Sunday, December 21, 2008


It's been difficult to find training treats for Bibb. He's completely uninterested in kibble (don't blame him) or the veggie dog biscuits that the other two love. He even ignored a peanut butter filled Kong and liver treats! He has learned some things, even without the clicker, because he's very worried about "doing things right" so he pays a lot of attention to me. I'd really rather get him excited about learning new things, though, rather than worried about doing things wrong. Anyhow, it turns out that Friskies chicken flavored cat treats are what he likes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tandem Walking

I would really like to eventually be able to walk all three dogs at the same time, in an orderly and calm manner. First I'm working on teaching them to walk in pairs, and today I worked with Bibb and Lily.

I don't have a split leash, so I experimented with different ways of holding two leashes. It seemed to work the best to have Lily on the outside, since Bibb wants to get closer to me when he's unsure about things. I had to play a bit with leash configuration, but I finally settled on running Bibb's leash through Lily's collar (they all wear martingales), so that I could control how close they were to each other with one hand, and control Lily with the other hand. We walked several ovals in the alley to try it out. It's definitely going to take some work to teach them to walk together, but there were some stretches where they did really well. It was also awesome to stop and have them both sit automatically and right next to each other. Hopefully, the Netta/Bibb pair will work out as well. I'm not even going to attempt the Netta/Lily pair until both of them are working well with Bibb.


Last week I decided to start working on targeting with Netta. Basically, the dog is taught to put its nose against a target on command. Once established, it can be used to train other behaviors, such as standing for grooming and going to a specific place. I use a plastic yard reflector, since it has a nice long handle, but you can use anything the dog can easily recognize.

This was a very easy behavior to teach Lily, but Netta is scared of anything unusual, especially if it is held by a person. I don't know if she was abused in her past or if she's just very timid about new things, but either way she wanted nothing to do with my target stick. So I had to lower my criteria for her. Normally, I would click any time the dog sniffed at the target, which most dogs will do as soon as you present it to them. With Netta, I started out clicking her any time she looked at the target. I spent the first session just getting her to look at it without backing away. Fortunately, she is very food-oriented, and will work for kibble even if she has just eaten a meal.

By the second session, Netta had decided that the target stick wouldn't hurt her, and was perfectly happy to sniff it for treats. I'll spend some time really cementing the idea in her mind before I start moving it around so that she has to follow.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Training Books

I feel like I understand the principles of operant conditioning very well, and I can explain them to other people. The part that I need help with is the sequence of concrete steps to get from an untrained dog to a trained dog. Part of the problem is that I've never owned a truly well-trained dog, although I have met some, so my picture of what I want is not as clear as it should be. I also don't really know the order: is it better to train sits and stays first, or better to work on calm greetings? There is no one real answer, and there are many ways that will all work, to greater or lesser degrees.

What I need is a book with lots of detailed training plans to follow, at least to give me an idea of how to do it. I haven't found it yet, but one difficulty is that so many clicker training books are published by small presses, which means that the library doesn't carry them. I'm certainly willing to buy any useful book, but I can't afford to buy unseen ones that may or may not help me.

However, there is one book that I'll likely buy without previewing, because it has gotten such rave reviews on the clicker list. Control Unleashed, by Leslie McDevitt, sounds like it would be very useful for my two energetic females, Lily and Netta.

In the meantime, I guess I need to think long and hard about exactly how I want my dogs to behave in different situations, and then break the behaviors down into trainable bits. I'm sure there will be a lot of revising as I actually try things out, but I'll post the rough drafts when they're done.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Training Schedules

Although there has been some training that I haven't blogged about, the truth is that I've been much too lax in working with the dogs for the last few months. Ideally, I would work with each of them every day, but in the failure to meet that goal I haven't worked with any of them. So I've decided to schedule one dog per day, so that at least they each get worked with twice a week.

Monday: Netta
Tuesday: Lily
Wednesday: Bibb
Thursday: Netta
Friday: Lily
Saturday: Bibb
Sunday: Free


Today I worked with Lily. She remembered walking figure-eights and other patterns, and it didn't take her too long to be paying attention to me. We didn't work on anything else.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lily's Conformation Photos, Session 1

Lily had an advantage over the other dogs since I've worked on the stand with her before. Even so, I was impressed by how well she did. I placed her feet and then she stood completely still, even without holding treats in front of her nose. Her alert expression is great!

With her, I mostly just need to work on getting myself out of the picture, and providing better lighting and background.

Bibb's Conformation Photos, Session 1

Bibb was quite a bit more difficult than Netta. He prefers sitting and lying down to standing, and I had a heck of a time convincing him to stand for me. Imagine him flopping to the ground after each of these photos, and you get the idea.

This last one is the best in terms of placement, but his back is rounded, his tail is tucked, and he doesn't have a very happy expression on his face. He was clearly nonplussed by the activity. Unfortunately, he's not very food oriented, so it makes luring or clicker training more difficult. He likes getting petted, but that makes him melt down into a doggy heap so it wasn't much help in this exercise.

I think that if I can find a reward that will really motivate him, it will work best to capture and shape the stance I want. He doesn't seem to handle physical placement as well as the other dogs do. I also need to do some research into confidence building exercises. I think that if he's more confident, he will feel less of a need to sink into a down in every interaction.