Communicate, Connect, Cooperate, Work together

Does positive mean permissive?

21 February 2016 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

You be the judge:

WHAT I FREQUENTLY SEE:  A person walking with his dog on a leash, and his dog starts pulling on the leash when a stranger approaches. So the person allows his dog to pull him to the stranger, and then his dog jumps all over the stranger to say Hi.  The stranger then bends down and pets his dog.  His dog just learned that pulling on the leash, and then jumping up, has GREAT rewards!!

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT RESPONSE:  A person is walking with his dog on a leash, and his dog starts pulling on the leash when a stranger approaches.  The person immediately stops, preventing his dog from reaching the stranger.  The person anchors the leash to his hip to maintain a fixed length to prevent any pulling back on his dog’s leash.  The person then asks the stranger to stop and not greet his dog until he says it is okay.  The person calmly waits without any attempt at all to tell his dog what to do.  While waiting the person watches his dog, waiting for his dog to either turn around and look at him (called checking in), or if his dog has been previously taught, waiting for his dog to return to his side.  When his dog turns to look at him, (with the stranger’s permission of course), the person allows his dog to greet the stranger.   His dog has learned that pulling on the leash does not get her anything at all, but checking in with her person (asking permission) gets her exactly what she wants!!

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Tips for training success!

31 August 2015 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

The better your communication is with your dog, the quicker your dog will learn.  The following tips will help improve the rate at which your dog learns:

  • Engagement always comes first! Attention is a two way street; you need to be paying attention to your dog, AND, your dog needs to be paying attention to you.  WHY?  If your dog is distracted when you give a cue, your dog is VERY unlikely to respond to you.  Wait for (or get) your dog’s attention before starting your training session, or giving your dog a cue.
  • If you click, you treat.  Period.  Even if you click by accident, you give a treat!  WHY?  To be a powerful communication tool, the clicker must always predict a treat is coming. If there are times when a treat does not follow the click, then the clicker loses its power.
  • Click has to come FIRST; treat comes AFTER you click!  Not before the click.  Not at the same time as the click.  AFTER the click!  The dog should not know a treat exists until after they hear the click!  WHY?  To be a powerful communication tool, the clicker must always predict a treat is coming. If the treat comes before the clicker, or at the same time, then the clicker did not predict the treat. Practice clicking, and then bringing the treat into view AFTER you click, to feed your dog.
  • Always set your dog up for success. Take small steps in training that you know your dog has a high chance of getting right.  WHY?  The more you are able to click your dog, the more your dog will enjoy your training session, which will optimize how much your dog will learn.
  • Only teach one thing at a time. If you want your dog to stay (build duration) in a sit, stand close so you are not also asking your dog to learn to work with you at a distance.  WHY?  Only teaching one thing at a time makes it easy for the dog to know what you want so he can be successful in his performance.
  • Teach your dog how to handle distractions!  A dog must be taught that the cue sit means to put his butt on the ground no matter where you are, and no matter what is going on around you.  WHY?  Dogs are very poor at generalizing (they can be taught though).  Asking a dog to sit in a quiet living room is very different to the dog than sitting at a dog park while other dogs are running around you.  Asking the dog to sit while we stand 2 feet away from them is very different to the dog than asking the dog to sit while we are sitting on the couch.  We must train for both situations so the dog knows that “sit” means sit no matter where you are or what is going on.
  • Define rules and stick to them; be consistent.  Decide if you want to allow your dog to jump on people whenever he wants to, or if he needs to be invited to jump up.  Be sure everyone in your household knows the rules and sticks to them.  Use management to prevent your dog from breaking the rules until he has been taught the rules and understands them.  WHY?  Your dog will never learn not to jump on people if every once in a while he receives interaction/rewards for jumping on people. Employ the use of management to support what you are teaching.

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Teaching your dog to say “Please”!

10 February 2015 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

taz-Q-Gus-sittingCan my dog really say please?
A dog says please when he chooses to sit, look up at you and wait for what he wants (without jumping at you and mauling you).  This is taught by using everyday situations to reward good manners and practice obedience.  The dog learns that controlling his impulses, and calmly waiting will get him what he wants.

