Posts filed under ‘Books & DVDs’

Classical Conditioning, summer games

It was my birthday last week and Sarah, our trainer gave me this PATTERN GAMES DVD by Leslie McDevitt. Thank you, Sarah! Sarah understands how complicated Boogie is and how much he needs to “feel in control”.

Here’s a YouTube video explaining what the DVD is about, with doggie footage. I look forward to watching this DVD, doing the games with Boogie and of course, I will blog about our experiences!

I think Boogie’s main problem is that not only is he triggered by certain types of people,  he doesn’t do well with Sudden Environmental Changes. I have read that S.E.C is actually quite common. Due to lack of socialization as puppies, dogs can grow up to be easily spooked or startled.

Boogie can be in a room full of unfamiliar people and he will be perfectly fine. But put him on an empty street, and he will go nuts when ONE unfamiliar person appears. Or when we are walking on a busy street, if one person turns around to look at him, that person will get his hackles up. I think having some sort of “rule structure” or “pattern game” to deal with surprises would be good for the Boogs. In some ways, I have already been working on this issue…

I have been doing major classical counter-conditioning with Boogie for the past 3 weeks following an ‘upsetting incident’ on which I would rather not elaborate.  Every time we see a person on the street, no matter how near or far, how big or small, old or young, carrying bags or not carrying bags, walking slow or walking fast, I have been giving Boogie treats. As soon as Boogie registers the presence of the person, I ask for eye-contact, we move to the side and he gets a treat. The closer or larger/scarier the person, the more treats he gets. Sometimes, if Boogie remains under-threshold, we continue walking and I give Boogie a treat right after the person has just passed us. Instinct tells me this is important because Boogie used to lunge at people from behind.

On the morning of Mother’s Day, Boogs and I were walking along on an empty street. About 20 feet in front of us, an old man appeared. Boogie saw the old man, stopped, did a whiplash turn around and looked up at me with a face full of hope. “Where’s my treat?”

This morning, an old man on a bicycle was moving towards us. Usually when I see a bike coming, I get us out of the way fast or Boogie would lunge and bark. Likewise with joggers. Today, I did not see the cyclist coming until he was almost running into us.  The guy said “Sorry! My fault! know I shouldn’t be on the sidewalk”. At my feet, a bright-eyed Boogie face was looking up at me: “Where’s my treat?”

Boogie has not lunged at a single cyclist or jogger in the past 3 weeks. I am still amazed that he either:
1. completely ignores them and continues walking <– treat for being calm
2. moves to the side and sniffs the ground (self-soothing behavior) <– treat for good choice
3. turns around and looks at me for a treat <– treat for connecting with me

Jean Donaldson writes about Classical Counter-Conditioning (re: Austin, who has a problem with of men)

It is behavior “blind”-we  don’t care what Austin [dog] does, all we care about is that once men are on the  scene, good things happen to Austin. It is a powerful conditioning technique  but difficult for people to get their heads around. The behavior-blind part  flies in the face of what is an extremely operant conditioning-oriented training  culture. It’s a piece of cake to fulfill the men=cheese contract when Austin  just looks at the guy, but much harder psychologically to provide the cheese  if Austin goes off at the guy. It feels to the trainer like she is “rewarding” the  behavior. When Pavlovian counter-conditioning is used in conjunction with  desensitization, this issue is mostly avoided because the desensitization part  (by definition) prevents the dog misbehaving (unless you screw up). But in a straight-up counter-conditioning procedure (i.e., one performed without  desensitization), you will often find yourself supplying the fabulous thing  right after the dog is naughty. To do otherwise would be to weaken the connection  between men and goat cheese. There are no effective “schedules” in  classical conditioning, just extinction trials, which are bad for the cause. The  closer you can approximate a 1:1 ratio of men to goat cheese, the stronger the  conditioning.

In a sense, we are going back to BAT Stage 1 (or Look At That) with human triggers but sometimes I deliver the treat even before we walk away because I want to strongly associate the sudden appearance of people with good things. In life, surprises happen all the time… I want to help Boogie not be so easily spooked. Sometimes, there is also no room or time to move away.

Here’s another activity for the Summer. I recently got a copy of Secret Stairs: Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. Yep, Boogie and I will be staircase-hunting on long hikes around the neighborhood!

Boogie has a thing about climbing stairs and is definitely way more fit than I am .

