Tag Archives: STDOA

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.”

The Dog Park

old road going into dog parkWent to the dog park yesterday with the boys. It was a mauzy day, light rain and cool. I figured nobody would be there, and I was right. It was beautiful.

Charlie and Leo trotted along, happy to sniff at stuff. Another dog and his person joined us. Dogs sniffed each other, then went back to whatever else they were sniffing. A young dog came careening around the path to the meadow, ran around like a whirlwind trying to get the others to play. No luck with these three, so tore off up the hill looking for somebody more fun. I hope more dogs came, willing to play with him.

steps in path from meadow in dog parkWe went up the steep hill, muddy and slippery. But I could make it up fast enough to keep an eye on the dogs, thanks to the steps that Albert built into the slope. Back up at the top, I looked around. I felt proud of our little dog park.

Just two years ago, it wasn’t like this. Oh, it was just as pretty. But it wasn’t fenced, there were no picnic tables or bag dispensers or garbage containers. No steps, no trails cleared through the hillside. It was a wooded ravine with a meadow by the creek. Not many people went there. Now, it’s often very crowded with people and dogs. I wonder what the deer and neighbourhood cats who had it all to themselves for so long think about it. But sometimes, like yesterday, it’s the same as when I first went there with a dog years ago. Except now I don’t have to remember my own poop bags.

The STDOA did this – got a fenced dog park in our city. I was one of the founders of the group, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. I no longer go to the ravine very often. My dogs are too anti-social for large group activities. But I love seeing social dogs chase each other and wrestle, having so much fun. Pups on their first visit, intimidated at first then realizing they can act as wild as they want and tumbling around with other dogs. It’s lovely to watch.

sign for dog park meeting Oct 16 2 pmBut the steps and bag dispensers didn’t get there by themselves. Volunteers built the steps and keep the park clean of litter and dog poop. The STDOA raises money for poop bags and dispensers and for building and maintenance materials. The STDOA needs your input and participation. Money and energy – that’s what’s needed to keep the Lions Club Dog Park running and get another one in a different part of town.

In Memory of Forte, Dog Park Dog

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Oct. 13, 2011. For Forte, one of the original STDOA and dog park dogs. Forte passed away this week at a good old age, surrounded by his family.

forte-may-2016
Forte waking from a nap, May 2016

An All Breed Canine Rescue dog, Forte was at first fearful and mistrustful due to abuse he had suffered. But he lucked into the best home he could have asked for. His people lucked into the best dog too. Forte became a foster dad in turn to many more pups and adult dogs who joined his household as ABCR fosters. He will be missed.

Santa Dogs

Santa Claus parade Poodle waiting to startThe Christmas season, for me, officially begins with the Santa Claus parade. But you have to start feeling festive a bit earlier if you’re going to be in the parade. The St. Thomas Dog Owners Association decided to enter a “float” of dogs in the 2010 St. Thomas Santa Claus Parade. Leo and Charlie were ready with bells on.

We had a member’s van for carrying dogs and people and borrowed a beautiful brand new 2011 Ram truck from Elgin Chrysler.  We Charlie in truck, looking at the crowdsdecorated both with lights and tinsel.  My contribution to the decorating was figuring out how to tie a lighted reindeer to the rear view mirror of the Ram so he shone out from the windshield.

So, off to the parade mustering ground at the Timken’s parking lot.  A horse trailer and tiny ponies standing beside it getting tacked up by small girls.  Two larger ponies were waiting to be harnessed to a beautiful white open carriage.  Nearby a pipe band warmed up. Leo leaped from the car. Party time!

Leo and STDOA van in Santa Claus parade lineupAfter two years with Leo, it still amazes me how fully he has embraced human activities.  He didn’t grow up from puppyhood around parades and sidewalks.  A puppy mill ‘production’ dog, he knew nothing about interacting in human society.  But he’s a fast learner, and he knows that noise, music and big concentrations of people means there’s likely to be dropped food on the ground!

Parade Ground

Floats were massed four wide on First Ave.  I had no idea where STDOA might be.  So we walked up to Talbot, looking for dogs. The parade marshals, Steve Peters, Joe Preston and Heather Jackson-Chapman, told me where exactly STDOA was.  How they knew in that sea of floats and bands is beyond me!

