Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Animal Behavior College Mentor Training--Part Two

As a graduate of Animal Behavior College (ABC), I was very excited when they asked me to be apart of their mentor training program.  As part of the program to become a dog trainer, ABC requires both book knowledge and hands-on training.  The latter is where I come in.

(First see Animal Behavior College Mentor Training--Part One)


Class may be over, but my Mentee also accompanied me on several private training appointments.  During these appointments Jess was required to watch, participate, and eventually help teach.

For this private lesson, Jess was asked to go over the Leave-It command with Melissa and her dog Lucky.  Melissa has been training with Such Good Dogs with her two dogs Lucky and Hazel.  In this lesson we focused on just Lucky.  Since Hazel has come into the picture (about a year ago), some of Lucky's bad behaviors have gotten worse.  One thing we have been working on is Lucky's aggression towards men.  With the addition of the new dog came a power struggle in the house.  Although Melissa is doing amazingly better about being a good pack leader, there are still things to work on.  One helpful command to practice is the Leave-It.  When properly taught, this command can be used to tell your dog to leave anything alone, from people to other dogs, or even small animals and random trash.  Properly teaching a good Leave-It command can help keep yourself, your pet, and everyone else safe.  

You will notice that Jess seems much more confident and calm.  She is standing close to the dog while still remaining upright, and her overall body language has improved.  Also notice the close attention the dog is paying to her.  This is something we have been working on improving with the owner.  I am very proud to see Jess jump right in and take command over this dog.  She is projecting a calm and confident energy.  Doing this during training will help you build a better bond with your dog, help your dog pay attention, and also encourage your dog to learn.  Seems simple right?  It is.  The problem comes because as humans our emotions are easily swayed.  Don't let that anger or frustration get the best of you.  Take a deep breath, calm down, then continue your training.
Finally Jess is asked to observe the client perform the Leave-It command she just demonstrated.  While watching the client, it is important for Jess to notice what she does right, but also where she could use improvement.  Jess was correct to remind the client to only repeat the command one time.  This is important for any cue or command you are teaching.  Say it ONE TIME, and ONE TIME ONLY.  Repeating a command only teaches a dog that maybe the 5th or 10th time I say it means do it.  Say your command one time only.  If the dog does not comply, wait 30 seconds, then give your "Uh-oh" (No Reward Marker), move positions (this helps re-set the training in the dog's mind), then try again.

In this picture, Jess works with Hazel (Melissa's other dog).  Hazel is young and very high-energy.  One of the issues Melissa has with Hazel is her need to want to chase after things when out on a walk.  She enjoys picking up anything from leaves and branches, to random trash and dead animals.  We will again use the Leave-it command to practice getting Hazel to leave things as they pass.  Jess assists by walking by Melissa and Hazel and dropping random plant objects.

Finally, Jess is asked to teach several basic manners commands.  In this first picture, Jess demonstrates to a client how to do a proper Look.  Here you can see the dog looking directly at Jess.  This is exactly what we want.  At this point, Jess will give her Reward Marker, "Good!" then treat.

Here Jess is teaching the same Look command.  Jess is observing the client performing the cue.  As you can see, the dog is looking at the owner, which is what we want to happen.  Again, the client will give their "Good," then reward.

Although Jessica successfully performed and taught all commands, I will not show all of them here.  Instead I will end with one of the most important things you can teach your dog, a reliable Come When Called.  This is something every owner should strive for.  After discussing the 3 Rules and 3 Steps to teaching a dog Come when Called, Jessica demonstrates with a game called Puppy Ping Pong.  For this game, you need 2 people and one dog.  Each person will take turns practicing calling the dog over.  After the dog successfully has performed the Come cue, the person will practice one or two other commands.  These can include:  look, sit, down, up, and any tricks your dog may know.  The point of this game is to reinforce the Come when Called, but it is also an easy and helpful way to add an auto-sit after a come when called.  First practice and reward the dog for performing the Come command, then immediately ask the dog to sit every time.  After several repetitions, the dog will automatically start to sit after they come to you. 

Overall my experience training an ABC student trainer was a pleasant one.  Although breaking my leg in the middle of our training definitely caused set-backs, we were still able to complete Jessica's training.  I'm very happy and proud to have been a part of this experience and I wish Jess all the luck and success in the future.  With a bit more practice and confidence, I believe Jessica has the potential to become a very good dog trainer.

