“Mind Your Manners!”

“Mind your manners!”

How many of us grew up hearing those words? I’m sure we all had a magic word that made what we wanted happen. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way to good relationships. Simple things pave the way for peace and harmony in community.

These simple things so often get ignored in society and not just by the 2legged members either. Manners are a vital part of having a 4legged friend that’s a good member of society too.

Manners have always been high on my priority list with my dogs. Unfortunately it’s easy to get distracted by the flashier and fancier tricks in dog training. That’s happened with me and Magnus.

My boy turned one last month and we’ve learned a lot in his first year but I’m noticing he really needs some “back to basics” work. I’ve neglected some of what I consider to be foundation behaviors for a good pet. He has a good start on almost everything I think he needs to know, but it all needs a bit of polishing.

There are several areas I think we need to focus on, some of which would be taken care of if we got his CGC, which was one of my original goals. All of which we’d accomplish just by working Training Levels.

Greetings and Door Manners
Greetings are one place we need some major improvement. Especially when my mom, Charley and Chloe come over he gets way too excited. When a knock on the door is the cue to jump, bark and run around like a maniac you need some manners work. This is a bit of a logistical problem for me since as a self confirmed hermit I rarely have people over. Yet another 4legged lesson: Dogs make you get out of your shell.

I like the video below on how to keep dogs calm when people come over. It sets the dogs up for success even if the humans don’t cooperate with the plan. I often find I have an easier time communicating with my 4legged friends what needs done for success than with my 2legged ones and by putting the dog behind an x-pen it creates a physical cue to the humans that training is going on.

I also need to make my greetings much calmer. The challenge for me is that when the dogs run out so excited to see me and want to smother me in Cavalier hugs and kisses it’s hard to resist! Looks like I’m going to have to practice some greeting zen for myself too!

Door manners are also on my list. I’ve always taught the dogs to wait to go through the door until released. I still like that method, but I’m adding another element our trainer showed me. So instead of the dogs sitting, waiting and then when released bursting through the door and go on their merry way the criteria is now for them to sit until released then reorient to me. This applies to gates and cars too.

A combined element to door manners and greetings is that I want a solid park it on their mats when I open the door. All of this is covered in Training Levels, so if I get busy on those these things will come. Relaxation Protocol helps with this too.

Crate Manners
Both my dogs crate fine, but Magnus has trained a bad habit into me with crating. Maizey gallops into her crate just fine. Magnus on the other hand has decided he only has to get in bed if I have the treat already in my hand for him. SIGH! How did I let that happen? It was one of those subtle things that developed over time and I didn’t even notice until this week.

The solution? First I need to leave more time when leaving to put him to bed. If I’m in a hurry instead of actually training I tend to resort to “Okay I’ve got your treat now hurry up.” I’m going to work through Crate Games with him to get that eagerness to load up back.

Relaxation Protocol
I’ve come to the conclusion every dog can benefit from RP. Magnus and I have worked through three days. I have video, but I figured you were all getting sick of RP video so I haven’t posted it. I may put it on youtube eventually. If you’re dying to see it let me know and I’l upload it for sure.

Maizey spoiled me as far as grooming and handling’s concerned since she’s at “Level 33″ with handling. Magnus is the exact opposite of her when it comes to handling. He’s never loved being groomed, but this last month with is limp he’s really got the best of me.

He submits, but he doesn’t love it. I know he’s probably not ever going to love being groomed, but I need him to at least cooperate. Today I actually took him to a groomer to have him cleaned up. Neither if my dogs has ever been a groomer, and I found one I felt confident leaving him with. I’d still rather groom him myself so I’m adding handling to the “mind your manners” list. This is another thing that will be taken care of by working the levels.

All this manners work means we aren’t going to be doing classes for a while. I’m taking it back to basics with him and hopefully that will set us up for more success when we get back to classes!


Training Levels Question of the Day

Target, Level One Step 5: “The dog practices with more changes.”

