Posts filed under ‘Events’

“NO!” and unwanted behavior. (Notes from Clickerexpo Part 2)

*This blog post was written a few months ago, following on from Part 1.


From “How To Live With a Neurotic Dog” (1960)


“Eli, No!” – a picture book (2011)

The pictures above are from two books that I bought only for the artwork. The first book is from the 60’s; and the second book is recent.

I think we live in exciting times because there is a cultural shift in thinking about dog training, dog behavior and human-dog relationships, and there is now more information available on the internet and in books  on understanding why dogs do what they do and how they learn, and adjust our training methods to be smarter and kinder.


From “How To Live With A Neurotic Dog” (1960)

Traditional dog training, being based in punishment and behavior suppression put a lot of emphasis on the “No!’s”. 

To (loosely) quote Sarah: “There are people who want their dogs to be seen and not heard and they believe that this is how the relationship should be between human and dog.  And then there are those of us who want our dogs to be able to express themselves, communicate, initiate things, and feel empowered in a relationship”. The inspiring thing about Clicker Expo is that everyone is there to focus on the “Yes’s” – how to train in ways that encourage more behaviors, not less.

At the January Clicker Expo, I went to three Ken Ramirez seminars. Ken Ramirez is an expert trainer at Shedd Aquarium who has worked with many species of exotic animals and all his training stories (mistakes AND successes) were very insightful and heartwarming.

In his seminar on “What To Do When The Animal Makes Mistakes-““No!” is technically referred to as a No Reward Marker or Punisher.

Ken Ramirez said that he will not judge people who use punishment or negative reinforcement in their training methods, but he personally finds no need to say “No” to any student animal that he is training. He is able to accomplish any training goal with Positive Reinforcement.

“We are more creative trainers if we don’t have a way to say NO. You don’t want to say NO to an elephant.”

To Ken, trust is one of the most important aspect of any training plan, and what defines a good relationship between trainer and trainee is a strong positive reinforcement history.

One of the most common trainer mistakes is requesting a difficult behavior from an animal when he/she is not yet fluent in that behavior. This messes up the trust relationship. He shared several examples when trainers got too greedy and asked for too much too soon. Trainers might get too caught up in their egos, push the animal too far, the animal is unable to do the behavior he was trained to do (or doesn’t feel totally comfortable with it yet), has some sort of breakdown, stops doing that behavior… and then there is a lose-lose situation where it can take YEARS to re-train that behavior.

Ken Ramirez outlined the various ways that we have learned to deal with unwanted behavior. He cited the 8 methods in Karen Pryor’s classic book “Don’t Shoot The Dog” and agrees with Karen Pryor that “Changing the Motivation” is the most humane positive method. However, this is not always the most practical solution. There has to be a more immediate way to deal with unwanted behavior or mistakes.

Common ways of changing unwanted behavior that are aversive to the animal in some way:

PUNISHMENT – self explanatory. We add something aversive to make the behavior stop. The animal does not learn what is right. Punishing is addictive too to the trainer, and can get out of control. There is a high risk of fallout and loss of trust in the relationship. Dogs as a species may be more forgiving than killer whales but this is beside the point.  Physical punishment works but is the least humane and most intrusive method.


NO REWARD MARKER (NRM) – basically a word like “No”, or “Wrong”, or “Oops!”  or “Stop it”. Which to Ken, are essentially still punishers  (Conditioned Punishers or Secondary Punishers). Even if we use “Oops!” as a warning (“Watch out, this is your last chance or else…”) if we lack self-control and use it too frequently, it could definitely become something aversive and will damage the relationship between human and animal. Even the kindest version of a “No” when overused will lead to frustration.

TIME OUT or Negative Punishment (eg, the trainer leaving the room with all the food, when the animal misbehaves) This is another response that causes frustration and anxiety, mainly because the animal does not have a clue which behavior he did was wrong and does not learn what is right. The information is not clear. Time Outs are also ONLY effective if the animal likes you in the first place or finds the training reinforcing. The animal may be relieved to be away from you.

KR gave a great example of a classic Time Out mistake: Dog does something ‘naughty’, person picks up dog, puts him in the crate and person leaves the room.


NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT = Training a behavior where the animal gets to avoid or escape something aversive. Ken Ramirez says that even though Negative Reinforcement always involves some sort of aversive, this doesn’t mean it is inherently evil. For example we use alarm clocks (aversive noise) to wake us up in the morning. We hate the noise but it makes us wake up. Another example is when we learn to turn off the car lights because every time we forget, there’s that loud beeping noise. The biggest issues with Negative Reinforcement are that overuse will lead to frustration and anxiety. The severity of the aversive can be hard to control and can become inhumane. It takes a lot of skill to use Negative Reinforcement effectively. 

I am thinking of training protocols for reactivity/aggression like  BAT , which include some element of Negative Reinforcement.  To paraphrase what Grisha Stewart said at the BAT seminar – yes, there is the use of an aversive in BAT set ups (presenting the dog with a scary dog/person) but we can’t avoid this aversive in real life. “It’s not like we can sit on the couch with our dog and calmly chat with him about his fear of other dogs”. I see that the humane use of Negative Reinforcement involves working in a controlled environment, not adding any artificial aversives, and always letting the dog feel safe and in control.

I like these Susan Friedman quotes:

Control the environment not the animal.

Control is a primary reinforcer, to deprive an animal of control is akin to depriving them of water, food.