Teaching your dog to say please is simple. Whenever your dog wants something, have him work for it.  From now on, doors are not automatically opened; balls are not simply thrown, and you don’t just freely hand a kibble filled KONG to your dog.  For those, and anything else that your dog really wants, ask your dog to say please by simply making eye contact, or sitting, doing a down, spinning or performing whatever trick he knows.

By changing these habits in your household, you and your dog both win. You get a well-trained, polite dog and he gets what he wants (to sit on your lap, his leash taken off at the park, etc.). What’s more, you have laid the foundation for an enjoyable relationship for a lifetime.

 To get started:

Step 1. Make a list of all the things your dog wants and enjoys.

Step 2.  View anything your dog wants/enjoys as a training reward, and ask your dog for an obedience behavior or trick so he can earn his reward.

Step 3.  Ask him to perform what you want, and then give him what he wants as a reward for that behavior.

Step 4. Repeat, every day, everywhere.

 When to have your dog say please:

Before throwing a ball, Frisbee, rope-toy, etc.
Before giving him a toy.
Before giving the kibble filled KONG to him.
Before handing over a yummy bone.
Before opening a door.
Before putting on a leash to go for a walk.
Before taking off a leash at the park or beach.
Before hopping into or out of the car.
Before allowing your dog onto the couch with you.

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People food

14 December 2014 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

Will giving your dog “People” food cause them to beg?

First is the question, what exactly is “People” food?  As I understand it, “People” food is any food that isn’t specifically produced for dogs, or cats, or horses, etc..  But to be honest, it bothers me when people refer to food as “People” food.  Yes, “Dog” food is only for dogs, and in a lot of cases, is labeled as “Not For Human Consumption”.  Think about that, why does it need a label like that, and, is that what we really want to be feeding our dogs?   So, “Dog” food is only for dogs, but, “People” food is good for people AND dogs!  So, why call it “People” food?

So, let’s rephrase the question:  Will giving your dog any food other than “Dog” food cause them to beg?  This makes me wonder, why do we continue to give our dogs “Dog” food, if the dogs feel any other food is so much better?  (it must be better, otherwise why would they beg for it?)

Well, as it turns out, dogs will beg for “Dog” food as easily as they will beg for any other food!

Teaching your dog to beg for “Dog” food:
Get yourself a big bowl of popcorn, and another bowl of dog food, and go make yourself all comfy on the couch.  Every time your dog comes up by the couch and looks at you for popcorn, toss him a piece of his dog food instead.  Fairly quickly your dog will just sit beside the couch in front of you, and continuously look at you, waiting for the next toss of dog food. So, you toss him a another piece of dog food to keep him quiet.  You just taught your dog to beg for “Dog” food.

Teaching your dog NOT to beg for food other than “Dog” food:
Get yourself a big bowl of popcorn, and make yourself all comfy on your couch.  Be ready, and when your dog comes near the couch by you, and looks at you, completely ignore your dog, and continue to eat your popcorn.  Eventually your dog will get bored, and leave the couch to go lay down.  Once your dog settles down, get up, walk over to your dog, and drop 3 – 4 pieces of popcorn within reach of where he is laying (so he does not have to get up). Your dog will most likely quickly eat his popcorn, and then follow you back over to the couch.  You return to the couch, sit down, completely ignore your dog, and continue to eat your popcorn.  Your dog will once again get bored, and go lay down. Again, once your dog settles down, get up, walk over to your dog, and drop 3 – 4 pieces of popcorn within his reach.  Again, your dog will most likely eat it quickly and then follow you back to the couch. But this time, you will barely get a chance to ignore your dog, as once you sit down, they will most likely quickly go lay down again.  They are learning that laying quietly away from you is how they can get what they want; your popcorn!  You will also notice that the next time you go to the dog and drop popcorn within their reach, they will cease following you back to the couch, and just stay where they are!

So, as you can see, any kind of food will reinforce the dog’s position related to you, and what they are currently doing.  So no, giving your dog “People” food is not the reason they learn to beg.

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I need it now!

11 October 2014 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

  • My dog needs to (insert word) NOW!!
  • I don’t have time to teach my dog how to do things, I want him to do it now.
  • My dog needs to stop doing (insert word) now!!
  • Clicker training takes so much time, why can’t I just tell my dog once, and then make him do it?
  • He (my dog) knows what (insert word) means, so he should do it.

