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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Keep Pets Safe During Scary Holidays - 2015

Pets are safer indoors during fireworks and other scary events

It's Okay To Comfort a Scared Dog

Comforting a scared pet will not increase his/her fears. Of course comfort is in the eye of the beholder. Some dogs do not want petting. They just want to hide. We should honor that. Some dogs want to be close to us. We should honor that.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Counter Surfing Part 1 - Management; Positive Reinforcement

Dogs are natural scavengers. It's quite normal for them to find food and eat it. Dogs are also opportunistic. If they know food is usually at a certain place, they will return to that place in search of more food.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Recall Tips and Tricks

1. Proofing
Start super easy and work your way up in teeny tiny increments. 
i.e. ask for come while in a quiet bathroom and the dog is one foot away.
ask for come in a quiet bedroom when dog is two feet away
ask for come in a quiet living room
ask for come in the living room with the TV on
ask for come in the living room with people walking around
ask for come indoors while next to the back door (if you have one)
ask for come right outside the backdoor (if you have a secure back yard)
and so on
Be aware of distance and distractions. When increasing one, decrease the other.

2. Foundation
Actually, before you even ask your dog to come, make sure your dog knows how to pay attention to you
Reward your dog for looking at you
Reward your dog for approaching you when you haven't called

3. Set the dog up for success
A. Don't call if you don't think he will come.  Every time you call and the dog doesn't come, your recall cue looses a little bit of it's meaning.   Learned irrelevance:

B. Always keep pup on leash when in unsecured areas. Every time he takes off to chase something, she will self reward and set back your training

C. Always reward the dog for coming when called

D. Never ever call a dog then scold or do something unpleasant (baths, nail trims, vet, etc..)

4. Tips/Tricks
A. Reward Check ins:

B. Be aware of body pressure:

C. Be aware of treat placement:

5. Games:
A. Drop a treat and run like heck:

B. Hide and Seek: make the game easy at first. Then increase the difficulty. Hide behind a tree, in a closet, etc.. Call your dog. Have a big treat party when she finds you. Of course don't do this if it distresses your dog (might not work well for a dog who has separation anxiety)

6. Target training
A. Target to hand

B. Target to mat:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reading/Resource List

A list of books, DVDs, youtube channels, supplies that we recommend.  Note, we don't agree with every single thing provided in these resources but we still think that they provide a lot of great information

Before and After Getting Your New Puppy – Ian Dunbar
Behavior Problems in Dogs – William Campbell
Bones Would Rain From the Sky – Susan Clothier
Click to Calm – Emma Parsons
Complete Idiots Guide to Dog Training Online Course  – Pamela Dennison
Control Unleashed  Book – Leslie McDevitt
Control Unleashed DVD –  – Foundation Seminar – Leslie McDevitt
Dogs are From Neptune – Jean Donaldson
Don’t Shoot the Dog – Karen Pryor
Dog In Sight – Pamela Reid
Excel-Erated Learning – Pamela Reid

Feeling Outnumbered? Karen B London and Patricia McConnell
Feisty Fido – Patricia McConnell
Fight! – Jean Donaldson
How Many Dogs?! – Debby McMullen
How to be the Leader of the Pack and Have Your Dog Love You For It – Patricia McConnell
I’ll Be Home Soon – Patricia McConnel
Love Has No Age Limit – Patricia McConnell
Manual of Clinical Behavior by Dr Karen Overall
Mine! – Jean Donaldson

On Talking Terms With Dogs – Turid Rugaas
Pattern Games DVD –   – Leslie McDevitt
Plenty In Life Is Free – Kathy Sdao
Reaching the Animal Mind – Karen Pryor
Scardey Dog! Ali Brown
The Cautious Canine – Patricia McConnell

The Other End of the Leash – Patricia McConnell
The Power of Positive Dog Training – Pat Miller
The Puppy Primer – Patricia McConnell
Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs, by  Malena DeMartini-Price, CTC

Youtube Channels
Domesticated Manners
Pamela Marxsen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

If Your Dog Isn't Learning

"My dog is stubborn"
"My dog won't listen"
"My dog won’t pay attention"
"My dog can’t learn"
"Positive training isn't working"
If any of these sound like your pet, try the below

1. Thorough vet assessment – check for hearing issues, neurological issues, gastric issues. Do a pain assessment. Check liver, kidney, thyroid function, etc.. etc..
It’s hard to listen when your tummy is upset. Your dog might not be hearing the clicker because she has hearing issues. It’s hard to sit or stay in a sit when your hips hurt. Your dog might be ignoring your hand signals because her vision is impaired.
Your dog might be eliminating indoors because of a bladder infection.

1a. While you are at the vet, discuss a plan to use lots and lots of treats. Get input from the vet on a way to do this without your dog gaining weight and without messing up your dog’s nutrition requirements.

2. Give up on training. Yep. I said give up. Not forever, but just for now. Don’t ask the dog to do anything at all. Just take a break so the both of you can relax. No expectations.

