Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two New Dog Training Workshops added to our calendar!

Just Added: Two New Workshops!
Friday January 30th, 12:00 - 1:00 PM. $10.00 per person ~ your lunch hour will be fun AND productive!

In this workshop, you will learn important techniques that will prepare you to successfully coach your dog in everyday situations-whether you are at home or in a public setting.

This monthly workshop is designed just for people (no dogs allowed please). We want your undivided attention to help you better understand how your dog learns and communicates so that you can successfully coach and motivate your dog to develop good manners.

You are also encouraged to use this dedicated "people" time to really focus on addressing your concerns-without any canine interruptions or disturbances! You come in with your questions, and go home with an actual training plan to help get the behaviors you want your dog to have!
Sunday January 4th, 3:30 - 4:00 PM (following our Manners class orientation) $5.00 per person (*FREE for those currently enrolled in our Manner's class).

Learn about fun activities, new toys, and training aids that really do work to prevent boredom. We'll answer that burning question: "What do I do with this Kong toy???" You can either bring your own, or purchase one from us. Bring your dogs favorite foods, and whatever leftovers you're willing to share with them. *20% off Kong stuffing toys for attendee's!

For additional information and to register, you may visit our
Web site, or contact us via email or phone.


805.650.8500

Our Dog Training Manner's Course is now FULL!

Many thanks to all who pre-registered for our Good Manner's course at the Inquisitive Canine.

For those who are still interested in getting your dog into one of our Manner's Classes, you may contact us to place your dogs name on our "waiting list".

You may also register for Ventura College Community Education Canine College. Registration for the college begins in January. Course series starts February 10th.

For additional information you may visit our
Web site, or contact us via email or phone.


Happy PAWlidays to all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

PAWliday shopping made easy!!!

A special PAWliday shopping event!

Sunday December 21st
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

~Natural Balance goodie bag give-away~
~hassle free parking~

To celebrate this holiday season, THE INQUISITIVE CANINE is making shopping easy and budget friendly. This SUNDAY December 21st from 12:00 noon to 2:00 PM all merchandise is on sale! 

That's right! All merchandise including Easy-Walk Harnesses, Kong toys, treat bags, bones and dog treats will be marked down 10% - 40%!!! What a great opportunity for you to shop for your own dog, as well as the other canine friends in your life! 

We appreciate your business, and hope you to see you this Sunday!

Happy Pawlidays!
Joan and The Inquisitive Canine

JOAN MAYER
THE INQUISITIVE CANINE, LLC
2159 Palma Drive, Suite D
Ventura, CA 93003
O: 805.650.8500
F: 805.650.8501
joan@theinquisitivecanine.com
www.inquisitivecanine.com

WHO do you really want to blame???

I was in one of my favorite stores yesterday...waiting in line to buy groceries for din-din, and couldn't help overhearing the conversation between one of the cashiers and a customer. As soon as I heard the words "my dog" my ears perked up...Like any predator, my sense of hearing improved once I acknowledged my "prey" - so to speak... 

I guess the customer was buying lots of doggy treats, because the cashier commented about her own dog, and that she loved her dog etc... but that she (the dog) was "naughty" and in the "dog house".... Yes, this is what caught my attention, blaming the dog for something the human probably did in the first place to set the dog up for "failure"... 

From what I heard, and trust me, I didn't listen very long... once I heard the blame-game I shut my ears and diverted to the luscious chocolate display next to me...plus, I saw a friend there, who happens to be a former student of both my private and Manners class. Anyway, she arrived at the perfect time. We started chatting away, which was a great diversion for me. 

What was being said you ask? I guess the cashier and her boyfriend left a pile of food out on the counter at their home... including a pizza... Well, counter-surfing is a grande game to be played by any animal, especially dogs (and husbands when freshly baked cookies are sitting out)... Not only can dogs jump up on counters easily - or stretch and put their paws up...they're also quite efficient at using their mouths and paws, pulling items onto the floor to be devoured. Especially when the said item is a freakin' pizza!!! YUM! What a HUGE payoff!!! 

So, come on!! Really? Blame the dog? Really? Hmm... I myself applaud the dog for being so resourceful and clever, and for hopefully teaching those humans a lesson about "puppy proofing" their home... I say put the humans in the dog house for being naughty... Oh, and by the way, as much as I hate to admit it, being the professional that I am, it's happened to me too! Yep, me, the one who teaches everyone else about dogs... My own dog Poncho taught my husband and myself about puppy proofing out home! Let's just say we're much more careful about where we leave food, especially when we're preoccupied with each other :-) These animals learned!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Defining a subjective term.

I hear the words quite often...But what do they all mean? What exactly is being described? What is the message being sent? It's difficult for me, the dog trainer that comes from the "academic" "science-based" philosophy camp, to judge or determine why a dog is doing what they're doing based on these subjective terms that owners share with me. What words am  I speaking of? Allow me to share: 
  • My dog is being dominant.
  • My dog is being alpha.
  • My dog is being controlling
  • My dog is being aggressive.
  • My dog has learned to be submissive with me. 
First off, let's see what some of the true definitions are, shall we?
  • Dominant: commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others.
  • Alpha: something that is first.
  • Controlling: inclined to control others' behavior : domineering.
  • Aggressive: tending toward or exhibiting aggression. 
  • Aggression: a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master
  • Submissive (submission): to yield oneself to the authority or will of another
Wow. I find all of these terms pretty interesting - and confusing, and frankly quite negative in describing a loved one, including our pets. I think we all understand what they mean, and how they would pertain to describing another human. But describing our dogs? Really? Okay, I'll give you "aggression". That one I've used myself when describing dogs that would fit into my Feisty Fido class - one with dog-dog issues, or dog-stranger issues. But even a word like "aggression" can be very subjective. What's "aggressive" to one person, might not fit that same picture to another. Geez, you should see me on the road sometimes, I can be pretty "aggressive" ;-) I've been known to bark more than my own dog Poncho... at times. 

