Thursday, August 12, 2010

Clicker or Marker training

Here is a positive and motivating way you can teach your dog pretty much anything. It takes some patience and consistency, but is great fun for both you and your dog. Basically, you use a simple "yep" or "yes" as a marker for the behavior that you want. The key to marking behavior and developing a new behavior with this method is rewarding each small step and only requiring a small step into the behavior before it is rewarded, building more and more on what you actually are wanting them to do. You use your "marker" word to let them know exactly what you wanted. The dog will learn to associate the "marker" word with incoming food or other means of reward. Say "yep!" or "yes!" so they know it is right and then reinforce it with praise, a treat, or a toy (whatever it is that makes them excited and it a high motivator for them). For example, if you want your dog to touch something with their nose, you first reward them simply for looking at the thing you want them to touch (just wait until they naturally do it) then you reward that multiple times until they get the idea that if they look at it, they get a treat. Next, you would reward them for taking a step towards the object, do that multiple times then reward them for taking two steps...etc etc you probably get the idea. Only work for short periods of time with each task so you don't burn your dog out. You want your dog wanting more at the end of the training session so he is more happy to learn more. Don't expect too much too soon as this can frustrate dogs or discourage them. If used properly and with a positive attitude, this technique makes dogs love to learn anything and this method is very positive and motivating for dogs, it is also useful for adapting to any new behavior you want them to do and really fun for both the dog and for you! (warning: this method may increase your bond with your dog and make you want to teach your dog new things all the time)


Wow, it has been a long time since I posted anything on here. Sorry everybody, I am not the best blogger around. :P Well, I thought and update was in order. Fiona is currently placed with her boy who has Autism, and from what I have heard, is doing very well with him. They seem to have bonded and Fiona is now an official working service dog! It is a wonderful thing and I know she is working hard and making a huge difference in her boys and his family's lives.

The plan was for Fiona, before being placed with her boy to be bred and raise a litter of puppies. That did not work out as she did not want anything to do with the stud dog she was matched with. He was a poodle and well I guess he wasn't her type. I raised Oscar for a while when Fiona was gone trying to be bred. I had a great time with him and am excited to see where his path takes him. He was a very happy learner and loved his training sessions. He bonded with me very quickly and wanted to be next to me at all times. He was a 5 month old puppy at the time and now is is grown to a teenager. I haven't seen him or the other dogs for a while because I have been raising a "puppy" of my own. I gave birth to my daughter on April 1st, 2010 at 2:41pm after 62 hours of labor. I had her at home on my bed and it was the most difficult but most rewarding and empowering things I have ever done. I still am amazed at the strength my body is capable of and the life-giving power it has. The experience truly was wonderful and brought my husband and I together even more as I relied on him through the whole labor and afterwards as my main support. I had Fiona before and during labor as after her coming out of heat, I took her for a while and then she was spayed, so I had her during her healing process. After I gave Fiona back to Joy for her finishing training and placement with her boy, I took a break to raise my daughter in her early months.

I am so ready for another dog to train and spend time on the computer researching dog training methods and watching dog training videos to continue to increase my knowledge. I plan to get involved again here shortly with raising Assistance dogs.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


For the past few weeks, Joy and I have been training Fiona to track a scent. She is learning this skill so that if her boy that she is placed with gets lost, Fiona will be able to find him. We started at Joy's house on her front lawn. Joy took a toy and walked a straight line away from Fiona and me and then walk back on the same line. She placed the toy at the end of the scent trail. Then, I told Fiona "ok, find it!" Fiona would race after it and grab the toy and dance around, quite proud of herself. After Fiona got good at doing that, we took her out to a large field, where the grass was taller. Taller grass helps a dog to follow a scent because more scent is laid, it is not just on the ground but on the spires of grass. We did the same thing as before, when we were on Joy's lawn. We then started hiding the toy off to the side of the trail, or made corners. This helped Fiona to learn that we wanted her to use her nose and follow the scent, rather than just watch as to where the toy was placed. Fiona is doing very well and is able to make short corners and follow the scent with her nose. We will be making it harder and harder for her, with longer and longer distances that she has to track. Fiona really enjoys her tracking lessons because it means she gets to run around and get toys and treats. She gets very excited when she finds the toy and prances around with her prize. Later, we will borrow one of her boy's socks or other article of clothing to be in place of the toy, so she learns to track for his particular scent.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Two weeks ago, Fiona went with my husband and I on a camping trip over the mountains in Powell Butte. For those of you who do not know where Powell Butte is, it is north of Bend and East of Redmond. We brought the Youth Group which we work to my parents house and we all camped in tents. Fiona slept in the tent with us and did very well. On Tuesday, we all went to the High Desert Museum and I had to sign a paper saying that if Fiona caused a raucous that she would have to leave. She did very well, except that she was concerned about the bobcat and lynx. Both cats were in a glass area that made it so Fiona could be almost right next to them. She growled a bit and wanted to be away from them. I distracted her with treats and after a while started to relax some more, but still was worried that such large cats were so near to her. Later, we went for a walk into a lava cave. It was pitch black in there and we only had flash lights. Fiona has better eye sight in the dark than me because she didn't have trouble finding where to put her feet. I held onto her jacket and she led me through. She did really well but after walking for about 30 min. into the cold darkness, she was getting a little worried. When we decided to go back, she was moving briskly, happy to be leaving the cave.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fiona encounters falling down and crying boy

