5 Smart Business Partnerships To Build

5 Smart Business Partnerships To Build

dog training Business Partnerships

As a modern dog trainer, we are always looking for ways to expand our training and make it fun for our clients. Dogs are becoming a bigger part of our community, and we are looking for many different ways to include our furry friends in our lives. Consider teaming up with other local businesses to offer some new, fresh classes for your clients. Consider these 5 smart business partnerships.

1. Fitness Instructors

Working out can be hard for some people, however, the thought of doing it with their best four legged friend makes it a little bit easier. Consider teaming up with a fitness instructor and offering a workout class that includes their dog and some training to go along with it. Getting exercise is important for both the owner and the dog, and doing so in a safe environment is very appealing to people. Yoga, dancing, and strength training are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to including dogs in workout classes.

2. Doulas/Parenting Instructors

Consider teaming up with someone who offers support to new parents or parents-to-be. Expecting parents are often very nervous about how their house is going to change once the new baby arrives. Consider ‘Introducing Baby’ or ‘Preparing For Baby’ classes that you can run together and offer to clients. Bradley or Lamaze teachers may even be interested in bringing you in for a session during their class periods.

3. Local Pet Stores

Local pet stores are a great business partnership to make. Not only can some of them offer class space, but they can offer a great place to send clients for training supplies if you do not sell merchandise yourself. In return, the pet stores can advertise your classes or business by hanging signs, inserting handouts into bags, or including you in store functions. Consider including their store as a stop in your ‘Out and About’ classes where you work on behaviors in the real world.

4. Local Artists/Art Shops

There are many different places that could fit the bill for an art shop. Get creative and see about having classes where owners can paint with their dogs, whether it be on canvas or pottery. Work on teaching the dog how to dip their own paws in paint, or how to hold a paint brush.

5. Restaurants With Outside Patios

Usually restaurants allow dogs on their outside patios, however making a business partnership with a restaurant can lead to a ‘Dog’s Night Out’. Have a night where your students can come and bring their dogs, enjoy dinner together, and practice their manners in a public setting. This can be a refreshing evening for your students who have dogs that suffer from separation anxiety and may not be able to get out much.

These are only a few examples of partnerships that can lead to fun, new classes. Get creative and think about who you already know. Can they help create a new class for you? What other partnerships have you considered or do you already have?

Research Shows Dogs Value Control As Much As We Do

Research Shows Dogs Value Control As Much As We Do

One of the myths of force-free dog training is that the dogs are simply working for food, and once the food is gone, the obedience will be gone.  You, as modern dog trainers, know that is far from the truth.  However, here’s a study that was done that also disputes that myth.

Research Shows Dogs Value Control As Much As We Do-min

“Do Dogs Get That Eureka! Feeling?”

This study, done in Sweden, took 6 matched pairs of Beagles.  The Beagles alternated between the experimental group and the control group.  Six pieces of equipment were present. Three of the pairs would manipulate the pieces of equipment and the other pairs would manipulate the other equipment.   The room the experiment took place in had a runway with a gate that led to the reward (either food or human attention).  During the experimental group, the gate would be opened once the dog had successfully manipulated their equipment.  During the control group, the gate would open after the same amount of time the dog in the experimental group took, regardless of what actions the control dog was exhibiting, and the same reward would be given.

What they found was that the experimental dogs were incredibly eager to get into the room, while the control dogs started eager but lost interest after two or three times and the experimenter had to start coaxing them into the room.  They were less eager while in the test room and would sometimes bite or chew on the equipment, which none of the experimental dogs had done.  When the runway gate was opened, the control dogs were much faster to leave the room to pursue their reward.

Regarding rewards, when the reward was food or time with another dog, the control dogs left the arena more quickly than the experimental dogs.  However, when the reward was human petting, both groups of dogs left at the same rate.  Both sets of dogs were more active though when the reward was food.

Conclusions From This Research

So what does this study teach us?  Well, a couple of possibilities.  First, the experimental dogs were in control over their environment.  The gate to the runway opened after they successfully manipulated their equipment.  Secondly, they were problem-solving.  They were getting mental stimulation.  The control dogs had no control over their environment and they got a reward no matter what they did. Lack of control over one’s environment is stressful. All animals, including humans, thrive when they have control over their environment.

The researchers said, ““The experimental animals in our study were excited not only by the expectation of a reward, but also about realizing that they themselves could control their access to the reward. These results support the idea that opportunities to solve problems, make decisions, and exercise cognitive skills are important to an animal’s emotional experiences and ultimately, its welfare.”