Here’s a very old video clip of Boogie on Radio Walk in Franklin Hills. (I know I am biased but how cute is that butt!)

May 23, 2012 at 7:40 am 4 comments

From Suzanne Clothier’s book…

I just finished reading Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs  by Suzanne Clothier. 

Well, truth be told, I skipped over several chapters and sections in this book (that I found too repetitive or too sad) and read only the parts that had Suzanne Clothier interacting with her dogs or dealing with the problem behaviors of  her clients’ dogs. These chapters were wonderfully enlightening, and I loved the way Suzanne Clothier retells scenarios from the dog’s perspective with such amazingly heartwrenching detail. It is also so refreshing to read a book about “human-dog communication”  that isn’t full of scientific/training jargon.

Sharing a few clippings from my Kindle copy:

“Training is a mechanical skill.” The problem arises when we mistake the skill of training for the relationship itself.

A good deal of dog training is rather Procrustean. Procrustes was a mythological fellow who had a special bed that he guaranteed would fit all who tried it. And amazingly, it did—because he would stretch anyone too short for the bed and cut off any parts that were too long and hung over the bed. Perfect fit, every time! And we do this to dogs, stretching them unnaturally to suit our training demands and lopping off the parts we don’t like or the parts that don’t neatly fit within our paradigm.

It’s okay to guess what your dog is trying to communicate as long as you’re willing to accept that you might be wrong, correct your misunderstanding and try again. It is not okay to guess what an animal is thinking or feeling if you are unwilling to accept nothing less than absolute compliance with your wishes.

…every interaction with a dog is one that the dog takes seriously. He has no other way of interpreting his world. The dog’s world does not contain careless interactions. In every interaction with another dog or person, a dog says what he means.

All of the simplistic never advice contains the implied but unspoken phrase of dire warning “or your dog will become alpha.” This is as silly as saying if you let children run and play, you will never have control over them. The truth is that if you don’t have control over the children in the first place, then when they do run and play and get terribly excited, you won’t be able to control them in that situation. If you can’t tell your dog to get off the furniture or out of your bed, it’s not because a comfortable couch has eroded the dog’s respect for you. Particular actions in and of themselves are not usually the problem when it comes to leadership issues. The lack of respect we have earned from our dogs is the problem.

The dog does not need to be “deranked” so much as the people need to learn to act like people worth listening to.

…the loophole in the canine possession law—if you voluntarily turn your attention away from an object and another dog swoops in and takes it, that’s fair. 

We want to believe in the Lassie myth, to focus only on the dog’s gentle, forgiving, loving nature. Of all the rocks on which we may stub our emotional toes, this is a big one. We do not want to think that the dog lying at our feet is a predator and a powerful one at that. It may be that we’d prefer that the people and animals we love most dearly have no dark, ugly side; we idealize them with this simple “Oh, he’d never do that!” or “She’s just not that kind of person.” In any relationship, such sanitized, idealized views of another being does not lead to deeper understanding or a more intense connection but to the inevitable disappointment that occurs when we are unable to embrace both the potential for both light and the dark contained in all of us. This is not to say that all dogs will sooner or later act in aggressive ways, no more than all humans will eventually harm another person. The dark potential that lurks within each of us needs to be recognized, and our relationships shaped to encourage the joyful lightness of being, not trigger the ugly possibilities.

In the United States, roughly two thousand children die every year at the hands of their own parents, but less than a dozen are killed by dogs. And yet people don’t look at children and whisper, “Be careful. Parents can turn on you.”

If I am mature enough to understand that not all behavior directed at me is about me, I am then in an even better place to carefully search for the real message behind the behavior.

My experience is that very often, an animal needs an acknowledgment of the motivation behind his resistance more than he needs us to simply withdraw our request. Though it sounds terribly simple, I am endlessly amazed by what happens when I assure an animal that I do understand why he finds something unpleasant or scary, and I believe that like all people I know, animals also need to be heard.

March 23, 2012 at 8:17 am 3 comments

Boogie Says PLEASE…

[Look, it comes with a BAT book bookmark!]

A couple of nights ago, I read Kathy Sdao’s new book : Plenty In Life Is Free (I saw Kathy Sdao speak at last year’s Clicker Expo and she was an amazing, feisty and inspiring speaker.) It is partly a memoir, but mostly a critical look at the  NILIF “Nothing In Life Is Free” sacred cow of dog training, also known as “Learn To Earn” or  “Say Please”.

