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

Recall Roundup

This entry is part 22 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Black Labrador Mindy in her green service vest beside an enormous prickly pear

Last November — yes, I’m more than a little behind on posting — Mindy took a trip with me down to my aunt’s ranch in Texas. I knew this would be an exciting trip for her for a variety of reasons, not least of which that the ranch is a seriously cool place for puppies to explore, with lizards, snakes, rabbits, deer, boar, turkeys, and many other things. (Some of these are fun to watch or even chase; some should be explored by sniffing their tracks only.)

The ranch is big, but not so big that a dog couldn’t find her way off it and get into local trouble. I would never have allowed Laev off-leash even for a moment there, if I’d ever taken her; Laev would have tangled with a rattlesnake and then chased a rabbit or deer straight off into a neighboring sheep ranch. There’s a ranch gate on the road which for years has been decorated with the hanging bodies of the latest coyotes or dogs which had been shot while hunting or harassing their stock. Continue reading

Training & Gaming at Gen Con

This entry is part 19 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Mindy joined me at Gen Con this year. Because you can’t buy that kind of socialization experience. What is Gen Con, you may ask? Well, “Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, science fiction and adventure game convention in North America. Gen Con, The Best Four Days In Gaming!™”

(Actually, I think it’s the world’s largest?)

A girl in a wheelchair is accompanied by a Golden Retriever wearing a service vest and carrying a plushed terrier on his back, dressed as Sir Didymus from the film Labyrinth.

Mindy wasn’t the only service dog at Gen Con. Here’s an assistance dog appearing as Sir Didymus (from Labyrinth).

It’s a gaming (and SFF, miniatures, film, etc.) convention which takes over much of Indianapolis each year. I posted on Facebook that Mindy wasn’t impressed by the 60,000 people, but that was an exaggeration; this year’s actual count was 56, 614 attendees. But of course, most of those people came more than one day, so turnstile attendance was 184,699. The con runs five days, but Mindy attended only three, including the two busiest. And she was a rock star. Rock star, I tell you. Continue reading

The Training Game and What It Teaches: The Rat Is Always Right

Many clicker trainers are familiar with what is almost universally known by the ridiculously simple name of The Training Game. It’s a shaping game played among humans, and most often a learner is sent from the room while the group determines a (physically and socially safe) behavior to shape, and then a trainer shapes the learner with the clicker to perform the chosen behavior.

There are a number of variations on this game, many useful. The trainer (and observers) can learn a great deal by doing this! and it’s a great way to test various training concepts and approaches. There is a variation I have not used in nearly a decade, however, with good reason: It broke the learner.

Continue reading

Fireworks Without the Freak-Out

This entry is part 18 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
Fireworks on the beach on the Fourth of July. ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it was the Fourth of July this past weekend, Independence Day, with all the challenges that brings for pets and their people.

I was traveling with Mindy, the guide dog in training, and we did fireworks. With flying colors (terrible pun intended). Continue reading

Puppy’s First Tornado – Preparedness for Pets

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Storm Watch
Tornado warning

Tornado warning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring came very late to Indiana this year, and I got complacent. With a lot fewer spring storms, I didn’t prep for tornados like I should have. So when the warning sirens went off a few minutes ago and I saw that a tornado had been sighted, I was unprepared.

This is dumb. If you’re lucky, you get up to half an hour of tornado warning, if it’s considerate enough to touch down at a distance and with an observable and predictable path. The average warning time with today’s radar equipment is about 13 minutes, according to NOAA. But you might have just a few minutes, if that.

So I’m writing this post from my basement, waiting for the tornado to pass (it seems to be heading north of us) and making plans to improve my storm preparations. Continue reading

Puppy Training on a FitPAWS Donut

This entry is part 16 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

So apparently I forgot to publish this blog post — sorry!

Set the Wayback Machine for a few months ago, when Mindy was small enough to use this size FitPAWS Donut. The weather was too bad (sub-zero Fahrenheit) for puppies to play outdoors for long, and this was not only a great energy burn, but an important skill development for a dog expected to handle lots of surfaces and challenges in her career. Continue reading

Practicing Recalls

This entry is part 14 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which has distracted me from the blog. But some of those travels are going to provide fun new blog posts, so in the long run it’s been worth it.

But now that I’m home, it’s more obvious that Mindy’s starting to mature, in that way when puppies are no longer quite so dependent on us for every little asset and therefore feel more comfortable to venture out on their own for more and longer periods of time. Or, as clients more typically phrase it when they call me, “she doesn’t want to come when I call.”

guinea fowlTo be perfectly fair to Mindy, my yard has gotten a lot more interesting. I’ve acquired a small flock of guinea fowl to combat the local ticks, and they were just turned loose this week. They’re still clinging near the house, and they are FASCINATING to a young retriever. Continue reading

Resisting Temptation

This entry is part 11 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
honey-drizzled Brie, prosciutto, and crackers

Honey-drizzled Brie, prosciutto, and crackers. Yum.

So the puppy and I had a night out last week to the New Day Meadery, a local mead and cider room. (I drink very little, maybe a glass every couple of months, but I find their libations very tasty.) Their tasting room also offers specialty foods, and I ordered a honey-drizzled Brie and prosciutto platter along with my mead. Only problem is, their tasting room is pretty hip, with ultra-low tables to serve the lounging couches. And Brie and prosciutto are pretty attractive to a 15-week old puppy (or any dog, let’s be honest). Continue reading

A Big Day 4 (and end of the first week)

This entry is part 6 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

My husband met the puppy for the first time Friday morning. They’ve seemed to hit it off pretty well.

black lab puppy lying in man's lap with green dragon toy IMAG0316

I had made plans to go to the Home Show with others, and I knew it would be a great big experience for the new pup. It also had the potential to be too big an experience, so I packed an entire day’s worth of kibble and an extra bully stick, more on that in a moment.

I picked up the vest and gear, and I put on my coat, and Mindy launched from my husband’s lap and ran to join me. Remember how I said I wanted most of all to condition that outings were fun? I think we’re on target.

And then we headed out to the State Fairgrounds for a socialization adventure. Continue reading