As for these catchy and popular terms... well, humans can use them all they want to describe their dogs behavior... but what it comes down to, and what I will ask right outta the gate when working with clients is, "what is your dog doing? Paint me a picture." Why? A few reasons are: 
  1. Subjective terms don't tell me anything substantial to correctly evaluate a situation. 
  2. The descriptions could be more about an owners own frustrations with their dogs behavior, vs the actual behavior of their dog. 
  3. Acts of "dominance" to one person could mean something completely different to someone else. 
  4. There is no exact scientific measure, standard protocol etc... of these descriptive terms. 
What are dogs really doing when people use the above descriptive terms? Is your dog bolting out the door before you? Uh, hello? Is that being "dominant" or are they just being a bit more impulsive? After all, they are dogs, right? Impulse control is usually not in their behavior repertoire. How about jumping up to greet when you get home? Is this "aggression" or just the normal greeting behavior or dogs? I believe the latter. As for "submission", well, I ask you what the underlying motivation is there when animals "submit" to us humans. Usually "fear". They don't want to "get in trouble" (yikes, dare I use this phrase...) so they provide their innate body language of "I'm no threat to you." 

Regardless if you use these terms or not, it's probably more important to pay attention to what your dog is doing and not try to figure out what they're thinking... I'm not clairvoyant, but I'm a good history taker and can observe your dogs behavior, the details, triggers, and of course how and or why a behavior is being reinforced - by you and/or the environment. Which brings me to this important question for you to take with you today: if you think your dog is controlling you, what are YOU doing that is reinforcing the behaviors you don't like? Ouch, there's the word of the day: "accountability". 

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Is a New Pet the Right Gift for the Holidays? What to Consider Before Getting One."

This is such a hot topic right now, don't you think? I hear it every day, "I'm going to get the kids a puppy for Christmas. What do you think?" Hmm... I'm thinking SO many things, I don't know where to begin. Instead of bursting anyones "Hallmark moment" bubble, I just smile, giggle, and agree that having a puppy (or adult dog, or cat, etc...) is magical - there really isn't anything like the love and joy of a furry friend...trust me!

I get it! I'm sitting here right now with mine, Poncho, on a Friday night, playing training games, kissy face, and fighting for the computer...instead of out with my hubby at one of his holiday office parties... but when it comes to buying one for someone else, even if it's within the same household, I encourage people to really think hard about this type of "purchase", for both the giver and the recipient(s). 

The following are questions posted by a journalist through a friend of mine: 
  1. Is a new pet a good gift to a child or loved one for the holidays? This is a "yes" and "no" question. If the person on the receiving end is an adult who is expecting one, then I would say it would be a great gift. If it's been discussed and planned out then yes. If it's for a child in the family, then I would want the entire family to agree to welcoming the new pet, and realize that everyone will be involved, one way or another. 
  2. Should the giver ruin the surprise by asking if the recipient wants that pet and breed before giving it? Definitely yes! Because the recipient not wanting such a "gift" could be a bigger surprise! An alternative would be to give someone items related to the pet they intend to give: books, pictures, toys, etc... along with a "gift certificate" good for "shopping" together. This way if the person really wants this pet, it can be a shared experience, which can be more meaningful. 
  3. What are the dangers/risks/drawbacks of giving an animal as a present? The biggest one is the person doesn't want it, and the innocent animal has to be returned. It can be very traumatic for all involved. The person may want it, but then doesn't realize the responsibility that's involved with owning an animal. It's the pet that ends up suffering the most if it ends up in a neglectful home, even if unintentional. It can also damage the relationship between the giver and recipient if one feels imposed upon or slighted, and neither feels comfortable talking about it. 
  4. What is a more appropriate vs. a less appropriate pet gift to give a child? It really depends upon the child, how involved they intend to be, and how responsible they are. It also depends upon what the parents expectations of the child are. Parents should investigate different types of animals that can be kept as pets, and the needs of that particular animal. Then match it to what the child can do to participate in its care. There are also many toys and virtual games that help build responsibility in pet care. 
  5. Are there any special things the gift giver should do or consider before giving the pet as a present (i.e., they should ensure that the pet has all its vaccinations, is microchipped, etc.)? Assuming that it is a welcomed gift, taking care of the initial health care needs and requirements is always nice. The gift giver may also want to include a items including: a carrier, crate, bedding, proper collars, leashes, car seat-belt, walking harness, food, treats, elimination box if necessary, elimination bags, ID tags, licensing fee's, a gift certificate for a veterinarian wellness visit, training class if it's a dog, a few toys, books or other information about the specific pet. 
  6. Where should a gift-giver try to get an appropriate pet (i.e., a reputable breeder or shelter)? What sources should the giver avoid? When it comes to adopting a pet or buying a pet, it's really up to the individual. There are reputable Web sites that can help the decision making process. With millions of shelter animals being killed every year because of irresponsible breeding, irresponsible ownership, etc... shelters are certainly a good choice. However there are responsible breeders as well, and should be considered if that is the persons desire. The American Kennel Club has information on helping people choose a breeder. 
  7. Is it a good idea to research and suggest a reputable veterinarian/animal hospital in the recipient's area at the time you give the pet gift? Yes. This would be a nice gesture for the new pet owners. I would investigate, then provide a list of a few names, allowing the recipient to make the final choice. They might also want to provide a "gift certificate" for a wellness exam. 
  8. Any special tips in terms of how to actually present the gift? Any creative ideas that won't threaten the animal's safety? A client of mine gave their son a puppy last Christmas. She placed the puppy in a large stocking for the presentation. Very cute. Attaching a fabric bow to the collar is sweet, and shouldn't endanger the animal. A large basket on the floor with the animal nestled in can be cute, but it may jump out, so you need to be careful. You can also gift-wrap all of the accompanying goodies. 
  9. What are some good alternative gifts to giving a pet animal (i.e., membership to the zoo, donation to an animal-friendly cause or shelter, virtual reality pet game, etc.)? All of these ideas are good. If possible, the person can get involved with the local shelters. They always need volunteers. This way they can get the "pet fix" without the responsibility at home. 
  10. Any other thoughts or recommendations on this topic? Pets are an absolute joy to have as part of any family. Unfortunately, they are still considered property. With that, folks sometimes treat them like inanimate objects, and not like the living, breathing, individual beings that they are. If they don't want it, they can't just stick it in the back closet and ignore it. It's also very difficult to return. Giving someone a pet as a gift is like giving someone a baby. It needs constant care and attention, and not just for a year or two. Adopting a puppy means having a dog for around ten years or more. Parents buying a puppy for their pre-teen kids means the parents will still be taking care of the dog once their child heads off to college...unless the child continues to live at home. There is also a financial responsibility. I'd say before buying someone a pet as a gift, make sure the recipient really wants it, and knows the responsibilities that go with it. 
So, is a pet a good gift? Again, it is if the recipient not only wants it, but is responsible enough to take care of it, for the lifetime of the pet. 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hail to the CHIEF!

