APDT Conference: Day 1.2

To round out day one we had a series of short 20 minute sessions on a variety of topics.

First up was Lauren Fox with “The best marketing you never paid for.” This session was about how to market your business by getting engaged with rescue shelters. Maybe some got something out of this but not relevant to me.

Next was Colleen Pelar with “Your role in reducing dog bites“. Colleen specialises in dogs and kids and has written several books on the topic. There was some interesting food for thought from this session, I particularly liked the comment that society is keen on legislation for safety but is it the answer, does it stop the problem? She said that some of the problem (or maybe most of the problem) is us and the relationship we have with our dogs. For instance too many people do not recognise the problem – my dog gets grumpy sometimes, or he doesn’t like children … but he will never bite.

Unfortunately, we tend to categorise dogs into either aggressive or non-aggressive but Colleen prefers a traffic light categorisation of: green, yellow, red. The green is enjoyment; the red is for enough already; and the yellow is the middle ground – tolerance – was it good for you. It is this behaviour continuum we need to look at and not the two category approach.

Colleen was followed by an excellent session from Virginia Dare who is a nationally recognised clicker trainer and the co-producer of the Bow-Wow series of DVD (recommended by Jim). Virginia’s session was titled “Stimulus control“.

Stimulus control is achieved when the expected behaviour is performed reliably when cued, only offered when given the cue, and not offered on a different cue.

We need to be precise and consistent but we also need to define exactly what is the behaviour and also: what is our starting position; are we reinforcing tag-alongs (extras); be clear about what is the exact sound/look of the cue. We need to use the cue consistently to avoid guessing from the dog or confusion. When achieving consistency we also need to make the extras irrelevant. Another important point was that when trying to be consistent everyone has to use the same cue.

We have to train the dog to understand the cue and then wait for the cue. We start off with single trials. Avoid repeating the cue as this provides an opportunity for guessing. If the dog gets it wrong, Virginia prefers to pause and then give a different cue. And don’t laugh or make a fuss at the wrong behaviour as this can sometimes be reinforcing for the dog. And if using props, eliminate them – this was demonstrated using a dowel for commands of touch, take it, paw and down. Virginia also rewarded when the prop was presented and the dog offered no behaviour as this demonstrated to her that the dog was responding to the cue and not the prop.

She then recommends adding distractions, then to take it on the road and begin cueing in novel contexts and when the dog is not expecting a training session. Then mix up the new cue with established cues but pair them carefully giving the dog a high chance of success. Ping-pong between opposites and pause between cues. Don’t let the dog drive the speed and don’t establish a pattern as that then becomes what the dog learns as opposed to learning the cue.

Overall, I enjoyed this session, which was followed be Teoti Anderson who gave an insightful session on how proper communication – written and verbal – is important to your professionalism, credibility and acceptance: “When grammar attacks.”

And to run out the day we had Veronica Boutelle talking about business – I didn’t take notes so I have no prompts.

So day one ended, with a walk around the river – Spokane is an old, quiet city with a beautiful river and waterfall. I’ll post some pictures elsewhere as I think of what to write for Day 2, which ended today (Thursday my time). But here is a picture of the 20th Anniversary cake. (… and it was good too)APDT 20th Anniversary cake

APDT 20th Anniversary cake