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Fort Collins Professional Dog Trainer

Why We LOVE Clicker Expo

Why We LOVE Clicker Expo

It has been a crazy (good kind, I think) week coming off of one of the biggest events of the year in the life of many positive reinforcement dog trainers: Clicker Expo 2017 in Portland, OR.  Over three days of dog nerds from around the country geeking out together to the genius of the gods of the positive reinforcement training world, an impressive lineup including Ken Ramirez, Dr. Susan Friedman, Kathy Sdao, Hannah Branigan, and so many more!  

Charissa and I came back from this immersion with lots of new ideas and inspirations.  Some of these ideas may not seem so practical once we come down off the CE high induced by exposure to the greats of our industry and a significant lack of sleep, but we'll see.  It was a wonderful trip.

Attending training conferences also never fails to inspire me to fine tune my training with my own dog.  Roo is a wonderful pup, and as much of my time and energy is devoted to helping other humans and their dogs build positive relationships together, he often gets the short end of the stick.  But after Kathy Sdao encouraged us to consider taking more time to do activities that "keep our candle burning," I am trying to be more intentional about spending time with my own heart dog - he is, after all, one of the reasons I love training as much as I do!

The first concept I put into action was based on Hannah Branigan's presentation "High Precision, High Scores."  In this lecture, she broke down the behaviors sit, down and stand and discussed how to get the precision movements you need in order to offer peak performance in the obedience and rally ring.  I decided I should go back and take a look at how my dog performs the "sit" behavior to see if he was doing it the most efficient (and precise) way.  Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but still could use a little bit of improvement!  Here's our first session working on this.  I am selecting for a "tucked" sit where his hind legs come up to meet his stationary front legs instead of a "rock-back" sit where his front feet follow his rear back.

So sorry for the terrible video quality!  Can't seem to fix it, but if you want to see this clip in better quality, check it out on our instagram feed here.

Next, we tried some concept training, inspired by Ken Ramirez's lab on this topic.  We started with Match to Sample, which is teaching the dog to indicate the object that is the same as the object you present to them.  Roo had this concept in less than a 10 minute training session, and I started introducing novel objects as well.  This game is built on other skills (follow a target, settle at station, respond to a cue, etc.) that we have worked on previously.  Check this out!

How cool is that?!  Can't wait to see what else he learns next.

These are just a few of the fun tidbits we brought back from Clicker Expo.  We can't wait to improve our class curriculum, our behavior modification protocols, and our client interactions based on our new ideas.  Learning new things helps us to be the best that we can be, and we can't wait to pass along that benefit to our students and their dogs!

Happy clicking!

Holiday Drop-Ins

Holiday Drop-Ins

Happy November!  It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is barely 3 weeks away!  With the busy holiday season rapidly approaching, it's important to keep your dog's brain and energy engaged in a positive direction.  That way, your pup can be on his best behavior when the in-laws come to visit and you have one less thing to worry about!  

Don't have the time to commit to one of our 6 week classes?  No problem!  Come take advantage of one of our four holiday drop in classes:

Family Dog - This one hour class focuses on good behavior in the home and getting ready to get out in the community for your dog or older puppy!  You and your dog will learn specific skills like sit, down, stay, come, loose leash walking, greeting people and dogs calmly, and more!  For dogs and puppies over 6 months of age.  Class dates are Thursdays, November 17, December 1, December 8, and December 15 at 10:30am.  Click here to register.

Leave It! & Park It! Games -  Come practice your dog's recall, leave it, and settle skills in an hour of fun and good practice for your dog!  What better way to burn off some puppy energy before your holiday party than with this hour-long class!  No prerequisites - great for dogs over 6 months of age.  Class dates are Wednesdays, December 7 and 14 at 5:30pm.  Click here to register.

Fun/Foundation Agility -  Are you and your dog interested in getting started in the fun dog sport of Agility?  This hour-long drop-in class is a great way to give it a try - and to give your dog a fun activity during the busy holiday season!  Prerequisites:  Dogs must have basic skills such as heel, sit, down, stay, and come.  Class dates are Mondays, December 12 and 19 at 6:45pm.  Click here to register.  NOTE: Must have a minimum of 4 students registered to hold these drop-ins.

