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Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Your Dog Nose Fun! SEEKING: the Master Emotion

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Author: Dawn Archer Pizzoferrato, ABCDT; owner of Arrow Dog Training – Get Your Dog on Target! and clicker trainer and Nose Work Instructor at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station.

seek |sēk|

verb (past sought |sôt|) [trans.]

attempt to find (something): they came here to seek shelter from biting winter winds.

• attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something): the new regime sought his extradition | [intrans.] her parents had never sought to interfere with her freedom.

• ask for (something) from someone: he sought help from the police.

• (seek someone/something out) search for and find someone or something: it’s his job to seek out new customers.

This is what most of us think of when we here the word “seek.”  But what many of us don’t know is that SEEKING is a basic animal emotion that drives much of the behaviors we see in our dogs.

In her book, Animals Make Us Human, Creating The Best Life For Animals, Temple Grandin discusses the work of one of her mentors, Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University.  Dr. Panksepp wrote the book, Affective Neuroscience, where he identifies and names the core emotional systems of the animal and human brain.  He called these systems the “blue-ribbon emotions,” finding that well-organized behavior sequences can be generated with electrical stimulation of localized areas of the brain. So, when you stimulate the “fear” system, you get a snarling, biting animal and when you stimulate the SEEKING system of the brain, you get a animal that starts moving forward, exploring and sniffing its environment.

These core “blue-ribbon emotions” are SEEKING, FEAR, PANIC, LUST, CARE, and PLAY.  Some of these are well known, but SEEKING is probably new to most of us.

So what exactly is SEEKING?  Dr. Panksepp defines SEEKING as “the basic impulse to search, investigate, and make sense of the environment.”  It’s a combination of things we usually think of as different concepts: “wanting” something good, “looking forward” to something good, and curiosity. Both Dr. Panksepp and Temple Grandin speculate that SEEKING may be a type of “master emotion.” SEEKING is about looking forward to something good, not having something good. This system is probably to blame for most of the marital infidelity in us humans, but it’s about survival in our dogs.

So, now think about your dog.  Is this SEEKING “emotional system” strong in your dog?  I would dare to guess that it is.  Would you like to give your dog a safe outlet to practice and fulfill this emotional system?  If so, there’s a new dog sport sweeping the nation that centers on your dog’s natural scenting ability and desire to SEEK good things like food or toys.

The training for this sport is simple and immediately rewarding.  With “Box Games,” your dog is allowed enter a secured area with no other dogs and encouraged to SEEK, explore, and search for their favorite treat, toy or ball among mostly empty cardboard boxes.   As handler, you take the back seat, only intervening to keep your dog in the designated area, while your dog does what it does best … use its nose to find food.  Trainer/Helpers will work to keep your dog interested and help them learn to rely on their noses instead of their human “tool.”  All interactions are positive and non-threatening.  And your dog will come away happy, satisfied, and often tired.

Learn More About Dawn & How to Get Your Dog On Target!

Dawn is an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer, an experienced Nose Work Instructor, an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and the owner of Arrow Dog Training.

Dawn is AnnaBelle’s resident clicker training specialist and she can help you Get Your Dog on Target! Dawn uses scientifically proven “clicker training” and “free shaping” to teach your dog all the basics plus other fun, useful behaviors. She uses operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, without correction, to help you and your dog build a bond of trust and respect.

In addition to presenting Doggie Do Good clicker classes, Dawn also offers Nose Work classes, TDI® (Therapy Dog International) classes and in-home private training. Dawn’s group classes are taught at AnnaBelle’s on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Click here to see her complete class schedule!

Follow Dawn on Twitter!Find out what’s going on in Dawn’s clicker and Nose Work classes.

Join Dawn on Facebook! Get clicker training and Nose Work updates and advice.

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“Dogs Enjoy Second Home” at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station in #LoveLansing!

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Author: Ameerah Gillespie • argillespi@lsj.com • December 21, 2010 • From Lansing State Journal*

If there’s one thing that Benny loves to do, it would be taking care of his pack.

Out of a class of 80, he’s established his spot as the popular pint-size in the room.

“I love Benny, the little Chihuahua that started with us,” said Ann Andrews, 59, who is one of the co-owners of AnnaBelle’s Pet Station in downtown Lansing. “He’s so funny when his dad comes to pick him up, his dad will hold his little crate and Benny literally jumps from there right into it.”

Benny is among many cool city dogs that attend AnnaBelle’s for training, grooming and regular day care. Thus the name @coolcitydogs on Twitter, a regular pro-Lansing voice in social media.