So, as modern dog trainers, how can you use this to your benefit?

  • Encourage your clients to use enrichment toys with their dogs.
  • Play nosework games.
  • Give the dog the opportunity to EARN treats, not just receive them.
  • Most importantly, give the dog some control.  If you can tell the dog is uncomfortable in its environment, remove it.  Follow the dog’s lead.  Encourage your clients to take meandering walks where the dog gets to choose the direction they go and when they are going to stop and sniff.

What other things can you think of that allows dogs to have some control and problem solve?

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10 Behaviors To Train With Targeting

10 Behaviors To Train With Targeting

10 Behaviors To Train With Targeting

10 Behaviors You Can Teach With Targeting

One of the first behaviors we recommend teaching every client a nose target. There are many behaviors you can teach with a nose target, and even more you can teach with general targeting. We also believe it is a good behavior to teach in the beginning because it can help clients sharpen their clicker mechanics. Clients are able to physically feel the behavior they are supposed to click. Here are 10 good behaviors you can train with basic targeting.

1. Loose Leash Walking

Once the dog is able to nose target your hand well, it can be a big help for teaching loose leash walking. Instead of luring the dog with food, you can place your hand exactly where you want the dog to be (lined up with your leg), and click/treat them when they target your hand. If the dog is very target savvy, they can follow your hand for multiple steps before you click/treat. You can eventually fade out the hand target and have a very nice loose leash behavior. This can also help with heeling.

2. Mat Work

Mat work is very popular. It can provide a dog their own space whether in the house or in a foreign location. It can also be a helpful tool when trying to teach impulse control or relaxation methods. Instead of using just a nose target, mat work is a whole body targeting technique. You are teaching the dog that when they see their mat, they are to place their entire body on top of the mat. You can decide if you want only a down, or if you will accept a sit or stand on the mat. This can be applied to their cage, or a certain spot in the house when doing a certain activity. For example, when I’m cooking in the kitchen, you are to stay on the kitchen rug out of my way.

3. Platform Work

Platforms are very useful for many different dog sports or training techniques. You can use a platform as a ‘home base’ if you are working with multiple dogs. You are training the dog to target their whole body to a platform and to stay until you call them off. Another form of platform work is to teach the dog to target their two front paws on a platform and to pivot. This helps the dog learn hind end awareness which is very helpful for many dog sports including obedience, rally, agility, and freestyle.

4. Close The Door

A fun behavior to teach with targeting is closing the door. Using a nose target, you can train the dog to close the door through small approximations. If the dog can nose target a sticky note, have the dog target the sticky note on an open door and click for any movement of the door when they target the note. Once the dog knows what you are asking for and can close the door, you can begin to get rid of the sticky note by making it smaller and smaller until you no longer need the sticky note. People love seeing this behavior and will love to show off this skill to their friends. You can also work this with dresser drawers.

5. Recall/Come

Many people do not think of a recall as a targeting behavior, but it definitely can be. If you ask for the target cue from further and further, you are essentially asking the dog to recall from further and further away. You can eventually switch to a recall cue if you want to use something else, or you can just continue using your target cue.

6. Basic Obedience Cues

Your basic obedience cues such as sit, down, and stand can be taught with targeting instead of luring. Once the dog has the hang of a nose target, instead of using a piece of food to lure their nose up for a sit, you can just have the dog target your hand up into a sit. The same can happen for a down or a stand behavior. Some people prefer targeting over luring for these behaviors before you do not have to fade out the treat lure. It can be easier to fade out your hand movement or simply create a hand signal for the behavior.

7. Leg Weave

You can teach the dog to weave between your legs very easily with a nose target. Have the dog sit and stay and make a triangular space with your legs large enough for the dog to go underneath. Ask for a nose target on the opposite side of your legs and click as the dog targets your hand and moves between your legs. Once they catch on, you can ask for multiples weaves before rewarding. A very impressive, but easily taught behavior.

8. Saying “Hi!”

If the dog is an excited greeter, you can use a hand target for greeting in order to keep the dog from getting over excited. Having the dog on leash when guests come over gives the dog time to calm down before greeting the guests. Once they have calmed down a bit, the guest can ask for a hand target and then the dog can reorient to you for reinforcement.

