Friday, January 28, 2011

How to Bag a Cougar - Trick #5

This is a really FUN trick!!  

You’ll need a suitcase that your dog will be able to lay down in, a clicker, treats, and a dog.  Suitcase size will vary depending on what you have available, and the size of your dog.  The suitcase we used would have easily held a 32 lb Seeker; it was a bit more challenging for a 60lb Cougar.  Being the good boy that he is, he figured it out!

This trick will be a lot easier if you’ve completed the 4 feet in a box first.  If you haven’t, the suitcase is now your box!!!  See the ‘4 feet in a box’ post for instructions. 

Once your dog is comfortably standing in the box, we need them to understand that we want them to down.  You 'could' (DON'T) tell them to ‘down’, but that’s NOT the point, we want to shape that behavior.  There’s a couple ways you can approach this.  If you get the slightest head bob, you can click and toss the cookie between their front legs toward their rear legs. As they go to get the cookie, c/t again and toss another one.  We’re forming the down with the placement of the cookie.

The other thing you could try is an auto down outside of the suitcase.  If you’re dog will offer you a down, you can c/t.  Work on that outside the suitcase and then introduce that same ‘offer’ behavior in the suitcase.  Please do not tell them to down.

I accidentally reinforced, and 'trained' Cougar to sit on the edge of the suitcase.  It was rather funny, not the behavior I was looking for, but funny none the less.  I would like to see you ‘try’ to force that behavior, and have them look as happy as Cougar while he was doing it.  He was a great sport!  Okay, Cougar might look happy doing anything!

Could you just pick the dog up, fold him up into a down, inside the suitcase and then reward?  I suppose you could, but what has the dog learned?  They have learned that they are ‘helpless’ unless you ‘spell out’ exactly what you want?  Is that the kind of dog you want?  I sure hope not.  I want a dog that can reason and figure things out for themselves!  It makes us both happy!!  Not to mention, it’s fun!

So, the dog is now downing in the suitcase, time to work on the lid.  I held the lid and my clicker in my left hand, with the lid at a 90 degree angle to the ‘box’, the treats in my right hand.  Continue to c/t for them entering the box and lying down.  Slowly lower the lid, c/t and toss the cookie inside.  Lift the lid back up and call the dog out.  I usually gave my ‘release’ word and c/t as they came out.  I tossed the treat away from me so they had to charge back at the suitcase again.    

Slowly lower the lid so that they have to push just a little to get under it.  C/T, let them crawl in, lay down, c/t and release.  Repeat this, slowly lowering the lid until it’s finally resting on the suitcase and they have to push to get in.  With Michele’s suitcase I had to make sure the lid wasn’t straight on top or Cougar couldn’t push it up.  The lid would fall inside the suitcase, so, he’d just lie on the lid.  SMART DOG!!    

Another difficulty we ran into is that lid was so light, and Cougar, hum, how to put this delicately, is NOT.  Each time he turned around his bum would hit the lid and flip it all the way open.  We wanted the lid shut, with him inside. So, we ended up moving against a wall so the lid would not fall all the way open. You’ll see the change in the video.  

It was a really FUN trick!  You need to be patient!  We did this in one morning, with three separate sessions.  After the first one, I wasn’t sure we’d get this in one day.  We were there for trick videos, so I really wanted to, but it was questionable.  It was amazing what giving him a bit of a break made!  We put him up, played with Seeker a bit and came back to Cougar. By the third time, it was a breeze!!  Please don’t work your dog this long!  It took a total of about 20 minutes over 3 sessions.  The last session was only 4 minutes.  Cougar did FANTASTIC!!  He is not typical!  Gosh, now I feel like I’m doing a weight loss commercial!  

Have Fun!

After all, it’s Only a TRICK!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Positive Reinforcement - I just don't get it!