As a dog trainer, I frequently hear the above statements.  And I do remember actually thinking some of the same things in my very early years of training dogs.  But this was before I studied learning theory and behavior, and realized that dogs can, and do learn!

So, why bother to learn the clicker training method when you can get immediate results just making your dog do what you want?

Taking your dog for a walk should be an enjoyable event for both you and your dog.  But, is it?  During the walk your dog pulls on the leash and causes you to lose your balance.   So, you jerk hard on the leash and yell at your dog. Your dog most likely complies and the problem is solved.  But for how long?  How long before your dog pulls on the leash again? How many times are you going to jerk the leash, yell at your dog and make life miserable for both you and your dog?  So, is this walk filled with jerking and yelling enjoyable?

Punishment (jerking the dog around, applying pain, yelling at the dog, etc.) does appear to work immediately.  But, I’m guessing that your dog doesn’t like to be yelled at and doesn’t like to be in pain, so yes, they will avoid it which will look like they are obeying you.  But are they obeying you or just trying to avoid pain and conflict?  AND … Are they learning anything?

Pain, punishment and force will give you immediate results, but it does not teach anything. Pain, punishment and force will need to be repeated over and over to maintain your “well trained” dog.  Pain, punishment and force will guarantee that your life is going to be clouded with negativity, frustration, anger, and conflict.  Isn’t this just the relationship you’ve always dreamed of sharing with your dog?

Pain, punishment and force give immediate results.  However, the results do not last as the dog does not learn anything (other than perhaps avoidance, which will not last).  And what is the cost to your relationship? Is quick compliance worth it?

It is very possible to get quick compliance without the use of pain, punishment and force.  It’s very simple; teach your dog what you would like for them to do in place of what they choose to do that you feel the need to punish.

The Clicker training method, once learned, is the quickest, most efficient way to teach any behavior. Clicker training is a very clear, direct communication with your dog, used to TEACH your dog how to behave. You no longer need to tell your dog over and over what to do; you only ASK them once and they happily perform! This is because with Clicker training your dog LEARNS the behaviors, AND the behaviors will last the dog’s lifetime!

YES, the Clicker training method does take time for you to learn, and for your dog to learn. It is like learning to drive or ride a bike; you feel like a total klutz at first, but before you know it you are riding the bike/driving a car without any effort at all.

Clicker training is the fastest, most efficient way to teach behaviors! We are talking mere minutes!! Once you both understand and are fluent using a clicker, you can teach new behaviors very quickly (in a matter of minutes). So, putting the time into learning the clicker will save you an unbelievable amount of time when it comes to teaching your dog new behaviors.

A great side effect of Clicker training is a much stronger bond with your dog. Say goodbye to frustration, anger, and inflicting pain, and say hello to enjoyment, laughter, and understanding. With clicker training, you are teaching your dog! Your dog learns, and hence the new behaviors you teach will stay with your dog for his life. With the clicker training method, your dog will no longer appear to obey you out of avoidance of the consequences. Instead, your dog will be excited to interact with you, and very happy to understand exactly what it is that you expect from him!

I’ll bet that this the relationship that you’ve always dreamed of sharing with your dog!

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What a KONG can do for you!

14 March 2014 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP


Busy dogs are good dogs, and a KONG will keep a dog busy!  Anytime you need some quiet time, need to concentrate on a project, or need to keep the dog out from underfoot, a stuffed KONG is your answer.  KONGs can help prevent separation anxiety, and keep your dog entertained for hours while you are away.

If you’re like any typical household, you most likely have an abundance of coffee mugs.  Coffee mugs are perfect as a KONG holder while stuffing the KONG.  Just place the KONG with the little opening down into the mug, so the big opening is right on top, ready to be filled.  Then use a piece of soft cheese, a soft dog treat, or any soft piece of food to seal the hole at the bottom of the KONG.  Now the KONG is ready to be filled up with all kinds of goodies for your dog.

