Posts filed under ‘Books & DVDs’

Ear Work

Every time I bring out the ear medication bottle (even before I touch or look at the bottle), Boogie KNOWS what is going to happen. He can read me like a book. He makes himself very small, like a turtle, and creeps very low to the ground, slinking away under a chair or into his crate.

earwashbottle

I have tried counter conditioning with treats. Things went well (the bottle ceased to be ‘scary’) up until the moment that he realized that liquid dripped inside his ear… and then he stopped wanting food and would back off as soon as he knew what would eventually happen. So I always ended up administering ear drops “by force”, while Boogie endured the ordeal. And then off he would go, escaping to shake off, before returning for the consolation treat.

I have started watching Lori Stevens’s Tellington TTouch For Dogs DVD,  and yesterday I decided to try something new.

Of course,as always, Boogie predicted the worst  so he pulled his ears back really tight as soon as I touched them. I didn’t pick up the ear meds. First I did some touches on his head and around the outside ear area with the back of my hand (Chimp TTouch). Then I used my whole hand on top of his head to move the base of his ears around, before doing direct  ear strokes… and soon I could feel his ears and his whole body relaxing.

(By the way, I had already done these same TTouches the night before, and I knew Boogie enjoyed them, so it wasn’t like a completely foreign experience).

When he seemed sufficiently relaxed, I added the ear drops into his infected ear, massaged this in, and waited for him to escape.

Miraculously, Boogie did not move. He just stayed where he was and looked at me,  so I continued doing slides on both his ears and massaging the base of his ears. When I removed my hands to see if he had had enough,  he turned around to look at me again: “Why are you stopping?”  

It was pretty cool.

TTOUCH notes-Earwork

I was ready to gloat but then things did not go so well this morning. I went through the same steps as yesterday. I did Noah’s March along his back and some Chimp TTouches around his face and ears… I stroked his ears until his head was resting on the couch and to me, he looked perfectly calm and relaxed. I stopped from time to time to make sure he was still fine… he was.

Then as soon as I unscrewed the ear drops bottle cap, Boogie jumped off the couch and ran away into the bedroom.

I went to get him and slowly he returned to the couch, with not his usual sad-faced ears-pinned-back look that was usually associated with ear medications. Boogie’s ears were up and his eyes were bright. He looked at me, looked at the ear drops bottle on the table, looked at me…

“Really, mom?

THIS DOG IS NO FOOL.

March 1, 2014 at 8:07 pm 10 comments

TTouch – “Walking In balance” DVD

The only Black Friday Sale I took advantage of last month was the one offered by Tawzer Dog. I got Lori Steven’s TTouch Walking In Balance DVD and last week I finished watching all 3 discs. Lori Stevens is fantastic and the seminar was so interesting and enlightening that now I wish I had ordered the first TTouch DVD too! 

Last year I had tried to read Linda Tellington-Jones’s TTouch book after Boogie’s intro TTouch session with Cynde. To be honest, it was hard to take in and retain all this information from the book without having more tangible experiences. I am the sort of person who needs to see and feel how something is done (vs only reading about it) – and watching Lori Stevens’ DVD has rekindled my desire to learn more about TTouch.  Also – the fact that TTouch was developed by Linda Tellington-Jones from Feldenkrais is something that I find really exciting. I have been obsessed with Feldenkrais all year and have been doing ATM lessons (ATM =”awareness through movement”) at home, a few times a week.

Feldenkrais-beforeafter

If anyone is interested, here is the  Frank Wildman ATM lesson (45 minutes) you can check out – ‘Folding Your Body With Ease ‘ https://www.dropbox.com/s/52hs6ip3cdhotpq/Vol1_lesson_one.mp3

To quote Lori Stevens, TTouch and Feldenkrais are both “neuromuscular retraining programs”. 

In using non-habitual movements and body work, we reduce tension patterns in our bodies, we gain awareness, we loosen our joints,  experience improvement in posture and gait, which in turn, lead to emotional well being, greater confidence and better physical performance. All these things influence behavior, which is why TTouch is also categorized as a “dog training method” that is humane and force-free.