To the greatest extent possible all animals should be empowered to exercise personal control over significant environmental events.

In addition to whether or not a method is effective, we have to consider what is the least harmful or least intrusive technique for teaching or changing behavior, and Ken Ramirez referenced the “Heirarchy of Effective Procedures” chart by  Dr. Susan Friedman.

Here is Dr. Susan Friedman’s original article which is a must-read.


Example: If your dog runs around in the yard all day and growls at people on the street, you could change his environment/antecedent arrangements (level 2) – bring him indoors, or put him in the backyard out of view of the street – this would be less intrusive than actively changing his behavior with reinforcers or punishers (levels 3-5).

Ken Ramirez’s favorite least intrusive method for dealing with mistakes is what he calls the LEAST REINFORCING STIMULUS (LRS).

The LRS method was developed and used in zoos but it is also useful with pets. Top priority:

1. not reinforcing unwanted behavior, and

2. not adding any stress or frustration to the relationship.

This is how I understand it.

1. First of all, there must be already a strong  Positive Reinforcement history (ie, good relationship) and high rate of reinforcement.
2. When the animal makes a mistake or does the wrong behavior (not the one you asked for), be NEUTRAL for  3 seconds. Stay calm and DO NOTHING for three seconds. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand…
3. Immediately ask for another behavior that you know is easy, that the animal can do. Give reinforcement.

Assuming that 3 seconds is the right amount of time, the mistake/unwanted behavior won’t be reinforced, and it won’t be too long of NOTHING HAPPENING for the animal to develop frustration.

Emily Larlham (advocate of Progressive Reinforcement training) reiterates that the problem with “No!” and other conditoned punishers is that:

  1. it suppresses your dog’s behavior (overuse leads to a shut down dog)
  2. you create bad associations for your dog with yourself, your dog will do bad behaviors when you are not around.

Emily’s method of dealing with unwanted behavior is by using a  Positive Interrupter  – a sound (eg, kissy noise) and conditions this sound with a treat &/or petting, so that whenever the dog does an unwanted behavior, she uses the noise to redirect the dog away from doing the unwanted behavior, and then asking for a desired behavior that can be reinforced.

**IMPORTANT WARNING: Always give attention to your dog when he is doing good behavior and reinforce this good behavior. The Positive Interrupter is “attention” so if you use this ONLY when dog does unwanted behavior, then your dog will purposely repeat bad behavior just to get your attention.

Oh yes, I learned this the hard way 🙂


How Boogie learned that barking is awesome.

August 21, 2013 at 5:50 am 2 comments

The Schedule for Clicker Expo 2014

reinforcement neededThe schedule for next year’s Clicker Expo is up! I just remembered that I still have notes from this year’s Clicker Expo that I was going to turn into blog posts but I haven’t gotten around to doing this yet…

I really want to go to the 2014 Clicker Expo. Not only is it in Long Beach (I CAN DRIVE THERE), there are lots of NEW speakers including Emily Larlham, Dr. Susan Friedman, and Dr Susan Schneider!  Irith and Sarah will also be presenting seminars.

So I need to make more money to attend this three-day conference. With massive bills and two international trips to save up for, my finances are not looking so good.

If you know of anyone interested in custom pet illustrations , please send them my way!
I would also be happy to do dog training/behavior-related illustrations for books , posters and seminar presentations, and I have many images on my site that are FREE to download and distribute for which I am always very grateful for donations! 🙂

August 15, 2013 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Classical Conditioning (notes from Clicker Expo)

There were some big lightbulb moments for me at the recent clicker expo, and these were related to the topic of Classical Conditioning.

Generally, the term “conditioning” can be a bit misleading because it tends to conjure up images (for me, anyway) from The Clockwork Orange or The Manchurian Candidate and suggests loss of free will, as if we are turning our dogs into robots. Technically speaking, the term “conditioning” simply means learning, and Classical and Operant Conditioning refer to the ways all living beings LEARN.

According to Dr. Susan Friedman, Classical & Operant Learning are always working together in real life. They always overlap. We artificially separate the concepts for teaching.

In Kathy Sdao‘s seminar on “Classical Counterconditioning for Agression”  she draws out the differences between Operant and Classical Conditioning:

Operant Conditioning/Learning happens in the realm of observable behaviors that we can mark and reward. These behaviors are freely chosen by the animal in order to earn reinforcement or escape punishment. Clicker training is Operant Learning. Golden rule: Behavior is driven by Consequences.


I did this drawing after my last Clicker Expo

Classical Conditioning/Learning on the other hand, is in the realm of reflexive or respondent behaviors – all the hardwired emotional, subconscious stuff that an animal has no choice over. These reflexive behaviors (eg, Flight or Fight) are learned through repetitive association and tied up with survival in some way. You pair something neutral with something that elicits “excitement” often enough, and the neutral stimulus will trigger off excited feelings. You repeatedly pair something neutral with something scary and the neutral thing will trigger fearful emotions.  Antecedents lead to Behavior.

“Classical Conditioning is a powerful foundation for Operant Conditioning. Classical Conditioning will not get new behavior. It will put existing behavior under different antecedents.” – Kathy Sdao.




At Clicker Expo, in different presentations, this memo came up several times: We can’t start clicker training an animal who is fearful or anxious.

Classical Counter Conditioning is the first thing that should happen in order to calm the limbic brain, before the animal is able to “behave”. In the case of triggers that elicit fear responses, we pair these with very good things. This memo came up in Julie Shaw’s and Debbie Martin’s “Behavior Modification Clinic” Lab and also in Sarah Owing’s presentation about helping “WallFlower Dogs”.


Note: This example is based on real life. Whenever Boogie hears a “ding!” bell, he runs to the window and barks. Even if the “ding” is coming from the kitchen, the TV or if I accidentally touch a glass with a spoon. Maybe in his previous home, this “ding!” sound was the doorbell.

Here’s a much more detailed illustration on Counter Conditioing that I did for the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual:

Kathy Sdao talked about the ways in which Counter Conditioning can be ineffective due to these common mistakes:

  1. Weak Unconditional Stimulus. (the toy or treat is not valuable enough; the love of this is not stronger than the fear of the trigger)
  2. Trainer’s hand is in the treat bag and the dog is too focused on this
  3. Rhythmic trials. The ” trigger + treat” event happens at regular intervals to become predictable.
  4. Inadvertant Avoidance Conditioning. eg, if we keep treating before the dog sees the trigger, we might accidentally condition the food to become a “warning signal”
  5. We present the treat without the trigger (eg, dog gets the high value treat anyway, when nothing happens) – treat loses value
  6. Contingency issue. If we forget to treat when trigger appears
  7. NOT following up with Operant Conditioning.

Classical Conditioning is also not considered practical in the real world or in the long term because it is too easy to not do it correctly 100% of the time for it to be effective. This is why we need to follow up with Operant Conditioning of replacement behaviors, which made me think instantly of BAT

Basic BAT protocol

Another example of Classical Conditioning was in Ken Ramirez‘s Lab on creating value in  “Non-Food Reinforcers”. He shared a story about a whale (or dolphin?) that wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t eat and they needed him to take his antibiotics. As they were unable to reward with food, they used “reinforcement substitutes” like belly-tickling, clapping hands, praise etc. and these were just as reinforcing to the whale because they had been previously paired with food over a long time.


Similarly, we can train any novel stimulus – a toy or a human action (eg, clapping hands, thumbs up, “Good Boy!” etc) to be reinforcing if we pair this often enough with Primary Reinforcers (food, social interaction, play) during training. This pairing has to be maintained so that the non-food reinforcer stays emotionally meaningful to the animal.


“Charging a clicker” . Click = treat (anticipation, joy)

Some Ken Ramirez quotes:

“Yes, this is exactly like charging a clicker”

“A toy is not intrinsically reinforcing. It is reinforcing because it is paired with the Primary Reinforcer of PLAY”.

He also talked about learning how exactly your dog likes to play with a toy. Every dog is different. Example with tennis balls: Some dogs prefer chasing and fetching; some like to chew, or roll the ball around; some dogs like to peel the skin off. (Boogie is all of the above) Similarly with “touch” as a reinforcer. Each individual animal likes to be touched a certain way and only by certain people that he/she already has a relationship with.

“Value disappears from a conditioned reinforcer if you don’t know how to maintain it”

Susan Friedman in her closing speech at Clicker Expo also brought up the classical conditioning aspect of clicker training. A clicker is also a conditioned reinforcer… we infuse it with emotional value and meaning because it gets paired with food. The click not only marks behavior, it also elicits respondent behavior/happy emotions (“woohoo! I got it right!”) Not only do we have to be precise with our clicking, we also have to ALWAYS back up every click with a treat to ensure that this powerful training technology is effective.

She showed video examples of trainers not using a clicker correctly… eg, trainers who click several times before giving a treat OR trainers with animals who are responding to other signals and are not getting what the click means and are focusing on the food instead… and as a result, the animals don’t perform as requested or they get frustrated and walk away, or get cranky.

Susan Friedman: “If you click, dammit, TREAT!”

If you were at Clicker Expo and if I have misinterpreted any of the information in this blog post, please feel free to let me know! 🙂

Next blog post:  When animals make mistakes – dealing with these in the least intrusive way.


February 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm 12 comments

Home from Clicker Expo

After three full days of Clicker Expo, a total of 14 seminars, half a notebook full of notes and scribbles, my brain is so full I don’t even know how to start writing about this experience. I may need a couple of weeks to process and streamline everything!

I attended my first Clicker Expo 2 years ago (you can read about it here  and here) and this time I went all out and registered for the full event. I wanted to learn new things, be inspired, meet up with my clients, make new contacts, listen to expert trainers like Ken Ramirez and Kathy Sdao, meet Dr. Susan Friedman in person (she ordered multiple copies of my poster!) and sit in on Sarah‘s and Irith‘s shorts presentations, which were really great. I must say that even though I was in the 2% of attendees who don’t work professionally with animals – I didn’t at all feel overwhelmed or lost. 

Clicker Expo was everything I hoped for, including the joy of seeing doggy “down-stay” butts every time I visited the hotel’s ladies’ restroom.

photo by Cindy Bennet Martin

photo by Cindy Bennet Martin

I could write a day-by-day review and this would turn into an epic 3 or 4 part blog post  but for now, let me direct you to this Flickr Set where I have posted some photos and quick notes.

Some topics that I want to think/write more about and do illustrations for….

  • Anthropomorphism & Mechanomorphism (Karen Pryor)
  • Classical Conditioning in relation to Clicker Training (Kathy Sdao, Susan Friedman)
  • Dealing with Unwanted Behavior in the Least Intrusive Way (Ken Ramirez)
  • TAGTeach – Clicker Training for human beings  (Theresa McKeon, Irith Bloom)

I enjoyed every single talk and Learning Lab at Clicker Expo but the highlight for me personally was Kay Laurence’s “Targeting” Lab on the final day, which was amazing to watch. I am so in awe of Kay Laurence’s skills, her sensitivity to the dog, and her way of articulating reasons for every little training choice that she makes. There’s something about seeing a LIVE training session that can’t be beat by watching a YouTube video or DVD.

And after those three intense days of learning and meeting people, it was so good to be back home with Boogie, who is a refreshing change from all the “well-behaved” dogs at Clicker Expo…

Boogie in his new tiny teacup doggie bed.


Boogie unstuffs his new bed.

In other news, I have started reading Monica Segal’s K9 Kitchen: Your Dog’s Diet. The Truth Behind The Hype. It is a fascinating read but I am now even more aware of how much conflicting info there is about dog nutrition floating around… for instance, the  “grain-free, potato-free” diet that is said to prevent yeast infections. See this earlier blog post.

According to Monica Segal, cutting carbs out of a dog’s diet won’t make any difference to yeast growth.

“A very popular myth circulating on the Internet claims that yeast feeds on carbohydrates…. There isn’t a direct link between carbohydrates or sweet vegetables and yeast. The focus should be on eliminating the food culprit whatever it may be” (usually proteins or grains or supplements)

She also adds that grains can be a GOOD THING for some dogs (better coat)… so long as they are thoroughly cooked to be digestible. I am particularly interested in the chapter on  recipes and on how to prepare a home cooked diet that has the correct balance of nutrients…

More later…

January 31, 2013 at 8:37 am 8 comments

Happy Holidays!

Apologies for the long silences between posts and thank you to everyone who has left comments (advice, tips, personal stories etc) on this blog, particularly with regards to Boogie’s skin issues. I have been out-of-town; now I am happy to be back home and snuggling with the Boogs again. He is less itchy now that the weather has cooled down. His coat is still very thin with the same bald patches, and his poor skin has been dry, flaky, and dandruffy.

I am trying a few new things:

  • No chicken in his diet at all. He has been eating lamb and/or fish-based meals. It has only been 1 week… I can’t tell if there is any difference.
  • Adding Pet Kelp to his food. 3 weeks, now. Can’t tell if this is making any difference with his skin, but his poop is looking very good!
  • Virgin Coconut Oil massage, every other day <– THIS is making a difference! Skin is noticeably less dry.
  • New Year Resolution: Make pet treats with the new dehydrator (which is still in its box)

I am determined to do anything to avoid more vet visits & antibiotics! In fact, I took advantage of Monica Segal‘s recent Black Friday Sale and ordered a dietary consultation for Boogie in the new year. I need help figuring out what foods (if any) that Boogie’s system may not be tolerant of.


 Check out Jordan Rothman’s new book  The Misunderstood Dog, with my illustrations. I would describe it as a simpler, easier-to-read version of “The Culture Clash”, written for dog owners. The Boston on the cover is the author’s dog.  Here is the page.


Order a snazzy little name tag that I designed for blanketID.  A percentage of sales goes to Boston Buddies rescue. I think this would make an awesome Xmas gift. They come in red or blue, and small or large sizes. The photos that I have of Boogie wearing this blanketID tag on his collar are kinda blurry…. Will try again later.  ORDER HERE

Who is going to Clicker Expo in San Francisco next month? I would love to meet up! I know names but not faces, so if you recognize me, please say hi! I will be there for the full three days. First time that I am staying for the whole expo and very excited!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! – Lili & Boogie x

December 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm 5 comments

Boogie’s first TTouch Experience

I first heard about TTouch several years ago. At the time, there were no YouTube videos on the subject, no TTouch practitioners anywhere near me, and the only information that I could get my hands on was in a book with very few pictures. It wasn’t until recently when I got a hold of the new edition of Getting In TTouch With Your Dog (which has very clear photos and diagrams) that my curiosity was rekindled.

What I know now is that TTouch is not simply a type of massage, but a method of bodywork that also incorporates “behavior training”. The premise is that if your dog feels right in his body and is able to release tension, he more able to learn new things. Physical health, emotional health and performance are all related.

Whole Dog Journal article: The Tellington TTouch For Dogs

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Patricia Tirrell (a TTouch Practitioner who also moderates the DogRead Yahoo group) on Facebook and she referred me to Cynde Van Vleet of IC Paws Abilites, who is based in California. Cynde is our closest TTouch Practitioner – and she very kindly offered to drive 70 miles from San Clemente to meet with Boogie.

Sarah and I organized a session with Cynde at Sarah’s place where our two dog-reactive dogs were kept in separate areas. Boogie was outdoors, Zoe was indoors.

Cynde and Boogie

What I learnt yesterday:

TTouch looks like massage but it is actually works on the nervous system rather than on the muscles. The touches are very light circular motions on the skin, so gentle that the animal physically relaxes while his brain and nervous system are activated at the same time. The thumb is anchored while the fingers do a one-and-a-quarter circle on the skin. There are many different TTouch touches classified by different parts of the fingers coming in contact with the skin.

It was quite a challenge to have to think about these finger/hand motions and be mindful of how gentle the pressure should be. (Cynde: On a scale of 0 to 10, the pressure is a 3) The one-and-a-quarter-circle motion is not as easy to do as it looks 🙂

From the book: “Getting In TTouch With Your Dog”

Interestingly too, TTouch was adapted by Linda Tellington Jones from the Feldenkrais method, when she first started working with horses and zoo animals (hence the names like “Clouded Leopard TTouch” and “Python TTouch”). I find this influence exciting because many years ago, in the early 90’s, I attended Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes in Sydney, and have done “Functional Intergration” sessions for back pain. To be honest, at the time I didn’t have a clue how it all worked and why I felt so amazing after each session.  The movements were all extremely slow, precise, gentle and repetitive. This was like the opposite of getting a deep tissue massage or doing yoga postures. I remember always going home feeling super flexible,  light and rejuvenated with all my physical pain and tension gone.

When Cynde worked on Boogie, she noted that he had a lot of heat in his head (heat = stress)… which eventually cooled down after a few Racoon touches. Boogie also had a lot of tension in his tail – it was pulled in super tight.

NEVER before had I ever done anything with Boogie’s tail (except one time when he had a hotspot underneath that I had to clean) so this was quite a weird and new sensation. Boogie’s tail is like a tiny nub in the shape of a comma… almost bald because he has been chewing and scooting on it. Until yesterday when Cynde pointed it out to me, I had no idea that there were TWO joints in that teeny weeny tail. Cynde demonstrated how to hold the base of the tail and move it around to loosen the tension. Boogie LOVED the Tail Touches. His tongue was flicking in and out of his mouth like in the very last drawing of this poster.

Here’s a video snippet of Cynde doing Tail TTouch with Zoe, who has a real tail.

Boogie also loved having his ears worked on – the Ear TTouches are supposed to be very calming. Cynde did slides and circular movements. I am thinking that these touches might help Boogie relax before I clean his ears….

I tried out some Racoon ( fingertip) touches on Boogie’s body but I might have been doing it wrong or with too much pressure… Boogie got restless and walked away. He relaxed again when I tried the more soothing and less concentrated Lying Leopard (full palm) touches. Blissful Boogie face.

An essential part of TTouch is paying attention to and getting feedback from the dog and doing what feels right for him.

Cynde had also done these same touches on Sarah’s and my backs so that we knew what they felt like.

Body Wrap

Setting up the Labyrinth.

The Body Wrap, Labyrinth and Cones
The Body Wrap works like a Thundershirt and is supposed to be calming. I am not too sure if the stretchy elastic wrap made much difference to Boogie’s energy level … It was hard for me to tell.  Cynde had set up a Labyrinth and series of Cones for the Boogs to walk through but he was so distracted by Zoe’s presence in the backyard at the time, and perhaps also by the uncomfortable heat outdoors, that he was whimpering, pulling on the leash and stepping over the lines like a totally untrained dog. He also vomited up some hot dog… which he immediately ate up again. :/

Eventually, we successfully made it through the Labyrinth and Cones when we slowed everything down and I praised Boogie very exuberantly for every single step…

Cynde suggests that I take Boogie on different surfaces (high and low) and spend more time walking not in a straight line but around objects, a bit like walking around cones and in the labyrinth, while we are out on our walks. Boogie and I actually already do a lot of walking around objects (like parked cars) to avoid scary people and dogs, but I need to be doing this with focus – perhaps more slowly and make it like a fun game.

Touches we covered today. The animal names remind me of Kung Fu moves! 🙂

Noah’s March
Lying Leopard Touch
Clouded Leopard Touch
Racoon Touch
Bear Touch
Turtle Touch
Ear Touch
Tail Touch
Zig Zag Touch

Check out more photos and videos in this flickr set: Boogie and Zoe – TTouch Session

So…. was Boogie calmer? More relaxed? It was hard to tell because it was hot and we were in a new distracting environment. To me, Boogie seemed quite restless when he wasn’t getting the TTouches. He wanted to play, he wanted to meet Zoe and Maya, he wanted to drink from the mini pool, check out Sarah’s rabbits etc.   He was also dying to go indoors with us and didn’t like being left outside.

So far, I like everything that I have learned about TTouch, and it makes perfect sense that a dog who who feels good physically is going to be a more relaxed and confident dog in general. I can see how this would help with training. I love touching/petting/massaging Boogie anyway, and it’s nice to know that I can from now on, stop doing a sloppy job of it and actually have some ‘technique’ to use. 🙂

Thank you, Cynde!

Today’s little buzz: Boogie hopped into the bathtub when I turned the water on. We’d just come in from the 100 degree heat outside. Boogie jumped into the tub BY HIMSELF which is something he has never done before. He stood in there while I splashed some water on his belly; jumped out again, shook off, ran off to grab his toy. Usually when I turn the water on, I find Boogie hiding under a table or inside his crate and I have to lure him out with treats and carry him into the tub.

September 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm 7 comments

Hey, Los Angeles dog people!

I am Facebook friends with lots of dog people (owners and trainers)  so I am always seeing postings of dog behavior seminars and workshops that sound really cool and useful that I would love to attend.

Sadly, none of these cool seminars ever come to Southern California. Take for example, Grisha Stewart’s BAT seminars…  Grisha has been touring all around the USA and the known universe, but she has never made it to L.A.  Overseas experts also rarely do workshops in SoCal. *Update: Grisha will be doing a BAT seminar in Los Angeles, May, 2013!

I have been told that for some reason, LA attendance rates are always low so nobody bothers to organize training events here. What’s up with people in LA? Does anyone know? Are LA dog people more interested in “show-off my dog” type events vs. educational events?

I read dog training books and blog posts, I watch Youtube videos and DVDs of seminars, I vent to my friends and to Sarah (who is like my therapist when it comes to Boogie issues). Not quite the same. I would love to be in a room full of like-minded dog people who are all interested in learning the same stuff! And of course, I also want to hand out business cards. 🙂

Well, here’s some good news. There are two doggie seminars that are being hosted in SoCal this Summer!

First of all – Nicole Wilde, July 21st -22nd
Location: Burbank. Woohoo! 15 minutes drive from me!
Topics: Helping Fearful Dogs; Separation Anxiety & Dynamics of Dog-Dog Play
I would love to do both days but $ is tight and I will have separation anxiety being away from Boogie for two full days, so I will most probably register for Sunday only. Very interested in the Dynamics of Dog-Dog Play! *Update: Registered for Sunday!

Even sooner – Dr. Sophia Yin, June 24th-25th.
Location: Ventura 1.5 hours drive away.
Topics: Learn To Earn, Body Language, Aggression, etc
Also more interested in the 2nd day which deals with aggression. I wasn’t planning to bring Boogie but Sophia thinks I will get more out of this seminar if I bring him (crated) and do the exercises with him in this class. Hmmm…This would be very interesting!

These seminars are approx. $100 a day – not cheap when you are a struggling artist, but it is such a rare treat to have dog behavior events so close to home…

While on the subject of dog training,  Boogie’s blog will be hosting a few guest posts (with videos) from  CyberDog Online. Stay tuned! Part 1 will be posted this Friday.

May 8, 2012 at 8:38 pm 6 comments

Boogie at The Boston Tea Party

I said we weren’t going to the annual Boston Tea Party, but at the very last minute, we changed our minds…

Temecula is about 2 hours away and by the time we arrived, it was almost closing time so perhaps there were less boston terriers present than there must’ve been earlier in the day.

Two years ago, at the 2009 Boston Tea Party, Boogie lunged and snapped at every single dog that came near him.  Last year’s Boston Tea Party, I went alone and didn’t bring him. As part of his training protocol, we avoided ALL unfamiliar dogs as it would’ve been too stressful for him to be around hundreds of dogs.

This year, I could not believe the difference. Not only were Boogie and Popeye FRIENDS again (see previous blog post), Boogie greeted and sniffed lots of other bostons, and remained calm and happy all day.  If he looked a little stiff during greetings, I called him away and everything was fine. It was a fun and social event for both humans and dogs, and I could not have been happier and more proud of  the Boogs!

Pic of Boogie standing next to a little boston girl (I don’t know who she is).

It was a really hot day and all the dogs were panting. Here’s a photo that I love of Boogie, Rosie and Popeye sharing water. Three tongues in one bottle cap! 🙂

October 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm 2 comments

Book signing in San Diego, Boogie’s Sleepover…

This past weekend was the APDT conference in San Diego and thanks to Grisha Stewart, I was able to attend the exhibit hall/book signing part of the event. It was so great to meet Grisha in person at last!  I also met up with Dr. Sophia Yin and visited the fantabulous Cat’s House.

There were many vendors in the APDT exhibit hall and some were giving away free treats and toys… an offer that I couldn’t refuse. See the Little Jacs treats? They are really really disgustingly smell-won’t-easily-wash-off-your-hands-STINKY and Boogie loves them.

I received a sample Thundershirt (not sure yet when I would put this on Boogie who can sleep through alarm clocks, thunderstorms and earthquakes…)  from a lovely lady whose name I can’t remember, and I bought a new Freedom Leash and Harness combo at a very discounted price. It was also lovely to meet up with Dorna Sakurai for whom I have done some illustration work.

While I was away Boogie slept over with his buddies, Rosie and Popeye for the first time.  You can see videos from their last play date in this flickr set.

(instructions inside the card)

According to Rosie’s and Popeye’s parents, the dogs had a wonderful time, there was a lot of playing, no issues with walks around the neighborhood, Boogie was well-behaved and did not bug Cosmo the cat. (Whew) The boys in particular – Boogie and Popeye – hit it off and became best mates.

Well, everything was fine and dandy until I arrived back in LA to pick Boogie up.

There we all were in the yard. The excitement level was high, the dogs were running around, a tennis ball was thrown, the humans were chatting… and suddenly Popeye and Boogie were locked in a fight. We weren’t sure how the fight started exactly because none of us were paying attention. Popeye’s dad and I struggled to pull the dogs apart. Both dogs held onto to each other very tightly with their sharp teeth.

And then we were washing and bandaging bite wounds and an hour later, Boogie was at the emergency vet getting his leg wounds stapled. Popeye too had to have his paw injury drained and wear the cone of shame.

Yeah, tough guys. What did they learn from this? Probably nothing good.

And my wallet is hurting.

Popeye and the Boogs are healing up now. Boogie is on antibiotics and Rimadil and thankfully no longer limping nor showing any signs of  reactivity toward strange dogs on our walks like after the last time he got into a dog fight. In 2 weeks, the staples will be removed and hopefully soon, when both dogs are completely physically healed they can meet and play again.

I was chatting to Sarah our trainer about this fight incident and she brought up Trigger Stacking. In the BAT book, there’s an illustration about Trigger Stacking which basically means that when a dog has a bunch of stressful experiences, all the stresses add up in his system and he suddenly blows a fuse (or  reaches his “Bite/Reactivity Threshold”). It is not ONE thing that starts a fight, but several things added up over a short period of time and as a result the outburst may seen unpredictable or over-the-top when it really isn’t.

In this case, the easiest assumption  to make is that the dogs fought because both wanted possession of the tennis ball (which was being thrown for the first time all weekend) , but it could have also been that a couple of minutes earlier, two German shepherds had walked past the front gate and  triggered raised hackles on both Boogie and Popeye. And a little time before this,  I (Boogie’s mom) had arrived which is what started all the excitement in the first place. Perhaps the tennis ball was the last straw rather than the primary cause in the context of two toy-possessive macho boys with short fuses (aka “low reactivity thresholds”).

* When Boogie and Rosie were playing fetch with the tennis ball , there were no issues. Rosie is really sweet and flirty and gives in to the boys.

The major lesson that I am re-learning here is that it is not safe to play fetch with Boogie when there are other dogs present AND I need to do some sort of “impulse control training” with him (not clear yet what this should be) so that he is less toy-obsessed and will learn to nicely share his toys….

Unfortunately due to this incident we won’t be going to the Boston Buddies’ Boston Tea Party tomorrow. Which is a shame because I wanted to bid on the silent auction’s  “Boogie On Ukelele” tote and grab a copy of the new calendar.

Look, the munchkins are on the cover! 🙂

Link: Here are more photos from Boogie’s Sleepover

October 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm 4 comments

Notes from ClickerExpo (Friday)

This was my very first time at a ClickerExpo – a major annual animal training event – and my brain has been bursting with information and new ideas for Dog Training-related drawings!

For those who want a short and clear summary of what Clicker Training is, here’s one good article.

Sarah our trainer was there and I met some really nice people. To my Doggie Drawings clients and Boogie’s blog readers, you were probably there too and if I had known what you look like, I would’ve said hello!

It was so great to be at an event with dogs present. I didn’t bring Boogie because, as you know… he’s a reactive fella, and he would’ve been insanely bored during the seminars 🙂

Many of the seminars that I was interested in were scheduled at the same times so it was hard to decide which one to go to.  If time and money were no object (and if I didn’t miss Boogie too much) I would have registered for the full three days and spent the weekend at Newport Beach.

Karen Pryor : Opening speech.

It was such a blast to see and hear  Karen Pryor in person. I loved her book “Reaching The Animal Mind” which is what inspired me to learn about clicker training in the first place. 

Karen showed a video of a clicker-trained rhino doing a SIT, DOWN and ROLL OVER (!)- which was a great example of training without the use of physical contact or force …not something that you can do anyway with animals way larger and deadlier than the average reactive dog.  The thing that fascinates me so much about Clicker Training is the claim that it works for ALL animals… wild ones, tame ones, zoo animals, farm animals, and even your regular household fish.

This kit was sold at the ClickerExpo store.

Seminar 1: Cecelie Koste – CLICKERTRAINING 101

As much as I wanted to sit in on Ken Ramirez’s talk on “Aggression” which everyone was raving about afterwards, I am really glad I chose Cecelie Koste’s Foundation Level seminar  because…wow,  I finally understand the language that dog trainers use!!! Cecelie was very clear in explaining all the concepts of Operant Conditioning, and how these apply to the Clicker Training methodology. I loved the video examples and I took a ton of notes, which I will eventually re-share on this blog as drawings.

First, Cecelie explained the difference between Classical Conditioning (developed by Pavlov, for changing emotions) and Operant Conditioning (developed by Skinner for changing behaviors). The latter is what Clicker Training is based on.

There are some Operant Conditioning concepts that I have always struggled with, and I know that I am not alone. Whenever trainers mention the terms Positive Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, and Negative Punishment as the Four Quadrants of Operant Conditioning,  it is SO HARD not to think of “Positive” as meaning “Good” and “Negative” as meaning “Bad”, when these are really abstract terms that refer to the act of  “Adding something”(+) or “Subtracting something”(-) in the training process.  Similarly, the term “Punishment” means “decreasing a behavior” and not the act of doing something nasty.

A lightbulb went off in my head yesterday morning. The way I understand it now is that these consequences WORK IN TANDEM, AS PAIRS.

The way Cecelie explained it, Positive Reinforcement works in tandem with Negative Punishment, and Positive Punishment works in tandem with Negative Reinforcement. Personally, I don’t get why they still have to be thought of as “quadrants”… It’s easier to remember them as twosomes.

Cecelie Koste:

Positive (+)  Reinforcement = Adding GOOD STUFF that your dog will work for. Treats, praise, petting, toys, sniffing, etc. to increase a behavior.
Negative (-) Punishment = Removing or Delaying the GOOD STUFF (treats, praise, petting etc) to decrease a behavior. Like a “Time Out”

Positive (+) Punishment = Adding BAD STUFF like shocks, pinches, leash pops, scolding etc to decrease a behavior.
Negative (-) Reinforcement: = Delaying or Escaping the BAD STUFF (shocks, leash pops, scolding etc)  to increase a behavior. Like a “Warning”

Furthermore, here’s what I picked up — there are always TWO BEHAVIORS  going on at the same time if one is being reinforced and one is being punished.

[click on picture to see it larger]

Even though this all seems like common sense from my own varied training experiences with Boogie, it is interesting to get a scientific breakdown.

