Tag Archives: canine exercise therapy

Building and Breaking Trust

Everyone that reads this thing regularly, knows I do a lot of training through game play.

And, not in the surface “Create a reward event to make them work” sort if way.

But, in a profound way. Almost a spiritually fulfilling way. It impacts so many different levels.

Gives activity which is physically healthy. 15089859455_43f4e6a968_z

Gives psychological fulfillment, as the activities let them express their natural drives.

And we’ve always said that it builds relationships. Builds the language we will use. Builds fluency in body language for both dog and handler. All that good stuff. I’ve always thought there was carry over into just living with your dog. Past just the “tired dog is a good dog” line.

Well, now we have a bit of proof!

In this study, they talk about how dogs develop, and LOSE, trust!

Once you read that, you will have a greater understanding of how your “Game” can effect your day to day relationship. When I coach people in play, I constantly use the common phrase “breaking trust” to tell them why not to do certain things. And, on the surface….. It could be about just the game. Like… Giving fair presentations of the toy so they can get it without clipping you. Like moving it enough that they have to “try” but not so much they feel like they “can’t”. Tugging hard enough that they are in the “fight”, and not “overwhelmed……. All that seems to be only Game related.

But this study shows that dogs can learn from how you play and do trivial activities what kind of trust you deserve.

Seems like the Clarity the dogs learn from your Game will effect them in all aspects of your relationship.

A lot of times when I work with a dog, I start with play. And I’ve always felt it wasn’t just “play”. But us really learning one another. Build trust and language, before trying to navigate sticky situations.

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Kind of cool when science tells you you’re on the right train of thought!

That’s it.

Go play with your dog!

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Jaxxy’s Transition To A Spring Pole

What do I do in a Blizzard?
Transition Jax to Spring Pole!
Lot of people tug. Not that many people use Spring Poles.

The way old school dogmen used them didn’t involve control. Let them at it….. Pry them off. All conditioning and gameness. No control.

But, I think they can be used as an obedience reward. Just like tug. Giving access to this type of activity to folks that can’t get in there and play The Game themselves. Plus it takes HUGE impulse control.
Jaxxy followed my typical process:
Tug. Ball On A String. Flirt Pole. Decoy Tug. Then Spring Pole.
Each progression requires more responsibility and control under higher and higher arousal, so there’s usually a little wobble in self control as they master that test.
The transition to the Spring Pole follows the same ramp up in responsibility.
The toy is kept low so the outs are easier, and I am fairly close, so it doesn’t challenge my area of influence too much.
As he gets cleaner & more crisp, I will raise the toy up, and myself away.
Eventually, He’ll be swinging like the old school pics.

But…. With solid obedience!
No collars. No food.
Only Social Drive and self control overriding Prey Drive.
Here’s Jaxxy’s first session.

And Here’s a follow up 2 days later. It’s his 3rd session:

Spring Pole: Good Or Bad?

I’ve gotten this question a few times in the last couple of days. Thought I’d share my response here since a few other people may have the same question. Enjoy:

Question:  “What are your thoughts on people who tie a tug and let the dog hang?  ……..What’s the purpose?”

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(old school shot of a tree Spring Pole)

My Answer:  “Back in the day Spring Poles were just ways to develop grip and drive. They would put dogs on them and let them rip. Most dogs didn’t have an out so they would break stick them off the hide/tug. This is CLASSIC agitation. Take the dog up pulling on a 2 inch collar going apeshit. Let them get it and go NUTS. Then….. Literally pry them off! Makes a ton of drive. Not to mention physically conditions their wrestling, and biting musculature. That said….. There were a lot of stuff in old school Keeps/Pit Dogmanship that can be super useful if done a little different. Spring Poles are one of them. Typically everyone now knows that tug can be a great way of training your dog. Builds great obedience, and impulse control. Develops relationship. And, satisfies a very biologically appropriate style of play. Spring Poles have all those same benefits…… AND……

1- MORE impulse control. The tug is being directly controlled by you. Which means “some” of what keeps them from early strikes is spatial/social pressure. And “some” of what makes them out is you “deading” the toy (-P) to enforce the command. Well….. If the toy is inherently self reinforcing and not being controlled…… Their impulse control must be SOLID. And their out must be BOMBPROOF. Because, when you say out, they “can” keep going. That’s a HUGE jump in impulse control.

