by Grayson Schaffer | on October 28th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training
Puppies are great. Loads of fun. But they squirm a lot and, unlike cats, do not always land on their feet. Here, Mike demonstrates proper technique with my mom’s pup, Gibbs.
by Grayson Schaffer | on October 22nd, 2009 | in Features, Training, Video Clips
Some folks were asking whether Danger can do that beer trick from last week’s short movie, “In the Face of Danger,” in one take. Yes, and chances are your dog can too. Training a dog to connect tricks or behaviors end to end is called chaining. Typically, these types of linked behaviors are taught back to front, or what’s called back-chaining. Basically, you start with the last part of the task, train that to proficiency, and then add the next-to-last part. Withhold your reward until the dog completes both of these well-polished tasks end to end. It won’t take him long to figure out that the criteria have been raised and he now has to do two tasks before the reward. Then add a third link in the chain and so on. When you see dogs performing complex, apparently human-like tasks on TV, this is generally how they’re taught.
OK, here’s the video.
by Walker Parks | on October 19th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training, Video Clips
by Grayson Schaffer | on October 7th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training, Video Clips
That old trope about old dogs not learning new tricks just isn’t true. It may be difficult to break old dogs of long-held habits, but teaching new tricks isn’t so hard at all. Here’s a clip from when Mike was here, in Santa Fe. Features editor Elizabeth Hightower was having problems getting her ten-year-old black Lab, Angus, to drop his ball. Mike showed her his pressure-point technique to fix the problem. Now watch him spit it out and wait for a retrieve before dissapearing into the bushes. . .
by Grayson Schaffer | on October 5th, 2009 | in Features, Training
Wolf–verb (used with object)
|9.||to devour voraciously (often fol. by down): He wolfed his food.|
What your dog eats is important, yes, but so is the way he eats. Scarfing down a day’s worth of food in 30 seconds can lead to digestive problems, bloat, or even a deadly condition called gastric torsion. Here are some tips on how to feed your dog, regardless of what you feed.
- Feed your dog twice a day. I’d often heard that since dogs are carnivores and thus evolutionarily adapted to go for long stretches between meals, you can feed them once a day. Then Sue reminded me that dogs aren’t carnivores, they’re scavengers—and in the case of Danger, panivores. One larger meal a day will work, but two will lead to better digestion, less bloat, and less hunger-related anxiety around the house. Remember to subtract the calories of any treats or scraps you give your dog from his food bowl.
- Get a bowl that forces your dog to slow down. You can buy bowls that have posts in them, or if you have a bowl with a hollow rim (pictured) just turn it over and feed from the edge.
- Give your dog a quiet area to eat. If Cooper approaches while Danger is eating, Danger aggressively inhales his food as a defense.
- Have your dog offer a behavior, like a sit, before you set the food down. If you can manage, also require him to sit still until you release him to eat. (A dog that knows to release by name will learn other name-related tasks easier, too.)
by Grayson Schaffer | on September 30th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training, Video Clips
We’ve harped a lot over what’s hard and what’s easy in dog training. Honoring is hard. It’s when one dog waits patiently while it’s another dog’s turn to work. It falls generally in the category of self-control. If your dog sees another dog run by, will he chase? Or will he sit there calmly and, if you’re lucky, check in with you to see what you want him to do. Here’s a quick video, where Mike has Whiskey and Deke honor while Cooper retrieves. (Mike was in Santa Fe a couple of weeks ago and gave Outside’s staff a demonstration. Great fun. Thanks, Mike!)
by Grayson Schaffer | on September 18th, 2009 | in Features, Training
And now for something completely different. In August I joined the Los Alamos–based Mountain Canine Corps to start training Danger for search & rescue work. The group is made up of volunteer trainers and a dozen or so dogs of various breeds and mixes. When someone goes missing in the woods, the New Mexico state police give them a ring and dogs and handlers get dispatched to the scene for a search.
The team trains dogs in three disciplines: tracking, air scent, and cadaver work. Tracking dogs need to follow an aged scent—sometimes days old and overlaid with other odors—for long distances. Air scent dogs pick up scent on the breeze and then home in on the source. And cadaver dogs, well, look for dead people and more importantly, bits and pieces of dead people.