Question: How am I going to use target in my everyday life?

  • Give “I must always be in every game my sissers’ playing” Magnus his own game to play and thus move him out of the way. (Also a zen issue we’re working on.)
  • Move both pups off the bed when I’m changing the sheets. (Contrary to their popular opinion I don’t view changing the sheets as a fun game.)
  • Get a pup on the scale at the vet.
  • Help Magnus learn he can hop from the front seat to the back of the car.
  • For picture posing. Getting a pup into position where I want them.
  • As a transfer method preferred over manipulating or luring the dogs where I want them.
  • When I want a pup HERE but he/she’s way over THERE.
  • As a “get your head in gear” game when they see something “scary.” (For Maizey dogs. For Magnus anything that “Holy shykies that wasn’t there yesterday!”)

How do you use Targeting in your life?


Zen Traps and Defaults

Level 2 Step 5: Zen traps and defaults.

Before I get to the deep stuff, a small brag. We’ve been testing through L1 Zen and tonight I was able to pour the entire 15 pounds of dog food into the dog food bucket without the dogs diving head first into the bucket. I suppose that’s a zen trap of sorts since normally I wouldn’t have dared such a feat, but they’ve been doing so well I thought I’d try to “trap” them. They passed!

No, my dogs are not on L2 step 5 yet, and since we’re following Sue’s advice to start over from the beginning we probably won’t be there anytime soon, but I had to jump ahead and read about what a Zen trap is. I’m glad I did because it allowed me to set the dogs up for their success tonight.

You have no idea what complicated ideas I came up with when I first read about Zen traps and defaults. Turns out a Zen trap is exactly what it sounds like. Which perfectly illustrates one of the things I love about the Levels-the simplicity. Sue does start out the step warning you, “Here’s where it’s going to get complicated. I’m going to ask you to think.”

Well, compared to the convoluted ideas I came up with her explanation was plain as day!

Step 5 begins by having you think of the area’s “of your life with your dog that’s crying out for hand Zen or floor Zen.” Then Sue urges us to have some forethought, to even write out the problem and a plan for explaining it to our pup. L2 Step 5 starts transferring Zen from a treat to real life situations.

For example, Magnus needs a serious dose of kitchen table zen. (For fun check out the fun conversation on our FB page about “You know you’re a dog person when. . .” one of mine was about Magnus and his desperate need for kitchen table zen.) Since dogs on the kitchen table isn’t exactly covered in a specific step in the levels and I really don’t want dogs on the kitchen table my whole life L2 Step 5 fits perfectly.

Sue says, “Get yourself (italics mine) ready to respond correctly then enter the room with the Zen trap in it. Work the pre-placed trap as you would any other bit of food on the floor.”

The kitchen table Zen trap looks like this, I leave a chair out so he would normally want get up on it to get on the table. Of course since we are starting a new Zen behavior I make things easier and leave off the cue.

After bringing him into the room I can picture two options. In option one he’s off leash and I sit down on a different chair with my clicker and treats and ‘read’ my new Levels book. I then have the opportunity to reward any choice he makes not to get on the chair with a very high value treat.

In option two if we get to this point and I feel like his leave it is solid enough for him to understand the cue I think I could cue “leave it” at the chair if he leaves it click-treat! If not I know I need to go back to the beginning and make it easier for him.

Hmm. . . interesting plan. I’m glad I have several steps until we’re ready for step 5 so I can refine it. Any ideas?

Other areas a Zen trap could help us are my bedside table and the cat food. Set ups would be similar, the key is preparation. Have my plan thought out ahead of time, treats and clicker in all the places I set up a trap. Both are areas where I want Zen to be the default, meaning he always chooses to never get into those things.

Turns out Sue was right again, she warned me and she is making me think!

As always I welcome any suggestions, refinements or overhauls to my plan. When we get this far I’ll be sure to let you know how it went! Hopefully I report back a full A+ pass!

One more thing, if you haven’t bought your new Training Levels books yet, you really should. They are awesome!