2- Increased area of influence. For you to send away, out, recall, down at distance etc…. your obedience from a distance has to be solid. Most people can say down and get compliance at 2 ft. At 20…. Not so much. compliance from your dog at 20 ft, in the face of an available, HUGE temptation…… That’s monster training.

3- Real world translation of skill. If you can out and down at a distance….. Or recall your dog OFF a spring pole, you have a much better chance of calling them off a squirrel! 

4- People have adopted  WAAAAAAY to much dog. There are a gang of nice little old ladies that are adopting Pits. Good for them. But they couldn’t play tug with their dog to save their fucking life. That’s a huge bummer. That dog will forever miss out on an amazing activity. And that owner will miss out on a great training modality. a trainer can do a few sessions and get the dog working on a spring pole. Then help them put one up. Get them all set. Then,,,,, Granny can work that dog like a champ! That’s a HUGE benefit. Really fills a hole for new, over their head adopters.

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(modern day Bully on a constructed pole Tell me that dog’s not the epitome of happy)

Here’s one of my dogs during their 3’rd session learning Spring Pole. As he gets better it’ll get higher. (the higher it is, the more it “fights”, the more impulse control it requires)

So…. There you are. Why I like, and teach people how to use the old school spring pole!

Maybe now I’ll put up a “How To Make One” article.

Tug: 2.0

So….. If you’ve read the blog at all, you know I’m a fan of tug.

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Particularly, in the Balabanov tradition, with Ellis making a close second. They’ve always said that it develops:

1. Engagement

2. Relationship

3. Language of training (terminal bridge, intermediate bridge, & no reward mark)

4. Impulse control

5. A high value “reward event” that isn’t food based

But….. If those weren’t enough reason to do it, I now have a few more!!!! And, they’re BIG.

1. This one is practical: It begins to “shape” the Conditioned Relaxation exercise Kayce Cover calls the “Toggle”. The way I teach the “out” is by using a “Dead Toy” out. It’s a form of Negative Punishment. Basically….. You make the toy become less fun. They “restart” the game, by letting go. I always knew that it shaped the idea that a sudden shift in body language could stop play. But once I learned the Toggle from Kayce (shifting from “Alert” to “Easy”), I realized that teaching tug first helps them understand the concept of “shifting gears”. Toggling just takes it much further.

(This little guy picked up the “toggle” much faster after teaching tug. A little bit of shaping, and a little bit of stress relief. Bringing me to #2)

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2. This one is theoretical: Biologically appropriate activity. That’s huge for a couple of reasons. First, it is a big stress reliever. And I don’t just mean in the way that exercise dissipates stress.  That’s totally true. Any exercise alleviates stress. But biologically appropriate activities are more than just an energy drain. Temple Grandin describes the “Freedom to express normal behaviors” as one of the four freedoms that define a healthy lifestyle. The others being freedom from hunger, pain, and fear! Well, for a dog, ripping and tearing with their mouth is as biologically fulfilling as it gets! Hell, developing COOPERATION over a thing we’re both gripping is natural!. Watch a pig hunt…. dogs hunting a pig…. not a pig hunting, that would just be weird. But, of all the activities you can do with your dog it is probably the MOST biologically fulfilling activity you can engage in with them.

Yeah, those are more “realizations” of what the hidden benefits are, than actual technique discoveries. But still….. Way more reasons to do it, if you don’t already.

Not sure HOW to do this?

Let me show you!

 

Calming Signal Or Stress Signal

Apparently, there’s a little “controversy” going on regarding “calming” signals.

Some people call them calming signals, and mean that they are signals that the dog is calming down. As in, they are self soothing, and those are the “tells”.

Other people say that they are “stress” signals. As in, the dog is worried and feeling anxious, and those signs are their “tells”. I’m not talking about ALL “stress signals”. I’m talking about the overlapping ones. Obviously, “Whale Eye” isn’t a “Calming Signal”. The arguments occur in the overlapping ones. “Yawning”, “Shake Offs”, Etc…..

Still, other people say that they are trying to calm other beings down. This is popular socialization circles. They see the dog doing “Shake Offs” and feel like it’s not a “tell” of their feelings, but that they are actually trying to signal the other dog to calm down.

