Change

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Change doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t matter if the change is something insignificant like changing the TV channel or if it’s something life-altering such as changing careers or moving. Change is the result of a motivating force that causes us to seek something better, a force that makes us pursue a different path for a more preferable result. Change is the result of motivation, where there is no motivation, change won’t survive.

A few years ago, I chose to change my diet in a limiting way.  The initial motivation came from a concern about my health, however it took a long time for that motivation to build. What started as a two-week trial ended up being a permanent solution as I realized that my health had improved dramatically.  The change itself wasn’t easy, I agonized for months whether the stress and problematic nature of the diet would be worth the result. It was inconvenient, scary, annoying. However, I was rewarded in the end and that reward has continued to reinforce the change despite it’s difficulties.

Wait a second. This isn’t a blog about diets and human health. How does this tie into dog training? Well! Let me tell you…

Change in our dogs is difficult. Habits, whether they are good or bad, develop because they are the natural desire of our dogs in a particular situation. The behaviors that go along with those habits feel good, they’re easy, and they’re difficult to change.

Recently, I questioned whether I should give up drinking alcohol. I assessed my consumption and analyzed the pros and cons. Currently, going to breweries and trying different ciders and wines is a fun social interaction for me. I am not motivated to make that change, I am quite happy with my current habits.  My current habit of social drinking is far more reinforcing to me than my perceived idea of what my experiences would be like without alcohol consumption.

We’re lucky, we are able to predict what our lives would be like after a change in habits. Our dogs don’t have that ability.  Instead, we have to find different ways to motivate the change in their habits, to replace undesirable behaviors with ones that we (their handlers) would prefer.

The typical way of discouraging bad behaviors in dogs includes replacing that bad behavior with a more acceptable one. For instance, if a dog jumps on guests at the front door, we can train that dog to lay on a mat when they hear the doorbell ring. It is impossible for that dog to jump on a guest and lay on the mat at the same time.  Sounds great, right? Well, we know that a change in habits requires motivation, so in this scenario, we have to find a way to make laying on a mat a more desirable behavior for our dog.  Some dogs, the promise of a food reward is good enough. Others, need a high rate of reinforcement or perhaps some creative thinking in terms of what we are actually reinforcing the dogs with.

A couple of years ago, I made another big change in my life. A group of friends and I gave up pop (soda, for you non-northern people). I was a three-can a day, avid Dr. Pepper supporter. This was not an easy change for me, but I knew the health benefits would be worth it.  I replaced my cans of pop with bottles of water and made it successfully a month without lapsing. It still wasn’t easy, it was a constant daily battle. I had to find an alternative behavior, something else to drink to replace pop.  Luckily, for me, I found joy in testing new beverages and quickly found new, healthier favorites.  My friend wasn’t as lucky. She wasn’t able to find a replacement that helped her maintain the new behavior and she ultimately went back to drinking pop.

Change is hard and that change needs maintenance if it’s to survive.  At some point, that maintenance gets easier and less demanding. Somewhere along the line, that new habit that had been created merely to prevent an old habit, solidifies and takes hold. But it’s hard work. Even harder when we can’t explain the pros and cons to our dogs, or tell them that they will be better off waiting at an open door instead of charging into the street.  It’s up to us to motivate the change for our dogs.

Dog Training and Self Confidence

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I’m sure that every career is similar in terms of impact towards self-confidence to an extent, but my only firsthand experience is my career as a dog trainer, and that experience has been an emotional roller coaster.

I began dog training when I was young, and as I grew, so did my self-confidence. By the time I was ready to enter the professional world, I was certain I was great at my skill.  I always knew that education was going to be continuous throughout my career, that is just part of the job and something that was emphasized by the trainers I idolized. However, I thought of those future skills as new tools to add to my collection of perfected current methods, tools that I had mastered and that were the foundation of my methodology.

Then came along a dog that took a sledgehammer to that foundation.  It doesn’t necessarily matter who the dog was, his breed or his behavioral issues, all that matters was that he found a weakness in my perfected and carefully calibrated set of tools and that sent my self-confidence spiraling out of control.

When this happens, you start to question everything you have learned. You stay awake at night revisiting old cases and wondering if you could’ve done better, you question why your current students are paying for your questionable instruction and start to see a future in an alternative career. Then, you hit the books. You attend seminars, classes, lectures and listen to podcasts. You talk to every trainer you know and soak up information like a sponge.  You become a better student and subsequently, a better trainer.  Your self-confidence rises once again.