I totally get the emotional benefits of better posture and gait, and the force-free aspect of this sort of training,  based on my own experiences with Feldenkrais. I still relish the ‘magical’ DIY results even though there is a scientific explanation as to why this all works.  It’s amazing to me that I can eliminate pain from my own body and expand my range of movement just by attentively, doing a series of gentle movements on a yoga mat that do NOT in any way involve physical effort or discomfort. No stretching, no muscle manipulations, no “holding” of poses…   I always feel amazing afterwards – taller, more stable, more flexible, more alert, pain-free etc. and I feel more motivated to work out and do physical things.

To quote Feldenkrais practitioners: We are learning to use our bodies more effectively to move effortlessly. We are training skill, not will. The skill is proprioception.

I keep all this in mind when I think of what I can do for Boogie with TTouch.

The focus of the Walking In Balance DVD is really ‘leash walking’ techniques and how to stay connected to your dog. In the first disc, there is an overview and intro including a Feldenkrais ATM lesson for humans to do (yes I did this! It was cool) so that we know how ‘improved proprioception’ feels.   Then Lori demonstrated some important TTouches on fake and real dogs:  Noah’s March, Zig Zag, Python Lifts, & Tail Work. I loved that she shared details on the amount of pressure to use, how slow the movements should be, where to pause, how to move to the next spot, how not to go over the same areas… etc.

As I was watching, I practiced on Boogie  and took notes. Boogie LOVED the TTouches so much that he left his bed and snuggled up to me on the couch for more.  Some rough sketches:

TTouchnotes-NoahsMarch

TTouchnotes-ZigZagTTOUCH notes-PythonLiftsAccording to Lori, senior dogs tend to lose “back end proprioception”. *edit*  Dogs naturally put 60% of their weight on their front end so that as they get older their back ends atrophy.  When dogs pull on the leash, this is not only damaging to the thyroid and trachea, the dog can also develop unhealthy patterns of “leaning”, making things worse. And so in using TTouches and Wraps we can sensitize dogs to more “hind-end awareness” and in so doing,  correct gait issues.

Likewise for dogs who do agility and reactive dogs. The DVD showed some footage of an agility dog whose jumping movements improved after experiencing a Wrap.

“We usually see a change in behavior when there are changes in the way a dog moves.” 

TTOUCH notes-HalfWrap

Boogie had experienced a half-wrap last summer but I am not sure if it made any difference. Perhaps this is because he is usually always wearing some sort of harness so he is used to having “stuff” wrapped around his body so perhaps the Wrap didn’t feel “non-habitual” enough?  Or perhaps it wasn’t helpful to be wearing a Wrap on such a hot day. Now that we are in winter, I will try this again. I have some bandages lying around somewhere.

Another TTouch method demo-ed on the DVD is the Balance Leash with 2 points of contact- which to me, looks quite complicated. I had to sketch it out to memorize what goes where.

*edited 12/31/2013

*edited 12/31/2013

The purpose of having 2 points of contact is for clearer communication or clearer leash cues. With 2 points, the dog can sense much earlier when we want to change direction than if we had one point of leash contact. In the DVD, Lori demo-ed this with humans on leash. With one point of contact, when we turn, the dog would feel more like he was being pulled.  “It takes two to pull”. We pull, the dog pulls.

Quote Lori: In an ideal world, dogs would be wearing harnesses with front and back attachments, not collars. 

In TTouch, we “stroke the leash” to let our dog know when we want to slow down, turn around, or stop. Now I know where the “mime pulling” in BAT comes from! :)

Boogie has not worn a collar in years… he wears a Freedom harness and these days, only using the back attachment and a one-clip leash. I could in fact configure a Balance Leash using the back ring only, by having the leash go around his chest…

Note: A good harness should not restrict shoulder or front leg movements nor be too tight. On the DVD, Lori went through different types of harnesses and a few different two-ring configurations for harnesses, some including side rings. I will need to revisit the DVD to remember what these different kinds of harnesses are.

There was so much more information on the DVD (“Labyrinth”, Walking on different surfaces, how to work with reactive dogs etc) that I can’t summarize everything in this one blog post.  I definitely need to go back and watch segments again and refer also to the DogRead Yahoo Group postings which had more detailed discussions and examples. (See postings from Dec 1-15, “Tellington TTouch Techniques: Walking in Balance With Your Dog” Lori Stevens)

A final memo: Before taking our dog out the door for a walk (when he is usually all hyped from being cooped up indoors all day), it is a good idea to have 5 minutes of Calm Connectedness. TTouch is a good way to stay connected and bond with your dog before venturing out.

Thank you, Lori!

