Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's all fun and games....

When dogs play with each other, there is a whole set of behaviors that they use as they romp and roll with the other dogs.   When dogs play with us, not surprisingly, they are very likely to use these same behaviors.  However, since we generally don't speak 'bark', and most of us don't have a protective layer of fur, two of these behaviors can be problematic for us humans: barking and nipping (or mouthing).   Luckily for us, these are really easy to stop using the patented "Get Really Boring" method!  When your dog play bites or play barks, you should, simply, quietly stand up and walk away.  Not a word, not a look, just be Really Boring.  When your dog calms down a bit, come back and play with him in the way that you want him to play - fetch, tug of war, chase... If the play turns inappropriate again turn back into "Boring Dude/ette" and quietly stand up and walk away (gently and quietly put the dog down if he is being held).  The two parts are important: get boring when play is too rough, and restart play when the dog is calmer; rinse, repeat.  I swear to you, it's really that simple.  The key here is consistency.  If you continue to play when the dog is nipping or barking, you are rewarding that behavior.  What "Get Really Boring" tells your dog is this: "If you nip or bark at me, we don't play".   Resuming play tells your dog "I like to play with you when you are calm".   

One thing I need to point out is that because the behavior has probably been rewarded for a while, you will probably see it get worse before it gets better. Don't let that get you down! Keep at it, keep being boring!  Behaviorists call this worsening of a behavior an "extinction burst".  In those situations your dog is thinking "This worked before! Why isn't it working now??!  I thought she loved my jaunty bark while we were playing...  I thought she liked punctures in her skin from my tiny sharp teeth....Let me try this again!" Eventually he'll realize it's stopped working and give it up all together. Its similar to a human standing in front of an elevator that's broken - when it doesn't come, do we immediately say "Hmm, it must be broken, I'll take the stairs" or do we press the button a couple hundred more times? 

Remember - dog training isn't about discipline and dominance. It's about rewarding the behaviors you want and ignoring the behaviors you don't. Think about how you interact with people - would you rather hang out with someone who
a) gives you a beer and chocolate every time you do something they like
b) someone who kicks you in the shins every time they decide they're not happy with something you did or said, but they wouldn't tell you what it was so you don't really know?

How would you react to those two different people? You'd LOVE hangin' out with person 'a' and you'd try stuff to see if you could get more goodies from them. And once you figured out what it was that was earning you beer and chocolate, you'd do that as often as you could!  On the other hand, you'd be afraid to do or say anything around person 'b', so you'd just shut down and try to avoid getting kicked in the shins again.  How would you rather be trained?

"Getting Really Boring" is a form of "ignoring the behaviors you don't like".  By Getting Boring you are choosing to NOT reward the inappropriate play behavior.  By going back to playing when your dog has calmed down a bit, you are rewarding the calmer behavior.  The message is clear.  Now, if I could only get Zinger to not reward Comet's play barking.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Poopsicle Conundrum

I have been a blogging slacker. I'm sorry. I started writing a post on where to acquire a canine friend and it just got to be to preachy and not funny, so I lost my mojo. The basic gist was - get a dog from a shelter or rescue group. Never get a dog from a pet store. If you absolutely have to have a specific breed and you can't find an available rescue, then do your research about breeders. Make sure they take their dogs back if something goes wrong or doesn't work out, and make sure they do the appropriate genetic testing for the breed they are breeding. Okay, that was way simpler and not nearly as preachy.

Now, lets deal with some training issues, which I think are far more fun anyway! A friend of mine lives in the great state of Minnesota and has a little dog that we'll call 'Henry'. Henry isn't so keen on going outside in the winter to poo, so there are frequently mishaps in the house. I can totally understand Henry's perspective. He's thinking "It's effin' COLD out there and I have the body mass of a turkey. I've seen what happens to turkeys in the freezer at home and it ain't pretty! I'll just 'take a moment' over here in the corner and hope I won't get into too much trouble. Even if she does yell at me it's still better than what happens to those turkeys!" Even though I am sympathetic to Henry's plight, this really isn't a behavior we want to encourage, even if his presents are the size of tootsie rolls. So what's a Minnesotan to do?