With the +R/-P training – the dog walks on loose leash because he gets to move forward and get paid with food. With the +P/-R training – the dog walks on loose leash because he is avoiding having his neck choked. The first pair of consequences +R/-P is what Clicker Training is about and  has been proven to be much more effective than +P/-R because the dog remains happy, un-stressed, and eager to learn.

Cecelie talked about the concepts of Extinction and Variable Schedule of Reinforcement and how it contributes to Shaping new behaviors.  Other concepts covered: PRIMARY & SECONDARY REINFORCERS, HULL’s DRIVE THEORY, THE PREMACK PRINCIPLE, CUES, why BACKCHAINING is more effective than FORWARD CHAINING (Boogie and I have done some backchaining work with Sarah – scroll down). Like I said, more food for thought –> more ideas for illustrations! 🙂

Seminar 2: Kathy Sdao – On SHAPING

Kathy Sdao is such an amazing, enthusiastic, passionate and entertaining speaker! Never a dull moment. I have watched some of her DVD seminars but this live presentation was so much better. Quotes and notes to follow.

The ABC of training:  Antecendent –> Behavior –> Consequence

“We can’t manipulate behavior directly. We can manipulate events just before (Antecedents) and just after (Consequences) a behavior.”

“The most fundamental law of behavior is that Consequences drive Behavior”. Which I guess is like saying that we work in order to get paid, not because we were asked to. Or that Boogie barks at the mailman not because of anything the mailman did, but because the barking *causes* the mailman to go away. I can see that this applies to the BAT work that Boogie and I have been doing, where the “consequences” = “functional rewards”.

99% of “Stubbornness” is trained. Clicker training gives the animal a sense of AGENCY. “I made her click!”. It teaches animals that they have control, they can change their world.

“Shaping is the heart and soul of clicker training”.

Prerequisites for Shaping behavior:
1. Clear goal behavior, visually and verbally.
2. What is the 1st criterion that is clickable? Choose something that he already does.
3. Ability to SEE.
4. Click-Treat mechanical skills… click precisely, and click often.
5. Click MOVEMENT. “The Dead Dog Rule”: don’t click non-behavior (eg, silence or stillness)
6. A hungry and confident animal
7. Very small delicious treats

Kathy demonstrated a Shaping/targeting exercise with a dog in the audience (she placed a bottle down on the floor in front of the dog) and it was kinda funny to see this little pup Olivia do some of  the same stuff that Boogie does. Several times, Olivia sat down and waited for the treat instead of moving forward to offer new behaviors. (Yay! My dog is not a freak!) I loved that Kathy explained what her own mistakes were in this exercise, which shows that even a veteran master animal trainer isn’t perfect. 🙂

Seminar 3: Kay Laurence – On MICROSHAPING

I had registered myself for a Learning Labs Workshop with Kathy Sdao to see real live dogs being shaped but at the last minute I changed my mind and attended Kay Laurence’s seminar instead… mainly because I was curious to get another perspective on the same subject.

Kay was very impressive and funny (very dry British humor) and had very strong opinions on the Ethics of dog training.

Training should be Learner-Centric, not Behavior-Centric.” ie, just because you can train it doesn’t mean you should. Kay Laurence is not a fan of YouTube videos of dogs trained to walk on their two front legs. “Shaping is working with a natural movement, not teaching an unnatural one”. (I wonder if she is referring to Neo and Tuxedo…) Kay believes that a lot of training is done for the trainer’s ego or with no respect for the animal.  One example being female animals who are trained to stand perfectly still for breeding purposes… 😦

She is also not a fan of the “101 things with a box” game or “freeshaping” because it lessens the effectiveness of teaching precise behaviors and causes confusion for the dogs.

A lot of the  stuff she talked about was perhaps too advanced for me…  Most of the technical details went way over my head and perhaps are more relevant to dog owners who do Obedience competitions and have to get very precise “beautiful” behaviors from their dogs.

“Shaping is 90% planning and 10% training”. *Yep, the planning part is the hardest for me!

It is better to do 10 x 1 minute sessions, than 1 x 10 minute session. There has to be a clear agenda for each session.

You want a high 95% success rate. “Success is measured by the rate of reinforcement not the speed at which the final behavior is achieved”. The dog is reinforced frequently, for tiny increments of improvement.

From what I understand, Kay’s “Microshaping” method is not so much about shaping or clicking the outcomes. (eg, dog touches ball) It focuses on shaping the micromovements –  accurate, refined muscle movements (dog lifts paw) so that the dog is very clear on what he is doing and you get high quality behaviors.  She showed a few videos where a dog was clicked for repeatedly moving his paw to a specific position. And then she added the target object in the same place where his paw would go and clicked the dog for putting his paw on the object. A different protocol from the one where you first present the target object in front of the dog, then click his movements towards it.. as Kathy Sdao had done. (Sarah and I have done something similar with Boogie)

She also showed videos of a dog standing on dome-things (targets) and pointed out the different muscles moving on the dog’s body when she changed the positions of the targets. Whoa. I guess one would need a really expert understanding of a dog’s physiology and natural movement patterns to train this way.

Kay Laurence:  “Some people taste a dish and know how to cook it. I can look at a behavior and know how to teach it.”

All in all, that was a fantastic learning experience, and if money were no object next year, I would do it again!

January 24, 2011 at 3:49 am 21 comments

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