It’s Not as Simple as Black and White

I have two bitsa dogs – an old black one: Dixie, and a young whipper snapper white one: Dusty. Both I rescued when they were about five months old – Dixie from the RSPCA and Dusty an impulse buy from the Lost Dog’s Home last Christmas. I don’t know their history but I am sure Dusty was raised on a diet of sugar and red cordial.

But Dusty is a loving little dog and enjoys a snuggle in-between chewing up anything that fits in her mouth (although she has kind of grown out of that now – we hope as we have a new couch on order). And she loves the off-leash park but best of all she loves to go for a swim, then a roll in the dirt until she is completely camouflaged. I think she just wants to be like Dixie. See for yourself 😀

APDT Conference – Day 4

This was a bit of a lazy day for me – brunch and farmers market (see the earlier posts) rather than conferencing but then in the afternoon I rejoined the dog crowd. I only went to two sessions and then spent a few more dollars on books and dog stuff.

First up was a session on Rally-O. For the non-dog people, you can look this up and read all about it. For the dog people, it was a good session and once again I have expanded my knowledge on this dog sport that is still in its early infancy in Australia.

My second session was one I enjoyed because it was with the master – Bob Bailey. I’ve seen him before and I just love the early videos he shows of his work with the CIA and the Brelands and he even showed one with two pidgeons playing ping-pong that was research conducted and narrated by Skinner himself (if you don’t know these people, do yourself a favour and look them up and then learn a little about operant conditioning).

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APDT USA Conference – Day 3

Day three of the conference and all is going well – very tiring but interesting. This was the first day where there were different streams to follow – I went off to see Grey Stafford (Director of Conservation for the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium in Phoenix and author of Zoomility: Keeper Tales of Training with Positive Training) present on 2,4,6,8 – How Do We Approximate. I really enjoyed this session, many things were not new, but the way he presented the information and provided a different view on the Antecedent-Behaviour-Consequence of training was very enlightening. I will get around to doing a separate blog on this – maybe one quiet night in Memphis or Nashville – or maybe there will be no quiet nights.

In the afternoon I went on a field trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (a half hour drive to get there on one of those yellow school buses we in Australia see on the Simpsons – and a two hour drive to get home because some idiot decided he wanted to jump off some bridge over some highway). I love zoos and this one was one to love. (Wait for the blog on this as there is a bit to write – for a teaser, ever seen a Cheetah walked on a lead?)

Giraffes at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Giraffes at San Diego Zoo Safari Park


APDT USA Conference – Day 2

Reading this, you may not have caught up with what happened on day one of the conference as I didn’t write that post up until later – something to do with necessity for down-time. Anyway, Day 2 was dedicated to impulse control – very interesting topic with a variety of speakers offering thoughts on impulse control and management. A skill all dog trainers and dog owners wish they could just wave a wand and impart on to all dogs. Unfortunately, this is not always possible but all speakers agreed that impulse control is trainable just that with some dogs it is easier than with others and in all cases it takes impulse control from the dog owner.

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APDT USA Conference – Day 1

Day one of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) USA conference is always full-on and crammed with information and speakers. Nothing like a bit of brain overload when allegedly on holiday overseas. But there is always something to take away from a conference like this.

Sessions started with Karen Pryor (the “founder” of what we know as clicker training) who provided a comprehensive and interesting history of clicker training – or if you prefer, operant training with an event marker. One of the many things to come from this talk was a small snippet on using a mechanical clicker as opposed to a verbal “yes”. Research has demonstrated that behaviour response learning to a click is 43% faster than the voice during the acquisition phase of training. After this, a voice is better. In other words, to obtain the better results, use the click in the teaching phase but then this can be faded and replaced with a verbal marker once the behaviour is learnt.

I also liked her comments on primary reinforcers (e.g. food) as being good for teaching general information – “this is a nice place, you are a nice guy, I will hang around” – whereas a conditioned reinforcer (e.g. click) teaches a specific behaviour – “do this because it pays off”. So for example, you might like to go into the room because good things happen there, but the conditioned reinforcer will train you that once you enter the room you have to take your hat off and hang it on the hook.

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Dog Play

I read an article the other day by a trainer I really respect in the dog training world and he was talking about motivation and how to get the best out of your dog – There is no greater training tool or benefit than having a strong, direct and connected bond with your dog moulded around your and your dog’s personality. Done correctly nothing can match it. Developing this from when your dog is a puppy has the long term benefit of imprinted behaviour, which essentially means that ways of dealing with you (or not if not followed) are hard wired into the core behaviour the dogs carries through the rest of its life.

– and it made me think about motivation and play. For instance, how much should we play with our dogs and at what level?

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BSL – yes or no

Today, Friday 30 September 2011, is a critical day in the dog owning world of Victoria, Australia. Today the amnesty on restricted breed dog ownership ends as council officers now embark on the government mission of hunting down the unregistered pit bulls, putting a loop pole around their necks and taking them away for a shot of the permanent sleep medicine.

You could well imagine the outcry, the planned protests, the unplanned protests – and the smiles on the faces of those whose life it is is to not live next door to a dog, especially a dangerous one.

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