New Training Levels Books Shift The Earth Under My Feet

Recently on the Training Levels yahoo Group Sue Ailsby said, “When the earth shifts under your feet, you have only a few choices. You can run, you can attack, you can freeze, or you can start hysterically, rabidly, desperately learning. It’s exciting, isn’t it?!”

Ever since I got my new Training Levels books I’ve been in the “rabidly, desperately learning” phase. The books are even better than I expected, and I have to say I had high expectations!

I had one those earth shifting under my feet moments when I read one of Sue’s “Very Important Ideas”. She says, “You can’t teach a negative.” Sue then explains it doesn’t help you or the dog when all you can think about is how to get the dog to STOP doing a behavior you don’t want.

The ground started trembling. . . “Don’t think of what you want to stop???. . . Hmmm . . .”

I keep reading. . . Sue points out three questions to ask when your dog chooses to do something you don’t want them to:

  • “What do I Want the dog to do in this situation?”
  • “How do I stop her from being rewarded for the bad thing?”
  • “How do I reward her for doing the good thing?”

The earth is shifting at this point. . .

I think, “This is positive training, if I think only in negatives how am I supposed to teach my dogs anything with positive methods?”

After sleeping on the idea, today it all came together for me.

We are hanging out with a friends dogs, and helping out with their boarding kennel this week. The house is across the driveway from the kennel field and when our dogs go out they can see the kennel dogs in their field. This is always a challenging situation for Maizey.

We have done enough work here that the reactivity to the kennel dogs is minor. This trip she has done even better, and I would qualify her barking as much less reactive and more just letting me know there are dogs there. In my head the question was always, “How do I get her to stop barking at the kennel dogs?”

Here is where the earth shifting came into play. With Sue’s wise words, “you can’t teach a negative” in mind, today I stopped thinking how to get her to stop barking and started asking, “What do I want her to do instead?”

I want her to be relaxed and quiet in the yard. I want her to know it’s okay to let me know the dogs are there, but I have it handled, she doesn’t need to bark more than three or four times. Ultimately I would like her to be able to go out, feel confident enough to not bark at them at all. (The criteria for now is three or four times because I know asking her to not bark at all is beyond her ability at this point. Her barking to let me know they’re there works with other training we’ve been doing for reactivity.)

What I came up with was to let her out of her fence and let her meet the kennel dogs through their fence, with high reinforcement for quiet, calm meetings. She doesn’t bark at dogs she knows, only “strange” dogs. She greeted the kennel dogs when we got here, but sometimes when she goes out they’re there and sometimes they’re inside, so to her each time she goes out they are “new.”

Then I wondered what would happen if I went in the field and talked to her while I was with the kennel dogs. A novel idea, one I had no idea if it would make a difference to her, so I went out with the kennel dogs, she started barking and I said, “Hey Maizeymay, whatchta tellin me?”

A bunch of words that weren’t cues, just my happy confident voice saying “what’s up?” It was so funny! She perks up, looks around and then runs to the door looking for me. I say, “Hey girlie, I’m over here.” Once she found me I told her what a good girl she was and went about my business. She hasn’t barked at the kennel dogs again!

I don’t know that this is a permanent solution, I don’t know that it wasnt all coincidence, I don’t know that she learned anything. What I do know is my thinking has shifted and I’ve learned something!

Another example: She gets her detox in a spoon full of yogurt or something yummy. With six other dogs around it takes more management to get her in a space where she can eat with out being interrupted by curious mouths. Instead of thinking how can I get these dogs to stop bugging her when she takes her detox I started thinking, “What do I want it to be like when I give her this medicine?”

The answer? I just need a little space and the other dogs to wait their turn for a treat.

The solution? Have Maizey hop on a kitchen chair and sit while the other dogs practice some treat zen and wait their turn. Then give each one a treat and wallaah! We have a simple, peaceful way for Maizey to get her meds and all the dogs get to practice a little self control. We’re all happy!

