Tag Archives: Dog Training

Keep Fido Mentally and Physically Active – Boredom Busters, Enrichment Exercises & More!

What is Boredom?

 

Science has only recently began to look at boredom and understand what makes people bored.  A 2012 review of boredom research entitled The Definition, Assessment, and Mitigation of State Boredom Within Educational Settings: A Comprehensive Review (Vogel-Walcutt, J.J., Fiorella, L., Carper, T. et al.) suggested that boredom is a combination of a subjective psychological state of dissatisfaction, frustration or disinterest and an objective lack of neurological excitement, all of which result from a lack of stimulation. (Kubota, 2016).

Do Dogs Suffer from Boredom?

Animal welfare lecturer Charlotte Burn, from The Royal Veterinary College,  observed dogs left alone at home before publishing an essay entitled Bestial boredom: a biological perspective on animal boredom and suggestions for its scientific investigation, in which she states that Chronic inescapable boredom can be extremely aversive, and under stimulation can harm neural, cognitive and behavioural flexibility.”  She told The Times: “They often yawn, bark, howl and whine. Some sleep a lot – a sign of apathy. Some of this is anxiety but often they are just really bored.” 

Take Your Dog to School

A bored dog, lacking appropriate mental and physical stimulation may get himself into trouble by looking for ways to entertain himself. “Animals in barren conditions seek even aversive stimulation, as if bored.” (Burns, 2017).  Problematic behaviors such as digging, incessant barking and inappropriate destructive chewing may be a dog’s way of alleviating boredom and easing anxieties.

Provide Mental and Physical Stimulation for Your Dog

Some simple changes might go a long way in helping overcome boredom and alleviating anxiety by providing both mental and physical stimulation for the pet.

Here are some suggested ‘boredom busters’:

  • Make sure your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced. A poor diet may not only affect your dog physically, it could also negatively affect their behaviour.
  • Take your dog to school – Learn how to engage and motivate him!
  • Teach your dog some fun tricks – Check out this A, B, C of Apprentice Tricks video for some ideas!
  • Provide interactive feeding and chew toys.
  • Provide a doggie sandpit – an appropriate place for the dog to dig.
  • Provide a doggie paddling pool – a great place to cool off and have fun in the hot summer months.
  • Play fun games with your dog. 
  • Teach your dog how to relax and provide him with a comfortable place to do so.

    DogSmith Slumber Party – The Perfect Doggy Vacay!

  • Vary your walking routine.  Taking the same path every day is monotonous for everyone.
  • Arrange a playdate with a suitable doggie friend.
  • Arrange a Slumber Party or Sleep Over for when you are away.
  • Hire a certified pet care technician to spend time with your dog while you are out at work – to feed him, take him for a walk, play with him…

Fun Games

There are lots of options for fun games you can play with your dog, many of which can help proof some of your cues.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Practice cues such as take it, drop it, sit, down…. while the dog has fun chasing a soft toy on a flirt pole.
  • Play a game of fetch.
  • Play fun scent games like the Find the Hidden ? Game (Insert word of choice e.g. Treats/Vegetables/Ball/Stuffed Toy/Car Keys). Start by ‘hiding’ food in plain sight and gradually increase the level of difficulty.
  • Enjoy a fun game of hide-and-seek. Simply go hide and then call your dog. Start by hiding in a place where you are easy to find and gradually increase the level of difficulty as your dog gets better at the game. This is a great way of proofing your recall cue. Please, remember the recall word is a very important cue and deserves double reinforcement.  What betterthan a fun game and a high-value reinforcer every time your dog comes, no matter how long it takes him to find you.  Please note, if it is taking a very long time, you should probably make the game easier as you want your dog to enjoy the game and have fun finding you, not get frustrated and give up.  
  • A fun tug session is also a great choice!

Interactive Feeding Toys

Whether you would like to keep your pet occupied while you are out; need your dog to be quiet while you make an important phone call; want a good way of slowing down how quickly your dog eats; want to give your dog a job in the form of an opportunity to ‘scavenge’ for his food; want to provide a suitable alternative to chewing up your furniture or nibbling on your ankles … an interactive feeding toy or appropriate chew toy is going to keep your dog busy while also providing great mental stimulation.  I recommend all pet guardians provide their dog with an interactive feeding toy.  My favourites are the KONG Classic, KONG Wobbler, West Paw Zogoflex Toppl or West Paw Zogoflex Tux. Nylabones are also one of my favourite recommendations for those in need of a good, long-lasting chew. 

