Unintended Consequences: Understanding Poisoned Cues

In positive reinforcement training, a cue is something that indicates to the learner (your dog) that you would like her to do a certain behavior.

Most cues in dog training are verbal or visual. But cues can be olfactory (a dog training in scent work sniffs the odor and sits) or auditory (a click in clicker training), or environmental (you take your dog out of the car at the trailhead, and she knows she is going for a walk). A touch can also be a cue.

The dog learns that when she hears, sees, smells, or feels the cue, and performs the correct behavior, she will earn a reward.

Continue reading
  1976 Hits
1976 Hits

PODCAST E98: Sara Brueske - "Bombproof Behaviors"

Training your dogs with stinky fish on the field? Getting behaviors despite distracting environments (like a motorcycle show at the fair)? Yeah, Sara's done that! And she shares her tips on this weeks podcast!

Continue reading
  1211 Hits
1211 Hits

Thresholds & Dog Training: When is your dog actually over threshold?

 If you manage a stressed dog, you likely think about thresholds quite a bit.

You think about whether your dog is "over threshold" in a given situation, and you may be continually planning how to keep him "under threshold" as much as possible.

Even if you don't have a dog with a tendency toward fear, reactivity, or stress, you want your dog to be in an optimal emotional state for learning, and that may lead you to thinking about what might push your dog "over threshold" and cause you to have to switch gears.

But just what is this "threshold?"

Continue reading
  8913 Hits
8913 Hits

Using Trial Experiences to Improve our Nosework Training

As I've always said about Nosework, we are half the team! That means our success at a nosework trial has more to do with us than our dogs. There is so much involved — setting up training plans, handling, strategy and our nerves — we can make or break the search! Once our dogs know their job and have the skills, we need to focus on OUR skills and to glue it all together from start to finish to excel at a trial.

If you've trialed recently, and were disappointed with the results, it's time to take a look at your own performance!

By reviewing our trial experiences we can 1) own our mistakes, 2) improve our handling, 3) learn to read our dogs better, 4) develop our mental game, and 5) set appropriate goals.

Let's discuss each area in a little more detail. 

Continue reading
  1704 Hits
1704 Hits

PODCAST E97: Positive Training 2.0 - How did we get here?

Today we're doing something a little bit different - we're starting a new series called Positive Training 2.0. This week, we have on Deb Jones to talk about the world of positive training - how we got to where we are today and where she sees things going in the future.  

Continue reading
  857 Hits
857 Hits

Defining “Perfect” Heel Position

When I first got started competing in obedience, I really had no idea what heel position meant. I mean, I vaguely knew the dog should walk at your left side and sit when you stopped walking. I could tell that much from watching other teams heeling, even with my uneducated eye.

It turns out that perfect heeling is a somewhat subjective thing. Everyone has their own aesthetic sense of what "perfect" means - their own picture in their mind of what perfect heeling should look like. Heeling was one of those things where I knew it when I saw it but I couldn't really tell you how to define it. Like art, music, fancy food, and other complex things, I could tell you when I liked what I saw, but I had no idea how to identify what made it great... and worse, I had no idea how to reproduce it. 

Continue reading
  3032 Hits
3032 Hits

PODCAST E96: Trish McMillian - "Dog Body Language"

Today we talk to Trish McMillan about her experience working in shelters and with shelter dogs, as well as about some of the most overlooked dog body language cues you need to know!

Continue reading
  1199 Hits
1199 Hits

Supporting Sensitive Dogs: 13 Tips to Help You Have a Successful Seminar

Editor's Note: This is adapted slightly from a post Sarah shared on facebook after a seminar with Julie Symons where she worked her dog Zoe. Included is video from that seminar, shared with both Sarah and Julie's permission.

Author's Note: These tips are not only great for "sensitive" dogs, but can be adapted for all dogs. Thank you Julie Symons' for creating such a safe place for learning, and for being open to adapting exercises to suit Zoe's needs. This was a big deal for her! First impressions really matter. After these first couple exercises, she was literally pulling me into the building the rest of the day! 
Continue reading
  1767 Hits
1767 Hits

PODCAST E95: Leslie McDevitt - "Behavior Modification With Canine Consent"

 Trying to put together how consent and behavior modification and positive training all work together? Leslie explains, in this week's episode of the FDSA podcast!

Continue reading
  1843 Hits
1843 Hits

The 4 D's of Nosework and Odor Obedience

 A lot of time in dog training, we hear about the 4 D's: Duration, Distance, Distraction and Diversity.

