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
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.
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…
January 31, 2013 at 8:37 am
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 -
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
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.
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
I swear I am not obsessed with dog poo. This is the first time in my life that I have drawn dog poo and I am doing it because I would rather not be seen taking photos of Boogie’s poo to illustrate this blog post. It’s bad enough to have this drawing (below) on my computer screen when the landlord and workmen showed up in my apartment today. Yep, giant drawings of dog poo on my monitor when I wasn’t even here. Totally embarrassing.
Yes, Boogie really did THREE poos on our walk this morning.
So Boogie eats exactly the same food everyday (not including the scraps that he steals off the sidewalk) so I don’t understand why there is so much variety in his poo. His first poo of the day is always the “healthiest” looking, and as the day progresses, it gets softer, weirder… and just now at 12pm, he did a totally drippy poo. I am starting to see instances of black poo (= blood) which freaks me and makes me wonder if I should rush him to the vet, but then his poo would switch back to normal a few hours later, so… what does this all mean? Should I be worried?
There is a book titled “What’s Your Poo Telling You”?” I think someone, preferably a veterinarian or dog nutritionist, should produce a similar but serious book about dog poo analysis. Seriously.
Please feel free to discuss your dog’s poo and share your thoughts on dog poo in the comments!
Check out this Fecal Scoring Chart ! (Thanks, Patricia Tirrell!)
Boogie’s first poo of the day would be a #2 or #3. Then for the rest of the day, it varies. Sometimes #1 (really hard and pebbly, especially if I feed only Stella & Chewy’s with nothing else mixed in), or #5 (like toothpaste consistency) or #6 (drips out). #5 and #6 are happening more frequently than I am comfortable with. Poor Boogie.
I think I will consult the vet again, ask about possibilities of infection or colitis, and also look for a pet nutritionist. I am starting to wonder if Boogie’s GI issues and skin issues (which are not getting better) are RELATED and I really want to believe I can ‘fix’ this problem on a nutrition/lifestyle level rather than have to continually rely on antibiotics and steroid meds and high vet bills which I hate so much.
Also: Monica Segal: Stool Chart
November 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm
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
Boogie is now officially seeing a new vet. I feel that we deserve a second opinion, and The Village Vet is so much closer to home, way easier to get an appointment here, it’s clean, modern and uncrowded. As much as I like our previous vet, Dr. R , the place was just way too small and crowded. Boogie is now also on pet insurance.
The hair loss, the bald itchy patches on his skin… Sigh.
“Please… can we go home now?”
Boogie is eating grain-free meals. I bathe him once a week with medicated shampoos. I spray or rinse him a couple times per day with a chlorhexidine solution. He has also been on fish oil, an immune system supplement and probiotics. Dr. F said that in spite of everything that I am doing – which is good, Boogie still needs to be on antibiotics or steroids to keep the whatever-it-is under control. Dr. Fuller has prescribed a different kind of antibiotic: Simplicef – 14 days. She also suggested bathing Boogie more often and gave us a ResiCort lotion/leave-on conditioner.
Tomorrow, we get the results for Boogie’s “Geriatric Blood Panel”. He’s growing old, this little Boogie.
“Would really like to leave now. Please”.
Dr. F suggests allergy testing – which is also something that Dr. R brought up. Sigh. I keep putting this off because I can’t afford it, and I don’t think the insurance will cover it. Boogie’s skin troubles are a pre-existing condition.
October 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm
Recently, a client suggested that I cut out POTATOES (including sweet potatoes & yam) from Boogie’s diet. These are carbohydrates = sugars which contribute to yeast infections. Yeast infections lead to itchiness and possibly also bacterial infections.
I had no idea about potatoes and it saddens me that the giant boxes of The Honest Kitchen food in my kitchen contain potatoes and honey. Yep, honey is also a sugar. As are rice, wheat, corn, and ALL CARBOHYDRATES…. usually found in treats too.
Today I found this extremely informative video about treating and preventing yeast infections by Dr. Karen Becker. It’s long but worth watching!
Some anti-yeast tips from this video:
- Anti-fungal foods: Oregano, garlic
- Clean and disinfect yeasty parts of body every day- especially ears and feet, armpits, groin area…
- Foot soak: Gallon of water + 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide + 1 cup white vinegar/lemon juice. Astringency = anti-fungal
- Ear solution: Witchhazel & cottonballs. Clean out debris!
- No Oatmeal shampoo! (Oatmeal is a grain/carb and will feed the yeast!)
- Use Anti-fungal shampoo - tea tree oil based or herbal
- Post bath rinse: Gallon of water + 20 drops of peppermint oil (do not get on head), or astringent solution (see Foot Soak). Towel-dry without rinsing.
- A supplement to support the dog’s immune system.
September 20, 2012 at 7:29 am