Tag Archives: Dog training

Training at the Dog Park

This week in May 2010, we in the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association were doing a final spit and polish on our new Lions Club Dog Park.

The Lions Club Dog Park had its grand opening on the May 24th weekend – one day of rain, one day of beautiful sunshine. A pretty good time though, I thought.

Recall Training

I picked up some pointers on dog training from Anne MacDonald of K-9 Concepts Saturday afternoon. She gave a workshop on recall training, one of the hardest and most important things to teach.recall training by Anne MacDonald St. Thomas dog park

My two are pretty good about coming when called, if they feel like it. And that, of course, is the problem. If they don’t feel like coming when called, it’s because they’re doing something way more interesting like chasing a rabbit or, in Leo’s case, eating poop – things I don’t want them doing. So your objective is to make coming to you a better option for them, and make them believe you have the power to make them come even if they don’t to.

The ‘carrot’ part of this is lots of good treats. Don’t be stingy, Anne said. Give them lots of the really yummy treats for a good recall. Many people, she said, give just the same amount of treat for a sit, a shake paw or a recall. With the recall, because it’s so important, give more and make a huge fuss over them for doing it well. I make a big fuss, but I just give the same small amount of treat that I do for anything else.

I worry about them gaining weight from too much “junk food” so only give them a teensy bit of dried liver or whatever as a treat. But I hadn’t thought about it from their perspective – why should I interrupt this interesting thing I’m doing for the sliver of treat she’s got. So now, lots of treats, different kinds of treats, lots of hugs and fuss. We’ll see how it works.

Be a slot machine

Anne MacDonald at Lions Club Dog Park“Be a slot machine, not a vending machine,” Anne said about training. Sometimes they get a lot, sometimes they get a little, sometimes they get nothing – they never know for sure. So like people sitting for hours feeding coins into a slot machine, hoping against hope that it will give the big payoff, a dog will be more inclined to keep coming back in hopes of hitting a mother lode of treats.*

But don’t do it every time. If the dog knows you’re going to give a treat every time, after the first time you don’t, the dog might treat you like a broken vending machine. If it doesn’t produce, you don’t go back to it. When Leo knows I’ve run out of treats (which he seems to have a sixth sense about), he thinks about whether he’s going to come back or not. If he feels like it, he might but not with as much alacrity as when he knows there’s a treat waiting. If he doesn’t feel like it, well, he doesn’t until he’s ready.

The long leash

When they don’t feel like coming back, that’s when you need the “I am all-powerful” tool. Anne uses a long lead, a soft rope much longer than a regular leash. Just let the dog drag it (obviously not in brush areas where the dog can get caught up). Give the recall command, if dog doesn’t react, say it again and step on the leash. Don’t go to the dog, pull the leash back to you.

Keep the treats in your pocket, not your hand. But act fast when the dog comes back. “Good dog”, pats and hugs and quickquick into your pocket and treat to dog. That reinforces the connection between the dog’s action and the reward, but lessens the chance of the treat being a bribe instead of a reward. That’s where my training with Leo fell down. He saw the treat in my hand often enough that he started looking for it before he’d decide whether or not to do what I asked. With him, it’s not even a case of bribery, it’s more like negotiation. With Charlie too, it’s negotiation. If he knows I’ve got treats he really likes, he’s more likely to do what I ask. If he doesn’t like them, he just sniffs the treat and walks on past. So for recall especially, have ones they like a lot.

Competitiveness

Sometimes they get into competition to see who can get to me faster. Anne says you can use that competitiveness in training, and reward only the winner. The dog who does it right gets the treats and the big fuss. The other gets nothing. I have a hard time doing that, the other one looks so pitiful that I end up giving him a treat Charlie doing recalland pat too. She says be tough so they see that if they don’t do the work, they don’t get the prize.

So I learned a lot, mainly how much I’ve let “pretty good” be good enough for me. As a result of my back-sliding, my very willing-to-learn poodle is only about halfway to well-trained and my smart but obstinate terrier pays attention and then does what he wants. Both of them like playing “the training game” as they see it. And both have learned a lot since we’ve had them. Now I’m going to do my part to help them learn more. Thank you, Anne, for some helpful tips and reminders.

First posted May 25, 2010 on the St. Thomas Dog Blog.

* On CBC’s The Current, Mon. May 15/17, Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked, said about social media likes: “This idea that a reward is just within reach but it’s never guaranteed. Paradoxically when you guarantee someone a reward, they get bored and they stop doing something quite quickly, whereas when you build in just a small dose of uncertainty… is very hard for humans to resist.”