NILIF is something that almost all dog owners already know about. It is sort of a “relationship philosophy” for humans and dogs that is often said to prevent and/or fix behavioral issues. With NILIF, the dog has to earn his food, attention, permission to get on the couch, anything… by first performing a specified polite behavior, usually sitting. Coincidentally, I recently finished doing some illustrations for Sophia Yin’s “Learn To Earn” program so the NILIF regimen is still fresh in my mind even though, thankfully Boogie is already mostly a calm, polite and patient dog so I don’t feel any need to micromanage his behaviors.

According to Kathy Sdao,  NILIF puts a lot of emphasis on withholding attention/love/food (aka Negative Punishment) and making the dog earn these things. Even though she herself has advocated this philosophy for years,  she now questions if NILIF is in fact a not so benign, “passive-aggressive” way of communicating that doesn’t foster trust and intimacy in any relationship. In some extreme (and unethical) examples  of NILIF  in action,  trainers even starve their animals in order to get more compliance out of them during training.

NILIF also often contradicts some behavior modification protocols. One problem that I can really relate to is when Boogie sees a trigger on the street that he might lunge or growl at. I have learned through many experiences that the WORST thing I can do is to ask him to “Sit” (regardless of whether I give him a treat or not). The sitting only makes Boogie more intensely magnetized to the trigger and there is a higher chance of reactivity or aggression. As I have learned through BAT, the best thing I can do for Boogie is to reinforce voluntary polite signals with MOVEMENT.

There is one page in the book that I found really fascinating and interesting… it’s about Chained behaviors , and also related to asking a dog to SIT for what he wants. I think Sarah has mentioned this before. When Boogie jumps up and I ask him to SIT, then reward him for sitting, I am accidentally reinforcing both behaviors –  “JUMP UP +  SIT”.

My brain went off on a tangent and I started thinking about how Boogie often  sits and stares at me whenever he wants something.  He never barks at me, he never pounces on me. He just sits quietly and waits, and he can do this for a very long time. To most people this might be the sign of a well-behaved dog, but I’ll admit that it sometimes drives me nuts. Yes, Boogie, you are very polite by sitting and saying Please, but WHAT THE HECK DO YOU WANT???

I also don’t always notice him sitting there because he is so quiet.

And then there have been times when I wake up in the middle of the night to see Boogie sitting at the foot of my bed, staring at me, hypnotizing me to wake up because he needs to go outside and eat grass, do a poo, or whatever. I feel so bad because I don’t know how long he has been sitting there quietly and desperately waiting. Any other  dog would probably bark and paw me awake. What if I had taken a benadryl and slept like a log?

Afer four years, even though I have learned to read most of Boogie’s sits (eg, when he needs to go outside, he sits with front legs  held really close together and his ears go back) a lot of the time I am still presented with a multiple choice quiz.  I have to look at the clock or get up from my chair to find out if Boogie will lead me to the kitchen, couch, front door, or bedroom.

Disclaimer:  These drawings are exaggerations.

In the book, Kathy Sdao advocates a protocol of “fifty rewards a day” and also SMART, acronym for SEE, MARK and REWARD TRAINING. In place of  NILIF, we could be devloping better training skills, the main ones being:

1. Seeing/Noticing when our dog voluntarily does good behaviors
2. Marking/Pointing out to the dog when he does these good behaviors (click or “yes”)
3. Rewarding the dog so that we increase the strength and frequency of these good behaviors.

“Seeing, Marking and Rewarding voluntary behaviors violates versions of NILIF that require trainers to ask their dog to respond to a command (or to a trainer-produced cue) before the dog recieves any rewards. SMART frees us to reward dogs anytime they aren’t worrying or annoying us. The more we do this, the more our dogs will behave in ways that please us and the less risk we’ll have of accidentally reinforcing them for pushiness.”

March 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm 10 comments

Doggie Language, and a very funny book

Have I posted this before?

I have drawn several “dog body language” illustrations, but my Boogie Doggie Language version is the largest one, and available for FREE download!  This has also been translated to Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Thai, … more languages coming soon.

***EDIT TO ADD:  – reading body language in context!

Recently I started reading How To Raise A Jewish Dog.