KONGS and Nylabones come in a range of sizes and chewing options.  KONG options include the KONG® Classic, KONG® Extreme, KONG® Puppy and KONG® Senior. There are also KONG balls, bones, toys on ropes, rings, tires and many more rubber KONG toys. There are Nylabones for soft chewers and Nylabones for extreme chewers.  They come in a variety of shapes and flavors such as peanut butter, bacon, cheese, chicken, Philly cheese steak and more, so there is sure to be one that your dog loves.  Whether purchasing a KONG, a Nylabone or any other interactive feeding toy or chew, please choose the appropriate size and chewing ‘strength’ for your pet. Puppy teething rings are another ‘must buy’ but something a simple as soaking a face cloth in water and popping it into the freezer, means that you always have something on hand to help soothe a puppy’s sore gums.  Please always actively supervise and, if unsure as to whether the pet might try to swallow something, keep hold of it while they enjoy a good chew.

Stuffed KONGS

Stuffing a KONG is not only good for your dog, it is a great way of using up your surplus (doggie appropriate) groceries!  One of my dogs’ favourite recipes is a mixture of cooked sweet potato and flaked chicken mixed with leftover veggies and kéfir. I simply stuff the KONG and pop in the freezer for an extra challenge!

If you and your dog are just starting out with interactive feeding toys, keep it simply by simply stuffing with some loose high-quality kibble, small chunks of meat and cheese or a few small treats. Encourage your dog to play with the toy and offer plenty of praise as he starts moving it around to get the treats out.

Here’s a favourite recipe – the KONG ‘Summer Picnic’

KONG® Classic

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cream cheese

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.  Split the mixture between your KONGs and freeze for a greater challenge.

You can find the Kong ‘Summer Picnic’ and lots more stuffing recipes on the KONG website here

Doggie Ice-Cream

Another of my dogs’ favourite recipes is banana ice-cream. I blend the ingredients and pour into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, the doggie ice-cream is served in a West Paw Zogoflex Tux (the perfect size for an ice cream cube!). This is suitable for both feeding toy novices and pros.

Ingredients:
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups kéfir or plain low-fat yoghourt
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (organic if you have it)

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until it’s mixed. Pour the mixture into ice trays and freeze.  Serve in a Zogoflex Tux.

One of my dogs’ and my canine clients’ much-loved low-fat alternative to banana ice cream is fish sorbet.  This is how we make it:

West Paw Zogoflex Tux

  • Three-quarters fill an ice tray with water.
  • Flake in some tuna, sardines, mackerel or salmon.
  • Add 3 crushed blueberries or other favourite fruit such as apple, banana or melon to each cube.
  • Freeze and serve in a Zogoflex Tux.

 

Please note that some food can be toxic or otherwise hazardous to dogs. No onions, sultanas, grapes, raisins, xylitol (artificial sweetener), chocolate, macadamia nuts or cooked bones. This list is not exhaustive.  For more information on foods that could be unsafe for pets, visit the ASPCA’s People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page.

 

Training Classes

Attending group training classes is a great way of providing both mental and physical stimulation for your dog. If you are new to training, we advise a pet dog manners course – The DogSmith Small Paw Etiquette Puppy Class is a fantastic choice for those of you with young puppies.  The Pet Dog Ambassador programme is a great choice for dogs of all ages. Fun Scent Games and Trick Classes are also highly recommended as both get a big thumbs up from dogs and guardians!  If you or your dog are likely to be unhappy in a group class situation, we highly recommend private training sessions with a qualified force-free trainer.

When Should You Call a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant?

telephone-dogWhile implementing the above recommended ‘boredom busters’ is going to help provide mental and physical stimulation for your dog, if you have a dog with specific behavioural challenges such as: Aggression toward people; aggression toward dogs or other animals; leash reactivity and impulse control problems; excessive barking or digging; destructive behaviours; growling nipping and snapping behaviours; attachment or separation anxiety problems; shy or fearful behaviours; abnormal behaviors, such as excessive licking, air snapping or obsessive tail chasing; hyperactivity…  we urge you to contact a certified dog behaviour consultant as soon as possible.

 
 
 
 

More Information

The DogSmith

 
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The DogSmith offers force-free, learning-theory based dog training programmes coupled with professional pet-sitting and dog-walking services.