Pawlooza Dog Party

Pawlooza happens this coming Saturday, August 20th from 10 to 6, at Steve Plunkett’s Fleetwood Farm on Elviage Road, near Westdel Bourne in west poster 2011 pawlooza dog partyLondon. It is a huge dog party organized by ARF Ontario (Animal Rescue Foundation) in London.  Admission for the day, including parking, is $10 per vehicle. Hundreds of vendors of dog stuff are there, along with specialty groups like dog sports, specific breed clubs and rescue groups.

Each group keeps the money it raises through sales and donations, and the overall funds raised go to ARF and LEADS, a special needs employment and training programme.  You’ll see vendors from all over the province.  There’s lots of food for both you and your dog.  There are demonstrations of dog talent like agility and obedience.

Your dog can go swimming or compete in dock diving in the small lake on the property. But if, like us, you have non-swimming dogs, you can find a spot along the bank and watch Labs fling themselves off the dock into the water time after time.London Free Press photo by Sue Reeves, dog swimming

Just the property itself is enough to make you want to go.  The grounds are incredibly beautiful.  Booths are lined up in several rows, so you can shop to your heart’s content.  Then you can wander in the landscaped grounds and woods.

If you are thinking about getting a dog, there will be lots of dogs there with their rescue groups.  You can talk with knowledgeable people about the characteristics of different kinds of dogs, and you can see pretty much every breed of dog walking around the grounds.  You can even find out exactly what kinds of dogs created your mutt with a DNA test.  If you want to get inside your dog’s head (and who doesn’t), you can visit the dog psychic’s booth.

Indiana-billboards-2016-ISARIts date is a deliberate choice.  Since 1992, the 20th of August has been International Homeless Animals Day. The International Society of Animal Rights picked that date to focus attention on animals in need of help and a home.

So mark the calendar and have a great doggy day. Your dogs of course are welcome – it is a dog party after all. But if you want to go without a dog, you’ll still have a great time.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Aug. 12, 2011. Date, time and cost is from Pawlooza website for 2016.

Australia honours Smoky

Smoky in helmetAustralia honours Smoky with medalOn July 20, 2012 in Brisbane Australia, Smoky the war dog was awarded posthumously the Australian Defence Force Tracker and War Dog Association medal for military service. At the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, design of ADFTWDA service medalUS Consul General Niels Marquardt accepted the medal on behalf of Bill Wynne, Smoky’s person.

The ADFTWDA Secretary, a tracker team veteran of Vietnam, read a poem in remembrance of all Military Working Dogs, especially those left behind. It is by Connie Chronister:

I Wait By The Gate

In a strange land I was sent, not knowing my fate;

In a pen I was put and I sat by the gate.

I watched and I wondered what do I do now?

Then I looked up and saw you, as you walked up with a smile.

We trained and we worked and I showed you my best;

You rewarded me and petted me and I did the rest.

Through trails and paths and roads we did go;

And I was to smell, for traps that would blow.

Many times I stopped you from ending your life;

From an enemy trap wire that was set to end your life.

Never have I thought that we would ever part;

Because of the love that we had in our hearts.

Oh, I was proud to walk by your side;

With all of your friends and being your guide.

Then one day you put me back into my pen;

You smiled, you petted me, you said, “Goodbye my friend.”

You looked back one more time,

and I saw the tear in your eye;

And I knew it was the last, and was your way of saying goodbye.

German shepherd Prince sits at Washington DC Vietnam MemorialMy life, it so changed when you went back home;

And I stayed behind to a fate still unknown.

It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen your face;

But I never forgot you, my friend and my mate.

So please don’t worry, I’m waiting by Heaven’s gate;

For my best friend, my brother, but mainly my mate.

War Dog

The tracker dogs who served with the Australian armed forces in Vietnam were not brought back to Australia. They were Caesar, Janus, Juno, Mercian, Mila, Trojan, Cassius, Julian, Justin, Marcus and Tiber. According to an Australian government site, it was because of American military reports of their dogs dying from a disease believed to be transmitted by ticks.

Smoky_statue-Brisbane-12Dec12An accidental soldier, Smoky’s wartime action saved lives and time and, in peacetime, she entertained thousands on stage and television. She also worked her magic in hospital and nursing home visits. Those visits showed the value of a dog in recovery and wellbeing, both physical and psychological, and led to official recognition of therapy dogs.