Until the next sledgehammer-wielding dog comes along and crushes your newly reinforced foundation once again.

This is what it’s like to be a dog trainer.  Your self-confidence is on a never ending quest through peaks and valleys. It forces us to continue learning, to be better for ourselves and our dogs. It’s what pushes the entire industry forward and challenges us to develop better methods and to continually improve the human-dog relationship.  This is why I love this career.

To those new trainers or the experienced ones who have recently entered a valley of self-confidence: it gets better. With every foundation rebuild and tool perfected, the peaks get higher and valleys less deep.  You’ve got this.

New Performance Puppy Class!

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We have a new puppy class geared towards the performance prospect on the calendar! I have had the privilege to raise a number of puppies of different breeds and have developed a foundation program that I’m proud of and want to share with the dog sport community.  As most of you know, my dogs train and compete in a variety of sports including agility, dock diving, disc and mondioring.  Even though these sports are so different from one another, the core behaviors and handler/canine relationship are the same for all of them.  I am very excited to teach this course and to watch these teams grow and succeed together!

If you’re interested in attending this class, click here for more information!

Be Nicer

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Wingnut and Slice owned by Tracy Custer

There is only one thing that we really have control of in this world: how we choose to act, whether it’s with another human being or with the animals in our lives. True, we get to control the choices that we make, but often, those decisions are forced upon us. We are required to make choices that change our lives when we were quite content with the life we had.  No matter what life throws at us, we are always in absolute control of our interactions and our intentions behind our behavior.

This blog post was inspired by an answer to a question I recently posted on Facebook. The question was: If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?”, the response was “I wish I had been nicer”. No specific situations were given, she had just wished she had been nicer in the past.  I thought back to all of the memories that keep me up at night, the ones that cause me to cringe when I’m reminded of them. The one thing that they all share in common was that I wasn’t nice.  I wish I had handled those situations with more empathy, more patience or more perspective. I wish I had been nicer.

In some of those situations, my responses were fueled by passion. I cared about the bigger picture, the impact on those around me or I just thought I knew better.  I can see now that those reasons were just excuses, a way to justify my knee-jerk reactions.  Other times, I simply lost my patience and had a hard time looking past my own immediate needs, wants or validation.

We see this a lot in dog training. We lose our patience teaching a new behavior or trying to eradicate a troublesome one. We believe that we are good trainers, this dog is just too stubborn, stupid or difficult. We end up doing something regretful as a result when we should have just ended the session to build a new plan.  We also see it on the human side, trainers interactions with other trainers.  Trainer Stacy is trying to educate Trainer Patty on the benefits of a certain method because “the dog training world will be better off using this method, if only they’d learn”.

Our interactions are the easiest thing for us to control.  Too often, they are also the things we regret the most.  I hope to never add to my regretful interaction tally, I hope to remember to “be nicer” in my day to day life.

It’s raining puppies…

You would think that life with a bazillion dogs was crazy enough, but I seem to be a glutton for insanity.  My household includes my newly adopted 7 month old tri-pawd border collie, Spree, my 5 month old home-bred koolie keeper puppy, Brilliant, and a new addition: a 8 week old belgian malinois puppy.

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Creature (yes, that’s his name) and his litter came highly recommended. I have been on the hunt for a malinois that fits the sport I want to compete in (mondioring) that would not only tolerate living in our crazy house, but enjoy it.  I chose Creep with natural handler focus as a top priority, as well as the typical bitey-sport criteria.  In the short week that I’ve had him, I’ve been overly impressed.  How could I not be, did you see his face?

Because I know that you are curious about how I manage a household full of high drive, high energy working dogs as well as three puppies, I thought I’d give a brief view into a day in our lives:

3am: Wake up and potty Brilliant and Creature. Brill has a weak bladder and will leak urine in the morning on her way outside if I don’t potty her through the night. Creep just goes along because he’s a wee-thing.

6am: Wake up and potty Brilliant and Creature. Fill treat dispensing toys with their breakfast and leave them in individual runs to work. Why so early? Because I want to be able to focus solely on their needs in the morning rather than expecting them to be successful while I’m juggling the needs of twelve other dogs.

