Training: Rally-O, Graduation!

Rally-Obedience // #knoxdogWe graduated from Rally-O, Novice!

Here’s the same run down of the steps from when we first started but now with improvements!

  • Weave Once: 9/10, Once we had a better heel, this was super easy!
  • STOP, Sit, Stand: 6/10, we learned “stand” with varied success. Sit is still occasionally angled.
  • STOP, Sit, Down: 6/10, can sit okay but a an angle. Learning “drop” for a surfer down, and using “lie down” for a relaxed down.
  • STOP, Sit, Down, Sit: 6/10, can sit, lie down back to a sit okay, but has trouble from a relaxed down.
  • STOP, Sit, Walk Around/Stay: 8/10 apparently we have a great sit-stay!
  • STOP, Sit, Down, Walk Around/Stay: 8/10 we don’t an awesome down-stay though but it’s improving!
  • Right Turn: 7/10 adding “TURN!” with a hand gesture helped this improve tremendously!
  • Left Turn: 8/10 adding “TURN!” with a hand gesture helped this too!
  • About Turn (turning away from the dog): 5/10 a little improvement
  • About U Turn (turning into the dog): 8/10 body blocks without physical contact are getting lots of practice.
  • 270º Right: 9/10
  • 270º Left: 9/10
  • 360º Right: 9/10
  • 360º Left: 9/10 — we can do our turns with very little no problems now!
  • Call Front, Forward Right (and keep going): 7/10, using cues “front” and “around”
  • Call Front, Forward Left (and keep going): 8/10, using cues “front” and “swing”
  • Call Front, Finish Right (sit): Similar to above, doing okay but need to work on alignment
  • Call Front, Finish Left (sit): Similar to above, doing okay but need to work on alignment
  • Slow: 8/10, using the cue “slow down”
  • Fast: 8/10, using the cue “let’s go”
  • Normal: 9/10 Nailed it!
  • STOP, Side Step Right, STOP: 4/10 side steppin’ is hard, y’all.
  • STOP, 90º Pivot Right, STOP: 3/10, varied success with the second STOP after we turn
  • STOP, 90º Pivot Left, STOP: 3/10, varied success with turning correctly and the second STOP
  • Spiral Right Dog Outside: 9/10 nailed it!
  • Spiral Left Dog Inside: 9/10 nailed it!
  • 1, 2, 3 Steps Forward: 8/10 — I need to improve my timing and keeping focus from Knox.
  • STOP, Turn Right, 1 Step, STOP: 3/10, varied success with the second STOP
  • Straight Figure 8: 9/10 nailed it!
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Training: Extinction vs. Negative Punishment

Reblogged from ClickerSolutions.com because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Isn’t withholding a treat negative punishment? I’m still trying to wrap my head around it; it feels a bit like semantics right now but… what do I know? I have a lot more to read!


Extinction is the cessation of reinforcement. When you shape behavior, you start by reinforcing a tiny bit of behavior. When you make your criteria harder, you stop reinforcing the lesser offerings. Because these previously reinforced behaviors are no longer being reinforced, the dog stops offering them, choosing instead to offer the new behavior that is being reinforced.

Extinction is not punishment. Punishment is an event. When you punish, you either add something (positive punishment) or take something away (negative punishment) in order to suppress a behavior. Extinction is a “non event.” You didn’t add or take away – you simply did nothing.

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My Dog is Friendly! A Public Service Announcement

My usual response: MINE’S NOT! And I’m not either.

Though you’d think that Knox’s barking and raised hackles would have told them otherwise.. (body language is an important lesson to learn for so many.)

Dogs in Need of Space

There is epidemic happening across the country and no one is safe. It’s occurring on crowded city sidewalks and spacious country walking trails. It doesn’t discriminate based on race, age, or economic status.

Innocent dogs and their owners are being terrorized, chased down the street, pinned into corners by…other dog owners.

But, you ask, don’t all dogs like to meet, greet, and play with other dogs, even unfamiliar ones? How rude of them not to greet me and my dog! Not so, kind hearted dog lovers, not so at all.

In every city, town, and suburb, loving, law abiding families share their lives with dogs that, for a variety of reasons, cannot or would rather not, socialize with other dogs.

Today I call on all dog lovers to take a stand on behalf of dogs that walk in public while they simultaneously cope with one or more of the following:

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Treats: Puree everything!

With a reactive dog, every walk can be a training opportunity (or rather, a prevention of an overreaction opportunity). So after realizing I was spending almost $50 every 10 days on high-value treats only to have Knox get bored of them, I started looking for more inexpensive options. I thought of buying a dehydrator but I also wanted to use things I already had on hand.

I love baking for dogs. They don’t care if the consistency is “off” – if it’s smelly, they’ll eat it. Precision and measurements hardly matter at all.

My criteria for each recipe:

  1. It must be easy to break into smaller pieces but not crumble into oblivion
  2. It must be soft but not too squishy (sustainable in a bait bag)
  3. It must be smelly enough to create value/motivation

Here are two recipes that have worked on both my reactive dog (proof: we walked beside a dog on the street without incident!) and the dogs (and puppies) I work with in class.

