Cooperative Towel Drying – Part 2

We introduced you to Cali the Jack Russell Terrier, one of our great clients in this post. Cali is a true testament to the power of positive training and the resilient nature of dogs.

Cali, did not like to be touched. She would bite people, when they tried to touch her. She also did not like to be restrained, she would try and bite people. So, being towel dried was the worst of both “evils” to Cali.

We have worked in a variety of ways to be able to dry Cali where she feels safe. We have empowered her to have a choice in being in the situation or not. She can leave any time she wants during training.

In our previous video we showed how we trained Cali to accept having the towel around her body. That only covers so much. So with winter and mud season just around the corner we also wanted to get Cali comfortable having her feet wiped.

First we started with the special absorbent towel on our lap. The towel on the lap became the cue to stand on the towel on our lap. Once there we shaped her wiping her feet down the lap. She was wiping her own feet! Then we added wrapping the towel around her paws and having her “pull” her foot out. We took the natural instinct to pull away and clicked it. You should have seen how shocked she was being rewarded for pulling away. Now she is wiping her whole foot and leg!

At one point in training I was holding the towel up like a rainbow and she started to stick her head under it. Click and treat and a new idea born! We have also shaped her to go “under” the towel so you can wipe her face and back if need be. Also with this behavior we clicked her leaving the towel, because it produced a wiping motion. Again shock that “leaving” could earn her rewards. Not that she left, since now it was part of the training game.

So another Cali video. This time we are working on paw wiping and dying.

Rizzo’s Unrestrained Shot

Since seeing Dr. Karen Overall speak and her suggestion of letting go of restraint I have tried to work with Rizzo. Rizzo hates restraint, she always has hated. Traditionally what has been done for a dog like her is teach her to wear a muzzle and strong arm her into what needs to be done. With the idea of Letting Go of Restraint, I let go of the traditional ways to deal with her stress about grooming and restraint.

Rizzo comes with a fair number of health issues. Previously she was on allergy shots. I had to train her to accept the shots with only me doing them. I do not have another person in my house that can reward her while I do these aversive procedures. So, I get creative on how to do things one handed and cooperatively.

Recently our vet prescribed Vitamin B12 injections for Rizzo. No problem, since we had already trained the injection/shot behaviors.

Once again my favorite behavior, the chin target/rest comes into the picture. For injections I have her stand between my legs – we call that Peekaboo. Then from there I use the chin target to both position her and have her hold still.

In the video you will notice that after the shot I go back to some more training of the peekaboo, chin target combo training. I feel it’s important to have her do the behaviors before and after with only one combo getting the shot. You will also see in the last one I have the syringe. I don’t want the syringe in my hand to become the cue that she is getting a shot. I love how her tail keeps wagging, even after the shot.

Do you have a dog who has issues with restraint? You can make it better. It’s just all training. I like to think of this as just another trick. A trick with a very practical application.

Meet Chet the Cat!

Recently we have add a cat, named Chet, to our training family. I say family because he is not my cat. He belongs to Marie one of trainers at my facility ROOT Dog Training. Chet comes to work with Marie and spends a fair bit of time at the facility.

We (Marie and I) have been spending a fair bit of free time training Chet between classes. It constantly amazes me how people believe that cats are not trainable! Of course they are, you just need to find what motivates them.

Chet started hanging out at our facility when he was 8 weeks old. When he started he was startled and ran from anyone new who came into the shop. He also was some what fearful of the dogs – understandably. The first week we worked on making friends with him. Then we started working on how to not use his teeth when taking treats. Thankfully, I only ended up with one tooth puncture! Man, do kitten teeth mistakes hurt way more then puppy teeth.

Quickly we progressed to a hand target as his first skill. As with dogs, it has been a very useful skill. The first use for the hand target was for him to go up to new people and earn rewards. Success, in no time he no longer runs away when new people come in, he goes up to them. The second skill we started training with a hand target was to go up on his station. A station is a set place for him to stay while training. Right now we are using a small round end table that works perfectly.  Now we have progressed to using the hand target to teach a spin. Then we added a lured sit-up (sit pretty) behavior.

We put together a quick video of some of his behaviors. In the video I am adding an auditory cue to his stationing behavior (two taps on the station). Also I am starting to add a hand signal to the sit-up behavior.  Then we are also working on generalizing the spin behavior to new surfaces & heights.

As you can see Chet loves to train. He is starting to demand meow for training when he hears my voice. We hope you look forward to more Chet training videos! We’re looking forward to learning more about training cats.

Cooperative Towel Drying Your Dog – Part 1

Meet Cali, the Jack Russell Terrier. Cali is a client’s dog, who came to us for training after she bit three different people in less then a month. She was approximately 18 months when she started training with us. We were her “last hope” to keep her alive.