The one-stop pet drop dream turned to reality in 2009 with the help of partner Angela Brown. Andrews and Brown were lawyers at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn law firm in Lansing. But the distance to take her dogs to day care became an issue for Andrews.

“We were both in the litigation section doing arbitrations and trials and depositions and all the things that litigators do,” Andrews said.

Andrews stated that she and Brown have new jobs in law, but they’ve freed up enough time to work at AnnaBelle’s during evenings and weekends.

Andrews said one of the main reasons people give up their dogs are due to behavioral issues. Both Brown and Andrews said they want to change that by teaching dogs social skills.

No matter how big. No matter what kind.

“The thing that touches my heart is to see a dog that comes in that’s fearful, reactive and to finish up the six-week class you know, happy and anxious to come here,” Andrews said.

Pele is an 11-month-old Keeshond and spends time at AnnaBelle’s several times a month. His owner, Kara Schmitt, says she has seen positive changes in him.

“As many challenges as we’ve had, we’ve been so lucky with the staff that we’ve found,” Brown said. “A lot of that was really personal connections we all had long before we were even thinking about AnnaBelle’s … and to me that’s just been the amazing thing.”

“I’m a happy camper,” Schmitt said. “Pele’s very smart, so when they would be working on the second or the third night of class, he’s already on the fifth night of class.”

Brown says she feels lucky their company has done well even in a depressed economy.

“As many challenges as we’ve had, we’ve been so lucky with the staff that we’ve found,” Brown said. “A lot of that was really personal connections we all had long before we were even thinking about AnnaBelle’s … and to me that’s just been the amazing thing.”

*Reprinted with express written permission.

Tips and Guidance on Canine Good Citizen Test Item 10: Supervised Separation

Monday, October 11th, 2010

In the sixth and last part of a multi-part series, Carol Hein-Creger, lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s, and Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, and certified CGC evaluator, takes you through each of the CGC exercises and offers tips and guidance for practicing and for successfully passing a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 10: Supervised separation

This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.

Tips and Guidance:

The dog is not required to “sit” or “down” during this test. However you may at your discretion command your dog to “sit” or “down” prior to leaving the dog. Understand that at this level of obedience testing, it is neither expected nor required that a dog maintain formal obedience in the absence of the owner. However, the dog may not become excessively agitated (for example, barking excitedly, lunging or straining on the leash, bouncing about); the dog is expected to remain well-behaved and in control while with the Canine Good Citizen Evaluator.

Check the Canine Training Center’s page to see when the next Canine Good Citizen class starts! Sign up today on-line or call 517.599.0995.

Tips and Guidance for Canine Good Citizen Test Items 8 and 9: Reaction to Other Dogs and Reaction to Distraction

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

In the fifth part of a multi-part series, Carol Hein-Creger, lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s, and Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, and certified CGC evaluator, take you through each of the CGC exercises and offers tips and guidance for practicing and for successfully passing a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 8: Reaction to another dog

This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of 20 to 30 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Tips and Guidance: While the Evaluator can’t require that the dog sit or down while the two handlers are greeting each other, you may at your discretion command your dog to do so. (I recommend that the dog be under the formal “Heel” command at the Handler’s left side for the approach to the other handler/dog team; given a formal “Sit” command while the two handlers are exchanging greetings; and again given the formal “Heel” command to resume their walk after the greeting.)

Test Item 9: Reaction to distraction

This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The Canine Good Citizen evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane.

Tips and Guidance:

The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.  The Canine Good Citizen Evaluator has the option of combining test exercises. For example, the Evaluator may elect to provide the distractions required in this test while the dog is completing a different exercise, such as Test Item #5, Walking Through a Crowd. If the distractions are provided in conjunction with another test during which the dog is supposed to be moving (heeling), then you may not command your dog to sit or down during distraction. If the Evaluator elects to conduct the Reaction to Distraction test as a stand-alone test, then you may at your discretion instruct your dog to “sit” or “down” during the distractions. Choose the option that best ensures your dog’s comfort level during distractions.

Stay tuned for tips for Test Item 10 – Supervised Separation. Check the Canine Training Center’s page to see when the next Canine Good Citizen class starts! Sign up today on-line or call 517.599.0995.