I can't tell you how excited I am about our new president elect Barack Obama! Like many, I cried tears of joy November 5th while looking at the front page of the newspaper. Now, I'm not going to use my dog training blog for political opinions beyond my excitement about change etc... but I would like to voice my sentiments regarding the ever popular "new puppy". 

I think it's wonderful that the Obama's are planning to adopt a new puppy once they move into their new home. What a perfect situation: loving family, huge fenced yard, staff to help keep puppy occupied while the kids are at school and mom and dad are at work, private plane so they can take their dog with them and not have to board them somewhere or stick 'em in cargo, financially secure to buy everything from food, toys, clothing, and health care. And hey, all those folks wearing dark sunglasses and wires in their ears are great for proper puppy socialization! 

This is what I'm a little "concerned" "conflicted" "confused" about: their daughter Malia is "allergic" to dogs yet they're going to bring one into the home because she "wants" one. Now, if she were allergic to peanuts would they give her peanut butter because she wants it? I think not. So why the dog? Here are a few questions I have for Mr. and Mrs. Obama:
  1. Is Malia really and truly "allergic" to dogs? Anaphylactic reaction: throat closes, can't breathe, heart races etc... If so, what are you thinking!!!? 
  2. Or is she "sensitive" to dogs? Doesn't have the breathing/heart rate issues, but if she plays with them (dogs) for prolonged periods her eyes itch, throat is scratchy, stuffy nose etc...maybe skin irritation. 
  3. Is it the actual dog? OR is it everything the dog rolls and plays in!!! This is probably more common. I have this issue myself. My dog Poncho rolls in grass etc... then I go play with him which results in symptoms of sensitivities. Solution: give him a bath. 
  4. Have you had your daughter allergy tested? If so, and she truly is allergic to dogs, then getting a "hypoallergenic" dog might end up creating a false sense of security, especially if she has environmental allergies too. 
My first suggestion: have your daughter tested! (if you haven't done so already). If she isn't allergic to dogs, but pollens, grasses, and other environmental triggers, then you might have more options on which type of dog to get. Also, sensitivities change as we get older. She may become more or less sensitive to certain triggers. 

Another sentiment I'd like to express is in regards to which dog to adopt: dogs are living breathing creatures that have individual personalities! They're NOT inanimate objects like furniture, cars and computers. I am NOT breed biased. I am a strong believer that dogs should be adopted based on personality- behavior and demeanor etc... when you first meet them. Not shopping through a "catalog" picking out the one you think is best because of their history of how they were bred. 

Remember, you can train/teach a dog to love or hate almost anything (I say almost because I doubt I could train Poncho to hate lamb - and why would I want to?). You can also train any animal to do anything they are physically and mentally capable of doing - unless there is a true mental issue. 

YES, dogs were bred for specific traits. So, along with their doggy DNA making them dogs, breed specifics will make that DNA a little stronger in some areas than others - terriers vs hounds vs Cavaliers etc... But, remember, they're still dogs! 

So, to the Obama family I say: if you are going to get a dog, please properly investigate which dog is best for all of you based on your needs and desired goals, not on what everyone else says to get.  Meet lots of different dogs. Keep in ming there are no guarantee's how any dog will behave under certain circumstances, after all we all have triggers and thresholds. 

Also remember that just like raising human children, raising a happy and healthy dog both mentally and physically (including the prevention of behavioral issues), is based on proper education and socialization! Educate yourselves first! 

Oh, and BTW, I vote that the pups name be "Chief" - "Hail to the Chief", get it??? ;-) 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

No gel for this dog!

Let's face it, if dogs were out in the wild, doing all their doggy things in their doggy world, calling their "hair-dresser" would not be on their "to do" list. HOWEVER, since they do live in our human world, "bath time" is indeed something that does becomes part of their routine - for some more often than others.

You've heard me say that many times we (us and our dogs) learn the same way. We enjoy similar things and situations, some things and situations more than others. Well, we're really not that much different!  This is a little list I came up with regarding "grooming" for humans:
  • Soaking in a hot tub...(many reasons we enjoy that) while making the tub experience fun: rubber duckies, boats, and SO many other toys...not just for kids, right? Bubble bath... hello? I had Mr. Bubble as a kid...too much fun!
  • Candles and/or other types of mood lighting
  • Aromatherapy including oils and/or incense to help stimulate the senses
  • "Spa Day"
  • Pedicures, manicures, etc... 
  • Hair salons...and going every few months, right? 
So why should we make bathing and grooming any less fun for our pets than we do for ourselves? I know I have it easy compared to others... I have Poncho a small, single-coated dog that is very food and toy motivated. But, that doesn't mean you can't make bathing and grooming any less fun and rewarding for your own dog. Remember, just by pairing the event with something your dog already likes will teach your dog to like that event... Which brings me to the video below. 

Note: sorry about the poor video-camera action - it's difficult to dry Poncho with one hand. I would normally use my other hand to towel him or rub his fur to help dry it more quickly... but I had to play "videographer" too :-) The tripod should be delivered next week ;-) 


video

If you don't groom your own dog, and you have someone else doing it for you, you might want to ask the person what steps they take to make it more "fun" for your dog...Who knows, they might make it so great you'll want to switch hair-dressers too :-) 

Run like the wind!!!

video
What a positively reinforcing Thanksgiving! It started off with the whole family heading to the Ventura Auto Center here in town to run a 5K/1K to help benefit fellow athlete Tony Pedeferri. It was a great turnout - lots of friendly faces, lots of friends to say hi to, and lots of other dogs. Always nice when races welcome the entire family, canine and human alike. 

Nolan and I ran the 5K while Poncho rested up before the race - safe, comfy, with fresh air and water in the car - then we took Poncho on his 1K event! He did great!!! Plus, I got to play with my new toy - this little video camera that makes it easy to upload! Check out the video of me and Poncho racing along! You would think his name is "baby boy" ;-) 

Good times to be had... plus, we got to work up an appetite for our big dinner! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Boutique a BIG HIT!