7am: Wake up and potty/feed four separate groups of dogs.  Zuma, Zinga, Nelli and Spree are the first group. They go out into the play yard after pottying to wait to be fed. Next, Brilli and Creep go back out to potty and get their food dispensing toys filled again to keep them from developing bad barking habits.  Then Famous, Pony, Rush and Edgar head out to potty and into their crates/runs to be fed. Zip Tie, Kickstart and Taboo are next. Once everyone is content with breakfast, Daphne gets to hang outside until we all load up to leave for work.

8am: Load dogs up for work. Brilliant and Creep go in last, otherwise they like to bark like crazy puppies from the excitement of the other dogs loading into their crates. Management is the key to keeping these bad habits from sticking around!

8:30am-4:30pm: We work. Most of my dogs participate someway in the shows. The shows themselves, along with the necessary warm up and cool down, are all the exercise those dogs typically need, especially if they are in reach of the public all day as well.  These dogs also get to swim, chuck it and hike a couple of times a week during the show season.  Brilliant, Spree and Creep are all getting at least one play session a day at work, generally focused on building engagement and drive, as well as productive exposure to the public through out the day.

4:30pm: Drive home and unload the dogs! Puppies are first, they are unloaded individually so that I can do some recall work or another toy session without distractions from the other dogs.  Then they each go into crates/ex pens with frozen kongs so they can learn to relax as the other dogs are unloading.

5:30pm: Dinner time! The main dogs are fed in their various areas. To prevent resource guarding and to ensure that each dog is not stressed by other dogs being too close, they are all fed in their crates/runs. The puppies work for their dinners in individual sessions. What we work on varies by the day, but these sessions are focused on skill building.

6:30pm: Everyone goes outside to potty and then back inside where we relax for the day. Brilliant and Creature generally hang out in crates in the living room so that they can learn to chill without pestering other dogs. Spree already gets to be loose with the big group.

Wait. There’s two and half hours here…. This is the time that’s reserved for cleaning, laundry, office work, shopping and all that other necessary adult stuff. Oh and I eat dinner at some point too (ice cream counts as dinner, right?).

9:00pm: Last outs and last play sessions for the puppies. Once the dogs are in the bedroom for the night, the puppies each get one last play session. This is my favorite session of the night usually. Criteria is low, we’re focused on just having fun. The games can range from two-ball to flirt pole or grip work for Creature. There is no time limit, nothing else that needs to be done for the day. We get to just enjoy each other and build our relationship.

The schedule is tough. Days off aren’t days off anymore. They are days spent carting puppies around on different socialization trips, swimming adventures or more at home training sessions.  It will be worth it when these puppies turn into partners that enjoy every minute of their jobs.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying this crazy ride.

Decisions

 

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We are told that decisions can be right or wrong. We fixate on making the correct decisions in our lives and in regards to the well-being and training of our dogs.  We analyze, make lists of pros versus cons, fret over the consequences at stake.  After the decision is made, we idolize the alternative choice, did we choose correctly? Could we have done better? Would our lives and our dogs lives have been happier if we had chose differently?

Decisions are pathways, you turn right or left and find yourself on a new road.  A new adventure.  Taking one direction will present different challenges than taking the other, but both will have difficulties.  There is no such thing as a right or wrong decision, because at the time of the choice, it is impossible to know what lays ahead. A decision is a decision, how you interpret the consequences is what determines if it’s right or wrong.

I recently chose to place two of my dogs in new homes, both for very different reasons. One was difficult throughout the decision making process, the other easy.  Mighty Mouse has been retired from work since last season, she was reckless to her aging body and I was concerned that she would end up crippled in her final years.  The decision to retire her was easy, she’s not a dog that needed constant work to be happy, as long as she had a couch to lay on at the end of the day.  Eventually though, being at work wasn’t enjoyable to her anymore. I adapted our schedule the best I could; she would join me for lunch, I’d throw chuck it for her on a regular basis and would always make sure there was room on the couch next to me at night.  I did my best to ensure she was happy, and she was that.  Then I learned of a husband and wife in Minnesota who had recently lost their beloved greyhound. They were on the search for a whippet, a dog to be spoiled, pampered and who wouldn’t have to share the couch with any other dogs.  I hadn’t planned on rehoming Mighty Mouse, she was to stay with me forever.  That was until I saw a different path for her and the decision was easy.

If Mighty Mouse had stayed with me until retirement, that would have been a good decision.  She was not unhappy here, I would have continued to adapt our schedules until all of the unhappy parts were gone.  The choice was between two different paths, neither right or wrong, just different.  Both would have been the correct decision. I feel good about the decision I made, I believe I made it with Mighty’s best interest at heart and I know from the updates that I receive that she is truly happy with the path I chose for her.

