Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The 4 Quadrants of The Human•Dog Relationship

Quadrant 1: I Love My Dog
Usually cooed when the dog is sleeping peacefully and being "oh so adorable" because, well, frankly, because it isn't doing anything you think is "bad" like peeing on your rug or jumping on your visitor or eating your pillow or running off or....._____.

Quadrant 2: I Hate My Dog
Often growled under your breath when, say, your poorly supervised puppy dog has done something you define as "really bad". Like eating the new dog toy when you turned your back for just a minute! Or __________, or __________

Quadrant 3: I Like My Dog
When she makes a soft pillow and listens to my problems when no one else will. Or she listens to me when I ask her to do something or she just shows me the joy of living day to day or ____________.

Quadrant 4: I Don't Like My Dog
When she does prewash before I asked her to! Or she gets into the trash again. Or she runs off or digs or I swear she understands but won't listen or _____________.

Here's hoping your 2009 is filled with lots of Like and Love, very little I Don't Like but maybe just enough to remind you of the path to return to or get on towards figuring out the like and love you want and please please please don't ever get to where you hate your dog. And if you're there. Get help!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays From A Better Pet LLC

Go Here To See what you can achieve when you have enough time, an obviously super duper vacuum, editing equipment and capabilities, and mostly, TALENT FROM HUNGARY!!!!! Hats off to www.katysulu.

Happy Holidays!!!

Rachel and the Gang At A Better Pet LLC

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Ides of December

Tis the Ides of December, or better known as the halfway mark. Only 6 days until the winter solstice, same until Hanukah, and just 10 from Christmas.

The pressure is on to shop and acquire and even in this troubled economy, people do go out to experience the joy of giving. One thing you want to avoid, though, is giving a puppy or kitten (or dog or cat) to someone as a Christmas gift without doing some soul search first.

I just got an email from an old client asking about helping her find a dog for her recently widowed mother in law who is in her mid 80's and seems lonely. While the intentions are very honorable, and I have no doubt her daughter in law loves her, her request suggested that MIL doesn't know this thought is about.

I wrote my former client back and strongly urged her to talk to her mother in law first and really think through whether and what kind of pet might be suitable, and to have a plan of action in place if for any reason MIL could not care for the animal either temporarily or permanently. My client thanked me and then I remembered all those Holiday Present Puppy calls I get the beginning of every new year.

And while I certainly like to be busy, I like the reasons to be more about carefully thought out and appropriately acquired pets, and not another box to unwrap amid the tinsel and the lights.

And lastly, speaking of tinsel, strongly discourge use if you have impulsive pets and if you can't resist AND your animals ingests it, one of the safest ways to get it out is to have the animal swallow real cotton balls, dipped in milk or half and half, which will collect said unsavory from the innards and safely dispel it through the bowel.

Enough of that talk. Happy Pre Holidays!

Ho ho ho.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Thing To Do With a Laundry Basket

Perhaps you've heard of the fun clicker training game, 101 Things To Do With a Box. If time permits, and I think I can do it quickly, I demonstrate to clients the speed with which something very foreign and odd can be taught to a dog simply by understanding timing and feedback.

Toby was a dog I had a chance to meet and then see again 4 days later (I also worked with his "sister", a yellow lab named Daisy who, if you watch carefully, can be seen in the above video bored in the background with such shenanigans).

When I first met him he was an anxious, skittish, non compliant adolescent with a lot of angst. By the end of the first session he was definitely calmer, learned a number of new behaviors, and his owner, Katie, was given a lot of very clear cut workable protocols to start ameliorating alot of his anxiety based reactivity.

I returned to see Toby 4 days later for a follow up, which is unusual for me. I was asked to return because Katie's husband had returned from the navy and they were due to drive west and relocate to Seattle for a new navy post. The change in Toby was so dramatic. Where at my first meeting he was reactive, barky, suspicious, guarded, skittish. At my second visit,after I walked into the house, he just stared at me with such depth of gratitude it almost made me cry. It was as if his eyes were saying "thank you for helping us all bring me to a sane place, I feel so much better."

Toby's trust in me was so complete that he not only learned to go in the laundry basket quite quickly (when it was first brought in he was very guarded about its presence) but he let me videotape him as he went in for what was the third time in his life. Toby didn't really like having his picture taken either, but he was a trooper.

Clicker training, done correctly, with lots of immediate feedback, is absolutely the coolest way to help teach a dog to do tasks that are complex and foreign as well as to "fix" those things a dog finds less than swell!

Thank you Toby, for being such a good sport!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Biggest Mistake

Owner of A Better Pet learned to trust her instincts on marketing

Posted by Marcia Pledger/Plain Dealer Reporter December 07, 2008
Categories: Biggest Mistake
Roadell Hickman, Photographer/The Plain Dealer


I actually think my biggest mistake was not checking my hair before Roadell the PD photographer came to take my picture (I liked this photo slightly more than the one they used in the paper! But Bean, even in winter scruff, looks good!)

But in all seriousness, I think having to think about mistakes, big and small, and learning from them, can be of course applied to the nature of positive training. If timing is poor with a clicker, no one gets hurt. Sadly, with a punitive approach, a +P take on punishing the dog for making the wrong choice, sometimes poor timing or inappropriate "corrections" can in fact make for bigger problems than the one you were correcting in the first place.

More on that soon. I'm sure! For now, it's back to helping Sophie with her science fair project which of course includes the dogs. I'll be posting those results soon too! Stay tuned.

Monday, December 01, 2008

3rd Quadrant: The Swear Jar

Long ago and far away I recognized my greatest strength in learning something new is through visual and kinesthetic experience. Hence I model for clients, handling their dog in their home, how best to achieve learning for the dog during a training and then work with the owner to transfer that knowledge to them before I leave. Practicing the newly taught skills enough, along with truly understanding a lot of useful information about how dogs actually operate (which is often antithetical to the average person), helps ensure a transition to a better behaved dog if the individual is motivated (which I assume they are by having hired me to come into their home for 3 long hours or more!). I also give a lot of written material to clients, including a manual I am always updating for those who are more reading/writing learners. But I'm always on the creative and visual lookout for new ways to inspire myself.

Certainly in overseas adventures of my youth in countries utilizing languages other than English, it was always the "bad" words, the curse words, I was taught by my peers. I freely admit I have a potty mouth which works as a catharsis for me because I don't engage in physical violence. But lo and behold, my 3 daughters were annoyed and dare I say embarrassed when I might curse in front of a friend, so I agreed to work on Quadrant 3 of Operant Conditioning, positive punishment:

Every time they caught me swearing, I would put twenty five cents in a "swear jar" in the hopes that I would either

1. Stop swearing
2. Earn us enough in fines to subsidize a vacation.

Sometimes in a fit of that cathartic need, I just whipped out a dollar and made an advance, or checked how many quarters I had fished out of the dryer and slipped into my pockets to give me permission to be less inhibited when provoked to open my mouth and say an inappropriate word or phrase per our agreement.

And I dare say I'm greatly improved, but certainly not cured. After all, we're talking about a very long history of this entrenched "bad" behavior, and I can do it when the environment is appropriate (i.e., I'm alone or with people who don't care), and I'd probably wish it had taken longer so I could have earned more than a few gallons of gas for the improbable future vacation, but I dare say it worked, even without them praising me for having a cleaner vocabulary!

So if you're trying to clean up your own act, or live in a reality based universe about how best to communicate what really matters to you about your dog's behavior, fish out some change and start clinking it in jar of your own. Maybe by the new year, but a mere month away, as resolutions become forefront in your mind, you too will have saved up for something special!