Don’t Lie To Me

When I talk about behavior chains, I talk about the importance of completing the chain. Because in a chain each cue serves as a reinforcer for a previous behavior, dropping cues is actually failing to reinforce — and we know that’s a bad thing. Unreliable reinforcement leads to unreliable behavior. Variable reinforcement leads to variable behavior. (That’s great when we’re shaping, not so great when we’re maintaining.)

Today I broke a chain.

I was getting ready to leave the house, so I opened the door and called the dogs in, sending them to their kennels in my bedroom at the far end of the house. They ran past me, and as they hit the hall I remembered that Undómiel’s crate wasn’t in my bedroom, but was outside for cleaning.

Oops. Continue reading

It’s Here! Social, Civil, and Savvy, for Puppies 

Social, Civil, and Savvy

The new puppy and socialization book is ready to launch! This book is written for the puppy owner who wants to raise a pup to prevent behavior problems in the future, as well as for the adopter of an older dog who didn’t receive the best socialization as a puppy.

Social, Civil, and Savvy: Training & Socializing Puppies to Become the Best Possible Dogs is available in paperback, in ebook, and is coming soon in audiobook. It’s already receiving enthusiastic feedback, and I hope it will help puppies and people everywhere!

Better Together is Coming Soon

Better Together: the Collected Wisdom of Modern Dog Trainers

Hey, there’s a great new training book hitting the shelves!

Better Together: The Collected Wisdom of Modern Dog Trainers is a comprehensive collection of both practical and inspirational advice from some of the best trainers in the world. Learn the methods of modern dog training through more than 60 articles from 28 experts, specially selected by world-renowned trainer Ken Ramirez. Continue reading

Fear and Fun: A Behavioral Approach to Vacationing

“As I mentioned before, I work in behavior, and my specialty is managing fear and aggression, so all my professionalism is coming to bear right now.”

I have newly returned from a dream trip I’d been planning for fully ten years, a visit to New Zealand and then a cruise back across the Pacific. Yes, it was awesome.

I wanted to take the fantastic opportunity to do things I cannot do at home. Indiana has plenty of caves (our limestone supplied Washington D.C.’s and most other major cities’ buildings and monuments, and limestone country is cave country), but we have a distinct shortage of glowworms, so I wanted to go down under to see them. And rather than take a boat, I wanted to do something a bit more adventurous. So I booked a spelunking tour.

I knew the tour would involve abseiling (also called rappelling) and swimming/floating through 50-degree water. I didn’t realize that the abseil would be 35 meters through a narrow neck into the cave itself, and thus would be the very first task.

Heights, dark, tight spaces, all the classic fears in one go. Whee! Continue reading

Training at the Vet Clinic

Doberman puppy on trampoline

I didn’t take a new pic of Undómiel (10 months) today, so please enjoy this flashback to 8 weeks old.

No time like the present…. Undómiel and I had to make a trip yesterday to the veterinary clinic for an irritation on her face, and while I had planned to get around to teaching a chin rest for vet exams and treatment, I hadn’t actually done it yet.

Yes, professionals can be lazy and distracted, too. Guilty.

A solid chin rest can be invaluable for vet exams, especially of the head or face. So there we are, sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor, and I decided to get started. A few clicks in, I realized it’d be good to get some video of the process. Continue reading

Why We Train (Hint: For When We Aren’t Training)

We’ve posted several times on training for when life catches you off-guard, like when you forget to put the meat in the fridge instead of on the floor. I had one of those moments today.

Over the weekend I was offered a big mirror, salvaged from a dressing room in the type of expensive store where I don’t usually find myself. I took it, because I didn’t have a full-length mirror, and put it behind my bedroom door. It didn’t have hanging brackets yet, but it was pretty secure in its place and I figured I’d get brackets this week. The dogs had seen it, knew it wasn’t a window to a new playmate, and generally they ignored it behind the door.

Until today, when the bedroom door was closed, exposing the mirror, and for some reason Undómiel decided to desultorily paw it — just once, and not particularly strongly. I saw and called her, but it was already moving. What followed was one of the longest seconds of my life, as the mirror tipped forward over my puppy who was looking back at me and couldn’t see it coming. I was on the opposite side of the room on the bed, with my feet up and a computer on my lap, and there was no possible way for me to intervene in time. Continue reading