Tag Archives: Tayto Park

This week, at AniEd

Back to reality after our time at Tayto!

We’ll miss all our new friends that helped our learners develop their mechanical skill.

Awesome Pets & their People

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This handsome fella is Opie, who we have known since he was a puppy. Well, he’s certainly all grown up now, weighing more than 30kgs!

He came back for some revision and to really get a handle on loose leash walking. Now that he’s a full on teenager it’s important that we are emphasising appropriate physical exercise, lots of calming mental exercise and tons of work on self-control. Opie is lucky to have an awesome person!

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Opie knows that dog trainers can’t resist doggie-head-tilts – they are our kryptonite!

Molly came for Daytraining

A daytraining program is an intensive program for your dog. It starts with a one to one session with the pet+ owner to discuss the issues they are experiencing, and we begin by putting some foundation exercises in place.

We schedule a number of daytraining sessions where your dog comes to spend the morning or afternoon with us and we begin working through a comprehensive program that we all design together.
This gives the dogs some better skills so helping to support their pet owner as the humans learn the training exercises.

We have had some excellent success with daytraining programs, particularly for on-leash behaviour. Molly came for some help with pulling on leash, self-control and to help reduce her stress and vigilance while out.

Here’s what happened during her first daytraining session:

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Molly is a little concerned at being in a strange place with new people so to help her we start simply by teaching her that she can train humans!

We start just marking with a YES!, any approaches toward us, and we toss salami away each time. As she becomes more comfortable we can begin to mark and reward her giving eye contact.

Soon Molly is offering sits, YES! and we toss a reward. She learns that these humans are easy to train and her learning that her behaviour controls the environment around her is confidence boosting. Molly soon becomes more and more comfortable as she learns how to learn.

This exercise can be progressed too so that it not only helps with confidence boosting but also with her learning how to greet more politely and even control herself when she’s excited:

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By getting Molly excited and then waiting for her to immediately calm herself she can begin to develop better self-control and self-calming skills. Yay Molly!

All this has been pretty taxing for Molly so far so we take a brain break – time for a sniffing course. This helps to relax Molly by allowing her to do a favourite-doggie-past-time, sniffing, and helps her grow in confidence as she explores novel and weird items.
She even chills out at this stage to have some fun with plastic cone decoys too!

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Because Molly is such a professional-leash-puller and has trouble focusing we are going to start really really easy but not by moving forwards, rather we are going to start by going backwards…

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Molly is learning that focusing and following the dancing humans is great fun!

We can begin to add a little sideways movement too as we slowly build to moving forwards. Molly just learns to walk in a nice position and we simply dance around her…

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In this program we are going a lot of work on our backwards movement and that’s because we will use it in different ways, not just for loose leash walking…

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When faced with distractions we can back-up to quickly get Molly out of the situation and get her re-focused on her human.

This can also be used in teaching and practicing loose leash walking out & about, where Molly may find it hard to eat food rewards. This backward movement is exciting and we are associating with lots of praise, fun and food rewards!

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Time for another brain-break with a second round of sniffing courses:

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Notice how this time Molly is much more relaxed and less unsure of what her job is in this game.

We are so impressed with Molly’s progress that we even begin to work just a little bit outside. We start right outside our centre in the carpark to the front where there are lots of comings and goings, sights and sounds.

We start with some passive focus – she can check out all the goings-on and as soon as she chooses to reorient we can mark and reward. But soon she is able to practice a little of our auto-sit exercise too.

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To help bring Molly down after all the excitement, we worked on some matwork which her people have started with her at home. We use a high rate of reinforcement, really regular treat tossing, because there are some noises and voices outside spooking Molly. Over time, with the help of lots of rapid rewards, she can relax more and more even with these great distractions – she even makes a little nest for herself!

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We are thrilled with Molly’s progress during her first session and we can’t wait to get working with her again next week!

People Training

We welcomed a new Canine Nutrition group – this is a three month part-time course and we were joined by six learners from all around Ireland on their journey to learn more about canine nutrition for physical and behavioural health.

This course starts with a look at the functioning of the canine digestive system, how that system processes nutrients and the fads and trends in canine nutrition.

We emphasise the development of critical thinking skills, applying that to the broad area of canine nutrition that is often filled with myth, anecdotes and misinformation. A tall order!

