Sunday, December 27, 2009


(While this is not a TAG or Clicker post, it is one example of turning a negative situation around quickly using a positive distraction.)

Heading home after a training I was coming down a pathway by a community center and saw a man jogging along with his golden retriever on leash. The golden looked fairly young, I would estimate two years or under. Upon seeing me in my power wheelchair the dog lunged, hackles up and began barking. (I would gather possibly first encounter with a powerchair?) I'm used to that and have a strategy, until the handler began jerking on the leash, and striking and screaming at the dog, which clearly was escalating the situation.

I only had a split second to change things, and our placement in the environment made it such so that there was not a good quick out for me to make. There were quite a few people in the area, and I'm grateful that my reflex had me reaching for a tennis ball. I used the emergency "STOP!" yell. As the handler abruptly stopped and looked up, I yelled "I'm TOSSing the ball behind you, be ready to turn and chase it!" With the ball in air, the two turned to chase, while I quickly ROLLed away.

I turned back to glance after a few seconds to see them jogging calmly with the dog carrying the ball. whew! Saved by the ball!

Being in my neighborhood I was only about 50 feet away before someone approached me, inquiring as to why I would reinforce that dog's behavior. We have had long dog conversations and observations several times over the years. It was a great question! I proceeded to explain...

There are times to train and their are times to act quickly for safety sake. This was definitely a safety situation. It's important to respond quickly and hopefully in a manner that will diffuse the reactionary behaviors. My screeching verbal "STOP" really was for the handler. I was not trying to correct him for what he was doing and go into a lecture on why what he was doing was increasing instead of decreasing his dog's reaction, I needed to get his attention so that I could give him a direction and it indeed did cause him to stop and glance up. The encounter actually felt rather long, however after talking to the neighborhood gentleman he said it was probably about 10 or 15 seconds.

Hopefully that brief yet very vocal and visual experience will leave those who were in the area with an image of a simple solution instead of only the fearful few moments.

I knew there was some reason to replace the tennis ball that I'd used a couple of months ago. While I'll admit that sitting with a tennis ball partially under me, is not an easy egg to hatch, it has on more than one occasion saved my behind!

Never hurts to be prepared for a positive way out of sticky situations.
(Be right back!) Just went and replaced that tennis ball!

(Thanks to Dr. Mary Lee Nitschke for teaching me that tennis ball strategy years ago!)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

TAGteach and Autism

While I'm revisiting my prior attempts at blogging about behavior, I remember a post on the TAGteach yahoo list that was very exciting and hopeful, utilizing excellent tagging skills. I am reminded of it today as it is now posted on the TAGteach blog.
You can view the blog at this link: TAGteach & Autism - Skill and Faith

Skill is so very important, and faith motivates to acquire and utilize the highest skills possible.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Successful Training: Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

A few tips on setting up for training. Set up your treats for a full day of training, the night before. You'll be all ready for the day, know how successful training was for your dog, AND you will have a built in system to know exactly how many sessions you completed!

Sometimes the most challenging part for the people is to remember to train. Waiting until the end of the day to train for 3o minutes or more is a great event.

I reassure you however that 10 sessions of only 1-2 minutes will have your dog learning more quickly as well as you'll have far less troubleshooting of undesired behaviors.

Really, anyone can train for 10 minutes a day!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Orient to Handler Cue

"To The Hand" is a target to the handler's open hand palm. This is a behavior that is great for that unexpected high distraction. In response to the cue, the dog whips around towards the handler in search of the open hand. It's a nice tool to have in the box.

It's also a great metaphor...
Encompassing life goals. To get on target and stay on target and re-orient to focus on health and wellness!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Video: A Captured Behavior & A Shaped Behavior

This was a combination of training two behaviors:
1. Lick
2. Say Hi
The cue is: Hi! Do you have chapped lips??

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reinforcers, Species: Canine

Reinforcers specific to one canine:

  • Water
  • Ice cubes
  • Cue - "To The Hand"
  • Cue - "Go Though" (a door)
  • food - multiple varieties
  • string toy
  • splash bomb ball
  • frozen kong - licks
  • Cue - "Over" (object)
  • "Go Out" - (distance)
  • Retrieve
  • ear scritches
  • massage
  • collar off / collar on

Reinforcers, Species: Human

Building the ongoing list of reinforcers:

  • Visiting with a friend
  • Purchasing favorite healthy, spendy salad dressing
  • Surprising someone with a spontaneous visit
  • clicker training with a species other than a dog
  • Special "hanging" time with my canine partner
  • sitting out in the yard
  • Asking for some assistance with a project
  • ice cold water
  • trip to farmer's market
  • a nap!
  • finding the perfect TAGmachine for self-tagging