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K-9 Prodigy

Unleash the genius in your dog

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Summer Parks Challenge!

Posted on 22 May, 2019 at 15:53 Comments comments ()
It's official; the annual Summer Parks Challenge 2019 has begun on May 1 and will run all the way through the end of summer!

Training in novel locations is so so so helpful! You can add distractions, you can increase difficulty, you can practice in real-life settings and more. And with the part of Oregon that we're so lucky to live in, you've got lots of cool places to choose from!

Here's the assignment: Pick a pack. It could be an easy park, a hard park, big or small, in Portland or wherever. It could be nearby or far away. It could be somewhere that you're familiar with (a good idea) or somewhere you've never been before (more challenging for the handler.) Once you've got your park in mind, decide what you want to practice. Loose-leash walking and attention work is always good for novice dogs; for more advanced dogs you could do some obedience such as stays, settles or recalls. Of course distraction training is always available -- squirrels, other dogs, people, bikes and more are almost always present. Head out for your training adventure and have a good time. Take a photo of your dog posing by the park sign and then send it to the Facebook page or Instagram with #kpparks2019 and that's all you have to do!

After your outing, think about how you've done -- keeping a written training log to go along with your fun photos is helpful here. What did your dog do well with, and what needs improvement? Maybe obedience went great and your dog was very responsive to cues when asked, but was otherwise pulling and sniffing around in an uncontrolled manner. Or maybe your dogs leash skills were good and relaxed, but he didn't seem to remember any obedience cues at all or his "stay" seemed rusty. Whatever the weak spots are, they should be practiced at home and then tried again the next time you head out.

Things to keep in mind for your next park outing: As the summer gets warmer, bring water for your dog (and probably yourself.) Remember that a park is an uncontrolled training environment, and you'll have to watch for things like loose dogs, loose children, wildlife, etc that may distract your dog. If your dog is reactive to any specific triggers (such as lunging or barking at dogs, it's a good idea to scout out your parks in advance so you know your dog will be successful at the location you choose (for example, dog-reactive dogs tend to do poorly in parks with unfenced offleash areas, though working at a distance from a fenced offleash area can be a very good, helpful practice. Make sure your leash and all equipment is in good shape. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes that won't slip even if the ground is wet or muddy. Then, go and have a good time! And remember to take a photo and #kpparks2019!

Cyber Rally Club -- Come join the fun!

Posted on 13 September, 2018 at 16:21 Comments comments ()
K-9 Prodigy Cyber Rally Club was started earlier this summer to provide both current and former clients a fun, free extra-curricular training activity. It’s also intended to bridge the gap between private training, where the distraction level is specifically tailored to each dogs needs, and group training, which features its own distractions (mainly via lots of other dogs and handlers.) Now you can have both!
 
Cyber Rally is a dog obedience sport that’s video-based; generally you download courses from the official website, video you and your dog working through them, and then submit the videos for qualifications, titles and ribbons! I’ve been participating in Cyber Rally for  a while; it’s fun and great training. But I had the thought that since I’m already out there in the park, I’ve already bought all the cones and printed up all the signs and spent all the time setting up the course, it seemed kind of silly for me to just go through it once or twice with my dog and then have to take everything down again and drive home. So, the idea of Cyber Rally Club was born!
 
The club got off to a rocky start because…well, because I couldn’t figure out how to make the Facebook group and then invite people. Finally though, I figured it out! The Facebook group is set up, all the lessons for everything you'll need to know for Level 1 are done. And the invites are slowly making their ways to your respective email boxes.
 
There’s two parts to Cyber Rally Club, both optional! You can do the video or the IRL or both! If your dog is still working on manners and behavior in a group setting (reactivity issues etc) or if you’re too busy to attend the monthly meet-ups, you can submit videos of yourself practicing the exercises and eventually the courses, and I’ll critique and give feedback and help you when you’re stuck! Video really is the secret weapon of dog training as you can objectively see where you’re successful and how your handling is affecting your dog, so set up your little smartphone or video camera and film away! Posting your video submissions on the group FB page is also really, really helpful for other students, as they can learn a ton from seeing someone else working.
 