I hope you've had a chance to work on some of the tricks I've posted.  I have many more planned, and I have some 'guest' posters planned in the near future.  Even if you're not working on the tricks, I hope you're getting the general idea of what I'm truly trying to show you.  What I hope you can take away from this, is that you do NOT need to 'show your dog who's boss', or "be afraid to let him be wrong'.  I hope you see that it's okay for the dog to make mistakes, and give him the opportunity to fix them. I hope you're seeing that training "ANYTHING", should be fun and rewarding for both of you!   Every single thing you teach your dog is really only a trick! Building a solid relationship is key!

If you have a good relationship with your dog, your dog will want to be with YOU!  He will not seek out other people, or other dogs to interact with.  Your dog will be all about YOU, and what YOU get to do TOGETHER!!! If your relationship needs a little work, I'd suggest trick training as a way to get it back on track.

This is a clip from the show "The Big Bang Theory".  

I apologize, the embed option is disabled, but I think the link above will work.  
I have to admit, I've never watched this show, but love this clip! 

Stay tuned for Friday's Trick.

Guaranteed, you'll LOVE IT!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trick # 4 - Four Feet In a BOX!

This is a repeat, rewritten, post from December 2009. 

This is a great trick with so many benefits!  You’re now thinking I’m totally losing it here, but trust me; I totally lost it LONG AGO!  Seriously, this is one of the best tricks ever!  It teaches rear end awareness, it builds relationship, it teaches the dog to use it feet independently, and one of the biggest benefits – they learn to KEEP TRYING!

How many times have you heard, “He doesn’t like to be wrong”, “He can’t repeat the same exercise over and over”, “He gets bored”, guess whose fault that is?  Just look in the mirror, they learned that from someone!  This trick keep learning FUN, there’s not the pressure of ‘doing it right’, and you get to repeat, repeat, repeat!  Keep these sessions short!  They should be fun and energized! 

I’ll also tell you, this is a MAJOR help in next week’s trick. 

One thing I should mention here, as I’m not sure I’ve said it before.  When ‘shaping’ a behavior, the only one that ‘really’ knows what they ‘think’ is right, is the dog.  In other words, what you might be rewarding might be something totally different than what the dog thinks you are rewarding for.  That’s what makes this so amazing!  You can get ‘accidental’ behaviors that even BETTER than what you had in mind.  Don’t get so caught up in teaching 'the trick' that you lose other opportunities to teach different tricks.  Be creative and click what you like! 

For instance, the video below, I did over a year ago.  As I watch it now, I can see that Seeker did understand to put his four feet into the box, but I think what he thought I wanted him to move his feet.  So, as you watch this keep that in mind.  I made another video showing how I stopped the foot movement.  I was also holding the “flip” recorder in one hand and the clicker and treats in the other.  This did impact my timing as well.  At one point Seeker actually picks up the container, this was do to my lack of ‘quick’ reward.  He wanted to offer another behavior that ‘maybe’ I wanted.  Good boy him! 

So, how do you begin?  You’ll need a box/tote, clicker, treats, and a dog. You know you’ve ‘totally lost it’ when you start looking at totes, and wondering if you’re dog will fit?  Please don’t say this out loud while shopping at your local ‘big box’ store, people might stare!

Get a box, or tote that’s big enough so your dog can comfortably step inside.  I would sit or kneel on the floor for this trick.  As your dog approaches the box, c/t and toss the cookie into the box.  Click the dog looking ‘in’ the box, putting one foot into the box, etc.  Remember to reward often!  In other words, don’t withhold a click for one foot until two feet go in.  Reward the one foot a bunch of times, then second foot will follow faster!  You might even want to watch for the lifting of the next foot and reward that!  The more often you reward, or reinforce, the more likely they will offer that behavior again!

Once you have all four feet in the box, reward duration, for standing in it.  This is the step I didn’t do in the first video, thus I got the dancing feet.  It’s cute!  Not what I was looking for however. It you like it!

When you have 4 patient feet standing in the big box, move to a smaller box.  Repeat the same lesson we did with the bigger box.  Slowly decrease your box size. 