We ended our first day spending lots of time analysing commercial feed labels; learning about labeling tricks, energy content and evaluating food quality. Their heads were well & truly buzzing after all that!

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Decker has heard it all before so chose to play lookout instead!

CBTT6

This weekend, we had CBTT6 in for their second weekend. We’er finding it hard to believe that they are almost halfway through their tuition already – time flies when you’re having fun!

This weekend, their second, we covered Domestication & Selective Breeding on Saturday and Canine Nutrition & Dietary Requirements on Sunday so they have all headed home this evening exhausted!

Well done CBTT6 for getting this far – keep up the great work!

Check out the Mother’s Day Google Doodle that we had for CBTT6 today, of course projected – very fitting for all the dog lovers in the room:

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AniEd Dogs

Decker and Boomer had a busy week helping out the humans, while Zac wrapped up…

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Have a great week!

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This week, at AniEd

This week has been super-dooper busy as CBTT5 have been in everyday, for their last week of tuition.

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CBTT-ers

The Canine Behaviour & Training Technician course is the big one! It’s for those who want to become serious, make-a-difference, professionals in canine care, training and behaviour.

It’s delivered over about one year, with learners attending for tuition for two separate block weeks (bookending the course) and four separate weekends. They complete 15 units (subjects) and to successfully graduate must achieve at least 80% in each unit.

To say that this is a tough course is a bit of an understatement so just surviving to their last week is in and of itself a MAJOR achievement. Our learners are amazing!

CBTT5, their last week

Decker is ready and waiting to greet the learners on their last week with us for tuition!

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We started with Domestication & Selective Breeding, developing an understanding of the effects of our past and current breeding practices has on dogs, their health & behaviour.

The canine genome was mapped in 2004 and since then, our understanding of canine genetics has grown and grown. Dogs are currently ‘cool’ in science right now, and we couldn’t be happier with the wealth of knowledge that is becoming available everyday.

Dogs are an amazingly diverse species, more so than any other, yet dog breeds have become closed gene pools. These very small gene pools can cause a range of problems for modern dogs and only through awareness and education can we see incremental change in improving canine welfare.

We looked at a range of works studying the genetic health of canine populations, the related causes and effects, breed and behaviour, better breeding of modern dogs and we truly challenged our minds illustrating the true complexity of canine genetics.

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Next we worked on Advanced Canine Behaviour discussing temperament evaluations, enrichment, the emotional impacts of training & behaviour procedures and principles of behaviour change programs.

Using clips and examples we can work out the causes of and reasons for behaviour – this goes a long way to us developing programs to help pets and their people.

In the clip above, what behaviours do you see? You might see behaviour/s that the dog is doing or maybe that the human is doing.

What causes that behaviour to happen? Looking at what happens just before the behaviour can give us a good idea of what makes that behaviour happen. This tells the animal (dog or human) when to carry out the behaviour.

What happens just after the behaviour? This gives us the reasons for the animal (dog or human) doing the behaviour. This is the why of behaviour.

We use this tool, functional assessment, to help us analyse the things that cause and maintain behaviours including those that might cause problems.

Nobody said this dog training business was going to be easy…!

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On our last day we looked at the Biology of Behaviour & Cognition.  This complex unit looks at the behaviour from the brain up, starting with studying brain and how it functions to allow animals to carry out behaviours and to learn about their world.

Again, there has been an explosion in studying dogs in terms of their cognitive abilities and we can take full advantage of that to learn as much as we can.

We end our discussion of these vast topics with a look at canine play and the way in which dogs use play signaling in many complex and varied ways.
Play has always puzzled science, labeling it apparently functionless behaviour but play is way more than that. Besides, play is about having fun and that’s often reason enough; just like these happy campers:

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With all this studying, analysis and scientific thinking, we sometimes need a reminder as to why we got so immersed in the first place. Because dogs are AWESOME!

So, we spent some time looking at all the reasons that dogs are amazing, all the tremendous highs they bring us and the often, terrible, lows that come from living with and loving dogs:

They make the best friends…

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… right to the end (WARNING tissues required):

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CBTT5 at Tayto Park

As part of working on their Advanced Canine Training unit, the fabulous people at Tayto Park give our CBTT learners access to their zoo so that we can spend two days working with other species in a new and challenging environment.

Learning applies to all species (capable of learning) so to really test how well CBTT5 can apply this, we practice with prey species like goats, pigs, sheep, donkeys, guanaco and fowl.

