Let your dog be more dog!

Our dogs spend a lot of their day inhibiting their doggiest of dog behaviour; a consequence of living in the human world.
They are told no barking, no digging, no humping, no chewing, don’t eat that, don’t roll there, that’s enough sniffing…

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Everyday Decker gets to do things that are ridiculously DOG and to forget about human rules for a little bit.
We found a muddy ditch to be silly in here, who knows what he’ll get up to next!

How will you allow your dog to be more dog today?

Dinner-time should be fun/exercise/focus/training-time!

What does your dog learn while eating his dinner?

How to inhale a meal in record breaking time…?

…we need to talk…

Decker earns his meal by catching it, chasing it and sniffing it, and although this is certainly lots of fun, he’s also learning lots, such as, to choose his human over all the stuff in the park like dogs, other people, wildlife, smells and goings on, that his human is where the fun is, responsiveness is rewarding even when distracted and excited and boring kibble can be great!

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Don’t waste these opportunities by feeding from a bowl – think of every mouthful of food for your dog as an opportunity to reward desirable behaviour. And if you do that, your dog will choose unwanted behaviour less.

Don’t worry if you don’t feed kibble, you can still inject fun/training/exercise/focus into meal times!

(Depending on which components you feed here are some ideas that I have used in such situations)

  • freezing raw e.g. minces into nuggets in an ice-cube tray and hiding those
  • using a high quality/grain free kibble
  • drying dietary components to make jerky – works especially well for offal components
  • the use of freeze dried treats with a high meat content may be counted toward diet
  • bone or whole organ components can be used in scent games
  • stuff Kongs or similar with minces or soften components and bring on walks or use as rewards in training, by offering a couple of licks for example

Fun, focus, exercise and training packed into just one meal!

For more on making ‘boring’ rewards more rewarding here.

 

Take your dog on a sniff!

This is not an exciting clip. This is just a couple of minutes of Decker on a walk, with minimal cues given so as to allow him dictate the activity as much as possible.

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Watch his behaviour. ALL of it is centered around olfaction (sniffing). He spends all his time air sniffing, trailing, tracking and moving to stay on top of smells.

Watch his pattern of movement. Back and forth, over and back, right and left.

This is a busy dog walking area. We are along a path that is bordered by grass where many other dogs have been, and other animals too.

When you want to know what things your dog likes doing, and needs to do, take a look at what he is already doing. This behaviour is important to dogs and is needed for them to remain healthy.

Make sure your dog has outlets for this everyday – even just a few minutes of sniffing without being told to move on and leave it.
Take your dog on a sniff, stand back and let them do what they were made for!

For more on spicing up your dog’s walks see here too!

This week, at AniEd

A week of admin to get ready for busy times ahead – we have CBTT7 starting soon, and we have to keep looking after all our existing students too!

Awesome Pets & People

Lottie came for a visit and got lots of work done – such a smushable mush:

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The very adorable Arlo came for a session to help improve his recall, as he becomes a teenager when recall can sort of fall apart:

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We have introduced a brand-new recall cue, which will be associated with lots of good things with some new recall training-games:

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We started working on an interruption sound so that we can get his attention when he is distracted or spooked, both of which are easy for teenage dogs:

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And talked about polite greetings, to prevent Arlo from becoming overwhelmed:

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Of course, we talked about the importance of enrichment and mental exercise for the shaky confidence and high-excitability of teenagers:

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The very pretty Shelley came for a visit too, with her foster-brother-soon-to-be-forever-brother, Frosty!

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Check out Frosty’s amazing ears:

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…and his amazing eyes:

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A pair of stunners on the outside and on the inside!

People Training

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Our Helen Zulch workshop/seminar is just about booked up, with a couple of spaces on each day remaining.

 

 

We are really looking forward to building on mechanical, advanced training skill on Saturday with a workshop format. Here is some of the action from last year:

Lots of freeshaping action:

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And targeting fun:

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And some timing practice:

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On the Sunday we will be looking at the relationship between medical and behavioural health, building medical and behaviour healthcare teams and how to boost that awareness in both veterinary and training fields.

This is one of the most commonly expressed frustrations by trainers so it’s surprising that these topics are not presented more commonly. As such, you need to get booked in for this one!

Should you wish to get one of the few remaining spaces please email info@anied.ie as soon as possible!

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A short next week with the Bank Holiday so have a good one!

 

 

Weekly Woof from the Web

Another busy week with lots of goodies from around the web…

Always worth a share, far and wide: Doggone Safe educational images

And start prepping for dogs and babies before baby comes home, with these great tips!

Eric Brad looks at how to Stay Interesting to your Dog and More Ways to Stay Interesting to your Dog

Lovely clear resource on rabbit behaviour (yes, rabbits – we’re not just dogs, dogs, dogs) from the RSPCA.

Teach your dog better self-control by gradually increasing the challenge to build his patience as shown in this lovely clip.

Science + dogs matters, here’s why!

Life is short, go play with your dog! Here’s 4 tips for engaging your new rescue dog in play, and not just for new dogs or rescue dogs!