The second dog was Mega, my young malinois.  The decision to rehome her was and still is difficult.  I’ve known for sometime that she was not a good fit for this lifestyle. Too many other dogs pulling my attention and time away from her and  it showed in our training and our relationship.

That happens. This lifestyle is not for everyone or every-dog.  It is difficult to live with a large group of dogs, it is difficult to maintain the same relationship and connection with many dogs as you would if you only had a few. It is difficult, as well, to co-exist peacefully, or if that doesn’t work, at least be content in a life with limited free-time.  Mega was not the dog to thrive on this path, this decision I made for her to live here.

It took me a while to understand that.  That’s the beauty of decisions. Ultimately, a pathway will lead to another pathway, and another.  It was not a wrong decision to add Mega to my house, I had no clue what the adventure would be like when I chose to fly her here.  But it did lead me to a different path, to go right or left. To continue to push forward, forging our relationship and lifestyle to fit as well as I could or to go another direction and find a pathway that would give her the attention and one-on-one time that she craved.

There is no point in me dwelling on whether these decisions were right or wrong.  Life moves forward, always.  The decisions I’ve made for all of my dogs, no matter how major or minor, will shape our futures.  I write this with another life-changing decision looming overhead.  Daphne, my elderly forever-foster, is coming to a new pathway, one  completely unknown with only hope and faith shining the way. I know the pathway that she must take, I just hope that I’ll be ready for her to take it when the time comes.

 

 

Australia

 

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Summer is a busy time for people in my line of work.  Summer means shows, crowds, sweat in the eyes, tired dogs and exhausted trainers. The past three seasons, I’ve dutifully limited my time off, ensuring that I pull my share of the load at work.  This has led to a bit of a burnout much sooner in the season than I’d like.  This year (2017), I decided to be proactive and thus was able to secure a couple of weeks off during the hottest time of the year.  Tim and I packed up and headed to Australia to meet friends, play tourist and teach about disc-dogging.

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Yup, we went whale watching. 

After 36 hours of travel, we arrived at our AirBnB outside of Brisbane. We spent several days checking out the local attractions including watching the crocodile show at Australia Zoo.  As you can imagine, I am pretty interested in watching other animal shows. It gives me a chance to see how others have problem solved common issues with working with animals in front of a large audience as well as how they engage and inspire that audience.  Australia Zoo knocked it out of the park. Not only are they working with wild animals that are not easily trained (alligators and crocodiles), but they are doing so in a way that doesn’t force these animals outside of their natural tendencies and behaviors.  They keep the audience engaged while teaching about animal conservation, I left the show feeling inspired to get involved and do my part to help. It  was also pretty cool to watch Robert Irwin (AKA Mini-Steve) having a large part in the show.

It was great playing tourist, but I was itching to get my hands on some dogs, especially Australian Koolies. Luckily, there were plenty signed up for both the Brisbane and Melbourne seminars as well as the Koolie Club of Australia herding day. Two of my dogs, Bazinga and Zip Tie, are koolies who were imported from Australia as puppies.  Having just entered the world of breeding (their first litter was born just over 5 months ago), this trip served an additional purpose of allowing me to do hand-on research of various koolie lines.  I knew prior to our trip that koolies are a highly diverse breed not only in looks but temperament as well, this trip solidified that information.  I had a skewed impression of the breed as a whole prior to the trip because my two are pushy, hard-minded and intense, but the majority of koolies seem to tend towards the softer and more sensitive side.  As far as future litters of koolies goes, this trip was incredibly valuable to my education as a koolie breeder and it will play a key role in future pairings.

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Our view every morning from our cottage just outside of Brisbane

While those two experiences were incredibly important, here is a list of other note-worthy observations of Australia from this American:

  • It gets cold in Australia. There was ice on our car in Melbourne and the kangaroos were adorably fuzzy with their winter coats on.
  • Even though it was frigid, there were still parrots of various kinds flying around. It was mind boggling to see a group of cockatoos flying through the sky while I was wearing a winter coat.
  • Male kangaroos are creepy. Female kangaroos are adorable.
  • It is ridiculously difficult to find normal iced coffee.  Iced coffee apparently means “iced milk with a splash of coffee”.
  • Driving on the left hand side of the car is terrifying while going up curvy mountain roads bordered by cliffs.
  • There were exactly zero spiders and snakes even in Brisbane where it was 70-85 degrees. We even went hunting for them and turned up empty-handed. My theory is that they don’t actually exist and Australians just fabricated the idea of them to keep other people from realizing how amazing Australia is.
  • There were very few obnoxiously large trucks and SUV’s. Drive what you need, no more than that is necessary.
  • Australians are pretty much Canadians with cool accents.  Everyone was so friendly and enjoyable to talk to even after they knew we were from America.
  • The dog trainers in Brisbane are easy-going, loads of fun and very talented with their dogs.
  • The dog trainers in Melbourne are crazy and dedicated. Freezing temperatures and 20 mph straight line winds couldn’t stop them from playing with their dogs!
  • The brewery business is alive and well in both Brisbane and Melbourne.

Blog Updated

It’s been awhile.

My goal for the next six months is to maintain this blog in a more active fashion. In order to meet that goal, there will posts more of what I’ve done in the past as well as some creative topics. I will say that the majority will be dog-related, because let’s be honest, I don’t have much of a life outside of dogs. There will be posts about training theory (of course) and posts bragging about my awesome dogs. There will also be posts about the reality of living with a bazillion dogs and using those dogs to make a living.

If you there is something you’ve been itching to read about, please let me know in the comments. I’m going to need help coming up with ideas!

Breather Behaviors

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No breather behavior here! Pony loves to tug for her reward.

We all have seen it, even though we might not have realized it at the time. A dog that doesn’t out a toy when asked, one that takes a victory lap instead of returning to his handler after catching a frisbee or perhaps one that habitually sniffs the ground between drill repetitions. These are all forms of displacement behaviors, our dog’s solution to a problem we’ve unknowingly created during training sessions.  If we’re not careful, these behaviors become ingrained and can become extremely difficult to eliminate. However, if we’re observant and use these behaviors as information, we can adapt our training to better suit our dog’s needs and become a better partner.

I began calling these behaviors that pop up in training sessions “breather behaviors”, because to me they are a separate category within the displacement behavior subject.  The majority of the time, these problem behaviors develop when we push our dogs past their optimal working ability.  It’s our dog’s attempt to take a break, either mentally or physically, to prepare for the next repetition. Think about a typical training session: the handler asks the dog for a behavior to which the dog complies and is rewarded. What happens immediately after the reward? We ask for another behavior and repeat the cycle. Now what happens towards the end of that session when our dog is mentally and perhaps, physically, tired? The process stays the same. We don’t give our dog an opportunity to catch a breath or to destress mentally after a particularly difficult behavior, so they take it upon themselves to take a quick break. They might take an extra couple seconds before letting go of that toy or an extra couple of strides before returning to their handler.

Big deal right? Who cares if my dog takes a few extra seconds to reset for the next rep.  The problem lies when we as handlers fail to acknowledge these behaviors and let them develop into habits.  Dogs do what works for them, if chomping a frisbee or clamping down on a toy works to get them the break they need, they will continue doing so.  Pretty soon it’ll become a habit that will be present in the entire session, not just at the end.  It’s much easier to prevent a problem than eliminate it once it’s developed.

Prevention is the best medicine in this case. Watch for potential breather behaviors and use them as information to change the structure of your training sessions.  If you notice that your dog is slow to return to you after a reward, start to think how you can incorporate a break for them.  Maybe allow them to disconnect for a minute or two by sniffing or grabbing a drink of water.  Perhaps just pull them into your lap and tell them how wonderful they are while they regain their breath. Maybe all you have to do with your dog is switch behaviors for a couple repetitions to allow them to de-stress.  Adapt your session to allow your dog to work at their optimal level for the entirety, not just a portion.

Here are a few more examples of breather behaviors from my own dogs and observations.  Anybody who has seen my dogs work in our shows at Purina Farms have noticed that they run through the agility tunnels during their frisbee routines.  Yes, they do love their tunnels, however, going those extra strides allows them to take a few additional seconds before returning to me for more work.  One of my dogs is trained to lay on a mat at the end of the dock for the diving portion, best part is that I don’t have to walk down the dock with her, I can just send her to it. However, every time she prepares to dive, she goes the long way around the sign behind the dock, taking an extra second or two to gather herself between jumps. One particularly troublesome behavior that develops in shows are dogs that don’t want to leave the pool after a jump. They let go of the toy, push it under water and or just swim around. It’s an excellent way for them to delay the next repetition. These are just a few examples of breather behaviors that have developed into habits because of my inability to change the session to suit the dogs better.