3. Set the dog up for success. Keep shoes off the floor. Put trash outside. Keep counters clean. Block furniture (if dog is not allowed on furniture.) Dog must always be on a leash when not in a secure location. Reduce the size of yard (if you have one) so it’s easier to bring her indoors when you need her to come inside (don’t call if she will not come). Keep a good distance from things that bother your dog (other dogs, kids, etc..)

3a. If you make a mistake and your dog gets into something that is not dangerous, just leave him be. i.e. If he grabs a sock but doesn’t try to eat the sock, just ignore. And remind yourself to put the socks away next time. If he grabs a piece of unseasoned meat off the counter (that doesn’t contain cooked bones), just let him have it and remind yourself to either clean the counter or block access to the counter. If he grabs something that might be a tiny bit dangerous but it’s not an emergency, offer a trade (food, toy, etc..) before taking it away. If it’s very dangerous then do you what you need to do of course.
If she gets on the bed, leave her there. She will get off eventually. When she does, close the bedroom door.

4. Start rewarding *everything* that is not undesirable. i.e. catch the dog sitting, reward. Catch the dog laying down, reward. Catch the dog taking a deep breath with her mouth closed, reward. Dog just happens to look at you, reward. Dog’s ear flicks in your direction, reward. Do this calmly. Don’t follow you dog around looking for stuff. Just calmly catch the dog doing something good. You can use a clicker or verbal marker if you want. But it's not necessary. The reward can be food or a toy or whatever the dog likes.

4a. Keep treats and/or toys stashed everywhere. In dressers (that your dog can’t reach), in the fridge, in a dog training or safari vest.
Before walkies, head out on the trail alone and hide some food in trees. Surprise your dog with something tasty when the leash is loose.

5. After a few weeks, your dog should be offering you behaviors, trying to figure out ways to make treats appear, trying to figure out ways to operate you. If she isn’t doing that, it might be time to go back to the vet or call in a skilled force free trainer or maybe even a board certified vet behaviorist.
Also analyze any stress or frustration that might be in the dog’s life and take steps to eliminate/reduce/mitigate

6. If your dog is paying more attention to you, then start training. But keep sessions super super short. No more than one minute at first. End while the dog is still engaged. And only ask for what your dog can do. Absolutely no physical manipulation/molding to get a behavior. (i.e. don't push on the butt to teach "sit"). Use shaping, luring, or capturing. Be aware that luring can be too much pressure for some dogs. And shaping can be frustrating for some dogs. Especially dogs who have had harsh training in the past. They will be scared to try new things.


1. No punishment. No scolding for anything. Just set your dog up for success so scolding will not be necessary. Of course if there is an emergency (like your dog is about to pounce on a 2 pound chunk of dark chocolate), it’s okay to do whatever it takes to make things safe.

2. Even try to cut out negative punishment (withholding good things). Negative punishment is normally humane, but for some dogs, it can be frustrating. So try to set things up so you won’t need to take food away, practice timeouts, etc.. Just ask for what your dog can give.

2a. Even popular force free programs like NLIF or Learn to Earn, or Sit to Say Please might be too frustrating for your dog.

3. Once the dog learns a few things, proof heavily in teeny tiny increments.

Turid Rugaas’s Calming Signals - to learn how to look for stress signals

Kathy Sdao’s “Plenty in Life is Free” - short book, easy read. Gives great instructions on how to use rewards to get desired behaviors

Suzanne Clothier’s “Bones Would Rain From the Sky” – if you can get past the wordiness, it’s a great read for those wanting to improve their relationships with their dogs.

Pat Miller’s “The Power of Positive Dog Training” – a great getting started book on positive reinforcement.

Jane Killion’s “When Pigs Fly” – a step by step program to motivate a dog to want to work

Part II:

Also see

Stress Reduction:


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Time Outs

In the force free training community, Time Outs are considered an acceptable form of punishment.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Old And Little. Part III. Transporting

We have already talked about accommodating old and little dogs indoors. Today's post is about transporting dogs who might have some trouble getting to a vehicle on their own.

Prevention is Better Than Reacting

I was just in the back yard with my 3 dogs. Two of them started air sniffing. Then a few seconds later, all 3 were running at top speed towards the other end of the yard. Obviously they smelled some kind of animal.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Don't Support or Create a Hierarchy

We became a multi dog household back in 2006.  I was still learning about dogs (well, I’m always learning).  And the information I had at the time was to “support the hierarchy” – feed the first or most assertive or most "dominate" dog first; pet her first, let her out the door first, etc...  Seemed to make sense at the time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advanced Counter Conditioning and Desensitization

Well, it's not really advanced. But this video series just goes into more detail about the process - something to read if you have been trying desensitization and counter conditioning and it doesn't seem to be working - and you've ruled out medical issues of course

Gauze: A Handy Tool For Your Positive Training Tool Box

Ideal for sensitive dogs because it's lightweight.