Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brief Training Update

Hello Readers,

I don't update this blog as much as I used to, mostly because I spend most of my writing efforts on or, but I thought I would post a quick and brief update on both Duke and Petey.

Update on Duke:

Duke finished his beginner's agility class in the summer. He did fairly well in it but most importantly got calmer and got used to working around dogs again. Unfortunately he did get really snarky on one particular dog in class for which we were quite embarrassed about but fortunately nothing bad happened out of it except for a lot of howling. Duke now has a really, really nice Sit Pretty and Play Bow and did a few jumps, coaxed through tunnels, etc.

A very exciting update in the last month or so is we switched Duke to a raw diet (raw with vegetables, and supplements, not prey model). This topic deserves a full blog post later.

Last brief update is our incorporating Behavior Adjustment Training into Duke's mix has been tremendously beneficial.

Update on Petey:

From February till late May, we had a third Beagle houseguest - Cooper, and what I realized after he left was that Cooper's presence was really stressing Petey out. He didn't do that great on the 4th Karen Pryor Academy workshop and during the spring he had lost focus and drive to work. Back then I was perplexed as to why my super drivey happy to work dog had become easily distracted and uninterested in work. Even Steve Benjamin (my instructor with KPA) noticed that Petey was not his usual motivated self.

Well, a few months after Cooper left, I noticed an improvement in Petey. It wasn't coincidental. His motivation to work, focus, and drive went right back to where it was before.

Moral of the story is... if you want the best from your dog, you need to focus on all aspects of a dog's health. Good diet, sufficient peace and quiet (he did NOT have this with Cooper around), physical exercise, mental stimulation, and good health. Cooper's constant howling and barking, and his usurping of a sleeping spot on the dog couch meant that Petey was always on edge, and therefore unable to focus.

So Petey's back! Here's a little video taken last week of Petey working on Finish. The tappy toes and waggy tail that he is known for is in full effect.

Friday, July 16, 2010

happy 1 year, petey

today marks the one year anniversary since petey came to live with us!

when we were still fostering everybody kept on saying how we would never let him be adopted and that we would eventually keep him. i guess all those people - friends and strangers - were correct!

thank you, petey, for teaching us:
  • to let sleeping dogs lie
  • that it is possible for dogs to sniff each other on the sidewalk without an altercation
  • to respect and be mindful of dog body language
  • that with positive reinforcement anything is possible - even teaching you a bite inhibition

we are so happy that we will be your forever home - we were always a bit worried about what would happen when/if you bit your new owners.

andre, duke and i are looking forward to growing older with you.

we love you!

cross-posted to

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation

As mentioned in previous entries, I'm currently working through Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. In it, very early on, she references Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation as a foundation exercise for the work.

Years ago, I stumbled upon it, and at the time (back when I didn't really have a good understanding of classical conditioning), I dismissed it as a series of down-stay exercises of increasing duration and distraction. Now, knowing better, I realize that its an invaluable way to condition a relaxed state in a hyperactive, vigilant, or anxious dog!

So, I started the work tonight with Petey. Petey is an awesome dog to work with, but when we first fostered him, he had NO impulse control. It wouldn't take much stimulation to get him into a frenzy (i.e. if a dog was playing fetch, he'd chase after the other dog and bite them). He's much better now, but with his reactivity at agility class recently, I've decided that Petey's next challenge (and my next training challenge) is to do the work McDevitt prescribes in Control Unleashed and make him my own "Snap" (Leslie's hyper vigilant reactive rescue that became the genesis for her program).

The book itself doesn't actually tell you how to implement the protocol, so I've googled high and low and found the following resources:

A video showing a dog working on the Day 1 exercise. No event marker/clicker. Just feeding in place.

This is the complete document with instructions and the training plan. The problem with the training plan is there are a ton of exercises to be done consecutively and if you don't have the luxury of a friend reading them to you as you do the work, its awkward trying to read a piece of paper.

Courtesy of - Roxanne Hawn has made audio files of the protocol! Now, you can just put the tracks on your iPod and do the work ANYWHERE!

With these resources, anyone can do the work now on their own. I can't wait to share my findings as we proceed. If any readers have done the work themselves, please comment and let us know what your personal experience has been.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Duke's Foundation Work - Class 2 at All About Dogs

Today was Duke's 2nd time at Beginner's Agility class at All About Dogs. I am happy to say that he did much better. The teacher allowed us to work at a distance from the dogs. We did the following things to get him ready for today:

- No breakfast
- 40 minutes of vigorous fetch at the park prior to class (he was tired and he was sluggish in class, but his focus was solid)
- Foundation work leading up to today - at the risk of any cues being poisoned, we introduced a new cue called "mi-te" which is Japanese for "look" for a focus/watch cue.
- Taking a page from Emily Larham (kikopup) on Youtube - we had a variety of food today such as smoked turkey, roasted chicken, aged cheddar, and bread.
- Got to class 20 minutes early to allow for a 10 minute walk outside and 10 minutes of attention work in the class prior to all the dogs arriving

The work we did today was:

- Down stay on a mat, eyes locked on handler, click at a distance, treat in place
- Turn left, Turn right
- Sit Pretty work
- Perch work (rotate hind leg awareness)
- Call to heel position from down stay
- Heel crossovers (cross from right to left)
- Playing with the equipment
- Play bow

Homework is all of the above!

GREAT JOB DUKE! AND AMAZING JOB HYEDIE!!!! (i just sat back and watched class unfold and took mental notes about Renee's teaching approach as well as the instructions she gave everyone, including us)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Duke's Foundation Work - Day 1 - a trip to the Rona parking lot.

My first thought regarding Duke's training plan for this week was to go hang out at PetSmart and do some focus and attention exercises, and "Look at That" exercises with other dogs. But, I thought that it would make sense to start him off a bit easier, so we went to the nearby big box store area instead. There's a Rona, Canadian Tire, and Home Depot and I decided to setup at Rona.

Last night I prepared the highest value food reinforcer I could think of (chicken thighs, roasted in the BBQ but still dripping in yummo chicken fat) and off we went by car.

To my surprise, even in the absence of other dogs, Duke was very distracted and concerned about being at the Rona parking lot! I decided to stay in the parking lot and do some basic "name game" exercises, clicking and treating for direct eye contact.

We did a bit of heelwork in the parking lot as well and a few sits, downs, and touches for good measure.

There was a german shepherd on a prong collar that was also in the parking lot; Duke howled a bit at it but nothing too serious. I was caught off guard as a nice woman who had a beagle came by to chat and give Duke a scratch.

Tomorrow (or possibly later tonight?) I will lower the level of distraction even further, and just do some Name Game exercises in the neighbourhood, before working back up to driving somewhere strange and new.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh man! This dog trainer's dogs are reactive in class.

Duke at school nearly 2 years ago. Focused and locked on.

I recently enrolled Petey into a beginner's agility class at All About Dogs, a new training school that opened on the west end of Toronto this year. The head trainer and owner is pure +R and is an accomplished dog sports/agility trainer so I was quite excited to visit their school, observe class, and enroll.

Some of you might recall that when we first took Petey into fostering, we enrolled him at Who's Walking Who so that we could observe how he'd be in a group class setting - he was awesome - a bit interested in other dogs, but extremely handler focused and he worked diligently (earning him the Top Dog award at WWW!). That was the proof I needed that Petey would be great for my Karen Pryor Academy dog, where he worked reliably off leash in class on exercises like paw target the cone, nose target the disc, loose leash walk past the steak, etc.

When I talk to my students at When Hounds Fly about training new behaviors in distraction free environments, I talk about reliable recall and focus at the dog park as being the ultimate test. Petey and Duke recall, target, stay, etc. very well at the dog parks, so I guessed they were ready for class!

To my surprise, both Petey and Duke were extremely distracted and unfocused at agility class, to the point that I would label them as reactive!