Danger is just getting started on tracking, which he loves. The process of following a scent track is a simple chain of behaviors, just like retrieving. I say this now as a sort of personal reminder. Retriever training is often made unnecessarily complicated with complex drills and equipment. So to avoid that, we’ll take a positive-reinforcement approach to tracking, learn to understand Danger’s body language, and attempt to fix one problem at a time, while raising our criteria slowly so that he’s always successful. The same requirement of 80% proficiency before moving on to the next step that we’ve been following with Assistance Dogs of the West applies here, too.
Retrieving: Acquire a line, run a certain distance, stop and hunt for an object by scent, pick up the object and return, deliver the object to the handler. Tracking: Acquire a scent, follow a scent, find a subject, return to the handler, alert the handler, return to the subject with the handler.
To get some perspective on how to get started, I called Steve White. White, who’s based near Seattle, is well-known for training police and search dogs using positive reinforcement methods. As with hunting dogs, police dogs still tend to be trained using force-breaking methods. In that regard White, like our gun- and adventure-dog guru Mike Stewart, is ahead of the curve. He’s also spent enough time around other trainers to know what we’re all up against: “The only thing two dog trainers will ever agree on,” says White, “is what the third trainer is doing wrong.” So true.
White recommends starting search dogs on tracking, rather than air scent. “In my experience, we generally don’t have a dog do any air scenting until his tracking is good.” I’d been told this before, but White’s explanation really hit home for me because it deals with a dog’s natural hunting ability. “Dogs are hardwired to be efficient, effective hunters,” says White. “Wolves, foxes, and domestic dogs, tend to combine tracking, trailing, and air scenting, but the vast majority are of their hunts are successful with air scent and maybe a little tracking at the end.” I’ve seen this dozens of times, now, hunting in the upland with Danger: He’s quartering methodically, then his nose goes up and catches something on the wind; he quarters more aggressively, then his nose goes to the ground, and a few seconds later the birds flush.
A lost hiker, though, could be miles away, and the scent could be faint. A dog on the hunt would probably do better to ignore such a faint scent and keep looking for something fresher. I saw this first-hand yesterday, when Danger was tracking nicely until his trail intersected with one that another handler had just walked down. Danger switched off the aged track and went frantically off on the much fresher track. Clearly, we had him working above his ability level and needed to lower our criteria to ensure success. For starters, White recommends simplifying the terrain and removing every odor that’s not the one you want tracked. “Start on a hard surface like asphalt,” he says “then move to concrete, gravel, and finally grass.” Each of these surfaces holds progressively more scent. White recommended a beginner’s drill:
Have a subject lay treats a few feet apart on an uncontaminated stretch of asphalt. (The subject is also laying down scent while doing this.) The track should be straight and then end without a subject for the dog to find. The idea here is to make the faint (we’re on asphalt, remember) scent of this one human predictive of food. We want to reinforce the dog for the act of tracking. Then, gradually lengthen the distance between treats so that the dog has to follow the scent bridges from one treat to the next. Gradually, we’ll lengthen the track, add turns, and increase the space between treats. It’s a good idea to start your dog on lead, but if you’re having to give the cord anything more than the occasional nudge, you need to reduce the difficulty level for the dog.
OK, so that’s our plan for Sunday’s practice. But not so fast. What about that refind? The conventional wisdom on teaching a dog a behavior chain is to work back to front, called backchaining. We’ll go more into chaining in the weeks to come, but the basic theory here is that the dog learns the proper way to cross the finish line and then starts further and further from it. White says it’s critical to have your refind in place by the time you start running tracks with live subjects at the end. If you teach the dog to track and then offer a big reward without a refind, and then change thee the rules to require that refind, “The dog thinks this is a buzz kill,” says White. “And in actual neurochemical terms, that’s exactly what it is. The dog isn’t searching to find a person, its seraching to satisfy its neurochemical urge. He wants that good endorphine buzz, and you’ve just taken it away from him.” Bummer.
The good news, though, is that training a refind is much easier than reinforcing and refining a dog’s tracking ability. The refind is simple mechancics and repetition. To train the refind, we’ll use what’s called a runaway, a short track to an easy find where the dog has seen the subject leave. The steps are:
- Dog finds the subject. Subject marks the behavior and rewards it.
- Handler calls the dog back and requires a sit (the alert), marks the behavior and rewards it.
- Handler gives the cue “show me,” and the subject calls the dog back.
- When handler and dog are back at the subject, the handler delivers a jackpot-sized reward.
OK, so that’s the order of business: Get Danger’s refind up to 100 percent and reinforce him for slowing down and focusing on the track at hand.
