Thursday, August 14, 2014

Classical Conditioning. Part IV. Order, Intensity, Value

If pet parents have been working on a program of desensitization and
counter conditioning and their pet doesn't seem to be getting any better,
it might be time to review order, intensity, value

The scary thing has to happen first, then the food (or other reward).
Nail trim example
If you show the dog the peanut butter or smear peanut butter on the fridge
and have your dog lick as you trim, the reward (peanut butter) is coming
before the scary thing (nail trim). The dog might learn to hate peanut
butter because peanut butter predicts nail trims.

Instead we need to clip a nail, then give a treat.

Even if we get the order perfect, if the scary thing is much too scary, we
might not get anywhere.
Nail trim example
For some dogs, we might be able to clip a nail, then give a treat.
But for many dogs (especially the shy ones), we might have to break down
nail trimming into tiny pieces.
First we reward reaching towards the dog, then we reward a quick touch on
the dog's arm, then a quick touch on the paw. Then we reward the dog for
looking at the clippers. Then we reward the dog for allowing us to touch
his body with the clippers. Then we reward the dog for allowing us to touch
his foot with the clippers and so on.
See Suzanne Clothier's video
<>on "Safety", starting at
2:29 <>

Some dogs will be happy with a piece of kibble as a reward. But for many
dogs, the reward needs to be really great. And the counter conditioning
will work much better if the reward is something that the dog doesn't get
all the time.

For more on desensitization and counter conditioning. See Kathy Sdao's
"Does The Name Pavlov Ring a Bell"
Can be purchased at
Dogwise <> or Karen Pryor
Clicker Training <> and
or other places.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Loose Leash Walking. Part 4. Proofing

In our last post on Loose Leash Walking, we talked about starting indoors with no equipment.  In other words, we set our dogs up for success by proofing the behavior we want.

So we start in the most boring room in the house, move to the next most boring room, then a more exciting room then the back yard (if you have one) then the driveway (if you have one). When you are ready for the sidewalk, try it first at 5:00 AM or whenever there’s nothing exciting out and slowly work your way up.

I followed the above steps with Puddin. But as soon as we left our driveway, she would get too stimulated by the environment.  Going from the driveway to the sidewalk was too big of a leap for her. I needed a places that was more exciting than my driveway but less exciting than the sidewalk.

I finally found that a large empty parking lot was the missing link that we needed. So I got the behavior I wanted the house, then the yard, then an empty parking lot, then went back to the sidewalk, and she was much better.

I videoed our second visit to the missing like parking lot:

Once we went back to the sidewalk, we had to keep our walks super short in the beginning – no more than 5 minutes. Then slowly increase the time. If we stayed out too long, she would get over stimulated and start pulling.

See more on Loose Leash Walking here
And here 

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

When one dog gets upset about another dog's procedure

When you have to do something "scary" to one dog, does another dog get upset?

The are probably four ways to handle this.

1. Avoidance

A. Ask your vet if the procedure is really necessary. i.e. does your dog actually need a bath?

B. friend or family member can take the non procedure dog for a walk while the other dog gets a bath or nail trim or ear cleaning, etc..

C. Dogs can be put in separate rooms while the procedures is accomplished

2. Make the process less scary for the procedure dog so the non procedure dog will be less upset. So instead of holding down the dog to do nail trims, use counter conditioning to make nail trims less scary.

3. Counter condition the non procedure dog. i.e grind one nail, treat the procedure dog, then treat the non procedure dog.  Eventually, the non procedure dog will be less concerned (if the process includes desensitization and is done correctly)

4. After counter conditioning, teach the non procedure dog an alternative behavior i.e. "relax on a mat"

See more details in the below video

Tell us about your experiences in the comments below

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rewards in Dog Training. Food Alternatives

Food is normally a great motivator and often useful when teaching new behaviors - because we need to perform multiple repetitions.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saving Money On Dog Treats

Caution: Check with our vet before trying anything listed below

Dog Treats are just like anything else. Homemade is cheaper.  

Rewards in Dog Training. Food

In our last post, we talked about primary reinforcers - those things that our dogs intrinsically like.  Just about every creature likes food a lot. And we can use that too our advantage in dog training

Food is often used when training new behaviors:
1. We can give tiny amounts often. Which means we can ask for multiple repetitions. Which really works well when shaping a new behavior
2. Most dogs are willing to work for food.
(note, we don't need to make the dog extra hungry to motivate him/her to work for food)

But some people worry about using too much food, about their dogs eating junk, or about the expense of dog treats.

Consult with your vet before trying any of these ideas

Concerned about your dog's weight?
- Pet parents can provide tiny slivvers of treats during training sessions
- We can puree meat in water or even use meat flavored water.  Some dogs are happy to eat low calories vegetable.  See more details on saving calories here:

Concerned about expense
- We don't have to buy the fancy prepacked stuff at pet stores that is mainly marketed to humans.  We can save tons of money by giving our pets safe human food. More details here:

Concerned about health
- Dogs are not like a lot of us humans. They actually like things that are good for them. See some ideas here:

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Loose Leash Walking Summary

Loose Leash Walking encompasses many different skills. We are planning several more posts on the subject. As we post, I hope to bring them all together on this one page.