My Class Aims To Strengthen Relationships Between Dogs And Kids

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When a dog backs away, disengages with or even growls (or worse, bites) at a child, that dog is saying the child has done something the dog does not like.

Cincinnati class for kids about dogs by dog trainer Lisa DesatnikMore than 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and about 20% of those people are kids. Often I see dogs fearful of children because kids simply do not always know how to be the best dog friend, although they love their dog. Kids (and parents) don’t know how dogs communicate, how to interact appropriately, and how to be responsible for their dog.

That is why I think education is so important and why I have developed classes and community programs to make learning how to be a dog Super Hero fun for kids, parents and dogs. It is not only about bite prevention.

My ‘My Dog’s Super Hero’ is a series of three, one hour parent/child classes taught in an engaging way with a demonstration dog, activities and pictures to help that relationship between children and dogs succeed.

It is for kids ages 6 to 10.

October 18, 25, and November 1
9:30 am to 10:30 am
Blue Ash Recreation Center

Cost for the series (including all three classes): $45 per child with a parent

For more information and to register, please click this link.

Be A Positive Role Model

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Today and every day, I am going to be a positive role model for teaching and learning to somebody with great PETential!

How about you?

dog training tip

Underwater Treadmill Is Great Therapy For Dogs

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I asked Ginger Jones, CCRP, physical therapist at the Care Center animal hospital, about what it is used for. This is what she said:

The Care Center Animal Hospital in Cincinnati has an underwater treadmill for physical therapy for dogs Underwater treadmill has many benefits in many different situations. We use the principles of buoyancy (which allows dogs to exercise in an upright posture and decreases weight-bearing stress on joints), hydrostatic pressure (provides constant pressure which prevents swelling), and viscosity (provides resistance which promotes muscle strengthening and allows for increased sensory awareness) to provide an optimal environment for the dog to work out in. Some benefits of the underwater treadmill are improved endurance, strength, joint range of motion, cardio respiratory endurance, and reducing pain.

Underwater treadmill is effective in the treatment of chronic pain, decreased strength and endurance, recent surgery or illness, injury, arthritis, neurological disorders, and weight management.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact Ginger at the Care Center, 513-530-0911.

About the Care Center:
The Care Center is a 24 hour emergency, trauma and critical care hospital for pets in Cincinnati and Dayton that offers appointments for surgery, critical care, internal medicine, and cardiology as referred by a pet’s primary care veterinarian. It also includes an in-house blood bank. Please visit to learn more about them.


Why Is Discriminative Stimulus Important In Dog Training?

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Discriminative stimulus – two very big words. What do they mean and why should you care?

First, let me give this reminder. Living beings are continually learning from their environment, and by LEARNIdiscriminative stimulus and cues in animal trainingNG, what I mean is they are changing their behavior based on the consequences of their behavior. Past experience dictates the future rate of a behavior. They repeat and even strengthen behaviors that get them something of value, and the rate of their behaviors decrease when a consequence of value does not follow the behavior.

That being said, a stimulus is simply a physical environmental event that affects or is capable of having a measurable effect on behavior. And discrimination is the tendency for learned behavior to occur in one situation but not in other situations. (Learning & Behavior, Paul Chance) Therefore, a change in the environment known as a discriminative stimulus becomes a cue for that behavior to be set into motion.

An example of this is the dog who may jump and scratch at a door when the doorbell rings because he has learned from past experience that immediately following his behavior, the door opens and great people walk through. The doorbell then is a discriminative stimulus for jumping and scratching at the door.

Okay, so let me delve into this further. Maybe your dog has learned in this same way that at approximately 2:00 pm every day, your mail will be delivered which means a scary mailman will be walking in front of the window where your dog looks out. And the sight of that mailman sends your dog into rapid breathing and frantic barking until the mailman walks away. Very stressful.

In anticipation of the site of the scary mailman, that dog may begin to pant and pace around that time of day because past experience has taught him that at about 2:00 pm a scary man will more than likely walk up to the house. So, 2:00 pm has become a cue or a discriminative stimulus for the dog to begin watching out the window, possibly with heightened alert and tense body muscles. (And, by the way, the site of the scary man has also become a cue for barking which then causes the mailman to walk away – or at least that is what experience has taught the dog.)

If your dog was home alone (with access to the window) and you arrived at about 2:15 to find your dog panting and wet from slobber, you may come to the conclusion that your dog had separation anxiety or your dog was mad at you for leaving. Only a closer look at the environment would help you detect what really happened. Then you can work on a plan managing your dog’s ability to see the mailman or change where the mailman delivers the mail (maybe a street mailbox) while you are teaching your dog a positive association with people coming to your mail slot and a different, acceptable behavior to do instead of frantic barking.

Another example is your dog learning to bark or nudge you with his nose, or a bird screaming when you sit at a desk and pick up a hand held phone. Your picking up the hand held phone when sitting at a desk then has become the discriminative stimulus or cue for your pet to begin his attention seeking behavior. Once you know that then you can work on a plan to teach your pet an alternative behavior to do when the time comes for you to pick up that phone, and practice that BEFORE the unwanted behavior is set into motion.

My challenge to you is this: The next time your pet is doing something you do not like, look at the behavior in the context of the environment. If there is something that is inadvertently cuing your pet’s behavior, ask yourself if there is something you can do to manage the environment so as to prevent practice of the learned behavior, or teach a different meaning for that cue.