The second part of the club is the real-life meetups! So far they’ve all been held at the same park location in North Portland, but the goal is to start working at different parks in different sections of Portland, so that the dogs get lots of experience at novel locations and so that everyone gets a convenient close-in meetup every now and then. During the meetups, a course will be set up (you'll know which course ahead of time) and we'll all take turns running our dogs through the course. It's a great chance to practice obedience with your dog what's usually a very distracting environment. And if you want to video your runs and send them in to get qualification points, you can!
 
So, over the next couple of weeks you all should be expecting a Facebook invite to join the group. Go ahead and join even if your dog is reactive or too young or novice or whatever; you can still learn the exercises and it will give you something extra to work on and practice and who knows? maybe you’ll be in the winner’s circle eventually.

The Beauty (and necessity) of Maintenance Training

Posted on 19 June, 2018 at 13:08 Comments comments ()
Once your dog has received basic training, great! You have put a lot of time into training your dog. He’s functioning at a high level. You’re having a great time taking him out and about and doing all kinds of fun things together. Your friends and neighbors are jealous. Everything looks great.
 
As the months go by, however, there’s a little slip here and a little blip there. Your dogs once good leash-walking skills are now “usually” good leash-walking, but sometimes he pulls towards things he really wants. Your good reliable recall is now he “usually” comes when called. Sits are a little slow but he still does them, downs are even slower. He’ll do a sit-stay for a good amount of time, but frequently gets up before he’s actually released.
 
Fast forward another few months. Now your dog is pulling more than he’s walking nicely, his recall can no longer be considered “good,” and you find yourself struggling for control in many situations. What’s going on here? The dog looked so good seventh months ago!
 
What’s going on is that for the dog whose training is not maintained, eventually it will begin to disappear. This is because of consequences. If there are negative or no consequences to a dog’s good behavior, that good behavior will start to fade away. If there are no or good consequences to a dog’s unwanted behavior, that behavior will start to increase. Of course most owners aren’t intentionally punishing the dog for things like come when called, and they’re not intentionally rewarding the dog for things like pulling on the leash and jumping on people. But for the dog, even unintentional rewards and punishments will start to have an effect as the months go by.
 
For example, your dog pulls very slightly on the leash as you are in a rush to get  from Point A to Point B. You’re in a hurry and anyway it wasn’t a very hard pull, so you ignore it, and the dog gets to sniff ahead of you at something it wanted. To the dog, this sniffing was actually a reward for pulling, and it will probably try again tomorrow, but maybe a little harder of a pull this time. Gradually the pulling will take hold as the dominant behavior.
 
Or, you use your dogs brilliant recall (come when called) to collect it from the dog park. The dog comes running; you leash up and go home. The next day you call it because you have to trim its nails. The next day, you call it away from its favorite playmate. To the dog, now coming when called is not a good thing – it means either that the fun is ending or that something unpleasant is about to start. If this keeps up, the dog will get slower and slower to come when called, and will likely eventually stop doing it at all.
 
This is where maintenance training comes in. During maintenance training, you focus on providing consequences to the dog so that its training and skills remain sharp. So those beautiful recalls result in treats and play, and those leash pulls result in a reset and repeating the sidewalk. The more maintenance training you do, the more highly-tuned and responsive your dog will be, but most people can get away with doing it 1-3 times per week (depending on your dog, of course!) I also do maintenance training for client dogs, so if you just don’t have time but want to keep your dogs skills sharp, I can definitely help!  

Using flashcards in training!

Posted on 31 May, 2018 at 20:41 Comments comments ()
I’m experimenting with a new system for homework – one of the things that gets tough for more advanced dogs is just keeping track of everything you need to practice. It’s easy to practice the things that are easy and fun, but harder to remember to practice things that are more of a challenge. And what about the things your dog learned two months ago, but you haven’t really made use of; is he going to forget all of those? 

