Logan – part 26 – what we take for granted

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I’m picking away at several books just now as part of my own learning. One of them is The Archaeology of Mind by Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven. Page 382-384 talks of Play Deprivation in ADHD-type Impulse Control disorders in both humans and animals.  One of the suggestions for human children who have been diagnosed (labelled?) with ADHD is that half an hour of active play before lessons helps them concentrate more on learning. I do my best not to attach labels to him but we research where and when we can and labels can be useful as long as we are all talking about the same thing.

Reading this over the festive break, I allowed Logan and Watson supervised play for around 30 minutes in the mornings, with frequent short breaks to stop arousal getting too high and then letting them go back to playing again. After they had played and then cooled down, I headed off to the park with the boy for some ninja BAT. When we do our ninja BAT, we are concentrating both on BAT around other dogs as well as BAT walks which help build that BAT experience he needs. We did this around seven times over the two week festive period.

The weather has been truly foul here today and yesterday and he really does not thank me for taking him out in the freezing cold rain despite the rather snazzy coat we bought for him. This evening, we did some play with toys, clicker training and some search stuff at home which he really enjoys.

I then took him out for a walk around the neighbourhood. Ordinarily at night he is really vigilant and will watch (eyeball) every shadow and movement and he can be vocal around people and dogs. Tonight, BAT style, he bimbled around, sniffed, walked really calmly with me, sniffed some more, we did a few jumps over a railing, sniffed some more, and then walked around the church gardens, sniffing some more. He was looking and acting like a normal dog. Two dogs walked along the other side of the road (around 30ft away) and he had a little look and then went back to sniffing.

These walks are what I  miss with my dog and they are what many take for granted. The last year has been relentless with him but the hard work is paying off for us and these moments shine through. These will become more normal rather than stand out.

This is a combination of all the tiny improvements we are making together, not one thing is the magic bullet.

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Logan Part 25 – BAT sessions

 

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BAT sessions with Logan. Finding the sweet spot where his under threshold and still aware of the other dogs has been and continues to be challenging for us. This morning when we first arrived at the park, there were several other dogs closer than I would have liked for the start of our session.

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An off lead dog ran towards us so we ran off in the other direction to give us more distance. I am very cautious of using fast movement when we are training as it increases his arousal quickly and he becomes unable to focus. His ability to recovery is improving so he is able to bring himself down much more quickly after bouts of arousal, whether planned or otherwise.

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The first half of our session was faster than I would have liked it to be. He did loads of tracking on the ground and was defintitely searching/scenting, a preferred behaviour to him scanning the environment for dogs, but still too fast and we need to keep working on it. I can tell how he is doing by how hard I am working on the other end of the lead. If I’m working hard, then he’s generally struggling more, if he is relaxed than it’s an easier gig for me too. What’s interesting about this is that I can’t always identify what his fast movement is in response to, the only thing I can identify is that it is about his mood.

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In the above and below photos there are snap shots of really nice moments. The black dog approached and kept his distance and they both did really well communicating with each other. I marked and moved and he came with me readily. Great success!

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Second half was much better. Loads of scenting, not much need to help him out with food and his movement was much slower and more steady. On the way back to the car, a fella with a Cockerpoo came in, we were about 15m away, he looked and went back to sniffing. Excellent! Getting there.

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If you are unfamiliar with BAT, please have a look at Grisha Stewart’s website

http://grishastewart.com/bat-overview/

for more details

Logan Part 24 – are you with me, lad?

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our journey together but we have been steadily making progress over the last few months.

I was out with him this afternoon and wanted to write down some of the process I have been using with him. The amount of time Logan is with me mentally, emotionally and phusically based on his observable body language vaires depending on what else is going on in the environment. Observable criteria are how much time he spends looking at me, how much he is interested in the food I have, how easily or readily he moves with me when I move off. There are 4 broad categories to this. These are my definitions, you may have your own

  1. He is not with me at all
  2. He is not with me but searching/scenting/trailing the ground
  3. He is scenting on the ground around me and will generally move in the direction I am travelling
  4. He is fully engaged with me, seeking food reinforcement.

There is also variations within each of these as number 1 can vary between him holding himself in position watching (usually another dog) and running around barking (usually when he is really struggling and doesn’t know what else to do)

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There are differences in his body language between the image above and below. If you were to look at them on there own, in which one would you say he is more likely to move with me? Noticing the subtle changes in his body gives me information about what I am going to do next. He is not really with me, or connected to me in either of these photos.

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In the image below he is moving with me and scenting on the ground. Scenting at the park is good. If he is sniffing in the presence of other dogs, then I know he is more relaxed than if he is watching them. If I  was to move away in the picture below, he is very likely to follow me or to migrate in that direction. We would be moving together, which is cool and desired.

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Image below, he’s “with me, with me”. Looking at me, engaged and I am able to ask him to do simple, well practiced behaviours.

