Practice Those Recalls

Undómiel sulks on her throne near my computer, since I won’t let her have any real fun in the spring sunshine.

It’s no secret that coming when called is important. It keeps me from chasing a fast creature with twice as many legs as I have, and it can save a dog’s life, if she gets out near traffic or other hazards.

Currently Undómiel is undergoing treatment for heartworms — yes, again — and her activity is highly restricted. During this phase of treatment, rapid heartrate and fast respiration can run into trouble with bits of dead worm being flushed from the body, leading to blocked passages and even death. This is a huge inconvenience for my extremely active Doberman, and she does not understand the reason at all, but it’s how we have to live for the next six weeks.

(CW: prey death) I don’t want to say she’s not good at quiet rest, but earlier this week Undómiel caught and killed a rabbit while on a line with my husband. I saw the whole thing, she never even got the line tight, just got close and boom. (It was Easter morning. I am so sorry if your colored eggs did not arrive.)

So it’s been frustrating for all of us.

But Then

My husband came home and was carrying some items through the door, leaving a gap for a desperate dog to see fun, and she ran outside. This ordinarily wouldn’t be wrong of her — she’s usually allowed to pass through the door as she likes — but not while she’s on heavy restriction! She was running at high speed around the yard, thrilled to be really moving for the first time in several weeks.

I went out on the porch to call her, already at a distance, and I could see her casting about for something she’d flushed. I could also see the rabbit. I was going to have to call my highly predatory dog, high on her first taste of freedom, away from actively hunting a rabbit.

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Optimizing Zoom for Remote Training

Whether you’ve signed up for remote training sessions due to the pandemic or whether you’ve been taking advantage of long distance opportunities, virtual sessions can be a valuable and effective part of your training program. I’ve found virtual training to be surprisingly good in general and especially helpful with these benefits:

  • Anxious or fearful dogs may be better able to learn without a stranger in the home.
  • Travel time is eliminated, freeing up both trainer and client schedules and allowing for specialist sessions despite distance (and reducing mileage costs).
  • Clients can record and replay sessions to review coaching if needed.
  • Clients need only declutter a small area without worrying about a visiting trainer seeing the rest of the house! (Don’t worry, though; seriously, we’re not judging.)

Zoom is great for virtual and remote sessions, however, Zoom was designed for meetings with humans speaking with human voices, and by design it attempts to suppress other sounds. This is great for muffling background noise during a financial meeting, but it’s not as helpful when we’re trying to hear a properly-timed click or subtle animal vocalizations! Here’s how you can optimize your Zoom settings to make your sessions as clear and helpful as possible. These instructions are for the Zoom app on a computer (not a mobile app or in a browser).

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Enrichment (Productivity, Sanity) in a Time of Social Distancing

woman seated in chair head wrapped in silicone and plaster, with black Labrador puppy leaning into her lap and soliciting petting
No worries! This was during a bodycasting session and she’s fine. Penny was unfazed by the weird faceless human. #socialization

As many of you know, Clicker Expo was cancelled at the last minute last weekend. While we were all, attendees and faculty, disappointed (to put it mildly), I absolutely support the decision. I’m not going to talk about the math and what should have been done here before now, because that’s readily available. Today I want to talk about best behavioral practices in a time of increased isolation and even quarantine.

Let’s talk about behavior and enrichment in both people and pets.

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A New Clicker Training Book, For Kids

“When are you going to do a kids’ book?” I kept hearing. “About clicker training, but written for kids?”

Dragons, Unicorns, Chimeras, & Clickers

I thought a clicker training book for kids was a great idea. Clicker training is not only good training, it’s available to people who are not big, strong, or dexterous enough to use traditional coercive techniques, and I am in full support of teaching young minds to use positive reinforcement and thoughtful planning instead of force or punishment to get what they want. However, I couldn’t figure out how I should do it.

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Podcasts about Books & Training!

Elite Pets Podcast

I had the opportunity to chat with Melinda Schiller on her fantastic Elite Pets Podcast, in two episodes themed around my training books. We had some great questions about training and problem-solving and problem-prevention.

(Also there’s a bit of news hidden in the Fired Up talk!)

You can catch each of the episodes online:

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What did you do?!

naughty playful puppy dog after biting a pillow tired of hard work

Guys, I cannot tell you how important it is to teach puppies that “What do you have?” and “What did you do?” are the best phrases on earth.

From the first times my puppy is “naughty” — and let’s be honest, it’s a puppy, it’s going to get into things you thought you had safeguarded — I try very hard to teach them that bringing me stuff is the very best of all options. You found a sock? Fantastic! You stole a chicken breast a guest left on a low table? I’m so glad you showed me! Are you parading my underwear through the living room in front of my in-laws? Excellent!

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Still An Easy Pill To Swallow

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series An Easy Pill to Swallow

I’ve written before about training my dogs to take undisguised pills on cue. There’s a host of benefits to this:

  • I don’t have to worry about hiding the pills
  • I don’t have to worry about coming up with ever better tricks as my dogs get better at finding hidden pills
  • There’s no loss of trust when I hand my dog something she thinks is a treat and it turns out to be a pill (cue extreme side-eye)
  • I don’t have to guess whether the pills been actually swallowed or saved to spit later
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Pay Big, Reap Big

I had the opportunity to compare our husbandry behavior training with two species, as I both took my dogs to the vet for their annuals and I went to the ophthalmologist for my semi-annual.

I’ve written about managing my own behavior at the eye doctor before, and it’s gotten a lot easier, actually. I know how to avoid the disturbing images, I know how to manage myself for the routine examinations, and for the most part the staff is not aware that I even have an issue.

Until something new happens, like taking an image of my tear ducts for the first time, and once I was comfortably settled in the frame and awaiting a photograph a tech picked up a large plastic hook and pushed it toward my eye.

Peace out, see ya! I was out of that frame and away from that new gadget fast enough to startle her. Continue reading

No Bones on the Couch

We rearranged some furniture this week to make room for an event, and I guess it was enough to make someone wonder if the house rules had changed. (Hint: they hadn’t.)

I looked up from my computer to see that Undómiel had brought a recreational bone onto the chair with her. The dogs are certainly allowed on the chair — in fact, that particular chair has stayed specifically because it is a favorite dog chair! — but they are not allowed to bring chews with them. This keep the furniture clean and prevents any accidental damage by chewing the bit of comforter which had wrapped around the end of a bone, as may have happened once. Continue reading