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dogs on adventures

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!

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!