Related links:

DISCLAIMER: The sketches in this blog post are rough visual notes that I created after watching the DVD. I did these sketches for fun/for myself because I remember and process concepts better when I draw them. You are welcome to use and share them but please note that they are NOT official TTouch handouts. – Lili :)

December 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm 3 comments

Home from Clicker Expo

After three full days of Clicker Expo, a total of 14 seminars, half a notebook full of notes and scribbles, my brain is so full I don’t even know how to start writing about this experience. I may need a couple of weeks to process and streamline everything!

I attended my first Clicker Expo 2 years ago (you can read about it here  and here) and this time I went all out and registered for the full event. I wanted to learn new things, be inspired, meet up with my clients, make new contacts, listen to expert trainers like Ken Ramirez and Kathy Sdao, meet Dr. Susan Friedman in person (she ordered multiple copies of my poster!) and sit in on Sarah‘s and Irith‘s shorts presentations, which were really great. I must say that even though I was in the 2% of attendees who don’t work professionally with animals – I didn’t at all feel overwhelmed or lost. 

Clicker Expo was everything I hoped for, including the joy of seeing doggy “down-stay” butts every time I visited the hotel’s ladies’ restroom.

photo by Cindy Bennet Martin

photo by Cindy Bennet Martin

I could write a day-by-day review and this would turn into an epic 3 or 4 part blog post  but for now, let me direct you to this Flickr Set where I have posted some photos and quick notes.

Some topics that I want to think/write more about and do illustrations for….

  • Anthropomorphism & Mechanomorphism (Karen Pryor)
  • Classical Conditioning in relation to Clicker Training (Kathy Sdao, Susan Friedman)
  • Dealing with Unwanted Behavior in the Least Intrusive Way (Ken Ramirez)
  • TAGTeach – Clicker Training for human beings  (Theresa McKeon, Irith Bloom)

I enjoyed every single talk and Learning Lab at Clicker Expo but the highlight for me personally was Kay Laurence’s “Targeting” Lab on the final day, which was amazing to watch. I am so in awe of Kay Laurence’s skills, her sensitivity to the dog, and her way of articulating reasons for every little training choice that she makes. There’s something about seeing a LIVE training session that can’t be beat by watching a YouTube video or DVD.

And after those three intense days of learning and meeting people, it was so good to be back home with Boogie, who is a refreshing change from all the “well-behaved” dogs at Clicker Expo…

Boogie in his new tiny teacup doggie bed.

2013-01-30_12-23-55_168

Boogie unstuffs his new bed.

In other news, I have started reading Monica Segal’s K9 Kitchen: Your Dog’s Diet. The Truth Behind The Hype. It is a fascinating read but I am now even more aware of how much conflicting info there is about dog nutrition floating around… for instance, the  “grain-free, potato-free” diet that is said to prevent yeast infections. See this earlier blog post.

According to Monica Segal, cutting carbs out of a dog’s diet won’t make any difference to yeast growth.

“A very popular myth circulating on the Internet claims that yeast feeds on carbohydrates…. There isn’t a direct link between carbohydrates or sweet vegetables and yeast. The focus should be on eliminating the food culprit whatever it may be” (usually proteins or grains or supplements)

She also adds that grains can be a GOOD THING for some dogs (better coat)… so long as they are thoroughly cooked to be digestible. I am particularly interested in the chapter on  recipes and on how to prepare a home cooked diet that has the correct balance of nutrients…

More later…

January 31, 2013 at 8:37 am 7 comments

National Train Your Dog Month – My dog book reading List

Will I ever get through this list?

1. The Science of Consequences by Susan M. Schneider. I am about 30% of the way through this book and enjoying it so far. It’s like seeing the world with new eyes through the filter of Behavioral Science (Operant Conditioning) and how this philosophical approach applies to genetics, evolution, behavior modification in humans and all animals large and small, etc.  I am very chuffed that Susan Schneider wrote a blog post about my Animal Training poster.

2. The Misunderstood Dog by Jordan Rothman (my illustrations are in this book!) There’s a sale going on this month! So far I have skimmed through the first few chapters and can’t wait to read through it properly. I promise I will post a blog review. The Misunderstood Dog is like an easier-to-read, friendlier, jargon-free version of  Jean Donaldson’s “The Culture Clash”, and it is written for dog owners rather than dog training professionals.