This is not a dog training book, it’s supposed to be filed in the HUMOR category and OMG, it’s hilarious.

Amazon Link

This book is a parody of the Monks of New Skete book (haven’t read, no interest in reading) and the authors say you don’t have to be Jewish or want to be Jewish to follow this program, which is not about training or rewards or punishments, but about “solving problems together”.  Techniques include Praising Dog to Other People, Guilting (in private), Situational Matyrdom, Pampering, and Use of Subtext. Ha.

Pages for your amusement:

“Enlightened Acceptance” happens too frequently in this household 🙂

January 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm 8 comments

Boogie is a DINOS (“Dogs In Need of Space”)

I read an awesome and much needed blog article today! –>  “My Dog Is Friendly!” A Public Service Announcement

 *Update: DINOS/DOGS IN NEED OF SPACE is trademarked. Please refer to the new version of the poster >  “SPACE ETIQUETTE FOR DOGS” if you wish to download and share.


I cannot tell you how many times Boogie and I have been approached (or even CHASED) by dogs whose super enthusiastic owners call out: “My dog is friendly!”  Or have MIDFs roll their eyes at me when they insist that their dog is friendly.

Take for example, yesterday at the vet’s office when a lady and her large-sized dog walked in. “My dog is friendly!” she said.

I had Boogie  on my lap, in my arms, and I replied “My dog isn’t”. We remained on opposite sides of the waiting room and there were no incidents. Her dog was laying down turned away; Boogie was at my feet hypnotizing me to take him home.

Several minutes later when the lady wasn’t paying attention and I was busy talking to the vet tech, the dog walked on over and nosed Boogie in the butt. Boogie, who was facing the other way unaware that there was a dog approaching him,  freaked out, turned around and snarled. The dog’s owner called out –  “Sorry! I wasn’t looking”  She pulled her dog away, then said in a very loud high-pitched voice so that the whole room could hear:  “Mommy loves you very much! Even if the other dog doesn’t love you, mommy loves you!”

I tried to explain that Boogie reacted because he was startled by her dog. Another lady in the waiting room offered  some moral support – “The dogs weren’t formally introduced”.

Well,  it was still awkward to be the only person in the room with a growly dog. Suddenly Boogie was made to look like an asshole.

And then there are the MDIFs who – even after I tell them that my dog ISN’T friendly – continue to believe that everything will be OK because their dog is “friendly” or is “good with dogs”. Or that they themselves are god’s gift to dogs, all dogs love them, and I’m just uptight or something.

Sure, Boogie is a sweet and friendly dog, but he is sensitive, extremely discriminating and does not instantly become friends with every dog and person that he meets. Boogie needs some space and time away from the new person/dog at first. If the person/dog is large, he needs even MORE space to make up his mind.

For a long time, before I saw the Turid Rugaas DVD and learned about BAT,  I had no idea that when dogs reacted it was because they needed SPACE (or distance from the trigger). Space, as a functional reward and training tool is so underrated!  I don’t think a lot of people know this. And MDIFs especially, need to know this.

More links:

This DINOS Manifesto  which inspired the illustration above.

The DINOS facebook page.

P.S.  People with DINOS, I recommend Grisha Stewart’s BAT book and BAT DVD (blog review coming later) with my illustrations <— If you order via these links, I get a % of sales. 🙂

P.P.S. This is another really good article – Misreading Dogs.

December 3, 2011 at 5:17 am 17 comments

The BAT Book is here!

The book looks awesome. It is big and glossy and beautiful. Once again a big thank you to Grisha for letting me contribute to this enlightening and groundbreaking book. I’ll admit that working on this book was not like any of my other dog illustration jobs. Most of these drawings were based on and originally inspired by my own PERSONAL training experiences with Boogie so it is an extra exhilirating feeling to hold this book in my hands.

Example pages:

*click on images to see them larger

A Reactivity Chart showing “thresholds”:

Good Choices or Replacement Behaviors (instead of barking, lunging, biting etc.)

BAT On Walks, Stage 1 –

*One thing that I want to draw attention to…

Over a year ago, when I created my very first “BAT Set-Up” illustration I was still very much a BAT newbie, learning the protocol for the first time, and also learning to read Boogie.  In this illustration (see below), in Step 1, even though I labeled it “Safe Distance”, the drawing of Boogie shows stress. He is clearly “over-threshold”  ie,  NOT at a safe distance from the trigger. In other words, my depiction of the set-up was wrong.