Two paw's up for our BIG event last Sunday! The Holiday Boutique Open House Benefiting our local Humane Society of Ventura was enjoyed by many. Folks from all over showed up to help support our furry friends and The Humane Society of Ventura while getting a jump on their holiday shopping! There was a bounty of delicious food that all the generous vendors supplied, plus music and lots of good cheer! We all had such a good time and can't wait to do it again next year!














A BIG thank you to all that participated,
attended, and supported our local shelter.

Happy Holidays to all,
Your vendors of the Holiday 
Boutique Open House


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm NOT a chew toy!

One of my great Inquisitive Canine manners students writes: 
  • Joan, I am having a few issues with Scout being mouthy to me and others. What suggestions do you have? Thanks, Steve C, Santa Paula California 

Dear Steve,
Ugh! I'm sure it's frustrating to be treated like a giant chew or tug toy. I'll go through the "flowchart" paths of behavior, just like class
  1. Is it "normal" doggy behavior? Yep, sure is. Exploring the world with their mouth, using it as a "tool", using it to initiate fun games with others - dogs and humans. 
  2. Is it a behavior Scout wants to do more of, or is it something you want him to do or like? Hmm, I'd say he wants more of it :-) So that means it's based upon the "Consequence" path of learning. It's Scouts behavior that will earn him more or less of it happening again in the future. 
  3. Have you taught him what you want, in a way that he understands? Have you been consistent in educating him? Rewarding an undesired behavior, even once in a blue moon, will most likely reward it just enough to keep him trying again and again. (Think "Vegas"). Or, only "punishing" him once in awhile can send mixed messages too. 
So, where do you start? Simple: 
  1. FIRST: REWARD WHAT YOU WANT! Remember, positive reinforcement will make the desired behaviors happen more frequently. Whenever you or others are around him, and he is behaving in the exact manner you like, acknowledge it! Bump it up and reward with food and play! 
  2. Provide "legal outlets" for chewing and playing. Keep large tug toys around for Scout to put his mouth on. Whenever he makes the right choice, again reward what you like! Reward with both a game of tug, and yummy treats! "Yea, scout made the right choice!" 
  3. Decide what "punishment" you're going to use. The best punishment I can think of is the absolute "game over!!!" response from you (or others that are playing). Meaning, all play, all interaction, all attention stops completely! 
  4. Once you re-engage, keep up the same rules. I use the 3-strikes for something like this. 
I think the most important points: rewarding what you want and consistency in the two choices you're giving Scout. The right choice, and the other one :-)

Hope this helps Steve! Keep me posted on the outcome... 

Monday, November 10, 2008

"How long is it going to take?"

"How long is it going to take for my dog to be trained?" This is one of those frequently asked questions I get from many people. Unfortunately there is no standard answer, no for sure guaranteed answer, no crystal ball, and no magic wands. These are just a few questions you can ask yourself to help give you your own answer: 
  1. How badly do YOU want your dog trained? Do you want it NOW??? 
  2. What behaviors are we talking about? Are you trying to get your dog to walk nicely on leash, or dealing with biting a human or other dog?
  3. How motivated is your dog to learn? Are you providing a happy learning environment that encourages your dog to want to learn with you? 
  4. How motivated are YOU to want to teach your dog? 
I often compare dog training programs to weight-loss programs. In that, the more you put into it, the more consistent you are etc... the better the outcomes. For instance, if you're trying to lose weight and you start exercising, eating right, making better choices etc... the weight will come off. And, once you reach your short term goals, as long as you keep up some sort of maintenance regimen, you should have continued success. 

If on the other hand you join a gym or weight loss group, go to meetings, but then go out for pizza and ice-cream in between those meetings or workout sessions, then you're sort of sabotaging yourself. You never reach your goals, and if anything you just become more frustrated. 

So, I say this: if you want your dog to behave a certain way, not only do you have to teach them, but then you have to be consistent with the training program. Rewarding the behaviors you want, and doing all you can to prevent your dog from performing (and practicing) the behaviors you don't want! The more consistent you are, the better your dog will understand about making the "right choices". 

I'll address the questions I've written above:
  1. How badly do you want it? As I say in my classes: "Don't wait to need a behavior to train a behavior." I grew up in California. One of the "drills" we had in school were earthquake drills. Lots of "dress rehearsals" so to speak. Same thing with dog training. Don't wait to teach your dog to come on command when you've taken him to an off-leash park with hundreds of other dogs! Be prepared and plan ahead. 
  2. Which path of learning? Emotional (learning by association) or Rational (learning by consequence). Good Manners behaviors are usually simpler to teach, than say, dealing with a dog that has dog-dog or dog-stranger aggression issues. Fear and aggression, or as I like to say, the "emotional path" is usually a longer road to head down. 
  3. How motivated is your dog? Sorry, but how "smart" your dog is really isn't as important as how "motivated" your dog is to learn. Creating a fun learning environment for any animal leads them to want to participate with you. Encouragement, rewarding what we want with food, toys, petting, and praise enhance the relationship, while building their confidence. Threatening, yelling, or always pointing out when they're wrong doesn't do much for training the behavior your want, nor does it do anything for their well-being. 
  4. How motivated are YOU? It's best to go into your training program with a positive attitude. Make it something you enjoy doing, as opposed to a chore. Even little bits of training worked into your busy schedule can help you achieve your goals. When you see your dog performing the little bits of behaviors you've taught them, this gives you the positive reinforcement you need to keep moving forward. Just think "baby steps".
So, how long does it take? As little or as much time as you're willing to give. How long does it take us humans to learn certain skills? We don't learn math or english in one session. We don't learn to ski, ride a bike, dance, swim, play soccer, or skate in one session. Just remember to have a realistic perspective and realistic goals. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

Not the high fiber diet I wanted my dog to have!

Last Saturday morning found me and my little family off to Santa Barbara for an early morning race. It was kinda rainy, and a little windy. For those of you who know my beloved little pooch Poncho, he is not a fan of the wind! (HA! no pun intended) I'm not a big fan of the wind either, but for a different reason. Anyway, we didn't want to leave him here, so off we went on a family adventure. 