Santa's Elves in parade line upMusic blaring, technical difficulties getting sorted out, elves putting on their outfits.  It was glorious – like being in the back lot at the circus.  STDOA people and dogs were just where the marshals had told me.  The dogs were checking each other out – their antlers, Santa coats, elf hats, bells and lighted collars.

Then the floats started moving.  As we rounded the corner at First and Talbot, kids were lined 6 or 8 rows deep.  A big roar came from them, “dogs, dogs” as we came into sight.  All the way along Talbot Street, it was the same.  “Look at the dogs.  Dogs, dogs!”  We weren’t dogs in Santa Claus parade on Talbot Streetdoing anything other than walking along the street.

I had a pocketful of smelly treats.  I knew Leo would be vacuuming the street for candy and dropped food, so wanted to have something to keep his attention.  It worked – he pranced around me trying to get his nose in my pocket and hands.  He looked like he was dancing.  He’d sit, give a paw, do all the tricks he could think of to make me give him a treat.  So I made the most of it, and he looked like a performing poodle.  He was performing all right, begging for food.  He’d visit people along the parade route, in reality checking to see if they had any food he could scarf, but he’d waggle his tail and let them pet him.

Santa Claus and Santa Dogs

He and Charlie pranced and danced all the way to Elgin Street. They watched the people and listened to the oohs and aahs. I’m sure they Reindeer-Dobe-photo-Dorothy-Stewartthought all those people had come out just to see them. And, in a way, they had. They’d come to see dogs, people, ponies and vehicles in a magical situation.  Everybody dressed up, everybody smiling.  Everybody waiting to see Santa, of course.  He’s the main event.  But in a parade, every ‘act’ is a main event.  This year, my first of ever being in a parade, I found out that’s true for participants as well as spectators.

Originally posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 1, 2010, The 2015 St. Thomas parade was on Nov. 21st. If you’re near Sussex or Hampton NB, both towns’ parades are this Saturday, Dec. 5th.

 

Luanne Demers, Founding President

It was with much sorrow that we learned of the passing of a lovely Luanne Demers and Katie, from Facebookwoman – our friend and founder of STDOA Luanne Demers.  Luanne died of cancer, too young, this past weekend.

Those of us on the executive of the STDOA met Luanne three years ago when she began bringing her dogs, Lab crosses named Katie and Buddy, to play with our dogs.  I remember her watching Katie and Buddy wrestling with each other and anyone that would play, and saying “what we need in town is a proper dog park.”  The response of some, like me, was “yeah, like that’s going to happen!  Been tried, hasn’t worked.”  She said, “well, it’s gonna happen this time.”

And it did.  She organized us in a group, which was about as easy to do as organizing wound-up dogs when it’s time to go home – as in, not!  Luanne at left ribbon cutting at Lions Club Dog Park May 2010She quietly but efficiently had us establish a committee, approach council, look for suitable land, and lobby for permission and funds.  Never heavy-handed, never raising her voice, never complaining.  Just getting it done and getting you to do it without even realizing it was getting done.

All the while, she and we knew about the cancer.  She was a mother and a worker.  She appeared on a Dec. 2008 CTV news documentary about hard times in St. Thomas, talking about employment searching in a bad economy.  She told her story, and that of so many in our area, clearly and dispassionately.  She didn’t ask you to feel sorry for her, just for you to hear what she was saying about the need for work.

Luanne with Lab puppySimilarly, with the dog park, she just asked that all residents – City Council, non-dog owners and dog owners alike – listen to why a dog park was needed.  And she succeeded.  We got a dog park and an ongoing group committed to the welfare of dogs.  I don’t think we would have done so without her.

Luanne officially stepped down as president of STDOA in mid 2010 when she needed to focus on her own life and family.  We missed her then, and we still do.  I will never forget her lovely smile and her laugh as she watched those silly dogs of hers roll and tumble and chase each other.  It was impossible to not smile yourself just looking at her.

Note: This was first published on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. With it no longer online, I have moved it here but kept the original posting date. I still think of Luanne and miss her.