The canine face of patience and tolerance:

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This is a pretty good list: 6 books every dog owner should read

More awesome dogs, these ones protecting elephants!

Shed a tear for Dayko, a search and rescue dog, who has died after rescuing people after an earthquake in Equador – rest easy Dayko

Two minutes of lovlieness: The Dog & The Butcher

What the world needs now…

(apart from love, sweet love, that is)

…is dog trainers, good dog trainers.

Dog trainers with exquisite mechanical skills and exemplary instructing skills. Dog trainers who behave professionally and who emphasise puppy and dog training.

You would think that this is what we have within our population of dog trainers. If we did, then I think we would be in a better place.

Professionalism, regulation, certification, recognition (or lack thereof)

You will commonly hear that the only thing that two dog trainers agree on is, that the third dog trainer is wrong. We hear it so often it is cliché and is largely accepted, which informs our view of our evolving industry.

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It is unlikely that professional regulation for dog trainers will be widespread any time soon. We don’t have any sort of minimum standards of anything right now, and this is difficult to establish in such a diverse and divisive atmosphere.

Because there are no standards, there are no standards.

This is not made any easier by the really, really confusing array of certifications and titles, and a stunningly large number of organisations to align with – each and every one can offer you something you just don’t get from another and so on.
Or plethora of educational institutions offering courses, seminars, webinars, books, articles, blogs, tips, clips and promising you that they, over all the others will offer you the very best.

And to add to the in-fighting among individuals, it’s present among professional bodies and organisations too, with one not recognising the achievements or certifications of another.

Developing some sort of structure is tricky because we would have to develop minimum standards in practice, but trickiest of all, there would need to be some incentive to do so.

Pressure needs to come from pet owners, but because of a history of expert advice offered and accepted by everyone from vets to groomers, from TV gurus to the random man in the park, it’s hard to see how there would sufficient motivation for the pet owning population to exert this pressure when I’m not sure many are aware or (dare I say) care about professional standards for dog trainers.

But it is getting better. It is unrecognisable compared to the so-called industry I started in and continues to grow and develop.

Dogs and dogma

Balance, in dog training, is a dirty word. The dominance of social media (I’m allowed to say the D word in this context!) means that polarisation of all things dog is becoming entrenched in our culture.

Listen, there are more than two ways to do most things and that’s the case in dog training.  We are dealing with living beings, both two and four legged, and changing environmental conditions – that’s why behaviour exists, is modifiable and is so adaptable.

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You can have a wide and varied toolbox without having to venture outside your comfort zone.

And having a comfort zone, that’s ok too. Choosing to train in a certain way doesn’t make you better or someone else worse.

In general, teaching and learning have been moving away from the application of aversive methodologies and emphasising the importance of mechanical teaching skills and careful management of the learning environment. This is good.

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But exactly how this is applied varies and therein lies the problem – the dog training world is a polarised place and the more one movement promotes their mantra, the more another movement pushes further and further away.

Polarisation is not getting us anywhere, as the same arguments are rehashed again and again on the various stages, most of them via social media.

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Despite our emphasis on un-labelling animal behaviour, we sure spend a lot of time trying to define more and more specific boxes into which we can squeeze our training.

“Positive”, “force-free”, “traditional”, “balanced”, “humane”, “welfare-friendly”, “working dog trainer”, “show dog trainer”, “crossover trainer”…

We are trying to stand out from the ‘others’ with whom we don’t agree, and in doing so pigeon hole our training, skill and knowledge.

Dog training can often be hostile. Social media, which has become an important part of dog trainer culture, makes this hostility more impactful. Clinging to a ‘side’ is negatively reinforced and that’s pretty powerful.

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When we are starting out, we want to belong. We need the support, and we might not have the confidence to stand out or pull against the tide. It’s easy to be sucked in and to find comfort there.

That brings us to an interesting point of contention – we might be quick to apply these more modern approaches to teaching to our canine students but not so generous when dealing with fellow two-leggers.

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Want behaviour change? You first!

Well, as we say in dog training, you get the behaviours you reinforce, not the ones you want. Behaviour is behaviour is behaviour and regardless of what label you are aligned with, we are technicians and facilitators of behaviour change, so we shouldn’t be finding this so hard, right?!

Science & practice

Something pretty cool has happened in the last couple of decades that has really accelerated our practice but also the trainer wars – dogs have become a popular subject of scientific study. Every week papers are published of scientific merit and we get to drool over them, working out the best ways to apply this new knowledge.

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To do this requires a thorough understanding of the principles of behaviour and behaviour change.

We have a whole science of behaviour to call on, and although we still have lots to learn we have a good understanding of lots of areas of natural animal behaviour and how animals learn.

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No modern dog trainer can function ethically, competently, effectively without this bread and butter.

Walk before you can run

We all want to sell our wares; it’s an industry after all, and each of us needs to eat and make a living. To do this each trainer is trying to get their unique selling point to the forefront.