The first thing to do is control Henry's access to indoor places that he might want to fertilize. You can't stop a problem that you aren't there to see. He should be kept close by his humans so they can keep an eye on what he's doing and thinking. If he starts sniffing around or showing his other potty cues, then he needs to be scooped up and taken outside. Yes, this can be a frustrating process, especially in the winter when the human doesn't really want to go out either. So how do we make it more bearable? REWARDS of course!! Rewards for both the dog and the human. The dog gets something special when he poops outside. Make sure this reward is extra special awesome, something he doesn't usually get! Remember that the value of a reward is determined by the receiver, not the giver. Personally, I wouldn't be excited by a reward of beer, but reward me with a chocolate martini or a Diet Coke and now we're talkin'! So what would your dog risk homelessness to steal off the table if it could? Butter? Bits of hot dog? Turkey sandwich meat? Cheese? Cookies (I've met a dog before with a sweet tooth)? Tuna? Filet Mignon? Hamburger?

Whatever you choose, have some on hand where it's easy to get on the way out the door. If it's okay to be frozen you could keep a stash of it outside since it's winter. Many dogs like frozen treats. It's important to have it with you because you need to reward your dog immediately once they've taken care of their business. Waiting to give your dog a treat when you get inside is merely rewarding your dog for being inside. In the winter in Minnesota, being inside is its own reward!

Unless you are totally OCD about putting your coat away in closet that is inaccessible to dogs, I don't recommend keeping your treats in your coat pocket. I left some treats in the pocket of my LL Bean parka once. Courtney discovered the coat hanging on the back of a chair and proceeded to extract the treats from the pocket. Being a Border Collie, one might expect her to figure out how open the pocket so that no damage was done to the coat. Sadly, this story doesn't have that kind of ending. She chose the brute force method and went through the front of the coat to acquire the goodies. Lesson learned: Don't keep treats in coat pockets. Got it!

While we are on the subject of coats, make sure your dog is properly attired while they are outside.  There are lots of dogs that do not need sweaters or coats, but there are also lots that do.  You know your dog best, if they are acting cold then get them a sweater or a coat.  I keep Zinger in a sweater all winter, even when he's inside.  I also have a coat that I will put on him when it's particularly cold out or we are going to be out for a long time.  The nice thing about the 'all the time' sweater is he can go zooming out the back door after the squirrels with me having to futz around putting his coat on him first.  Comet doesn't mind the cold one bit and prefers to not wear a sweater.   In the springtime, when sweater season is over, your dog will look naked when you first take the sweater off.  You've been warned, do not be alarmed.

When faced with the daunting task of choosing fashions for your canine model, be sure to keep the practical in mind.  How easy will this be to put on?  Will it be comfortable?  Does my dog really need pockets that he can't reach? (I mean really...Pockets? On the back of a dog sweater? )  Is there adequate "urine stream" clearance?  Begin Rant:  Seriously, whose idea was it to make sweaters for boy dogs that cover their private parts?! The bottom of a sweater should always come down to the end of the rib cage and then stop.  I can't count the number of times I've thought "Oh what a cute sweater! That color will look great on Zinger!" only to turn it over to see that it will look great on Zinger until he needs to pee!  After that it may still look great but it will be wet and stinky!  There is no excuse for making a sweater that the dog is guaranteed to pee on!  Last I checked dogs all over the world have their private parts in the same places, so really, regardless of whatever country the sweater is made in, it should still have accommodations made for something so obvious! Sheesh! End Rant.

As a budding canine fashion connoisseur you may also consider shoes.  Keep in mind though they take a while to put on, so they aren't necessarily good for what we are trying to accomplish here.  They are GREAT for the guaranteed comedic "dog learning to walk with shoes on" episode you will get to witness the first several times your dog wears them!  

So what about that reward for the human? Pick something that you don't normally allow yourself to have.  Chocolate? Potato Chips? Starbucks Grande Decaf Soy Vanilla Latte? Sex with George Clooney and Brad Pitt (if you're into that kind of thing)?  Reading Shakespeare in the Old English?  Doing math for fun (I kid you not, I know people who do this)?

You can choose to reward yourself the entire time you are outside with your dog (which could be interesting given some of the above options), or you can choose to reward yourself inside when your dog is finished. You get to reward yourself every time, regardless of the, {ahem}, outcome. Why?  Because the behavior you are rewarding in yourself is "spotting signs your dog should go out and then taking your dog out even though it's cold and you don't want to".

If you are having trouble knowing when your dog needs to go out, I highly recommend putting up a 'potty bell'. You can pay a ridiculous amount of money and buy one made specifically for this purpose, or you can make your own. I'm cheap, so I made my own. Go to the craft store and buy a jingle bell or two and some ribbon. You may even be able to mooch these items off a crafty friend or relative! String the bells on the ribbon and and hang it on the doorknob. Make sure it's low enough that your dog can reach it standing on all fours. Before you open the door to go out, take your dog's paw and ring the bell with it. Open the door and out you go. It will not take long at all for your dog to associate ringing the bell with an opening door!  This is how I potty trained all of my dogs and I swear by it!