These discussions can get heated.

(Of course….. everything gets heated on the internet)

So…. Who’s right?

They all are.

Dogs use signals for all of those reasons.

Communication evolves. And here is my opinion of how these developed.

Dogs naturally display certain indicators of relaxation. These are the classic indicator type of calming signals. The dog isn’t consciously doing them. They are “tells” of their deepening relaxation.

When this is done enough….. Dogs have trained themselves in conditioned relaxation. As in, they associate those actions with a deepening sense of relaxation, and when they start feeling stressed, they do them in an attempt to induce the sensation associated with it. It’s the same signals designed to self soothe. Same signals….. Drastically different causes.

This happens when they interact with other Dogs. They feel stressed, and so they display those signals. The other dogs see this and (if they aren’t rude little shits) back off a bit. Dogs see the pattern, and realize that those signals can induce relaxation in others. Now they are using them as a communication. Same signals…. Another TOTALLY different cause.

Damn…..

That doesn’t seem helpful.

If they can mean all three things, how are you supposed to know what they mean?

Ah….. The same way that you know your wife is pissed, before she says a word. The same way you know your best friend has a secret they’re just dying to tell you. You get to fucking know your dog!

The same expression can mean they are getting calm, and that calm is leaking out. They’re getting stressed and trying to self regulate. Hell, they can literally be asking you for help with that same signal! As in “Mom….. help! I’m scared of that!”.

Your main job in this relationship (hell in ANY relationship) is to learn their communication. It’s about very subtle differences, and context.

If my dog is laying in front of a fire place and yawns….. He’s probably deepening into “relaxed”. That’s a calming signal.

If I’m having him face some of his issues during training and he yawns. He’s probably self soothing. And that’s a stress signal.

If he’s playing in the yard with dogs, and yawns out of nowhere, and that’s just before play stopped for a second. That was a calming signal as in “hey let’s take it down a notch”.

You have to go through training and life experiences with your dog until you “know” what they’re saying.

So, they’re all right.

Pay attention to your dog, and let them tell you what they mean.

Next time you are on the internet with someone over the meaning of dog signals….

Quickly look over your shoulder and see if your dogs isn’t sitting there just trying to tell you something.

It’s a relationship. Go relate.

Quite Possibly The Best Post Ever On Operant Conditioning

Wow. Scientific information, AND, Southpark?!?!

That, my friends, is a hard combination to beat.

Check out this amazing post on TerrierMans Daily Dose. It is really something special. It has a layman’s description of operant conditioning that actually works. It has references to Cesar Milan, who as cliche’ as this sounds, was one of my big inspirations for starting this dog journey of mine. And it has Southpark! Arguably, one of the best shows of all times. Hell, It’s a Southpark clip ABOUT Cesar Milan……. I mean, how could this be better! Check it out- Jay

The Three Parts of Operant Conditioning

What we call “dog training” is also called “operant conditioning.”

For all the mumbo-jumbo you hear about dog training, there are are only three basic parts to it: positive reinforcement, aversive reinforcement, and extinction.

Positive reinforcement is any kind of consequence that causes a behavior to occur more often. Examples include food, praise, and play. In some situations, positive reinforcement can be the removal of an aversive reinforcement.

Aversive reinforcement is a consequence that causes a behavior to occur less often. Examples include a leash pop, a harsh sound, or any kind of nonverbal aversive communication made through body movement or positioning. In some situations, punishment can also be the removal of a (positive) reinforcement.

Extinction is simply a complete lack of response. The nonresponse should be total — no eye contact, no noise or sound triggered by the dog, and no responsive body movement. The dog is invisible.

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Watch the short animated clip above, and you will note that the cartoon Cesar Millan uses all three methods to train South Park’s Eric Cartman after “Super Nanny” collapses and goes insane in the face of the trials and tribulations of this spoiled-rotten child.

Step one in the Cesar Millan bag of tricks is to extinguish Cartman’s negative behavior.

What Millan is doing by ignoring Cartman is signaling that a “new sheriff” is in town — one that will not be overly reactive.

When Millan talks about “calm, assertive energy” what he is really saying is that the owners have to react less.

READ MORE……