For as long as I can recall, my darling husband gives extra "rewards" to Poncho by allowing him to lick the leftover crumbs from his napkins and wrappers. And, for as long as I can remember I've asked him not to. Hmm, I guess this trainer doesn't know her animal,  since we've been having the same conversation over and over. Trust me, I've used every approach of Skinners Operant Conditioning Quadrant, mostly sticking with positive reinforcement, ("Good job honey, thanks for listening to me, thanks for giving Poncho the crumbs out of your hand instead of the napkin!) And negative punishment, (I take Poncho away from him if I see a napkin about to be presented)... Well, I guess my "animal" still hadn't learned! 

So, I'm
 out on my 1/2 marathon course...in the meantime, my hubby has run and finished his 5K, gone to the car to get Poncho, walked him around, then proceeded to get snacks (human treats) at the post-race finish area. They greet me excitedly when I finish. I'm thrilled beyond belief to be done with it... Then, my darling hubby decides to drop the bomb...nice way to end a perfectly good race... 

  • Hubby: "Uh, honey? I gotta tell you about Poncho."   
  • Wifey: "Oh really? What did he do? Was he a good boy with all the people and dogs?"
  • H: "Has nothing to do with his behavior. Poncho is doing great with everyone."
Okay, so this is where the look on my face completely changed, you know, into the: this look I have on my face predicts nothing good for you
  • W: "Oh dear gawd what happened!?"
  • H: "Poncho ate a muffin wrapper." 
  • W: "HE WHAT??!!!" "How the......!!!!!" "WHAT THE....!" (insert multiple expletives here)
Needless to say, I finally made my point about dogs and paper products with crumbs on them! 

Yes, Poncho was being rewarded with the opportunity to lick the muffin wrapper that was so generously given by my husband - When my hubby tried to take it away, Poncho decided it was quite delicious and didn't want to give it up - "guarding it" if you will, which hubby and I know is not only "normal" in dogs, but very strong in our dog - at least with food. 

Was I concerned? Yes, you bet. Did hubby at least call the vets office? Yes, you bet. They confirmed that Poncho should be okay, and to watch his behavior: breathing normal? Check! still eating? Check-check-check! Still energetic? Check! Peeing? Check! He even pooped too! Normal all around...so we decided not to rush him off to the vet emergency. We would observe for any changes, and take him in if things got bad or we got worried. 

So, after I calmed down (now my heart rate was up because of the wrapper incident), I actually said "thank you" to my hubby for being truthful (want to reinforce those behaviors we like and never want to punish him telling the truth, right?), and for taking action by calling the vets office. Then we went about our day, while keeping a close eye on Poncho...the happy ending? Five hours later it passed :-) Phew... 

Which brings me to the topic of dogs and consuming anything that isn't nailed down! Check out the photo op of Sir Poncho the Graduate chewing up his latest Manner Class certificate... Fortunately, it was for the pleasure of chewing and not consuming. 

Let's revisit what dogs are: scavengers, predators, and omnivores! >>> they'll eat anything at any time, and it's more fun
 if it's moving! They are also chewers! And they chew for a variety of reasons.... Put it all together, they'll eat anything! Sometimes they just chew it, sometimes they eat it, and sometimes they'll even "guard" it so you won't take it from them! Hello? This is normal 
behavior, and it's hard-wired into their doggy DNA - it's one characteristic that makes dogs dogs!

I recall during my training up at the San Francisco SPCA there was one particular dog (Freddy, see pic of the handsome shepherd mix) that was very clever at grabbing the trainers treat bags
 off their waistband, removing the ziploc baggy of treats from inside of it, and ingesting the entire thing! I wasn't there either time, but the first time he was rushed to the vets, the second time the trainers rolled their eyeand remembered not to use a treat bag when working with him. Live and learn, right? You would think dogs would learn too, but alas, it seems the ingesting of something, even some innate object, is usually more motivating than the punishment of aftermath. 

One other comforting thought was when my dear friend Emilia emailed me on Monday saying she was swamped the entire weekend because her dog Nellie had eaten a highlighter! Emilia 
and her hubby realized this after seeing all the ink on Nellie's rear end. They spent their weekend observing Nellie for "odd" behavior...(odder than usual I guess?) :-) Check out Nellie's pic on the left... I guess she was considering interior decorating as a new career. Fortunately mom and dad have provided many new legal outlets for her, and the pillows are no longer an appealing choice. 

Well, I guess if Nellie can tolerate a highlighter, then Poncho and his extra fiber would be okay...although, I would never ever ever add something like that into his diet intentionally, nor would I risk leaving something like that around - As we have come to learn, dogs sometimes don't have the best judgement when it comes to meal planning. 

Another few things I'd like to add about dogs and chewing/ingesting anything is:
  1. If your dog does, or you think your dog did ingest something that could harm them TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE VET! (or at least call your vets office) It's not our job to evaluate our dogs health if we're not a professional veterinarian. 
  2. Determine WHY your dog is chewing, destroying, or eating things they should be chewing, destroying or eating! Is it boredom? Is it because of isolation distress or separation anxiety? Is it because they're teething? There are many reasons why dogs do any of those things. First determine "the why", then you can make plans on what to do about it, if in fact you need to change your dogs behavior. 
  3. Supply your dog with "legal" items, then reward them when they're making the better choice. Check out the picture of Poncho and his "legal" items. 
For more intriguing anecdotes on items that dogs eat, check out this great Web site that Matt Goodman and his dog Watson have developed called: Things My Dog Ate! After looking at his site, I can honestly say Poncho ain't that bad when it comes to ingesting the non-food items... we'll just keep the wrappers away, and count our blessings.

If you have questions about chewing, ingesting, or guarding, or want to teach your dog some training exercises that would help with any of these issues, please contact me. My classes and workshops at the inquisitive canine studio and Ventura College Community Education, and of course privates can help you and your dog. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Helping out our local Humane Society

Kick off your holiday shopping season in a fun stress-free environment. No traffic, plenty of parking and best of all you can find unique items for everyone on your list!

