CLICKER MAKES LEARNING FUN FOR DOGS   by Russ Avison

Do you remember having as a child, a small metal noisemaker, usually in the shape of a cricket or a frog? This device, when squeezed between your thumb and index finger made a clicking sound. Who knew then that a modern version of this clicker would become arguably the most powerful training tool you have available for training your dog.

The basic concept is this: Dogs cannot make an association between a behavior and a consequence for the behavior if the two events occur more than about five seconds apart. The clicker allows us to bridge the time gap from behavior to consequence by marking the behavior with a click. Once taught that the click means the delivery of something pleasant (usually a treat), the dog will want to repeat the payoff behavior.

This even works for humans. A type of clicker training called TAG teaching (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) can help people learn sophisticated physical behaviors in record time.

American Dick Fosbury revolutionized the sport of high jumping when he introduced the "Fosbury Flop" at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. This style of high jump requires months and months of training to perfect. One nine-year-old girl, without prior training, mastered the Fosbury Flop - not over several months but in 15 minutes thanks to the clicker!

Karen Pryor, renowned animal behaviorist and former marine animal trainer is considered by most to be the person responsible for bringing clicker training to the dog-training arena. She helped the parent of an explosively aggressive Golden Retriever dramatically alter the dog's behavior using a clicker.

Ben, the above mentioned monster-dog, could not get within 50 feet of another dog without launching into a fierce barking frenzy, pulling with all his might against a collar and leash, trying to get to the offending dog.

Ben's mother, Emma sought the guidance of Karen Pryor to fix the problem. Karen told Emma simply to click the dog. Emma then told Karen, maven of the clicker, that she just doesn't understand! Karen asked one question: "Does your dog breath?" She then explained that Emma need only to click Ben every time he takes a breath in between the vicious barks.

Ben is now Emma's non-reactive dog used in the training of other aggressive dogs.

You see, dogs are hard-wired to learn using positive reinforcement and the clicker is the most effective way to train using this method. If such dramatic results can be obtained this way just think how well your pet can learn how to sit, stay and walk nicely on a leash.

Trainers, such as those at Canine Logic training in Fillmore use these and other current positive reinforcement methods. These techniques have been proven to help dogs learn most behaviors more quickly, retain what they learn longer and forge a stronger bond with the pet parent.

Additional reading:

Don't Shoot The Dog by Karen Pryor

Click To Calm by Emma Parsons

Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson

Russ Avison, Fillmore resident and owner of Canine Logic has been training dogs and their parents for over seven years. Classes are held in Fillmore at the Grand K-9 Ranch and Westlake Village. The Grand K-9 Ranch is home to Canine Logic dog training, All dogs rule! boarding facility and Contact Point Agility Center. Russ can be reached at 805/524-5100 or SmartPets@aol.com.




TEACH OR CONTROL by Russ Avison

My name is Russ Avison and I train dogs. I also train pet parents how to train their dogs. I DO NOT use nor do I allow choke chains or pinch collars in any of my classes. Why? The answer is quite simple. There has been a considerable amount of study in the past eight or nine years as to how dogs learn. We know that using positive reinforcement methods results in the dogs learning most behaviors more quickly, they retain what they learn longer and they bond with you better.

Still, one of the most common questions I am asked is "How do I teach my dog without a choke chain?" Most of the time the question is a knee jerk reaction. What is really being asked is "How can I train my dog without punishing him?"

I love to use analogies so let's look at one.

Suppose I ask you to come over to my house today and wash my car. Your answer would most likely be "I don't think so". So I pull out my .45 caliber side arm and ask you again. This time you acquiesce. Now you might suffer psychological damage because you are in fear for your life. Our relationship is definitely over and when you finish with my car and return home I am quite sure the authorities will be paying me a visit. However, I did get you to do what I asked of you.

Instead, let's say that when I ask you to wash my car and you say no, I don't threaten you with a gun. This time I pull out a wad of cash and offer you $1000 to complete the task. You ask me if I want the car waxed as well. Tomorrow you show up to see if I would like the car washed again.

In both cases I got you to do what I wanted. The difference is the status of relationship at the end of the day.

Using a choke chain teaches your dog to work out of fear of pain. Using positive reinforcement teaches your dog that doing what you ask pays off and loves to do it.

Doesn't it make more sense to teach our four-legged companions using methods they actually like rather than try to control them using methods people seldom enjoy and dogs never do?

Fillmore resident Russ Avison currently teaches classes for Conejo Recreation and Park District. Russ has been training dogs and their parents for over seven years and is co-owner of the Grand K-9 Ranch, which is home to Canine Logic dog training, All dogs rule! boarding facility and Contact Point Agility Center. Russ can be reached at 805/524-5100 or SmartPets@aol.com.




RATTLESNAKE DANGER FOR DOGS
by Russ Avison

Rattlesnakes, swimming pools and hot cars are just some of the dangers facing your pet this summer. Many times we are having so much fun that we fail to keep a close eye on our dog and what the dog is doing.

This week I would like to focus on Rattlesnake bites. Rattlesnake bites can often be avoided with some precautionary measures. Knowing what to do if a bite does occur can greatly increase your dog's chance for survival.
Rattlesnake Statistics

   * 25% of adult rattlesnake bites are dry, with no venom injected. (Brown, 1997)
   * Rattlesnakes can only strike a distance equal to 1/2 their own length

Rattlesnake avoidance clinics are held throughout Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Most of the clinics last about four hours, need only be taken once a year and are relatively inexpensive - about $60. For the most part completion of the course almost guarantees your dog will gladly avoid any snake it encounters. Some dogs will even stay clear of coiled garden hoses as well.


What should you do if a rattler bites your dog? Try to stay calm. Do not apply ice, a tourniquet or suction. Keep the dog as still as possible. Even if your dog has had a dose of rattlesnake vaccine, time is of the essence.

1. Look for swelling; bite wounds where fangs may have entered, and noticeable discomfort, such as lameness or difficulty breathing (if bitten in the face). These are signs that a venomous snake may have bitten your dog.

2. Transport your dog to your veterinarian immediately if he's showing any signs of snakebite.

3. Avoid wasting time by washing the wound. Also, avoid cutting the bite area in an effort to drain venom, as this can lead to other serious injury or infection.

4. Keep your dog still, quiet and warm during transport. Any movement could cause the venom to spread.

5. Attempt to identify the snake if possible, but avoid getting bitten yourself.

6. Wash the wound if a nonpoisonous snake has bitten your dog. If you're unsure if the snake was venomous, take your dog to the veterinarian.

Know where the nearest pet emergency clinic is located and get your friend to the doctor. The dog will need antibiotics and a dose of anti-venom medicine to combat the effects (unable to bear weight, effects of toxins and rapid, noticeable swelling) of a snake bite, blood work and pain medication and constant observation for the first day or two.

Talk with your veterinarian to see if they carry snake vaccine or anti-venom medication. Ask them about it, it could give you the first line of defense and enough time to get to the ER. Check out a snake avoidance clinic through your dog trainer, vet or local gun dog club. Give the dog a chance to be there for you.

Russ Avison, Fillmore resident and owner of Canine Logic has been training dogs and their parents for over seven years. Classes are held in Fillmore at the Grand K-9 Ranch and Westlake Village. The Grand K-9 Ranch is home to Canine Logic dog training, All dogs rule! boarding facility and Contact Point Agility Center. Russ can be reached at 805/524-5100 or SmartPets@aol.com.

I periodically contribute to several local newspapers.  Please enjoy these articles which appeared in the Ventura County Star - Russ
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