Rally -  During the holiday season, come in for an hour and learn new skills with your dog!  This class is more than just practice time, and your instructor will be teaching a different Rally lesson each week.  Great for new or more experienced students.  Preregistration is REQUIRED so that the instructor can design an appropriate lesson/course for all participants!  Class dates are Mondays, November 28, December 5, and December 12 at 5:30pm.  Click here to register.  

 

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us!  Or if you are interested in starting off the New Year on the right paw, check out our January schedule.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

fort-collins-dog-training-holiday-classes

Origins: Charissa

Origins: Charissa

Written by Summit Dog Training Associate Trainer Charissa Beaubien

I grew up in the mountains of Salida, Colorado on my family’s farm with horses, chickens, cows, dogs, and cats. My best friend was a hybrid dog named Raydar. Raydar and I spent our childhood adventuring and exploring the Rockies together.

Charissa & Raydar playing dress up.

Charissa & Raydar playing dress up.

I think back on my childhood and realize that there were always dogs around; when I had Raydar, we also had four other dogs. I learned a lot about dog communication by watching our five (or more) dogs interact and figure out life together. We never owned leashes or groomed our dogs, the dogs slept inside and ate scraps mixed with what ever else was laying around. Our dogs were treated very well and all lived full long lives but they were always just dogs. They spent most of their day outside laying in the sun or protecting the cows, they also went on adventures when we would go hunting or out to chop wood. In town they followed us around the streets saying hello to other dogs or slept in the truck if we just had to run errands. I remember thinking it was weird that people didn’t take their dogs everywhere with them.

Left to Right: Chance, Honey, Raydar & Annie

Left to Right: Chance, Honey, Raydar & Annie

I moved to Ohio during my teen years, and there began working professionally with animals in 2009 at a local humane society and soon discovered a passion for helping those in need. I remember this time in my life vividly as I started working at the shelter and soon discovered people treated their animals very differently then I had as a child. They would surrender their old dogs because they just purchased a new puppy. Or people would hurt and abuse their dogs because they were acting like any dog would. I also saw a lot of good people give loving homes to shelter dogs! 

While working at the shelter I was able to intern under a "balanced” trainer teaching classes and training the shelter dogs. In that time a skinny pit bull/hound mix named Dylon walked into my life. Dylon had been abandoned and tied to a tree so that his collar had become imbedded and he was diagnosed with acute renal failure due to stress. The shelter’s veterinary team was not optimistic. But Dylon chose me. There had been a handful of dogs I wanted to adopt from the shelter but alas this skinny boy wouldn’t leave me alone.  He went home with me as a foster dog were he recovered quickly, and soon after I adopted him. However healthy, Dylon had many behavioral hiccups such as separation anxiety, handling sensitivity, and lack of manners. I was unable to use force or intimidation with Dylon due to his injuries, and this prompted me to began researching positive training methods to use with him.

Meet Dylon!

Meet Dylon!

While I was training under my mentor he told me these methods would never work and that I would never be a good trainer because I was a girl and thus I was not strong enough (mentally or physically) to make a dog respect me. This lit a fire under me to prove him wrong. I knew that by using love and empathy I could build a relationship with an animal and in this way I could teach them new things!  Dylon proved that trust was the key to building a lifelong relationship with me, that to this day is unbreakable.

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  Charissa and Dylon near Red Feather Lakes paddle boarding and looking for Ducks.

Charissa and Dylon near Red Feather Lakes paddle boarding and looking for Ducks.

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   Charissa, Dylon, and boyfriend Tyler enjoying Moab’s Red Rock mountains

 

Charissa, Dylon, and boyfriend Tyler enjoying Moab’s Red Rock mountains

In 2013 I dedicated my career to progressive positive reinforcement marker-based training. I decided to take Karen Pryor’s Certified Training Partner course and graduated as a certified animal trainer in 2014. I am enthusiastic about continued education and public outreach. In 2015 I received a second animal training certification through CCPDT, becoming a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed. I am currently working towards a Silver Certification in Low Stress Handling.

