Friday, April 17, 2009

Thank You Social Media: Making it easier to find this dog trainer

Wow, after wrapping up my Social Media Marketing class last night at UCSB extension with the Wild Web Women, I realized that I now have so many social media platforms, that I was starting to become a bit scatter-brained. So, since my new round of dog training classes is beginning this Sunday April 19th, I thought, what a great time to put together a list of how to find me! So, here it is! I took liberty of adding Poncho's info too...he likes to make himself available also. 

Official IC Website:

  • For information on services, schedules, events, where to contact us, FAQ’s. 
  • A little about Joan and the Inquisitive Canine, our approach, methodology. 

Joan’s Blog:

  • For dog training tips (from the human perspective)
  • Information on upcoming events, including those outside the Inquisitive Canine
  • Commentary on the latest and greatest social topics
  • An all around fun place to share with the community
  • The perfect place for friends, clients, and the general public to make comments! 
  • A great place to send questions! 

Poncho’s Blog:

  • Poncho’s own dog training tips (from the dogs perspective) 
  • Information on events at the Inquisitive Canine, and those elsewhere
  • Commentary on the latest and greatest social topics.
  • The perfect place for friends (human and dog) to make comments or send questions. 

Noozhawk Advice Column:

  • Dog training and behavior advice column written by both Joan & Poncho the dog
  • Another great place for you or your dog to send in questions.


  • Joan’s  FB homepage: the place where I’m more of a “dog mom” 
  • The Inquisitive Canine Group page: for IC students, great place to “meet” other dog folks, have discussions, or set up doggy play dates. 
  • Poncho the Dog Fan Page: I’m his #1 fan and want to share that. 



Monday, April 13, 2009

Obama's in the doghouse with rescue groups?

Well it's finally happened... the First Family received their "First Dog", Bo, a six-month-old Portuguese water dog. A "gift" from Senator Edward Kennedy. Hmm, interesting. My paranoid self immediate thought: Ruh-roh, Kennedy curse? Okay, maybe a bit too paranoid. But then my thoughts jumped to "Nice political spin there boys!"

According to the L.A. Times article, Senator Kennedy took the dog from a family who could no longer care for it, had it trained by his trainers, and thought the dog would be perfect for the Obama's. Really? Was this all just coincidental? Am I, this little ol' dog trainer, the only critical thinker (albeit skeptical) about how this whole situation panned out? 

The Obama's had been going back and forth between breeder and rescue. Being the liberal democrats they are, they were really making us rescue supporters believe they were going to go the shelter route... but this just seems a tad too convenient. The perfect way for them to get their purebred dog, without hurting anyones feelings :-) Oh, and the final kicker, is that to make up for not adopting from a shelter, the Obama's will make a donation to their local D.C Humane Society. Nice spin...Well, what were we expecting? It is politics ya know. 

Let's at least hope he chooses more modern, humane, reward-based training techniques like the ones we use at the Inquisitive Canine, versus the old fashioned stuff - there's no way to put a favorable spin on that! 

Oh, and changing the name to Bo. Sweet that the girls named him after their grandfathers nickname, but IMO, a one syllable name that sounds like "no"? Well, hopefully they'll be using the former more than the latter. Or, maybe they can add "Diddley" onto it...just to keep the confusion to a minimum. 

Regardless, at least the pup has a nice home...and a loving family...and a great yard! Plus, ya gotta admit, those secret service guys and gals are perfect for puppy socialization. 

Hail to the Chief - DOG! 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dog's Figuring Out What Works Best: The Surf is the Word

Check out this great video of Buddy the Surf Dog. Sure his dad Bruce helped teach him - but Buddy is out there figuring out how to "duck dive" just by shifting his weight back and forth on the board. He's also determined where to position himself for "dropping in" on the wave, and avoiding running humans over. Just amazing. I'm also proud to say he is my neighbor!

Let's apply Skinner's Operant Condition Quadrant to this surfing scenario: 
  • Positive Reinforcement: going to the beach, catching waves, playing in the sand, hangin' with his friends.
  • Negative Punishment: having to go home :-( 
  • Positive Punishment: getting caught in the impact zone! (getting slammed by a wave)
  • Negative Reinforcement: relief of being slammed by a wave...
This just goes to show you animals do what works. Yes, dad has to get Buddy to the beach - but Buddy quickly figured out what "works" and what doesn't work. It also shows you where training and practice can get you. 

Food-Stuffing Type Dog Toys: What the heck do I do with this thing?

You may have purchased one of those great interactive food stuffing toys for your dog, right? Maybe one of those red cone-shaped ones from the Kong Company? And you put some of your dogs kibble with a little peanut butter in it, gave it to him or her, and left it at that. But what now? What else can you do with it? OMG there's just SO much! As a matter of fact, I teach an entire class on stuffing food toys, and other types of "enrichment" at my inquisitive canine studio. 

I love feeding my own dog Poncho out of these, and other "interactive" food toys. He enjoys eating his meals out of them as well - I can tell because he goes into his "whirling dervish" mode every time I get one out of the freezer...yes, the freezer - he's at what I call "University Level". Pre-school would be dry kibble topped off with a little wet food. 

The Kong Company is nice enough to supply you with lots of tips and advice on great ways to use your dogs Kong toys. For me, I like coming up with my own "recipes" (okay, I think of them more of concoctions) with anything and everything that is either leftover from me and my hubby, or whatever I find in the fridge that needs to be eaten. 

Because the Kong's are relatively small on the inside, you aren't able to put an entire meal in just one. So, like we humans have sets of dishes, I have purchased a few Kong's of the same size and consider them Poncho's "dishes". I might just give him one, along with his other favorite food toy the Tricky Treat Ball. And of course he gets his veggies in his bowl - there are some veggies in his Kong mixture, but most of them end up in his bowl...I think the veggies are the only thing I'll feed him from his bowl. 

Okay, so what all do I put in it? And how do I do it? Simple...for the easiest "recipe" I combine the following ingredients*:
  • Kibble (high quality like Solid Gold or Wellness)
  • Canned wet food (high quality like Solid Gold or Wellness)
  • Leftover veggies: canned pumpkin, zucchini, asparagus, bell peppers, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash etc...and anything else that might be around that he likes.
  • Fruit: apples, pears, berries (or whatever is around that he likes)
  • Grains: leftover brown rice, whole wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, sweet and regular potatoes...and anything else leftover that he likes. 
  • Meat: scraps of whatever we have leftover
  • Dairy: plain non-fat yoghurt
I mix it all together, making sure there is enough kibble (which has many of Poncho's doggy specific required nutrients) and wet stuff to make it the consistency of a human type chicken salad. I add a little chicken broth or water to thin it out a bit. Then, I cover and refrigerate it overnight. This way, the kibble soaks up the water from the veggies etc...makes it a little stiffer, for easier stuffing. 

Now I'm ready to prepare Poncho's meals. I take one of his Kong toys, and using a small fork or spoon, I fill it tightly with his "casserole". I then wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it in the freezer. This way, I can make a whole bunch of them, and keep them for when I need them. When they're frozen, it takes him longer to go through one...instead of gulping down a meal in 10 seconds!

If you're just starting out, you'll want to have your dog go through all the "stages" - beginners level (pre-school) to "University". If you start with a more difficult level, your dog might get frustrated and not want anything to do with it. Making it easy gets him or her conditioned to loving their Kong. They begin to associate the toy with more excitement than just the food itself. It's a fun game for them - plus again, this action taps into their predatory drive, and gives them something to do! 