9. Medical Behaviors

Targeting can be used to help a dog become comfortable with handling or procedures at the vet’s office. Targeting behaviors are used with large animals in aquariums and zoos to help veterinarians get samples or perform procedures on them. A prolonged target behavior can make it easier to give vaccines, take samples of blood, or get a physical exam. If the dog is doing a job, they will be more focused on the job than on what is occurring. A highly reinforced behavior like targeting can also help to calm the dog during a stressful situation. These targeting behaviors can even be done muzzled if you need that extra protection for veterinarians and staff.

10. Take A Bow

This cute finisher can easily be taught with a nose target. It is very similar to a down, but your precise clicker mechanics will come into play here. As the dog is going down to target your hand between their legs, you click as the behavior is happening, but before they drop their rear into a down. Too many bad clicks in down position will confuse the dog and will get you a down instead of a bow. Once the dog is getting pretty good, you can begin to fade the hand target and you will end up with a nice finishing behavior for all your future demonstrations.

Targeting is a very fun behavior for dogs and quickly becomes very highly reinforcing for them. These are ten behaviors you can teach with targeting, but the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to behaviors you can teach with targeting. What behaviors do you teach your clients with targeting? Do you prefer fun tricks or behavior modification with targeting?

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Lessons From A Weekend With Ken Ramirez

Lessons From A Weekend With Ken Ramirez

Ken Ramirez, the author of this blog, and some of her friends at his Cleveland seminar.

Ken Ramirez, Liz Wyant (the author of this article), and some of her friends at his Cleveland seminar.

A Weekend With Internationally Recognized Animal Trainer, Ken Ramirez

Ken Ramirez has been in the animal training/behavior world for over 35 years.  He has worked with guide dogs, law enforcement K-9s, zoo animals, and marine animals.  He has worked at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium for 26 years, most recently as the training advisor.  In October of 2014, he started a new role as the Executive Vice-President and Chief Training Officer of Karen Pryor Click Training.  Ken is an avid proponent of force-free animal training.

In November, Ken presented a two-day seminar we were able to attend.  26 pages of notes later, here are some of the concepts we felt were most important.

Training 101

Ken describes training as teaching an animal what the rules for living in a particular space are.  He emphasizes that it should be a shared process; the animal should WANT to be with that person and should WANT to train.

Ken feels the cornerstones of animal care are:

  1. Health Care
  2. Nutrition
  3. Environment
  4. Behavior Management – As Ken says repeatedly, “training is not a luxury.”

That last point is what struck me the most – training is not a luxury.  So often our clients factor in costs of health care, food, and grooming, but not training.  Training is only used when something goes bad, not to provide the mental stimulation that dogs need to have a basic, happy and healthy life.

Least Reinforcing Scenario/Stimulus (LRS)

Ken explained the LRS as the most positive approach to dealing with unwanted behavior.  It was developed in the zoological training community as a way to operationalize the mantra of “ignore the unwanted behavior.”  Though very basic, it can be a powerful tool.  The Least Reinforcing Scenario is simply a 2-3 second neutral response after an animal gives an unwanted behavior, followed immediately by another opportunity to earn reinforcement.  For example, you cue a dog to sit and it lies down instead. Immediately when the dog lies down instead of sits, give a neutral response for 2-3 seconds and then cue the dog to do a different cue that you are positive they can successfully complete.

So what is a neutral response? There is no straight answer to this.  It is not a freeze, it is just a continuance of what you are doing – if you are looking at the dog, keep looking at the dog.  If you were in the process of scratching an itch, keep scratching the itch.  The key is to just maintain the environment so the dog is neither punished nor rewarded. This is only effective for a dog that is accustomed to working in a positive reinforcement environment.  When you reward, reward, reward and then don’t, the dog will notice the lack of rewarding.  There’s no need to extend the time or get emotional – just 2-3 seconds of a neutral response is enough feedback.

Alternative Reinforcers

Alternative reinforcers are learned reinforcers. They can be anything – clapping, toys, touch, play, words, or anything else the animal values.  They give you a chance to provide some variety in your reinforcers to keep the dog excited about working with you.  Alternative reinforcers need to be trained as behaviors so the dog understands what they mean.  This means it needs to be paired with food and marker signals and practiced for weeks.  Once the dog begins to value the alternative rewards, you should still use treat rewards 80% of the time during training sessions.

For alternative reinforcers to be effective, the trainer and animal must already have a predictable and solidly established relationship.  It is incredibly important to constantly maintain the strength of the alternative reinforcer by keeping it paired with food.  Also, be mindful that if a dog’s behaviors deteriorate after using the alternative reinforcer, the alternative reinforcer is NOT a reinforcer at all!