In our evolving industry, with our competing educational and certifying bodies abound, there is an influx of courses and seminars and webinars and fads and trends boasting the latest methodology, or more advanced techniques and in some cases, information that will never be applied (realistically or correctly) by most dog trainers.

And as excited as I am about new discoveries and new ideas, I am just as concerned about the loss of focus on the very foundation that’s our bread and butter.

All the sexy stuff is great but to become a really great dog trainer, one of those ones that the world really needs, requires a simply excellent mastery of those foundations.

Becoming better

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  • learn how to capture behaviour – how to arrange prompts to get behaviour without causing frustration or loss of interest
  • learn how to shape behaviour, without relying on extinction – be a better observer, be a better setter of criteria
  • develop exquisite timing
  • learn how to handle food rewards – how to get them from you to the dog, how to position them to promote learning
  • learn about motivation and how reinforcement functions
  • learn how to lure so that you get behaviour quickly, and can fade those lures quickly
  • learn how to fade prompts, without losing integrity or quality of behaviour
  • learn how to manipulate the learning environment so that you can progress and generalise learning
  • increase your ROR, and when you have increased it, increase it some more
  • build desired behaviours rather than break down unwanted ones
  • learn how to supervise dog-dog interactions
  • learn how to expose puppies to different experiences to best facilitate their behavioural development
  • train your dog, and live what you preach
  • develop the gift of foresight so that you can predict and prevent – be proactive, not reactive
  • learn how to safely organise teaching so that every one is safe
  • learn about muzzling, and barriers and proper management
  • become an amazing definer of criteria – don’t settle for good enough
  • plan your training, split criteria and be adaptable
  • forget about the sexy stuff, forget about aggression and biting and reactivity – get really good at training behaviours, and I mean really good
  • and once you have aced all that with dogs, start working with other species like prey animals who don’t like you, or predatory animals who can hurt you – dogs are forgiving and hide a multitude of our sins
  • develop skills in applying this to humans too

This list is the tip of the iceberg, and I haven’t even mentioned the people-training stuff, professional & business stuff or the rest of the dog stuff.
(Can you add to this list?)

But if you get really really really really good at this stuff, the other stuff falls into place and all that advanced, pie-in-the-sky information fits right in, is beneficial and enjoyable, rather than overwhelming.

What the world doesn’t need more of…

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We don’t need more egos who feature in their own videos more than dogs or dog training do.

We don’t need more dog whisperers, listeners, psychologists, experts, specialists.

We don’t need more gurus with massive social media followings, who can’t seem to demonstrate these basic skills with other people and their pets (as in, being a dog trainer).

We don’t need more rehabilitators, or aggression specialists, or reactive dog fixers.

We don’t need more organisations, or certifications or titles.

(Can you add to this list?)

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Be a critical thinker, challenge what you are told and what you believe. Don’t get sucked in.

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Above all else, what the world needs now are more great dog trainers.

Get out there and train, teach people, show off your skills, have fun with your dog and be a great dog trainer, making that difference.

This week, at AniEd

Another busy week of dogs, dogs, and more dogs!

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Awesome Pets & their People

This week we had Molly for her last daytraining session and she did so amazingly well that we got to take a walk in our local park and have lots of fun!

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Molly’s ability to cope with distractions and her responsiveness has improved so much that we were just able to walk, investigate and hang out.

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We played lots of sniffing games to keep her with me, rather than get distracted. Look at her nose go!

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With Molly’s improvement in the foundation our work has laid, she and her family will continue to build on this closer to home.

Harry came for his first puppy session with his new family to get the best start with all that puppy stuff!

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Zepp came for some behaviour work with his people. Among other things we worked on some sofa manners, including how to teach a dog to get off the sofa when asked:

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Leo came for some behaviour work too, as we begin to work through some adolescent behaviour – dogs go through a teenage phase too!

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Basil came for a training session to help boost his responsiveness and comfort with specific triggers, when out walking. As you can see, he’s pretty relaxed about this whole training business…

Double the fun, double the cuteness and of course, double the trouble, Meryl & Doug.

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These two came for their first puppy session with their people, and everyone learned loads!

People Training

This weekend our Canine Studies – Foundation learners came for their second day of tuition. This course is for pet sitters and dog walkers and on Sunday they worked on learning theories, luring, capturing, shaping, and canine signaling.

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On top of that they learned how to evaluate a dog’s weight using a body condition scoring system. Most pet dogs in development countries are overweight and what’s more worrying is that people, even including some pet care professionals, have trouble identifying a dog who is overweight.

Many of you will have seen this and similar BCS tools:

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This great resource helps you more quickly evaluate the amount of fat carried on your dog’s ribs:

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Share this far and wide – the first step in helping improve your pet’s health is to assess the extent of their weight gain.

AniEd Dogs

Dilis, Boomer and Zak were ‘working’ this week, along with lovebirds Decker & Daisy:

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Daisy is even starting to play and initiate interactions with Decker:

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Have a great week 🙂

Developing the next generation of animal care, training and beahviour specialists in Ireland.