Information about Steve White’s videos and courses can be found on his Web site, i2i K9
by Mike Stewart | on September 16th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training, Video Clips
In order to train any dog, you’ve got to know what your dog is willing to work for. Every dog is a bit different, even within breeds, so finding your dog’s favorite things is up to you. In this clip, Mike explains five basics that should be combined in different proportions depending on what you want in your finished dog. If you pay attention, you’ll also hear Mike mention something called a primary motivator or reinforcer. Here’s a quick primer on the difference between primary and secondary reinforcers.
Primary Reinforcers: These are the things a dog naturally views as rewards. You don’t have to teach a dog that a liver treat is worth working for. Almost all dogs will view a treat as a primary reinforcer. Most retrieving breeds (with a strong prey drive) will view a retrieve or even getting to hold a favorite object as a primary reinforcer.
The Gray Area: These are motivators that some dogs may see as primary and others may have to learn as secondary reinforcers. In this category are verbal praise, affection, and just being with you. Some highly-social Labs go crazy over a high-pitched baby voice. Meanwhile, independent sled-dog and pointer breeds often don’t care whether you’re around or not.
Secondary Reinforcers: These are also called conditioned reinforcers because the dog learns that they’re valuable based on their pairing with primary reinforcers. That sound that the food makes when it hits the bottom of your dog’s bowl is a good example. Most dogs will sprint toward that sound becaus they’ve learned that it’s predictive of food. If your dog will come to that sound, you should be able to train him, through repetition, to come to any sound.
Finally, there’s the bridge, which Mike Mentions. The main purpose of the bridge is to mark a specific behavior and to let the dog know that the reward is coming. But over the course of training, the sound of the bridge—a click or a one-syllable word—will become a conditioned reinforcer in its own right. The bridge word is the lynchpin in positive field dog training. It allows you to mark behaviors at a great distance and then deliver your reward once the dog has returned to you. It’s only through building up the power of these secondary reinforcers that we can get the dog to perform consistently at a distance without resorting to force methods.
by Grayson Schaffer | on September 3rd, 2009 | in Training
Last week, Sue had me and Danger meet her at a local shopping mall to have a go a working from a wheelchair. Needless to say, this makes everything more difficult and meant Danger had to stay close and avoid pulling, lest we end up on a Nantucket sleigh ride through the mall. Going through doorways, up and down ramps, and through peopled areas were all twice as complicated as they normally are. The takeaway: A good service dog has to be calm, precise, and utterly unflappable. Danger was quick to learn how to press the handicapped access button on the door and equally quick to hump the leg of the indiscriminant petter who smothered him just afterward. I’ve since recovered.
by Grayson Schaffer | on September 1st, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training, Video Clips
We’ll teach heeling to a bike just like we’ve taught all of our other skills so far: slowly and in increments. Once you’ve got a good loose-leash walk or off-lead heel, you can start this. (If your dog won’t heel ordinarily, it’s unlikely he’ll heel when you add such a big, mechanical distraction.) When you’ve got this down, it’s a great trick for riding around town with your pup as well as having him join you on some mellow spins through the woods. Remember, don’t run your dog flat-out behind a bike until he’s at least a year old. And even then, keep the distances short. Puppy joints aren’t tough enough to take prolonged pounding.
- Walk with your dog at heel on his normal side while you push the bike on the other.
- Once you’ve mastered that, move the dog to the bike side and walk with the bike between you and the dog.
- Finally, mount up and ride out. If you’ve built up each of the steps slowly—over days, not minutes—you should have a dog willing to heel beside you as you ride.
by Grayson Schaffer | on August 27th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training, Video Clips
Here’s an uncut clip of Cooper’s first water retrieves. He makes three beautiful deliveries when we cut off his return to the bank. On the last one, I’m not quick enough and we quickly discover why it’s so important to be in the water with your dog.
by Grayson Schaffer | on August 20th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Video Clips
Last week Danger and I returned to Wildrose Colorado to polish up Danger’s water work in Clear Creek. He’s matured a lot since we made the video below, last year. But water entries have remained a problem, due mostly to the fact that I took Danger whitewater kayaking when he was four months old and scared the crap out of him. As a result, he’s prone to charging toward the water, stopping and then running up and down the bank for a few seconds before I finally persuade him to go in. Fearlessness in water is a critical skill for any gundog or adventure dog. We want our pups to love water and see swimming as high-value reward. The goal is a dog that drives straight into the drink in a controlled manner. Huge leaps are fun to watch but, as with humans diving into unknown pools, they can also lead to serious injury for the dog.