Barney Rubble’s Story

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Barney Rubble at his home in Detroit

Barney's old dog house and the new dog house Mary bought for him

We’d like you to meet Barney Rubble, a 100 pound Rottweiler, who despite living outside on a chain in Detroit, was pretty well-cared for and has a super-sweet, loving disposition. His family saved him from being a guard dog at a local business, but they didn’t have the means to care for him. A kind soul named Mary, driving through his neighborhood in Detroit on her way to work, stopped by and asked his family if they needed help caring for him. Thankfully, they said yes. For over a year, Mary stopped to see Barney Rubble twice a day, feeding and watering him, changing the straw in his new dog house that she got for him, giving him love and affection, and playing ball with him – his very favorite past-time!

Guardian angel Mary took Barney to the vet, and had all his vaccinations done, as she had done with other dogs in this neighborhood. She made sure Barney was very well-fed and he was even a little chubby – she liked to call him her “little cow.” Between Mary and his family, Barney was loved.

All in all, Barney didn’t have such a bad life. Until his family’s house burned down. His family, under their dire circumstances, left Barney in Mary’s care. Unfortunately, Mary could not take Barney home with her because she lives in a small apartment. Mary’s mother, another guardian angel, had already taken in three large stray dogs and could not take another. Mary could not bear the thought of Barney Rubble being picked up by animal control or being taken by someone with bad intentions. She contacted the Rottweiler Rescue to see if they could help. Coincidentally, the folks at the Rottweiler Rescue knew that AnnaBelle’s was looking for a foster dog to go through training classes, be socialized in day care, and turned into a upstanding member of the community.  And so the match was made! Barney became AnnaBelle’s first foster dog.

Barney's Family Home After it Burned to the Ground

Barney’s First Day at AnnaBelle’s

Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, temperament tested Barney Rubble and found him to have a sound temperament, with no toy or food aggression. Thankfully, Barney does not have any fear of people and clearly views them as the source of all good things for him. He has a true affection for people and just wants someone by his side. After giving Barney some time to adjust, our groomer and professional pet stylist, Michelle van Kleef, gave Barney a good scrubbing. Michelle reports that Barney was a very well-behaved during the grooming process, despite the fact that he’s probably never had a bath before!

Next, Barney went to see veterinarian and good friend of AnnaBelle’s, Dr. Joyce Heideman at the Southside Animal Hospital. Dr. Joyce said Barney was in pretty good shape – except, he was heartworm positive. Not surprising news, but a little disappointing. The Rottweiler Rescue offered to pay for his heartworm treatment and soon, Barney Rubble was on his way to good health.  He is now nine weeks out from his heartworm treatment and doing very well!

Happiness!

Barney just started his beginning obedience classes. Our wonderful interns from the Michigan State University Pre-Veterinary Medicine program, began working with Barney in classes with Carol Hein-Creger and Erinn Hadley of the Canine Training Center this week. This is no easy task. While Barney is sweet and kind, he is also 100 pounds of determined Rottweiler and has had no previous training whatsoever! But our interns are doing an amazing job. They have even volunteered to work with Barney on the weekends so that he gets practice, activity, and positive reinforcement.

Barney also loves other dogs. He still gets a little over-excited when he meets new dogs, but loves to romp and play with other large dogs, especially other Rottweilers and pitbulls. Last week, he spent several days at Carol Hein-Creger’s house and got to play with her long-haired foster Rottweiler, Skye, and another Rottweiler, Amos. Barney had so much fun! Soon, Barney will be neutered (Skye and the rest of us will be very thankful) and the AnnaBelle’s Team will continue to work on his house training and getting him well-socialized in AnnaBelle’s Day Care Depot. We hope that Barney will be ready for adoption in a few months, after he completes 12 weeks of training classes.

This is been such an amazing team effort at AnnaBelle’s. All of our staff (and many friends) have pitched in, cared for Barney, worked with Barney, loved Barney, and fought over who he loves best. When we find the right family, it will be difficult to let him go, as anyone who has fostered a dog knows. But making Barney Rubble the best possible canine companion and finding him the right forever home is our goal, even if it makes us tear up and sniffle … a lot.

UPDATE: After only week on Petfinder, through a courtesy posting by Voiceless-MI, Barney Rubble found his forever home! He was adopted by an experienced Rottweiler owner, who lives in Grand Blanc, MI on a large property with plenty of room for Barney to run and play with his new Rottie sister!

Tips and Guidance for Canine Good Citizen Test Items 6 and 7: Sit/Down on Command and Coming When Called

Friday, September 17th, 2010

In the fourth part of a multi-part series, Carol Hein-Creger, lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s, and Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, and certified CGC evaluator, takes you through each of the CGC exercises and offers tips and guidance for practicing and for successfully passing a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 6: Sit and down on command – staying in place

This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). Prior to this Canine Good Citizen test, the dog’s leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler’s commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.