Seeker doesn’t have a command for this box behavior yet.  This reminds me; NEVER name something until you LOVE the behavior.  If you name something before the dog fully understands it, how will they know what you want?  So, only name the behavior when you truly LOVE it!

Have FUN!!

Remember, it’s Only a TRICK!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don't Tell "Go DOG"!!!!

Poor Seeker had an unfortunate accident with "Mr Chicken" at class a couple weeks ago.  Seeker LOVES his "Mr Chicken", it was a birthday present from his sister, Go Dog, AKA - Shiver, in MN.   Mr Chicken is a pretty good pacifier, Seeker holds him in his mouth, crying, and drooling while other dogs run.  He doesn't understand that other dogs like to play on the 'toys' too They are NOT all for him.  Hum, who would have thought! He thinks this is a very stupid idea!  MINE MINE MINE!

Mr Chicken is pretty fancy bird, not only does he have a squeaker in his body, he has a rattle in his head.  Sometimes I think Seeker and Mr Chicken have a lot in common!  
Mr Chicken lost his legs during an innocent game of tug.  
I  got the legs, Seeker got the body. 
I came away, once more with the short end of the ..... um...bird.

Last week wasn't quite the same without him. 
Sure, Seeker loves ALL toys, 
but MC seems to pacify him better than most. 
I think it's the nice streamline shape.

So, tonight I got out the sewing machine and reattached some legs.
I sure hope I didn't need a license to perform this surgery!!

Although it's not perfect, he is at least ONE toy again.
Seeker was so excited to see him out, then terribly disappointed when he 
disappeared back into the training bag!  

Tuesday Seeker!  

I Promise!

Almost as good as new!

Stay Tuned for Trick #4 tomorrow!

It's pre-homework for trick #5!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trick # 3 - Take My Hand - Safety First!

Remember, safety first when crossing those busy intersections!  

 Did you’re mom use to take you by the hand?  Even when you got ‘old enough’ to look for traffic for yourself?  If you were like me, you would push her hand away and say, “Mom!!” kind of embarrassing huh.  Well, we’re going to do the same thing with our furry kids.  What the heck, it's only a trick!

This trick is a breeze if your dog already knows how to shake hands.  If he doesn’t, you might want to teach that first.  Since the ‘shake hands’ trick is generally performed while facing the dog, all we need to do is change the handlers position to the side, and to a more upright position.


You’ll need your dog, a clicker, and treats.  Hold out your hand and c/t when he gives you his paw.  You don't need the dog in a sitting position, it doesn't really matter.  Do this several more times without the ‘shake’ command, he’ll soon be offering his paw.  Now, slowly start to rotate your position to his side, staying low, or on your knees, whatever’s comfortable.  You’ll also be rotating your hand, see below, so it will be easier to walk with him later.  Don’t be in a rush getting rotated all the way to his side. 

Regarding hand position, I find it easiest for me if the back of my hand is toward the dog’s shoulder.  This means the paw will be in my palm, with the back of my hand in-between his shoulder and foot.

Once this is accomplished, slowly start to stand.  He’ll need to start to come off his front feet in order to reach your hand.  Be sure to reward generously for the smallest attempts. You can lure him a bit to get him to understand you do want him to jump up.  This is difficult for dogs that have been taught good social manners to stay ‘off’.  G

You’re standing up progression should only go as fast as your dog’s understanding of this exercise, so be patient. 

The final product should be that you can ask your dog to “Take my hand” and he’ll come up onto 2 legs and walk with you.  You can begin from a stand still, but soon will be able to ask for this while he’s walking. 

This is another nice stretching exercise while waiting ringside for your agility run.

I hope you're having fun with your trick training!!  
You're also building a wonderful working relationship along the way!! 


