Friday, October 14, 2011


Hey everyone -

You may have noticed some changes on the blog - I have expanded the resources page and added a widget thingy to the side bar that is a slide show of sorts of different products that are on the resources page. 

The resources page has a couple of different purposes:

1.  Keeps all of my sources and tools in one spot as a reference for me!

2.  Let's interested readers know what I'm using and what I've used in the past. 

As I go along, the plan is to include a short review of items I've listed in the resource page - however, if you want to hear my experiences with a certain item that I haven't reviewed yet, send me an email at

I'm still experimenting on the best way to share what products I've really found useful and like - so please bear with me as I move stuff around and try different things.  :) 

The books, DVDs etc that are listed are linked to my amazon affiliate page, so I do get a referral fee if you end up purchasing, but I would encourage you to check your local library, or ask your friends if you can borrow their copies.  I own very few of the books and DVDs listed, most of them I borrowed from friends and the library. 

Please let me know if you have any questions and I'm happy to offer my opinion!  Also, if you have a favorite book or other resource, let me know so I can check it out. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The recall project - the beginning

The resource for this project is:  

Tess has a good recall.  It's excellent in low distraction environments or in places she's familiar with.  It's less than stellar when there are certain types of distractions - an excellent rawhide chew that she's found, birds, butterflies, and strange livestock.

Good is not good enough.

Recall is very important to me.

Maybe THE most important thing.

It was the first training behavior that I decided to utilize treats for, even before I learned about clicker training because I wanted to be POSITIVE and I wanted it to be PERFECT.

W pointed me towards the Susan Garrett article that I have posted at the beginning of this post.  Some of the concepts I have already started - keeping her on leash (even at home) if there is a distraction present that she might ignore me.  This includes playing with other dogs, large uncontrolled areas (fenced or not fenced), any location with lots of birds and butterflies.  Just by not letting her be distracted, and being more involved with her during play and her "free time" (time not spent actively training, or in her kennel) I've noticed an improvement - she's much more reliable.

After reading the article, I've decided to take a more structured approach and really "nail" the recall.  Did I mention nothing is more important to me than the recall?

The defining moment for me in dog training was chasing Tess through the fairgrounds during a bluegrass festival in a merry game of "chase the puppy".  She kept just in front of me.  I knew enough not to say come, as there wasn't a snow balls' chance in hell that she was going to respond.  I chased her silently towards the exit, and the only reason she didn't end up on the highway is because she skidded to a stop at a drainage ditch to drink.  I didn't let her off leash on purpose, I was grooming her and had my hand in her collar.  She did a colossal leap, evading my reaching hands (of course!) and took off.   She wasn't a bad puppy - she was a bored puppy.  We had reached a plateau in our training, I wasn't sure where to go past sit, come, down, heel.  I was treat training, but not clicker training and although I tried to keep it fun and engaging - compared to what we are doing now, it had to be dry and boring for her (and for me!).

The week after this incident, my classmate W offered to help me and Tess and introduced us to the work of clickers and molding behavior.

We've come a long way in a few short weeks, and it's time to add this layer to our foundations

Step 1-Decide on the command

I'm torn.  I've been really careful with the word "come" and it has a lot of positive "deposits".  It's easier for me to pronounce than "here", and it carries better because of the hard consonant.  But everyone uses come, including my boyfriend, who may or may not use it in the way I want - ie follow the process.  Does anyone else have a good word for their recall?

UPDATE:  I have settled on using "Check" for my formal recall word.  As in "check in".  I have a bad habit of putting "come" in a lot of every day tasks, so it's better that I use a completely seperate word.

Step 2- Compile a List!!!!!

I love lists.  I'm suppose to put down everything that distracts Tess that keeps her from coming to me when I call and rate them from 1-10.  I'll rate the major ones here, and add a more complete list to the skills list for future reference.

Fluttering ribbon
Horses and other livestock
Blowing leaves
Other dogs running at play
A really sumptious rawhide chew that was found leftover from another dog.
Other dogs on leashes
New place
Matt's shoes
Holt in my hand
Food scattered on ground
Container of food
Eating horse poop
People (men are more distracting)
Sniffing trash in kitchen
Couches and furtinure (she likes to jump on stuff and pretends to misinterpret commands as "up" - meaning get on something)
Out of sight
Grass (likes to flop around and roll and sniff)

Step 3-The plan
Three recall sessions daily, ~20 recalls a session.  Start with distractions rated at a 1 and see how it goes! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Showoff! - The Pout

I present to you.....

