Classes with Good Dog!

May 31, 2011

News of the Up and Coming!

Dog classes at Good Dog are moving along swimmingly. It’s interesting to watch the class progression between the two classes. Both are just over half-way through. I’m intrigued because people have missed classes, so it’s interesting to see how missing a single class affects the progress of the dog and the dynamic of the class as a whole.

Either way, though, everyone seems to be doing super well. I’m excited because I’m integrating bits and pieces from the Dr Ian Dunbar seminar into the classes as well. Like: going for controlled walks where you stop every 25 steps and wait the dog out for attention. A super cool exercise. I’ll detail it later.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in class, but I should – about hand feeding so that the dogs are less afraid of strangers. It really bothers me that there are several dogs in each class that simply will not take food from me. I’m a small, adult female, extremely non-threatening and I carry good treats. What that tells me is that the dogs were not well socialized at some point. This is not the owners’ faults! I know some of the dogs came from rescues and sometimes you just have a fearful dog. It’s all about desensitization at that point.

So, the desensitization exercise would be: have different people hand feed the dogs. Mom hand feeds for three days, then Dad for three days, then on the 7th day: three strange MEN hand feed the dog. If the problem persists, repeat. Only, I would have them try and have some strange women do it too, the second time around. Mix it up a bit and make it less scary. And make sure that the strangers are hand feeding kibble that has liver or something sprinkled on it. This gives the dog the idea that Strangers Have the Best Candy. Which is generally a terrible thing to teach – However, this is for desensitization. Once the dog will take the food readily and even eagerly from strangers, THEN we can work on who it is and is not okay to take food from (via “Fido, Take It” and “Fido, Leave It” commands – always incorporating the dog’s name in a “Take it” command).

I am hoping that I can get some extra time in the classes – that is if everyone is doing as well as they have been – to teach leave it. Which is and awesome command and not taught anywhere in this curriculum and that drives me nuts. Because people try to use it without ever teaching it to their dogs. So, here’s hoping! It’s all dependent on the progress of class as a whole, though.



I’ve postponed Scruff2Fluff classes for the time being. I’ve been sick, and I haven’t been able to publicize them and I don’t want to hold class for just one dog.

I think what I may do, is either pitch the idea to Ken with Good Dog, or try a little later when I have more time and energy. Or, I could try and get a private training following first and then start offering classes – which would probably be a better idea. We’ll see. Either way, Something will happen soon! I think.

I’m considering borrowing some of Melissa’s equipment just for myself to use in the yard – Gimli would like that. 🙂 And I may be able to do private lessons with it in the yard if I can get my landlord’s approval. 😀 We’ll see.

Dr. Ian Dunbar Seminar! Science-Based Dog Training (with Feeling)

May 31, 2011

I recently attended Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Science-Based Dog Training Seminar that he held here in Madison and I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Dr Dunbar is a very entertaining speaker and an obviously knowledgeable expert in the field. Not that I didn’t already think of him as an amazingly knowledgeable expert – he basically just confirmed it ten-fold. AND! He clarified several aspects of training that I’d read differently in different places so that I really understand exactly which source was right.

For example, I’ve read in some places that you should give a verbal cue and a hand signal at the same time or something like that. The key is to make sure you always give the verbal cue FIRST, pause, then hand signal. Why? Because it makes it so that your dog can anticipate the hand signal based on the verbal cue. It’s all about the anticipation. The faster they anticipate, the faster they are at whatever you’re trying to teach.

The other thing I was super impressed with – though it sounds so basic when I think about it – is the steps: 1. Request 2. Lure 3. Response 4. Reward.

Pretty basic, right? Not always.
The Request is almost always the cue: Sit, Down, Speak, etc.

The Response is what the dog does. Moves his bum til it hits the ground, barks, etc.

The Reward can be a number of different things – primary reinforcers like liver treats or play or secondary reinforcers like verbal praise or kibble or whatever you’ve trained to be a secondary reinforcer.