Whether you’re a dog owner looking to solve a specific behavioral problem, a dog lover simply wanting to strengthen and broaden your relationship with your dog, or a family wanting the best care possible for your pets while you’re away from home, the DogSmith is the only call you’ll ever need to make.

Listen to a five minute podcast about the DogSmith and our training and behavior services. There is a difference between the two.  Alternatively you can contact your DogSmith who will help guide you in your choice of services.

You can locate a local DogSmith here.

 

The Pet Professional Guild

The Pet Professional Guild is a membership organization representing pet industry professionals who are committed to results based, science based force-free training and pet care.

You can locate a PPG Professional Member in your area by clicking here: PPG Member Search

 

 


A Dog’s Hierarchy of Rewards

In 2014, I published a blog post entitled Jambo’s Hierarchy of Rewards in which I discussed the different reinforcers I use when training and the ‘value’ they have for my learner.  In my article entitled Rewards and Positive Reinforcement Consequences, I discussed the meaning of rewards versus reinforcement. In this article I would like to take a look at “hierarchies”.

When needs are not being met, animals will be motivated to try and fulfil those needs.  Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us. The original hierarchy of needs five-stage model includes:

  1. Biological and physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep. The things that we need to survive. All animals are motivated by these needs. If we are hungry we will want to eat, if we are thirsty, we will want to drink.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear. Not having these needs met can lead to stress and anxiety and even to aggressive responses in an effort to protect ourselves
  3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work). The need for us to communicate with others and interact with others. If this need isn’t met we can become depressed and anxious. The same is true of animals.
  4. Esteem needs – which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g. status, prestige).
  5. Self-actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

It is important to note that Maslow’s (1943, 1954) five stage model has been expanded to include cognitive and aesthetic needs (Maslow, 1970a) and later transcendence needs (Maslow, 1970b) as follows:

  1. Biological and physiological needs
  2. Safety needs
  3. Love and belongingness needs
  4. Esteem needs
  5. Cognitive needs – knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability. The need to understand and a desire to know things.
  6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
  7. Self-actualization needs
  8. Transcendence needs – A person is motivated by values which transcend beyond the personal self. e.g. mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science, a religious faith etc. (McLeod, 2017)

Why is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory important?  It has made a big impact on how we teach and manage our students in school. We know that behavior is a response to the environment but Maslow’s hierarchy also looks at the physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs and how they impact learning. The hierarchy also clearly shows us that before an individual’s cognitive needs can be met, we must fulfil the basic physiological needs. I often tell my clients that although we want to use food as reinforcement that does not mean that I want anyone to not feed their dog.  A hungry learner will find it very difficult to focus on learning!  I also believe we should show our learners, both human and canine, that they are valued and respected and ensure we work with them in a safe and supportive environment.  We need to meet the esteem needs of all our students so that they can quickly progress with their learning!

The Hierarchy of Dog Needs adapted from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Pet Professional Guild member, Linda Michaels, is a hierarchical model of wellness and behavior modification in which first we meet our dogs’ biological, emotional and social needs and, once these foundational needs have been met, we use management, antecedent modification, positive and differential reinforcement, counter-conditioning and desensitization to modify behavior.

Although not a hierarchy, before I get back to my Hierarchy of Rewards, I would like to mention Brambell’s Five Freedoms, which put responsibility on the animal care taker to make sure they provide animals with a good welfare environment.  I learned about the Five Freedoms and other animal welfare frameworks as part of my Animal Behaviour and Welfare course, University of Edinburgh.

In 1965, the UK government commissioned an investigation, led by Professor Roger Brambell, into the welfare of intensively farmed animals. The Brambell Report stated that:  “An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty, to turn round, groom Itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs”. This short recommendation became known as Brambell’s Five Freedoms. Because of the report, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was created to monitor the livestock production sector. In July 1979, this was replaced by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and by the end of that year, the five freedoms had been codified into the recognizable list format. Although developed for farm animals, Brambell’s Five Freedoms can be adapted to pets. The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
    By ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor.
  • Freedom from Discomfort
    By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
    By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Freedom to Display Natural Behavior
    By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress
    By ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

In addition to Brambell’s Five Freedoms other animal welfare frameworks such as the Duty of Care Concept need to be foremost in our minds when caring for and working with any animal. The Duty of Care Concept focuses on providing animals with a safe happy environment which they can enjoy and encourages legal responsibility for those animals.

Now back to Jambo’s Hierarchy of Rewards (Stapleton-Frappell, 2013)  If you have read everything above, you will understand that before beginning any training, the trainer should make sure that the learner’s basic needs are met. The trainer can then make use of both primary and secondary reinforcers but must bear in mind that the ‘value’ will be ascertained by the recipient and not the provider as, although I use the name Hierarchy of Rewards, I am referring to a hierarchy of positive reinforcement consequences.

The ‘value’ will be ascertained by the recipient and not the provider

Whether teaching Jambo or any other learner a new behavior, or reinforcing behaviors that have previously been taught, I use that learner’s own personal ‘hierarchy of rewards’.  Each individual’s hierarchy includes lower ‘value’ reinforcers which are consequence stimuli that will serve to reinforce simple known behaviors in that individual’s home environment or other non-distracting environments; medium ‘value’ reinforcers which will serve to reinforce slightly more difficult behaviors or behaviors in slightly more demanding environments, and finally, high ‘value’ reinforcers – those reinforcers that are at the ‘top of the tree’, the real ‘top guns’  that we use to reinforce more demanding behaviors and behaviors in environments where there are a lot of competing stimuli.

My go-to reinforcer when teaching a new behavior or when I need lots of repetitions is always food – small pieces of tasty, easy to chew and easy to swallow food – as I can deliver it quickly and maintain a high rate of reinforcement. It is also more effective to use smaller reinforcements more frequently rather than large reinforcements less often. However, I also make good use of ‘non-food’ items, which include everything from balls to tug toys to life rewards –  access to things my learner wants, such as going outside, sniffing a patch of grass, greeting someone…  Whether using food or non-food reinforcers, primary or secondary reinforcers, one thing is certain – reinforcers are not all equal and the ‘value’ of an individual reinforcer is not static. The ‘value’ to the learner will change depending on such factors as:

  • The behavior itself – The behaviors, as determined by the animal’s ability to do them and its biological pre-disposition to behave in certain ways, are easier or more difficult to reinforce. Behavior that depends on smooth muscles and glands is harder to reinforce than is behavior that depends on skeletal muscles. (Chance, Learning and Behavior, 2013)
  • The individual’s preferences
  • Previous learning history
  • The Setting Events and Motivating Operations

There are variables affecting reinforcement and affecting the value of each reinforcer at any given time, in different environments and with different individuals.  We also need to bear in mind that If we use the higher ‘value’ reinforcers too frequently for easy behaviors in non-distracting environments, we could find that not only will our learner no longer be motivated to ‘work’ for lower value reinforcers, but also that we dilute the value of those reinforcers that were previously at the top of the Hierarchy, making them less effective in more demanding situations or with more demanding behaviors.  We should make sure that we have a variety of reinforcers on all levels of our learner’s Hierarchy so that we have something to call upon of appropriate value in all situations. Varying the reinforcement consequence that is offered, will also help to overcome satiation – at some point, we have all eaten enough of that delicious cake but that doesn’t mean that we would say no to an ice-cold bottle of beer!

Although each individual will have their own Hierarchy of Rewards, neither Jambo nor any other learner’s Hierarchy of Rewards is static.  What works as a reinforcer one day may be of little interest to the same learner the next day. 

The Hierarchy of Rewards

If Jambo were reasonably hungry and we were working in a non-distracting environment, he would probably find kibble (dry dog food) to be of sufficient ‘value’ and it would serve as an adequate reinforcement consequence.  If, however, we were to try and do that same behavior in a more distracting environment, at a greater distance or perhaps when Jambo had just eaten, then the kibble would have very little, if any ‘value’ and would not serve to positively reinforce a behavior.  If Jambo were in a playful mood then his tug toy would have a much higher value than if he were tired and ready for bed. An opportunity to sniff a nice patch of grass might serve to reinforce the behavior of coming close to me on a nice summer’s evening but on a dark and wet winter’s night, the opposite would be true –  If I wanted Jambo to leave my side and go to the grass, then it might be returning to my side and the protection of my umbrella that would serve as a reinforcer but maybe even that would not be of high enough ‘value’ and he would simply decide not to carry out the behavior. Perhaps performing ‘send-aways’ in the rain, calls for roast chicken?