3. 25 Dog and Puppy Training Tips e-book by Emily Larlham. I am a big Emily Larlham/Kikopup fan. I can’t wait to read this. *Does anyone know of a good program that can convert PDFs to Kindle Format without messing up all the photos? The e-book is a large PDF file with lots of photos that got lost when I emailed it to my Kindle.

4.  Decoys and Aggression by Stephen Mackenzie. This book was recommended to me on a dog training forum. I believe this is a book on teaching police dogs to PERFORM AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS (in a humane way) and therefore has some very insightful offerings on how to read and shape dog body language . Also liking this video by Steve White, another police dog trainer whose DVDs I would love to watch but cannot afford.

 

 

5. K9 Kitchen: The Truth Behind The Hype by Monica Segal. Not a training-related book but one about nutrition. I think I will start cooking for Boogie again soon. *Does anyone have good tips on using a Dehydrator to make pet treats? eg. do you cook the meat first before dehydrating it?

6.  Understanding Cat Behavior by Roger Tabor. Not a dog book.  I ordered this because I need a cat book for drawing reference, one with lots of photos showing various body language poses and expressions. Unfortunately, some of this information might be very outdated. Just take a look at this little blurb on dog training -

2013-01-01_15-10-25_684

So it’s not OK to boss around and scold a cat because it will damage your bond and mess up your cat, but it’s OK to do this with dogs? While it’s great that nowadays many dog-lovers are promoting and teaching the world about modern force-free HUMANE dog training methods, I wonder if this info is also getting through to the non dog people….  And btw, are there any CURRENT books on Cat body language/behavior/training?

Seeing that it’s National Dog Training Month, I am learning to use a MannersMinder!

To be honest, it looked a little intimidating until I watched the instructional DVD which goes into a lot of detail about training games, the correct order in which the games should be taught, and how to work the machine settings. It’s quite loud too. When you press the remote control (to dispense the treat), there is a loud BEEP followed by a loud whirring sound before the treat plops out.

Ah… my scaredy Boogie dog.  As soon as I put the MannersMinder down on the floor, I could tell that Boogie was scared of it. It wasn’t even turned on! I put a treat in the bowl; Boogie looked at it and backed off.  He would not go near the machine.  He went to his bed, instead. After some coaxing, Boogie ate the treat out of the bowl and then everything was fine after that. He learned very quickly how to make the “BEEP and TREAT” happen. So far I have been training “Eye contact”. Tomorrow we do “targeting”. Now I need to find some treats that are of consistent size so that they don’t get stuck…

This is going to be an adventure! :)

 

January 1, 2013 at 11:45 pm 5 comments

Happy Holidays!

Apologies for the long silences between posts and thank you to everyone who has left comments (advice, tips, personal stories etc) on this blog, particularly with regards to Boogie’s skin issues. I have been out-of-town; now I am happy to be back home and snuggling with the Boogs again. He is less itchy now that the weather has cooled down. His coat is still very thin with the same bald patches, and his poor skin has been dry, flaky, and dandruffy.

I am trying a few new things:

  • No chicken in his diet at all. He has been eating lamb and/or fish-based meals. It has only been 1 week… I can’t tell if there is any difference.
  • Adding Pet Kelp to his food. 3 weeks, now. Can’t tell if this is making any difference with his skin, but his poop is looking very good!
  • Virgin Coconut Oil massage, every other day <– THIS is making a difference! Skin is noticeably less dry.
  • New Year Resolution: Make pet treats with the new dehydrator (which is still in its box)

I am determined to do anything to avoid more vet visits & antibiotics! In fact, I took advantage of Monica Segal‘s recent Black Friday Sale and ordered a dietary consultation for Boogie in the new year. I need help figuring out what foods (if any) that Boogie’s system may not be tolerant of.

Meanwhile…

 Check out Jordan Rothman’s new book  The Misunderstood Dog, with my illustrations. I would describe it as a simpler, easier-to-read version of “The Culture Clash”, written for dog owners. The Boston on the cover is the author’s dog.  Here is the Amazon.com page.

 

Order a snazzy little name tag that I designed for blanketID.  A percentage of sales goes to Boston Buddies rescue. I think this would make an awesome Xmas gift. They come in red or blue, and small or large sizes. The photos that I have of Boogie wearing this blanketID tag on his collar are kinda blurry…. Will try again later.  ORDER HERE

Who is going to Clicker Expo in San Francisco next month? I would love to meet up! I know names but not faces, so if you recognize me, please say hi! I will be there for the full three days. First time that I am staying for the whole expo and very excited!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! – Lili & Boogie x

December 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm 5 comments

Catching up. Notes about Behavior/Training.

