Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Crazy Cheap Training Treats

In my quest to find highly desirable but cheap training treats, I have tried many many things. I've tried making dough type training treats I've tried cutting up existing treats from the grocery stores, but so far the cheapest, highest yield and tastiest treat is cooked hot dogs! A pack of No Name hot dogs at the store costs just under $2, you can cut them any way you like, dry them or keep them raw, and it only takes about a half hour tops if you use the entire pack. They are also very very easy to make, great project to do with kids, just supervise them with the use of a knife. These are so easy I'm still able to make them with my left hand due to my broken collar bone.

Cut the hot dog lengthwise in half, than cut each half lengthwise again to create quarters. (If you're looking for larger treats just cut the hot dog in half, if you want smaller treats cut them lengthwise again).

Once cut into quarters cut down the hot dog, you can cut the slices as thick or thin as you like. If planning on drying them cut them larger than what you want since they will shrivel when cooked. If keeping them raw keep in mind thin slices tend to stick together.

Once all your hot dogs have been cut, spread a single layer of paper towel over a plate and sprinkle the pieces all over the plate. Try to spread them out as best ou can to avoid them sticking together.

Put them in the microwave for 3 minutes on high.

Once done the first 3 minutes, take them out, you can either stop here, they are crispy on the outside but still not totally dried out. If continuing, put a new sheet of paper towel down and try to move the pieces that were on the inside to the outside and put back in the microwave for another 3 minutes.

Allow to cool. If dried out completely these don't need to be refrigerated unless your planning on using them sparingly. With the rate I go through training treats these are gone in a few days.

Good luck with you training!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Tough Times Ahead

So I haven't been able to post within the last week and sadly won't have too many over the next couple of weeks. Last week right after the doggie expo I went skiing for the first time this year with a couple of friends, and just a couple of runs in I was slammed into by a kid and I fell and broke my right collar bone. So typing is slow since I can't move my shoulder very well but I'm figuring out how to manage things with my left hand. This last week has been touch on everyone, and especially Kobi. Scout my older dog sleeps most of the day so he's not to bothered by my decreased energy and attention. Kobi on the other hand is making it very clear that he wants to get going again. The first few days were the toughest. Our schedule was all off, I needed help walking the two dogs, it was clear I was in pain and I was napping a lot. Kobi started taking it out his frustration by resuming his barking at random sounds (all the time) and had started biting and pulling on his leash again, something he hasn't done since his first couple months home. For the first couple of days he also became more reactive to people and things out on walks again. It was like all our training had just totally disintegrated. Walking alone is enough of a challenge. My right arm is in a sling so i've been using the leash coupler for the two dogs to attach one end to kobi's gentle leader and the other end to one of the loops on my jeans. I've been putting the clicker in my right hand and feeding treats with my free left hand (since the leash is attached to my pants I don't have to worry about the leash). I've been lucky to have family and friends help me get Kobi out for some longer walks and out playing some games to try and tire him out. We managed to get to point pleasant yesterday to let Kobi run for a while, and it was obvious he needed it. I don't think I have ever seen him run so much and so fast! The next few weeks will still be a challenge getting back into a routine is helping to settle things back down, even if that routine is slower and tougher than usual. I did finally receive my copy of Control Unleashed in the mail so I've been reading that. I'm excited to start putting some of the training to practice once my shoulder heals a bit more. I'll post more about the book as I'm able to type more.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Traditional Training Vs. Positive Reinforcement Training