If you would like to reduce the quantity of butt nuggets your dog generates, then switch your dog to a prey model raw diet. Feed them 2-3% of their body weight daily with raw meaty meat with a little raw bone, and a little raw organ meat. The whole point is to feed them like their wolf cousins eat in the wild. This is how my dogs eat and they are very healthy. They have no breath or body odor and they only leave me amorphous deposits every couple of days. Best of all, it quickly disintegrates naturally so I don't have to pick up in my yard!  When kibble fed dogs visit I'm always astounded at how many backyard bungalows they generate!

Here's the medical caveat - if your dog has been doing fine going potty outside in the winter and then starts to have accidents indoors, a visit to the vet is in order. Any dramatic changes to potty behavior can indicate a problem and should be checked by your vet before beginning any training modification.

Drop me a line if you have questions or ideas or other euphemisms for 'poop'! 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

At heart, I'm really just a CONTROL FREAK.

Last week in my discussion of self rewarding behaviors, I brought up the concept of “controlling a behavior”. Part of the reason I love dogs so much is because they are sentient beings. They have brains and they use them all the time! Just like us, they spend lots time using their brains to figure out how to get what they want. Sometimes, what they want and what we want are two different things. Sometimes we can train them to want what we want, sometimes we can’t. Regardless, if a behavior is unwanted or dangerous, it needs to be controlled at the very least. Even if you plan to train it away, you need to control it until the training is solid – as I said before if the dog is allowed to continue the undesired behavior it will be harder to train away.
So, what does it mean to 'Control' a behavior? Simple - don't give your dog the opportunity to do it! Before I go into more detail, I’m going to tell you what it DOESN'T mean: controlling a behavior doesn't mean banishing your dog from the house and keeping them outside all of the time. Dogs are pack animals, if you aren't willing to fully welcome them into your life and home then don't get one. It also doesn't mean keeping them crated or in a separate room all the time. That's just an indoor version of banishing them outdoors. That being said - the crate can be a useful tool, so please don't think I'm against crates. I'm not. I currently crate Comet when I'm out of the house because he's been on a chewing jag.
Now onto appropriate forms of controlling behaviors! None of these are rocket science. In fact, they can keep you from wanting to put your dog on the next rocket to the moon after they dig a hole in your sofa while you’re gone! Zinger is lucky I didn’t have a rocket handy after he dug a large hole in our sofa. Granted it was extenuating circumstances - lightning hit the tree in our yard. He also climbed up the bookshelf to get the box of Barbie’s off the top shelf so he could chew off their legs. He apparently was very freaked out.
Some of the most basic control methods are things we probably should be doing anyway - closing the lid on the toilet seat, putting our shoes away when we take them off, keeping the kitchen counters clear of food and dirty dishes, picking up after ourselves. Dagnabbit our Mothers were right! Damn!
Sometimes you need to make use of physics - dogs, with the exception of Comet (although he doesn't know how to control it) cannot transport themselves through solid objects. In other words - make use of doors, baby gates, and your body.
  • Keep your shoes, those magically smelly chew toys, closed up in a closet.
  • Litterboxes can be kept in rooms with a cat sized door flap. This works well unless you have a small dog - in that case, you may need to have one of those door flaps with a radio key that hangs on the cat's collar. I've heard of cats training dogs to come stand next to the radio key doggie doors so the cat can sneak outside, but I have yet to hear of a dog training a cat to do the same for access to the kitty litter.
  • Keep the dogs inside when the mailman is coming so they don't charge him from the bushes.
  • Use your body to prevent access to things. If your older dog likes to steal the puppy’s food, use your body to keep the older dog away from the puppy until the puppy is done eating. If the older dog tries to move around you, move with purpose to keep the older dog away. Use your whole body, standing up straight, not your arms or hands. Patricia McConnell, in her book “The Other End Of The Leash”, calls this a “body block”. The book is fantastic and it should be on everyone’s must read list, just for the body block alone! I’ve used the body block with my dogs on many occasions. I’ve seen dogs use it on each other and on humans! It’s a natural part of their doggie language, which is why it works so well. When my children were babies, I was out for a walk with my border collie, Courtney. As we were walking we ran into a neighbor and stopped to chat. Courtney put herself between the person and the stroller and wouldn’t move. She didn’t make a sound and wasn’t the slightest bit aggressive. She didn’t need to be. She was using her physical presence to keep the person she didn’t know away from the baby.