A special thank you to Animal Behavior College for the opportunity.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Animal Behavior College Mentor Training--Part One

As a graduate of Animal Behavior College (ABC), I was very excited when they asked me to be apart of their mentor training program.  As part of the program to become a dog trainer, ABC requires both book knowledge and hands-on training.  The latter is where I come in.  So a few months ago, I got to meet my Mentee, Jessica.


For the first part of her hands-on training, Jess brought her dog, Kaiko, to one of my Basic Manners Dog Training classes.  She took the class as any other client would.  Basic Manners is a 6-week, one hour per week class.  Each week the class learns new things to take home and practice with their dogs.  Handouts are given at the end of each week, and a certificate is given upon completion.  Items covered in the Basic Manners class include:  Come when called, Look/ Watch Me, Loose Leash Walking, Sit & Auto-sit, Down, Stand/ Up, Stay, Leave-it, and Drop-it.

During this class, Jess learned what it is like to be in a group class and take direction from an instructor.  Having participated in this class, Jess has learned not only how to better work with her own dog, but also got to see how a large training class is properly run.  A good instructor should be able to keep everyone under control and on-task.

First we must work on a student's technique in working with the dog.

These first few pictures are the first day Jess worked with her dog in class.  Remember, your body language when training a dog is very important.  You can see in these pictures that Jess is not only back too far from the dog, but is also arching her back outwards and away.  In the dog world, this makes you a weak energy.  To correct this problem, she should step in and stand straight up.  In this first picture, you will also notice the leash is tight.  You want your leash short but loose when working with your dog.

Always remember to stand tall and calm, but not stiff.  When working with your dog, stand directly in front of them.  There should be no more than 12-18 inches between you and your dog.  
In the second picture, you can see Jess is still standing too far away, but has loosened the leash.

One of the most important things students learn in Basic Manners Dog Training is Loose Leash Walking (LLW).  This basically means the dog is walking nicely on a leash, not pulling, and not all over the place.  (Also visit our Trainer Tips for more help).  To train a dog how to Loose Leash Walk, you basically have two options.  When the dog pulls you 1) stop and wait for the dog to move in a way that releases the tension on the leash, or 2) say "Let's go!" and walk off in the opposite direction.  Here you can see Jess demonstrating the stop and wait technique for LLW.  If you are consistent in teaching LLW to your dog, you will have a dog that is a pleasure to walk with in a short amount of time.  But remember to be consistent!  Letting your dog just pull every now and then sets back your training.

The first class with owners and their dogs can very hectic and stressful.  This is to be expected.  Many new dogs are coming together for the first time and can get easily over-excited.  People are also excited and sometimes nervous about what might happen.  As class progresses, a good trainer will make all students feel comfortable and welcome, while still helping them to improve their training techniques with their dog.  In these next pictures, if you look at the body language in both Jess and Kaiko, they seem slightly more relaxed.  Noticing little things like this is important.

This next picture is Jess working with her mom and Kaiko.  Part of being consistent is making sure that everyone in the household has all the same rules, all the same cue words, all the time.  Not being consistent with your dog confuses her, and sets back training.  I highly encourage families to have all member present during training.  It is important that everyone is on the same page when it comes to training.  If you have a large family, it may be helpful to keep a list of rules, cue words, and commands you use for everyone to see.  Practice training together.  Help each other.  Remember not to get frustrated.  Stay calm and make it fun.

As class progresses week by week, participants succeed in some areas and have trouble in others.  As a trainer, it is vitally important to help correct the weak parts, but also point out the things that people do well.  We do positive reinforcement training for both dog, and human.  Clients training their dogs must also be told when they do things well and encouraged to continue.  In this picture, you can see that Jess has gotten much closer when working with the dog, and has much better body language.

Sadly, 6 weeks goes by very fast and class is over.  Above are the graduates of Basic Manners Level One, April 2014.  Jess is on the left, with other class participants to the right.  Clients are always proud and excited to receive their certificates.

Continue reading Animal Behavior College Mentor Training--Part Two.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Scruffy3D-- Dog Apps/ Game


iPhone Apps for Dogs/ Dog Game
Released:  July 1, 2012

The evil frogmen of Mars have stolen Scruffy's bones.  This run and jump game contains 20 levels of fun including:  secret bone hunts, day and night environments, boat levels, and a showdown with the King martian.

