Willie and Tongue Flicks and What it All Means

As if any of us REALLY knows "what it all means," right? But thank you for your interesting and thoughtful comments about the previous post's video of Willie and the "Get Back" signal. They were great. I'll cut to the chase about my own interpretation. Here's the data: Willie tongue flicks when I ask him to back away from somewhere or something he wants to go toward: the outside of the house, into the car, or toward the toy. All of these have been taught using lots and lots of reinforcement with food and play and "life rewards," like going outside after I say "Get Back" or getting the toy as soon as he backs up (But  I don't reinforce every single response every single time once he has a cue down pat. That would be unnecessary in my opinion, not to mention completely impractical.) But Read More

Video Analysis: What’s Up with Willie?

Will and me at clinic 10-07

Here's an interesting video for you to analyze. Katie and I were taping one of my favorite signals, "Get Back." I use it in a variety of contexts, and can't imagine life without it. You can see some of the ways I use the cue on the video below, and I'll talk more later, if you'd like, about why I love the cue so very much. After we taped, Katie and I were watching the video and I said "Oh wow, did you see how he [---] right after [---] happens? (Fill in the blanks!) And so, that's your assignment (should you decide to accept it Agent 99): Watch this video and tell us what we might have found interesting in it. I'm giving no more instructions than that... Who knows then what you might find that we didn't! I'll jump in early next week (and will answer comments sooner) about what we Read More

Barbie & Willie, Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Barbie in woods

I originally called this post "Barbie's Not Always a Nice Girl," but then I thought about what the title would look like on Google and the kind of people who'd click on it. Hmm, not really my "brand," as they say. I thought though, that you'd be interested in yet another interaction between Barbie, my cantankerous, lead ewe and Willie. Barbie, as you may recall, is the only sheep who has ever seriously challenged Willie. She won a few times when she had three-week old lambs this spring, literally chasing Willie away, her anvil-like head down and ready to bash Willie into the ground. He ran away like a frightened chipmunk, because Barbie was serious, and because we all know she can be a witch, and because well, he's just not the bravest dog in the world. That's partly why I love him so Read More

Willie & Trisha Back to Work

Some wonderful things to report today. The first is that I had a restful and relaxing vacation. I saw lots of friends, gardened, cooked and got back to working sheep with Willie (more on that soon). I took an entire three weeks off, which felt terribly indulgent, but also desperately necessary. The last two years have included many wonderful things, but they've also included some major challenges, including Jim's snapped bicep, surgery and recovery, my badly smashed knee, a summer raising a puppy who was (and is) better off another home, the death of Jim's sister, moving his mother to Madison three weeks later, the out-of-the blue death a month later of Jim's brother, Willie's shoulder injury, surgery and year-long recovery, and a raft of my own health problems that I've been fighting in Read More

Best. News. Ever.

ST PAV Pen 2012

Today, it's all about the farm. I had a blog written about the effect of acoustic environments on us and our dogs, some new products available for us to use to calm our dogs, and some new results of "calming" music that Katie and I have seen with our dogs. And then I erased it all with one key stroke. I'm sure that has never happened to you.... So I'll save that topic for later (and promise to catch up in the next month or so on other topics I've promised you, like exercises to calm the sympathetic nervous system, and the methods of the clicker versus no-clicker study ). Right now I have to get home to the dogs and work on the talk that Karen London and I are giving at the Interdisciplinary Forum on Applied Animal Behavior next week in Phoenix. So here's the second half of the blog, Read More