Client of the month: Lily the mixed breed

Congratulations to our November client spotlight, Lily the mixed breed puppy!

Lily says, The Road to Happiness is paved with hot dogs!

Lily says, The Road to Happiness is paved with hot dogs!

Lily is coming up on her 11-month birthday and she’s a big girl! Her mix is unknown, as she was part of a litter due for euthanasia at a high-kill shelter. Fortunately, a rescue stepped in to save them!

Her mother adopted her and was very conscientious of socializing her, and all was good until a well-meaning uniformed person wasn’t aware of how scary Lily perceived him to be. Instead of giving space and having Lily warm up to him at her own pace, he tried his best to win her over, unsuccessfully. This had an unfortunate effect on Lily, causing her to have a more generalized fearful response toward strangers.

Through consistent work in having strangers show up to give hot dogs, Lily is making progress overcoming her fears and starting to learn more appropriate ways to deal with strangers, rather than barking offensively at them. Her mother has been working hard with her to provide her with the right tools and training she needs to regain confidence and lead a less stressful life. They are an awesome duo!

We love working with dogs like Lily to gain trust and help them find happiness. Thank you, Lily, and your amazing mother, for trusting in us to help you!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Training: a bank account filled with trust

Most clients are duly impressed by what I can accomplish with their dogs. At the same time, it’s important for my clients to remember that I, too, am human, and am imperfect, AND, have imperfect dogs!

Training takes time, consistency and patience. Even after dogs learn behaviors, there is work that must be done over their lifetime to maintain behaviors. Without practice in this way, behaviors can deteriorate. It’s also important to remember that behavior isn’t always foolproof: the right (or wrong!) circumstances can happen to make even the most well-skilled trainer a tad frustrated.

Jasper and the frog

Jasper and the frog

And so, I will relay to you the story of Jasper and the frog, which illustrates a key point in training for me, and my philosophy. Jasper often assists with training, and after a long day working this past summer, I decided to take him to Cherry Creek State Park’s off-leash area as a reward. I hadn’t had a lot of quality time with him as of late, and while we were both tired, I felt we could use the fun. I had his “grade-A” rewards with me—some turkey hot dogs and his chuck-it ball.

After walking for quite some time, as we were turning back to end our excursion there, dusk began to fall, and frogs started coming out. Jasper had not interacted with frogs before and took to playing with one right away. At first I thought to discourage it, as I didn’t want any harm to come to the frog, but as I saw how gentle he was being and how much fun he was having, I felt there was no harm in allowing him to continue. I kept walking while he was playing, figuring he’d catch up, as he never does let me get too far away without catching up.

However, Jasper found this frog much more fun and kept following him into taller and taller grasses and bushes. I began to call him and pulled out all the stops that usually get him to comply—throwing his ball, making noises he finds intriguing and exciting, running away, trying to entice him with hot dogs—but nothing was working this time. It was getting darker and I was tired and ready to leave! I was also starting to worry about other creatures that could be out there, like snakes, who could cause him harm, and I admit it made me a bit anxious.

Those who have trained with me know I never advocate the use of harsh tones or punishment at all, especially when calling a dog by name to come to you. I encourage the use of a positive interrupter and trying to redirect the dog on what to do, being exciting and inviting as opposed to threatening. This night at the park, though, I was being tested. I was tired, I was worried and I was feeling like I had no other options but to lower my voice in a deep, growly tone and say quite harshly—“Jasper! Get over here now!”

Jasper came out, slinking along the ground. So many people interpret this as a sign of feeling “guilty.” Of course, I know better as a dog trainer. Jasper was not guilty—he was just finding my tone unpleasant and was trying to appease me. It wasn’t very nice, what I did to get him to come out.

I have relayed this story to a few of my colleagues and clients. Colleagues like to say things like, “It worked because you don’t overuse it,” and “Don’t feel bad—it happens sometimes.” Clients are sometimes surprised by what I’ve relayed, but also relieved that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns—that I, too, have not-so-perfect moments of pure positive reinforcement all the time. It makes me more relate-able, and helps them forgive themselves for similar decisions they’ve made.