The Lure is the hard part. The Lure can be anything. Normally, when I think of the Lure, I think of holding a treat in my hand, sticking it under the dog’s nose and trying to have them magnet their nose to my hand as I try to get them to go into a Sit. That’s one type of Lure. I think the word “Trigger” can also be used here. Because a Lure can also be: ringing the doorbell to incite excitement and barking for teaching Speak or JazzUp. Or, playing Tug to get a dog to growl on cue. Sticking something SUPER SMELLY under their nose to get them to stop barking and smell it for the Quiet/Shush command. Etc. A “Lure” can be any number of things that gets your dog to do what you’re asking without you physically prompting/forcing them to do it.

Pushing on your dog’s hind quarters to get him to Sit is not a Lure. It’s a crutch. I also believe that leashes, halties/gentle leaders, prong collars, choke collars, electric collars, harnesses and really anything else that you can use to physically prompt – or rather, force – your dog to do something can be (not necessarily “IS”) a crutch. What I mean by that is, you can learn to rely on any tool to get your dog to do something, but you do not truly have control until you can get him to do it without the use of the tool. Because, really, that’s all it is: a tool. Using a tool can be a good thing! A great thing even! But you do not want to end up ultimately relying on the tool.

I absolutely use a leash on my dog in public – it’s the law. But I want to have off leash control as well – and in order to have off leash control, I need to also train my dog off-leash.

Let’s use the Gentle Leader as an example. I think Gentle Leaders are fantastic tools – I really do! They are gentle and they give you an extraordinary amount of control when walking a your dog – especially if he’s ridiculous on leash. My recommendation, though, is that when training your dog, you train him without the Gentle Leader. Why? Well, here’s what’ll happen if you use the GL every time you work with your dog: You’ll end up with a dog that works fantastically while on a GL – but the rest of the time, he’ll probably be just as nuts as he was before. If you specifically take the time to train without the GL on – that is: you have very specifically set aside times for training walks where he does NOT wear the GL, but still use the GL when you’re not able to take the time to specifically train, you’ll have a dog that is consistently reinforced ALL the time – both by you and GL so that he’s as well behaved off the GL as he is on it. The GL just makes it so that you can be extremely consistent when you don’t have the ability to specifically train your dog. You still need to take the time to train your dog without the GL on.

And… that was a tangent.

Anyway – Dr. Ian Dunbar – AWESOME. I was so impressed. Other things!
On Friday of the Seminar, he talked about puppies and puppy class. And I learned a bunch. At least, I think I did. I am STOKED to try out some of his ideas on a puppy class. There was a ton of emphasis on keeping the class as off-leash as possible. The theory being that PLAY is the ultimate reward – which, of course, it is! Especially for a puppy. So you keep the class off leash (this is for a puppy socialization class where they’re spending almost the whole time playing anyway) and every 15-30 seconds you interrupt them, grab a puppy THAT’S NOT YOURS and calm him down. AWESOME!!! Why? Cause this exposes puppies to strangers constantly grabbing their collars, allows them to realize that just because their collar is getting grabbed, the fun doesn’t end, and that calming down is good because it means there’s more play to come! It also keeps the pups from getting too rambunctious in a single play session. Having constant play allows you to use it as a reward more, too. Otherwise puppies learn that training interrupts play and that’s no fun. I bought the Puppy Class Redux video – so I’ll watch that soon and figure it out a little better, I’m sure.

I did, however, take some issue with some stuff. For example. Dr. Dunbar was promoting the repetition of commands. His examples I completely agree with and I’m sure they work quite well – for dog trainers. For your average Joe who just wants Fido to Sit, it’s not necessarily going to work quite as well. Cause Average Joe isn’t going to follow through.

Here’s the scenario. You want Fido to sit when you’re 100 yards away – you want him to Sit immediately and you want him to stay right there until given another command. You say Sit and he looks at you and starts trotting towards you. Dr. Dunbar suggests that if he doesn’t Sit right away, give your hand signal. Still no go? Start running toward him repeating first your verbal command and then the hand signal in succession until he does it. Go up to him, say thank you, step back and have him repeat the Sit right in front of you. If he couldn’t do it on the first command, he has to repeat the action. Let him go back to doing whatever, go to wherever you were and try it again “Fido, Sit.” This time, he’ll anticipate your going a bit nuts at him and Sit sooner. It’s about the Anticipation. This, I agree, would probably work excellently with a dog if you are very consistent while training. I believe that a lot of people would be as prone as I am to be like “Oh you’re not gonna sit? Ugh. Fine. Whatever” and give up. Which completely undermines the command. You have to follow up if you’re going to repeat the command. ESPECIALLY if you’re going to repeat the command with any urgency in your voice. Urgency tends to mean it’s an emergency, just DO IT. If you don’t follow up when your voice makes it sound like there’s an emergency, then they’re not going to comply when there really IS an emergency.

Which leads me to to idea of Freeway Recalls. That is: practicing using a SUPER LOUD URGENT voice for your recall – and having it mean amazing things are in store. Because if your dog is running for the Freeway, chances are you’re going to be using the SUPER LOUD, URGENT, SCARED TO DEATH voice and not the happy, “Fido, Come!” voice that we practice in class. Practice it. It’ll likely save your dog’s life if they understand that scared/loud voice means better treats and not just that bad things might happen.

So, yeah! Those were my main takeaways from the seminar. I’ll likely be writing up all my notes soon. *I hope.*

Spring Has Sprung!

May 8, 2011

Spring on Library Mall

It’s finally getting nice out! Nice as in – warm and not necessarily raining the whole time – Yay!! What that also means is that classes are starting up again!

But first things first: I made a website for my dog training!
And a facebook page!
Go Like it!

Okay! Classes.
What kind of classes? Well – All kinds! First, I’ve finally gotten some things organized and I’ll be starting up teaching group dog classes out at Olbrich park on the east side of Madison beginning on Tuesday May 17th. To begin with, I’ll be holding a Life Skills Clinic class at 6:30 Tuesday nights. It’s rolling – so no beginning nor end (until the end of fall) – and it’s drop in. But email first! Go to my website to register. It will cover basic skills and manners for dog-friendly dogs. Potentially, I’ll be trying to get some shy-dog classes going later on, but that’s going to be based on demand.

Other classes! I’ve started teaching for Good Dog Home Obedience Training again in Arlington (north of Deforest). I’m teaching Pet Dog Manners classes for them, and after this first round, I’ll also be teaching Canine Good Citizen classes. Current PDM classes are Thursday evenings at 7 and Saturday mornings at 9:30. CGC classes will be held at 10:30 Saturday mornings.

One of my favorite things about the PDM classes is the 180 that some of the dogs do! Basic obedience classes are so much fun just because the changes you get to see in each dog are so dramatic. It’s pretty awesome. And! I’m working with a fantastic assistant up there this time around – her name’s Kate and she’s done a lot of work with search and rescue dogs – how cool is that?!

I would love to get more of my own classes going – trekking up to Arlington is kind of a long haul, even from the east side! So, spread the word! I’ll be printing out fliers and things for my Life Skills classes, too. Know anyone looking for a little obedience? New dog? Get ’em over here!

In other news!

I’m excited to be attending the Ian Dunbar seminar this coming weekend! Ian Dunbar is a huge figure in dog training – very influential. I’m actually really psyched about getting to go – so YAY!

So yeah! That’s all I’ve got for now! If you know anyone with a dog or getting a dog that wants training – tell them about me and send them on over! I’m going to be offering both group and private training. It’s gonna be awesome! 😀

In The New Year

February 5, 2011


As fate would have it, I’ve been a bit AWOL as of late. Winter this year has been a time of insanity and general lack of dog-stuff-ness. Which makes me sad. But, I’ve been getting back into it.

I was just voted into Badger Kennel Club as a full member, which rocks my socks kind of a lot. The BKC is a pretty nice organization and one of the only kennel clubs in the area, so it’s really a great opportunity to connect with other dog people – trainers, breeders, groomers, sitters and general dog enthusiasts. I’m pleased to be a full member now so I can be lead instructor instead of just an assistant. However, I have been assisting their Canine Good Citizen classes with Kay Scholl and Dave McGuire for two years now and I just love working with them. I actually really like the classes through the BKC a lot. There’re usually a fair number of dogs in every class and it makes things interesting to see so many different breeds come through. Plus, it’s always fun to watch the dogs come in with little to no training and watch them progress – many do complete 180’s which is just awesome. 🙂

Speaking of lead instructor, guess who’s teaching classes for Good Dog Home Obedience in Deforest again? Oh yeah, it’s me. I’ll be teaching Pet Dog Manners (basic obedience) and Canine Good Citizen for Ken Wedel again this summer – and I’ll more than likely be helping with Agility classes, too – Fun!! I’m pretty pleased. Ken usually ends up with a good spread of dogs coming through his place, and I just love teaching basic obedience-esq classes. The progress that the dogs make is just fantastic to watch when they’re in the beginning stages of training.