To improve Danger’s water entry, Mike had me divide the task into two steps that you’ll see in the video. First, we had him start his retrieve from a small sandbar in the middle of the creek. The sandbar eliminates bank-running by eliminating the bank. That’s called an environmental cue and it sets the dog up to succeed the same way that starting him lining along a fence does.
Second, we moved to a point of land that juts into a deep pool in the creek. The point gave Danver limited options for bank-running but, more importantly, put him a few feet above the water. As a result, he builds momentum coming down the bank which carries him into the water.
After a few of these drills, we had him going straight in off the rip-rap along a bank that ordinarily would have tripped him up.
by Mike Stewart | on August 18th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way
Here, I introduce Opus to water. The keys to a successful water introduction are simple:
- Get in the water with your pup and make sure it’s not to cold and not more than shin deep
- Toss your puppy bumper or toy. Make sure your dog doesn’t break for it, but watches it for a moment.
- Once you send him, move to block the most direct route from the bumper back to shore. This will prevent the pup from making land and running off with the bumper.
Every good adventure dog needs to comfortable in the water. Making a clean and fun introduction will pay off for a lifetime.
by Grayson Schaffer | on August 17th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Video Clips
Mike shows you how to pick your pup’s crate. The inclination is to save some money by getting a crate that will fit your dog when he’s full grown. Unfortunately, that often leads to a dog that’s conditioned to soil his nest.
by Mike Stewart | on August 7th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training
Introducing a young, inexperienced dog to water, whether it’s a hunting dog or otherwise, is a matter of desensitization. We accomplish it just as we would introduce a dog to any new situation—progressively. In case it needs to be said: Never “teach” your pup to swim by tossing him off a dock or forcing him into the water. That’s a recipe for a land-loving dog.
Start off in shallow, warm water, where the pup can easily stand. You should introduce your pup to water only after he understands basic obedience skills and the two of you have developed a trusting relationship. No problem if you’ve had a kids pool in the dog’s yard—actual swimming is different. If you make your intro to water slow and fun, you should end up with a dog that views swimming as a great reward.
The best way to ensure that your dog goes in the water at the first introduction is to get into the water with the pup. Most dogs don’t like being left on shore and will follow their handler right in. I begin with several sessions of heel work in the shallows, with no expectations for swimming. Once he’s relaxed, we start to play with a bumper (retriever), favorite toy (other dogs). Make sure there are no drop-offs or other spots where your novice pup could lose his footing and get dunked. Usually, after a few quick retrieves in elbow-deep water, the dog forgets about the water altogether.
Slowly and progressively toss the object farther from shore. We’re talking only a foot or two of additional distance with each toss and only a few tosses each day to avoid boredom. Water introductions can take several days depending on the dog. When your pup is showing no hesitation toward the water, toss the object far enough to require him to swim to reach it. Usually, that’s all it takes.
No?, He won’t pick up his feet and start to swim? Lead the dog out with you until he’s got to swim. Quickly, they catch on and the swimming reflex is triggered.
Once you’ve got him swimming. Try this gradual build-up to water retrieves
- Wade out with the dog at heel. Toss the bumper just far enough to require him to swim.
- Heel the dog back to the bank.
- Once he’s calm, send him for the bumper. Making him wade out with you to throw the bumper requires him to remember the location of the bumper. It builds calmness, focus, and problem solving ability. Throwing an object and immediately sending your dog immediately can spin your dog up and make him uncontrollable.
- Meet your dog in the water to take the bumper to avoid any fraps on the bank.
- And keep the distractions low. No other dogs, kids, boats, gunfire, real birds or any of that. Remember Wildrose Law #6. Solve one problem at a time.
With a solid introduction to water, layering progressively more complicated skills—like directional signals—will be easy.
by Mike Stewart | on July 27th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training
Canine prey drive is the instinct that makes many dogs love to locate, pursue, and catch game. It’s a trait that has its roots in wolves, but that’s been honed through breeding over centuries. A strong prey drive, once integral for the animal’s survival, is now the trait that’s often the best predictor that a pup will make a good working dog in any field.
Man’s association with the wolf and, later, its domesticated descendants extends back more than 15,000 years. This relationship evolved first out of scavenging—wolves following nomads and living off their waste. But rest assured, man quickly recognized the gifts and abilities of these animals to hunt and track prey. Well before the shotgun, hunters in Europe pursued rabbits and fowl with falcons. And they used dogs to locate, pursue, and flush game for the birds much like they do for the gun. In today’s dogs, you can see prey drive in a number of different incarnations:
- Retrievers to fetch game
- Hunting hounds to pursue foxes, raccoons, and other animals. Narcotic dogs that locate drugs.
- Narcotics dogs that sniff out drugs
- Border collies that herd sheep
- Any dog that’s ever bolted after a squirrel
But prey drive isn’t limited to hunting or even to working animals. Prey drive also translates into a dog’s motivation to perform. And as a testament to the selective breeding process that’s been honed over centuries, certain elements of prey drive have been deselected. Retrievers, for example, have been bred to pick up game but, contrary to a pure prey instinct, not to consume it. That trait is known as soft mouth. On the other hand, dogs used for hog and bear hunting have been selected for their instinct to catch, hold, and kill game as a pack.
Now if you’re thinking this doesn’t relate to you because you’re not in the business of pursuing feral pigs behind a pack of dogs, I’ve got news for you. Any of these traits—both desirable and not—can be present to in shelter dogs of the type that commonly end up in homes. Evaluating a dog’s prey drive should be of paramount consideration to you in selecting a pet or a working dog alike. Does the untrained dog have any interest in thrown objects? Will he give them up after fetching them or does he clamp down fiercely?
Controlling Prey Drive
The Wildrose training methodology is designed to bring out the natural abilities of dogs (instincts), apply controls, and forge a working
relationship (bond) between the dog and the handler. This is where prey drive becomes important. We want to promote natural instincts like tracking, flushing, and retrieving, but control them so that the dog is looking to us for guidance and not bolting at the first sign of a bird. We accomplish this
by establishing a positive relationship between the handler and the dog and relying on a training methodology that uses fulfillment of a dog’s natural desires as rewards for calm behavior. You give us what we want; we give you what you want.
by Grayson Schaffer | on July 22nd, 2009 | in Features, Training
A lot gets made of which training collar you choose for your dog. There are plenty to pick from—chokers, pronged pinch collars, e-collars, slip leads, and regular old flat buckle collars. One way or another they all do the same thing, which is relay information from the handler to the dog. In the course of training Danger, I’ve tried every collar you can imagine and talked to a dozen experts, who each swore by a certain one and dismissed the others as utter nonsense. All of this has brought me to my own conclusion, which I feel equally certain about: Everyone pays far too much attention to the collar. Instead, we need to be thinking about what information the collar is conveying and—more importantly—whether the dog understands what we’re trying to tell him.
One of the big things that leads to miscommunication is this idea of the collar correction. That’s when you snap a choker chain or apply an electric shock as a means of letting the dog know he’s just done something wrong. The problem with collar corrections isn’t that they’re inherently mean or dangerous, though they certainly can be in novice hands, it’s that they miss the opportunity to supply useful information and instead say only one thing: Wrong! If you want to then show the dog the correct behavior, you’ve got to do it as a second step: Wrong. This way. Many dogs will learn new skills like this, but mathematically it’s more difficult. The number of ways a dog can do any task wrong is nearly infinite. The number of ways to do it right is only one. And since dog training isn’t a quiz show, it’s probably a lot easier to tell him the right answer rather than let him guess.
Collar pressure drills are the answer. ADW’s founder, Jill Felice, showed me this. She also trains horses, which are too big and powerful to use something like a collar correction on. So, instead, she teaches them that light reign pressure is a directional instruction. Same goes for dogs. Light collar pressure to the left means move left. It’s really easy to teach, too. Put light pressure on the lead in one direction and reward when the dog moves toward the pressure. This is a good exercise to use a clicker on, as well. Once you’ve got a dog that understands that light collar pressure means move toward the pressure—and not, say, pull harder to get out ahead—you’ll be able to offer real collar corrections that mean something—”I want you over here“—rather than the spirit-dampening, Wrong. The nice thing about teaching your dog the meaning of collar pressure is that you can do it with an ordinary flat collar.
I ended up at this collar pressure exercise because the snap of a choker collar had absolutely no effect on Danger. Ditto the pronged pinch collar. It could be because he’s a big strong boy with a thick neck, but more likely my novice timing and repeated jerks just hardened him to it. Remember what we learned from Steve White’s Eight Rules of Punishment: Punishment is reinforcing to the punisher. In other words, you’ve got to use punishment carefully, because it wears out the more you use it.
The goal in all of this is to have a dog that’s calm and dependable. And to that end, you don’t really need a collar. The same way you can teach a dog to move with collar pressure, you can teach him to move with hand signals, touches, or even eye movements. Jill has taught her own dogs that a touch on the top of the head means “It’s your turn”—a necessity for things like feeding and coming and going into different holding pens, since she has 13 dogs and can’t very well be muscling that many animals around all the time.
As a general rule, think about what you’re telling your dog with whatever method you choose. Most of all, ask yourself whether you’re supplying the right answer or just shutting your dog down when he gets it wrong.
by Grayson Schaffer | on July 21st, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Video Clips
Here, Mike shows us how to train young Opus to stay quietly on his dog mat. This is a skill that’s best taught through positive reinforcement—rewarding the dog for being on the mat—and polished by setting boundaries: No, you cannot come off that mat until I say so.
by Mike Stewart | on July 20th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way
Dogs have long been used to alert us to faint whiffs of drugs or explosives. In the last decade, trainers have also discovered that dogs can smell high or low blood sugar levels in their diabetic handlers and alert specifically for each of these life-threatening conditions. Unfortunately, the information out there isn’t being readily shared and the techniques being used to train diabetic alert dogs is anything but standardized. To better understand this new field of dog training, we held the first annual Diabetic Alert Dog Training Conference here at Wildrose Kennels, June 24–26, 2009. The workshop was full and overflowing with 60 participants and 18 dogs covering 12 different states. Some of the participants were trainers, and some were people with diabetic alert dogs seeking training assistance. People who came without dogs were looking for guidance in finding a dog. The conference was facilitated by Rita Martinez, “Clickin’ Canines,” in California. Breakout sessions for hands-on work were led by Wildrose trainers, Mike Stewart, Jeremy Criscoe, Ben Summerall, and James and Carissa Skipper.
These are some of the observations we made over the weekend:
- There is a general lack of defined and standardized alerts. In some cases, dogs’ apparent alerts were confused for high or low blood sugar.
- There was a lack of obedience with most participating dogs. Diabetic alert dogs need to comply with the same public access standards as any other service animal.
- There was a question of consistent scent discrimination between the high and low blood sugar levels.
Participants had a great many questions, and a good number were answered by the trainers and those who own and handle their own diabetic alert dogs. Rachel and Abi Thornton, who have Mr. Darcy (a Wildrose Labrador) to alert Abi, run diabeticalertdog.com where they answer questions and give tips based on their experience training Mr. Darcy, who’s now 18 months old.
We’ve got a lot to learn in this field, and there’s an overwhelming need for diabetic alert dogs. More than 16 million people in the US have diabeties. Wildrose has begun developing a training program specifically for diabetic alert dogs. Currently, we have three puppies in training to prove the concepts. Wildrose British Labradors are known for their amazing scenting ability, temperament, and trainability. Their instincts, intelligence, desire to please and smaller size make them exceptional candidates for diabetic alert work. We’ve set up a page for our diabetic alert program here, and will also be discussing the top on our Facebook page.
Finally, we’ve set up the Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs Foundation (Wildrose DAD) as a non-profit project of Tupelo, Mississippi’s Create Foundation, to provide quality diabetic alert dogs to individuals with Type I diabetes. All donations to Wildrose DAD go to support programs designed to deliver trained dogs to qualified individuals with Type 1 diabetes. Also the foundation will support research, continued education, training and information dissemination about diabetic assistance dogs.
To contribute online to the foundation, go to createfoundation.com and search Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dog Fund or send a check to Create Foundation, P. O. Box 1053, Tupelo, MS 38802 and designate Wildrose Diabetic Alert Fund.
by Grayson Schaffer | on July 14th, 2009 | in Features, Video Clips
Here, Mike shows the results of successfully crate training Opus.
by Grayson Schaffer | on July 9th, 2009 | in Features, Training
Here’s one that could be a lifesaver for your dog. The combination of wait and go through is what we use to get our dogs to stop at every doorway, check in with us, and go through only when told. Ideally, these should become default behaviors that don’t require a verbal “wait” cue but instead are cued by the sight of any doorway. This is especially important when exiting vehicles, when an excited pooch might go bounding into traffic. Here’s how to train it.