Here are some "level of difficulty" suggestions, which are based upon how quickly your dog can get the food out:
  1. Beginner: dry kibble (can add in some dry treats to make it extra tasty and enticing), top off hole with wet food.
  2. Intermediate I: mix kibble with a little wet food, add any leftovers you want, loosely pack it - you still want to make it easy for food to come out. 
  3. Intermediate II: kibble, wet food, any leftovers you want to add, pack it tight. 
  4. Advanced: Freeze it! Initially you can thaw it partially before giving it to your dog, so as not to make it too difficult. 
Remember: there are some foods that are not healthy or safe for your dog - check with your vet if you are unsure. If you're dog has never had a Kong, it's best to supervise until you know he or she know how to "use it". 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Water Balloons & Squirt Bottles: NEVER a good option for dog training!

My new round of Canine College just started this past week over at Ventura College Community Education. As much as I hate to brag, it is truly a great group!!! Wait wait wait, let me clarify. So have all the other groups. I just get SO excited each time a new group starts at VC or at my inquisitive canine studio. It's like it's the first time, each and every time. I guess I'm just like a dog myself in this respect - isn't that the way our pet dogs act whenever we come home after being gone for a long time? 

Anyway, one reason I was just SO thrilled was because of the human students paying attention to what I was saying - I could tell learning was taking place because their behavior changed! HA! And so did their dogs behavior! Learning going on all around - just lovely!

At first people were telling their dogs multiple times to be quiet - but the dogs continued to bark, and the humans got frustrated. Then I went through what the class was about, what I wanted from them - my "What This Class Is" list, which included:
  • Having students focus on what all they wanted from their dogs!
  • Rewarding behaviors they like using food, petting, praise, play - anything to acknowledge what their dog did was what they wanted. 
  • Realistic expectations! 
  • What their dogs knew at this time versus what they'll know by the end of the class. 
  • And the ever important "Barking Protocol" that I have as part of all of my dog training classes and workshops... not the dog socials though, because that is more like a playground...
Once everyone was "rewarding quiet", and the dogs were minding their manners, the humans started to engage and ask questions!!! I LOVE questions! I mean, that is one reason I love writing my Noozhawk advice column, right? Not because I want to sit at a computer all day, or hear myself "speak" - I want to help empower dog owners to create better relationships with their dogs!

Okay, so one of these great questions was about a certain training technique that this person had heard about, and was wondering what my thoughts were about it. I've heard about it too. As a matter of fact it was one of the old fashioned training techniques I had learned as a new dog owner. It never made sense to me then, and it certainly doesn't make sense now. I've gone as far as to have it in my policies that it is not allowed - we don't use this coercive training technique at the inquisitive canine. What am I talking about you ask? Squirt bottles!

This great student was brave enough to ask: "Joan, what are your feelings about using squirt bottles to train dogs?" She hadn't done it herself, but she had heard about it from another trainer - along with a few other aversive methods. 

After establishing how the squirt bottle was intended to be used, this is what I said.
  • First I encouraged her to answer her own question: "How would the dog learn what you wanted him to do?"
  • If I were teaching you how to knit, and every time you did something "wrong" I was to squirt you with water, would you learn what to do? Or would you just end up being afraid of knitting and afraid of me? 
  • Would you ever be able to figure out what behavior I wanted? Or would you just learn to avoid doing anything, for fear of "doing something wrong" or being squirt in the face? 
She knew in her heart it was the wrong thing to do - she just wanted to reassure herself. Plus she helped clear matters up for others as well - this is a very popular technique still used today, so I'm sure other students were wondering the same thing. 

Another disturbing technique was just mentioned on one of my "group" lists. They were talking about how a franchise group of dog training "professionals" is now recommending throwing water balloons at dogs who are "misbehaving"! Wow, there are just so many things wrong with that. Talk about aversive! This is not fun and games for a dog - they can't throw one back, right? And isn't the humans own underlying motivation out of anger and frustration? Talk about poor coping skills! 

Again, I ask, shouldn't we just stick with teaching dogs what we want in a way they understand and enjoy? And then acknowledge them in a happy, healthy, fun way when they do? Let's leave the water balloon fights to us humans on a hot summer day...shall we?