Now it is time to be creative!  There are so many different ways to stuff a KONG, and the more you try, the more fun your dog will have!  When stuffing a KONG you can choose to go simple:  line the KONG with peanut butter, or yogurt, and then stuff a few dog biscuits into the KONG.  Another use for the KONG is to feed the dog’s meal in the KONG.  If you feed a kibble based dog food, put it in a bowl with some warm water and wait for it to become mush.  Then stuff the mush into the KONG along with a few treats (to make it special).  Leftovers are great to use as stuffing for a KONG (i.e. mashed potatoes, fat and grizzle from the meat course of your dinner, French fries, etc.).  Canned Salmon, Tuna fish, and sardines make for very special treats.  Cottage Cheese, Yogurt, Apple slices, Carrots, and Bananas work well too.  No matter how you do it, keeping it simple, or mixing it up with a variety; your dog will love it all!

For KONG savvy dogs (dogs that are really quick to empty out their KONGs), choose a dog biscuit that is larger than the large hole in the KONG.  Push down on the KONG so the hole becomes oblong, and then push in the dog biscuit!  Also, packing in the stuffing tight will make it more difficult to unload as well.

When you employ the help of KONGs as much as we do, you will find it very convenient to always have some on hand, ready to go.  Stuff several KONGs per dog, place each in a Ziploc bag, and store them in the freezer.  Next time you need a KONG, it will be ready for you to use immediately!

The dog’s crate is the ideal place for your dog to enjoy their KONG without the worry of other dogs stealing it, or children interrupting.  If you’re going to be out for a long day, hide several KONGs in the backyard for your dog to find throughout the day.  And, a KONG in the dog’s crate (with the dog!) is the perfect way to entertain your dog while you entertain your guests.

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Counter Surfing

27 February 2014 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

Have you ever won at a slot machine?  When you win, it can really strengthen your desire to try for more.  This is what it must be like for a dog that finds a yummy item on a counter top or table.  The yummy item found is a huge reward!  Once a dog has been rewarded for checking out a counter top or table (counter surfing), it increases the difficulty (or length of time it takes) to teach them not to counter surf.

The most important action you can take to stop counter surfing is to prevent the behavior from happening in the first place.  Remember, behaviors that are allowed to repeat will become habit!

Counter surfing is a problem that requires a combination of steps to resolve.  And, as always, consistency is very important!

For the best results, follow ALL of the steps listed below.

1)  Whenever you see the dog approach the table or counter top, do not wait to see if they are going to check it out.  Instead be proactive, and give them something else to do.  If/when a dog gets within two or three feet of a counter top or table, immediately cue them to sit, down, touch, come, etc.  Don’t give them a chance to jump up towards the counter/table top.

2)  Teach a cue that signals the dog to leave the area where the counters and the tables are located.  Reward heavily when the dog remains in the spot outside of the area you designate.  This is very handy when you are preparing anything in the kitchen, and are too busy to watch the dogs closely to prevent any mishaps.  I use this “stay out of the kitchen” behavior all the time (I do not like dogs underfoot when I’m in the kitchen).

3)  ALWAYS keep anything they might consider a reward off the counters/tables when they may have free access to them!!!!  This is VERY important.  Get into the habit (you and everyone in your household) of either putting things up and away, or be CERTAIN that it is out of reach.   If you are entertaining, or there is a period where items will need to be left on the counters/tables, then control the environment such that the dog(s) cannot access the counters/tables (lock them outside, in another room, crate them, etc.  This also goes for if you are in the kitchen preparing food, and you need to go to the bathroom.  Be certain the dogs can’t sneak a quick counter surf while you are in the bathroom (on the phone, etc.)!!

Roper was 7 months old when we joined him to our family.  He came to us with a strong counter surfing behavior.  We immediately put the above steps into practice.  I cannot remember the last time I caught him checking out the counters.   Be forewarned though, this will not happen overnight, or even in a few weeks.  The above steps should become a lifestyle.  In a few months you should be able to make a mistake, and nothing will be lost (the dog won’t think to check the counter).  But, live to not make mistakes anyway as all it will take is just one mistake where the dog does smell something, jumps up, and gets rewarded.  Then it’s like the slot machine all over again, and you will have to start back at ground zero.


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What is KPA-CTP?

20 November 2013 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

What do those letters after my name stand for?
KPA-CTP stands for Karen Pryor Academy – Certified Training Partner.

What does that mean?
Karen Pryor is one of the founding members of Clicker Training.  The Karen Pryor Academy of Dog Training offers a challenging, professional, 6 month course that produces the very best dog trainers.  To achieve the Certified Training Partner status, Karen Pryor Academy graduates must score 90 percent or above on a written test covering theory, a dog training test, and a client teaching test; sign a pledge to teach and train using force-free principles and techniques; and maintain certification annually through continuing education or a client survey process.