It has been a crazy month – major computer issues, health issues, catching up on a huge backlog of work – and poor Boogie’s Blog has been neglected. I don’t have time to go into too many details, so this blog post is a quick summary of stuff that I have found interesting.

1. Two great books!  

First of all, I am plugging Grisha Stewart’s  Ahimsa Dog Training Manual  - I am doing new illustrations for the next edition! :)

Paul Chance’s First Course in Applied Behavior Analysis   is about modifying behavior in people, not dogs, but the philosophical premise and methods are the same as what are used in modern dog training methods, and I enjoyed learning about the same concepts in “human contexts”. Some quotes:

ABA is concerned with using environmental events to change behavior in desirable ways.

Much of the time, a behavior problem means either that a behavior occurs too often or that it does not occur often enough. The task of the parent, teacher, manager or therapist is to increase or decrease the frequency of the behavior.The chief difference between the people who live inside mental hospitals and those who live outside of them is not that we never behave as they do but that we behave as they do less often than they do.

One of the great things about ABA is that is focuses on what people can do rather than on a label or on some mysterious, unseen psychological disorder.

Please note that reinforcement strengthens BEHAVIOR, not PEOPLE. Everyone slips up now and then and speaks of reinforcing a person, as in, “John was studying very hard so I reinforced him”. You don’t increase the strength of people with reinforcement; you increase the strength of their behavior.

Some people think that people with Ph.D’s go around thinking up new terms for everyday words just so what they say will sound more sophisticated. There may be some truth to that, but the word reinforcer is not just a synonym for reward. Here’s the essential difference: Rewards are defined by consensus; reinforcers are defined by results. If an event strengthens or maintains the behavior it follows, it’s a reinforcer; if it doesn’t it isn’t a reinforcer. There is no other defining characteristic of a reinforcer.

This is an important point; one students often miss. People often get the impression that a behaviorist is someone who carries a bag of reinforcers about and whenever behavior needs strengthening, he reaches into the bag and hands out reinforcers. The essence of behavior analysis is not handing out reinforcers but analyzing the effects of antecedents and consequences on behavior. That includes identifying consequences that are reinforcing.

 

2. The DogRead Yahoo Group

I am subscribed to the DogRead group  by email. Every month a new book/author is featured readers can interact directly with authors, ask questions etc.  This week, the amazing Kathy Sdao is on DogRead. Kathy Sdao used to train dolphins for the Navy, and I almost included this example in my poster. I love Kathy Sdao’s response to this reader question:“is it always possible to use only positive, gentle reinforcing training methods with dogs?”

My experience has taught me that we tend to presume a false correlation between reliable behavior & the use of aversives. IOW, it seems to make intuitive sense that if the animal “must” do something really important (e.g., locate a bomb, track down a criminal, guide a blind person), we have to use some sort of force to teach the animal he doesn’t have a choice.

Yet, I believe we revert to coercion and force when our skills at implementing structured, clever, careful reinforcement procedures run out. The dolphins I trained for the US Navy reliably located deep-moored mines (as much as 600 feet down), reported the mine’s presence to their trainer on a small boat, then carried a heavy packet of explosives back down to the mine, attached this in a quite specific location on the mooring cable, then swam back to the small boat and leapt onboard for the long ride back to their pier-side pens. This behavior chain was long, cognitively and physically challenging, performed in the presence of huge distractions (including live food-fish swimming all around the work site), and ended with each dolphin choosing to go back to captivity.

It is beyond the scope of this discussion of my book (Plenty in Life is Free) to further discuss details of this training, except for the critical fact that we did not use “corrections.” We obtained accurate reliable real-world performance through the use of careful design of the training environments and tons of R+ over the course of many months of training. Punishment was not part of the program.

When folks say “yeah, but those were dolphins and they’re really smart,” I respond that dogs are every bit as smart. It’s just that their trainers are more often seduced into believing that punishment is necessary to teach “the important stuff.”

