Over threshold

What does it mean when we say a dog is “over threshold?” It means the dog is over the optimal level of arousal to learn or perform. As with all terminology, the exact meaning will vary according to the culture you are speaking within. A person in the...

Learning. Teaching. Doing.

I have a story (it gets to dogs in the end): My husband was a patient in a teaching hospital this past week. That means doctors at various stages of training spend time learning on him – with varying degrees of competence and success. One set of particularly...

Making Time

Life is busy right now.  That happens – life being busy.  It’s hard to keep up.  Priorities have to be made and then one goes from there. This blog?  I can put it aside.  This post?  Short and sweet! – Time….time is the issue. Once upon a time,...

Communication

Imagine this: You’re walking your leashed dog on a trail and you see a leashed dog approaching.  The owner tenses, pulls the dog to their side, and starts a string of random phrases aimed at their dog along the lines of “Leave it.  No.  Uh huh!” etc....

Creativity in Training

I’m a fan of adding as much creativity as possible to training – for all sports.   The official reason is that creative training automatically strengthens your dog’s skills; dogs who can fetch twenty different objects of different sizes and shapes...

Beyond the Basics – Chapter 10

I wrote a book called “Beyond the Basics.” The purpose of this book is not to give you specific steps to solve a problem as much as to offer a framework for how to think about problems – which is likely to lead to rather obvious solutions. I’ve...

The half-click

What do you do when you predict a successful repetition in a shaping session and then, just as you are pushing down on the clicker, something happens? The anticipated behavior is not successfully completed? Uh oh.  Your brain told you not to do it but your finger...

The 90%er

I am a 90%er. That means I put out content at about a 90% level of “finished”.  If you choose to look for them you’ll find spelling errors, questionable sentences and possibly thoughts that are not fully fleshed out.  You will also find a whole...

Trust

A friend of mine went to see an in person trainer – an excellent trainer; I know her well. That trainer then recommended a specific exercise to my friend – an exercise that I never do. Indeed, an exercise that I had advised our mutual client not to do when...

A five-minute read to raising a puppy positively

You just got a new puppy. Cute and wiggly!  Congratulations! You plan to start puppy classes soon, but what should you do right now? I mean, the puppy is chewing on you!  Jumping on your guests!  Getting in the trash!  Should you wait for puppy class? No, you should...

Typical or atypical dog behavior

Typical behavior is what I would expect of a given dog in a given circumstance. It has nothing to do with desirable behavior.  For example, I think it is perfectly typical for an eight week old puppy to mouth human hands, to chew random objects in the house, and to...

No, you cannot simply ignore bad behavior

Ignoring bad behavior is a really bad idea if the behavior has any self reinforcing component – which is a lot of them. The advice to “ignore bad behavior” has gotten’s wings in the dog training community and we need to address it. It is...

Labels: Who am I?

For years I have struggled to find a label to define my approach to training.   In general, I have reverted to using either “force free” trainer or “positive reinforcement-based” trainer.  While neither accurately defines my training I think it...

Are you who you were?

I use labels.  I find that labels make it easy to talk to other people. I talk about shy dogs, reactive dogs, nervous dogs, driven dogs, etc.    Labels are a part of language and exist for a reason – shorthand communication. Of course, there are problems that...

Raika 05/24/04 – 10/15/19

Raika, you were special the day you were born. Always there. Always willing. Always giving more than I ever expected or hoped for. Always by my side – watching me. Waiting. For so many years, I loved you for all that you gave to me. Then it was time for you to...

Finding balance: Choice and Structure

Choice is the degree to which we allow our canine learner to choose their direction, ideally with an understanding of all possible consequences. “Do you want your nails clipped? If you opt in then you will get cookies. You will also get your nails clipped. If...

Drive

What is drive?   The terms high-Drive and Low-Drive  are commonly used in the dog sports world, but almost never in the behavior world.  Presumably that is because these terms lack any real definition. Dog-sports people are along the lines of, “I know it when I...

Reconsidering Acclimation and Engagement

I talk quite a bit about acclimation and teaching dogs to opt in to work via engagement training.   I love it!  Here’s why. Once dogs have had their basic curiosity about a working space satisfied they are much more able to focus on what we are doing together. This is...

Experience: how much is enough?

I’m reading a book (Influencer; The New Science of Leading Change) –  and one concept caught my eye: According to social science research, the difference between five years of experience and 20 years is relatively small in terms of applied skills and...