An Easy Pill to Swallow, Training to Take Pills the Easy Way, Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series An Easy Pill to Swallow

It’s been a while since I mentioned this, but this is a skill which we often wish our dogs had, but rarely teach them before we need it. Mindy had to learn it early, when a urinary tract infection required antibiotics.

So here’s a short video of Mindy taking her undisguised pill on cue — and not only taking the undisguised pill, but leaving a fun puzzle toy full of kibble to do so. Continue reading

Puppy’s First Clicker Session

This entry is part 9 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
How I get things done: today I placed a blanket and a chew in a sun-spot. I cheat.

How I get things done: today I placed a blanket and a chew in a sun-spot. I cheat.

She’s a bit young to be have flashbacks already, but here’s a look back at Mindy’s very first clicker session.

After our long flights home, Mindy was full of hollow energy. She’d slept on the plane, so she was awake, but it had been a crazy long day, so she was frazzled. In fact, it had been a long weekend, since she’d left the kennel, stayed overnight with someone new, gone to Clicker Expo, met me, stayed overnight with me, and then flown to sub-zero temperatures.

And I was tired, because I’d done Clicker Expo, too, and then puppy-wrangled through three airports without dog facilities. 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

Puppy Tales

This entry is part 5 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
She got a glamour shot before going into ClickerExpo. Kinda cute!

She got a glamour shot before going into ClickerExpo. Kinda cute!

A bunch of vignettes and little announcements today….

Breed Differences

Remember, I’m coming from Dobermans, who are generally happy to play in puddles or lakes but regard falling water as acid rain. I had to work a deal with Laev, introducing her to a hose spray during bitework: “If you let me wet you down so you don’t overheat during hot, humid training sessions, we will then immediately go to get the bad guy.” It was a valuable enough reinforcer for her to stand the spray, and we transitioned it to baths at home: “If you stand still for the bath, I will frequently reinforce,” and then, “If you stand still for the bath, then I will pay big at the end.”

So this was my first time to bathe a Labrador. I started by turning on the sprayer and running warm water, then scattering a few kibbles in the spray and puddle. She ventured in, curious and only briefly hesitant, and I scattered more kibbles as I shifted the sprayer to catch more of her. She was totally off-leash for this, not trapped, so she had a clear choice. I wanted her to be still, so I sprinkled kibble occasionally as I picked up the sprayer and began to wash the puppy (no shampoo). Continue reading

Day 2 with the Guide Dog puppy: Moving Fast

This entry is part 4 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

IMAG0246So yeah, lots of puppy posts. Not gonna apologize.

This one’s a little less “aww!” and a little more training-oriented. I’ve got to type fast, though, because I just put the pup down for a nap after a big afternoon! Continue reading

Why I Plan for Failure

One of the great precepts of clicker training is to set the training subject up for success. As a trainer, you never want to put your dog (or other trainee) in a situation she’s not ready for, or ask her to perform a task she might fail. Failure isn’t instructive for the learner, and it can be very frustrating, which can be a major setback to your training.

But just because we don’t make failure a part of the training process doesn’t mean it’s not on our minds. Anything can happen in real life — unforeseen distractions, accidents, equipment failure and numerous other complications can interfere with our plans. We have to have a contingency plan in case something goes wrong. This is why we train fail-safe behaviors! Continue reading

The Importance of Precise Feedback – or, “Stupid Human, You’re Doing It Wrong”

I experienced a little reminder today of why we try to practice “clean” training – clicking without extraneous movements, words or signals that distract the dog or telegraph that a treat is coming. It’s important that the clicker be the most salient signal that reinforcement is on its way; otherwise, our training becomes less precise as the dog begins listening for the rustle of the treat bag or watching for our hands to move instead of paying attention to when we click. A clicker-savvy dog can also become very frustrated or confused if they aren’t getting the feedback they need. Continue reading

ClickerExpo San Francisco: Day 0

It has to be Day 0, you see, because ClickerExpo doesn’t even properly start until tomorrow….

First off, KPACTPs had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Oakland Zoo and see some amazing training. We were asked not to share photos or video — not because of anything they needed to hide, because honestly we saw fantastic work and entirely humane by the highest of animal care standards — but because they’ve had instances of images being circulated with attached incorrect information, and once out there it’s darned hard to correct. I can respect that, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the work with the bull elephant was some of the most impressive targeting work I have seen. Continue reading