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Today we were out at the park for around 40 minutes. It was relatively busy but we were able to work at decent distances from other dogs. At this stage, and for a while to come yet, I am really relaxed about what I expect of him. The goal is to have him either scenting the ground for long periods when we are out, or both scenting the ground and enagaging with me when I ask him to. I try to be aware as much as I can that this is his walk and his journey. The objective is calm, relaxed behaviour for the whole (or as much as possible) time we are outside. With this in mind, I do everything I know how and am able to do to help him reach that objective. It helps keep me patient.

In the clip above, you can see him searching the ground for food and looking at the dogs. Look at the quality of how he is looking at the dogs. Relaxed or alert? How easily does he go from one to the other. Is the searching frantic or relaxed?

Lastly, I am also aware of the reasons for him being able or unable to behave at a certain level. Is he eyeballing the dogs because he has just arrived and needs to settle in to his session or can he not concentrate on what I am asking him to do because we are reaching his limit. I have to be mindful of all of these things all the time.

Please think about how you can apply some of these concepts to your own dog.

More to come, thanks for reading and your continued interest in our journey together.

Happy training

E-collars and the Alley Monster

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(Image credit – http://deivcalviz.com/2012/11/01/sketches-and-study-muffins/)

Some of you may or may not know that I was a Police Officer in my former career. I joined the Police as a part time officer in 1992 annd then full time from 1997 until 2015. When I joined, I worked with a fair number of cops who had joined the police in the 1970s and even a few in the 1960s. Attitudes were different in those times and there were not as many female officers. In my intake at The Scottish Police College in 1997, a third of my class were female and this had risen to half by 2005 (or thereabouts). One of the attitudes I would hear fairly often from some male cops, young and old, was that while they had no problem working with a female offiecer, they questioned their ability against the 16 stone (226lbs/102kg) angry man in an alley who needed to be arrested. Looking at it objectively, I would question the overweight, out of shape, 30 cigarettes a day male officer’s ability against that mythical alley monster as well. He was very often the one making the remarks.

I’ll get to the point. In my 10 years full time working in uniform patrol in a busy, high crime area of Glasgow I only once came up against the alley monster and looking back with hindsight, the situation could have been dealt with much less violently than it was. I’m not saying that there were not violent people who we came across in our work, but they were so rare that statistically it made no sense to use this as an excuse not to work with, or be apprehensive about working with, female officers.

And to dog training. One of the excuses/reasons I see often for the the justification of the use of e-collars is that the dogs the trainers are using them on are the last resort, need to be sorted now or they’ll be euthanised alley monsters. To date, I have over 4500 hours of client based experience and at least 50% of those hours are dealing with dogs who are aggressive and reactive. Now, statistically, those numbers would throw at me a higher number of alley monsters than I have seen, if they in fact existed in the numbers e-collar trainers claim they do. Again, I am not saying they do not exist, I’m just stating, from my experience, they just don’t exist in those numbers.

Three times in the last month I have worked with dogs whose owners have said I was their last resort. All three of these dogs were showing  aggressive or reactive behaviours and all three of them are making massive improvements with positive training methods. All three of them had been to other trainers too. I can almost guarantee that those three dogs, had they gone to e-collar trainers, would have had an e-collar out on them with the justification that it was the only option. It wasn’t the only option, we showed that.

Some police officers like the fact that they occassionally deal with and have to defeat alley monsters. I know as a young man I did. It pays into your ego, your sense of toughness, your bravado. Once you have done it a few times, however, there should be enough personal growth and self knowledge that you can do it if required but you should be looking for a less violent solution to the problem. Less violence means less injuries for everyone, less paperwork, less complaints and less lawsuits. A wonderful female detective I worked with used to state “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. If I never have to experience violence again in my life I’ll be happy, I’ve seen more than enough to last me several lifetimes.

The same is true for some trainers. They like dealing with the “violent” dogs. They like seeing them become less aggressive and with some of them, the only way they now how to do this is by using violent means themselves. I get tremendous professional and personal satisfaction when helping owners turn aggression cases around because everyone, including the dog, is less stressed and more peaceful. In committing to a more positive, less violent world, I have to know how to apply less forceful training methods to achieve the same results. It can be done if you commit to learning it and doing it. I know this, because I have.

Happy training.

A question of ethics – part 1

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I was at the office today (our local park) doing a consultation with a man and his Labrador, working on recall and loose lead walking (connection). We have a really nice community at the park on weekday mornings, the professional dog walkers, the power walkers without dogs, the recreational cyclists and the dog people walking their own dogs.

There is a fella who I see who has two GSDs who he has trained to a high level from the brief glimpses I get of him (I see him several times over the month). He appears to use positive trainng methods from what I can see. He uses food to reinforce the behaviour which he likes and I’ve never seen him physically correct his dogs. When he asks the dogs to do something though, he’s not really asking, he’s telling.