The other fun part about working for GDHO is that Ken’s most likely going to be borrowing Madison Mutt’s agility equipment. Which means we’ll have some really nice stuff for the dogs to use – and hopefully it means that Melissa (of MM) will be able to help teach the agility classes – because she’s awesome at teaching and I think it would be phenomenal to assist her classes again.

And the OTHER new thing is that I’ve finally started getting into grooming :D! Which, at this point, just means job shadowing groomer friends and asking a bazillion questions and practicing on Gimli and my dog-sitter’s two poodle mutts. At the moment, I’m hanging out with Rebecca Haglund of Diamond Dog Grooming in Oregon Wisconsin. Her business is relatively small and based in her home, but she’s very good and super awesome for letting me hang out, observe and study. I met her through the BKC, too – so, like I said, it’s an awesome way to make connections. 😀  Now if I could find a day that works for my other dog grooming friend, I’d be set. 😛

My work with Tabby & Jack’s is kind of on hold at the moment, but that’s what I expected for the time being. With the weather being less than ideal and us not having any kind of indoor facility, it’s difficult to get things going for training. Hopefully, in the spring when the weather clears, we’ll get that up and running again. In the meantime, I have some organizing to do.

AND! There’s a seminar coming up in May featuring Ian Dunbar! He’s kind of a big deal in the dog training world and I am Stoked to go see him. It’ll be rockin’. And hopefully super useful/educational. 😀  WOOT!

A Good Dog

October 15, 2010


Last night marked the end of the season of group classes at Good Dog Home Obedience Training (in Arlington, just north of DeForest). Which I would say is perfect timing because we were holding classes exclusively outdoors and I think we’ve exhausted our share of nice weather and sunlight on weeknights for the year.

The end of group classes sometimes makes me a little sad. I’ll miss some of the dogs; like this class had a little 5 month old shih tzu puppy named Tula that I just adored – she was SO CUTE! (Yes, I’m a sucker for small dogs 😛 ). And there will always be one or two people/couples that I just wish I could have done more to help or showed them a few more tricks for dealing with whatever issue they were having.

Class can be hard – after all, it is set up to be ridiculously distracting for all involved parties. I can be your best cheerleader and coach, but I can’t move you the way I need you to move to make things work as well for you as they do for me. All I can do is demonstrate. I love using class dogs as demo dogs. I already know my dog can do it, if I just show you how awesome my dog is, then I’m kinda just showing him off. I want to show you that your dog can do it. I can borrow people’s dogs and prove over and over again that their dog will do what they want him to do. Their dog can pay attention in the face of tremendous distractions; their dog can stay for them to walk 20 feet away, but sometimes it’s just hard to convince people that I’m not the only one who can get their dog to do whatever it is they’re asking. You can do it too! It just makes me wish I could do more.

On the whole, GDHOT has a lot of really cool advantages as a dog training business. Ken Wedel is the owner and the business is based on his farm. He’s got acres of space, plus barns and it’s mostly fenced in and open. Even the trees in one of the fenced areas are planted in such a way that they make great tools for stuff like heeling. If his barn was just a little bigger, it would be perfect for winter training, too. But! Maybe next year for that.

But: Good News Everyone!
In the new year, I’m going to begin to take on private training for GDHOT in addition to teaching group classes! I’m TOTALLY STOKED! The way that it’ll work is I’ll be splitting my week up, working certain days at GDHOT and other days at Tabby & Jack’s. I am so hip to this jive. 🙂

I think this may call for a move back to the near east side in the new year. Rock on.

Endless Open Sky

October 6, 2010

It seems as though this is a busy time of year. The kind of time when things are ending rather than beginning.