By and large, pet owners have no need for corrections in the traditional sense. If we train our dogs very well on behaviors we DO want, and maintain them well by practicing them in many different scenarios, then by and large we will never have to resort to yelling, or worse. But sometimes life happens and it’s very grey, and sometimes in a life-or-death situation I may end up doing something that isn’t completely force-free (like yanking on a leash when a dog wanders out too far into oncoming traffic, or grabbing out of his mouth a chicken bone or other life-threatening object). Those times should be rare.

In October I was very excited to attend a lecture by Dr. Susan Friedman based on her course, “Living and Learning with Animals.” She said something that made a considerable impression on me, and I found it within an article she had written for Bird Talk Magazine:

Think of it this way: Gaining an animal’s trust is like building up a bank account. We make deposits into the trust account one positive interaction at a time. Positive interactions are not just about animals gaining valued rewards but also about having the power to make choices. Alternatively, we make withdrawals from the trust account with negative interactions, such as the use of force, threats and punishment. Even small or inadvertent withdrawals add up over time, putting the relationship in the red. If a withdrawal is so big that it exceeds the positive balance, we risk bankrupting the relationship.

This is a great analogy for us to consider. My relationship with other people, pets and any life form is based on trust. When we are able to make positive interactions the crux of our training program, we are helping our dogs to learn how to cope with life and make the right decisions, and growing our bank account of trust. We empower them to have control over their lives, which is important, because all life NEEDS that empowerment to learn and thrive. If I’m always punishing or making things unpleasant for my dogs or clients, they will not feel good about working with me. It will undermine the relationship and trust.

Great training is about having a great bank account balance, and I’m happy to help clients achieve that, even if we’re not perfect all the time! Together, we can continue to improve our skills so the bank account can grow each and every day. That is my promise to you!

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback and suggestions for future blog posts,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

October 2014 clients

It’s been an AMAZING October! I officially became CPDT-KA, we’ve been able to raise a little over half our fundraising goal for the Puppy Up! walk (please donate if you can–there is still another day!), and I’ve been blessed to work with so many new and diverse clients. I appreciate all the support all of you have given, and continue to give!

By clicking on the below photo icons, you can take a look back at all our October moments. You can also see past photos and slideshows on our Flickr site. We also have a lot more photos and other great content on our Facebook page.

Sadie Jobu Lily Holly Millie Heidi Daphne Bruiser Bailey Fiona Devo and Jasper Nelson Keesha and Maggie Mae Sophie Casey and Jack Murphy Bravo Trigger Margot Jussi Che Goblin

Not pictured but still very appreciated: Monsignor Harley of the House of Davidson the Maine Coon cat.

Thank you!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Now CPDT-KA certified

I am pleased to announce that I passed my certification exam and am therefore CPDT-KA certified!

CCPDTLogoWhat does this mean? It means I have no less than 300 hours of experience as a trainer under my belt, have passed an exam testing my knowledge of several different areas pertaining to dog care, training and behavior, am dedicated to principles regarding humane training practices and approaches, and also have to maintain continuing education to maintain my certification as CPDT-KA. You can learn more about CPDT-KA certification and other certifications through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) here.

I take my profession very seriously and am lucky to do what I love! Over the three years I’ve had my business, I have worked ceaselessly with many different clients on many different levels, had the opportunity to shadow and be mentored by other great trainers, and take several amazing seminars and workshops to learn from the best positive reinforcement-based trainers and behaviorists in the world.

I will continue to strive to be the best I can be and never stop learning. I appreciate the support all my clients have given to help me learn, as well as encourage my ability to make this goal of CDPT-KA certification a reality! You are all so important to me, and I am grateful to know all of you–and grateful to encounter new clients in the future who will present even more experience and challenges for growth! :)

Thank you so much, and happy fall!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Client spotlight: Sadie the shepherd mix

Sadie has a sweet smile

Sadie has a sweet smile

Congratulations to our October client spotlight, Sadie the shepherd mix!

Sadie is a charming puppy who has a ton of charisma and energy. She loves to play and has the most adorable little hop-run! Like all puppies, Sadie loves attention and fun, and is working on learning how to hone her impulse control and be more chill. She’s doing a great job at perfecting her leash skills, though she’s still working on how to be more calm when exciting things like people and other dogs show up.

Her parents have been working diligently to harness all her energy in constructive ways. Sadie is a lucky pup to have such committed parents! One of the highlights of having a dog training career is being witness to the love that is shared between dogs and their people, and it’s obvious that Sadie’s people love her very much!

