Happy Halloween! Tricks & Treats for You

Michael Jackson dancing with the living dead.

Michael Jackson dancing with the living dead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to present you, Dear Reader, with a trick, a tag, and a treat.

What, you’re not familiar with the middle part of that phrase? It’s a new Halloween tradition. Trust me on this.

Want to know what that undead-Michael Jackson has to do with all this? Read on. (Hint: he’s part of the tag bit.)

The Trick

Laev and our houseguest McCoy the Skeleton

Laev and our houseguest McCoy

Some of you might have seen last night’s photo on Facebook, in which Laev pointedly brought me a bucket to suggest that the abruptly cold, rainy weather should be met with an updated supper time. Frankly, it’s hard to argue that logic — especially when Laev brought me three buckets and Shakespeare brought me another one. Okay, okay, you can have dinner early!

I don’t mind this bucket bringing, though; it doesn’t happen nearly often enough to be annoying, maybe once every month or two, and I’m glad the dogs have a way to communicate with me besides barking and generally raising havoc. If they get hungry earlier with the weather shift, well, so do I.

And I like that they can find and bring me their buckets, saving me the exhausting trek of crossing the room and actually looking for the things.

Want to teach your dog to bring his bucket? It’s just another retrieve. Back-chaining is the key to making it terribly simple.

  • Obviously, make sure your dog can carry his bucket or bowl. Size and shape do matter. My dogs will carry the buckets by the side, as in the photo, or occasionally by the handle.
  • Start with the last part, the dog releasing an object to you. Do this in the location where you prepare his meal. Trading for food is a really, really easy way to get this (and since in the end you’ll be rewarding the bucket-bring by filling it, it makes sense).
  • Dog doesn’t take the object to start? Shape for interaction with the bucket until you get mouthing, and build from there. (Some dogs have an aversion to metal; Laev never had this handicap — I have photos of her tiny littermates playing tug with pinch collars and handcuffs — but Shakespeare learned to overcome it with judicious application of tasty reinforcers.)
  • Move your hand away a smidge (that’s a technical term) and click for the dog moving the bucket toward it. The dog will release the bucket to take his treat; that’s fine.
  • Lower the bucket to the floor, in increments, and let the dog take the bucket from you and push it toward you.
  • Have the dog lift the bucket from the floor to your hand.
  • Put the bucket a step away from you, so the dog must lift the bucket, step forward, and deliver.
  • Extend the distance, until the dog is picking up the bucket and bringing it to wherever you prepare his meal.

That is probably the world’s briefest training plan! but as with all shaping, remember to achieve 80% success at each step before moving to the next.

Now you can attach a cue to the finished behavior.

Bonus: Let your dog bring this bucket full of candy to your Trick or Treaters. Yours will be the coolest house on the block, hands down.

The Tag

Some of you may have seen the video below, on the use of TAGteach in learning the classic choreography to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”GLSEV0x4W5Y” width=”640″ height=”480″ auto_thumb=”1″]

But there’s more. Since then, Alena and I annually teach a “Learn to Dance Thriller” workshop at Gen Con. Check out some of the participants’ views on the experience:

[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”i31LRHCyWyM” width=”640″ height=”480″ auto_thumb=”1″]

learn to dance Thriller at the public libraryAnd now we’ve been asked to teach a series of Thriller workshops at public libraries, as part of their teen Zombie Apocalypse Survival program. How cool is that?!

While we don’t explicitly explain TAGteach in the workshops, we utilize many of the core components, such as breaking each move out into a simple focus phrase (“car wash arms”) and back-chaining. We drew much of our choreography breakdown from Thrill the World, which lends itself very well to this process.

The Treat

At least, I hope it’s a treat. You see, I’m finally making an official announcement.

For a long time, I’ve been getting questions about when I was going to write a book. And for a long time, I’ve been saying that I didn’t need to, that there were a lot of really great training books out there already — many written by talented people I know and respect.

That’s still true, but now I’m writing a book, too.

I’m focusing specifically on protocols to help over-emotional dogs, dogs who are too excited or fearful or otherwise wrapped about the axle to think clearly. Since this topic is forming at least two-thirds of my referrals, I must be doing something right, and I should probably share it.

Despite my extreme nerd tendencies, the book is not written in an academic style; rather it’s very much a follow-along guide, with a conversational tone, because I want it to be useful to anyone working with a trainer or, in non-severe or non-dangerous cases, on their own.

So stay tuned, because you’ll hear more about this as we go. πŸ™‚ Or to really be on top of things, sign up at right for the mailing list — that’s where news, special pre-orders, and the like will be announced. (And that’s it — no sharing of info or frequent spam, I promise!)

Keep your pets safe tonight, and Happy Halloween!

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About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.

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