These are just a few of the topics that Ken discussed.  He kept everybody captivated for two full days and we left feeling invigorated about training and ready to try his ideas.  Should you get the opportunity to see him, we couldn’t recommend him highly enough!

Have you tried using LRS’s or alternative reinforcers?  Tell us in the comments!

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3 Ways To Reduce A Dog’s Stress During Training

3 Ways To Reduce A Dog’s Stress During Training

3 Ways To Reduce A Dog's Stress During Training

Reducing Stress In Dog Training

The very nature of training can be stressful to a dog. Not all stress is bad. However, when a dog has many different stress-inducing factors piled on top of each other, this can become overwhelming and cause the dog to act out or shut down. When a dog is too stressed out, learning does not occur. For this very reason, we must try to minimize the amounts of environmental stress our dogs experience during training. Here are three ways you can reduce stress in dog training.

1. Clean Clicker Mechanics

If a teacher were asking you questions in class and then having to look up every answer you gave them to make sure they were right, you’d become incredibly frustrated after a while. The same thing can happen with our dogs. If our marker words or clicks are too slow, our treat delivery sloppy, or our attention is not completely on our training session, the dog is likely to get frustrated and may stop trying. Making sure your mechanics are clean and on time will do a lot for a dog’s confidence and stress level. It’s also our job, as the trainer, to make sure our client’s mechanics are clean. Playing some clicker mechanic games before introducing your client’s newly acquired training skills to their dog can go a long way for the stress level of their dog. You can find more about clicker mechanics here.

2. Appropriate Distraction Levels

When a dog is worked in an area where there are too many distractions for their level of training, they can become incredibly stressed for a few different reasons. If the dog is prone to being anxious, too many distractions can cause them to go through information overload and they can become stressed out. When a dog is stressed, they cannot provide their owners with the attention their owners want. When the owners see their dog’s attention elsewhere, the owner can become stressed with the training process. Feeding off the owner, the dog becomes even more stressed. It is a stressful cycle to get in. To make both the dog and owner successful, lowering the distractions around the session to a level the dog can be successful is key.

3. Small Steps

When we are working with clients and their dogs, we are generally helping them build behaviors for their dogs. We have to take small steps towards the big picture goal. When we expect dogs to take leaps in training, they can become lost and get stressed when they don’t know what we are asking for. Training will go quicker when we ask for smaller steps that they can build on quickly. Taking larger steps may slow us down as the dog has to guess and interpret what we are asking for.

Some level of frustration will always be present in training, however, we should always do our best to make sure the least amount of frustration is present when training. Showing our clients how to use a clicker and how to build behaviors appropriately is our duty as a trainer. When our dogs are happy, we will get cleaner, quicker, and better behaviors.

What other ways can we lower our dog’s stress during a training session?

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3 Ways To Incorporate Your Client’s Children In Training

3 Ways To Incorporate Your Client’s Children In Training

Involve The Whole Family In Training

When working with a family and their dog, the children are always excited to help mom and dad train their dog. Parents often push the kids to the side and get frustrated when they keep interrupting. Instead of continually being interrupted, you can incorporate the children in the training. Here are three ways to incorporate your client’s children in training.

Children in training

1. Recall Games

Children love high energy games, whether they are running or the dogs are. Recall games are a great way to incorporate the client’s children because it can get the dog running and wear them out. Have the children stand across the living room and practice calling the dog’s name once and treat when the dog arrives. They’ll think it’s amazing when the dog listens. Eventually they can play hide and seek and have the dog find them throughout the house. This is also a great bonding game for the dog and children and turns their children into rewards for the dog.

2. Treat Deliverer

This idea would be geared toward the better listener in the family. An example would be working on crate training. If mom or dad has the clicker, just let the child know that whenever they hear a click, they are to give a treat to the dog. When the dog enters the crate and mom or dad click, the child can then deliver a treat to the dog or drop it in the crate.

3. Distraction Training

Children are a big distraction to dogs, and their movements can also be highly alarming to them. You can use their quick movements to proof their dog’s current behaviors or desensitize a worried dog to the child. In the beginning, have the child move slowly and then work up to quicker movements.

Children love to feel like they are being useful. With some simple tweaks to training, children can certainly be incorporated. Once children reach a certain age and maturity, they could even take over training. Training is a great way to bond with their dog, and a pleasant, respectful relationship between children and their dog is important in a family. The next time you have an interruptive child at your training session, don’t allow the parent to get flustered, suggest they help instead.

What are some other ways you, as a trainer, can incorporate children throughout the training process?

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