For example, in teaching Stays. Can your dog stay for a certain amount of time, at a certain distance from you, under certain distractions and in new places? It's easy to understand the 4 D's in this context. Nosework isn't any different!

In fact, the 4 D's are essential to the foundational quality of odor obedience. Let's explore!

Picture a search dog looking for narcotics. His sole focus in on finding the "dope." He works with intensity, ignoring things like dropped food. His only desire is the search. He's never been to that location, but he doesn't care; his focus is incredible. He leaves the handler because he's caught scent of some heroin in the garbage can. Now, his focus changes to the alert, signaling to the officer that he's made a find.

Continue reading
  2421 Hits
2421 Hits

PODCAST E94: Alla, Andrea, & Sara - "Student Interviews: Dog Training is a Journey"

This episode is a little different than our usual weekly interviews; this time we turned to three long time FDSA students to talk to them about their training journeys and biggest training takeaways!  

Continue reading
  923 Hits
Tags:
923 Hits

The Last Nerve: 11 Tools for Tackling Handler Show Stress Head On

Dogs are fun right? Showing, and seminars and workshops should be a time to relax and enjoy – the time we get paid back for all the hard work we do the rest of the time.

A celebration of all that is good, as it were.

We are learning, and sharing our passion with our best friends. Even through the stress and worry it's often glorious and educational and all the things we love most about having dogs in our life.

Sometimes though it feels like we have Pavlov sitting on one shoulder ( aka bob bailey) and nerves and anxiety sitting on the other.

Why not tackle the ring nerves and show stress head on and see what you can do to reduce them? 

Continue reading
  1433 Hits
1433 Hits

PODCAST E93: Julie Daniels - "Empowerment and Choosing Delayed Reinforcement"

Julie Daniels comes back on the podcast to talk about teaching the hard things to our dogs - things like choosing new things and learning to like waiting for a reward! 

Continue reading
  1489 Hits
1489 Hits

The Science Cafe: Socialization and Sensitive Periods in Dogs

Welcome to the Science Cafe! On December 10, 2018, three FDSA instructors with science PhDs hung out for an hour or two and talked science online.

The docs:

The subject: Hartley, Catherine A., and Francis S. Lee. "Sensitive periods in affective development: Nonlinear maturation of fear learning." Neuropsychopharmacology 40.1 (2015): 50.

(You don't have to have read the paper to appreciate the chat, but a lot of people did!) 

Continue reading
  2611 Hits
2611 Hits

How it Works: Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning Explained

If you've been in dog training for a while you've likely come across the learning models of Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning. You can hardly pick up a training book anymore without either one or both being mentioned — and that is a great thing!

However, if you aren't sure what each of these models is, you aren't alone.

Each has potentially confusing concepts, and each governs a different part of our teaching experience with dogs. You're using them both all the time whether you understand them well or not, so let's get them sorted out, shall we? 

Continue reading
  6548 Hits
6548 Hits

PODCAST E92: Chrissi Schranz - Training 5 Mins at A Time (or From Your Couch!)

Chrissi Schranz shares how you can find time to train your dog while still successfully tackling even complex behaviors... often without even leaving your couch.

Continue reading
  1253 Hits
1253 Hits

PODCAST E91: Lucy Newton - Tracking, Search & Rescue, and more.

Lucy Newton worked for years as a police dog handler, SAR handler, and teaches Tracking at FDSA while also training Service dogs for veterans with PTSD. We get into all the details in this episode of the podcast! 

Continue reading
  1077 Hits
1077 Hits

PODCAST E90: Amy Cook - "Dogs with Noise Sensitivity"

Dr. AmyCook, PhD., joins me to talk about dogs with noise sensitivity. What can you do about it? Is it treatable? We talk about all that and more!

Continue reading
  979 Hits
979 Hits

3 Steps To Solve Your Dog Training Problem

So, you have a training problem….

You are training your dog for obedience or agility competition and a problem erupts. How do you go about solving it?

Let's say you have been training your dog in obedience and all the Open exercises have been progressing smoothly. But now your dog has started to miss the drop cue on the drop on recall exercise. Or you have a dog competing in agility at the Open level. He had good performances in Novice. But recently your dog has been missing weave entries, after having nice weaves in Novice and in practice. How do you go about solving these problems?

Continue reading
  2041 Hits
2041 Hits

Welcome to the New FDSA Blog!

Welcome to FDSA's shiny new blog! We look forward to having you look around. But probably hold off on your look-around, because if you do it now, your journey will be short. That's because there's nothing here. Yet! You see, getting this new website up and running was a bit of a project and it took all hands on deck. That didn't leave much time or ...
Continue reading
  1080 Hits
1080 Hits