My current job is at the Humane Society of Weld County as the Behavior Technician, in addition to being the Associate Trainer at Summit Dog Training. I am working to develop the behavior department at the shelter and group classes for the animals in the shelter's care as well as the animals in the community. I also work at CSU as a Colorado State University lab instructor for the first year Veterinary Students teaching low stress handling.   

I spend my free time camping and hiking with Dylon and a new addition Arja, a Cornish Rex kitten, in beautiful Fort Collins, CO. My goal is to change myths about shelter dogs and express to owners that compassion, trust, empathy, and fun build lasting human animal bonds. I want to show people that we can allow our dogs to be dogs and that by doing so we are fulfilling their needs and creating behaviorally healthy canines. And that when someone tells you that you can’t, prove them wrong.

Dylan gets cozy on a mountain adventure as the night slows down.

Dylan gets cozy on a mountain adventure as the night slows down.

Puppy In The Park

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Puppy In The Park

I just need to brag about some great students for a minute! Over the summer months, we met weekly in City Park, Fort Collins, for Puppy In The Park drop-in class.  This class was for graduates of my Puppy Basics and Puppy Confidence classes who were looking for extra opportunities to practice the skills they learned in new and more challenging environments.  And let me tell you, between baseball games, family reunion gatherings, and distracted PokemonGo players wandering through our makeshift classroom, the learning environment at City Park has certainly provided lots of great challenges!  

Cassie's mom sent me these pictures from one of the classes, and looking through them made me so proud!  These pups have all made great progress since we've started working!

Cassie the Australian Cattle Dog

Cassie the Australian Cattle Dog

Ryder the Australian Cattle Dog

Ryder the Australian Cattle Dog

Anaali the Golden Doodle

Anaali the Golden Doodle

Briar the Labrador Retriever

Briar the Labrador Retriever

Stinson the Hungarian Puli

Stinson the Hungarian Puli

Chief the German Shepherd

Chief the German Shepherd

Great job, everyone!  Keep doing fun things with your pups!

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Essential Canine Skills for Hiking Success

Essential Canine Skills for Hiking Success

Do you want to have fantastic hiking adventures with your dog, but you don’t know where to start?  Getting out in the wild can be challenging enough without an over-enthusiastic dog contributing to the stress.  In case you missed our “Hiking With Your Dog 101” seminar last night at Kriser’s Natural Pet, let’s review the list of foundation skills that are essential for enjoyment and safety out on the trail:

Essential Skills for Hiking Success:

       Recall

       Sit

       Stay

       Hand Target

       Give Attention to You

       Leave It

       Follow Your Directional Cues

Here is Roo responding to my directional cue to advance down the rocks ahead of me.

Here is Roo responding to my directional cue to advance down the rocks ahead of me.

Now, before you grab your dog and your leash and head to the mountains to start running through this list with your dog, let’s start a little more simply.  Practice each of these individually (5 minutes at a time, with breaks) at home, in your own backyard, first.  Just like you learned to ride a bike in your driveway and not out on the highway where there are higher stakes, your dog should learn new skills (or brush up on rusty skills) at home first and then take it out to the more challenging environment.  Start small and reward your dog when they respond correctly to your cues.  Be positive – when you are out on the trail, you want your dog to LOVE coming back to you instead of chasing the wildlife.  So be happy, positive, and encouraging at home too.

When you think your dog is ready for a bigger challenge, you can head to the trail.  But keep in mind that when you are adding more challenges to the environment (like the presence of animal scat and other hikers with or without dogs) you should plan to reduce your criteria a little bit and work back up to the goal behavior.  For example, even if your dog can do a 3-minute sit stay inside the house, perhaps start with a 15-30 second sit stay while other hikers are passing by, with enough distance to help your dog be successful and make good decisions. And be ready to reward BIG for great responses!