Short story long I’m loving my Training Levels books. If you haven’t ordered yours yet I highly recommend it. They are an invaluable tool for any one with a 4legged friend!.

Now, I’m off for more rabid Training Levels learning!


Magnus is an AKC S.T.A.R. and Maizey Will Soon Be a Petite Pal

I always read these succinct, short, to the point blogs that are so easy to get the news you want without wading through extraneous fluff you really don’t care about.

Then I read mine. . .

So, I am going to endeavor to keep this short, which should be difficult since I haven’t kept up on the news around here lately.

I promise to do my best.

Monday, February 28, 2011 Magnus took and passed his AKC S.T.A.R. puppy test! Enter a proud Crazymomlady moment when his instructor said, “He’s almost ready for his CGC.”

Now that he is officially a S.T.A.R. and my life is trying to resume some sort of normalcy (whatever that is) he’s starting back to Agility For Fun class. On March 24th we will join one of our favorite instructors, Astrid, for the last 4 classes which we missed due to “real life” getting in our way the first time.

Since the instructors at Calling All Dogs are so wonderful they have agreed to help me work Maizey through the Petite Pals class there on Saturdays. She starts on March 12th.

Yes, this means I am officially insane, as both dogs will be in different classes on different days. Something I swore I would never do. However my Notsocrazymomlady is taking Chloe to that class and when Nicole heard the progress Maizey is making both she and Michelle, the instructor of Petite Pals felt it was worth a try to see how my Princess Of The Shrill Bark would handle it.

I will take it week by week and have their assurance they will help me monitor her stress levels and if it’s not a fit for her we will adjust accordingly.

In Steps to Success news Maizey has completed 38 of the L2 steps. Magnus is close behind with 29 steps complete. With our weeks filled up with classes we will be taking a bit of a hiatus from the levels until Sue releases the new book. (Which we are hoping and praying and wishing and begging will be soon!)

There! How did I do? Succinct enough? Oh wait. . . I forgot to update about Maizey’s persistent Blepharitis, Corneal Dystrophy and Distichiasis. Then there’s the Walking Challenge, my new obsession with making leather leashes and the perfect treat bags.

I can’t forget to at least mention the great honor Magnus had of being named one of the naughtiest dogs at Embee Cavaliers! A great thanks to Mary Beth for including him!

Most important of all I need to come up with a registered name for Magnus’ AKC PAL#!

Goodness, this being succinct thing is hard. Oh well, I guess I will have to get caught up on a night when it’s not already 12:15a.m.

In the mean time why don’t you help me out by coming up with a clever AKC registered name which includes the words: Magnus, Magnificent, and Moments. Who knows one of you could have the honor of giving Magnus The AKC S.T.A.R. his registered name!

(Don’t worry if you’re drawing a blank my next post is about the confusing world of AKC Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege and should make you all as confused as I am!)

Okay, Okay, I wasn’t short and to the point at all, again. All I can do is beg your mercy and hope you’ll keep putting up with my long windedness since I value your input so much!


10 Reasons Why a Dog Might Not “Obey a Command”

The homework for L2 in the Steps To Success is: “Why might a dog not “obey a command”? Give 10 possible reasons.”

I wanted to think of this is terms of why my dog might not “obey a command,” so this is the same list for both dogs.


  1. is tired
  2. is not hungry
  3. I don’t have high value enough treats
  4. I’m not giving high enough reinforcement rate
  5. finds the environment more rewarding than me or my reward
  6. has a developed history of a more rewarding behavior, such as a bad behavior (getting in the litter box) or a default behavior (down)
  7. has been reinforced for an alternate behavior too much so only offers that
  8. is afraid
  9. is young with a short attention span
  10. is confused by poor or inexperienced handling
  11. I am being a lumper not a splitter, so am asking for too much too soon
  12. I added a cue too soon before he really knew the behavior so the cue doesn’t mean anything yet, or the cue is new to him.
  13. training session is too long
  14. he’s a teenager

Okay, so I threw in the last one because the dreaded adolesence is rearing it’s nasty head. I suppose the more official version would be:

14.  dog is physically unable to complete the asked for skill due to hormonal changes rendering his brain as much use as pudding.