Tips and Guidance: This is a 3 part test item. If your dog is properly trained that “sit means sit” and “down means down” (single command only), you may command your dog to “sit” or “down” only; the stationary exercise of “sit” and “down” should be practiced at varying leash lengths for distance control.

Test Item 7: Coming when called

This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to “stay” or “wait” or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog.

Tips and Guidance: This Canine Good Citizen exercise tests only the dog’s ability to return to handler upon a recall command. The Evaluator can not require a sit or down prior to the recall command. However, you may command your dog to sit or down at your discretion. Note that this exercise does not test whether the dog stays in position — the “stay” is a separate exercise (Test Item #6). If you are concerned about your dog’s ability to stay in place until recalled, the Evaluator can stand by your dog and hold the leash while you walk 10 feet away. After recalling your dog, you may at your discretion command the dog to sit or perform another finishing exercise.

Stay tuned for tips for Test Items 8 and 9 – Reaction to Another Dog and Reaction to Distraction. Check the Canine Training Center’s page to see when the next Canine Good Citizen class starts! Sign up today on-line or call 517.599.0995.

Tips and Guidance for CGC Test Items 4 and 5: Loose Leash Walking and Walking Through a Crowd

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

In the third of a multi-part series, Carol Hein-Creger, lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s and, Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, and certified CGC evaluator, takes you through each of the CGC exercises and offers tips and guidance for practicing and for successfully passing a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

This Canine Good Citizen test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog’s position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler’s movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops.

Tips and Guidance:

The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired. Strive to maintain a loose leash throughout these exercises. At the CGC level of testing, your dog is not expected to deliver a flawless, focused heel; however, the Evaluator will not want to see a significantly lagging, forging, side winding, or out of control dog, or a handler who must physically force their dog to remain under control at their side.

Test Item 5: Walking through a crowd

This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.  If your dog is already trained in such commands you may use a “leave it” or “no sniff” command, followed by repeat “Heel” command and praise, to prevent your dog from unnecessarily approaching or investigating the people in the crowd.

Tips and Guidance:

If your dog is already trained in such commands you may use a “leave it” or “no sniff” command, followed by repeat “Heel” command and praise, to prevent your dog from unnecessarily approaching or investigating the people in the crowd.

Stay tuned for tips for Test Items 6 and 7 – Sit/Down on Command and Staying in Place and Coming When Called
Check the Canine Training Center’s page to see when the next Canine Good Citizen class starts! Sign up today on-line or call 517.599.0995.

Tips for Canine Good Citizen Test Items 2 and 3 – Sitting Politely for Petting and Grooming

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

In the second of a multi-part series, Carol Hein-Creger, lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s, and Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, and certified CGC evaluator, takes you through each of the CGC exercises and offers tips and guidance for practicing and for successfully passing a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 2: Sitting Politely for Petting

This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler’s side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Tips and Guidance:
You are to command your dog to “sit” for this exercise. I recommend that you courteously instruct the Evaluator to approach your dog from the side and to pet your dog under the chin or on its chest, in keeping with generally acceptable protocols of human/dog interaction. Under no circumstances should your dog be expected to tolerate a fast, direct approach from a stranger making direct eye contact with your dog, with the intent of “patting” your dog on the head. This exercise, and Test Item 3: Appearance and Grooming, are the only exercises when the handler is allowed to physically touch their dog. You may place your hand gently under the collar of your dog to encourage it to stay in the sit position while being touched or groomed by the friendly stranger, and you may repeatedly give the “Sit” command and praise. However, you may not force your dog to maintain its sitting position by placing your hands on its body or pulling on the leash.

Test Item 3: Appearance and grooming
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout.

While the Evaluator can’t require that the dog sit or down, you may command the dog to do so for this exercise. This exercise, and Test Item 2: Sitting Politely for Petting, are the only exercises when the handler is allowed to physically touch their dog. You may place your hand gently under the collar of your dog to encourage it to stay in the sit position while being touched or groomed by the friendly stranger, and you may repeatedly give the “Sit” command (or trained grooming commands, such as “Brush,” “Ears,” “Feet,” etc.) and praise. However, you may not force your dog to maintain its sitting position by placing your hands on its body or pulling on the leash.

Stay tuned for tips for Test Items 4 and 5 – Loose Leash Walking and Walking Through a Crowd!
Check the Canine Training Center’s page to see when the next Canine Good Citizen class starts! Sign up today on-line or call 517.599.0995.