Photo courtesy of
This weekend I attended the Doggie Expo at the Forum, running a booth for my Pet Portraits. The turnout was fantastic and I got to meet lots of wonderful people. For the first part of the morning I brought Kobi with me. I knew it was going to be a very overwhelming experience for him but I thought it would be worth it to get him around so many people and dogs. He met lots of people and was very friendly. He did react fearfully to a few people and did spend the majority of his time there barking. In preparation I had made up tons of training treats to reward him for silence, I went through almost all of them, yet he still barked. It wasn't until the very end of the day when one of the many trainers present at the event came over to talk to me about his barking. She was telling me that even though I was rewarding Kobi for his silence, that he was clever enough to figure out that if he was silent until he got the treat, all he had to do was bark again then be silent for a few seconds to get another treat. And I felt that she was right. Before I got Kobi I had seen all the TV shows like The Dog Whisperer and At the End of my Leash. I agreed with many aspects of the training, but also disagreed with many other. I did a huge amount of research before I decided that a puppy was indeed what I wanted and I did a lot of research into positive reinforcement training. I believe that it works very well for many aspects of dog training, but that it doesn't work for others, or at least I have difficulty in other areas. The obedience classes I have been taking have been using positive reinforcement training, and I will admit there has been some great improvement, but I still feel stuck in certain aspects of Kobi's training and most of them have to do with behavioral issues and simply good doggy manners when he's around people. I find it is the people that I'm trying to introduce Kobi to that make positive reinforcement training difficult. If Kobi is barking that them they are not willing to wait for him to settle down before petting him, if he jumps they say "oh I don't mind" but I do mind. As well treats are nothing to Kobi compared to trying to get attention from someone. I've made some progress with having him not lunge at people but that was largely due to the Gentle Leader he has been wearing, when he lunges towards someone he gets pulled back towards me. The thing I am finding difficult is the is the strong reaction people have to one or the other type of training. Those who are very pro positive reinforcement tend to be very against any form of correction and that dogs have absolutely no "pack/leadership behaviors". Where as those who believe in correction or alpha training are totally against the use of treats. I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but I feel very trapped between the two training methods, I think there are pros and cons to both, just like most other things. What I very much dislike is the guilt put on people for choosing one or the other training method. Is there no way to get a happy medium between the two types of training? Does anyone else ever feel trapped between the two? All I want to do is use a training method that is not only right for my dog, but one that he responds to and that works for him. Me as the trainer, I am comfortable using either method or using a bit of both, but I want to choose the one that he responds to best.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Proofing stay at the Bank

Kobi has been working on his Stay command since we first adopted him. I try to work his stay into as many random places as I can. He stays before he gets his food in the morning, he stays at the top of the stairs while I get my shoes on to go for a walk, we get him to stay while we eat dinner and I try to throw in short stays out on our walks. The way to get a reliable command in any situation, is to use it in every situation you find yourself in. Kobi is still working on staying when there are more distractions going on. He's able to do it in the yard and on a quiet street, but kick a soccer ball or if a cat darts by he breaks his stay. I made sure to start him with minimal distractions and am slowly working at building in more distractions. Our puppy class was a great help for working on his stay, for him to just sit and watch everything moving and continuing on without him while he's stuck in a stay is very hard for him. Today though I decided to bring him to the bank with me. I knew that he would have a tough time holding his stay and would probably bark a fair bit but I was up for the challenge. I did make sure to bring some of the Tuna/Liver fudge treats I had made (I'll post the recipe soon) to keep his attention. As soon as we got into the line I signaled him into a down and told him to stay... and he did! The line ended up getting pretty full, there were lots of people moving and talking but he stayed! And only barked once! I may have been handing out treats like a pez dispenser, but he stayed! I was soooo impressed with him. Once I was done with the teller she leaned over the counter to give him a treat, I released him from the stay and motioned for him to stand so that he was tall enough to get the treat! Everyone loved it! These last few weeks are really starting to give me hope that I will be able to put Kobi through the Therapy Dog evaluation closer to his one year mark rather than waiting until two or three years. That being said he is very very much still a puppy. As soon as we left and rounded the corner he decided to through a tantrum, running around me in circles, biting at his leash and thrashing himself around. I guess it was payback for making him behaving so well.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Agile painting

I decided to work on a painting to sell at the Doggie Expo. The painting ended up taking about 5 hours to complete.

Outlining is the first step.

I then like to fill in the underlying colour, in this case white.

I then start adding in the layers that sit on top of the base colour.

I like to leave black to the end and finish off by outlining in light black.
All that's left is the ring.

Check us out at the Doggie Expo!

This weekend is the GPAC Doggie Expo at the Halifax Forum Multipurpose room from 10am to 3pm. I'll be there to get the word out on my pet portraits (Pet Portraits By Zonia Clancy), I'll also be helping out the Therapy Dog table as best I can. I'm planning on bringing Kobi in the morning for a couple of hours then taking my older therapy dog Scout in for the rest of the day. I know it will be hugely overwhelming for Kobi but it's a great training opportunity and socialization opportunity. I've been making treats like crazy in preparation for the copious amounts I'll be giving to him to reward any calm behaviour. I expect a lot of barking, pulling towards strangers and tantrums, but I'll stick through it as best I can and hopefully he gains something from it. I'll be taking Kobi home probably around 11 to get Scout. Scout is bomb proof at these sorts of events. He usually ends up sleeping in the middle of the floor while other dogs and people walk around and over him. Scout is a fantastic Therapy Dog ambassador, he may even wear his T Shirt again.

 But I have to remember I'll be there for my business this time. I'll need to remember to run my own booth. I'll have a couple of pieces of art for sale, some great tug ropes, same ones I make for Kobi. A good friend of mine will also be attending with me, she's made some super cute doggy kerchiefs that she'll be selling as well as taking any orders for knit wear. She makes stunning knitted dog coats.
Kobi sporting the plaid style kerchief that will be for sale.

I look forward to seeing new and familiar faces this year, but do stop by my table, I'll be giving out discount coupons for use towards a portrait as well there will be ballots for a chance to win a FREE pet portrait!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Obedience class can teach more than just obedience

Last night was our last Basic Life Skills class with Sublime Canine. I knew going into the classes that I wasn't going to take much away from the actual lessons as I had already taught Kobi his basic obedience skills and he excelled with learning them. What I really wanted out of it was proofing, that he was able to preform these skills in a new high excitement situation. The basics like sit and down weren't to hard for him, but staying or focus exercises proved to be more difficult to get him to preform them when there were other dogs and people around. Kobi is what our trainer calls a "spirited puppy". All he wants is to socialize. To him people and dogs mean play time. Kobi needed to work one being able to calm down around people and dogs and that just because dogs are present, that doesn't mean it's play time. Our first week was pretty tough, he spent most of the night barking and pulling towards other dogs and people. The second week was a nightmare, it seemed as though he was entering another fear period and was terrified of everything and everyone that night. The third week was much like the first, no real improvement made. Then for our fourth week was when I started making the liver treats, we also got him to wear his Halti that night as well. I'm not sure what the cause  was but it was as if we had a whole new dog. He still struggled to not bark at other dogs, but he was making an active effort to not bark. He was able to stay on command, even when other dogs walked right up to him. He walked politely on his leash, and he even rolled onto his side a few times. Our fifth session was again fantastic, he was showing no signs of regression and was getting better at calming himself. Last night was our sixth and final class. I was expecting him to have difficulty as he had been reactive to noises all day at home. Instead Kobi spent a good majority of last night sprawled on his back. He would lie right on his back and stretch his legs all the way out, giving him the nickname RoadKill. Over our six weeks in obedience class, Kobi learned to control some of his excitement and desire to play with everyone. I still believe obedience classes are a must for those who need help learning the techniques for training their dogs, they are also a great way to get kids involved in a dogs training. However, just because your dog is fantastic at learning at home and you make an active effort in their training, doesn't mean that classes don't still have a benefit. Obedience class helped to boost Kobi's confidence, that he doesn't need to control every situation and that not every time another dog shows up that it's play time. I will be continuing classes with Sublime Canine in their Advanced Life Skills class then will be joining their Agility Foundations class to teach Kobi an on off switch for exciting situations. In the mean time between classes I've been given permission to come and work in a side pen while classes are going on to continue working on his impulse control. So if you've ever thought that obedience class wasn't for you, think again, it teaches more than just the obvious.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Breakfast Scatter

With mornings being a hectic time for most people, few ever think to include a training session with their dog into their breakfast routine. I do a training session everyday with Kobi before breakfast. If I have time it can be up to 10 minutes when teaching him a new trick, or just a few seconds if there is no time. I like to do training before breakfast so that Kobi is working for his food and he knows he must do work to get his food. The other benefit is that you can use their kibble for training treats. Morning training games can be as simple as learning to eat food from your hand politely, working on making eye contact, teaching basic obedience or tricks. This week we've started working on the Breakfast Scatter game. This is simply where I take a small handful of his kibble, say "Kobi Look" then drop them on the floor and let him eat them. The purpose of this game is to learn the command  "Kobi Look" when I try to scatter treats on the floor for him. When Kobi becomes excited he tends to focus on the source of his excitement like most border collies do. However, if he is getting riled up or starts barking, I need to break his attention to calm him back down. This has proven to be intensely difficult. We've tried sticking treats right in his face to lure him away, nothing, so our training recommended tossing treats on the ground to make him look down. Great idea, didn't work. Now that we've found that he responds to liver treats we're having more success in breaking his focus, but still not much luck at tossing treats on the ground, he just doesn't pay attention to it. So our training suggested training him and giving him a command for simply, LOOK! There is free treats on the ground! Eat them!! So we've added it into our morning training. Just a few tosses at every meal.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Tug Time

Do you ever have mornings where you wake up already exhausted. All you want to do is enjoy your coffee (or tea in my case), relax and stay in your pajamas for a little while? It always seems that the mornings when all you want to do is snooze, that is when your dog is most in your face about getting up and getting going. Kobi personally like to find one of his remaining monkey limbs and just stands with his chin in your lap squeeking  it until your ears bleed. It's mornings like this where the last thing you want to do is venture out into the bitter morning winter cold. We all know dogs need their exercise, but they usually aren't picky about how they get it. Mental exercise can be just as tiring to them as a good long walk, the trick is finding a mental game they are interested in. I've tried games like getting him to learn the difference between his toys and assigning him names and getting him to go and fetch them, but he's usually more interested in tugging with me. So I finally found a game that tires him out, but that he also loves to play. Hide and Seek. You can either play by hiding yourself and calling your dog to come and find you, a great way to work on their recall, or if you live in a smaller space like me with few hiding spots for a full person, why not hide a favourite toy? Kobi loves to play with his tug braid, but loves it even more when he has to find it. He quickly caught onto the game and it was amazing to watch him search for his tug, looking in places he's found it before. This game can be played with any toy, the more he likes it the better. It also works better with an older toy as it has more of an odour to it. This game can also be played on your own or with someone else. If by yourself get your pooch to stay in either a sit or a down while you go hide the toy (this is also great for working on their stay). If you are playing with a dog that hasn't learned to stay yet (new rescues or puppies) get a family member or friend to distract your dog or play with them while you hide the toy. Play this game for a good 10 to 15 minutes and your pup should be snoozing in no time!
To make sure your dog enjoys the game start off by hiding the toy out in the open in easily accessible places. Once they get the hang of it start hiding it in more and more challenging places. Also keep in mind the colour of your toy, a blue toy on a blue rug may not be visible to them, eventually they should be able to use their nose to find the toy but to start with make it fun and positive.

You'll notice that Kobi is a bit vocal when he plays tug, he just like to hear himself and sound tough. The first time was a nice easy spot for him to find it, the second time was more challenging and he had to use his nose to find it.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Making Progress!

Last night we attended a make up training class for one we missed during a snow storm. We have been enrolled in the Basic Life Skills class with Sublime Canine for the last 5 weeks with our main goal being for Kobi to simply remain calm around other dogs and people. Sounds easy enough, but not for Kobi. Kobi is so social just the sight of other people and dogs used to make him go crazy with barking and pulling to get to them and trying to jump all over people. The obedience aspect of the class was a breeze for Kobi, paying attention when other things are going on, not so much. Monday night was a great class with the new liver jerky treats I started making. He was finally more interested in the treats than some of the other stuff going on. Last night though was unreal. He was silent the entire evening, paid attention in all the exercises, walked politely on his leash, and felt comfortable enough to expose his belly several times during class! When I first found Kobi at the SPCA one of the reasons I fell in love with him is any time someone took him out to the yard he would immediately flop onto his back for some tummy rubs. I knew that was a sign of confidence and that he was comfortable with people. Boy were we suckered! Within the first two weeks that all but stopped except for us at home. So to see him repeatedly showing his tummy last night in class was a break through. At one point another puppy even walked up to him when he was like that and he was totally fine. It goes to show that even if you have an unrully puppy or dog that seems to be making zero progress with their training, keep working on it and it eventually pays off! I can't wait for our Monday night class to see if it wasn't a fluke or if he really is begging to settle down!

Below is a video of Kobi from last night. We were supposed to be working on Leave It, resisting the temptation to grab treats off his paws, but as we started filming another dog decided to get worked up so you can see me clicking and rewarding him for looking at the other dog while choosing to not get up or bark at them.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Training Treats

At first I was under the impression that treats should only be used for tick training and not behavioural work. Once I attended puppy elemetary and learned about Positive Reinforcement training or "clicker" training, marking a desired behaviour then providing a reward, I realized that treats did have a lot of benefits in day to day scenarios. I started training Kobi at home with just his kibble, that worked well for the most part, until we found ourselves in situations where kibble just didn't cut it. So I tried upping the anti by cutting up small pieces of cheese and cooked chicken. I soon found a problem with both, they're slimy and smelly. There is nothing worse then reaching into a smelly treat pouch then getting soaked in slobber as your dog tries to get the treat out of your hand. The trainer at our puppy class suggested trying some dehydrated liver that he seemed to be in love with at class. So we bought a massive bag, it lasted a long time, but that had problems too. It came in large sheets that needed to be broken up into smaller pieces. I found it slow to break them up when in exciting situations and they usually hard sharp edges that if not chewed could hurt. I then discovered that milkbone finally made mini bones for training. They are tiny little bones that can easily be broken in two to make a smaller treat portion, and can be found at the grocery store making them easy to come by.. These worked fairly well and I still always make sure to have some in my pocket, but when it comes to exciting situations, they still just didn't cut it. I needed to find a treat that was desirable enough to distract Kobi from whatever it was he was focused on.