Vendors are gathering to provide you with lots of wonderful choices for holiday gifts, while benefiting our local animal shelter. Companies include:
  • Arbonne skin care - Jennifer Foster
  • Suzanne Soprano - Suzanne Soprano
  • Mary Kay cosmetics - Heather Balaam
  • Painted Gourds - Heather Rowe
  • Jewelry and Chimes - Cyndy Treutelaar
  • Party Lites - Barbara Connelly
  • The Pampered Chef - Julie Wilson
  • Planetjill custom photo jewelry - Joan Mayer
  • The Ribbon gift cards - Elizabeth Isnec
  • Silpada jewelry - Aimee French 
  • and more! 
There will be refreshments and lots of laughs. Stop by, browse and enjoy your holiday shopping experience with us!

Best wishes to all,
Your friends and supporters of The Humane Society

WHAT: Holiday Boutique Open Housebenefiting the Humane Society of Ventura
WHEN: Sunday November 23, 2008
TIME: 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
WHERE: THE INQUISITIVE CANINE Training and Education Studio
2159 Palma Drive, Suite D
Ventura, California 93003
CONTACT: 
Phone: 805.650.8500
email: info@theinquisitivecanine.com  


Monday, November 3, 2008

Puppy and Dog Problem Behaviors: Whose "PROBLEM" is it?

A friend and colleague writes: "I need pet experts to offer me their top tips on treating the common problems of cats and dogs at home for a chapter in a 'pet problems' book being revised. Care to submit something?" Well shoot! Of course I do... I'm always willing to offer up my opinion, especially if it can help others.

The following are some of the more common issues that come my way, regarding dog behavior:
  • House-training: Dogs come with a pre-wired, instinctual set of elimination behaviors. It's up to us to teach them where and when to go in our human world. A few key things are:
  1. Consistency! Teaching them to "go potty" in a multitude of areas can be confusing. Stick with one general place (outside) and reward them for it!
  2. Timing! Reward them when they go it the desired place!
  3. Refrain from punishment of any kind. This doesn't teach your dog what you want - it only teaches them to be afraid of you and to not eliminate in front of you. Or if it's after the fact, then they don't put it together. You may end up punishing something completely unrelated - like coming to you.
  • "My dog is afraid of ": Socialization is key. Whatever you want your dog doing as an adult, begin to get them used to it as a puppy - small, baby steps. New smells, sights, sounds, textures, and situations. This doesn't mean you should be taking them to places that could cause harm, but you can still get them used to, and exposed to "novel" things when they're young.
  • Note: Dogs learn the same way we learn. So for adult dogs, even if you've missed the prime socialization period (6 - 13 weeks), you can still teach them to love or hate almost anything. Pairing something they already love (or hate) with anything else, will teach (condition) them to love or hate the "anything" else. Think Pavlov.
  • "My dog chews up/destroys anything and everything." Let's recap what dogs are: predators, omnivores, scavengers. They chew for a variety of reasons. They're also "individuals" in that they have their particulars about what they like to chew. Experiment with different "legal" chew items. Determine which one(s) your dog likes the best. Then, when s/he makes the right choice, reward extra for making that choice!
  • "My dog barks all the time!" Okay, first off they're dogs. Remember "Old MacDonald"? Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, just like we humans talk/yell/scream (dare I say whisper) for a variety of reasons... First determine "why" your dog is barking, then figure out what to do about it. Fear and separation anxiety is a completely different path of learning than play or attention seeking, as well as alert/predatory/play/territory barking. In a very tiny nutshell:
  1. Fear-based: longer process to teach your dog that being alone is "fun", and that they can trust it's going to be okay. Be boring coming and going, short absences working up to longer periods, exercise beforehand so they're tired and want to rest, pet sitters, day care, play-dates, enrichment.
  2. Boredom: Enrichment! Give them something to do! Exercise them so they're tired.
  3. Attention seeking: Ask them to do something else. Interactive games (enrichment). Reward when they're quiet! Time-out if necessary.
  4. Alert!: If there is a burglar on the premises you better thank them for doing their job! If it's a friend visiting, or the delivery person, thank your dog for letting you know, then ask them for another behavior (instead of continuous barking). Reward for quiet, time-out for making the wrong choice.
I think one of the more important steps any dog guardian should take is learning what they can about dogs in general. Know your animal! What makes them dogs? Why do they do what they do? Understanding them better can help set yourself and the dog up for success, while avoiding those "problems" people complain about.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lots of yummies for this little 'trick or treater'!

Poor Poncho. He is the best ever! How many dogs would allow their nails to be trimmed, then follow it up by being dressed up for Halloween - as a food item no less! Too cute... check it out>>>>

I did make it "fun" for him though. For nail trimming he got leftover rice cake crumbles (he loves 'em), with mixed in lamb jerky. For the "lobster" outfit he got the same treats, plus some "ball time", which he finds very rewarding. 

See? Just goes to show you 1) you can train a dog to like anything (almost) 2) you can use many things besides food to reward your dogs great behavior! 

Happy and safe Halloween, from me and my sidekick Poncho! AKA: my "rock lobster" 

it's BIGGER! It's BADDER! It's BETTER!

It's official! My new fabulous website for The Inquisitive Canine has been launched! Can you believe it??? It took awhile, but boy was it worth the wait. Thanks to my fabulous "dream team", I can now be proud and share with everyone all it's glory! You can read all about my classes, workshops & events, privates training, philosophy, and about little ol' me :-) You can also check out all the new stuff, including an FAQ's page, press releases, and this blog... Oh, and you can also link up to Poncho's own blog... there's much more...so go ahead and check it out! Let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A BIG HUGE SHOUT OUT to Jeff, Tim, and SBC!

Talk about a positively reinforcing, rewarding, over-the-top kinda business meeting! Today Poncho and I took a little road-trip north (our favorite direction) to meet up with Amber - my trusty and oh-so-brilliant website designer/builder to finalize info on my brand new and improved website!!! EEEEKKKK! We're about to launch folks, to keep your eyes, ears, and web browsers open!