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Trick # 2 - The Pat Down – "Assume the Position" – Spread-em

This trick is really easy to teach, and is usually good for a few laughs.  It’s also a nice stretching trick for agility, after your dog has warmed up a bit first.  I use it as a calming stretch for Seeker, when he’s up on the wall I’ll slide my hands down him slowly.  You could also have the opposite effect by rubbing your dog vigorously while he’s on the wall to get him up.

You’ll need a wall, some food, a clicker and your dog.  We are going to use some luring with this trick.  Luring means we are going to use food to guide the dog where we want them.  I’ll still use placement of reward, which in this trick will be on the wall.   

Huge THANKS to Michele for bring Cougar, and meeting us at the 4RK9’s building!  This gave us a warm place to video, more room, and a young dog with limited trick training to use as a demo!

Cougar had never tried this trick before, but he had a pretty good basic understanding after just one session.  We progressed faster than I normally would, but I wanted video, and he really didn’t seem to mind the food!

You can begin by either sitting on the floor, or standing by the wall.  Place your hand on the wall at about your dog’s normal head height.  As your dog looks at, and, or goes to your hand, c/t.  Remember placement of reward should be on the hand on the wall.  Repeat, slowly raising the hand up as your dog gains confidence. 

At the point the dog needs to lift his front feet off the ground, we’re going to switch to luring with the treat in your wall hand.  As soon as the dog touches the wall with his front feet, treat him.  Wait to work your duration until he’s willing to come up onto the wall reliably. 

When he’s happily jumping onto the wall, add duration by having several treats in your hand, and feeding them out one by one.  When he starts to anticipate jumping on the wall, add verbal command.  I used “spread-em”.  You can then begin combining your duration with multiple treats in your wall hand, with your clicker hand running down his back. (Not responsible for wall damage. G)

Once he’ll hold that position until you release him, then you can start having strangers ‘frisk’ him if you’d like.  

Seeker LOVES this trick!  For this clip we used a couple of our favorite songs, the theme from "Cops" and a song by Montgomery Gentry - Hell Yeah.  It's kind of Seeker's theme song, but Seeker's name is more politically correct = Lytnstrke's Hail Yeah.

Have fun!!  

It’s only a trick after all!

Friday, January 7, 2011

What to do with a spare 90 minutes?

I had a 'date' this morning with Michele and Cougar at the 4RK9's building.  They were going to assist me with some upcoming trick videos.  Don't ask Michele to tell you what the tricks were!  She's suppose to keep them a secret!  If not, she'll need to retrieve a Frisbee in her mouth after it's been played with by Bea and Cougar for an hour!  It'll be nice and gross by then!  G

So, I put this video clip together.  I really like this song, and will admit, I got it from Susan Garrett.  I'm more of a 'rock and roll' type person, but liked John Mellencamp back in the day when he used "Cougar" in there too.

So, here it is.......I love those silly dogs! 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The ‘Trick A Week’ Program - #1

Do you have the “Winter Blahs”? 

Holidays are over, New Years is past.

It’s too cold outside for normal people.
You don’t want to clean the house.
Television is boring.
You’re sick of reading a book.
What else to do???

How about a little trick training? 

It will give both you and your dog something to look forward to, while developing, or adding to your working relationship.  Now, I can’t guarantee how long I’ll keep this “trick a week” going, but I think I can come up with a few easy tricks you can teach your dog. 

So, go grab your young dog, your middle dog, or your more mature dog (we don’t say old around here)…they all love TRICKS!!

I’ll use a combination of shaping and luring.  Just because it’s faster, and most people I know do not have the patience for true shaping of behaviors.  I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t either!  I do think you may get a better overall outcome if you can use pure shaping, but for what we’re looking for, a combo will be fine. 

The first step is going to be getting your dog used to a clicker, and understanding that a click = a treat.  So, you’ll need one dog, one clicker and a handful of: your daily kibble, or treats.  If you feed raw, like I do, you can even use that if you’re comfortable with handling it.  I will also use mini marshmallows as training treats, as they show up really well on most ground surfaces. 