These training foundations are just one aspect of preparing for happy, safe hikes with your dog.  Don’t forget about conditioning & stretching, pet first aid, proper equipment, and trail etiquette; these are all components that make the trail a pleasant place for everyone involved.  Look for future blog posts on each of these topics, or contact us to get one-on-one help with preparing you and your dog to hit the trail together!

  

Create, Then Consume

Create, Then Consume

I recently read an article by The Everygirl on a photographer who has made a name for herself in her industry through creative branding and successful leveraging of social media.  Although I’m not a photographer, or even as artistic and trendy as Jenna Kutcher, I haven’t stopped thinking about one of the things she said about staying inspired in your business:

“Create, then consume.”

She describes the world of social media as a shouting match, one that can block our own creativity from flowing freely.  You can read the article for some great practical suggestions about how to change your focus from consuming to creating; it’s good stuff. 

I’ve been pondering on this a lot as it relates to our dogs and training.  How many times do I think “man, I wish I had time to teach my dog x, y, and z” and it never seems to make it to the top of the list; but yet I find the time to check Facebook for five minutes (*cough* or more *cough*) every morning and night.  If I spent just as much time teaching my dog something new every day, he might be qualified to run for president four years from now. 

I have initiated a little challenge for myself.  I’m working up to the goal behavior of lots of training, little bit of social media, so to start out, my objective is to spend at least half as much time on training as I do checking SM platforms.  So if I spend 30 minutes on Facebook, I will do a 15-minute (or 3 5-minute) training session(s) with my own dog each day. 

Roo has loved the extra attention this week!  He's already fine-tuned his pivoting skills (getting ready for his Intermediate Parkour Dog Title!) and practiced backing up onto high objects.  

Roo has loved the extra attention this week!  He's already fine-tuned his pivoting skills (getting ready for his Intermediate Parkour Dog Title!) and practiced backing up onto high objects.  

If you want to join me on this challenge, I’d love to have company!  Even if you don’t have a dog to train, find something else to start working on.  Pick up an instrument you haven’t practiced in years, find a language-learning application, start an educational book, or a writing project.  15 minutes doesn’t seem that long, especially compared to how much time I often spend consuming online. 

If you and your dog accomplish something great during these sessions, I want to see it!  Share you progress on Facebook or Instagram so that we can encourage each other!

Weekend Adventures & Helicopter Dog-Parenting

Weekend Adventures & Helicopter Dog-Parenting

This weekend we escaped to the mountains for a few days, trading in the 95+ degree days that Fort Collins experienced for cool mountain breezes and remnants of snow.  Of course, the dog came along, as did our adventurous friends Charissa and Tyler and their two pups, Dylon and Chip. 

fort-collins-backpacking-dog-osprey

We set off Friday night after work, drove two hours all the way through Rocky Mountain National Park, found our destination trail head, grabbed our packs and three leashes and hit the trail.  The plan was to hike 5.5 miles to a lake that first night . . . but as adventures are prone to do, it didn’t work out exactly the way we had intended.  

Eventually we were wandering around in the dark on a service road looking for the next part of the trail.  Definitely a great thing to do past 11:00 PM when we’re worn out, starting to get cold, and the dogs have just scared us half to death with an inquisitive incident too close to a gushing river culvert for comfort. 

We give up the search for the trail and find a campsite. Not perfect, but serviceable for the night.  Thank you, to whatever organization owned the dump truck and backhoe that provided us shelter from the wind and a barrier in case of early morning travelers on the service road.

Crazy kids.

Crazy kids.

The next day we continued the search for the trail, and finally decided that it was obscured by the rushing river and with three pups it would not be safe to attempt a crossing.  An alternate plan was decided on, and we made a camp, in a beautiful spot directly under the continental divide. 

The dogs romped in the swamp and streams, we sat in the sun and played cards, we all took naps in the middle of the day (can’t remember the last time I’ve gotten to do that!), and generally rested and enjoyed being out in the fresh air.  It wasn’t the 20 mile hiking loop that we had planned.  But this was perfect.

Being trail dogs is rough sometimes.