Oh wait, it seems my low opinion of the adolescent stage of a small male puppies’ life has colored my rhetoric again!

I seem to have strayed, so getting back on track. . .

Maizey’s list was a little harder. She rarely doesn’t do as asked, she loves to shape and is a skilled offerer, so thinking of why she didn’t do things was harder.


  1. there are strange dogs around
  2. is anxious/afraid
  3. is reactive and “can’t” hear me
  4. truly didn’t hear me (usually accompanied by a head tilt, “heh? Whadcha say there Crazymomlady?”
  5. my instructions were unclear and she is confused
  6. she’s physically unable to do the asked for skill(as in the case with her knees and refusal to hop on things as a puppy.)
  7. is distracted by Magnus the “I’m a Teenager” Destroyer
  8. finds the environment more reinforcing than me
  9. is offering me 26 other things than the one we are aiming for
  10. has a default stronger than the asked for behavior
  11. she’s thirsty

One thing evident from this list is how many of these reasons are actually about me, not them. In Magnus’ list 9/14 reasons are more about my handling or lack thereof! That’s a humbling realization.

We’ve all heard the all too common, “my dog’s just stubborn.” The 4legged lesson here is one that applies to 2legged creatures too: there are many reasons a dog (or human) may not perform a desired task and it’s rarely because they’re, “just stubborn.”

Remembering this may help us all be more patient with one another no matter how many legs we have!

Two of my favorite references on this subject:

Kathleens: 10 Reasons a Dog May Not Perform a Required Behavior
Eileens: The Missed cue


Steps To Success Level Two: Overview

Sue Ailsby introduces the new Steps to Success by saying:

“It’s wonderful to live down the block from an excellent clicker instructor who has room in her classes for your dog and plenty of time to coach you and give you advice and assistance in your training. Unfortunately very few of us live in Perfect…

We’re left on our own a lot of the time, trying to come up with our own training plans, our own goals. Is there any sport in the world where coaching is held in less esteem?

These Levels are written for those who want a coherent training plan. They aren’t aimed at obedience competition, or agility, or tracking, or any other particular sport or job. They’re aimed at producing a dog who is a willing partner, eager to learn, happy to work, and having the basic civilization necessary to allow her the access she needs to do her job and to allow you the confidence to enjoy being and working with her.”

I think we can all relate to what she says, and I’m so thankful to have her program to work from. The Steps To Success(S2S) are practical, easy to follow and very comprehensive.

S2S Level Two is 15 behaviors. From some of the old Training Levels skills like zen and lazy leash to some new skills like relax and communication.

Each of the 15 skills is split into five steps. Which makes a total of 75 steps in L2! The detailed book by Sue Ailsby is not released yet and I’m impatiently waiting for its first printing. After much deliberation I decided to dive in and work the skills I feel we can handle based on the info from the Training Levels. I may have to go back and rework some things, but with Magnus hitting the dreaded adolescence we need to keep his lessons moving forward.

Maizey’s progress through L2 should be a bit faster since she just needs to test and pass many behaviors. Already she has passed 13 steps! We wont even start relax and communicate until we have Sue’s new book.

The new steps are very practical. Zen takes you from “Dog moves away from uncovered treat on floor.” Up to “Dog doesn’t get treat on floor.” Sit covers not just duration but distance since by step four you reach, “Dog sits while trainer walks 10′ away, stays away for 1 minute and returns”

By the time you’ve worked through lazy leash, park it and crate you get to handling. By step five of handling your 4legged friend learns to allow “clippers, pills, thermometer, toothbrush.” All extremely practical skills for day to day life.

All in all it looks like a fun journey and the most important thing is for all of us to enjoy it!