Oops, dog trainer error. I never take them to my own classes (since I want to focus on clients) and its been so long since they've been to group classes (Duke hasn't been in school for 2 years), I really let them slide.

Duke will be continuing on in agility class, but I have a lot of focus and attention exercises ahead of me to get him ready - and I'll be blogging about it here.

The shoemaker's children are often shoeless... but not for long! Duke, you're getting a new pair!

Friday, March 19, 2010

this is clyde, a recent big on beagles alumnus. shortly after his foster family adopted him, he ran into health issues and his forever home family ended up having to shell out over $10,000 to save his life!

so right now big on beagles is helping them out by collecting donations (tax receipts will be issued) through the charity site canada helps. if you are so inclined, please click here to make an online donation.

here are some excerpts from clyde's story:

It's enough to melt your heart. And that's just what Clyde did after being rushed to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic last month. He melted everyone's heart - from the surgeons to the custodians. He melted them all. Being the cutest beagle in the world (with the exception of yours, of course) certainly helped, but it was something else that captured their hearts. Never once did Clyde give up, nor did her complain. He's our Braveheart.

You might remember Clyde from last summer. He and his sidekick, Bonnie, were found wandering the wooded areas of Timmins. Just two little pint-sized beagles far from the comforts of home. But Clyde was actually traced back to a breeder who had no interest in his safe return. Perhaps Clyde had outlived his purpose, considered of little value given his estimated age of 8. But you can be sure he was of value to us.

When Bonnie got adopted, Clyde grew depressed. That's when the shelter staff called us and the rest, as they say, is history...but not quite. I don't think we ever told you about Clyde's foster family. Without them, there would be no history-in-the-making. Not for Clyde and certainly not for Rosie - a very sickly little beagle we rescued 2 years ago that we never could have imagined would be living the dream with this incredibly generous family today. Jen and Aron are the kind of people you thank your lucky stars for every day. The kind of people who put their heart and soul into bringing the wag back to a dog's tail. They're also the kind of people who fall too hard to ever say goodbye. Foster dog, Rosie, became perma princess despite all her health issues. And not too long ago, we celebrated Clyde joining their family forever.


Clyde almost died last month. If it were not for his foster parents turned forever parents, he wouldn't be here today. They spared no expense to save his life. It happened so suddenly. Clyde needed a large mass removed from his neck which ultimately meant losing two lymph nodes and his salivary gland. He was in hospital for 5 days. As to the cause, it remains a mystery. His specialists were baffled, but there is a very real possibility that little Clyde was carrying this ticking time bomb for a while, perhaps from the days before his rescue. When you're hungry enough, you'll eat just about anything. Something he ingested may have caused a growing infection that only now has come to light.

by Marna Gale

Thursday, March 11, 2010

dukey duke

last night we had a break through. duke learned how to 'stand' on command.

this after 2 years of not being able to get him to stand through, luring, tickling and prodding methods that we learned from the obedience school that we attended.

stand is the cue for a dog to stand on all four paws and is usually used for show dogs and is also used in rally obedience.

each time we enrolled in courses, there was always 1 or 2 commands that we just couldn't teach duke. in the first basic obedience course it was down. in fact, the instructor couldn't even get duke to go into down position and went through all of his different techniques to no avail when he was using duke as his demo dog.

during our 2nd more advanced class, we just couldn't get duke to 'stand'. last night, however, after 2 minutes he learned to 'stand' on cue from being in 'down' position.

what was the biggest difference? clicker training that didn't require me to touch his body to move into position or use a lure to bribe him into position. since duke already knew touch, we started with him being in down and then calling for a 'touch' on my hand. soon after, i started saying 'stand' before the touch command and in a few short minutes, he had transferred the 'touch' command to the 'stand' command.

this style of teaching is called targetting and is obviously a more effective way of teaching duke than luring or placing.

so now that he has learned all of the basic obedience positions, it's time to polish them all up and hopefully we'll be able to debut duke at a rally obedience competition. i'm hoping we can get him a novice title by the end of the year!

cross-posted to aozora