I hope that she and all the dogs remembered in granite statues and in soldiers’ minds mean that no Military Working Dog will ever again be ‘the soldier left behind’.

Plaque-12Dec12-Smoky war dog 1st PTSS dog Brisbane HospitalThanks to Mr. Wynne for sending me a video of the medal presentation, it was truly lovely.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 10/12. On Dec. 12, 2012, a statue was unveiled at the Brisbane Hospital in honour of Smoky (photos right and above). The other side of the base reads “Dedicated to all war animals. They also served. Lest we forget.” The story is at Monument Australia with photos by ADFTWDA historian Nigel Allsopp.

 

Yorkie Doodle Update

After I wrote a review of Yorkie Doodle Dandy (St. Thomas Dog Blog, April 2012), I got a lovely email from author Bill Wynne. 

 Yorkie Doodle author Bill Wynne with Yorkie in Cleveland parkThank you so much for the wonderful review of my memoir about my dog Smoky… I’m working a on a second book because YDD has been popular and resulted in many diverse things happening. Among them, some readers asking for another book. It will be “Angel in a Foxhole:  Yorkie Smoky and Her Friends.”

Below is what is happening currently with our 69 year old hero:

A British TV company will record an interview in Cleveland Ohio, for “SUPER TINY PETS” broadcast, at the Smoky Memorial to be aired in the U.K. May 9, 2012

Smoky will have a memorial in Brisbane Australia within the next month or two. There are six memorials for her in the U.S.A. The following is part of the program that will be printed for a Smoky memorial dedication in Brisbane Australia.

Smoky-with-wounded-soldiersThrough the encouragement of Nigel Allsopp, one of Australia’s foremost animal advocates and dog experts, Smoky is to be honored by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital on an original site where she medically served at a U.S. Military Hospital in 1944.  I am so proud that she is to be remembered here, the land of our close WWII Ally and in the city of her birth. Unwittingly we began the animal therapy movement which has proven its benefits for many of the maladies brought on during war and peace throughout the world. Smoky led the way, performing her special magic. Helping cure those in need in the unique way that therapy dogs are so innocently capable of doing. “Smoky is the First Therapy Dog of Record” (from Animal Planet, research)

Smoky Too beside pile of Smoky books
Click for larger view

My sincere thanks to the Board and Staff of Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for establishing this memorial. To the Australian Army Forces who participated in the ceremony honoring ” WWII’s smallest soldier,” thank you…

See attached photo for many publications inspired by YDD. This photo was taken last Sept [with Smoky Too]. There are 11 publications out since.

Sincerely, Bill Wynne

Thank you, Mr. Wynne, for keeping the memory of this little dog – soldier, therapist and entertainer – alive. What makes Smoky so remarkable is that she was truly a Renaissance Dog – she did it all. By honouring her, we remember and honour them all.   Military dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, search dogs, sled dogs – all working and service dogs, as well as those who simply excel at being our best friends. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 7/12)

 

The Wrong Dog

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 21st, 2010

In the library last week, I found a new-to-me dog mystery writer.  Carol Lea Benjamin writes a series featuring The Wrong Dog Amazon link - Dashiellprivate detective Rachel Alexander and her intrepid Pit Bull partner Dashiell (as in Hammett), Dash for short.  I have so far only read The Wrong Dog which is about cloning of dogs.  The dog who is cloned is a Bull Terrier, a “seizure alert” dog for her person who has severe epilepsy.

It’s a good story with quite a bit of information about dogs’ ability to sense an impending seizure and how they respond in such an event.  It also talks about the issue of cloning, not so much technical information, but more ethical.  What would be the ramifications if we could clone our canine best friend?  Would personality and emotional response be identical or just the physical characteristics?   Can inherent talents like sensing seizures be passed on?  These questions are wrapped in a story of good guys and bad guys, money and loneliness, all set in NYC’s Greenwich Village.

Dashiell doesn’t do the intellectual work of detecting, but he’s good at finding clues and he’s great protection for Rachel.  I didn’t get much of a sense of what Rachel looks like. That’s because in this book at least, Benjamin doesn’t say much about her appearance.  But also, when seeing the name, I kept thinking of the filly who won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks and Preakness.  I’m quite sure the two Rachels don’t look alike.

Carol Lea Benjamin is a dog trainer with several fiction and non-fiction dog books to her credit, and a former detective.  Next time I’m at the library, I’ll be getting out another Rachel and Dash mystery.