomer was not going to be the next Anastasia Steele to his Christian Grey. As for Maisie, her hackles went stegosaurus-high.

Maisie wasn't getting a good vibe from this guy.

Maisie wasn’t getting a good vibe from this guy.

Baxter was cheerful, friendly, playful, and polite, but all three of our dogs went cold. They allowed him to enter their ranks as an equal, and they tolerated him, but there was no nose-bumping, head-ducking, tail-wagging, no play bows. I figured it would come. Baxter didn’t mind–he was joyfully oblivious to the chill, and I envied him. I can feel rejected in the most welcoming atmospheres. I come equipped with a factory-installed outcast setting. Not only had Baxter come happily through hardship that traumatizes most, when he rolled over, I saw he was also recovering from a recent neuter. It’s not that he’s stupid. He’s a quick study, as you can see in the training video below. Unlike most characters I know, human and otherwise, Baxter has an unshakable faith in himself, bright as sunshine, untouched by the cloud of anyone else’s frown.

That evening, while we watched television, Maisie didn’t join Mick in the nightly tennis ball marathon. She curled up on the couch between Alby and me. We looked at each other and wondered. The next morning, while we ate breakfast, Maisie didn’t join Mick in the daily dock diving practice. She curled up under the table. We’d never seen her like this, and I began to worry she was ill. Ignoring her body language, Baxter tried to climb on her, I scolded him, he backed off, and Maisie brightened. She felt protected, and by backing off, Baxter gained a little of her trust. Later that morning, I took Maisie and Baxter into the back yard and threw the ball. She retrieved happily, and soon she and Baxter were wrestling. This video was taken that same day:

I’ll never really know what was going through Maisie’s mind the first hours of Baxter’s presence here, other than sexual tension. Perhaps he still smelled of testosterone. Perhaps that hormone is partly responsible for his brio, and it’ll soon subside. Despite his good manners and good sense, perhaps his confidence comes off to his peers as obnoxious. Maybe they just don’t really like him, the same way I sometimes just don’t like someone, even when I want to, even when I have no idea why, and keep trying, and keep trying. Sometimes it’s something superficial and unchangeable, like a grating voice, and other times it’s something beneath my reason, a warning from my gut I should know better than to ignore.

P1170539

Baxter has his awkward moments, his sensitivities.

Baxter isn’t without neediness. Although he’s 13 months old, he knows nothing. Not one command. He’s essentially without language. It’s not that he doesn’t know our household protocol, he doesn’t know any household protocol, which is okay; it’s common in fosters. The difference is that his particular combination of ignorance and heedlessness unnerves my Border Collies, who are so very sensitive, sophisticated, and proper, easily anguished by someone else’s blithe blunders, especially in one who lacks the puppy excuse. Other dogs come who know nothing, but this one doesn’t seem to care.

But he does care. He’s so merrily assertive, it’s easy to forget he was recently starving to death. He craves constant interaction. Naturally stoic, he doesn’t show his anxieties except when I want to toss him in a crate or leave him outside to romp with my dogs a little while. Separation anxiety runs deep in him. Left outside, even in the calm, sane, and agreeable company of my dogs, Baxter wails as if reliving the Tet Offensive. Indoors in a crate, however, he trusts I’ll return. He still doesn’t like it. He resists. He has to be grabbed and wrestled into the crate, and that’s no way to live.

I launched a training campaign to help him: “Make Your Crate a Happy Place.” The techniques involve simple recoding of the crate. Instead of solitary confinement, it’s a cozy, private place to enjoy treats and alone time. Helping him learn to accept his crate time reminds me of the years I had a long and hateful commute. I couldn’t live shut up in the car for hours every day like that, but I had to. Then I discovered I could borrow books on tape at the library. Soon I treasured my hours sipping coffee and rolling in the pre-dawn dark listening to tales well told. When I arrived, I lingered in parking lots and driveways until not the journey but the paragraph came to an end.

Maybe there’s a place your dog resents and resists, like the bathtub or the car, and this video can help. If there’s a place you hate but have to go, (e.g. a committee meeting, the laundromat, your own home), maybe watching how Baxter’s learning to love his crate, you’ll see a way to toss yourself “treats” and ease your hours. What it really involves is a little planning, a little prevention, and a tweak in attitude. Doesn’t matter if you’re a dog. Sometimes taking the edge off a place can give you the mental space to figure your way out of it altogether. Once he learns how to be a house dog, Baxter won’t need the crate so much anymore. And I found a way to move closer to my job so I didn’t have to commute anymore. I do, however, miss those books on tape.

If you like this post, please follow Lisa Lanser Rose and The Border Collie Inquisitor. If you like the videos, please follow the Youtube Channel, Mick’s Tricks. It’s the little things that make us big. Thank you!

A Jealous Dog is a Teachable Dog (don’t do this to your mate)

The Gloria Sirens

So I quit my plum of a high school teaching post (I job I loved with people I love) to spend more time writing. Although my bank account is dwindling, my commitment to unpaid work is mounting. For example, I’m fostering dogs and volunteering, among other things, to train dogs and dog people. Along the way, I’m earning, if not dollars, some cool insights. For one thing, I realized I’m not comfortable being “kept.” I feel like a very expensive house cat. I’ve also learned it’s possible to spend a week wearing the same pajama pants. And the other day, I realized just how jealousy can motivate learning in dogs. I even have a video to prove it. It’s cute as all get-out and makes you wonder how much humans behavior is motivated by the desire for the attention someone else is getting. Is that what drove Jersey Shore? Is that why there’s Trump?

After watching, scroll down for…

View original post 339 more words

Every Trick is Magic–A Chance to Work With Mick and Lisa

Maisie, Mick, and Lisa--Click to visit our Youtube Channel, Mick's Tricks!

Maisie, Mick, and Lisa–Click to visit our Youtube Channel, Mick’s Tricks!

From what I hear, it isn’t enough for a writer to sit around writing alone. You have to force yourself to become an extrovert and network and platform and find ways to reclaim your introverted self in a snap and write in the cobwebby corners of your now extra-hectic life. If you’re like me, and find all that self-promotion queasy and sleazy, you find ways to promote not yourself but other people and passions you share. So I’ve been busy working behind the scenes on The Gloria Sirens, plugging away on Mick’s book, and letting Mick take me out in the world. He’s three now, going on four, and doing well. He’s a big brother to Maisie now, and he’s herding sheep, working his way through agility, counseling foster dogs, and helping me teach tricks at the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club. With Mick and Maisie’s help, (they are working dogs, you know), I’ve braved the Youtube world, stumbling my way through videotaped tricks training lessons without knowing a thing about framing, lighting, editing, or sound. But it’s going all right (even though all of this is more and more unpaid work, such is the madness of love). I’m doing it because Mick’s tricks saved Mick’s life and I want to share what we learned so that your love for your dog might grow a little more fierce, a little more sweet, and a little sillier too. And we aren’t alone.

Trick Dogs are Cool

Trick Dogs are Cool

Trick training is an easy, convenient way to interact with your dog anywhere, anytime, and all you need are some treats and some know-how. Perhaps your dog is easily bored, or seems a little depressed, or distant. Maybe your dog’s been naughty, or you’ve grown discontent with your relationship for some reason–too much toilet-paper shredding, chronic weave-pole refusal, or a pathological Minecraft addiction (yours or your dog’s).

Maybe you’ve got a service dog and a few tricks would add so much charm. Imagine if your dog could shake a dialysis patient’s hand, give a child with leukemia a high-five, or even pray with patients?! Maybe you have an awesome agility or obedience dog but you’re both getting bored, or strained, or you want something you two can do in the living room without breaking a lamp.

Maybe you have multiple dogs and one’s been neglected. Maybe it’s your new puppy. Maybe it’s your retired agility or herding star, and you’re weary of feeling harried and sad. Well, if you can, shut the other dogs away for a few minutes right now. This is quality time to cherish your friend.

You can earn Tricks titles too. Click and Join us for Free.

You can earn Tricks titles too. Click and Join us for Free.

Get down on the ground and join us for some sweet interaction with your best friend. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned dog trainer, learning some charming tricks together can deepen your bond and soften your soul.

Or even give you some great new ideas and a belly laugh.

All it takes is two- to ten-minute sessions, your call. If you’re worried about overfeeding, you can use your dog’s regular food. If you hate how expensive dog treats have gotten, you can cut up some hotdogs or cheese or even use plain popcorn–stop making excuses and be creative! If your dog isn’t food-motivated, get a new squeak or tug toy and use it just for Tricks training–a special toy for a special time. And you don’t have to go it alone. You can work along with me on the Youtube channel or with other beginners in our Facebook group, Mick’s Tricks Spark Team.

One at a time, please!

One at a time, please!

The point is to share a goal with your dog. You two are in cahoots. Together you’re gonna nail roll over. Or you’re finally going to have a dog that can sit up and beg because it’s so darn cute and makes for great photos. Whatever your heart’s desire, this is one-on-one time. Eye-to-eye, here-and-now time. Low-pressure, high-value happiness time. It’s mindful moments you share with your best friend. It proves to the both of you that you are there–really there–for your dog. It doesn’t matter what the trick is or how quickly your dog learns it. All that matters is joy in your short time together.

That’s why every trick is magic.

Cracking up with Mick and Maisie

Cracking up with Mick and Maisie

Our little Expedition is on the Daily Camera

Cold Latitudes

Science correspondent for the Daily Camera Charlie Brennan nicely captures and frames the approach to our science expedition and the motivations that propel it in Saturday morning’s top story.

As we were talking with Charlie, it hit me how much of a Boulder endeavor this is – from ASD Inc. contributing the spectroradiometer, to Boulder Mountain Repair fabricating our bespoke sled covers, to Epicenter Creative designing the mission patch, to Destination Epic donating our polar tent and managing our nutrition, to local heroes Eric LarsenAndrew Skurka, and Gary Neptune – and the terrific store he founded – sharing their wisdom; and many others giving us inspiration and encouragement. Our little town casts a shadow much bigger than we are.

Preparations continue at a frantic pace. Tomorrow, Dr. Horodyskyj, our Principal Investigator and founder of Science in the Wild, will be finalizing sampling procedures with the spectroradiometer…

View original post 11 more words