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

Training Schedules

I'm reading a fascinating book, one that I recommend with five stars for anyone interested in the brain and behavior. It's titled The Brain That Changes Itself, and is written, beautifully, by Norman Doidge, M.D. The book's primary focus is on the plasticity of the brain, and how, in contrast to what was formerly believed, the brain is continually changing in response to the environment. He relates stories of stroke victims, for example, who are able to regain the use of limbs rendered nonfunctional because the motor area of the brain that controls them was destroyed. Previously it was believed that the brain can not regenerate and once an area is damaged there is very little that can be done to restore functionality.  However, that turns out to be a complete misunderstanding of how 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