Note: INCORRECT illustration!

I wish I could’ve fixed this illustration before it got translated into different languages and shared around the internet, but… sigh… Thank goodness for the book! I hope that people who are still sharing the old illustration will refer to the updated version.

In the book (and also in Grisha’s latest BAT Set-Up handout) the NEW and UPDATED “BAT Set-Up” illustration  shows an unstressed under-threshold dog… as he should be. The learning of Replacement Behaviors (or Good Choices) happens only when the dog is under-threshold.

Updated CORRECT illustration - click to see larger

A clipping from the book below, which is such an important memo.

Reactive dogs need to feel this sense of control in being able to disengage from stress on their own… which is what leads to social confidence and politeness. Hey, I think this applies to humans too. 🙂

In the last chapter of the book there are testimonials from dog trainers who have used BAT.  They share their experiences . I love this one in particular from Shelly Volsche

BAT website:

Order the book or ebook: HERE

September 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm 13 comments

Sneak peek: Cyberdog Online (clicker training course)

* Note: There are ANIMATED GIFS in this blog entry, which may or may not show up in a RSS feed or email subscription.


Two weeks ago I was invited to participate as a student and beta-tester in a brand new online Clicker Training course – Cyberdog Online – run by three Karen Pryor Academy  Certified Training Partners:  Sarah Owings, Helix Fairweather and Lynn Martin.

Karen Pryor is the animal behaviorist who wrote the very inspiring book: Reaching The Animal Mind and made Clicker Training (or Operant Conditioning) famous.

Perhaps the thing that is most appealing to me about Clicker Training is that it is a pressure-free (therefore very humane) method and philosophy of teaching and learning. It’s efficiency is not dependent on the trainer’s bossiness or physical strength. The emphasis is on clear communication and positive reinforcement using the clicker as a capturing/shaping and reinforcing tool.

*These classifications come from Gail T. Fisher’s book: The Thinking Dog, Crossover to Clicker Training.

A long time ago, I trained Boogie to  Sit, Down, Stay, Shake Hands etc. using the Moulding and Luring methods. I remember pushing Boogie’s  butt down to the floor to teach him to sit, and when this didn’t work, I successfully lured him into a sitting position by moving a tennis ball over his head. (He wasn’t a very food-motivated dog when I first adopted him).  As his head followed the ball – “Sit!” – his butt plopped down on the floor and he was rewarded.

Even though I have used a clicker before to capture behavior (for example, clicking Good Choices in BAT), I am not confident using a clicker to teach new behaviors and cues … or rather, anything more complicated than Hand Targeting or a Head Turn.

On my own, I lose focus and patience.  I worry about messing up. What I need is someone to tell me exactly what to do and to break the process down into baby steps for me… Which is exactly what this Cyberdog Online course offers!

In this course, not only is Boogie learning new stuff, I the human am also being trained.

The course consists of several learning modules (StartSmart, Attention and Focus, Communication, Teamwork, Self-Control etc.),  a series of lessons within each module (eg, Name Game, Settle, Wait, Sit, Targeting, Polite Walking etc.) and 4 levels within each lesson, which are further broken down into  Steps 1 – 4.  There is a lot of information to take in, and lots of steps, yet because everything is so well-structured, the exercises are so clear, and the feedback is always very encouraging and helpful, I don’t feel intimidated. Everything feels do-able.

I loved the beginning StartSmart module,  which focuses on mechanical clicker training skills:  ‘home base’ position for your hand, working on focus and  timing skills (eg, click bubbles bursting on your computer screen) and even treat delivery skills (practice tossing treats into a box, practice rolling individual treats out of your palm etc.). Most of these exercises don’t yet involve the dog. Tricky, because when Boogie sees me with a clicker and treats he wants to be in on the action.

Further on, students practice with their dogs. We take video footage of our training sessions, and upload these on the internet for class review. A “virtual classroom” that is. Seeing other students’ videos is really helpful.

Some notes from Week 1:


1. Treat delivery skills & “Quiet Hands”.  Until I reviewed video footage of myself delivering treats I had no idea that my hands flailed around as much as they did or that my hand would instantly drift back into the treat bag when it should be quiet and at ‘Home Base’ before the next click.