This is the second in a series of three posts from my article: “The Hierarchy of Rewards – Delving into the World of Positive Reinforcers” for BARKS from the Guild magazine. Part one can be found here:  Rewards and Positive Reinforcement Consequences.   In part three we will take a closer look at motivating operations; Jambo’s personal Hierarchy of Rewards, and some of the primary and secondary reinforcers we can all make use of in our training.

To contact Louise Stapleton-Frappell, please click here.

The DogSmith training programs enhance and improve the relationship you share with your family pet.  To contact a Professional DogSmith, please click on the image below. 

 


Rewards and Positive Reinforcement Consequences

The language we use when discussing our training methods can sometimes be slightly misleading.  Much discussion is given to the use of terms such as force-free, rewards based and positive reinforcement.  Sometimes there will be shared-meaning and at other times, these terms will be used and attributed to diametrically opposed training methods.  The words ‘reward’ and ‘positive reinforcement’ are often used to describe the same process but are they really the same?

Let’s begin with a definition of reinforcement and a few other terms you are likely to come across when reading about rewards based, science based, force-free training. The term to reinforce means to strengthen and it is used in behavioral psychology to refer to a stimulus which strengthens or increases the probability of a specific response.  Behavior is the function of its consequences and reinforcement strengthens the likelihood of a behavior.  To qualify as reinforcement an experience must have three characteristics:  First, the behavior must have a consequence.  Second, the behavior must increase in strength (e.g. occur more often).  Third, the increase in strength must be a result of the consequence (Chance, 2013 )

When comparing rewards to reinforcement, I am referring to one of the quadrants of operant conditioning:  positive reinforcement. Positive means that a stimulus is added. With positive reinforcement, a behavior is followed by a stimulus (which the subject seeks out/will work to receive) which reinforces the behavior that precedes it, resulting in an increase in the frequency, intensity and/or duration of that behavior. To clarify, a reinforcer is a stimulus that, when it occurs in conjunction with a behavior and is contingent on that behavior, it makes that behavior occur more often. But what if the behavior doesn’t increase in frequency, strength or duration? What if the behavior continues to occur with the same frequency or occurs less often?  In this case, we can reliably say that the consequence stimulus would not qualify as reinforcement.

Is a reward the same as a reinforcer?  The simple answer is no, it is not.  Although, when simplifying our language, it is often useful to advise our clients to mark and reward (click and treat/mark and pay), a reward and a reinforcer/reinforcement consequence are not the same. Let’s look at the definition of a reward:

  • A thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement
  • A sum offered for information leading to the solving of a crime, the detection of a criminal, etc. (Oxford University Press, 2017)

The key here is in the definition. I may be given something in recognition of my hard work but that does not necessarily mean that I will work harder in the future.  If my reward for all the extra hours I worked were a simple thank you – would that act as reinforcement?  What about if my reward for all the hours I worked were a big cash bonus – would that serve as a reinforcement consequence?

A Reward – A thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement.

A reward may or may not positively reinforce a behavior. There are a few reasons why, one being that the giver of the reward is who decides what to give and denotes it as a reward.  The recipient might not be quite so enthusiastic about the perceived reward.  Jambo (my Staffordshire Bull Terrier) and I were once rewarded with a ‘beautiful’ trophy for taking first place in an event at a local competition.  The trophy went on to take pride of place hidden away in a cupboard!  Did the trophy act as a reinforcer?  As a result of that consequence (being rewarded with a trophy), did Jambo and I enter more competitions/try to win more competitions?  No. The reward was only ‘beautiful’ in the eye of the giver. The recipient of the reward thought otherwise, hence its ubication – hiding out in the back of a cupboard!

Rewards often come with some sort of judgement on the person or animal they are directed at whereas reinforcers are linked to the behavior not the giver nor the recipient.  Just like rewards, reinforcers can be delivered by people but they can also be delivered by the environment. Suppose for example that one morning your dog manages to slip out of the door and chase the neighbor’s cat. The dog has a wonderful time and the next morning flies out of the door as soon as it is opened.  That one act of joyfully chasing the neighbor’s cat has effectively reinforced rushing out of the door as soon as it is opened! If the neighbor’s cat never ventures into your yard again, the behavior may undergo extinction but this is unlikely as the act of running at full speed out of the door and across the yard is undoubtedly self-reinforcing – offering intrinsic reinforcement and serving as wonderful motivation!  What if the behavior is put on a variable schedule of reinforcement i.e. the cat is occasionally available to be chased?  You can probably guess the answer. The behavior of rushing out of the door will go from strength to strength as it is being extrinsically reinforced in the same way as playing on a slot-machine is – you know that if you keep playing, you are sure to win again at some point!