My affiliation (as an occasional consultant) with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) over the past few years has allowed me to see how amazingly effective positive-reinforcement training can be when done by skilled and creative trainers. Their implementation of clicker-training over the past ~five years has been amazing to watch. Their results have been so impressive that guide-dog organizations all over the world are seeking GDB’s advice on how to modify their own programs.

Hanging by my desk is this quote, from one of my all-time favorite books, Dr. Murray Sidman’s Coercion & Its Fallout (2001):

“An overworked and incorrect bit of folk wisdom pronounces the carrot to be of no avail unless backed up by the stick. But the carrot can do the job all by itself.”

… which is the point of  this poster illustration -

[click on pic for more info]

 

November 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm 4 comments

Bloggers Unite for Pet Rescue & Mall Dogs

Dog Rescue Success
Aargh. I am one day late! Today is July 24th. Via this site:

HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

  • Blog about a Dog Rescue related topic on July 23rd, 2012
  • Add one of the badges below to your blog and help spread the word
  • Donate to a local dog rescue organization
  • Foster a dog
  • Volunteer at a local shelter or rescue organization
  • Share this post across all forms of social media and encourage others to participate!

I could blog about my rescue dog Boogie, but we’ll take a little break from Boogie for now. I want everyone to know about a new documentary film project called MALL DOGS.

The film is by Jessi Badami, whom I met at Clicker Expo last year. We sat next to each other in the Kay Laurence seminar, chatted, exchanged business cards, and kept in touch over the year.

Jessi is amazingly prolific – she writes, she acts, she makes films, she rescues dogs, and she was going to enroll in the Karen Pryor Academy this year but changed her mind and decided to concentrate all her energy instead on making this documentary about Lucky Paws, a very unique and successful pet shelter in Albuquerque, NM, that is located inside a mall.

You can read more about this film on: the Dogparent.com website  and on the film’s Kickstarter page.

Watch this video:

 

In short, MALL DOGS is an uplifting rescue story and I can’t wait to work on it. I will be creating illustrations and animations.

However, the Mall Dogs project can not happen if it doesn’t receive full Kickstarter funding in 30 days! Please donate. You can pledge any amount from as little as one dollar. Higher donations come with bigger and better premiums! Then, please share this blog post, tweet it, facebook it, pin it, do your social media thing.

“Mall Dogs” – Visit the Kickstarter page

Coming soon to Boogie’s blog:

  • My experience of Nicole Wilde’s seminar on “Separation Anxiety” & “Dog-Dog Play”
  • A review of the new “Tough Love” film

July 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm 3 comments

Pattern Games DVD

Leslie McDevitt’s PATTERN GAMES DVD was my birthday present from our trainer Sarah. I finally got chance to watch it last night, taking notes as I went along.

I broke down each game into “Click Points” and “Tag Points” on my notepad..

I already had a copy of Leslie McDevitt’s book Control Unleashed®: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog but I hadn’t read past Chapter 2. The only CU game that I was already familiar with is Look At That (LAT), similar to BAT Stage 1. In LAT, the dog is rewarded for looking at a trigger + reorienting to the handler over many repetitions.

On the Pattern Games DVD, there are 6 games – explained with live demo footage – and they look unbelievably simple. According to Leslie McDevitt, any dog who is comfortable on leash can play these games. No other prerequisite training required. From what I can see, the Pattern Games are about maintaining a fast and consistent rhythm in clicker training, and it is this rhythm that gives the dog a sense of safety (and something to focus on!), and keeps both human and dog strongly connected even when there are distractions present.

A few days ago, Sarah, Boogie and I went for a big long walk around our neighborhood and Sarah demonstrated Pattern Game #2 – Take three steps forward, click and drop a treat behind your feet. 1,2,3, Treat…. 1,2,3, Treat… 1,2,3, Treat… repeat. This particular game has nothing to do with what the dog is doing, and is primarily for the dog handler to practice getting into a rhythm which is harder than it sounds if your eyes, hands and feet are not totally coordinated. I found myself way too consciously counting my steps (1-2-3) then fumbling for the treat, forgetting to click, etc.

On the DVD, there are two live demos per game, and in the second demo,  another person shows up in the training scenario and Leslie McDevitt demonstrates how to incorporate the other person into the game (Look At That) so that what is potentially a trigger or distraction becomes part of an already familiar and fun rule structure for the dog. And this is particularly useful if the dog is likely to freak out around new dogs/people or sudden environmental changes.