Overall I found the game hard to control.  I suppose that as with anything, more practice would make it easier.  But I find the way the controls work on this game to be slow to respond and somewhat annoying.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Reward Marker

To begin dog training, you must first pick a Marker Word (Reward Marker) for when a dog does something you like.  

The Reward Marker (or marker word) is the thing that tells the dog, "YES! that is exactly what I wanted you to do!"  It is then immediately followed with a reward (treat, toy, petting, praise).

Most people either use "Good" or "Yes" for their marker word.  It does not matter what word you choose, as long as you always use that same word (this is true of every cue).  Remember to keep a happy and upbeat voice when saying "Good," and remain calm and confident.  Do not use any anger or frustration.  If you feel angry, frustrated, anxious or upset, you should put training on hold until you can calm down.

Henry receiving his "Good!"
To begin, we must first "charge up" the marker word.  To do this, say your Marker word, then give a treat.  Very simple.  Say "good," give a treat, repeat.  Do this 5-10 times to charge up your Marker Word.  By doing this, you are pairing the Marker Word with something the dog likes, therefore teaching the dog that this word means good things.  This is important.  The more you reward a dog for engaging in behaviors you like, the more the dog will want to engage in good behaviors.

Once your Marker Word is charged up, be sure to consistently use it EVERY time your dog performs as you request.  This is important.  Mark that good behavior EVERY time and your dog will be engaging in good behaviors on a regular basis in no time.  Remember to be consistent!

Along with your Reward Marker, you must also have a No Reward Marker.  
This is the opposite of your marker word.  

The No Reward Marker tells a dog, "No, that is not what I was looking for you to do."  The important part is that the No Reward Marker tells the dog this while still encouraging him to try something else.  A No Reward Marker should not be the word "No."  The reason I say this, is that it is very easy to get any anger or frustration you may be feeling to come out with a "NO!"  Instead we recommend the use of, "Uh-oh" or "Eh-eh."  This still lets the dog know that's not what we wanted, but does not discourage them from continuing to try.  It is very difficult to sound angry when saying "Uh-oh."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Trainer Tips--Avoiding Injury

As a trainer I have had many different injuries from working with dogs.  Most of these have been minor and basic things like cuts, scratches, and bruises.  I unfortunately recently had more of a severe injury, I actually broke my ankle.

In all my injury experiences, I would like to offer some advice to avoid these types of things.  Having a dog that is trained and well-behaved will also help you avoid injury.  Most of my injuries are from dog nails of dogs who jump up.

Below are some of the pictures I have saved over the years. 
Dog Nails:

Dog Teeth:

Human Error:

In this last set of pictures, I actually broke my ankle being careless during training.  The break was bad enough to require surgery and added hardware to my ankle.  After physical therapy, I plan to have super bionic ankle.  There are also an infinite amount of bruises I received during training that are not pictured.

How to avoid Injury:
Many of these basic things can be easily avoided by properly training your dog.  

Teaching a dog basic manners goes a long way in developing a good human/dog relationship.  Teaching your dog not to jump on people or use their paws (and therefore claws) when meeting or playing can help avoid scratch injuries (see anti-jumping/ auto-sit).  Teaching a dog bit inhibition (from day one) will keep you from getting teeth marks.

Finally, make sure you are considering safety for both yourself and your dog in training.  The reason I broke my ankle was because I made a bad decision.  It was an accident, and it happens, but I wish I could go back and do it over.  
I was in a final training class doing "Come when Called" with distance.  For this exercise we attached long lines to the dog (a 20-30 foot leash).  Instead of allowing me to take a few extra seconds to straighten the line before we began, the client called their dog over.  The way I was holding the line made it run around my leg.  I thought in order to avoid that impending injury, I would jump over the line (something I have done many times without a problem).  But this time I landed wrong and snapped my ankle.  The proper thing I should have done would have been 1) properly prepare before the exercise so I would never have been tangled, or 2) let go of the line.  It sounds crazy but sometimes the best decision is just to let go, especially if you will severely injure yourself by not doing so.

Other helpful hints:
Make sure you have a leash that is appropriate.  As a trainer I absolutely hate the Flexi-leash (Extenda-leash).  They are bad for training and can easily cause serious injury.  People have had severe rope burns and even lost a finger from improper use of these leashes.  I recommend and use 4-foot leashes with dogs.  Even a 6 foot leash can be too long (with the exception of very small dogs).  The shorter your dog leash, the better control you have over your dog.  Besides, even with a 6 foot leash, I've seen people get tangled and injure themselves or their dogs.

