|Photo by Jenny.
First, a HUGE shout out to the people who are watching my horde this week! You all have no idea how much your updates and pictures are helping MY separation anxiety. Every time I go online or check my phone, it seems like there's a new update showing how well my dogs are doing with their sitters. Y'all are my Big Damn Heroes.
|Photo by Michelle.
And on to today's learning!
Creative Reinforcement from the Animal’s Perspective
Speaker: Kimberly Wilson
Kim put together an excellent presentation on finding what I typically call “life rewards.” These are the activities you can use to reward a dog (or other animal) that aren't the usual treats and toys. Kim says that the key to finding creative reinforcers is observing the dog: How does the dog explore the environment? What does the dog seek out? How close or far away from the owner does the dog choose to be? Does he seek out toys or treats? Does he spend a lot of time sniffing? Does she seek out social interaction? Basically, what does the dog really want to do? Once you have an idea of what activities the dog enjoys, you need to find a way to put the activity to work for you. Ask for cooperation, they allow access to the reward. So, for a dog who loves to mark (pee on ALL the things!), you might ask for a second of eye contact, and then release them to mark on a particularly desirable tree. Kim suggests that when experimenting with a new reward, try using it three times. If you notice improvement in your requested behavior, then congratulations! You've found a good, new reward! If there is no improvement, then the “reward” is not actually reward, and it’s time to experiment with something else.
The Challenges of Being a Consultant: The Things They Don’t Teach You in Animal Training Class
Speaker: Ken Ramirez
Two days with Ken Ramirez; I am so spoiled. Bob Bailey, a famous dog trainer and author, once said that “The animals are the easy part!” Most dog trainers went down this career path because they love dogs; however, it doesn't take long to figure out that love of dogs is not enough. In order to be a successful dog trainer, you have to be good with people as well. Ken’s talk revolved around the importance of people skills. Organizational skills, motivational skills, ability to teach people, and cultivating trust are just as important as concrete dog training skills. Luckily, if you don’t have people skills – there’s good news! You can learn to be better at the human communication competent. Unfortunately, that is a much better topic than can be covered in just a paragraph. (You can read my yammering about people skills over here.)
Case Study: Prey Drive
Speaker: Ken McCort
This was a really interesting topic by a really interesting presenter, and I’m really glad that Sara is planning to go to his workshop tomorrow because I unfortunately won’t be able to attend due to chicken training. Ken discussed a case involving a wolf hybrid in a family setting. The concern was predatory behavior toward the children in the household, and while the animal was sadly euthanized, the case brought up a lot of good information about prey drive. Predation is not different aggression, the dog is not “angry” or “afraid,” she was trying to find food. Hunting is reflexive and will always be present; it is a motor pattern in the brain. It can be suppressed, but the behavior pattern will always be present. A lot of the methods Ken used to help in this case revolved around impulse control and interruption of behavior which was interesting to be because I teach a lot on the subjects in general and hadn't really thought much about their application toward predatory behavior. Predation also does not typically appear until sexual maturity, and the hunting behavior is triggered by the behavior of people or animals, not hunger or smell. Predatory behavior is always silent; the predator doesn't want to advertise its presence to the prey. I’m curious to know how Ken feels this applies to dogs, as oppose to wolf hybrids, as the predation sequence is often stunted in dogs. Hopefully, it’s something he’ll talk about and Sara will get notes on tomorrow. (For more information on predation and predatory sequences, check out Dogs by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger.)
Favorite quote: “Cockroaches and dogs have been around forever.”
Case Study: Separation Anxiety
Speaker: Malena DeMartin-Price
Malena had us follow the case of Lucy, a border collie mix with severe separation anxiety. I’m glad that I’ve already decided to go to Malena’s workshop later in the week because her case study has certain whetted my appetite for the subject. The important take aways that I got from the case study were that there is no good way to reduce the time or the amount of work involved in separation anxiety cases (and true separation anxiety takes a lot of time and energy); it’s important to have long and short term goals to help you feel like you’ve accomplished something; interactive toys are tools, and it’s important to wean off them; and much like with the Relaxation Protocol, you must rely on the dog to tell you how quickly you can progress through your separation anxiety protocol.
Favorite quote: “We are teaching dogs to relax when left along, not to eat when left alone.”
Case Study: Aggression Towards People
Speaker: Colleen Pelar
I don’t feel that I can give these case studies the attention it deserves in a short paragraph summary. The trouble with such an intense, volatile subject like human-directed aggression is that a little information care be as dangerous as – if not more dangerous than – no information at all. Plus there wasn't a whole lot of information here that I’m not already familiar with. One of the things I did like about this presentation was Colleen’s attention to the fact that what it attainable for dog trainers, either through training or management, may not necessary be realistic for our clients. She also had a catchy mnemonic for appropriate human body language when being approached by and aggressive dog: STOP forward motion, DROP your eyes, and ROLL your shoulders away.
Favorite quote: “Dog trainers, remember – you are wonderful, you are good, and you are not normal.”
And lastly, ZOMG, TRADE SHOW: