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Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Normal" Life with Dogs

Thank goodness for "normal!"  After last week, I am so happy to have some normal at our house.  We have been working, volunteering at our church's Vacation Bible School, paying bills, teaching classes, etc., etc., and spending time together with our dogs.  It's nice to have dogs -- they really do make me feel better and I have needed that lately.  We are all still adjusting to the loss of our elderly German Shepherd and we are all blessed to have each other while we get this all figured out.

Life with dogs -- it really should be easy.  If it's not, changes need to be made, adjustments tried, options explored.  Attention, focus, and communication are three vitally important ingredients in training your dog.  If you can't get your dog's attention, keep him focused on you, and communicate clearly what you are wanting him to do -- you aren't going to get very far in your training.  To work on these things, try this easy and fun exercise at home:  when your dog looks you in the eye (don't say or do anything, just wait), click and treat him.*  Do this a few times.  When your dog won't take his eyes off of you, it's time to change it up -- now, say your dog's name (ONCE!) and wait for him to look you in the eye, click and treat.  Is your dog starting to sit and stare at you?  Yippee!!!  Click and treat that.  Is your dog staying more focused on the task at hand than before?  Fabulous!!!  Click and treat.  What I expect you will be seeing is a more focused, consistent dog wanting to communicate with you.  And that, in and of itself, deserves to be clicked and treated!!!

(As you try these things at home, please contact me if you have any questions or if something isn't working the way you think it should.)

Clicker training has changed our lives with our dogs.  It has allowed us glimpses into the way they think and the way they learn to allow us to better communicate with them.  Through better communication we have discovered dogs we love to be with, we love having in our lives, and dogs we love being with on our journey together.



*Click and treat -- a clicker is a great way to mark the behaviors in your dog you want to see repeated.  The first thing you should do is "warm up" the clicker.  Click it and give your dog a treat -- just because you clicked.  Show your dog that every time he hears the click, he is going to get something wonderful.  Then uphold this "contract."  Every time you click, your dog gets something good.  Even if you click accidentally, give your dog something good anyway.  Don't violate your contract!!!  If you do, the meaning of the clicker will become fuzzy and inconsistent for your dog.

1 comment:

Kim said...

I'm sorry for your loss and equally grateful for your guidance. I've always thought about using a clicker but had been doing fine without, until now.

Our Newfoundland has drawn a connection between leafy shadows moving around him, seeds falling from a tree and hitting his back all at the same time a motorcycle backfired. I'm thankful that I know where his new distraction comes from and I'm working on calming him in all situations. The good news is that he's over seeds falling and motorcycles. Now shadows just freak him out.

Clicker training, especially with the head start on renewed focus you speak of, might be the very ticket we need. That plus lots and lots of worthwhile treats. :)

Since your blog does not allow for the name and URL sign-in and I don't use any of the profiles you list (I have Google just for this case but never use it), my blog is called This One Wild Life and it's at http://thisonewildlife.com. Nice to meet you!