  • Provide lots of appropriate things to chew.
  • Keep your dog in the same room as you if you can't trust them to wander the house on their own. You can use doors, gates, or a loose leash attached to your waist. You can use your body to block the doorway when you see the dog try to wander away. He’ll get the message. Be aware of your dog’s mood though. Sometimes dogs need a break especially if your environment is crazy or the human kids are running amok. If a nap is appropriate and you can't trust them alone, then give them some crate time but don't forget about them! Naps can be particularly important for puppies.
Safety – when using physics, always keep safety in mind. Never leash your dog to anything and then leave. If your dog is tied up or leashed you need to be there to supervise. If you are using a gate, you need to make sure it is solid and not jumpable or climbable. Don’t underestimate the acrobatic abilities of your canine! Doors can be chewed, some dogs are very resourceful and can undo latches, catches, and some doorknobs. Know your dog and be honest about what it’s capable of when you’re not home.
Sometimes to control a behavior you might need to be creative. Some examples:
  • Zinger had decided that while we weren't home, it was 'okay' to go poo in the basement. He didn't do it when we were home and if we blocked off access to the basement he didn't poo upstairs. I will eventually solve the behavioral mystery of that, but in the mean time I was getting tired of cleaning poo when I got home! So, we installed a 1/2 wall-height door at the top of our basement stairs. The baby gate was too low and was therefore jumpable. A full door would have looked ridiculous. We bought a heavy door at a salvage sale and cut and finished it to the proper height. Not only does it solve the problem it actually looks pretty good!
  • When we have the pet sitter come while we are on vacation, I take our 4x4 metal exercise pen and stretch it around the bookshelves in my office. That way the dogs have access to that floor space, but they won't pull the books off the shelves and chew them. Apparently book bindings are a great treat when your people go on vacation without you.
  • To keep the dogs off the backs of the sofas we got some of that plastic hall runner with the little rubber nubbies on the bottom. We put it on the sofas with the nubby side up and they are no longer so comfy for whippets to sit on! I know a woman with a toy poodle who uses shower curtains to keep the dog of the sofa.
One of the above ‘creative solutions’ involves something I would call an “aversive”. An aversive is something that makes a dog or person not want to do something again because it wasn’t particularly rewarding. I avoid using aversives whenever possible. To the detriment of both human and dog, they are used far too frequently as a method of dog training. They are used far too frequently in society in general. We find it easier to think of ways to punish and force, rather than coach and reward. If I need an aversive, such as the nubby carpet runner, it’s as mild as possible, can’t possibly cause any accidental harm, and the dog will easily and obviously be able to choose an alternative.
Crating your dog(s) when you're not around to supervise them is also a great way to keep them out of all kinds of trouble! This comes with caveats/guidelines however:
  1. Make sure the crate is the appropriate size for your dog. At the very least they should be able to stand up and turn around in it. If you have puppies that aren't house trained, the crate can also be too big and sabotage house training. If the puppy pees in one corner and sleeps in the other, it's too big.
  2. The crate should be comfortable to lay in for several hours. What kind of surfaces does your dog like to sleep on? Pay attention to make sure they are going to be comfortable. My whippets would be miserable if there wasn't something cozy in there for them to lie on. A dog that sneaks into the shower to sleep on the cold porcelain might like a cooler surface.
  3. Don't leave your dog crated for super long periods of time. Dogs are thinking creatures, they get bored, lonely, cramped, and have to pee too. Be polite.
  4. If you use an exercise pen instead of a crate make sure it has a top on it that cannot be dislodged. Some of the smallest dogs have escaped exercise pens by jumping or climbing.
Hopefully I’ve given you some brain fodder for helping to control some of your dog’s less desirable tendencies. If not, email me your tricky to control behaviors. I love problem solving! Lets see if we can come up with a solution together!
Courtney, Comet, and Zinger
Here I Am Controlling Their Access
To the Thanksgiving Buffet!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Self Reinforcing Behaviors

The other day my Facebook status was the following:
"So, I took the kids down to the bus this AM and left my french toast in the pan on the stove to keep it warm. When I returned, my french toast was no longer there. As I was pondering my lost breakfast, I looked at Zinger and said "You took it didn't you?" His only reply was a lip lick and a belch. Yup."

This is a perfect example of
A Self Reinforcing Behavior -ior -ior!!

What's a 'self reinforcing behavior', you ask? It's a behavior that is self training - no external reward or reinforcement is necessary. The mere act is reinforcement enough. For you to fully understand why these are important, let's start at the beginning....

If you take all of the behavior theory* that we use in dog training, and cook it down to it's most basic and useful essence it's this: Behaviors can either be rewarded or not. Simple. "Or not" translates to "Meh. It didn't do anything for me" or "Crap, that really sucked!" - AKA - it was either not worth the effort or it was punishing in some way. Rewarded behaviors will be repeated in an effort to get more reward. The "Or not" behaviors will die out. This works for pretty much all sentient beings (including husbands and wives), believe it or not.

*** Husband comment: excludes children. Kids' behavior defies all logic! ***

The important thing to remember about rewards is the value of the reward, or whether or not it's even considered a reward at all, is in the eyes (or mouth) of the receiver - NOT on the giver or observer. As humans we like to do a lot of transference and generalization. We think "Well I like it, therefore everybody else must too!" Not so much. We all have been in situations where somebody else did that to us, and we were decidedly not in agreement. By the way, sometimes the reward for humans isn't so obvious...sometimes satisfying or silencing the voices in our heads (oh hush, I know you have them too!) is a strong enough reward to get us to do some pretty crazy stuff.

Now, back to our dogs. There are some things that dogs do that are inherently rewarding for them. These are the aforementioned "Self Reinforcing Behaviors"! The one mentioned in my Facebook status would be food stealing. Other common ones are

  • chewing Barbie legs (and all inappropriate chewing) - there is something about Barbie legs that is just insanely satisfying for a dog to chew. I have a whole team from Barbietopia for the upcoming winter Paralympics.
  • barking at the mailman - I bark, he goes away. Most dogs don't realize he was going to go away anyway.
  • drinking out of the toilet - fresh cool water from the porcelain spring!
  • digging for "litter box crunchies"TM - the crunchy coating makes the cat poo taste even better!
  • sleeping on the furniture when you're not home - Duh! It's more comfy up there and it smells like you!

There are many many others, and you may or may not care. Personally, dogs drinking out of toilet (assuming it's flushed) doesn't bother me. Food stealing, especially when it's my breakfast, is a problem. Barking at the mailman is cute since my dogs howl an adorable opera. Racing around the house from the back yard and biting the mailman, on the other hand, is a problem.

Some of these can be trained away and we'll discuss those in future posts. Regardless of whether you plan to train them away or not, if you feel a behavior is a problem, you will need to control it. Why 'controlled'? Because - you are fighting a losing battle! Your dog isn't going to all of a sudden develop a conscious and decide to stop because it bothers you. Heck! There are lots of humans that won't even to that! The inherent reward is far to strong. If it wasn't, they wouldn't do it! You coming on the scene an hour later and yelling at your dog isn't going to do anything other than make you feel somewhat better that your daughter's brand new Holiday Barbie is now a contender for the Barbietopia Paralympic bobsled team. Plus, if you plan to train it away, it's very difficult to train away something that is a) rewarding and b) that your dog can do when you're not looking.

Now that you understand what a self-reinforcing behavior is (hopefully!) and why they are important, you're probably wondering what it means to control a behavior! Mwhahaha!! That's my next post! Luckily, you won't have to wait long though. That post is almost completely written! Stay tuned!

BTW - I apologize for it being so long since my last post! My intent is to do one weekly. So now that I've stated that goal, I expect y'all to keep me honest! :)

* When I say "theory" I mean the real scientific definition of the word - something that has been proven true repeatedly using scientific method. I am NOT using the cultural misinterpretation that really means 'hypothesis' or 'something I believe to be true but has not been proven yet'. Pet peeve? You betcha!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Leash walking 101!

My first real post! YAY! This is a topic near and dear to the heart of anyone who has ever had to walk a very excited dog on a leash - how do we get them to stop pulling?!?!

There are LOTS of devices out on the market to 'fix' this pro
blem. Really, the only thing that will really fix the problem is training. Devices control the problem, but don't actually fix it.

Controlling vs. fixing is a common thread we'll discuss as we go on. In the case of dogs pulling on leashes, controlling is okay in the short term, but, really, what you want is a dog that walks WITH you and is aware of what you are doing, the speed that you are walking and the direction you desire to go. You want to be able to snap a leash on your dog and be able to walk them the short distance from the car to the dog park without your arm getting pulled out of it's socket!

