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dog training fort collins

February is the Month of LOVE

February is the Month of LOVE

Our dogs are a huge part of our lives, and they shower us with love all year long.  Here are three ideas for how to show your special four-legged someone how much they mean to you this month!  
 

  1. Go on a "Micro-Adventure" together.  These mini adventures are one of our favorite things to build a positive relationship with our dogs.  They don't have to be long or elaborate, just simple things that you can do together, like running errands, taking an extra walk to the park, or just riding around in the car.  I just did this with my dog today - he got to ride with me to the grocery store, stop by Kriser's Natural Pet, drop by the training facility, and then end it with lots of attention at the bank.  He loved it, and he's sound asleep now!  We wrote more about micro-adventures in this blog; check it out for more ideas!
     
  2. Get them a new toy!  But not just any toy - one that will challenge them mentally as well as physically!  One of our favorite categories of toys are food puzzles.  We wrote all about them in this blog post; check it out to see which option your pup might light best!
     
  3. Teach them a new trick!  Our dogs get so excited to learn new things with us!  And their "trick" skills are often the most exciting and reinforcing to our dogs, because we get so excited about them too!  Teaching your dog something new can be as simple or elaborate as you want, but either way it's sure to be a fun time for both of you!  I just taught my dog Roo some new tricks and he loved it!

These are just a few ideas for making this month a great month for you and your dog!  If you come up with other great ideas, we want to hear about them!  Tag us in your adventures on Facebook or Instagram and use #SDTmonthoflove so we can share in your excitement!

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!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . . With a Well-Behaved Dog

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . . With a Well-Behaved Dog

The holidays are here!  Lots of fun and family and good food will be taking place over the next month, and everything is all hustle and bustle and cheer . . .

Until the dog counter-surfs and runs helter-skelter through the house with the pristine turkey and in-laws and cousins and aunts and uncles all join into a high-speed chase that jostles the perfectly-set table already brimming with food (sparkling cider splashes everywhere!), wakes up the baby (and the next-door neighbor's visiting grandmother), tips over the newly-decorated Christmas tree, sprains little Johnny's ankle (holiday ER trips are part of the family traditions, right?), and otherwise completely decimates the perfect Hallmark moment you had going.

That picture might be a little extreme, but you get the idea: your pup has the potential to either be a Christmas-card worthy gem or a complete moment-wrecker.  But with a little preparation, we can help our dogs keep towards the positive side of that scale!  Here are a few tips for a well-behaved dog this holiday season:

  1. Prepare to give your dog plenty of exercise BEFORE the festivities begin.  Thanksgiving morning is a great time to get outside with your dog, even for just 20 minutes, before the relatives arrive!  If you can't do this, delegate: maybe one of your visiting nieces or nephews would be willing to spend 10 minutes playing ball with the dog in the backyard while dinner is cooking!  The more you keep your pup's mind and energy engaged in constructive outlets, the better behaved they will be!  We have holiday drop-in classes specifically for this reason!
     
  2. Invest in some constructive activities for your dog, like food puzzles!  Some of our favorites are Kong (classic Kongs can be stuffed with peanut butter and yogurt and frozen ahead of time so they take longer to enjoy; Kong wobblers are a great way to give your dog their meals AND give them some extra brain activity too!), Orbee Snoop (another fun and interactive way to give your dog their meal!), and food mazes like these from Outward Hound.  Giving your pup something to do before they find a less constructive way to get their energy out is key!
     
  3. Give your dog their own space and some structured quiet time throughout the festivities.  Lots of people, food smells, and other chaos can be overwhelming to your dog!  Giving them some chill time on their favorite mat or in their crate might be just what they need.
     
  4. If you can foresee a situation where your dog is not going to be successful at doing the right thing, manage that situation to set your dog up for success.  If your dog is an excited greeter at the door, put them safely away in another room or crate before your relatives arrive.  The holiday rush isn't the time to start teaching a better greeting method!  If your dog is a habitual counter-surfer, make sure to manage their access to areas where food is being prepared or stored.  Dogs are opportunistic, and even if you have been making training progress, the holiday feast isn't where you want to put those skills to the ultimate test.  Use baby gates or other management tools to set your dog up for success!  If you have time to train a little bit here and there, reward your dog for settling on their bed just outside of the hub of activity.  Toss a treat (or a sample of turkey if you are feeling really generous!) every few minutes to reward your dog for having self-control in the face of all of that temptation! 
     
  5. Remember that your dog is a dog!  It won't be perfect, just like your kid or your various relatives might get on your nerves on occasion!  But setting your pup up for success is the best way to get through the chaos in a positive, constructive way.

 

Another holiday tip: brush up on your knowledge of foods and plants that can be toxic to your pup!  The ASPCA Poison Control Center is a great resource!

 

Shelter Dog 101 - New Class!

Shelter Dog 101 - New Class!

Summit Dog Training Associate Trainer Charissa Beaubien KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA (read full bio here!) has a passion for helping shelter dogs transition smoothly into their forever homes.

Charissa with her own shelter pup, Dylon.

Charissa with her own shelter pup, Dylon.

Through past shelter experience as well as in her current capacity as the Behavioral Technician for Humane Society of Weld County, Charissa has seen first hand how timely and applicable training advice can make the difference between a rescue dog staying with their adoptive family or being returned to the shelter.  In order to assist more rescue pups and their new families, we are adding a new class to the schedule: Shelter Dog 101.  This four week course is specifically designed for the needs of shelter dogs making the transition to "normal" life in a loving family.  Many shelter dogs come with challenges that other dogs don't always face, like separation anxiety, destructive chewing, potty training, and understanding polite play and social manners.  This course provides a way for new adoptive families to get support specifically for these issues, as well as get started bonding with their new shelter pup, in a fun and supportive class setting.  

Adopting a dog from a shelter is a wonderful choice, but can be a significant financial investment depending on the physical and mental health of the dog.  This class is a way for us to make training more accessible to adoptive families and get everyone started off on the right track!  If you are interested in the class, pick up a coupon from your dog's Northern Colorado rescue (we'll be distributing those very soon!) or send Charissa an email with a copy of your dog's adoption papers and we'll send you a coupon directly!   

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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