What breather behaviors do you notice with your own dogs?  Is there potential for those to develop into problems later on? How can you adapt your sessions to provide your dog with the breaks they need?

Duration

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Edgar shows off a great frogged down stay.

Working with operant dogs often leads to dogs that are quick to offer a behavior but lack stillness and commitment within each exercise.  This is a skill that needs to be taught and developed over time and can be difficult for some dogs.  Famous, my 18 month old malinois, shows great commitment to even new behaviors and it’s easy to add duration with her.  My younger malinois, Moment, on the other hand, does not. While she’s great at offering behaviors, she offers them quickly and then moves on.  It was difficult to add duration to her chin rest, hold and stays.  Luckily, there are many exercises and tools designed to help such dogs.

The first behaviors that I teach to a new dog to introduce the idea of duration are chin rest and mat/perch work.  The chin rest can be used to introduce holding an object (dumbbell) in the future, just as the mat work can be used to lay the ground work for future stays. One other great exercise to teach with the idea of duration in mind is Susan Garrett’s “It’s Your Choice”.  This game can be used to help add duration and commitment to a behavior as Reverse Luring,  described by Laura Waudby in this blog post .

I think the idea of stillness and focus is an important one, especially for dogs like Moment.  She learned the concept of a chin rest with duration relatively quickly, however I felt like she was lacking stillness and focus in the behavior.  Her eyes would dart around to distractions, all while maintaining my criteria of her chin in my hand.  So I started setting narrowing the criteria to micro-behaviors within the behavior.  Soon, I would only click  eye contact while keeping her muzzle in my hand, of which duration had to be added to slowly.  After that, I used Reverse Luring to add to her commitment of the behavior.  Soon, I’ll add other distractions such as tossing a toy behind her while she maintains criteria to further proof and build this behavior. Luckily, all this hard work has already paid off because I used her chin rest to teach stillness and focus in other behaviors such as heel and basic positions and dumbbell hold.

To begin teaching a chin rest, it’s easiest to start with a dog who already offers a hand touch.  Place your opened hand in an easy to reach spot by your dog’s muzzle.  As they reach forward to sniff your hand, click and reward where your hand was.  Once your dog catches on that a nose touch on your hand causes the click, start to vary your hand placement.  To change to a chin rest, place your hand palm side up in an easy to reach spot.  Click and reward any muzzle touches, eventually shaping a chin brush instead of a nose touch.  There are a couple tricks to adding duration at this point, for some dogs all you’ll need to do is click for longer and longer chin rests. It’s important when using this method to do an average increase in duration rather than a linear one, meaning sometimes click after a short duration and sometimes for a longer, so that the criteria isn’t getting continuously more difficult. For some dogs, adding duration to the chin rest isn’t that simple.  For those dogs, I like to emphasize commitment to the behavior which will eventually lead to more duration.  Moving your hand away from your dog’s muzzle just as they are offering the behavior will increase their commitment.  Sometimes dropping it, sometimes just backing up, whatever gets the dog moving and working hard to achieve the behavior.  This will lead to the dog holding their chin on your hand while you are moving, keeping it interesting and keeping their focus for longer than when it’s stationary.  Easy to finish just by fading out your movement.

Mat or perch work is a great way to start stays.  Dogs tend to respond better to physical boundaries such as an object’s edge. It’s easy to add distractions and duration when the criteria is more understandable by our dogs.  To begin mat/perch work, place your object on the ground where your dog can see it.  Click and reward any interaction with the object, including placing paws on it or just nose touches eventually shaping to all four feet on the object in the desired position (down, sit, stand). Reward placement is important with this behavior as the dog will want to be where the reward happens.  If you continuously reward off the object, they will want to be off of it, and the opposite holds true for rewarding while they are on the object.  Generally, I vary the number of rewards given on the object versus off dependent on what aspect of the behavior I’m working on.  If I’m working on duration, I will reward on the object heavily.  If I’m working on sending my dog to the object, I will reward more often off the object to allow my dog to reset and practice the send.  However, they are always getting multiple rewards while on the object to maintain their desire to be on it.  Just like with adding duration to the chin rest, you can do so by increasing the average duration between rewards.  You can also increase their commitment to the behavior by introducing distractions such as toys, treats and other dogs around their perch.