Monday, January 6, 2014

IACP Video of The Month

My muzzle conditioning video has been selected for the International Association of Canine Professionals video of the month series.

 I am very honored to be featured in this association.  Nothing better than getting to show your stuff to a group of other professionals!

If you are in need of a Canine Professional in your area, check out their website HERE, for links to groomers, trainers, boarding facilities and many others worldwide.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Practical Practice

How many times have you tied your shoelaces? A quick internet search shows that the average american spends roughly a week tying their shoes in a lifetime. That's a lot of practice! And it's the type of practice that allows most people to be able to tie their shoes while carrying on a conversation with someone, or tie the same knot on an apron behind their back.

The fact that we have honed this skill to the level of mindlessness, is something to take note of. When younger, most of us struggled with tying our own shoes.  But once we got it, it became a part of our everyday lives.

We need to give our dogs, and ourselves the same type of practice with learning how to live together cooperatively. Practicing down stays, place commands, walking calmly on a leash, and being respectful around doorways are all things that when made part of how we live with our dogs allows both ourselves and our dogs to achieve a level of proficiency that is not just practical, but enjoyable.

When we eat dinner, or invite guests into our homes, having a companion who isn't obnoxious, rude, or aggressive lets us enjoy each others company a hell of a lot more.

The key to a healthy lifestyle with your pet is practice. You would never consider flying in a plane with a pilot who has never flown before. So why not make your dog practice before its time for the big test?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mixing Signals

            As a dog trainer I spend most of my day interacting with, watching, training, and communicating with you guessed it, HUMAN BEINGS.  Most people are not too surprised to learn this information, as the rallying cry nowadays seems to be “It’s not the dog, it’s the owner!” While I don’t wholeheartedly agree with that statement I can certainly see where people get this sentiment from. With all my interactions with dog owners, I have noticed quite a few things that people tend to do that hinder their own ability to communicate with their dogs. Most of these actions come from a good place and are well intended.  Unfortunately we just aren’t born with the innate knowledge of how to teach and guide our canine companions.  There is one concept that I see ignored on a regular basis that permeates everything we seem to do with our dogs. 
That concept is Stimulus control, and more specifically the subject of mental blocking.  This process helps dogs save time and energy by helping them ignore unnecessary and or redundant information. Let me give you an example:
            I lure a dog into a DOWN position with a piece of food and as I start to lure the dog, I say down.  Many dogs will lie down while I am doing this, but then they later seem confused when I simply give a command without a lure as though they have never heard it before.

In all reality they may not have “Heard it” in the white men can’t jump sense of the phrase. You see we’re dealing with salience and overshadowing here. In an attempt to simplify the concept, I want to clarify some of these things in an attempt to hopefully bring these issues to the forefront of a few more owners’ minds.
Salient simply means most important or noticeable. Physical movements, or body language which is a dog’s natural form of communication, are very salient.
Overshadowing according to the free online dictionary means to render insignificant or less important in comparison.
Blocking is what occurs when a more salient signal is given simultaneously with a less salient signal.

Ex. I say down as I lure a dog into a down with a piece of food.  My movement, not to mention the piece of food, is more salient to most dogs than the sound coming out of my mouth. In turn the word is overshadowed by my action and lure therefore dog fails to associate the sound “down” with my action of luring the dog down.

More accurately I HAVE FAILED to associate the two signals. If I were to teach it correctly I would need to say down BEFORE I start moving my body to lure the dog! The down is one of the most common scenarios I have seen this concept misused but I also see it regularly with people using a leash to train their dogs for something. When we give a command to a dog as we pull on a leash and collar we are bastardising the same concept. I find the misuse of the leash more egregious because we are adding physical discomfort unnecessarily.

When trying to communicate something to a dog, we need to keep in mind that the command comes first and the leash comes last. Or when using food, command first, Lure last.  Either way, keeping mindful of Pavlov’s discoveries in classical conditioning requires us to put the noise before the action to associate the two. When we operate outside of this principle our dogs will still learn, but generally not in the desired manner. They will learn that they have to lay down, when you get so low to lure them that you’re practically laying down yourself! Always keep in mind Command > Lure > Mark > Reward.
If more owners followed this simple piece of advice, and made sure they were mindful of their communication with their dogs in all of their interactions there would be more dogs learning what they’re owners intended, and I think a few less frustrated dog owners!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Communication Breakdown

ímynda sér ef enginn vissi hvernig á að tala tungumálið sem þú talar, og þú gætir ekki skilið tungumál þeirra.

If this were the case, your life would undoubtedly be excruciating. Not being able to get your point across, and not being able to understand the rules of where you were living would cause immense amounts of anxiety, stress, and fear. Unfortunately there are hundreds if not thousands of dogs who live their lives this way.

Living with dogs has never been about down stays or recalls just for their own sake. Living with dogs has always and always will be about communication. And obedience training is one of the most important parts of communicating with your dog. Having a clear set of guidelines and rules about how the two, or three, or six of you should live together is essential to a good relationship.

More importantly, having a way of guiding and coaching your dog who cannot understand the environment around them in the same way you can, not only helps them create harmony with you and your family, but it keeps them from getting themselves into trouble or dangerous situations.

Setting a foundation built on communication leads to a lifetime of enjoyment with your dog. And prevents many unwanted problems from manifesting in your dogs behavior.  Start with teaching them how to behave on a leash.  And I don't mean just walking. I mean make sure your dog can sit idly with you outside, no tension on your leash with a relaxed mindset. The idea is to get your dog to the point that anywhere you go, your dog can look to you for advice and information.

Teach yourself to listen to your dog, and teach your dog to listen to you. When your default mindset is communication, living with a dog becomes a vastly more substantial and rewarding relationship.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to make a drag leash

Here's a quick instructional video that details how to make a drag leash for your dog. Drag leashes are incredibly functional for raising puppies, training a new foster or rescue, and for having a built in indicator for when your dog is completely ready for true off leash behavior.

I have also recently joined Twitter. So if you want to follow @Dogman_Moran you can see all my daily musings on dogs, bicycles, beer, and anything else I find interesting.  Its apparently a great place to ask questions.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sif's Morning Workout

Having a balanced dog, starts with a balanced puppy. Sif gets DAILY repetitions of working/playing on and around different, and new objects. Ranging from a skateboard, to tunnels, upside down kiddie pools, and anything else I think she may encounter in the future that I want to make sure isn't a problem for us.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Muzzle Conditioning

Working with aggressive dogs requires one to practice safety. Using a muzzle has allowed many a trainer on different occasions to get dogs into situations they would otherwise not be able to be in. Whether this is around small kids, other dogs, or human beings in general, a muzzle can be a huge asset to working with an aggressive or reactive dog.

This is how I like to get a dog conditioned to wearing a muzzle.