Archive for April, 2009


Swine Flu?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ok, I really feel like crap.  I returned home from San Diego, which John points out is way to close to Mexico not to be concerned, and came down with the flu. Last night I had to wake him up at 2 AM to get me something for my fever as I thought I was going to die right there. Then a couple hours later I woke up completely drenched in sweat. No fun. My friend Jeff Blake posted on my facebook page that he thinks it could be the swine flu based on the way I can honker down a vegan milk shake. He could be onto something there! Aaaah the memories of Boulder Colorado. I don’t think I have ever seen a place anywhere else in the world with a VEGAN junk food burger place. It had hemp milk shakes and veggie burgers, it was awesome. Luckily for me, Jeff is not only vegan, but also OCD enough to want to eat there every night over the 3 day trial last summer.

Anyway, I had big plans to start my outdoor training today, but I am think I will stick pretty much inside instead.  I just HAVE to do my dogs nails. Any of you that struggle with this, here is a great article to help you out, it pretty much sums up how I dremel my pack’s toe nails. It is a good one!

Today I am grateful that I am still here after how badly I felt during the night last night!


Aggression or Spatially Sensitive, Does it Really Matter?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sorry all, that I have been away from the blog. I have had lots to say, but life has gotten in the way. I wanted to comment on the issue of dog:dog aggression. I think the run of spatially sensitive dogs we have had at our camps recently warrants the mention of solutions on this blog. First of all please don’t wait until you have a full-blow “issue” before you seek out help with your dog. I was approached recently by someone  with a reactive dog and when I asked “how many times has your dog put a salvia trail on a dog” her answer was “four times that were quite bad.”  I probed further, as I hadn’t asked about “bad” incidents and found out that her dog had jumped other dogs 6 or 7 times at a minimum.  The last one, which was the night before the dog was to work in camp, opened another dog’s throat up for what looked like 10-15 stitches.  It is unfair to both your dog and the poor unsuspecting dog he jumps, for you to allow more than one rehearsal of such an unacceptable behaviour.

To on-lookers the easy answer is to call the dog an ass—- and suggest euthanasia. Even though I have suggested this for more than one dog, that really is the easy way out, to blame the dog. I am in no way an expert in aggression. But I do know true “organic aggression” stemming from an imbalance is rare. Most aggression is learn, based in fear that is not properly addressed. I have helped people with dogs with issues, but more often then not I refer them on to one of many CERTIFIED  behavourist that I know and respect (there are many).  The thing that irratates me about aggressive dogs is that their issues do not crop up over night.  Your dog will show you signs very, very early on. Your dog will shy behind your legs, pin his ears, errect the hair of his bursa and of course possibly growl. A dog showing any of these signs alone or in combination is communicating to both the other dog and to you that “I am uncomfortable in this environment and I need your help to cope.  Sadly, the owners reaction to their dog’s plea for help is to collar correct him, calling him an ‘evil dog.’   How sad for the dog. What this teaches the dog is to stop growling at other dogs, but it does not alter the fact that he lacks confidence in those situations. What may happen next time is that rather than growling your dog may just lunge and bite the dog! When your dog gives you his feedback, you need to evaluate it and act on it.  Pack yourself  loads of great treats in order to dole out the cookies when other dogs are near by.  Please don’t think this is the extend of my suggestions.  The truth is that a dog that has a history of reactivity around other dogs should never be put in a position to hurt a dog or even be allowed to lunge at his crate door or fence run with the neighbour dog. The dog at our place that had torn up the throat of that Sheltie was a dog that constantly fence fought with the dog next door. Any guess what breed that was?? Yes, it was a Sheltie. Years of pent up aggression that was never fulfilled with the neighbour’s dog was taken out on an unsuspecting other. You need to stop reherasals of undesirable behaviour in your dog. Practice makes perfect, so the more rehearsals of aggression your dog is allowed, the better he gets at being aggressive. Intimidation and blame is not the answer. Such a dog must always be on a head halter. There are some games that I have outlined in Shaping Success that I used with Buzzy to help him with is dog:dog issues.  When Buzz was a three year old, we were at an agility trial in the crowded walkway between the two rings.  I had bend over to tie my shoe and Buzz went over my head at an intact male German Shepherd. Luckily for me, in that vulnerable position, it was a very stable GSD that did not retaliate!  Not long after that Buzz made it clear he would hurt my, at that time ‘new puppy,’ DeCaff. That is when I listened to what he had been trying to tell me all along and I and started counter conditioning his fear of other dogs. Today Buzzy actually seeks out other dogs, he loves everyone.  Even if your dog is a happy go lucky dog that loves all other dogs, don’t allow the opportunity to give him treats around other dogs pass you buy. Check out the video clip in my last blog when the 6 month old puppy starts sniffing Buzz’s man parts. Buzz instantly seeks out my face to be told what a good boy he is. Once again the power of the “R” word. Reinforcement really does build behaviour!