We very much appreciate the confidence Sadie and her parents have in us to assist with meeting her learning needs. Thank you!

And congratulations, again!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Help us end canine (& human) cancer

In memoriam of Soup

In memoriam of Soup

Each year, the Delightful Doggies team chooses a nonprofit cause for which to fundraise. This year, we have chosen to participate in the Puppy Up! Denver walk on November 1 in Stapleton to raise money for the 2 Million Dogs Foundation, which works to find links between canine and human cancers so that we can hopefully rid the world of this horrible disease that affects so many. We need your help!

One way you can help is to join our team and help us fundraise to meet our goal of $1500. We have a goal to recruit three more members to our six team member goal.

Another way you can help is to make a donation (click the “Give Now” button at the right side of the page) so we can make our $1500 fundraising goal for this great organization.

& in memoriam of my father

& in memoriam of my father

AND…another often-overlooked but very much-appreciated way you can help is to just let others know by sharing our team page and asking friends to join us or donate. They can do either of these actions from the team page. There are very easy share buttons for social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and to email the page to your contacts.

We only have a month to meet our goals so we really appreciate your help. Any donation in ANY amount helps–even if it’s just a little–and your willingness to share with others will also help us, so much!

Thank you,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

September 2014 clients

September was a great month filled with lots of different clients. Ellen and I had a wonderful time with all of you, and we’ve seen some absolutely spectacular progress in training with many of you. We appreciate all your hard work and dedication to ensure the best for your pets; thank you!

Click on the below photo icons to view the September client slideshow. Don’t forget–you can also see all our client slideshow photos on our Flickr site, and also join us for more photo fun, and other great content, on our Facebook page!

Devo and Jasper Gertie and Gatsby Patrick Magik Trixie Sophie Millie Poppy Charlie Daphne Chase and Varly Heidi Holly Sadie Nelson Bruiser Ozar and Koda Jobu Max Fiona

Not pictured but still very appreciated: Monsignor Harley of the House of Davidson the Maine Coon cat and Miles the Chihuahua mix.

Thank you!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Client spotlight: Jasper and Devo the Italian greyhounds

Jasper and Devo are at attention!

Jasper and Devo are at attention!

Congratulations to our September client spotlight, Jasper and Devo the Italian greyhound brothers!

Jasper and Devo have been receiving custom training services, and are successfully learning new and useful skills. Their parents are as committed and hardworking as they; we really appreciate all the effort they put into practicing skills. The results they have been seeing are nothing short of awesome!

While they are brothers, they are not blood brothers; Jasper is one year younger than Devo. They previously lived with another family who had gotten Devo originally from a pet store, and Jasper a year later from the National Mill Dog Rescue; both dogs were adopted by their current parents from the rescue.

Training with Jasper and Devo is a lot of fun. We take breaks in between drills so they can have fun playing with each other, and getting and giving lots of affection to all of us! They adore Miss Ellen, and we all appreciate her help handling dogs for setups to practice skills. Each session they make great strides in confidence and learning new skills to make their lives happier.

Thank you, Jasper and Devo, and your parents, for choosing Delightful Doggies to help with your training needs! We appreciate all of you and your consistent, hard work and dedication!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Rewarding vs. bribing in dog training

This past weekend, my husband, dogs and I went on a drive over Guanella Pass to enjoy some fresh air and beautiful fall scenery together. As we were making our way over the other side to Georgetown, two sheriff vehicles in front of us blocked the road, stopping us and all who were behind us. One of the deputies approached us and told us to make ourselves comfortable, even go walk our dogs, because we were going to be there for a while; some group of hot rod enthusiasts had a permit for an event and they were closing the road off for a race.

I wasn’t bothered by this as we weren’t on any set schedule and it is a beautiful place to be stuck! I got the dogs and headed down a little trail nearby, then came back after a few to take a place by the road to watch the cars go by.

Taking in the scenery on Guanella Pass with Uma (L) and Jasper (R)

Taking in the scenery on Guanella Pass with Uma (L) and Jasper (R)

My foster dog, Uma, is highly reactive. I knew the crowd of people and sounds of the cars would likely be stressful for her, and I of course had my treat pouch full of bacon ready. As she was able to look at people but look away, or offer another behavior like sniffing the ground or looking at me, I would praise her every so often and give her small bits of the bacon for these behaviors. Same with the cars as they came by, particularly if they were loud—as she was able to be calm and offer other behaviors, I continued to reward her every so often with the bacon. Jasper also got bacon for similarly being well-behaved.