Anyway, since I had Ponchorinorama with me, Amber suggested we hit our local top-notch dog friendly fabulous restaurant The Summerland Beach Cafe! Jeff the owner was there - welcomed us with open arms, as did Tim (who is one rockin' dog guy let me tell you...he was just loving Poncho the entire time...and Poncho was sending signals back too...what a good boy!) Jeff helped us out with the wireless internet system... Good job Jeff! And Tim helped the entire time just making sure we had everything we needed... including water and bowls for Poncho

Emilia was just finishing up a conference call meeting at Lorrie's, but stopped by to say *hi* too - made sure we had all the up-to-date web and blog info she had sent earlier... Nellie, (Emilia's great pooch who just graduated with honors from my Manners Class) was home with proper enrichment while she was blogging... 

What a great team I have!!! Yes, I can't wait for the new site - But now I'm gonna have to figure out how I can continue to be part of this great "dream team"! 

I do know this: Inquisitive Canine meetings and other get-togethers will be held at SBC (Summerland Beach Cafe) whenever possible! 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dog Play Behavior: Are they fighting or playing?

"What is dog play all about?" This is one of those comments I hear from various folks...and often get questions about. Both in and out of the studio classroom - especially when folks first start bringing their dogs to our dog socials at my studio - The Inquisitive Canine here in Ventura.
Humans commonly assume that dogs that "hump" or "mount" just want to have sex with them, or that the dog is attracted to them etc... Ugh... really? Do you really think you're that charming, and that maybe all of the spoiling has lead your dog to want to return the favor in a way they think you might like? Come on... here's a quickie lesson on dogs humping and dog play:



Dog play is practicing of "the four F's" - meaning, if they had to survive out in the wild so they could pass on their genes - surviving, hunting for food, creating more of themselves in order to pass on their genetics (cause that's what it's all about, right) - survival of the fittest so you can pass along your DNA... This is the list of the four F's:
  • "Fight" - dog play can get really rough - think two young human male children playing and wrestling about - With dogs it's: I mouth you (practice biting but inhibited bites in play), you mouth me, I pin you, you pin me etc...
  • "Flight" - I chase you, you chase me
  • "Feed" - meaning all the steps of the predatory sequence, including the "grab-shake-kill" - chasing, stalking etc...
  • "Fun!" (fornicating etc...) - I mount you, you mount me... Unless both dogs (one male one female) are actually intending to breed in order to make more of themselves, then the whole humping action is just play! That's why you see males humping males, females humping females, females on males, dogs on humans etc...and humping in positions that are not related at all to actually "doing the deed"...
It's important that dogs learn what proper dog socialization play is, and what is appropriate - that is what dog social time is for!!! Yes, we can give the dog a "time out" if we don't like something... but dogs (really important for puppies especially) are learning about what play is - and doggy DNA is telling them to "hump" - most likely trying to get the other "animal" to play... If humans don't like it, the best thing to do is completely walk away and ignore the dog completely, but throw a party and play like crazy when he is playing the way they want... Older, well socialized dogs, who have great play skills can help "guide" younger pups...the older one will "tell him" (growl or a snap) to knock it off if he or she has gone 
too far...

*A BIG note of importance: DOG PLAY SHOULD BE: RECIPROCAL and CONSENSUAL! Sure, for some dogs they'd rather be the chasee vs the chaser. How to tell? Look at the one being chased - are they running off and trying to hide the entire time? Cowering under things? Trying to find their guardian? Or are they egging the chaser on? "Come on! Chase me!!" 

As for consensual: look at this picture of Freddie (the one mounting) and Jazz (the one in the red harness). Jazz's face is relaxed, focused on something else at the moment, doesn't appear to care. If it weren't consensual, Jazz would have turned around and growled or snapped "Knock it off!!!" 

Providing opportunities for our dogs to socialize and play is very important for their well being, and development as well-mannered canines - dog training classes and dog socials can help provide them. You just want to keep an eye on the situation, making sure that play-time is safe and fun. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dog Training Workshop : Ventura Community Canine College! Oct 18

The holidays will be here before you know it - is your dog holiday-ready yet?

No matter what the season or whatever your reason, it's always a good time to invest in creating a better relationship with your dog!
Teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, greet others politely, and come when called!

Join my  power workshop for you and your dog at Ventura College Community Education

DOG TRAINING WORKSHOP 

Saturday October 18th 

1:00 - 2:30 PM

Location: Ventura College, 71 Day Road


Please contact Ventura College Community Ed directly for details and to register.

Plus, check out the Inquisitive Canine Dog Training calendar for updates!

The Inquisitive Canine
2159 Palma Drive, Suite D

Ventura CA 93003
O: 805.650.8500
F: 805.650.8501

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bringing clarity to clickers and positive reinforcement:

You hear the words "Clicker training", "Clickers", "Positive Reinforcement" etc... but what's it all mean? Let me try to help clarify some points:
  1. Using a "Clicker" doesn't mean a person doesn't use "punishment" (hopefully not at the same time)... 
  2. Positive Reinforcement doesn't mean a person doesn't use punishment.
  3. Positive reinforcement doesn't mean a person doesn't use physical force to get what they want! 
  4. Using "punishment" doesn't mean a person uses physical force or inhumane methods to teach. 
  5. There are two types of "punishment":
  • "Negative Punishment": Taking the good thing away
  • "Positive Punishment": adding something the animal wants to avoid - a smack, shock, choke, prong in the neck, citronella spray, loud noise, being pinned, etc...
Why do I bring this up? A couple of reasons. There are some trainers out there that say they're somewhere between "A clicker trainer" and a famous trainer who uses physical force, flooding, fear tactics, and downright "old fashioned" training methods. (Sorry, name withheld to protect privacy and CMA)...

I wanted to say to this person: "What does being a 'clicker trainer' mean to you?" It certainly isn't exclusive to causing no harm to an animal - it's just another tool in your trainers toolbox, as it is mine. It "marks" the behavior you wanted your dog (or any animal) to perform...not much more. 

I use a clicker as one of my training tools. I also use "punishment". As a matter of fact I spoke about it today in my Manners Class at the Inquisitive Canine studio. However, the type of 'punishment' I use and teach has to do with "reward removal" -  not hitting, beating, shocking, spraying, coercing, forcing, or bullying! 

No animal learns that way without resulting in some nasty (usually "emotional") side-effects. Do animals learn through beating and force techniques? Sure they do - or should I say, "we" do... But what else are they "learning" besides what the owner/parent wants? - which is usually not the first or main thing they learn... 