2. New concept:  “Click Points” refer to the exact behaviors that I am supposed  to click in each training session. The challenge is to stick to this criteria and not click for anything else. This is harder than it sounds because I  get impatient!  Or I get so distracted by Boogie’s cuteness (doing some other non-click-point behavior) and I lose track. The challenge for me is to WAIT for Boogie to offer the behavior by himself instead of  helping…

3. New concept:  “Tag Points”.  Where Click Points are for the dog, Tag Points are for the student trainer.  These are specific behaviors that I have to do fluently.

4. “Success Rate”. How do I know when to move onto the next Level?


According to Helix – I judge success by how quickly and frequently Boogie is getting clicked and treated.  I could also calculate my rate of reinforcement

I watch my training session video – note the start and end times from the first click to the last click. Total number of seconds / total number of clicks = Rate of Reinforcement. So for example, where there are 26 clicks in 120 seconds, that’s an  average rate of 4.6 seconds per behavior/click/treat. A successful rate is 4 seconds per click, at which point I am ready to move onto the next level.

Below are  examples of the clicker training lessons that I am doing with Boogie this week.

*Similar clicker lessons can already be found via dog training blogs/sites, YouTube videos and books,  so I have decided to do something different and present these as animated drawings. Note: these are my own interpretations of the Cyberdog Online lessons. The animations are not part of the course.

Name Game lesson (Level 4).

… and Wait At Boundary ( Level 1).

In Level 2 of the BOUNDARY lesson (my homework for this week), my new Tag Point is to stop tapping the line and click when Boogie slows down/shows hesitation before he approaches the line. Eventually a verbal cue (eg, “Wait”) will be added. I am hoping that this cue when learned, will have Boogie waiting politely when someone comes to the door….

That’s it for now! This Cyberdog Online course is still in beta-testing phase, so I can’t give too much away. 🙂

Currently reading:  How Dogs Learn by John S. Bailey, which is fascinating.

*UPDATE* – The Cyberdog Online course is now up and running!

August 26, 2011 at 6:26 am 14 comments

Will I ever get tired of drawing Boogie?


July 20, 2011 at 1:16 am 4 comments

National Train Your Dog Month

I have been doing some research on important doggie-related dates for my next Boogie calendar and January 2011 is National Train Your Dog Month!

“Dog Training” is such a loaded and contested topic, and as the parent of a reactive/aggressive Boston terrier I probably spend more time reading and thinking about this subject than the average human being. I am also blogging about it, creating drawings about it, and biting my tongue (to avoid opening up a can of worms) whenever someone quotes Cesar-isms at me…

If only I had a dollar for every time  someone told me Boogie needs Cesar Millan or sees himself as my pack leader… (when I tell them that “Boogie is in training”)

Most people don’t realize that there is HUGE WORLD of dog training information out there and that The Dog Whisperer approach even though it has taken on a national cult following, is actually very old-school and limited.

Two interesting articles:

1. – Good Dog, Bad Dog.

Read the comments too. The general gist of this article is that regardless of whether we use “Dog Whispering” (corrections, Dominance Theory) or “Click & Treat” (Positive Reinforcement), all methods work to get rid of bad behavior and lead to good behavior. According to this author, training philosophies are like trends, everchanging, and there is no one right or wrong method.  This pic is from the article:

Then there is THIS article that I am more inclined to agree with –

2. K9 In Focus: A Consideration of Training Methods

The most interesting part –  the danger of using a Balanced Approach (mixing corrections with positive reinforcement) which only confuses the dog because one method is teaching the dog not to do anything unless given a command to do so (so the dog remains “calm submissive”, to use Dog Whisperer lingo). The other method teaches a dog to try new behaviors to earn rewards (so you get a more active, thinking dog that is always testing you and talking to you).

” One thing I have learned is that it is very important to carefully consider your training methods and techniques. In addition to being effective, will they strengthen the relationship between you and your dog? Are they consistent with your ethics and ideals? Are they clear and fair? It is our responsibility, as trainers and owners, to do what is best for our pets. I encourage you to think very carefully about how you train.”

My personal view: Corrections Training vs. Clicker Training

I have experienced both methods – the traditional corrections-based method, and also the positive reinforcement click-n-treat method.