Today I am grateful to be home for a staggering 4 1/2 weeks in a row! 


Recalls; a worthwhile investment

Monday, April 20, 2009

Anytime I do a foundation workshop I mention the tremendous importance I put on a  good recall. Not only is it lifesaving, everything grows from it. Focus for work, focus for you, the ability to control your dog at a distance and even handling gets a head start with a great recall. A dog that responds to your cues with a knee-jerk quickness, even when in full stride, will make a better agility dog. This weekend at the end of Skills Camp my instructors joined me and my dogs on our walk around the field.  Everyone worked on something recall related. Jane worked on loose leash walking in the face of extreme excitement. Penny and Tracy worked on recalls while Lynda and I worked on control at a  distance.  All the while the dogs where just enjoying a walk around the field. All of this gets mixed together as you are always training. Regardless if you “feel like it” or not, you are training your dog to do something. Most behaviours erode during the other 23 hours of the day when you are not “formally” training. Dogs are always learning, you can’t turn that off.  Penny had trained a great recall when her dog Teagan was a puppy. However ignoring the reinforcement the dog earned from her environment allowed another response to be trained over the next couple of years. Lately Teagan has been checking out her options rather than coming right away. Her preference is to herd my dogs rather than to come to Penny each time she asks. You think this will effect her responding to body cues on an agility course? You betchya! You will also see how we test recalls with Tracy’s 6 month old puppy “Matrix.”  As the song suggests “we got two lives, one we’re given the other one we make.” Nothing of value comes easy and everything we’ve got, we’ve got the hard way, by constantly being aware of what reinforces the dog throughout his life. Training never stops, the dog is always learning something weather you want him to or not!  Once you have a great recall, you need to continue to grow it, as I demonstrate in the video. Rather than constantly calling my dogs back to me, I ask for other responses when they are at a distance.  For a great plan to improve your recall, check out the article on my website Deposits into Your Recall Account . The key is to not allow your dog off leash until you have the verbal control that is demonstrated here.  If you can’t control the dog’s access to reinforcement, the only thing you have left to try is harsh punishment. As the old saying goes “violence begins where knowledge ends”.  That just is not an option for me. My relationship with my dogs trumps everything and the truth is, not only will you not get the joy to follow up on cues that these dogs demonstrate, training with physical punishment will never give you the control that I have when the threat of your punishment is gone (such as when the dog is too far away or when the e-collar is not on).  Reinforcement is the only thing that can build behaviour. So until the time you have trained the squirrels and the cats to listen to you, your dog should not have access to chase them (as they give reinforcement to your dog as he chases them).You need to be able to control the distractions the same way in which we controlled the other dogs when the puppy was not listening. Tracy would not have had her 6 month old puppy off leash in a leash free park where inappropriate choices could have been made. The great great recall history Matrix does have will continue to grow as she learns there is no reinforcement to be earned when you don’t listen to da mama every time she asks you to do something. You don’t want to give your dog the freedom to learn he can ignore cues from you.   Once your dog knows he must always respond to you, there is no distraction that will deter him from doing what you ask.   Please don’t say “oh my recall would be so great too if I had access to private walking areas like that.”  There are excuses, and there are obstacles.  I have not always lived here, and yet every dog I have ever owned has had the same brilliant self control just like my current dogs (yes even when I lived in an apartment).  You may be tired of reading this, but a great recall starts with Crate Games, the beginning of all self control for my dogs.