The myriad of gadgets, collars, and harnesses available basically attempt to force your dog into passively paying attention to the
characteristics we're looking for. I will admit to relying on our Premier Easy Walk Harness when I'm out with the dogs and not in a position to be focusing on training. However, the ultimate goal is to train them so they are actively paying attention regardless of how they are attached to the leash.

So how do we do this? Why, "Be The Tree"* of course! There are two ways - "the traditional stationary tree", and the mystical "backwards walking tree"!

Traditional Stationary Tree:
As soon as the dog starts to pull, you become immobile. Stand there and don't move. Don't say anything, don't cue him, just stand there, stock still and silent. Eventually the dog will realize he's pulling and he ain't moving...
DRAT!...He'll look around and he'll look back at you as if to say "Hello stupid HUMAN! We're on a walk here, why aren't we moving?!?!" - and when he does, the leash will slacken a little bit and as soon as it does - you start walking forward again! Then as soon as you feel the leash tighten - repeat. On the first walk you may move a whole 10 feet...woo hoo! Eventually he'll get it - he'll have the moment of realization - "OH! If I pull, we don't move and I don't get the sniff and explore. If the leash is loose, then I get to move and sniff and check out all the exciting things on the telephone pole! Okay, I'm going to make sure I keep the leash loose so we keep moving!" Voila! You may have to occasionally remind him when something particularly exciting arises, but okay - you know what to do...and he knows what to do too -- and the amount of time it takes for the realization to happen gets shorter and shorter each time.

"The Mystical Backward Walking Tree"
The second method is based on the same idea, except that when you feel the leash tighten, you start walking backwards - again silently, no cuing, talking, or nuttin! Don't turn around, literally walk backwards. Now you are making a very obvious physical point to the dog - when you pull, we don't go that direction, we are going away from the exciting things up ahead! Same a
s before, as soon as the leash slackens, start walking forward again. You may walk minus 100 feet the first time with this method. That's okay - because eventually, the dog will have the same realization - "if I want to go over the that telephone pole there and check my pee-mail, I have to keep the leash loose."

I use the MBWT method with my dogs when they start going "crackers with bananas on top" because they see another dog while we're out walking. They love to say hello to the other dogs. Overall, this is great, except that Comet gets excited and starts barking. Comet has a very loud bark, so we have a "No barking on walks rule". When he gets overly excited we back-up, away from the source of the excitement until he stops barking and then we move toward
s it again - until he starts barking, and then we back away, repeat ad-infinitum. Eventually, he remembers "Oh, wait, crap - SHUT UP! or I'll never get to sniff that other dogs butt!" Each time out I back up less and move forward more. He no longer starts yapping from excitement the instant we start walking, now he only loses it when he sees another dog. Of course, our progress would be faster if I walked them more, but it's cold and I'm lazy.

The one critical component of this method is one you have to muster up inside yourself - PATIENCE! I know we want this to happen quickly, but since we are waiting on the dog to figure things out for itself, we need to wait. Spend th
e time admiring the unique curl of your dogs tail, or the adorableness of the little swirls on his butt.

*I believe I first heard the phrase "Be The Tree" at a Suzanne Clothier seminar. If you are unfamiliar with her, she's AWESOME, and you should definitely check out her books and seminars!

Here's what to expect, ground rules, etc...

My sincere hope is that others will read this blog and benefit from it. Therefore, in the off-chance that someone does actually read this, I'll put down a foundation!

What you will primarily find reading this blog is training advice that focuses on maintaining and building your relationship with your dog(s), operant conditioning, positive reinforcement and proven behavioral theory. Humans have been training dogs for thousands of years, there are lots of techniques that work. There is an old joke that goes "There is only one thing two dog trainers can agree on: that the third trainer is doing it wrong". How we care for and train our beloved companions can spark endless hours of spirited debate. I get that. So here's the deal - I'm more than happy to read your comments and even post suggestions and discussions. I think they can be beneficial and educational. HOWEVER, I will not allow anything that will a) result in what
I perceive to be ill treatment of a dog, b) goes against my personal training philosophy, and c) is just nasty or mean to any being - be it human or canine. You even have to be nice to cats on this blog too. Oh, and cows, I like cows.

I also reserve the right to post about my dogs and their infinite adorableness and other dog care issues. So hey! Let's get to it! Feel free to email me questions and topics you'd like to see addressed as well!