I then came across the "Lickety Stik" which I purchased at Pet's Unlimited. It's a liquid treat that comes in three flavors that is placed in a rolling ball type deodorant stick so all your dog has to is lick! How simple! And it is! Except in cold weather. Not thinking, liquids tend to freeze in cold weather, the lickety stik was no exception. Once the weather warms up I plan on resuming its use, but it works great for indoor activities such as car rides, going to the vet or into stores. One word of warning it does have a very strong odor to it but that's part of what makes it a great training aid.

We still, however, needed something that we could use as a training treat when we went to our weekly obedience class. So we tried hot dogs, just bought the cheapest no name ones in stock. I then cut them into long quarter strips then cut those into thin slices. This worked relatively well, but same as the chicken and cheese, it was slimy, so still not a practical treat. I did find out though that microwaving the pieces for about 4 minutes takes out most of the moisture making them much much more manageable. If you plan on using this method do cut your slices slightly larger then what you would like them as they shrink when being microwaved.

I still had not found a treat that was fool proof for Kobi though, something that he wanted so badly that he would pay more attention to the treat than to the situation going on around him. So after a quick google search, the most disrable dog treat in every article had something to do with Liver, but I wasn't about to fork out 20$ for  small container of flash frozen liver bits, no I needed something I could easily make at home. Liver Jerky. That's right, dehydtrated strips of liver. I made a batch yesterday and took it with me to obediance class and I was shocked at how well they worked. For 2$ at the grocery store I was able to make a huge amount of treats. The only downside is the prep, they are slightly icky and very very smelly. But if your like me and haven't been able to find something that works, give it a shot. It takes about and hour's worth of prep and 2 hours cook time.
Below is the recipe I followed.

How To Make Homemade Liver Jerky Dog Treats

At the request of Georgia Little Pea, here is my homemade liver jerky dog treat tutorial! So Miss Pea, bark at your human until she makes them, they’re pretty easy to do.

For this tutorial, I chose to make jerky from goat liver. A 500 gram piece cost me $2.02, which is pretty cheap. You can use this method for any type of organ meat like kidneys, hearts etc. The actual hands on preparation time for these treats was about 45 minutes, not counting the boiling and drying of the meat. (I've been buying beef liver, simply because there is lots at the grocery store, but any type works)
STEP 1Cutting the Liver
Cutting The Liver
Cut the liver into 2 X 2 inch chunks so that they look like this -
Cutting The Liver
Now is the time to preheat the oven to it’s lowest setting, which is usually 250F

STEP 2– Boiling the Liver
Place the liver chunks into a decent sized pot and add a generous amount of water to cover the meat.
Boiling The Liver
Place the burner on HIGH. The liver chunks should start to boil in about 10 minutes. Liver cooks really quickly, so let the liver cook at a full boil for about 5 minutes and remove the pot from the burner. (Try to avoid over cooking as it tends to get harder to slice, I also added garlic powder and beef bouillon powder to add some more flavour)
Take kitchen tongs and remove the liver chunks from the water. Place them on a plate covered with some paper towels to soak up the water and to let the liver cool.
Boiling The Liver

STEP 3– Slicing the Liver Chunks into Slivers
To dry the liver effectively, it must be sliced into smaller slivers. Try to cut the liver into uniform pieces so that everything dries evenly. For these chunks, 1/4? thick pieces seemed to work well. (Since I use mine as training treats I like to cut them into long thin pieces so that I have the option of having larger treats or can easily break them into smaller ones)
Slicing the Liver Chunks into Slivers
Put the slivers on a well oiled cookie sheet and place in the preheated oven. Drying time in the oven will be approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on how thick you have cut the pieces.
Slicing the Liver Chunks into Slivers

STEP 4 Drying the Liver
After an hour check on the liver, but it will probably need more time. The liver jerky will be done when it is no longer rubbery and snaps into pieces when you try to break it.
If the liver pieces have been totally dried, these treats have a shelf life of a few months. If you want to make this treat for cats, simply slice the liver into smaller pieces.