I’ve canceled the basic obedience class at Tabby & Jack’s. There was only one dog that could make it anymore, which is great for that dog, but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as far as “group” classes go. So, I proposed one-on-one training for that dog and hopefully that’ll work out well.

In addition to that, due to circumstances beyond our control, we’ve also closed out training at Madison Mutts temporarily. With any luck, Melissa will be doing better in the new year and then we can start everything up again –

which would be just lovely. There’s a lot of potential – it’ll work out!

It seems as though there will more than likely be a whole lot of waiting going on until the new year. This should be fine, though. As far as teaching goes, I wanted to start trying to implement a Day Training program as well as get private training going . Both of which would be better for me in the long run, I’m sure, since group classes rely on a place to go if not simply daylight hours. One-on-one stuff lacks the necessity of a lot of equipment, too, which can be a huge plus depending on what you’re trying to do. And what Day Training would be is a type of program that consists of a commitment of 6+ sessions where the trainer goes to a client’s house, teaches the dog, and at the end has a transfer session where the owner is taught how to maintain the skills that their dog just learned. It’s super nifty if you don’t want to actually do the ground work yourself – which a lot of people don’t. Or at least, they don’t have the time even if they do want to do it themselves.

So, that’s the plan! I don’t know what to expect at this point but you know what?
To quote my friend’s song:

In the west there’s endless open sky. Won’t get there hoping that this rope will untie.

The only way to get things to really work out is to do the work to make them work out. Here goes.

The Joy of Puzzel Toys

September 11, 2010

The other day I walked down to the pet store down by the library and picked up a Premier Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble toy for Gimli. There are a lot of puzzle toys out there for dogs that are supposed to make it so that they work for their food and I’ve been trying assorted ones on and off with him. I’ve tried the Buster Cube, which he seemed to think was okay, but I couldn’t make it hard enough to last any length of time. I eventually gave it to my parents to try on their dog Bowser (an Aussie-Sheltie mix). Why I thought it would last longer for him is beyond me. It lasted maybe five minutes for him before he started just barking at it because it was empty.

Anyway. I did find that Gimli loved the Premier Busy Buddy Twist ‘n Treat toy that I got him. I filled that one with bits of hot dogs and chicken originally though, so that could be why. 😛 It was also a LOT easier to clean. That Buster Cube was not cleaning friendly – it didn’t come apart at all. However, the issue I started having with the Twist ‘n Treat was that the parts moved too freely. Gim was able to twist it as he pushed it across the floor so that it would turn just enough to make it very difficult to get the treats out at all. He just ended up trying to lick them out when that happened, but it was pretty pathetic looking of him.

Now I’m attempting this Kibble Nibble game. It’s a pretty big toy for a 20 pound dog, so I decided to just feed him his meals in it instead of filling it with treats – make him work for a change. I put in his normal kibble ration along with some bits of freeze dried chicken and jerky treats and set it on the floor at dinner time. It didn’t take him very long to figure out, but the way the toy works is that there are little flaps that you can cut off of the openings to make it harder or easier for your dog. I wanted it to last, so I left the flaps intact. After a couple of rounds of pushing it around and only getting 2 or 3 pieces out I crooned “good boy!” from across the room at him and Gimli stopped, stepped back and gave me the most incredulous look. I had to bust out laughing- he doesn’t usually have to work quite so hard for a meal. 🙂

Gimli trying to get all the treats out

I actually really liked this toy – it took him much longer to get all of the pieces of food out. I think part of that was that it was mostly just kibble in it and not chicken and hot dogs. The more inciting the stuff on the inside, the faster he figures out how to empty it. I really like the fact that he can go back to it whenever he gets hungry and he’s still having to work for his food. It’d probably be excellent for nibblers AND gobblers – because it slows the gobbler down so  much for each piece and makes the nibbler still work for his food even though he didn’t finish it all in one sitting.

So, we’re keeping up with the Kibble Nibble. The only problem I found was that SmartyPants over here figured out how to lodge the egg between the couch and a bag just tight enough so that he could unscrew one side and open the thing up – effectively defeating the purpose. It was pretty funny to watch, though. 🙂