My final example: I was coming home from a run, heading in the opposite direction of a man and his dog. I'm sure I looked "weird" to the dog...hat, sunglasses, water bottle belt, running right towards it. This can be perceived by dogs as "threatening", right? Something weird running at it... So the dog did the most logical thing it could do in it's little canine brain - it started barking at me - I didn't blame it at all. Unfortunately the owner did - and proceeded to smack it repeatedly on the head! The dog looked at me, barked, got smacked and yelled at. I cringed! I think I yelped myself! Then screamed at him to please not hit the dog!!! Why is he hitting him! it doesn't teach him what you want! 

I know, that can be pretty punishing to someone - being yelled at it public. As for "positive punishment" towards humans - of course I'm against it (unless it's self defense) - However, I did have a secret desire to smack the owner and take the dog... Hopefully they will end up in one of my classes - either at the studio or Ventura College, so I can supply an education in positive reinforcement, learning by both association and consequence, proper ways to get rid of unwanted behaviors, and clickers (or not). 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My vet approves this message!

Attention all puppy owners! And to those who know people with puppies and friends and family of puppies: Dr. Shelly Wilson (one rockin' vet and owner of The Animal Doctor here in Ventura) has written to me that she agrees with the position statement the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released on early puppy socialization, and how such steps can really help with the development of a healthy and happy dog, a happy household, and prevention of behavioral issues that dogs often develop without the proper steps. 

You can always contact Dr. Wilson, DVM, one of the other doctors, or her staff if you'd like additional information, or to have your dog seen for a check-up! You can also access the story by clicking here.

Just like us humans, the earlier we begin learning, enrichment, developing coping skills, and proper social skills, the better adjusted we are as adults. There is no reason why we shouldn't be doing this with our domestic puppies - as long as it's done in a safe way that refrains from causing any physical or emotional harm... Check out some of the services I offer at my studio that fills this need. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Did I learn anything at Hollywood High?

OMG! Thank goodness I've chosen dog training and canine-human relationship coaching as a profession! After all, this is my true passion - something I love doing every day! Something I find so rewarding - in so many ways... Why do I bring this up? Well, it's kinda embarrassing - but lets just say I'm glad I didn't choose acting as a career...

I just got home from our local TV station CAPS - They were filming a piece on our local Ventura College Community Education program where I teach my Canine College manners class. Each instructor for the Kaleidoscope Program was given the opportunity to be filmed doing an intro to their class, plus having students there, or doing some sort of demo. Well, you would think that after being born and raised in Hollywood, attending Hollywood High, taking drama classes while there, and working in the entertainment industry for 14 years I'd be able to stand in front of a camera and be completely comfortable AND talented! OMG NO WAY! It was a disaster...at least for me - in my own head...everyone else said I did fine...but oh brother, I'm not sure what was more painful - me going through the whole thing, or those having to watch me? It was like watching a dying animal at the side of the road... 

Thank goodness I have some wonderful students! There were Carol and Rico, Lisa and Ferris, Danika and Sophie, and Emilia and Nellie! Lorrie my wonderful "web marketing therapist" was there too with all of her support and love, plus she helped direct - and supplied me with my designer water like all the real actresses out there! Anyway, the entire group helped hold my hand and made me look good! I say they were the real stars!

I'm thankful I was offered to do it! Karen Gorback the dean of the college program was kind enough to give me the opportunity, and I thank her for that - what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? 

The programs that our local Community College offers are so much fun and rewarding... I wish I had more time, maybe I'd take an acting or improv class... Until then I'll stick with helping humans and canines live harmoniously! 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

You CAN teach an old dog (man) new tricks!

Okay, let me first say he's NOT OLD! My "man" that is... But, he can learn new things... Yep, three years after becoming a trainer and establishing The Inquisitive Canine, a year and a half since opening the studio...and my own husband, father of our dog, love of my life, supporter of all I get into, has finally signed up for one of my classes with our dog Poncho! I couldn't believe it... but he said he finally believes that 1) the training does work, and 2) he needs to learn some of these techniques so Poncho will perform the same behaviors with him as he does with me. 

For years I've said that dogs don't generalize (perform same behavior in similar situations) - and that we need to re-teach them in any new situation. A new place, person (different person training), situation etc... you have to re-teach the dog...it's as simple as that. I'm not too sure what finally sent my hubby over the edge of not being convinced to actually "believing", but I'm thrilled he's finally there! And that he is excited about coming to class and learning... He even filled out his goal sheet and is reading through his workbook! 

I have to say, this has made my day - and is SO rewarding to me! I love how we positively reinforce one another - makes for a great relationship... Now I'd better go catch him in the act of doing what I love and reward him for it! (husband and the dog)... 

Friday, August 8, 2008

"Canine College" Graduates Too!

We had another graduation this summer! This time it was the "Canine College" class I teach with Ventura College Community Education program. What a great group - so much fun! Wonderful students that worked so hard...both the humans and the canines. Check out some the well-mannered pooches and their companions! 


Sammy walking so nicely on his loose leash... 




Jake posing for his photo-op. 















Duke checkin out his new certificate!













Beijing and Largo practicing their perfect down-stays...







Miss. Lola and her proud mama showing off her certificate!








Great job everyone! You've done an excellent job ~ can't wait to see you out and about showing off all the skills you've learned! 

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pup & Circumstance!

It was graduation today for both Puppy and Adult Manners Classes. I love graduation day! It's so heartwarming to watch all the wonderful students (humans and canines) walk over to receive their certificates... loose leash and all... Of course I play "Pup and Circumstance" just because I'm so corny that way :-)  


I'm so proud of everyone - Sadie's mom said how she has learned to take the skills she's developed and use them outside of the classroom to help get the behaviors she wants! How great is that?
 


That's exactly what I focus on in my classes here at The Inquisitive Canine in Ventura. Sure it's great that my students can get their dogs to sit and down here...but come on, if you can't get your dogs to do the same thing out in the real world, then it's not very useful. Could you imagine if we were only able to understand what we were taught in school in the classroom but not out in the real world? None of us would have made it very far... Although it seems that many people leave their perfect and responsible driving skills back in their drivers ed classrooms...but I'll leave that one alone for now... 

Anyway, congratulations to all my wonderful "graduates"! You've done such a great job... Keep up the great work!