What does this mean for you?
As a KPA-CTP, I have the skills necessary to successfully employ positive training and teaching techniques; to keep training fun, for both you and your dog!  As a KPA-CTP, I have a strong educational foundation that allows me to approach training from many different angles, enabling me to provide the most effective and efficient training possible.  As a KPA-CTP, I possess the skills and experience to provide customized training plans specifically for you and your dog which will promote the very best training results for you.  And, as a KPA-CTP, you can be guaranteed that you will be receiving the very best of the most current training/behavior research.

But don’t take just my word for it!  Please click here to see a video of Karen Pryor herself, explaining what it means to work with a Karen Pryor Academy Training Partner (KPA-CTP)!

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Taking advantage of your dog’s desires!!

08 February 2013 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

When your dog really wants/desires something (i.e. chasing a squirrel up a tree), use it to add value to something the dog has little interest in (coming when you call them).  This is called the Premack Principle and states that a more probable behavior will reinforce a less probable behavior.

Following is an example of how I used the Premack Principle to add value to Roper coming to me when I called him.

PLEASE NOTE:  This all started with me only a few feet from Roper, and while the cat was a great distance from Roper.   After much practice, we were able to make the progress described below!

Roper is obsessed with cats.  As usual, one of our barn cats decided to clean himself in the sun, right in a perfect view for Roper to watch, thru our backyard fence.   I looked out the window to see Roper in his crouched stance, not moving a muscle, staring at the cat.  I was in our patio room, with the windows open.  I made sure I had really yummy treats on me, and then I called Roper using my special recall word.  I could see Roper out the window, but he could not see me.  The second I called out, he came running to me instantly!!  I gave him his treat, made eye contact with him, and then released him back to go watch the cat.   A few minutes later I called him again, and again he came running!  Again, I treated him, and then released him back to watch the cat.  I called and released him once more, and then decided to quit.  Roper ran back out to the cat, watched it for about 20 seconds, then came running back into the house looking for me, without me even calling him!   I laughed at him, praised him and then sent him back to the cat.  He ran back to the cat, then ran back to me right away.  Roper then willingly followed me into the house (without me asking), and I shut the door so he couldn’t get outside again.

So, by releasing Roper back to go watch the cat, I added high value to the act of him coming to me when I called him.

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Bring it

29 January 2013 by Kathy Fischer, KPA-CTP

Prerequisite:  Dog must have a conditioned reinforcer, i.e. clicker.

Teaching your dog to bring you items is a 2 step process.  First, you must teach your dog that it is a wonderful thing for you to take items from them.  And, you must teach your dog to actually bring items to you.  Following is a quick overview of how I teach dogs to bring items to me.

1)  ALWAYS give lots of treats BEFORE taking anything from your dog.  Have the treats ready BEFORE approaching your dog!  If necessary drop the treats on the dogs head, to get them interested in the treats!  (Be sure the treats are worth being interested in!!) Wait until the dog is interested in the treats, and has forgotten about what they have before you take it from them.  Once you take the item from them, give them more treats (I hide the item behind my back while giving them more treats).  The entire time you’re doing all this, be sure to be telling the dog how smart, wonderful they are for having the item in the first place!!

2)  To actively teach your dog to bring something to you, start with an item on the floor in front of you.  Click for any interaction with the item – sometimes you have to start as simple as just a glance towards the item.

3)  Gradually, in small increments, work up to where your dog is actually putting their mouth on the item.  Then get them to pick it up.

4)  Be sure the item is close to you, as once your dog picks it up, you want to be able to put your hand under the item so if they drop it, it will land in your hand.  Keep this up until your dog is putting the item in your hand.   Be sure they are doing this consistently before moving on …

5)  Start placing the item further from you (remember to start in small movements – just a few inches away to start with, etc.), and holding out your hand.  Your dog should pick up the item and come place it in your hand.

6)  Once the dog is bringing the item from a few feet away, and you can predict that the dog is going to bring the item to you and place it in your hand, then you can add the cue.  I use “Bring it”, but anything will work as long as you are consistent!


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