I never tire of being grateful for the awesome place John and I call home. We are all so happy living here.


Another Rockin’ Puppy Camp

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Well puppy camp was once again a blast. I was very impressed with the way the campers all were able to create focus and drive in some pretty young puppies. The key was “fast and fun” transitions. From the crate to work and back to the crate, including balance breaks (yes that is correct all you that worked with me in BC, we came up with a new name for ‘stress breaks’).  Balance breaks are quick breaks in your shaping sessions used to increase the dog’s excitement level and give both dog and handlers a break from their work. We used to call them “stress breaks” but too many students were taking them to alleviate signs of stress in their dogs (inadvertently rewarding the dogs for stopping their work).  The newly named “balance breaks” gives you balance between using food rewards and playing with toys. The students at puppy camp last week embraced the concept wonderfully. Here is a short clip from last week’s Puppy Camp.  Tomorrow we kick off Skills Camp, another big group coming in from all over (from California to Texas to Minnesota to New Jersey to Alberta and many ports in between!).

Today I am grateful we have scheduled a couple of yoga sessions (for staff and any students that are interested) before Skills camp this weekend (everything packed into one fun adventure!)


And People Say I am Obsessive

Monday, April 13, 2009

Puppy camp just ended yesterday, I will try to put up a bit of video tomorrow. However,  in case you haven’t seen this video, it is worth the watch just based on how much work these guys put into it!

Today, I on Easter Monday, I am grateful for my faith and for the comfort and happiness it brings me.  Have a good one everybody.


The Man is Brilliant

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thanks everyone for all of your wonderful comments about the free podcast I am giving away. A special shout out goes to all of the generous “geeks” reading my blog that have posted suggestions to help others having difficulties with the download. Reciprocity rocks!

Since being away for almost 3 weeks I am trying to play a bit of catch up with lots of things before puppy camp starts tomorrow. Lots of decisions needed to be made about the new house, and lots of running around and wasting times in lines.  Yesterday I laughed out loud while waiting my turn at Business Depot, it put me to mind of this John Pinette clip and I thought of shouting “get outta the line”.  He seriously cracks me up and laughing is also one of those things the “experts” say is good for you. I don’t think you need to be so special to realize that one. Enjoy your Easter weekend everyone!

Today I am grateful that spring looks like it may show up for Puppy Camp this weekend.


A Special Gift for You!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lots of great lessons were discovered during my recent time out west. There is one lesson though, that I find myself repeating over and over again when I teach, and yet still I don’t see the change in people’s behaviour.  You know the old saying “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”  Just like in dog training, if you don’t get the results you hope for, you need to look at your approach to your problem. I have changed my approach to this deliemma ALOT over the years while teaching people. My efforts have produced only moderate success at getting people to alter their behaviour. In my opinion this could be the single biggest reason why dogs stress in agility. It could be responsible for the dogs that stress low exhibiting their stress with sniffing, wandering off, shutting down and also why dogs stress high–running off to do “zoomies” or just grabbing obstacles without their handlers. I have no science to back up my theory, but if this isn’t the biggest reasons dogs slow down or lose focus on their handlers in agility, it sure is r-e-a-l-l-y close to the top. 

So what is the reason? To find out you have to sign up to my newsletter. I just completed a podcast for everyone and for now it is free for all to download. Remember I said if you don’t see the change you are looking for in your training you need to change your approach, so this is my change of approach. You get to have me yakking in your ear for ten minutes to try and drive my point home to you.

If you receive my newsletter you will have already been given the link to the podcast download. If you don’t get the newsletter go to  my website now and a new pop up subsription form will be waiting to greet you there.

Please everyone after you listen to the podcast be sure to come back and leave a comment here to let me know what you think of it.

Today I am grateful that the internet dude is coming to fix my connection today, love Starbucks, but love convenience more!