This fella knows I’m a dog trainer and from reading his body language (he never says hello to anyone etc) I get the impression that’s he is trying to show me how it’s really done. Today (and every other dog he sees me), he put his dogs in a sit stay in the middle of the path and walked away. There were other dogs and people around walking past his dogs. The dogs were transfixed by him and then he called them, they raced towards him and then held a heel position targeting his hands for about 50m or so. They were then reinforced with food. Impressive? Yes, maybe. Ethical? I’m not so sure. If this had been in competition for a dog sport, then yes, it’s impressive. If it had been in preparation for that dog sport competition, then yes, cool also. My issues is that it’s done for the benefit of all those watching and at the dogs’ expense to boot.

For me it would be far more impressive if his dogs were walking with him off lead, moving forward in front of him, sniffing, moving with him when he walked on and behaving in an appropriate social manner with dogs and people. But they’re not. The appear to be automatons, with little choice and not allow ot behave like dogs (I’ve never seen them sniff when out)

Training with positive methods isn’t enough. We need to train with an ethical mindset too. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Until next time, have a great Christmas.

John and the Glasgow Dog Trainer Team

Positively Excellent Dog Training Workshop 5

Workshop 5 of 6 today. When we started Positively Excellent Dog Training a few months ago, Clare and I envisioned bringing quality, up to date dog training to both trainers and owners in a way which was easy to access and understand. It has been a massicvve success and is just the start of things to come.

Today we looked at behaviours, skills and outcomes. Behaviours can be described as a specific thing the learner does, such as moving a cetain muscle or joint. Skills are where the dog generalises, so “walk beside me” can mean in a varietyof situations for example. A skill humans would have in this example would be having the skill to open most doors of similar design once the skill of door opening is learned. Some doors open by pulling, others by pushing (depending where you are in relation to it). Once the skill of door opening is learned, we can then apply it to many situations. The outcome for us would be the open door, the outcome in the dog example would be the dog walking with you on a loose lead.

Students had to teach me how to open a door when I was at the other side of the room. They were asked to break down each behaviour into very small steps. Each time they asked me to do something I wasn’t in a position to do, I told them I couldn’t do it and then they had to break it down further. This extended to putting my weight on one foot rather than the other, moving a specific distance forward etc. All these things teach us to be very careful in what we are describing and reinforcing, if the learned jumps ahead of us then we can go with it. If they get stuck then we need to break it down further into something they can do.

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We then looked a little more closely at certain drivers for reinforcement. Can we mimic the hunt for a dog and then put this on cue so the dog gets to hunt but only when we ask for it? Can we mimic a sheep’s movment with a ball so that a collie can herd the ball, give him an outlet for that daily and put it on cue so we get less herding of people and traffic? The answer is yes, we can.

Next workshop is the 4th June in East Kilbride.

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Captain America and telling our dogs what to do.

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I went to see Captain America: Civil War at the weekend at our local 3D IMAX (It was very entertaining, the usual great Marvel stuff). At the beginning of the film, there was an announcement

“PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSESS NOW”

My very first reaction to this was “don’t tell me what to do”. Now, I get that “Please put on your 3D glasses to fully enjoy the IMAX 3D experience” is unecessarily wordy, however, I really do not like being told what to do. In my previous job, I had a supervisor who constantly told everyone what to do. He never asked. He was a truly horrible bully of a man. Some of my colleagues who could be pushed around were, they did their jobs and did as they were told but none of them liked him. Those of us who didn’t like being told what to do would do it but very often we would push back, in fact we pushed back at every available opportunity. We stuck it to him whenever we could. The more we pushed back, the more he told us what to do. He then left, and was replaced by a man whom I absolutely adored. Jimbo would ask you to do tasks, never tell you and would do so with the full knowledge that you would do it. He never asked you to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. The guys who could be pushed around relaxed and worked harder, and those of us who were slightly more hard headed worked even harder still. Productivity and morale soared. He was a true leader who brought out the best in his people.

What does this have to do with dog training? Some of our dogs can be told what to do. We can push them around, shout at them, correct them and basically bully them in to compliance. Then there are the dogs who will push back. The problem for these dogs is that when they push back, they almost always lose. We shout at them and correct them, and they growl. We give them a harder time and they snap at us. We push more. They then bite “out of the blue”. Then it’s off to the shelter, vet to be put to sleep or we sell them on gumtree/Craiglist. The solution for all these dogs, whether the soft ones or the hard ones is to explain the rules in a way they understand, set up the environment so they can easily do the things we want them to to and so it’s difficult for them to the wrong thing and motivate them to do what we want them to do. If it works for humans, it can and does work for dogs.

If some of us don’t like being told what to do, is it not reasonable to conclude some of our dogs may feel the same way?