Keep you pets nails properly trimmed.  
When our pets lived in the city and walked every day on the cement sidewalks, there was not a need to consistently trim their nails.  But here in Hawaii, our dogs run and walk more often on dirt, grass, and gravel, and therefore we must get back to regular nail maintenance.  On average, most dogs nails should be trimmed about once a month.  If you are unsure on how to do this, you can pay a groomer or vet to do it for you.  You can also have a pet professional show you how its done.  It is best to start trimming your pet's nails on a regular basis from the time they first come into your home.  A dog that is used to having this done and has positive experiences from it will sit nicely through the ordeal.  Remember to do regular pet exams.

Keep your pet exercised and socialized.
As I said, most of my injuries in training come from dog nails.  This is largely due to the fact that many of my clients dogs are both under-exercised and under-socialized.

I can not stress enough how important regular physical exercise is for your pet.  And no this does not just mean letting him out back in the yard.  EVERY dog should be walked EVERY day at least twice a day.  No exceptions, no excuses.  99% of my clients do not exercise their pet properly.  Proper exercise can be a good walk, hike, or game.  But in any of these activities, the owner should be in control.  A good example is walking well on a leash (not all over the place or lunging at things).  Another example would be playing a game of fetch with rules.  For fetch, the dog must bring the toy back, drop it when asked, sit and wait for it to be thrown again.  Teach your dog patience by making him wait and earn the things he wants.  This is an important part of proper exercise.  Structured exercise will wear your dog out faster and more completely while also strengthening the bond between you.
(Above Right:  Caravaggio, Irie, & Nekita playing fetch after a hike).

Have you walked your dog today?

So many dogs are under-socialized.  I attribute this largely to the "lazy school of thought" on dog ownership.  Many people have unfortunately learned growing up that a dog is just something you get and tie out back, maybe play with sometimes.  This angers me to no end.  Why would you even get a pet if this is what you plan to do with it?  Get a goldfish instead!

Dogs are social creatures by nature and learn and grow by interacting with the world around them.  When you do not take your dog out into the world and expose him to new things, he will become sheltered and either over-excited, nervous, fearful, aggressive, or possibly several of these.  It is very important to expose your dog to as many different situations, places, people, and other dogs as possible (once they have all the necessary shots).  But remember to do this as the dog's pace.  Never force a puppy that is fearful or unsure into a situation.  Let the dog explore slowly at his own pace, encouraging him every now and then if need be (never constantly).  Also be sure to introduce him to dogs you trust.  If you feel that one particular dog may be too rough or encourage bad behaviors, find another dog to make friends with instead.  Dogs can very easily pick up bad behaviors from each other (avoid dog parks).  Remember to socialize with dogs that you like, you trust, and are already well-behaved.  Your dog needs dog friends too.
Beyond that, take your dog anywhere you possibly can with you.  Having a dog that has been many places and can behave in many places means you can take your dog with your almost anywhere.  My husband both loves and hates this.  He loves being able to take them when he wants, but hates that I usually always want to bring them.  The reason I take my dogs everywhere is because they have been well-socialized and trained, so they will behave wherever we go.  I often use them in training with client's dogs.  
(Above Left:  Berkeley & Sophie meet in a training class.  Above Right:  Dora & Caravaggio).

But for most people, they hardly take their dogs anywhere.  This is especially important of puppies and young dogs.  The earlier a dog is socialized, the more well-rounded and easy-going they will be.  Even if you can take your dog to work for an hour or a day, do it.  Teach him proper greeting behaviors like sitting and waiting to be pet by a new person.  Do not allow your dog to say hello if they jump up, mouth, or lunge at a new person.  Take your pup to the pet store, the park, on any hike you can possibly find, and your friend's house.  Group dog training classes are also a great place to meet new dogs and new people who also want their dogs to be good.  I have many clients whose dogs make friends and they visit each other long after class is over.  Finding a friend with a dog who is well-behaved and gets along with your dog has many benefits.  Walking and hiking together is great, and doggie playtime can be great fun and exercise.  
(Above Left:  Splash & Eku playing after a group training class).

Does your dog have any dog friends?

Benny & Luke running and playing.

Kana relaxing with dad after a swimming with the SGDs pack.

Kahiko & Dora holding paws after hiking and playing.