Now, just because I have clarified that rewards and positive reinforcement consequences are not the same, that does not mean I am never going to tell people to reward their dog.  I also tell people to pay their dog.  That doesn’t mean I want my clients to throw a wad of cash at their dogs and my clients know that!  My clients are intelligent people and some may wish to delve deeper into the world of behavioral science but many are happy to stick with the world of click and treat or mark and reward. Naming the reinforcement ‘pyramid’ the Hierarchy of Rewards serves a good purpose in that it makes it more easily understandable for everyone, whether pet industry professional or pet dog guardian.  However, as pet industry professionals, I do believe that we should have a clear understanding of terms such as ‘positive reinforcement’ and recognize that just because we have ‘rewarded’ a dog with a throw of a ball or a tasty treat, that does not necessarily mean we have positively reinforced the behavior.  Only the future will tell us that!

This is the first of a series of three posts from my article:  “The Hierarchy of Rewards – Delving into the World of Positive Reinforcers” for BARKS from the Guild magazine.

 

To contact Louise Stapleton-Frappell, please click here.

The DogSmith training programs enhance and improve the relationship you share with your family pet.  To contact a Professional DogSmith, please click on the image below. 

 


Help Us Give You the Best Service Possible…

Help Us Give You the Best Service Possible…
By Niki Tudge

DogSmith Pet Professionals have committed their professional lives to providing you with the absolute best, most informed, force-free, ‘state of the industry’ pet care and dog training available. Not only is each DogSmith fully insured and bonded but the rigorous training and continuing education each DogSmith accomplishes each year sets the standard in our industry. DogSmiths are fully accredited in pet care and pet first-aid and every DogSmith business owner is a certified dog trainer using only force-free training and pet care techniques.

As part of our effort to provide you with the “best care anywhere” we ask that you consider the following when requesting any of our services for your furry family member:

1. Make Your Reservation as Early as Possible:

This assures you won’t be left without the services you require and will give your DogSmith plenty of time to prepare for any special requirements. The last thing we want to do is disappoint you when you need pet care services and we take pride in providing you the services you need, when you need them.
Likewise, if you need to cancel your reservations cancel them as soon as you can. This will minimize any cancellation fees (especially around the holidays) and it will give your DogSmith a better chance to fill the time reserved for you with another client.

2. Give Us the Most Accurate Information You Can:

We know this can sometimes be hard. You may not even notice some of your pet’s characteristics anymore or you may be hesitant to mention certain problems or behaviors. This is natural. But for your DogSmith to provide your beloved pet the best care possible we need the most accurate information on your pet’s health, behavior, fears, chronic conditions, past illnesses/injuries, likes, dislikes, phobias and preferences. Your DogSmith also needs accurate information to access your home. This can be especially critical if you are a regular DogSmith client. Some details concerning your home or pet may change between scheduled DogSmith services that you may forget to update with us.
Having complete and accurate information will help your DogSmith identify any changes in behavior or demeanor should they arise while you are away. Remember, DogSmiths are pet care professionals who are trained and experienced in every aspect of pet care so they will either be equipped to respond to any specific issues with your pet or they will be able to suggest suitable alternatives. So always complete our registration forms making sure that the following is provided in detail:

Pet Information –
1. Complete vaccination history
2. Contact details for your vet
3. Contact details for friends or family in case of emergency
4. Complete contact details for you while you are away including phone number, cell phone number, email address etc.
5. Comprehensive description of your pets behavior, fears, chronic conditions
6. Food and feeding schedule.

For In-Home Pet Care –
1. Complete instructions on how your house works
2. Schedules for any in-home services you may have such as; maid/cleaning, pool,
yard, pest control etc.
3. Any scheduled contractor work or service to be done in your absence
4. Information on any potential houseguests
5. Information on any friends or neighbors who may have access to your house.
6. Keys, alarm codes, community gate/access codes, combinations or little tricks for problematic locks.

3. Keep Your DogSmith informed

Always confirm your travel plans before your DogSmith services are scheduled to begin and keep your DogSmith apprised of any changes, especially your return dates. As mentioned above, update any information concerning your pet or your home with your DogSmith. Do you have a new alarm code, changed your pet’s feeding schedule or has anything else changed that your DogSmith should be aware of?