Tips for Canine Good Citizen Test Item 1 – Accepting a Friendly Stranger

Monday, August 9th, 2010

In the first of a multi-part series, Carol Hein-Creger, lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s, and Erinn Hadley, trainer and professional handler, and certified CGC evaluator, takes you through each of the CGC exercises and offers tips and guidance for practicing and for successfully passing a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 1:  Accepting a friendly stranger

This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.

Tips and Guidance:

While the Canine Good Citizen evaluator can’t require that the dog sits or down, you may command your dog to do so for this exercise. You may instruct your dog by voice command only – no yanking, pulling, or harsh correction with the leash. Remember that throughout all of the CGC exercises, you may talk to your dog as much as you want — give the initial command, repeat the command if needed, verbally praise and encourage. If your dog disobeys, verbally encourage and motivate your dog’s compliance — but do not overtly correct your dog with the leash.

Stay tuned for tips for Test Item 2 – Sitting Politely for Petting!

Check the Canine Training Center’s page to see when the next Canine Good Citizen class starts! Sign up today on-line or call 517.599.0995.

What is “Shaping” and Why Should You Use This Training Technique With Your Dog?

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

By: Dawn Archer Pizzoferrato, ABCDT, Owner of Arrow Dog Training

So what is this thing called “shaping”? Some in the dog training world use the term “shaping” to describe any training that increases a response in small increments, even though they may get the response by luring, force, verbal instruction, environmental manipulation, or other external pressure. The correct term for these non-spontaneous training methods would be “successive approximation.” Many animal trainers use successive approximation, gradually raising the height of jumps, the distance of a race, and the heaviness of weights, all to improve performance. The terms “free shaping” and “cold shaping” are used to identify true shaping from “successive approximation” when the dog’s spontaneous behavior is the key factor in the development of the behavior.

True shaping simply means breaking down a behavior into small increments, and reinforcing the dog’s voluntary (not lured or pressured in any way) incremental step until you’ve reached the full behavior. Shaping allows you to create behavior from scratch without physical control or corrections, but rather by drawing on your animal’s natural ability to learn.

Some trainers, like me, believe that shaping is the ultimate approach to operant training (use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behavior). Others incorporate shaping as a valuable part of a multi-faceted training program. Wherever you find yourself of the subject, I’m sure you’ll find that shaping is a Zen-like experience – it takes lots of patience and close observation and it involves breaking down a behavior into small components rather than lumping (reinforcing large chunks of behavior). In contrast to lumping, with shaping, the breakdown of behavior or “splitting” means looking for the tiniest piece of movement, clicking and reinforcing that small movement, and building towards the final behavior. Splitting and reinforcing voluntary behavior is the foundation of shaping complex behaviors.

And why should you learn to “shape” and start using this technique with your dog?

1)    Free shaping is great for encouraging a dog who is shy, anxious or fearful to offer behaviors, because he can’t be wrong. This works particularly well with shelter or rescue dogs who find their lives anything but consistent. Anything he does that even remotely relates to the exercise gets clicked and treated. Once the dog is easily offering random behaviors, then you can, if you choose, switch to shaping a goal behavior.

2)    It’s fast!!  When you combine shaping with a clicker, you can develop complex behaviors within a few minutes.

3)    It’s fun!!  Dogs that are used to the doldrums of practicing basic obedience over and over will find this work exciting and enriching…as will their handlers.  Remember, when clicker training, it’s not only about you trying to get behaviors out of your dog, but your dog is also trying to get “clicks” out of you.  You’ll find this especially true when “shaping” behaviors with your dog.  Your dog will start working (and thinking) hard to discover how to make you click.

Beware, one small warning … once you start shaping, you may become addicted and obsessed (I’m sure your dog will!) and unable to turn back to traditional training work. So, join me for my Doggie Do Good Beginner Obedience clicker class and you’ll be ready soon for Doggie Do Good Clicker II: Beyond Basic Obedience!

Learn More About Dawn & How to Get Your Dog On Target!

Dawn is an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer, an experienced Nose Work Instructor, an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and the owner of Arrow Dog Training. Dawn is AnnaBelle’s resident clicker training specialist and she can help you Get Your Dog on Target! Dawn uses scientifically proven “clicker training” and “free shaping” to teach your dog all the basics plus other fun, useful behaviors. She uses operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, without correction, to help you and your dog build a bond of trust and respect.

In addition to presenting Doggie Do Good clicker classes, Dawn also offers Nose Work classes, TDI® (Therapy Dog International) classes and in-home private training. Dawn’s group classes are taught at AnnaBelle’s on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Click here to see her complete class schedule!