I tried making some flashcards for my own dog Halo, and so far so good. When I really thought it through, there are almost 100 flashcards of exercises, commands, etc. That’s…a LOT. I’m working through about 5 of them per day. They’re going really great and after the first week or so I decided to try it with some of the dogs in the string, and that’s going great also!  

Here’s how you can get started with flashcards – I’d suggest to keep it as simple as possible to make sure that it’s actually easy to do as a habit.  

Get yourself some index cards – the Dollar Tree has a pack of 100 for $1! I’d suggest the bigger size of cards so that there’s more room to write on them.  

On individual cards, write down the name of one exercise, drill or command your dog is learning, such as “Sit.” The cards should be simple skills or behaviors that can be done quickly; you’ll want your skill cards to be able to be worked through in 30-60 seconds each.  

You can work through your flashcards however you’d like. I just keep a pile of them on my dresser, and pick whichever ones are on top to do. If I have lots of time I take a handful, or if I’m in a big hurry I might only pick one. Work through your card and then make a quick note of your session – indicate where you practiced (in the kitchen, in the backyard, etc) and a very brief note of how your dog did. That’s it! You’re done with that card. Rotate it back into the pile.  

You can also take some flashcards out with you the next time you go on a walk or other training outing. A quick review of “sit-stay” or "down" before you get into the car, for example, is so easy.   As your dog progresses in training, just add more and more cards for the new things it’s learning. You will likely be practicing mostly on what’s new, but keep your old cards in the rotation and review them every once in a while.

Give it a try!

Loose-leash Walking Terminology

Posted on 1 February, 2018 at 15:06 Comments comments ()
A lot of you are working on loose leash walking!  Gotta admit that the KP system for training this is a little complex. But it is absolutely worth it!! There are lots of different methods for training leash walking, and trust me, I have tried them all. In the end I’ve come up with what I believe has the very best results.
 
Here’s a reminder/list of terms/concepts that go along with the official KP loose-leash walking!
 
“Here”: Verbal cue for your dog to get into walking position (on your left side.) Can be accompanied by hand signal (use your right hand) pointing towards the ground – where you want your dog to stand. Extend your left arm slightly from your body to give your dog a space to move in to. No walk will begin until the dog is in position.
 
Honor Stand: Before cueing “Let’s go” and taking the first step, you want to know that your dog is committed to remaining with you and not just surging ahead once it gets the chance. To do the honor stand, you will lower your left hand so there is noticeable (to the dog) slack in the leash. The dog needs to be aware of this slack and choose to stay with you and not surge forward.
 
“Let’s go”: Verbal cue that you are about to start moving. You can also use it when you are turning right.
 
Reset: A reset is when the dog moves out of position (gets ahead of you) and you are going to stop your forward motion and get the dog back into position. For beginner dogs, this means you will walk backwards until the dog commits to going along with you, and until its shoulder is in line with your left leg. For more advanced dogs, this means stopping and letting the dog find position on its own.
 
Slow Stop: If the dog is going to lunge and you are preparing to stop it, you can slow the stop so it’s easier and less jarring on both the dogs neck and your arms/neck/back/shoulders/entire body. To do the slow stop: You will be holding the leash in your left hand. Move your right hand to take a hold of the leash about halfway between your left hand and the dogs collar. As the dog pulls, slide your right hand up the leash until it has met your left hand. It sounds complicated when you write it all out but give it a try; it really makes things easier and more comfortable for everybody! Or I can show you if you want.
 
Hard Stop: A hard stop is when you purposely come to an abrupt stop so that the dog hits the end of the leash hard. It functions as a punisher for lunging or pulling. You usually do not want to do this; it can be painful for the dog. Usually the only circumstances you would do a hard stop in would be final set-up or “proofing” type situations; for example if the dog has received extensive distraction training around squirrels, understands what to do around squirrels and is fairly reliable even close-in, and suddenly lunges for a squirrel anyway. For the vast majority of dogs you will never use a hard stop.
 
Mark: This is your verbal “yes” (or clicker if you’re using one.) You will “mark” the moment when your dog is doing leashwalking correctly – at your left side, in good position; pace should be a walk (not trot), and the dog should be looking straight ahead. If all of these are happening, mark! To the dog, the mark means that he has performed correctly and is now going to get a reward.
 
Reward in position: After you mark “yes” for correct walking, you are going to use the treat itself to further reinforce the dog’s position. Most dogs will naturally step in front of you to get a treat – this is what they’re used to in everyday life! But your leash walking treats will be delivered at your left side, right at the seam of your pants, knee level or lower. If you have to do a reset to get your dog back into position for its treat, that’s fine – just use the treat to lure it back into position. The information you want to be giving to your dog is “Yes, your walking was correct just there; here’s the reward and by the way you have to be back in this specific position to get it.” With consistency the dog will remain in its spot (since this is where the treat is coming from) and you will be perfectly set up for your next “Let’s go.”
 
Silky Leash: Early in leash training, you teach the dog to respond to following the leash if it makes tiny, extremely soft (“silky”) pulls in various directions. You can continue this practice until the dog is responsive to almost imperceptible cues.
 
Slow Down Cue: A verbal signal “Slow down!”, “Woah!”, etc that you can give if the dog is close to hitting the end of the leash. With consistency, the dog will learn that if it does not slow down, it will come to the end of the leash and then will be required to stop and reset.
 
Sidewalk Work: Your basic unit of leash walking practice. In sidewalk work, you focus on “length of time” of practice rather than “how far you go.” So instead of say, “I’m going to walk five blocks to the park,” you would instead practice by walking for 20 minutes, and it doesn’t matter how far you go. This is helpful for practices because you can avoid for example being 2 miles from home and all of a sudden your dogs brain is fried and it can’t do the work any longer and is pulling and you’re frustrated and need to get home and so let the dog pull “just this once.”
 
Repeat the sidewalk: A good general guideline is that if you are doing sidewalk work and the dog requires three or more resets (because it has pulled ahead), then you are going to do an about turn and repeat that same stretch of sidewalk “until you get it right.” A great goal is to do each block with no pulling and for either one treat at the very end or no treats.
 
Novel sidewalk: As you do your sidewalk work, you will start to perfect certain sidewalks. This means that now you get to go and do new sidewalks! A “novel” sidewalk is a sidewalk that the dog has not practiced on before. Most young dogs require lots of loose leash practice on lots of different sidewalks before they fully understand that the “no pulling” rule works everywhere – not just on places where it’s practiced before.
 
“Turn”: Announces to the dog that you are going to make a left turn. (Not a required cue, but use it if you think the dog’s not paying attention.) The process is 1) When your left foot comes down, “Turn.” 2) You may need to point the dog back into position as you swing your right leg around for the turn. 3) Mark/treat when the dog is straightened out again and the turn has been completed and you are moving out of the turn.

Come When Called Practice

Posted on 29 September, 2016 at 11:37 Comments comments ()
Here is just a quick tutorial/reminder of how you are to practice that "recall to hand" thing. The collar-to-hand target thing can take a while for people to master, but once they get it I've never had a student to back to any other recall method! The dogs seem to thrive on having a target to run to. Just make sure that you don't drill recalls (practice *too* much) or your dog may get a little bored and slow with it.

Doorway Protocol III: Service Dogs

Posted on 20 November, 2015 at 10:14 Comments comments ()
One more doorway protocol, but this one is for service dogs!

The first two options for showing your dog what to do when visitors came over culminated with the dog getting to greet and interact with the visitors -- the ultimate reward for polite manners and waiting.

For service dogs in training, it's usually best to practice having them *not* greet the person. Service dogs do not always get to greet the people.

If you have a service dog in training, it is really best if someone else can answer the door while you keep the dog leashed and with you, reinforcing check-ins and calmness. If you do not have anyone else to open the door for you, then just unlock it for your visitor, say "come in!" and move the dog away from the door (to whatever distance it's currently working at, so that it's most likely to be successful.) It's a good training practice to have your service dog in training on-leash during the entire visit. 

Doorway Greetings Protocol Part II

Posted on 18 November, 2015 at 10:33 Comments comments ()
Hi everyone!