4. Try to be Flexible

DogSmith Pet Professionals do everything they can to completely satisfy every customer’s request but DogSmiths are in such demand that they may have to adjust their schedule slightly too properly meet the needs of their clients. If you have requested a specific service at a specific time the DogSmith Pet Professional will make every effort to accommodate your request exactly but there may be an occasion where the service may be a few minutes earlier or later than that requested due to other commitments.

Your DogSmith will always attempt to accommodate your every need while you are away but please remember that if you ask for extra services it may not be possible for your DogSmith to always perform these if their schedule won’t allow it.

5. Let Us Know
When you return to your home and pets after being away, if there is anything you are concerned about please contact your DogSmith immediately. We will be much more able to address you concerns when your service has been recent.

If you can think of anything else that we can do to provide you and your pets with the best care possible please contact us. The DogSmith is helping pets become family!


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Oxford Pet Resort & Spa is the home of The DogSmith, America’s only force free dog training and pet care franchise.
The resort offers your pet an opportunity to spend some time in a country setting. Dogs get to run, play, and romp in a safe environment. Our Certified Pet Care Providers are on hand to oversee your pets’ vacation and ensure they remain safe and secure while they have fun frolicking and breathing clean country air. Our resort provides loads of personal attention, country walks and lots of mental stimulation. We offer a unique, unrivaled pet care boarding experience. Let your dog take a holiday while you’re on vacation!
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Dog Training & Pet Care in Oxford MS – The DogSmith, Who are We?

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The Politics of Control

Written by Jan Casey

The partnership between human and canine is a wonderful thing. Dogs are the only creatures on earth who have evolved with us in a mutually beneficial way. They are our teammates in sports, give us protection, keep us entertained, and provide us with both mental and physical health benefits. We, in turn, provide shelter, food, health care, and activities. It sounds like a bipartisan answer to a political question, but as with all politics, sometimes the underlying issue of control smolders beneath the surface.

 

As a professional behavior consultant and trainer, I have learned it doesn’t matter why I have an owner seeking my help with his dog. Regardless of whether they are here for a puppy class or a sports class, whether we are addressing a problem of aggression or of separation anxiety, the basic issue revolves around control. The owner trains the dog to respond to cues so she will come rather than run into the busy road. The dog bites the hand which is pushing her into an alpha roll so she will be able to escape and live. It’s about the ability to control one’s environment which can mean the difference between life and death. It’s about survival.

 

Psychologist Abraham Maslow listed a hierarchy of human needs that, when fulfilled, contribute to a sense of control. The foundation consists of those requirements he refers to as physiological: the need for health, food, and sleep. The next level is the need for safety which includes shelter and the ability to distance one’s self from danger. Only after these needs are met can someone move on to the other tiers of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. I have observed that canines, too, must have their needs for food, shelter, and safety met in order to move to a more productive relationship with humans. Unfortunately, many owners are misguided as to how to answer these needs, leaving the dog with no sense of control over her environment and no choice but to react in a way the owner finds undesirable.

 

Perhaps the biggest blunder committed in dog training methodology over the past twenty years has been equating dominance with control. Trainers using antiquated methods coach others to “be the Alpha” or “command the space,” mistakenly implying that humans who follow this advice will be in total control of the dog. Yet it is the dog who exerts control by choosing how to respond so she can fulfill her need for safety. She may shut down, become robotic, and never offer a novel behavior on her own again. She may suppress the unwanted behavior, only to have it surface later in an even less acceptable form. Her final choice may be to fight to remove herself from danger, but which may ultimately result in her early demise. There is no guarantee which choice the dog will make or if the one she chooses will be her final option.

 

Exerting control over another being is not innately a bad thing. Just as a parent will hold a child’s hand to prevent him from wandering into the street, an owner will place a dog on a leash for the same purpose. Humans and canines will choose to relinquish control quite easily when they trust someone else to look out for their well-being. We trust public servants to protect us. A dog who trusts her handler to protect her will not struggle for control. As Leslie McDevitt points out in her DVD Pattern Games, a dog who feels safe becomes confident and empowered to move forward. She will no longer react and fight to take control of the surroundings in order to protect herself.

