“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!


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!