Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Puppies in training

Mom's going to Fidos to teach Puppy Class tonight...but John and I are staying home. Sounds good to me! Puppies are annoying!

Mom says they're testing in another puppy tonight...a field spaniel pup. If it tests okay, she'll be our first field spaniel in the program. I hope it works out!

There are four puppies in training right now for Fidos, all with puppy raisers. Allie is a golden retriever, Denver is a lab/collie mix (best guess), Patti is a German shepherd/Lhasa Apso mix (yeah, I know!), and Tara is a standard poodle. We like a little variety!

All the puppies are doing well...maybe mom can get some pics tonight. They're all young and are enjoying their training. Just basic training right now...manners and such. I've talked to all of them and have told them that they have to work really hard because being an Assistance Dog is so much fun!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008


So yesterday I was explaining why mom uses clicker training for me and my siblings. This is the continuation of that post...

I had left off with mom using a hands-off approach with my training. She also didn't use a leash. There was no way for her to give me a physical correction, even accidentally. Everything was done with a clicker, treats (I love to eat) and body language.

Side note-Dogs are very good at reading body language...ever come home to find a mess on your floor? What did your dog do? Look guilty and slink away? Most people exclaim, "SEE! He knows he did wrong!" What really is happening is that your dog is reading your body language and knows that instead of coming in and greeting him as normal, you are tense and annoyed. He doesn't know why, but the appeasement behaviors come out in full force. Tail tucked, eyes averted, head turned, maybe some lip-licking, belly crawling, etc. A dog that is very, very sorry for what has happened. But did you realize that the dog usually has no idea why you're upset? {Punishment is a tricky thing, unless you are timing it correctly, it can make things worse.} The dog is just offering his best "I'm sorry" behaviors because you're angry and tense...but the trouble is...he still has no idea. The next time you leave the house, and he has to go "potty", he'll do it again on the rug. And offer the same appeasement behaviors as before. Did he learn anything? Sure he did..."be worried when mom/dad comes home...they're unpredictable and may yell for some reason". You're better off preventing that problem from happening again...crate the dog. Not convinced...try an experiment. Next time something happens like a mess on the floor, stay cheerful. Relax your facial muscles, keep your shoulders loose, and smile at the mess and say something silly to yourself. Betcha that the dog will stop with the "guilty" behaviors. ;)

Back to my original was working me with the clicker and getting me to move around the house with her body language. Body blocking me (stepping in front if I started to rush the door-another bad habit I had), and stepping into my space if I got too close to something she didn't want me to have.

The thing was so much fun! I didn't realize that we were "Training". It just became part of my everyday life. I stopped being so "touchy" and learned to trust my mom and other humans. The snapping stopped because I craved the treat so much. Mom says she has a hard time remembering what I used to be like...I'm completely different she says. Part of this change is having a job too. (I have lots of jobs actually) It makes me happy and content. I highly encourage all dogs to get off the couch and get a job! (unless your job *is* sitting on the couch!)


Monday, April 21, 2008

Boooring day...

It's raining outside, and John and I are in the workshop making pens. Not much to do today...nowhere to go...might as well do something "handy". Mom makes me a bed on the floor of the workshop with lots of blankets that can be washed easily (everything gets dirty in the shop)...I like it because I'm right there to help if needed. Usually I pick up stuff before John asks. John and Mom say as long as I have a good "leave it" cue, it's okay to let me work without a cue. I say that something falling is my cue.

Mom and Score (my little brother) went to a thing called "Clicker Expo" this spring, and she's come back with all sorts of new words and terms. She says that she's good at the artful side of training, and is trying to brush up on her scientific side. Terminology is not her friend. But she's getting least I think she is. She's no longer standing there with a puzzled look on her face when someone asks what certain terms mean!

We use clicker training in our house, and I love it. Mom is what is termed a "Crossover Trainer". She started training with choke chains, force and *gasp* no treats. Trouble was, as mom says, she was training a basset hound. The typical "Stubborn" breed. No matter what mom did, that basset nose stayed on the ground. They muddled through for a year or so before finding AGILITY. Mom had always wanted to try agility, but didn't know where to go. Suddenly, she found a place, and they were accepting of a basset hound playing on their equipment. But there was a catch. No choke chains. Mom thought this was okay, as it wasn't working anyway. She started with just a buckle collar and loads of hot dogs. Amazingly enough...(can you hear the sarcasm?)...her basset started to pay attention. Mom wasn't clicker training yet, but had started down the road. She went on to title Harding (the basset) in agility and flyball...with treats and trust. (RIP Harding)

Mom continued with the treats and buckle collars...and got into other non-aversive methods and equipment, such as head halters. She used these with great success on Ripley and Xander (my big brothers) who were both rescues with issues. Then my sister, Inara, came along...with LOADS of issues. She started clicker training more...and it worked so well for her. Then I came along.

I was a easy-going boy at first. Rescued and transported from MO to Maryland to meet my mom for the first time...I was sweet and gentle. Mom thought, "This one will be easy". Ha!

I had space issues and problems with being grabbed. These things didn't show up at took a few months. The first time mom tried to move me away from her plate (she was eating on the couch), I air-snapped at her foot. This happened a few more times, and then one day mom "snapped". She grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to the basement to put me in a crate. I grabbed her back. In tears, she realized that she was waaaaay off-base.

A whole new part of my life started then. Mom took a hands-off approach with me. Rather than restraining or pushing me out of the way while she ate, she clicked and rewarded me for staying in one spot and a pre-determined (determined by her) distance. She only grabbed my collar if she was playing the "Gotcha Game" (grabbing for me in fun...and treating for it). And things were better.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Back to the keyboard

I'm back to the blog...and I have lots of be prepared.

John and I have been busy making pens for our upcoming craft show. John turns pens and other items on a lathe...keeps him out of trouble. I lay in the workshop and pick up anything he drops (tools, metal findings, sandpaper, odd bits of this and that). I don't mind the noise and the dust, it's just part of my job. Mom says I'm as cool as a cucumber. (whatever that means!)

We've been out and about more lately, as the weather gets warmer...and we had a flyball tournament this month also. Teaching classes, playing flyball, going shopping, making pens...that's what we've been doing.

Mom said we're going to do more blog entries on my training in the weeks to be prepared! Also, mom says we'll be talking about the puppies that we have in training to be Assistance Dogs (mom is in charge of puppies for Fidos For Freedom). I'm just happy the puppies are all in Puppy Raiser homes now, and out of our house!

For some pics of John's pens...check out his web page.

Sawyer's Turn