Saturday, January 14, 2012

Borzoi in a 1936 Ziegfield movie

 This video from a Ziegfield movie in 1936 caught my attention because it's got a team of Borzoi used as props to dance around.  They look fairly unimpressed and if you watch closely the one on your right goes out of position and turns to the side at one point (they apparently stop the camera and reposition him, and continue the dance).

Once the dogs move forward, you can see the taped off "mat" section which is meant to let each dog know his mark.

Think through the training that would have to happen to pull off this performance (I wonder how many takes it took, and how many trainers?). 

I live in a house that was built in the 20's, and I have a Borzoi with the same coloring as these, and actually, truth be told, I do in fact dance around like that every morning as I'm feeding the dogs and getting my coffee.  Yes, it's just another Ziegfield day in Los Angeles!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Got a good deal on dog treats

My dogs LOVE these treats, and I love them too because they're like healthy dog crackers.  I can break each one up easily into tiny pieces for individual rewards, and can keep them in my pockets without their making my pockets gross.  They're made from the same Natural Balance semi-moist food my dogs love (which I also use for treats, but can't keep as easily in my pocket since it's moist and perishable).

So I was a bit shocked the other day when I saw the price of these at a local big-box pet supply store go up to over $7.00.  At the rate we go through these, I had to do something. 

So I came home and checked to see how much they cost at that same store's online website.  They were cheaper there (annoying!!) but there would also be shipping.  I did some further online research and am happy to tell you about the deal I got at .  I bought 15 bags of these, plus 4 bags of high-quality Evo treats for a total of $100.11.  And guess what-- if your purchase is over $100 the shipping is free.  Oh, and I did I mention there was no tax?

So the bag which would cost me $7 plus tax at the big-box store cost me just $4.49 by buying it online.  When you have 3 dogs AND you train and reward as much as I do, that's a good deal.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Becoming a patient trainer

What training skill do you hope to develop in 2012?  I'm not talking about a new behavior in your dog, I'm talking about a skill for you, the trainer. 

May I suggest patience?

Most trainers (especially beginners, but even the advanced trainers) have a tendency to go too fast for their student (the animal), and to feel frustrated when the student is not learning as fast as the trainer wants him or her to learn.  That reaction, by the way, is very frustrating for the student as well.  The answer is to adjust to the speed of the student and learn to be patient.  Scrutinize your systematic training plan and make sure it is GREAT in terms of its adherence to rate of reinforcement (ie, treating frequently), and its clarity about the particular criteria you're shaping (ie, are you working right now on distance?  Duration? Distraction level?  Desensitization to a trigger?).  Lastly, check to make sure the timing of your click is fast enough-- it should happen at the exact moment of the desired behavior (and then follow quickly with a reward).

I enjoy following the work of animal behavior graduate student Mary Hunter, whose blog is engaging and does a beautiful job of illustrating the exact same concepts you are trying to learn as a person training a dog.  You can find it here: 

So how do you develop patience?  I find the most effective way is to keep explicit records of your training.  More on that in the next post.

Happy 2012, and may you and your dog have a richly satisfying life together.