- With your dog on lead and heeling, approach a doorway. Stop and have your dog sit. Click and treat for eye contact after the sit. Repeat this part of the drill in reps of 10, spaced out with breaks between reps until the dog will sit and look up without the cue.
- Now add the word “wait” to cue this chain of stop, sit, and look up at the doorway. The ADW trainers always position themselves on the hinge side of the door and remember it with the mnemonic, “human–>hinge.”
- With your dog waiting patiently, try adding the cue “go through.” Many dogs will just understand that phrase, and specifically your tone, as a release to go through the doorway, a big reward in itself. If he doesn’t get it, you can add some leash pressure and a gesture to cue the go through.
- Now to get your dog to turn around and check in again rather than just race through the door into whatever fun is on the other side: Click your dog right as he goes through the door. Sue taught me this trick, which uses the clicker as both bridge and cue in one. In this case, the click doesn’t mark the desirable behavior, it precedes it. Danger hears the click and rather than bolting, turns to eat his treat.
Practice this drill every time you go through a door and you’ll have your pal checking in with you at crosswalks, trail forks, and new doors without having to ask.
by Mike Stewart | on July 6th, 2009 | in Features, The Wildrose Way, Training
Summer months provide the opportunity to keep our dogs in shape, improve their skill levels, and, perhaps, rectify shortcomings identified in the field last season. Use the cool, damp mornings and be careful of the summer heat. Exhaustion can be a killer.
Retrievers, pointers, and other high-energy, athletic dogs have enormous enthusiasm for the job, often working to the point of self-injury. On hot, dry days, body heat builds up quickly in the active dog. And because they don’t sweat there’s no way to dissipate the heat.
The key is to recognize the warning signs of exhaustion early and to avoid training during the hottest part of the day. Warning signs include excessive panting, frothing at the mouth, lethargy, and dizziness. Some exceptionally driven dogs won’t slow down as they overheat. You’ve got to be exceptionally vigilant and stop training and cool them down with water.
Get the dog in shape before active training programs. If your dog has been out of service for a while or has become overweight and out of shape, begin conditioning with long walks practicing heel work and swimming retrieves on cool mornings. Swimming is more aerobic, easier on the dog’s joints, and cooler than running. Gradually extend the duration and intensity of the sessions getting the dog accustomed to working in warmer conditions.
Train in the early morning hours when the ground and air are cooler with less humidity. The dew is a bonus, much better than a sun-baked field. Involve lots of water work and choose places with a large tree canopy for shade. Plan sessions. Each exercise should have a training objective to prevent wasted energy, which builds body heat. Hold off long lining, casting, or pointing training for cooler weather. You can run four 25-yard retrieves with brief rest periods between each retrieve and keep the dog cooler than running one 100-yard retrieve.
by Grayson Schaffer | on June 22nd, 2009 | in Features, Training
I’d always had this impression that Labs naturally held things—birds—softly in their mouths. To some extent it’s true that a dog can be predisposed toward having a so-called soft mouth or a low-pressure bite. Mostly, though, it’s a skill that must be trained like any other. “Hold” means you’ve got to keep this object, whatever it may be, balanced between your teeth and not chomp or chew on it. I don’t care how soft a dog’s mouth is, if he doesn’t know a hold command and you put a pork sausage in his mouth, it’s gone. Sue and the ADW trainers taught me this sausage trick as a way of illustrating what’s called stimulus control. That is: Because I’ve given the “hold” cue, Danger should view the sausage not as a treat for completing a task, as he would ordinarily, but as an object to hold as he’s been taught. The treat, his normal dog food, comes after he’s held the sausage for what must be an unbearable length of time.
How to work up to this one slowly: Teach your dog the hold command with a wooden dowel. Click just for light but steady pressure on the dowel being sure to maintain control of it until your dog will hold it—even for a fraction of a second—without rolling it in his molars. Add the cue once you’re getting a consistent hold of a few seconds. Then, once he knows the command, very slowly raise the criteria with objects that he’s more likely to chomp down on or treat like a chew toy. Finally, when your dog can hold actual chew or squeeky toys calmly, introduce a frozen sausage. Then slowly let it thaw as you train. Mike and the Wildrose gang use a similar progresion for hunting retrievers, starting with a frozen game bird and then then gradually letting it thaw as several young dogs make retrieves with it.