Sharing here a short video clip of Boogie at his favorite window. That’s one of his beds right next to it. Remember when I covered all my windows with film? I had to leave one window uncovered because I need to breathe, and this is the window that Boogie continues to stare and bark out of. It’s not a big deal, because I have sort of managed to teach him to look outside and turn back to me. Almost like LAT. Cue: “Boogie, who’s there?”

The world outside is always a very fascinating place….

May 30, 2012 at 7:38 am 2 comments

Classical Conditioning, summer games

It was my birthday last week and Sarah, our trainer gave me this PATTERN GAMES DVD by Leslie McDevitt. Thank you, Sarah! Sarah understands how complicated Boogie is and how much he needs to “feel in control”.

Here’s a YouTube video explaining what the DVD is about, with doggie footage. I look forward to watching this DVD, doing the games with Boogie and of course, I will blog about our experiences!

I think Boogie’s main problem is that not only is he triggered by certain types of people,  he doesn’t do well with Sudden Environmental Changes. I have read that S.E.C is actually quite common. Due to lack of socialization as puppies, dogs can grow up to be easily spooked or startled.

Boogie can be in a room full of unfamiliar people and he will be perfectly fine. But put him on an empty street, and he will go nuts when ONE unfamiliar person appears. Or when we are walking on a busy street, if one person turns around to look at him, that person will get his hackles up. I think having some sort of “rule structure” or “pattern game” to deal with surprises would be good for the Boogs. In some ways, I have already been working on this issue…

I have been doing major classical counter-conditioning with Boogie for the past 3 weeks following an ‘upsetting incident’ on which I would rather not elaborate.  Every time we see a person on the street, no matter how near or far, how big or small, old or young, carrying bags or not carrying bags, walking slow or walking fast, I have been giving Boogie treats. As soon as Boogie registers the presence of the person, I ask for eye-contact, we move to the side and he gets a treat. The closer or larger/scarier the person, the more treats he gets. Sometimes, if Boogie remains under-threshold, we continue walking and I give Boogie a treat right after the person has just passed us. Instinct tells me this is important because Boogie used to lunge at people from behind.

Results:
On the morning of Mother’s Day, Boogs and I were walking along on an empty street. About 20 feet in front of us, an old man appeared. Boogie saw the old man, stopped, did a whiplash turn around and looked up at me with a face full of hope. “Where’s my treat?”

This morning, an old man on a bicycle was moving towards us. Usually when I see a bike coming, I get us out of the way fast or Boogie would lunge and bark. Likewise with joggers. Today, I did not see the cyclist coming until he was almost running into us.  The guy said “Sorry! My fault! know I shouldn’t be on the sidewalk”. At my feet, a bright-eyed Boogie face was looking up at me: “Where’s my treat?”

Boogie has not lunged at a single cyclist or jogger in the past 3 weeks. I am still amazed that he either:
1. completely ignores them and continues walking <– treat for being calm
2. moves to the side and sniffs the ground (self-soothing behavior) <– treat for good choice
3. turns around and looks at me for a treat <– treat for connecting with me

Jean Donaldson writes about Classical Counter-Conditioning (re: Austin, who has a problem with of men)

It is behavior “blind”-we  don’t care what Austin [dog] does, all we care about is that once men are on the  scene, good things happen to Austin. It is a powerful conditioning technique  but difficult for people to get their heads around. The behavior-blind part  flies in the face of what is an extremely operant conditioning-oriented training  culture. It’s a piece of cake to fulfill the men=cheese contract when Austin  just looks at the guy, but much harder psychologically to provide the cheese  if Austin goes off at the guy. It feels to the trainer like she is “rewarding” the  behavior. When Pavlovian counter-conditioning is used in conjunction with  desensitization, this issue is mostly avoided because the desensitization part  (by definition) prevents the dog misbehaving (unless you screw up). But in a straight-up counter-conditioning procedure (i.e., one performed without  desensitization), you will often find yourself supplying the fabulous thing  right after the dog is naughty. To do otherwise would be to weaken the connection  between men and goat cheese. There are no effective “schedules” in  classical conditioning, just extinction trials, which are bad for the cause. The  closer you can approximate a 1:1 ratio of men to goat cheese, the stronger the  conditioning.

In a sense, we are going back to BAT Stage 1 (or Look At That) with human triggers but sometimes I deliver the treat even before we walk away because I want to strongly associate the sudden appearance of people with good things. In life, surprises happen all the time… I want to help Boogie not be so easily spooked. Sometimes, there is also no room or time to move away.

