Friday, April 23, 2010

Reinforce Me!

I'm taking an online class and every week, we're supposed to post comments in the discussion thread.  For the last three weeks, I've been diligently supplying what I think to be engaging discussion and for the past three weeks, the instructor has commented on everyone else's threads except mine.  I'm getting very frustrated.  So frustrated, in fact, that I've noticed my desire to participate is waning. If my instructor isn't going to notice my efforts, then why try??

I'm constantly giving examples that compare human behavior to dog behavior because, well, a brain is a brain is a brain. Our brains, while they may contain different data, still operate in some of the same ways as a dog's.  If I do something and it gets no reinforcement, then duh! Why waste my time doing something that doesn't work!?

This can be a good thing and a bad thing.  When training your dog, if you don't like something they do, then ignore it.  Chances are very good that if it never gets rewarded, they won't do it! On the flip side, if your dog is doing something you like, be sure to recognize it! Pay close attention throughout the day, not just during training sessions. While you are talking to a friend, is your dog sitting and paying attention to you? Take a moment to praise them for that behavior instead of waiting until your dog jumps up to get your attention and then yelling at them.

Reinforcement goes a long way, people! It's a wonderful tool to get rid of bad behavior and make good behavior more likely.

Now I'm going to go play Farmville instead of my psych homework because, well, my professor doesn't seem to care either way. :)


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day!

Ahhh...what a wonderful day for a tree-hugger like myself - a perfect chance to pass along some "recycling" tips for all you dog owners out there! Not only are these a great way to reuse things, but they can save  you some money too! Enjoy!

- Got an empty water bottle? Before putting it in the recycling bin, remove the lid and stuff it with some tasty treats or kibble.  Give this to your dog for some mental stimulation! When they're done, then toss it in the recycling bin!
* Besides removing the lid before giving it to my dogs, I also cut a slit in the bottom of the bottle because I'm paranoid their tongue will get stuck and then the bottle will get suctioned shut...I highly recommend this.*

- About to throw out some old t-shirts? Cut them in to long pieces first, then tie these pieces together in several knots to make a fun tug/chew toy for your dog!

- About to throw out the peanut butter container? WAIT! Just take the lid off and let your dog clean the inside!

- Got a spare cardboard box? Hide treats under this and watch as your dog tries to get inside of it!

- About to throw away an old pair of shoes? Use these shoes to train your dog to retrieve your shoes! You won't be worried about them getting slobbery during the training period!

Hopefully, this list gets you thinking of all the ways you can reuse things in your house.  If anyone has any cool ideas they want to share, feel free to post!!

** This list provides suggestions of ways for you AND your dog to play together.  Because many household items can be harmful if ingested, be sure to closely supervise your dog.**


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Be Thankful for What You've Got

I was just talking with a trainer friend of mine, who also has a reactive dog, about the benefit of having a reactive dog: it keeps you from adopting every dog in the universe!

If Bizz were open to having more canine friends, I probably would have introduced at least two new dogs to the family by now! I've applied for one and by a stroke of luck, the pit-mix was adopted out to a more suitable home (once in his new home, he developed severe phobias of the world around him - this would have been a HUGE undertaking for our whole family).  Next, I found a stray that was too sweet and sociable to spend his life in a home with a dog that wouldn't like him.  Luckily, he too was adopted out in just a week.

It makes me sad to think that I will have to follow a strict checklist to find a suitable dog for our situation but it also makes me appreciate the dogs that I have...

Sarah is so willing to coexist with a high-strung dog like Bizz - I just have to give thanks for that.  Granted, Sarah's known Bizzle since she was a puppy, but she constantly forgives Bizz's shortcomings and excuses her inappropriate behavior time and again. Even after six years of being rejected, Sarah still play-bows to Bizzle every once in a while, which warms my heart to see.

Bizz is truly a wonderful dog, her only flaw being her acceptance of other dogs.  She is bright and learns quickly, often faster than I can teach her.  She is loving and really enjoys the company of her people. She's got a great sense of humor, always making me laugh with her silly antics. She's got the energy of a puppy when it calls for it but is also content with laying around the house like the giants of the canine world.

Above all else, I owe all that I have learned as a dog trainer to Bizzle.  She taught me there are smarter ways to train your dog.  She has taught me patience and it is because of her that I found my passion for teaching others how to have a stronger relationship with their dogs.

So, Bizz, you can stop being reactive now.  I've learned my lesson. ;)


photo courtesy of Puppy A Go Go