Cali’s initial training started at 10 weeks old, with a different trainer. The trainer was called in because she was guarding her food bowl from the family. This trainer worked with Cali for about a year. Continually punishing her more and more severely for any “aggression”. Her aggression (fear) issues grew beyond food guarding to space guarding and fear (shown through aggression) when being touched.

One of many things that we have worked on with Cali is to start tolerating touch and grooming. As winter is nearing in Chicago the family wanted to be able to towel dry Cali. This is one behavior that has always produced some level of aggression from Cali. The level depends on who is towel drying her. It can be a low growl all the way to a bite.

We started with getting a super absorbent towel. That way we could do minimal drying and still be effective. We wanted Cali to have the choice to participate in drying. At any moment she can leave and she has to choice to come back or not.

Over the years of working with dogs with restraint issues I have learned the fastest way to move forward in training is giving them a choice to be there or not. What we have seen over the last few months with Cali is when she does get stressed and leave is she comes back faster and happily. She knows she has a choice and now her choice is usually more training.

Here’s the video of her being towel dried.

First, we taught Cali how to stand over her new “special” towel. We shaped her to target her front legs on one side and her back legs on the other side. We spent a week or two just working on that behavior and adding duration to her standing there. Then we started bringing the towel up on the sides. We started with one side at a time and not touching her body. Then we progressed to both sides of her body, but not touching her. In the video you will see the first time we worked on touching her body.

You will see her stiffen, because she is stressed. She can leave out the back and she had before when we were working on raising the sides. She chooses to stay! I work on ending it before she is too worried. Then we tried a different technique, of her laying down on the towel and wrapping the towel around her. When she first started training with us she would not lay down at our facility due to stress. Now she is laying down and letting us wrap her in towel!

I love silly cues for behaviors, to remind us that this is all fun and games. So Cali’s towel drying and wrapping is called The Cali Burrito.

Positively Pretty Fun Off Leash Heeling

When I got Rizzo as a puppy my intent was for her to be my Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) dog. A dog I could take to the AKC obedience invitational. We did LOTS of early work on competition obedience skills. Rizzo is my first dog that I really trained heeling, with the mind set that I love heeling and it’s all a game. I trained her very differently, of course it was all positive. We used lots of platforms, rear-end awareness games, and shaping.

Over the years we have fallen more in love with with K9 Nose Work and less with competition obedience. My training for competition obedience has fallen by the wayside. The other day I was working with a friend making videos for the local 4-H group about competition obedience. We were done formally video taping and Rizzo was off leash with our friend’s dog Divine. Thankfully someone grabbed their phone and started video taping!

WARNING there is a dog BARKING on the video. If you have a barky dog at home turn off your sound. You will still get the basics of the video. 🙂

No, it’s not perfect heeling, but damn I was pretty happy. We have not had a formal heeling training session, in probably a year, if not longer, maybe 2 years. It goes to show you that something that is well trained from the beginning is a life time skill for your dog.

What I love most about the video is Rizzo’s choice to be with me. She could leave and play with her friend or visit the people at any time, but working with me is better. Yes, I have food on me, but not in my hand. Just because I have food on me does not mean she is going to get it, due to her food allergies. She used to that “issue”. Divine was trying so hard to get her to play, it’s just too cute.

You don’t need to be showing your dog to enjoy training at a high level or enjoy the benefits of high level training.

Remember you do not need to use force to train awesome heeling!

Remember heeling is just another “trick”, have fun with it!

Thanks Rizzo for being such a great partner!

Holiday Cooking Dog Training & Management Tip

So holidays are just around the corner! Maybe your dog training is not quite to where you would like it to be, or maybe you have a young puppy.

A couple of years ago Miss Rizzo was a young dog and a bad counter surfer (not that much has changed in that department….but that’s another story!). I knew that I was going to be busy cooking. If I was busy cooking that meant I would NOT be paying attention to my young dog. If I was not paying attention to my young dog, that was going to give her opportunity to steal and be rewarded for her naughtiness. I did not need any more reason for her to be interested in the counters. I also knew that I was going to be in and out of the kitchen, so that would give her even more opportunity for naughtiness.

Does this sound familiar to you or just about anyone you know with a dog? Yes! Remember dogs are creatures of opportunity – if the opportunity to get something yummy is there, they are going to take it – unless you have TRAINED them to do something else. Rizzo has been trained to stay on a  mat, but not for the duration that I was going to need when cooking for Thanksgiving.

Dara and Rizzo Holiday Cooking TimeSo up goes the exercise pen! I love dogs that dog can learn to respect short gates and exercise pens. It is something I work on a lot when they are young. Both Dara and Rizzo (in the photo) could easily jump this gate – it’s only a 24″ high gate. Neither dog does, they learn that all they have to do is hang out on the other side of the gate and they will be rewarded. As you can see Rizzo does want to be on her mat too. The reason I like exercise pens is the flexibility in their size and shape. The opening that is shown is too big for a traditional gate. The exercise pen covers the span no problem and when I don’t need it I can easily fold it and store it away.

With the holidays just a few weeks away it’s a great time to think about how you can do some minor training with some management to make your holidays easier and less stressful. It doesn’t take long to teach your dog that laying down near the gate is an easy way to score some treats. So go get that exercise pen and get training!



Sometimes Management is the Best Choice!

I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I own three dogs, and I own my own business. Sometimes management is the best choice for everyone’s sanity, instead of training. What do I mean by management vs. training?

This past weekend my son who is 9 years old had a friend over. Bueller, my 2 year old Burnham Terrier LOVES kids, to a fault. He wants to be with them, on top of them, licking them and sometimes that is not appropriate. We had already been out of the house for a bit in the morning so I did not feel it was good choice to crate him. Also, I had a bunch of computer work to do so sitting on the ground doing mat, relaxation work with him was not going to work for me. Let Bueller bark and get worked up for not being with the kids was not good for Bueller. So what to do?

The kids were in basement, so up to the bedroom Bueller and I went to work. It was delightful! I brought my computer and settled into my bed and Bueller snuggled right in next to me. We were both happy as could be, as was my husband for no barking dog, as was my son for not being pestered by the dog.

Did this solve the problem of him being overly excited with kids – NO. That is fine for that day, we can train another day when all of us are ready for training. If you are getting frustrated with your dog in training can you find a way to manage the situation instead of train? It might make everyone happier! Then when you’re ready it will be time to go back to training.

Rizzo – my American Water Spaniel

Riz my LoveCurrently I own one American Water Spaniel (AWS) – Rizzo (Coastal Magic’s You’re The One That I Want NW2). Rizzo was born on March 4, 2010 in Carlsbad, CA bred by Lori & John Tufts and joined our family in May of 2010. To say Rizzo has changed my life is an understatement. My husband affectionately calls her the Curly Haired Terrorist (CHT for short).

How do I even begin to explain Rizzo other then, be careful what you ask for and what you name your dog. I named Rizzo after Rizzo in the movie Grease. Rizzo the character is a bit naughty, sassy, curly-haired brunette, and that is what I got! I asked for a dog who was unflappable, food driven, and first and foremost a wonderful family dog, that is what I got!

She is the most naughty dog I have ever owned, nothing is safe from Rizzo. As young dog she taught herself first how to help herself to open the flip lid dog food containers – childs play she says. Then I bought the screw top lid food containers, no problem, they might take longer but she can do it. At my training facility she taught herself how to open the mini-fridge. She is a smart, determined, and full of energy – what a dangerous combo! It did end in 2013 with a exploratory surgery for a possible bowel obstruction.

Rizzo did come with some funky sensitivity to restraint as a young puppy. She had no qualms about biting you if she felt uncomfortable in a situation. We have worked tirelessly on her being comfortable. At first the priority was that she was a show dog having to be touched by strangers and I had to groom her for shows. Then we worked towards safety with the vet. She has come a long way.

Also Rizzo has a lot of allergies both environmental and food, which made me decide to spay her and not breed her.  I can’t imagine having another Rizzo, so I think it was for the best.

Rizzo ChillingRizzo loves to train and has lots of competition obedience skills but I have not shown her.  I lost interested due to the stress of showing and being around punishment-based trainers, for both me and the dogs. Rizzo’s (and my) main love is K9 Nose Work. She is awesome and LOVES it. She is the first AWS to earn a NW1,  NW2 and NW3 titles. Along the way she has taken a number of placements and always entertains judges and me.


My Tollers

Back in 1999 I found a copy Dog World magazine with a dog breed on the cover that I had never seen or heard of before, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I was intrigued, a breed that had retriever and herding dog behind them, considering we had a Lab and a Border Collie at the time. Shortly after the article was published there was an American Rare Breed Dog Show on the Washington Mall in DC. Off I went to go meet this “new” breed. Wow, right as we walked up the Tollers were being shown.

I will never forget seeing Driftwood’s Coastal Clipper (with a bunch of titles) aka Clipper in the ring and winning Best of Breed. I was sold on the breed right there and then – but even more so once I hung out with all the owners and breeders after the show. I started talking to breeders and I found a breeder with a short puppy list. Fast forward to June 1999, and I am officially a Toller owner of Kayla – Blue Sac’s Falls River Kelpie.

Kayla was an amazing dog. Sadly she had a host of health issues. At 15 weeks she was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease. We worked on treating the disease throughout her puppyhood. Addison’s never slowed her down! She was doing her first therapy dog visits at 4.5 months and passed her Canine Good Citizen test at 5 months. As she grew her body just did not seem to fair well with the treatment for Addison’s disease. We decided to put her down when she was 19 months old. Kayla taught me a lot about how to treat puppy buyers, and to love the life you have, while you have it! She will always have a piece of my heart.

Dara enjoying Lake MichiganDara (SR Foxgrove’s Daragan at Redberry CDX RAE JH NW1 WC CGC TDI) was my second Toller and what a ride it has been. Dara was born in 2001, and became my first completely positively trained dog. Also Dara was my first field training dog. My most cherished memory with Dara is passing our first field test and earning a Toller club Basic Retrieving and Tolling (BRT) certificate. Dara and I went on to be the first Toller team in the country to earn a Rally Advanced (RA), Rally Excellent (RE) and Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) titles. She did so in straight trials, never NQing! Dara was a great competition obedience dog, but life got in my way of showing her. She ended her career with one leg towards her Utility title and one leg towards her Versatility title before her hearing loss became a problem. As Dara has aged she has become completely deaf and now has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).  She is still a willing worker and tennis ball retriever and always will be!

I have also shared my house with a number of other Tollers. Some I have owned and re-homed due to health issues and some I have co-owned and some came to me for training. I have been very lucky to have so many willing training Nelia at 11 months oldpartners! Nelia (Seastar’s Serandipity 4 Duckpin) came when my son was one years old (bad choice even for a professional). She now lives the princess life with one of her loves, Kait Ryan in Milwaukee. Kait was waiting to get a puppy from Nelia when I got the news at 22 months old she already had hip dysplasia bad enough to cause joint damage. So instead of a puppy Kait got Nelia which was a win-win for everyone involved. Nelia did not like being a show dog, living in a multi-dog house and Kait was in a better position to take an older dog then a puppy.

Pogo I co-own Pogo (GCh Edlyn’s Hope Springs 4 Duckpin CD NA) with a local friend. I have show Pogo over the years and she lives with me from time to time. Pogo loves to show in conformation and is a delight to show. I was planning on breeding her but sadly one hip came back rated poorly through PennHip. We continued to show her since she and I liked it show much. She is my first Grand Champion!  Pogo’s other owner continues to show her in obedience and some agility areas. Pogo is very quirky and has never gotten over her fear of the teeter for agility, which limits her showing.

Letting Go of Restraint

A number of years ago I saw Dr. Karen Overall, the Vet Behaviorist, speak for a 2 day workshop. If you have a chance to see her, GO! She has an amazing way of making the complicated seem simple. One quote that she said during the weekend was “We must let go of the idea of restraint!” She was referring to vets and how they restrain dogs and cats for everything. Also she was talking about for grooming, and regular pet care also.

This concept has stuck with me ever since, mainly because of Rizzo, my American Water Spaniel. Dr. Overall dubbed Rizzo the most ridiculously, friendly dog she had ever met. Coming from Dr. Overall, that has some weight. That’s also where things get sticky. Rizzo is the most friendly dog you will ever meet, until you try and restrain her, then she’ll bite. To this day she has never caused puncture wounds, but she will put her teeth on you. She came this way, and I have learned it is not an unusual trait in many American Water Spaniels.

I have worked very hard over the years teaching Rizzo a variety of behaviors for her to be more comfortable in vet and grooming situations. The main behavior I use is a chin target, where she puts her chin into my hand and holds still until given a marker that she is done. I have used the chin target for years in a variety of vet situations but recently we took it to new challenges.

Rizzo was having some health issues and my vet Dr Maria VonderHaar wanted to test her for EPI and Addison’s disease. (both came back negative but, we’re still playing with some issues) She had to have a fasting blood draw (from her neck), then she had to have cortisol injected into her vein in her leg, and then 1 hour later have another blood draw from her neck. So blood draw #1 I sat on the ground gave her a high chin target that exposed her neck, Dr VonderHaar took a huge amount of blood and it was amazingly successful. No restraint at all, but I was not able to reward her afterward for a job well done with treats. (bummer!) Then she sat between my legs again, I held her leg at her elbow and this time gave her a chin target away from the leg that the cortisol was being injected into. Again NO restraint, and NO problems, and still no food rewards! So we waited an hour, (still no food!) for the next blood draw. I was a bit worried about how she would be with two blood draws in one hour. I should not have doubted our training! This time I had the presence of mind to have the tech video tape the blood draw.

Here it is!

Now you will notice at the beginning of the video I run my hand down her back to see if she would sit. Normally she sits and I was worried that if she was in the “hover sit” position that she was in she would be more likely to move. What she was telling us that she was more stressed with this blood draw, then the blood draw one hour earlier. Notice that as soon as the blood draw is finished she chooses to sit, even before I mark her to move her chin. After this blood draw she was rewarded heavily, with bacon!

With a little bit of training any dog can work cooperatively with you at the vet. Frequently the scariest part of the vet for the dog is the restraint. If a dog who used to choose to use her teeth to keep vets and techs away from her can do this any dog can!