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 www.championofmyheart.com - 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!