Stay Training – Phase I; Willie’s First Herding Dog Trial

willie in trial 11-10

Thanks for the discussion about the use of Body Blocks for teaching Stay, and to re-iterate a comment I made, they work equally well with dogs of all breeds and sizes (but you have to be a bit quicker with some breeds and with small dogs).  If your dog is getting around you to the left or right, then you might be too close. It's herding dogs that taught me that you have more control at a bit of a distance than if you are right up close. I got away with being quite close in the video in the last post, because the dogs were relatively easy to block, but if you are having trouble, try backing up a bit. It's also a great way to learn to read dogs (what body part moves first when a dog starts to get up?) and to perfect your timing. I mentioned in last week's post that the video showed me Read More

Teach Stay with “Body Blocks”

Working Willie on sheep in preparation for tomorrow's trial reminded me of the first time I made a connection between the way Border Collies herd sheep and dog training in general. As you all know,  BCs control sheep by what I call "space management." They don't bark, rarely bite, but "take the space" away from sheep in the direction they don't want sheep to go, leaving only one route open for the sheep to move. It's a bit like the way sculptors define their art: the work is as much about the space around the sculpture as it is the object itself. When you learn to work dogs on sheep, you  learn a lot about managing the behavior of another animal without any physical connection. Dogs have no leashes on sheep, and dog handlers have no way of physically effecting their dog's behavior Read More

Dog-Dog Reactivity – Treatment Summary

redford in fall sun 9-10

The seminar in Seattle was great fun, lots of good folks  and excellent questions from the audience. In the morning I talked about treatment for dog-dog reactivity, and I promised a summary of that on the blog. Here it is, with the obligatory caution that the morning itself wasn't close to enough time to cover the topic in depth, so the summary here will be chapter titles (but hopefully helpful ones). Knowing that I couldn't possibly talk about how to handle every type of case, here are some highlights: REACTIVITY? What are we talking about here? When I use the term I am talking about what we usually think of as "over reactivity," or "reactivity" that we see as inappropriate. After all, a loose body greeting is a "reaction" to another dog, right? In this case, I am talking about Read More

Markers and Secondary Reinforcers

Hope & Sherman

We've been talking about secondary reinforcers and markers, and the good question has come up about the difference between them. On the one hand, we know that a click or a "yes" can be used to communicate to a dog that a specific behavior is what is about to be reinforced. Clicking or saying "yes" at exactly the right moment is incredibly powerful in that it is a precise way of communicating to an animal exactly what it was doing that will elicit the reinforcement (clicks are more precise than words, by the way). However, you could also call a click or "yes" a 2ndary reinforcer, since to be effective it is paired with a primary reinforcer like food, and the animal learns to associate the click/marker with the treat, right? So which is it? Ah, you gotta love the English language: Read More

Chase This, Not That!

sheep toy 2

A dog's love of a good chase is both a blessing and a curse. It makes playing with them extra fun; what a joy it is to play fetch and chase with some dogs! And it's got a dark side too--chasers love to chase cats, cars, joggers and bicyclists, and that doesn't tend to work out so well for all involved. In an earlier post I talked about teaching my new pup Hope not to chase Sushi the cat, and several readers asked how I am doing that. Here's a summary of both a generic plan and how it looks in detail in one home, with one dog, and one cat. Obviously, the details vary tremendously, but the basic plan is relatively universal. 1. MANAGE AND PREVENT: What could be more fun than chasing something if a dog is so inclined? Dogs are, after all, cursorial predators (meaning they run things Read More