Here’s another activity for the Summer. I recently got a copy of Secret Stairs: Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. Yep, Boogie and I will be staircase-hunting on long hikes around the neighborhood!

Boogie has a thing about climbing stairs and is definitely way more fit than I am .

Here’s a very old video clip of Boogie on Radio Walk in Franklin Hills. (I know I am biased but how cute is that butt!)

May 23, 2012 at 7:40 am 4 comments

From Suzanne Clothier’s book…

I just finished reading Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs  by Suzanne Clothier. 

Well, truth be told, I skipped over several chapters and sections in this book (that I found too repetitive or too sad) and read only the parts that had Suzanne Clothier interacting with her dogs or dealing with the problem behaviors of  her clients’ dogs. These chapters were wonderfully enlightening, and I loved the way Suzanne Clothier retells scenarios from the dog’s perspective with such amazingly heartwrenching detail. It is also so refreshing to read a book about “human-dog communication”  that isn’t full of scientific/training jargon.

Sharing a few clippings from my Kindle copy:

“Training is a mechanical skill.” The problem arises when we mistake the skill of training for the relationship itself.

A good deal of dog training is rather Procrustean. Procrustes was a mythological fellow who had a special bed that he guaranteed would fit all who tried it. And amazingly, it did—because he would stretch anyone too short for the bed and cut off any parts that were too long and hung over the bed. Perfect fit, every time! And we do this to dogs, stretching them unnaturally to suit our training demands and lopping off the parts we don’t like or the parts that don’t neatly fit within our paradigm.

It’s okay to guess what your dog is trying to communicate as long as you’re willing to accept that you might be wrong, correct your misunderstanding and try again. It is not okay to guess what an animal is thinking or feeling if you are unwilling to accept nothing less than absolute compliance with your wishes.

…every interaction with a dog is one that the dog takes seriously. He has no other way of interpreting his world. The dog’s world does not contain careless interactions. In every interaction with another dog or person, a dog says what he means.

All of the simplistic never advice contains the implied but unspoken phrase of dire warning “or your dog will become alpha.” This is as silly as saying if you let children run and play, you will never have control over them. The truth is that if you don’t have control over the children in the first place, then when they do run and play and get terribly excited, you won’t be able to control them in that situation. If you can’t tell your dog to get off the furniture or out of your bed, it’s not because a comfortable couch has eroded the dog’s respect for you. Particular actions in and of themselves are not usually the problem when it comes to leadership issues. The lack of respect we have earned from our dogs is the problem.

The dog does not need to be “deranked” so much as the people need to learn to act like people worth listening to.

…the loophole in the canine possession law—if you voluntarily turn your attention away from an object and another dog swoops in and takes it, that’s fair. 

We want to believe in the Lassie myth, to focus only on the dog’s gentle, forgiving, loving nature. Of all the rocks on which we may stub our emotional toes, this is a big one. We do not want to think that the dog lying at our feet is a predator and a powerful one at that. It may be that we’d prefer that the people and animals we love most dearly have no dark, ugly side; we idealize them with this simple “Oh, he’d never do that!” or “She’s just not that kind of person.” In any relationship, such sanitized, idealized views of another being does not lead to deeper understanding or a more intense connection but to the inevitable disappointment that occurs when we are unable to embrace both the potential for both light and the dark contained in all of us. This is not to say that all dogs will sooner or later act in aggressive ways, no more than all humans will eventually harm another person. The dark potential that lurks within each of us needs to be recognized, and our relationships shaped to encourage the joyful lightness of being, not trigger the ugly possibilities.

In the United States, roughly two thousand children die every year at the hands of their own parents, but less than a dozen are killed by dogs. And yet people don’t look at children and whisper, “Be careful. Parents can turn on you.”

If I am mature enough to understand that not all behavior directed at me is about me, I am then in an even better place to carefully search for the real message behind the behavior.

My experience is that very often, an animal needs an acknowledgment of the motivation behind his resistance more than he needs us to simply withdraw our request. Though it sounds terribly simple, I am endlessly amazed by what happens when I assure an animal that I do understand why he finds something unpleasant or scary, and I believe that like all people I know, animals also need to be heard.

March 23, 2012 at 8:17 am 3 comments

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