Some notes before the recipes:

Measurements are completely arbitrary. More flour means drier, less flavourful treats. Less flour means less viscous batter and longer bake time.

Ingredients are also pretty arbitrary. Different proteins cook at different times. I usually go with 5 minute intervals and add minutes as needed. I prefer the treats to have a softer inside and not have it cook completely through to maintain the smelliness. I use rice flour but you can use anything. Oat flour makes it a little less liquid but I wanted to make sure it’s gluten free for those allergenic pups. I also use coconut flour if I want drier treats. I grease the pans with coconut oil but you can use anything you’re comfortable with.

Keep extras in the freezer or fridge. Because there’s no preservatives, these will last about 1 to 2 weeks in the fridge – keep in mind, we make a new batch every weekend so we’ve never really made it past 7 days.

Beef Liver “Fudge”

Liver "fudge"

Homemade Liver “Fudge”

  • Pureed Liver
  • Flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Blend liver puree with flour 1/4 cup at a time until the consistency is a little more viscous.
  3. Oil your cookie pan.
  4. Spread liver across pan, about 1/4″ thick (doesn’t really matter)
  5. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes
  6. Slice (about 1″ x 1″) and wait until cool for storing

If your liver comes in slices, you’ll most likely end up with some chunkier bits. Make sure to blend this in a proper blender because it gets messy. Really bloody messy.

Fish “Fudge”

Homemade Salmon or Tuna "Fudge"

Homemade Salmon or Tuna “Fudge”

  • Canned fish in water (tuna, salmon – I use whatever’s on sale)
  • Flour
  • 1 whole egg per can
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Add fish and egg into bowl
  3. Blend with flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the consistency is a little more viscous
  4. Oil your cookie pan(s)
  5. Spread batter across pan, about 1/4″ thick (doesn’t really matter)
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
  7. Slice (1″ x 1″) and wait until cool before storing

These are especially awesome for puppies – they’re soft, they’re smelly and you can give a lot of rewards without actually giving a lot of food. Each square in the picture above can be broken into 6 rewards.

So far, I’ve made about 5 batches of each. Total cost of 4 cans of tuna, a tub of liver, 4 eggs, 200g of flour: $10. Each batch lasts me about 5 days. I’d say this is a significant cost savings!

Training: Rally-O

I sat in on a few novice rally-obedience classes to get a feel of what it is like. Though Knox would excel better at agility, his reactivity prevents him from being able to calmly watch other dogs having fun.

For those interesting, this is basically competitive obedience. The dog must be in a left heel and perform a number of directional and instructional cues while on leash with a flat collar. This is easier said than done. We are working towards the Canadian Association Rally Obedience trials though the likelihood of us actually competing is … slim. 🙂 That said, if we can make it to advanced, it looks like there’s some agility areas that we get to work with!

As a reactive dog owner, I was attracted to working with Rally with Knox because of all the other reactive dogs in class that had amazing focus on their owners. Knox, on the other hand, has very little focus when other dogs are around. I recognize that this is definitely after lots and lots of daily work.

Due to his kennel cough, Knox had to stay home for one lesson (luckily, the one lesson he’s already pretty pro at!) so I had the chance to work with Malcolm, one of the other student’s advance rally dog. The ability to work with a dog that I didn’t have to worry about wanting to eat another dog was … so different. No pulling, no cujo face, no growling… It really brought to light all my handling inabilities and areas to improve. Namely: death grip on leash and using only my left hand for cues. Poor Malcolm had to endure my mismanagement for two course runs!

For the sake of tracking progress, here are all the signs cues we need to learn and where we’re at with our training. I’ve also borrowed a lot of cues from Malcolm’s owner. 🙂

  • Weave Oncehave not learned yet.
  • STOP, Sit, Stand: 5/10, can sit okay but at an angled. Has not learned “stand” yet
  • STOP, Sit, Down: 6/10, can sit okay but a an angle. Learning “drop” for a surfer down, and using “lie down” for a relaxed down.
  • STOP, Sit, Down, Sit: 5/10, can sit, lie down back to a sit okay, but has trouble from a relaxed down.
  • STOP, Sit, Walk Around/Stay: 8/10 apparently we have a great sit-stay!
  • STOP, Sit, Down, Walk Around/Stay: 7/10 we don’t have an awesome down-stay though.
  • Right Turn: 4/10 Harder to keep Knox in a heel, using “this way!” but might need a better cue
  • Left Turn: 7/10 oddly simple for him, likely from all our body blocks!
  • About Turn (turning away from the dog): 4/10 keeping a heel is difficult
  • About U Turn (turning into the dog): 8/10 body blocks without physical contact are getting lots of practice.
  • 270º Right: 5/10
  • 270º Left: 7/10
  • 360º Right: 5/10
  • 360º Left: 7/10
  • Call Front, Forward Right (and keep going): 6/10, using cues “front” and “around”
  • Call Front, Forward Left (and keep going): 6/10, using cues “front” and “swing”
  • Call Front, Finish Right (sit): Similar to above, doing okay but need to work on alignment
  • Call Front, Finish Left (sit): Similar to above, doing okay but need to work on alignment
  • Slow: 6/10, using the cue “slow down”
  • Fast: 8/10, using the cue “let’s go”
  • Normal: 9/10 Nailed it!
  • STOP, Side Step Right, STOPhave not learned yet.
  • STOP, 90º Pivot Right, STOPhave not learned yet, though we tried and it was a poor attempt.
  • STOP, 90º Pivot Left, STOPhave not learned yet, though we tried and it was a poor attempt.
  • Spiral Right Dog Outsidehave not learned yet.
  • Spiral Left Dog Inside: have not learned yet.
  • 1, 2, 3 Steps Forwardhave not learned yet.
  • STOP, Turn Right, 1 Step, STOPhave not learned yet.
  • Straight Figure 8have not learned yet.

ReactiveKnox: Counter Conditioning

While we’ve had a little bit of progress with his reactivity, I’ve spent the last month wondering why all the counterconditioning work we’ve done has gone nowhere. Counterconditioning: how hard could it be, right?

Long story short, I’ve just taught my dog to like getting treats. The stimulus should be the predictor of high value food, not my hand in my pockets!

When they say humans learn ridiculously slow, they weren’t lying. You’d think 10 months into this, I would have figured it out sooner!

ReactiveKnox: Good Days, Bad Days

Knox came down with a bout of kennel cough this past weekend so he’s been isolated from other dogs (as much as I can, anyway) and coming to work with me.

We started the week off brilliantly: Knox walked past a few dogs (and a dog walker with 3 dogs) without incident. We worked on passing without a constant food lure – unless we’re too close and have no escape route – and it was awesome. There’s a few wonderful dog owners that have well-trained and calm dogs we encounter on our morning walks and have been willing participants in our passing practice. “Give him a chance to be a really good more for another minute!” * treat treat treat treat treat *

Perhaps he’s been going a bit stir crazy and bored of hanging out with the humans that ignore him for most of the day… the remainder of the week has been difficult. While we are able to walk past some dogs with lots of effort, his attention span has shortened (my fault, I’ve stopped training him daily) and it’s becoming easier (irony!) for him to go over-threshold. Because of the great weather we’ve been having, we’re encountering more and more off-leashed dogs which subsequently “allows” him to practice his over-reactions. So now we have new triggers: running dogs, playing dogs, off-leashed dogs. Faaaaantastic.

One step at a time, Knox dog.

Watch the World: Changing Fear or Reactivity

We’ve been playing this game (also mentioned in previous posts as “EYES!” and “Where’s the doggie?”) and it’s been mainly positive. Owners that walk their dog around the same time in the mornings are also starting to recognize us and have acknowledged our presence, moving closer or away when appropriate. 🙂

Paws Abilities

For some dogs, the world can be an overwhelming place. People, bikes, skateboards, other dogs… there’s a lot out there to take in. Whether your dog is frightened, worried, or just overly excited by these things, the Watch the World game is a wonderful way to help her deal with them.

Photo by Lori Greig

The Watch the World game teaches dogs to look at their owner when they see someone or something that would usually trigger them. This game is wonderful for any dog who is overly interested in novel stimuli, regardless of the reason for their interest.

In order to play this game, start with especially delectable treats. While I usually use the dog’s food to train him, this is a case where the “wow” value is important. Choose stinky, slimy treats such as roast beef, chicken, peanut butter, or blue cheese. If you use low-value treats for…

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#knoxdog

Training: Positive, Negative, Reinforcement, Punishment

There’s been something that’s been weighing on my mind in understanding how to teach, adjust, and modify Knox’s behaviour: what the fuck does positive reinforcement even mean and how am I actually using it?

I’ve been slowly reading through Gail Fisher’s The Thinking Dog: Crossover to Clicker Training and it’s been an interesting exercise in figuring out what I’m doing. As we’ve progressed with Knox’s reactivity, having both good and bad days, I’ve begun to worry about whether or not I’m 1) using food effectively, 2) focusing too much on “positive/negative reinforcement/punishment.”

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Collie Crawl | #knoxdog

KnoxDaily: The Collie Crawl

We spent the weekend at the beach and in the forest. He did so well on leash while walking past dozens of dogs!

But one thing’s for sure: Knox is awful at meeting other dogs.

Having no idea what his breed mix is, I think we can safely assume that he has some sort of herding animal in him as he approaches unknown dogs (especially fluffy ones) at a crawl, getting about 5 meters away and lying super flat, ears down, staring. As the dog reaches 3m proximity, he BOLTS towards the dog. Rude, rude, rude.

No fights yet (thankfully) but we need to work on this so much more! One more thing to add onto our list of behaviours to work on.