Yesterday we talked about the "official" way I'd like our training sessions to go when I arrive. Controlled greetings around visitors (especially "exciting" visitors) are so important to practice with your dog, no matter what he/she is in training for!

Yesterday's information was geared towards those of you who'd like to have your dog sit or down-stay as the visitor came in. Today's information will be geared towards those of you who don't care what your dog is doing (no specific position or stay required) but just don't want the dog jumping up or being obnoxious when the visitor comes in.

Here's how it goes.

1) Leash up your dog about 2 minutes before our scheduled session time. In this version, you will be holding the dogs leash while you wait for me.

2) When I knock at the door, come towards the door to open it -- but do *not* let your dog pull you to the door! Insist on correct loose-leash walking, using the resets, honor stands, rewarded check-ins and other leash walking techniques. I will wait for you! Do not get flustered and decide it's taking too long and you will just let the dog pull "this once." 

3) Open the door for me, and then with your dog immediately step backwards so I can come in but your dog is too far away to jump on me. If you are too close and the dog does jump up, move farther back.

4) Now you are going to plant your feet and let the dog fuss about or carry on if needed. I am going to ignore all that fussing, but immediately when I see the dog calm down and have all feet on the floor, I'll go in to greet. If it jumps up again, I'll move back. I might look like a yo-yo but this technique is so effective that you will often see it working within minutes -- and you don't even have to say or do anything!

5) Once the dog is quite calm, I'll tell you when to drop the leash. Don't make a huge deal of dropping the leash; just set it down. If the dog immediately rushes me and leaps, calmly pick up the leash and take the dog away -- a little "time out" consequence. The lesson here is "calm dogs get off-leash privileges."

Any questions? Let's start!

Doorway Greetings Protocol

Posted on 17 November, 2015 at 10:11 Comments comments ()
For most clients, "visitor manners" (what the dog does when a visitor or guest comes in through your front door) are a big goal. And every time I show up at your house, it's a golden opportunity to practice! (Especially since I'm an "exciting" visitor, coming over with lots of treats and fun activities.)

So I'm putting together a more-or-less "standardized" visitor greeting routine which we can follow every time I come over, and that will give your dog so much practice! 

If your dog is in training for fearful or aggressive behaviors toward visitors, you can just move on to the next blog post -- for those dogs we will have more customized plans. This one is for the dogs who are just "so excited!"

There are two good options when it comes to polite doorway greetings. Which one you use just depends on your own personal preference, neither is "better." The first option I'll write about is when the dog goes into a sit or down-stay a distance from the front door, and remains there until released to greet the visitor. I am happy to work these steps with you when I arrive, even if the doorway greetings aren't the main portion of our training together!

Here's how it goes:

1) Leash up and unlock your door about 2-3 minutes before I'm scheduled to arrive. The dog can just drag the leash on the ground, you don't need to hold it for now.

2) I will knock at the door. When you hear the knock, cue the sit-stay, down-stay, "go to your mat" or whatever it is you want the dog to do. I will only knock once.

3) Once your dog is either sit-staying or down-staying or is on its mat, move towards your dog and shout "Come in!" so I can hear you. In the early stages you will be heavily reinforcing your dog for maintaining the sit-stay or down-stay, and I will let myself in while you stay close to and work your dog. When you are satisfied with the stay, then do a verbal release ("Okay" or "Say hi".)

4) Trail along behind your friendly dog as he approaches me to greet. If he jumps up on me, step on or pick up that leash, "Oops," and move him away from me. When he demonstrates that he is calm again, the leash can be set down and he can try again to greet.

I'd suggest that you do a ton of practice with the stays around a lot of other distractions so that the dog is familiar with holding position even when something exciting happens. It's also good to practice with other people who live in the household -- they're exciting, but not as exciting as a new person.

Any questions? I'd be happy to practice this with you!

Next blog post will be about another option for greeting visitors -- if you don't really need a sit or down stay, and don't mind the dog greeting the visitor at the door -- you just don't want him to jump up on them!


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