Fiona went to youth group tonight and did very well. She slept during the first part and didn't try to get all the kids to pet her. It was game night tonight so we went down to the gym and she did a down stay as all the kids were running around and playing games. She got up once because she really wanted to run around too. One of the kids, Joel, has ADHD and is also a dog lover. After youth group, I asked him if he would like to help me train Fiona. He was more than happy to help. I explained to him about what Fiona is being trained to do. I told him that she has to learn to lie down immediately when her boy falls down and cries or screams. I told him that she has to do this so that it will help the boy's mom out because then she doesn't have to worry about Fiona and she can focus on her son. Joel held on the Fiona's small leash, which is attached to her coat, and walked around with her and we worked on her "brace" command. Then I instructed Joel to fall down and start crying. I showed Fiona that she was supposed to lie down and hold still until I told her "ok." We did this about 5 times and I think Fiona was starting to get it a little. She was a little worried with what he was going to do next and kept looking at him, but I used a treat to distract her and we worked on her "brace" and walking in a straight direction. It was a good training session and I told Joel that he helped out a lot, which he was glad about. :)

Dixon and the mall

Today, I went to Lancaster Mall to train Dixon while Joy working with Kagnee and her person. Dixon wears a harness now that his person will hold while walking. He has to learn to stop at curbs and stairs and wait for the command to go forward. He is also learning to obey all his commands though hand signal alone because his person is deaf. It was fun working with Dixon again and reminded me of the times I used to take him to class with me at college. He was only a puppy back then and a lot smaller. He is famous at my school because he had his picture put in the 2008-2009 yearbook. The funny thing is he was called a guide dog in it, which he is actually an assistance dog. But, ironically, he is now wearing a harness that is similar to what guide dogs where and he is learning to stop at curbs like guide dogs do. :P Anyways, he did very well at the mall, but I think he was wondering why I was working him and not Joy. He kept wanting to be where she was. Joy worked with Kagnee, well I should say Kagnee's person worked Kagnee as well as her person's caretaker. Kagnee's person's caretakers all have to learn how to work with Kagnee. She will probably have 3-4 different caretakers that she has to learn to obey. It was very cool seeing Kagnee interact with her person. She really enjoyed eating treats off of her lap and putting her nose under her person's hands so she could have physical contact. Kagnee really really likes to be pet, it is her favorite thing in the world. After we were done at Lancaster Mall, we went downtown to try to catch the Wednesday Market, but sadly when we arrived, it was closed. So, we decided to just walk around the Salem Center Mall. Dixon worked on not being scared of the elevator. At first he was appalled that I wanted him to go on it, but after about 8 times of going up and down, he got used to it and did much better (treats helped a lot :P).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fiona's Training

Fiona is my current assistance dog in training. She is a year and 2 months old now and I have had her for the past 2 months. She has recently started training to become an Autism Dog. She met her perspective boy a few weeks ago and did very well helping him go for a nice walk outside. She seemed interested in getting to know him and enjoyed being loved on by his sister and parents. Since then, she has been learning some tasks that will help her be a good Autism Dog. She has been learning to brace. This means that she has to hold still when her jacket is being pulled on. This will help her boy's parents by keeping him with them even when he wants to go somewhere else. Fiona will help him by being his anchor and not running off with him. She has also started learning to track. This will help her boy's parents to find him if he gets lost. Fiona will have to use her nose and find where he went. She is really enjoying this training because she gets to run and get her toy. :D. Another part of her training involves her knowing how to get her handler and bring them to a place, thing, or person of concern to her. We are starting this training by teaching her to nudge my leg and then when she does this, I ask her "what?" repeatedly while following her to something she may be trying to tell me about, such as where her treats are, a toy, or the door. Eventually, this will give Fiona the tools to alert her handler if something dangerous is happening to her boy, she is worried about something, or of course, I am sure she will still use it to tell her handler that she would like a treat. :).

Now, a bit about Fiona and her personality. Fiona is a very fun-loving and happy dog. She loves to be with people, especially people that she loves. She gets sad if I leave her for a while and gets very excited, with wiggling butt and playing dancing, when I return. While we are just chilling at home, Fiona is laid back most of time and enjoys sleeping and bringing both me and my husband things that she figures we would be interested in. For example, she loves to bring us dirty socks, shirts, stuffed animals, her leash, her toys, oh and did I mention dirty socks. :P When she is in a playful mood, she will grab her rope toy or her stuffed duck, throw it around in the air, pounce on it, roll around on her back, and come over to my husband, Joshua, and I and wiggle all around, moaning, and giving us her pleading eyes look. She likes to chase her toys and bring them back and loves going for walks. She also loves to be pet, cuddled with, and to go on outings. Fiona goes almost everywhere with me and jumps into the car eagerly. She is very polite in public, doesn't pull on the leash except for occasionally when we are with other assistance dogs that she knows and she doesn't want to pay attention. For the most part though, she is easy to be with in public and doesn't attention seek from other people or go for yummy things on the floor. If we are in a particular place for a long time, such as at school, at a restaurant, or waiting at the DMV or doctor's office, she goes to sleep easily and is calm. While once she gets to know a person, she is very loving and comfortable, Fiona tends to warm up slower to people. She doesn't automatically relax and become best friends with someone she has just met. It takes her a little bit more time or if they are a bit intimidating, she likes to have a few treats from them to let her know they are an okay person. One of the reasons Fiona was selected to train as an Autism Dog is her love and calm attitude with children. She seems to find children interesting and fun people, as well as people who need to be taken care of by her. She is careful not to run them over or get too rambuctious next to them. She maintains her cool even when a 2 year old is screaming in her face. She seems to enjoy being pet and loved on by children and often has a smile on her face around them.