*drum roll*

The first *completed behavior that I taught by clicker training.  In fact, it's the first "new" thing she's learned since all that sit, down, come, and stay stuff back in those puppyhood days.

*I'm defining "completed" as a new behavior that I either molded or captured, and then named, and she responds to the command successfully when I'm showing her off to strangers.  

Puppyhood lament tangent - so hard to believe she's 7 months - I looked down one day and saw a lanky teenager.  Where did the puppy go that I could scoop up and cuddle in one hand? With a short cute nose and big ears that dragged in her food dish? 


Anywhoo - I showed her off the health center on campus and she performed the pout like a charm.  I'm ready to mark this trick as showoff ready! 

Of course, when I tried to get a pretty picture on the lawn tonight, she gave me this:

Froggy - a behavior that we are currently capturing but I'm not even CLOSE to being able to put in showoff category yet!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Post recommendation

Here is the post that inspired the earlier "victim" post.  It's in a slightly different take on the issue, and worth reading.

If you aren't familiar with Susan Garrett, I have linked her website, blog, and youtube channel in the "Resource" section of this website. 

Puppy Play 10/9/11 Notes

For more explanation on Puppy Play Note posts, see this post here

1.  The heel.  I've had the hardest time with the heel.  Tess resents it because it's not her idea and my frustration threshold for her constantly testing the heel is absolutely nill.  W assured me that I will NOT ruin my future obedience heel by using "Let's Go" and letting her walk on whatever length leash I give her, in whatever position she wants, without pulling.  This morning I went on a run with her, using "let's go" and it was hands down the best walk/run we've ever had.  We both enjoyed it immensely.  She didn't feel confined and rarely pulled.  It's back to foundation work for the heel and I won't use it in it's complete form for a while.

2.  Paws on the bowl.  This week Tess learned to put her front paws on the bowl.  The next step is to have her pivot around the bowl with her front feet in place.  This is foundation work for the heel.  I'll be able to teach my sit positions - finish, side, front - using the bowl as a position point for her front feet.

3.  Self correct position - don't really know what to call this, since it isn't a finished behavior/trick, but a transition behavior I need to get before I can start really working on the heel.  Basically, I walk a few steps forward and when she goes back behind my leg to correct herself into the right position I reward near my knee.  I'm rewarding when her butt is in the correct place - not worrying about the nose, since after the click, her nose comes to the treat position at my knee.  If I can get her doing this consistently, I will post a youtube video. 

4.  Cue versus verbal.  Does your dog respond to the verbal cue, or your body language?  Tess is very good on the verbal....if there is no distractions.  At the dog park, the cue barely worked, let alone the verbal.  Concept is - verbal only, wait, if no response then do the cue.  In this way you are pairing the two, since most dogs "get" the visual better.  It's really really really hard to control body language.  One suggestion was to do a cartwheel or handstand while saying the cue to make sure you aren't giving your dog body language cues you aren't aware of! 

5.  Resistance to the Holt.  Tess has accepted her Holt (head harness), but is still quite resistance if there is any pressure on it.  Much like a horse, I want her to GIVE to pressure on her head, so I will be doing some pressure/release stuff with the holt

This covers our "homework" from the puppy play group.  See the skills list on the top of the webpage if you are interested in everything we are working on. 

General notes: Tess was less focused than last week - but so was I.  Was late, had a rough weekend, and just wasn't really "on it", not to mention the LARGE mosquitos (both in size and number) were driving me insane.  My brain really is clicker stupid and for some reason it was REALLY hard for me to "get" exercise number 3.  It's one I really need to sit down and think about the mechanics of.  She's getting better and  better about not trying to rub the head harness off.  This week, she only tried it when she was laying down.  It's really fun to do something on a regular basis because even if you think you haven't made any progress at all, you realize "last week she was (insert annoying behavior here), but this week she's so much better!", which is encouraging.  Tess was even better about the other dogs than she was last week.  I've gradually be introducing more and more play time at home, as long as she shifts her focus to me when I call her, and as a result she's not lunging as badly trying to play with the other dogs while on the leash.