A year ago I was taught to use traditional punishment-based techniques on Boogie. My blog entries around May 2010 went into a lot of detail and included video clips and cartoon illustrations showing the use of a prong collar. At the time I didn’t realize that there existed other non aversive training techniques. This was all I knew and like most people, I watched The Dog Whisperer show religiously and tried to be dominant, calm and assertive. I was even contacted by the Dog Whisperer show to submit a video which I  am glad I didn’t do. (see YouTube:  Setting up the dog for anxiety and aggression on The Dog Whisperer Show)

Several months later, when Boogie’s behavioral problems persisted, I made the switch over to Positive Reinforcement techniques and Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) and stopped using corrections.  Lots of blog entries here on these training sessions.

For me personally, the most interesting major difference between the two training approaches is not whether one approach works better than the other, but how they have impacted on  Boogie’s overall PERSONALITY and  MOOD.

Back when I was using collar corrections (to stop him pulling on the leash or lunging at people/dogs) Boogie responded by stopping whatever he was doing and staying by my side. He learned very quickly that he would be choked if he “misbehaved”. When the collar-corrections didn’t make him cry out or cower,  I saw a slower, more compliant and subdued Boogie (with a very red scabby neck). Friends noticed that he was less likely to greet people and seemed depressed. When I took the prong collar off, he would spring back to life and play with his toys and pull on the leash again which led me to realize that he was being “good” only to avoid punishment. He was still aggressively lunging at strange people and dogs on the street.

When I stopped using the prong collar and switched over to using a clicker and treats, I noticed a totally different Boogie who was attentive, full of life, enthusiastic, and responsive. I saw a dog that kept checking in with me, and came to me when called. Sure enough, the food in my pocket was more interesting than ME,  but using rewards made training so much easier and fun. Boogie was the same dog with the same behavioral issues and his hairs still stood up whenever he saw a stranger on our street (and he still thought about lunging at them) but after repeated training sessions, Boogie was able to IGNORE the trigger on his own or when I called him.  He is still nervous around certain people and dogs but we know how to avoid stressful situations.

The amazing change in Boogie’s personality and mood is what made me a Clicker training/Positive Reinforcement convert. I wouldn’t say that Boogie’s issues are 100% fixed but we now have  a much stronger relationship. I know how to read him, and he listens to me. There really is no need at all for corrections or punishment and it makes me sad when I see other people using the choke method or yelling at and kicking their dogs. The wonders of Clicker Training is hard to explain to someone who subscribes to the Dominance approach…

Heck, I don’t want a calm-submissive Boogie. I’d rather have a happy Boogie with good social skills.

There’s a new dog training book coming out soon – BATting 1000 by Grisha Stewart which I am very excited about and  not only because I will have the pleasure of providing illustrations,  but because Boogie and I have been using her techniques (with our trainer Sarah) and they WORK! * Read our success stories on Boogie’s Walk Log.

Click on “Training > BAT Sessions” in my Categories list to see my blog posts related to BAT. Also check out Grisha Stewart’s Organic Socialization DVD on BAT.

More important dates for the January —

Did you know that January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day?

And January 21st is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. I think Boogie will like this one.

January 11, 2011 at 9:28 am 8 comments

Back home with Boogie!

It’s good to be back home with Boogie, whom I missed terribly when I was away for 2 weeks in Malaysia. I met other dogs in Malaysia and thought of Boogie. I watched
How To Train Your Dragon on the plane and thought of Boogie. Speaking of which, there is a new DVD training series from Grisha Stewart – Organic Socialization which I cannot wait to watch. I have read that this latest DVD is even better than the first one, and what’s more, some of my dog training related illustrations are on it! 🙂

Meanwhile, here are some cool dog behavior related links:

Raising a Rubber Band Dog (Boogie is somewhere between a HDD and a SPD…)

Organic Training by Kathy Sdao

Never Punish a Dog For Growling

Dog Whispering Can Backfire (I have been drafting a very long blog post on how I feel about The Dog Whisperer. I wonder if it’s worth publishing seeing that there are already tons of passionate online articles on this topic…)

Sarah’s latest Newsletter – Who doesn’t already know about Cesar Millan’s “Exercise, Discipline and Affection” spiel? I love Sarah’s  own  Holy Trinity of Dog Training: “Maintenance, Exercise and Mental Stimulation”…

Sharing here a cute Boston Terrier magnet by TAPAS KIDS that I picked up at Hong Kong airport:

More later!

August 13, 2010 at 8:10 am Leave a comment

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