Craig, one of the Tayto keepers, spent some time with our learners (thanks Craig!) demonstrating the applications to our training work there. He is working with their female Amur Tiger showing her presenting on cue (when asked), different parts of her body through the fence, for checking and routine care such as vaccination and blood testing. No restraint, force or sedation required!

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At all times in this work the animals choose to participate. They are well-fed so will and do move away when they feel like it – this is why we work on the other side of the fence (not just for safety) to ensure that the animals can leave it they want and we can’t really do a lot about it!  Ever tried to force a tiger to do something?!

These same techniques can be applied to our pet animals to reduce the need for restraint, force and distress during routine grooming, medical or husbandry care. Just because we can force them, doesn’t mean that we should…

Targeting

Using targeting to get behaviour is a little like luring, but more complex. We must first teach the animal a targeting behaviour – in this case touching their nose to the wooden spoon. Once they readily offer  this targeting behaviour, we can use that to teach further behaviours.

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Targeting can be used to hold animals in position without restraint, move them to observe for lameness, for example, move them so that they can be transported or change their position, it can be used to guide the animal up or down so that we can check various processes, and to teach other behaviours.

Donkeys will work for…

When we are working with these animals, finding the right motivator is often challenging as these animals are well fed with a range of foods, have access to their buddies and can move away any time.

It is the learner who decides what they are willing to work for and it’s up to the teacher to work that out!

Here our CBTT5 learners work out that these donkeys will work for grass (picked from close to their enclosure) and scratches to the neck!

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Freeshaping

CBTT5 use capturing to ‘catch’ the animals doing a behaviour that they want to work with.

After observing the animals, planning their training, they set out to wait for or prompt their subject animals to offer a behaviour: click & treat!

Like this Guanaco, sticking her nose out the gap:

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From there, they will reward successive approximations until the animal is offering a bigger, better behaviour, increment by increment. Freeshaping allows for the teaching of some complex behaviours.

Lame Goat

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Starting out we capture the goat lifting her foot to put it on the fence and by timing our click correctly we can reward the goat for just lifting her foot, then holding it up.

You can see that this is not a linear process – the learner writes the plan for you and the trainer directs the process by rewarding relevant behaviours that the learner chooses to offer.

Check out how much this momma-goat gets the game – at the end you will see there is a delay as we chat about planning – the goat, not getting rewarded for lifting her right goat begins to lift her left foot instead to see if that also works.

Now that’s a learning goat who gets how to operate her environment – the goal of teaching YAY!

Peek-a-boo

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By capturing the Guanaco’s look-around-the-other-side-of-the-pole behaviour, we can freeshape a game of peek-a-boo.

Rewarding her looking at the other side of the pole over and over, soon she will begin to offer that behaviour consistently.
Then we can begin to reward this behaviour at our side of the pole and soon the Guanaco will move back and forth, playing peek-a-boo!

Take a bow, Guanaco

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Using the bars on the fence we can measure our progress with this Guanaco, teaching her to lower her head more and more.

To put that on cue CBTT5 learners keep practicing until the Guanaco is consistently offering the behaviour.
Just before she bows, we can add our cue (a human bow!) and only reward her bowing behaviour if offered after our cue.

Donkey Head Lift

Freeshaping a head lift behaviour by rewarding the donkeys for lifting their head a little further.
We can use the bars of the fence to measure our progress and reward and build.

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With the head lift behaviour we can add our own twists to get some very sweet behaviours.

By rewarding a higher head lift we have taught the donkey to give a kiss on cue (“gimme a kiss”) and use our kissy noise as the marker (instead of the clicker) and then reward with some yummy grass.

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By beginning to reward a slight head turn when the donkey lifts her head she is soon offering a head tilt. A human head tilt is used as a cue for this very cute behaviour.

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Dogs will help us a lot in our training, making up for deficits in mechanical skill. Working with animals who can take-us-or-leave-us, in an environment where we have less control really helps us to identify and perfect any areas that need improvement. We all really appreciate teaching dogs after that!

We are so lucky to have such fantastic support from the Tayto Park team, who open their doors and accommodate us, even though the park may be closed, undergoing renovations and the staff all very busy.
We always have a great time and our learners really benefit from this unique experience.

Just for fun…

…here’s 30 seconds of five day old baby Pygmy Goats frolicking:

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