I’m going to assume your dog will stay with you since you have a handful of food, if not, a short leash may be attached.  Just stand or sit on the other end of it.  You’re going to simply, “Click” and then immediately give the dog a treat.  Repeat 5-7 times.  You are not expecting your dog to do anything at this point, other than eat the treat that is.  The click noise is going to let the dog know that he did the behavior you’re looking for, and will be rewarded.  By being rewarded frequently for small behaviors, he will learn to continue to offer them, as well as others. 

Now let’s learn your first trick.  Hand touches.  Why? Well, I find this targeting behavior, and retrieving seem to be the two behaviors that are needed for most tricks. 

You’ll need your treats and clicker in one hand, then simply present your empty hand.  Don’t push it in the dog’s face; just let him see the movement.  Chances are he’s going to be interested in it just because it’s moved.  As soon as he looks at your empty hand, “click and treat” (c/t).  Now, this is important, be sure you place the treat onto the palm of your empty hand.  Placement of reward is important and may help your dog learn quicker.  Try not to remove the hand he just touched,  instead bring your treat hand to the touched hand.  This is harder than you think.  By removing your ‘touch’ hand, it’s actually a punishment.  You’ll see in the little video clip I put together than if Seeker tries to offer his paw, vs. a hand touch, I simply remove my hand. I don’t say ‘no’, just removed and represent my hand, rewarding for the correct behavior.  Repeat the hand presentation, slowly asking for him to get closer and closer to your hand.  Reward often! Soon he’ll be touching your hand.  You can then begin moving your hand above or below the original placement and he should seek it out.  When the dog is actively seeking out your hand, you can add the verbal command.  I use “touch”, but any word will do.  

Once you have a nice hand touch established you can work on him touching an object, such as a lid, vs. your hand. You’ll use the same steps.  One common complaint about working with targets is that the dogs want to pick them up.  Yep, mine too.  The trick is to learn reward only for touching, not for opening the mouth or retrieving.  It can be done!  You’ll make clicker mistakes, I do!  In the video clip you’ll see Seeker’s mouth open to a target.  Bad clicker person!  I will sometimes click right when they get to the target so they don’t have the chance to pick it up, and then go back to an actual touch.  It’s just something you’ll need to play with.

Another fun trick is to get your dog to push on your hand harder.  You simply wait for a little more pressure and c/t.  Many dogs will push quite firmly on your hand, others, like Seeker will blow bubbles from his nose.  I’m not sure why he thought that was what I wanted, but it’s still kind of fun. 

Many people will use the hand target to position the dog when setting up to perform an agility or obedience exercise.  So tricks are not only fun, really do have a purpose!!! 

Another thought on trick training.  Some of the funniest tricks my dogs do are ones I wasn’t trying to teach.  For instance, when I was teaching Mad Dog to back, she turned it into a crawl backwards while barking.  That is SO much more fun than the back up.  So, let things happen!!  The trick isn’t necessarily the most important outcome, it’s the FUN you both have working on them!!! 

As always, there’s ‘More than one way to skin a cat’, so do what works for you and your dog!! 

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Squeaky Ball!!

The nice thing about 'Squeaky Ball' is you ALWAYS know where Seeker is!  This is especially nice if you're outside doing chores, you don't need to keep a 'visual' on him, as long as your hearing is in order.  This is an OUTSIDE toy for a reason!!  I came across it this morning and thought he could play with it for awhile inside.  

It's annoying, and I'm not the only one that thinks so.  After 5 minutes of constant squeaking, Mad Dog took it away from him, climbed into her chair and went to sleep with it tucked under her chin. 

Poor Seeker!! 


Coming soon!!

A Trick A Week!!

I just have to make a few videos to go along with them.
Some your dog may already know, but you can polish them up!
Disclaimer - this will not be the only way to teach tricks, it's just how I do it. 

Some fun for the winter months!