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this place is for the birds

Control Unleashed Seminar in Goshen, CT with Kienan Brown

Control Unleashed Seminar in Goshen, CT with Kienan Brown

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looking at me
June 27 (9 to 5) and June28 (9 to 12/1) 

There were 14 working teams, handlers with dogs, and nine people without dogs.  At one end of the long room were the observers without dogs sitting in a line facing the fenced box.  At the other end of the room were two rows of dogs and crates with their handlers. 

 
Kienan started by having each dog and handler take a turn in the box.  The handler was to ignore her dog.  Kienan told the rest of us to call out comments and observations.  Was the dog sniffing, nervous or exploring, relaxed or stiff and tense, checking in with his handler or not.  Kienan would ask us what we saw but also have her own always perceptive observations.
 
This process took about an hour and a half.  We took a human/dog potty break and came back to work again.

Each dog and handler went into the box again.  This time the team was working.  Each time the dog checked in with the handler she was to click or mark it verbally and treat. We worked holding the leash, with a dropped leash, and off leash. Most dogs were fine with this and were able to stay engaged with their handlers even when distractions, such as other people entering the box, were added. The rate of reinforcement needed to increase as the distractions increased. A few dogs were  stressed  over threshold and shutdown.  One dog was too stressed even to eat treats. Kienan showed one woman how to make a harness across her pulling dog's chest with his leash so that he was able to arrive calmly at the box to work. When everyone completed this process, we broke for lunch.

After lunch Kienan introduced a number of games with just a few dog handler teams trying each.  She talked about crossing thresholds.  Every time a dog exits a crate, leaves a building, gets out of the car, he or she should immediately check in and stay checked in with eye contact until told to do something else or until excused to go play.  We watched while one handler worked with her dog on exiting her crate over and over until the dog remained calm, sitting or lying down, not moving forward until she was released from the crate.

A few of us did a whiplash turn exercise where you call the dog's name and then click and treat as the dog turns to look at the handler...........Kienan talked about the Premack Principle where what the dog wants to do can be used to reinforce what you want the dog to do. You can reward the dog by giving him access to what he wants after he does what you want.  For example some of us did the Doggie Zen exercise.  The handler held a treat in her hand away from her face.  When the dog moved toward the treat, the handler put it behind her back. The handler rewarded the dog with a different treat if it looked away from the treat in her hand.  The goal is for the dog to look away from the hand holding the treat and to the handler.     

On the second morning people were eager to consult with Kienan about particular problems.
 
The lone man in the group wanted to know what to do when his dog was reactive to other dogs. Matilda was the demo dog for the Look at That game.  The man and his dog were inside the box, Matilda and I outside. When Matilda turned to look at the dog, I clicked, she looked back at me, and I gave her a treat. She looked at the dog, I clicked, she looked back at me and I gave her a treat.  Soon she was not really even looking at the dog. She just turned her head a little bit in his direction and turned her head back to me. Looking at the dog was no longer important.  Because the man's dog wasn't reactive to female dogs, a male dog was brought outside the box. To lower  his dog's stress level Kienan suggested the man could also put a blob of peanut butter on his dog's nose.  The dog couldn't get aroused if he was working on eating the peanut butter off his nose.

Give Me a Break was another game Kienan introduced. Kienan put a chair in the box.  She asked me to go into the box play a focus game with Matilda. I'd click and treat for eye contact. After a few moments I released her and went and sat in the chair as soon as she came to me in the chair, the game resumed.  We played the game again.  This time I sent Matilda to her mat,  called her to me and then  sent her to the mat again.  After a few moments I released her, picked up her mat and went and sat in the chair. When she came over to me at the chair, the game resumed.

Another important game was the Off Switch game.  In the game you play with your dog for a few moments, then stop.  As soon as the dog goes into whatever default position you have decided on, such as sitting and looking at you, the game resumes.

This exercise helps a dog think through the aroused state and change to a calm one. The dog learns to move quickly back and forth between the two.

Kienan had each of us work with a human partner.  We took turns being the dog.  We each had to shape our "dog" to do some predetermined action.  We were to click or mark each action our partner did that was slightly in the direction of doing what we wanted the partner to do until they finally were doing the action.  I shaped my partner to stand on one foot.  A woman shaped her dog to go lie down on a mat by clicking and throwing treats on the mat as her dog looked at the mat, put a foot on the mat, stepped on the mat sat on the mat, and finally lay down on the mat.

Kienan removed the box and left just a fence down the middle of the room.  Two dogs did Parallel Racing on either side of the fence.  First the dogs walked on the outside of the handlers. Then one walked of the inside. She asked us ways that we could raise the criteria.  Each time you change the criteria to make a greater challenge the higher the rate of reinforcement needs to be.

At the end there were more questions.  The man wanted to know what to do when approached by a loose dog.  Most of the time Kienan said the dogs will be fine. Give your dog a loose leash and they'll be OK, but if it looks as though the dog is making a beeline for an attack, get between the dog and your dog.  Keep facing the loose dog to block it.  Someone asked about the head collar, a device that goes over the dog's nose and turns his head if he pulls. Kienan thought they were fine but thought it was easy to become dependent on them. Other people then were interested in seeing how she looped the leash around a dog's chest to keep it from pulling. 

People began grabbing some lunch and packing up to go home. We all learned a lot.  It was a great seminar!








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