Being trail dogs is rough sometimes.

On the way back to the trail head the next day, Roo and Dylon enjoyed some off-leash scurries through the woods and brambles along the trail.  After a while, Roo started to venture further from the path to the right - in the direction of the river (and the very steep embankments leading down to it).  At this point, I started feeling a little bit like a helicopter parent: constantly worried about where he was, nagging, continuously asking him to check in with me. . . none of which thrilled him very much, and it wasn’t very relaxing and peaceful for me either!  Eventually I just put him back on leash for a bit so that I wasn’t constantly fussing with him.

Reflecting on this after our trip concluded, I have connected a few dots about this situation that have shed some light (although not excused) my downslide from relaxed off-leash moderator into overbearing dog-mom.  And I thought, “If I’m seeing this response in myself so easily, when I generally trust my dog off-leash and know the disadvantages of constantly fussing without a good reason, how easy it is for my clients to default to this type of communication with their dogs?”  

As far as I can tell, my micromanagement of my dog in this situation boils down to the emotion of fear, residual from the near-mishap that occurred in the dark on Friday night.  The horrifying images and feelings that come to mind when thinking of the “what-ifs” of that scenario are still uncomfortable, almost a week later, so it makes sense that not quite 2 days post-incident my brain would still be especially prone to anxious or fearful responses connected to some of the same stimuli.

This has been a helpful thing for me to remember, and recognize how it so easily infiltrated my attitude when interacting with my pup.  Without addressing the underlying emotions of anxiety and fear that we have with our dogs (in whatever scenario, due to whatever history), these emotions will have a significant impact on how we communicate, to the point of undermining our training goals. 

I am doing more thinking and researching on the impacts of emotions (good and bad) on our communication style, and how this can affect our experiences with our dogs, and plan to write more about this topic soon.  But in the mean time, I want to leave you with a challenge: if you find yourself being a “helicopter dog-parent,” look at the scenario.  What underlying feelings are causing you to feel the need to control every step your dog makes?  These feelings could be completely legitimate (“my dog is too friendly with kids and we’re walking by a playground and I’m scared he’ll jump up”), and I’m certainly not telling you to turn your dog loose without a second thought.  But just think about it.  You might just realize, like I did, that your anxiety is residual from a previous scenario and not directly because of the situation at hand.   

Good boy, Roo.  

Good boy, Roo.  

 

Why Summit Dog Training? • Fort Collins Dog Trainer • Northern Colorado Positive Dog Training

Why Summit Dog Training? • Fort Collins Dog Trainer • Northern Colorado Positive Dog Training

At Summit Dog Training, we believe in adventures.  We believe in fresh air, sunshine, mountains, and deep breaths.  

We also believe that no adventure is quite complete without a four-legged companion by our side. Dogs tend to enjoy every moment of every adventure in a way that is infectious.  If we follow their lead, this natural enthusiasm can enhance our sometimes less-perfect human enjoyment and encourage us to be more present, more free, and more mindful at every step of each experience.  

I caught this infectious excitement about experiencing life from my Australian Shepherd, Roo, almost 8 years ago now.  His enthusiasm and energy for all things outside and active has kept me on my toes since I first brought him home.  Even today as an official canine senior citizen, when we are backpacking together he does about three times as many miles as I do, running back and forth between the exotic new smells and scenery and his human family.  This enthusiasm never fails to make me smile like the crazy dog person I am, and every time it reminds me why dogs are a wonderful addition to all types of adventures.     

But in order for humans and dogs to fully enjoy outings together, there are some skills necessary on both ends of the leash.  This is the mission and passion of Summit Dog Training: helping dogs and their owners prepare for doing awesome things together, whether that is a peaceful walk in the park or hiking off leash in the beautiful back country of the Rocky Mountains.  These adventures are founded on friendship, trust, and effective communication between dog and human, and this is something that is attainable for all dogs and their people!    

We believe that dogs enrich our lives and our adventures, and, in turn, that inclusion in our adventures also enriches the lives of our dogs.  Are you and your dog ready for a new adventure?