 

Do we loose control by allowing the other to have control at the same time? No! In fact, it is the secret to getting what you want. Two games we play in classes can illustrate how both dog and human jointly control the outcome. The first is doggie zen: when the dog controls her efforts to get the treat from the owner’s hand by pawing and mouthing, she is given a treat from the other hand. The owner is also in control by determining which behaviors meet the criteria. The second game is based on the Premack Principle – what most people recognize as “if you eat your green beans, you can have ice cream for dessert.” Buzz’s agility training provides a perfect example: if he will practice a tough sequence with me, then he can then go dive into the pool. It works when addressing problem behaviors as well. By giving the dog some control over her environment, we can create a structure that will help her understand she is safe and secure resulting in an increase in her confidence.

 

Total control of another being is simply an illusion. We can motivate another to comply with our wishes, but each being has control over her response. Using force creates a stalemate which is unproductive. Problems are best resolved through give and take. Give your dog the opportunity to have some control and she will trust you to take control in demanding situations. Vote for cooperation and everyone wins.


The Use of a Clicker versus ‘Yes In Dog Training

The Use of a Clicker versus ‘Yes In Dog Training

By Niki Tudge Copyright 2012

There is always lots of discussion and debate about the use of clickers versus verbal markers such as ‘yes’ when training dogs. I actually use and recommend both, not at the same time as this weakens the conditioning effect through either blocking or overshadowing, but for different applications they  each have their place.

When I work with my dogs I can either use ’yes’ as a conditioned reinforcer or a clicker. What is important when using either of these tools is whether the conditioning has been done correctly and how their ongoing use is employed?

A conditioned reinforcer is a secondary reinforcer that has acquired reinforcing properties because it has been paired repeatedly with a primary reinforcer. A clicker or the word

‘yes’ becomes a conditioned reinforcer by being paired with food through repeated trials, click-treat, click-treat or ‘yes’-treat, ‘yes’-treat. The number of trials required will vary from dog to dog and will depend on the value of the primary reinforcer, the environment the training is being done in and the timing and presentation of the “click-treat”

Each of these tools has advantages and disadvantages. There have been scientific papers written about the efficacy of clickers versus a verbal marker. One of those papers was written by Lindsay A. Wood, MA, CTC titled “Clicker Bridging Stimulus Efficacy” data from this study provide strong evidence that the rate of novel behavior acquisition is significantly faster for dogs trained with the clicker bridging stimulus in comparison to dogs trained with the verbal word “good.”

What I present here is anecdotal evidence not on the efficacy, to that I have no apposing position, but on the practical ease of using a verbal marker “yes” versus the use of a clicker for novice dog trainers and pet dog owners.

 The Clicker

As a training tool the clicker can be hard for new dog owners and trainers to grasp; it is just another thing in their hand they have to focus on. In a new puppy class or a beginner dog training class when an owner has their dog on a leash with a treat bag around their waist and they are surrounded by lots of distractions, the clicker can be that “one too many item” they have to coordinate that throws them for a loop. Throw into the mix that they are also learning prompts and hand signals that need to be clear, consistent and concise, timed correctly with verbal cues and then the click, it is not hard to imagine a comedy of errors with clicks and treats coming from all angles, food falling on the floor and dogs performing all kinds of behaviors and being inadvertently reinforced for them during the coordination debacle.

Not to say this is always the case. I have seen, in my many years of dog training, pet dog owners pick up a clicker for the first time and immediately, through great hand-eye-coordination and manual dexterity, get it right. The clicker does offer a unique sound and when paired correctly with food it can become a very powerful training tool.

‘Yes’ The Verbal Marker

Now the ‘yes,’ or verbal marker, can be easier in some cases for pet dog owners and new dog trainers to grasp. Everyone knows how to say ‘yes’. Concentrating on using the word ’yes’ correctly can help prevent nervous dog owners second-guessing what they are doing, confusing their dog in the process, and does not need to be held or coordinated with the leash, treats etc.

It is best to practice saying the word ‘yes’ in a neutral and unique way, so when delivered it is consistent and cannot be used by mistake when interacting with your dog throughout the day. Keep it as a training tool, condition it correctly and it can be a great option.

On that note I have observed that when the ‘yes’ is used correctly it tends to delay by a second the delivery of food to the dog ensuring that the condition process is not done simultaneously or backwards. To be most effective the click or ‘yes should be started and finished before the delivery of the treat, this is called trace conditioning and is the most effective conditioning method. For those of you who perform with your dog or attend competitions ‘yes’ is that one tool you can take into the ring with you unlike the clicker that remains with your treat bag and dog gear by your crate.