Sheep Shearing

I promised a post on "how much training/attention" should we be giving our dogs, and it'll come, I promise. However, I'm a tad under the weather today, and since I wrote this part up yesterday I'll post it now, and pick up the training topic soon. Fact is, things are pretty crazy here right now. Besides speeches (thanks SAVMA for having me!), finishing grading 150 7-page exams, new lectures, and the usual daily work load, I agreed to be a grant reviewer for NIH (Nat'l Institute of Health). They are due this Friday, then I fly to DC for panel reviews (and an appearance on Diane's Rehm's radio show... I just love her, so that's a great perk.) If I'd known how much work these reviews would be, well... not so sure I'd have said yes. But it's interesting, very interesting. But more on the Read More

Interactive Toys

A generous friend just sent me one of Nina Ottoson's interactive dog toys, and Will and I have been having a great time playing with them. Well, he plays, I watch. And, I think he is having a great time. And that's the question for the day. Is he really? Do dogs enjoy these toys as much as we like watching them? I thought of this the second or third time that Willie worked with the toy (Dog Fighter--an unfortunate name in this country, but probably not relevant in Sweden.). He had learned that there was food under the wooden knobs, but hadn't yet figured it out how to get to it quickly. After pawing unsuccessfully, which only pushed the knob in the opposite direction of what would release the food, he tried to chew on the knob. As suggested in the instructions, I quietly moved my hand Read More

Explaining “Step by Step” Training, Step by Step

One of the great comments on my post about the new Puppy Book reminded me that training "step by step" is not intuitive. Someone may know that there are multiple steps between a dog sitting on cue when asked in the kitchen at dinner time, versus being asked to sit when barking at the visitors at the front door. But what are those steps? And how do you know when to move on to the next one? I thought it would be helpful to give a few examples. However, I would love it if some of the experienced readers would add an example of their own. My favorite part of writing this blog is the wealth of knowledge of its readers, and I am sure that many of the readers would benefit greatly from hearing a range of examples. Here's an example, using the dog sitting on cue when it's easy for him to comply Read More

New Puppy Primer

Wheeee! I've been working on an updated version of the Puppy Primer for six months now, and it feels SO good to finally hold the finished product in my hot little paws. In it, co-author Brenda Scidmore and I emphasize the benefits of positive reinforcement, of letting dogs initiate the correct action themselves when possible, the importance of realistic expectations and of going step-by-step in training. That last issue is such a big one to me: so many of the problems I see people having with their dogs relate to them jumping from Step 1 to Step 25, without knowing that there should be many steps in between. For example,  there's (Step 1) sitting on cue in the kitchen while holding a dinner bowl and (Step 25) sitting on cue when 5 people come to the door and there are 3 other dogs barking Read More

More on Play Styles; Dealing with Problem Players

I've loved your comments about play styles after the last post. Keep them coming. One of the points that was made by many of you, that I think bears repeating, is that many dogs can adapt and learn new play styles from others. This is especially true of stable, well-adjusted dogs who aren't overly reactive to something new or challenging. Along with chase games and wrestling, several of you mentioned hounds (and English Shepherds!) who like to play "catch the prey" by chasing, play biting and then mock attacks at the throat. Another mentioned a play style that I've also seen, that I consider truly problematic. In this case, the dog chases another dog until he catches up, and then bites the chasee, often in the back leg, and brings him or her down. Eeeps. I've seen this quite often, and it Read More