A Dog Training Tip From Sam

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Sam has another request on behalf of his friends. It seems there is a lot of confusion about human rules and they would really benefit from consistency on our part.

dog training tip

Using A Rug To Stop Your Dog From Dashing Out The Door

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This is my most recent column from Hyde Park Living


On a visit to one of my clients, we worked on solving her dog’s door dashing habit. I thought I’d share the story as a lesson in how animals learn.

teach your dog to lay on a mat instead of dashing out the doorFirstly, it is important for all of us as teachers and caregivers to recognize that behavior is a tool animals use to achieve a consequence. It is not something that is done in spite or to be bad, it is just simply the animal doing what works. Every moment of every day our pets (and us) are learning. They are learning from the consequences of behavior. If the behavior gets them something of value, then that behavior will continue or even strengthen. Therefore, it is not enough to simply scold an animal for a behavior as that serves as no teaching function and has other negative ramifications. Instead, it is better to teach your pet what you would rather her do instead – something that can also achieve a valued consequence.

In the case of door dashing, the great value to Ginger was in getting the opportunity to experience everything wonderful outdoors. And she had learned that when the door opened, all she needed to do was quickly bolt through it and that opportunity was hers.

To begin solving this, I first asked what Ginger could do instead that would be acceptable to my client. We decided to teach Ginger to lay down on a small area rug next to the door. In order for Ginger to get that opportunity for experiencing everything wonderful outdoors, we wanted her to learn that she first needed to remain on the rug until released.

So I first taught Ginger that great things happen when she lays on the rug. In other words, when she lays on the rug awesome treats come her way. When she understood that, then I added in duration for her remaining on the rug with longer intervals between giving her treats. If she got up in the beginning I would ask her to lay down again, wait for her to stay for some seconds and then give her a treat (I did not reinforce her immediately for laying back down as that would have reinforced the behavior of getting up and going back down. Once I felt like she understood the lesson, then I began moving to the door in small increments. If she could remain on the rug when I touched the door, she got a treat. If she could remain on the rug when I opened it a crack, she got a treat. And so on. If at any time she got up, I would simply close the door and wait for her decision. Since I had spent so much time building value for her being on the mat, she would choose to go back there and we would start the process over with the door. (We took breaks in between short sessions.) And when I felt she was ready, I quickly opened the door released her and we ran out the door.

We ended that session on a positive note. With much more positive practice, Ginger’s behavior of laying on the mat to get the door to open will become fluent. Down the road, we could also work on this behavior with the added difficulty of guests coming through the door.

Remember, when your pet is doing a behavior you do not like it is because that behavior has a reinforcement history. My challenge to you is this: The next time you are frustrated with your pet, instead of blaming your pet, think about what is giving that behavior value – and then teach your pet that he/she can do something else to get that same or greater value. By doing that, everyone wins!

A Reminder To Always Help Your Dog Feel Safe

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Do you know how to recognize when your dog is not feeling safe? It is important to understand how your dog communicates so that when he is fearful and/or stressed you can take action to de-stress him (whether that be giving him distance from the aversive stimulus, stopping what your or someone else is doing, and teaching him that good things can happen in that environment).

dog quote by Suzanne Clothier

Some Of The Benefits Of Using Positive Reinforcement

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Just a reminder…there are so many great benefits to training your dog or other pet using positive reinforcement. These are just a few.

benefits of dog training with positive reinforcement

Make Play A Part Of Training Your Puppy

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I was visiting this little guy last night at a friend’s house. He is a puppy Silky Terrier. I love watching how quick the learning curve is when you turn play into a lesson. When Sydney would sit, I did fun things with him for a couple minutes. Then I stopped and waited for him to sit again, and guess what, play resumed!All it took was a few repetitions to build in his mind that association between the behavior of sitting and its consequence, which was awesome play.  That is what puppy training with positive reinforcement is all about.

silky terrier puppy trained with positive reinforcementLearning is really that simple. Constantly we are learning from the consequences of our behaviors, and so are our pets. If those consequences are of value to the animal, then the behaviors are going to be repeated. And guess what another benefit is to teaching in this way? Your learner will also come to associate you with those positive outcomes.

When you understand that, you realize that you don’t need to control your pet in order to affect behavior change. In fact, controlling your pet has the potential of causing more negative ramifications than positive. Instead focus on controlling the consequences so as to give lots of value to the behavior you want to see and no value for the behavior you do not want to see.

Sydney had absolutely no idea he was in class. He only knew he was having fun and he wanted to be near me because he also learned to predict being near me meant great things would happen.

When Should You Begin Training Your Puppy?

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It is a common question – when should you begin training your new dog or puppy? The answer – as soon as you bring him/her home. Really, from the time that your new friend enters your life, he is already learning what to do and not to do simply by the feedback he receives from his environment about the behavior. Behaviors that serve to get him a consequence of value will be repeated and even strengthened. And on the flip side, you too are learning (consciously or unconsciously) to reinforce behavior. So, it’s important right from the start to focus on making those good behaviors you want to see more of, the ones that get the highest value consequence. That’d be training with positive reinforcement – and it makes learning so much fun!

when to begin training your puppy

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