After a while I decided enough was enough—we were all getting tired and Uma is older and has medical issues, too, so I took them back to the car to give them water and allow all of us to relax. They’d done very well at being calm, and Uma didn’t even bark once! I passed by a lady who felt compelled to say to me, “Bribing them to be good works.” As what I was doing was not bribing, I simply replied, “Actually, I was rewarding them for good behavior,” and just kept walking. I admit, it made me cranky. I didn’t have the energy to engage further but I also wanted her to know what I actually was doing!

Thinking back on this, I felt compelled to write about it because I hear it so much—isn’t using treats (or any reward, for that matter) for training bribery? Critics of positive reinforcement methods will often talk about this, and some seem to think that, if we took the treats away, the bad behavior would rear its ugly head. Others also seem to think that dogs should just do what we want of them, out of “respect” and no need for any reinforcement.

Let’s ask ourselves: What is bribery and what is reinforcement?

Bribery would be if I had to show a treat to a dog first, every time to get him to do something, particularly if he already knows it or is in the middle of doing something I don’t want him to do. If my practice was based on this and the dog learns that the treat has to precede his behavior, I would be doing him a disservice. Timing is very crucial when it comes to bribery vs. reinforcement.

Reinforcement is when my dog offers a behavior and I can mark and follow it with something she likes, like bacon, to reward her for making the right choice, and increase the frequency of her choosing this “good” behavior. When I am teaching something new, I will mark and reinforce every time the dog offers the behavior. As the behavior becomes more consistent, I will then switch up my reinforcement—marking and treating every other time, every few times, and offering other real-life rewards and praise. This is basic operant conditioning, and it works to teach a dog what choices to make if you do it correctly.

Food is a powerful motivator. It helps turn off fear. It is easy to carry and conceal, and it is essential to survive. It’s easy and relatively inexpensive, particularly if you make your own simple treats and use real foods. Your dog needs to eat so why not use his dinner as a reward for behavior you want?

We may have this fantasy of all dogs living to please us. While it’s true that most dogs are motivated by pleasing us at times, it’s not true all the time and for some dogs, pleasing us may not be much of a motivator! Dogs are living beings with drives and desires all their own. It’s our job to recognize this and work with them to get and reward the behavior we do want. It is so much more powerful—and fun!—to have this proactive, rather than reactive, approach. The ideal is to use a variety of rewards and mix them up to keep it interesting and engaging for the dog, and to vary the delivery as they gain proficiency. It’s like a slot machine—we keep hoping that next pull is going to bring the jackpot!

Want to learn more? I recommend these links:

Thank you for reading!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Welcome Ellen to the Delightful Doggies family!

Ellen with her dogs, Ruby and Zelda

Ellen with her dogs, Ruby and Zelda

It is my pleasure to officially announce the addition of Ellen Jensby as a training assistant to the Delightful Doggies family!

I met Ellen this past spring when I began teaching the CHAMPS program at the MaxFund shelter. Ellen’s impeccable timing skills definitely caught my eye and she also approached me with questions about how to become a professional trainer and the myriad certification programs that exist. As we became acquainted, I offered to allow her to help with training sessions where I need extra hands and found her to be a wonderful addition to these sessions.

Over the course of spring and summer, Ellen has worked for me to gain experience and has proven herself to be very capable of not only taking great direction and learning, but adding some great additional insights.

Because of her hard work and talent, I have decided to officially add Ellen to my team so that she may get paid for her hard work as a handler and assistant. This is very beneficial for clients who need practice with other strangers or dogs who need handling. We’ve handled everything from over-enthusiastic jumpers to leash-reactive dogs, and dogs who have attacked other dogs. Ellen’s ability to help us maintain a stress-free threshold for these dogs to be able to learn in each of these setups has been invaluable!

Thank you, Ellen, for your dedication to helping dogs and their people, as well as volunteering your time in shelters to help dogs become more adoptable. I’m so happy to have you on the Delightful Doggies team!

You can also learn more about Ellen on our Meet the Trainer page (scroll past me).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

Thank you,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies