Jul 142017
 

This morning we put a lot more polish on loose leash walking.  This time, we worked on walking in a line, together, both without and with our dogs.  The goal is that we can all turn right, turn left, and stop in unison!

Over lunch we discussed the traditional camp fundraiser — each camp we choose a charity as a group and raise money for it, usually via a bake sale — and then got somewhat distracted and planned a camping trip (maybe — we’re not telling yet!).

After lunch we went swimming with the stronger-swimming dogs: Jack, Rockwell, Zeus, Titan, and Trinity.  We practiced calling the dogs from one end of the pool to the other, and then raced the dogs across the pool (the dogs won).  After that the dogs rested and the humans went dock diving!

After we tired ourselves out we tried some synchronized swimming.  It was extremely silly.

We look forward to an exciting week next week — we hear there will be field trips!

Jul 132017
 

This morning we worked hard on loose leash walking.  It is a complicated concept with a lot of parts.  Not only do you have to hold the leash carefully so it does not tangle the dog while still remaining loose, you must present your reinforcers promptly and in such a way that the dog can take them, all while moving faster than the dog and anticipating and guiding the dog’s movements.  It takes a while to get it right!

Afterward we practiced getting our dogs’ attention.  It is surprisingly difficult to get, and keep, a dog’s attention while there are other campers, other dogs, and loose kibble lying around.  This time, we tried to keep our dog’s attention for two minutes, armed with both a toy and kibble.  We got to try different toys and tactics to keep our dogs interested in us.

After lunch we took the dogs swimming — and this time we got to get into the pool with them!  We guided our puppies around the pool, helping them to build stamina and learn to move in the water.  We also made ourselves available to the puppies as a place of safety — they could swim to us and we would support them in the water.  Some of the puppies got a little overenthusiastic and tried to climb us like trees!  We had to remind them that it is not nice to use humans as jungle gyms.

While the puppies rested after swimming, we took a “field trip” to an ice cream shop!

In the afternoon we added hula hoops to crate exercises — allowing us to increase duration, distance, and distraction while giving the dogs a target (the hula hoop) to help focus them (and us).  Then we cleaned the barn, and had a little quiet naptime to round out an amazing day!

Jul 122017
 

Today was full of training that was surprisingly hard work.

We worked on adding duration, distance, and distraction to the dogs’ crate exercise skills.  This means we practiced those skills but added more time waiting in the crate before release, added more distance between the handler and the dog, and added distractions for the dog to ignore.  We all did very well but practice will make perfect!

We went outside to work on loose leash walking but it was very hot and we went back in quickly so the dogs could get some water and cool down.

After that, we learned about how difficult it can be to be a dog if the trainer does not present reinforcers promptly and in a position which makes them easy to eat.  To demonstrate, we had to pretend a string was our “trainer” and eat the donuts it was offering us without using our hands, just like a dog would have to.  It’s surprisingly hard to eat things without being able to use our hands to control them!

Then we took a rest in the air conditioning, and learned about how people breed puppies for sale at pet stores, and the surprisingly awful things that can go into cheap pet food.

After lunch, we took the puppies swimming for the first time.  Swimming is an important confidence-building skill for puppies.  They learn how to use their bodies to move in water and learn that they can float in water and successfully exit the pool.

After swimming we did chores and cleaned out the barn, and took a well-deserved rest.  More excitement tomorrow!

Jul 112017
 

Today we jumped right in to training with crate exercises and loose leash walking.  We are not perfect yet but everyone made a very good start!

Crate exercises teach the dogs about waiting for a signal to move or leave the crate, but mostly they teach the humans the basics of training: setting up the environment (or “antecedent arrangement”), giving cues properly, and proper timing and delivery of reinforcers.  Loose leash walking teaches the humans how to use their body to give cues to the dog, rather than using the leash.  It’s all very complicated but we are learning fast!

In the afternoon we gave everyone a bath and nail trim.  Then, while the dogs were resting, we caught up on some of the details of crate exercises and loose leash walking: defining terms like behaviorinteractionpositive, and reinforcement so we have a better idea of exactly how we are communicating with the dogs.

At the end of the day everyone went out to take a break on the grass outside, so that we can continue to build our relationships with our dogs!

Jul 112017
 

Today we learned about Doglando, where everything is and what we need to do to keep our dogs healthy and happy.  We learned how to hold a leash properly and how to clean the crates and pick up poop.  We visited the enrichment dogs and learned about how Doglando takes care of their enrichment dogs.

We went on a field trip.  We visited Petland, Orange County Animal Services and Pet Alliance to learn about how people go about getting dogs, and what happens when the people and the dogs don’t get along.  We learned about how people adopt dogs and even met an adoptable dog, Star.  We also learned about habitats and how habitats can shape behavior later in life.

Then we worked with each dog, and made our selections.  It only came down to one game of rock-paper-scissors to choose who worked with whom!  Everybody got a new and interesting partner to work with and learn from for two whole weeks.

Jul 032017
 

The last day of camp is always bittersweet.  We have some of our most memorable moments, because the dogs are by now used to working with us and trust us to help them through strange spaces, and we can do things like visit public beaches or — as we did today — visit senior care homes and interact with the residents.  Imagine trying to do this on Day One, with the dogs fresh out of the shelter!  But today everyone was happy, peaceful, and enjoying receiving kibble from complete strangers.

We also visited Full Tummy (without the dogs), to meet the people and animals who benefited from our bake sale fundraiser.

Then we showed off everything we’d learned in the last two weeks in our graduation ceremony!  Despite rain bucketing down and rattling off the barn roof, everyone did very well, both dogs and kids.  We’re always so happy to see how everyone has grown and changed in only two weeks.

Afterwards came the sad part — we had to say goodbye.  Some of the dogs, including Xena and Harry, were adopted right out of the graduation ceremony!  Some of the dogs, including Girl, had meet-and-greets scheduled after graduation.  Anyone who did not get adopted does not need to worry — Pet Rescue by Judy is there for them until they do find their forever home, which will be EASY with all the work our campers have done with them!

It’s hard to say goodbye to the campers, too.  We all learn so much from each other.  Hopefully we will see you all next year!

Jun 302017
 

Today started off with some more work on “down” (adding distance, duration, and distraction) and recalls, as well as some loose leash walking along Colonial Drive.  However, we stopped by 10:30 am because the big hit of the day was canoeing/kayaking, with the dogs, at Kings Landing!

After an hour long bus ride we loaded up, three to a canoe, with either two or three dogs with us.  There were some people with us who did this trip last year and remembered how to canoe with a dog, and there were some new people who had never even canoed before.  Everybody worked together and now we all know how it works!

Kings Landing has a big open space with clear water, a sandy bottom, and a rope swing that you can grab onto and let go and land right in the deepest part of the pool.  It also has about a mile long loop of quiet river along which you can canoe and occasionally see wildlife.  Everybody at least tried the rope swing, or jumping off the dock, and everybody ran around in the sandy area with their dogs.  The larger dogs seem to like the water most — poor AnnaLesa, with her short little legs, did not like being in the water as almost everywhere was over her head!

Many campers took the chance to canoe around the little loop and saw some alligators and turtles and fish and all sorts of birds from the safety of their boats.

On the way home, we stopped at Twistee Treat (for one bus) and McDonald’s (for the other) and everybody got some ice cream.  The dogs slept almost the entire way home — what a day!

Tonight we have a SLEEPOVER…and tomorrow morning, graduation day, starts promptly at eight!

Jun 292017
 
Today started off with some work on the recall — we went out in the Tree Tops area with the dogs on a long line, one or two at a time, and practiced recalls with them. Then we went out and walked along Colonial Drive for a bit, getting better at working through distractions.
 
After that we reviewed our homework, and talked about learned helplessness and how that can affect training.
 
Just before lunch, Mari and Trenton from Canine Companions for Independence stopped by, and we got to learn about how they train hearing alert dogs for the hearing impaired. Trenton alerted Mari to all sorts of noises, including an alarm sound he’d never heard before, and correctly led her to what was making the noise!
 
After lunch we hopped on the bus and rode to Greenwood Park, where we practiced recalls — a little bit — mostly we just ran around and had fun. Some of the dogs were more willing to go into the lake than others — some were just content hanging out peacefully with their human in the quiet.
 
When we got back we did cleanup and then had some quiet time. Looking forward to another eventful day tomorrow!
Jun 222017
 
Today we worked more with the dogs, increasing distance, duration, and distraction and working with the pedestal. Then we worked on our reflexes by trying to catch a piece of paper against a wall with a stick. (We need to work more on our reflexes…)
 
We went for our first walk outside, which was very hard, as there were lots of distractions and also it was very hot. At the end we were all very tired and it was a great time to let some of the dogs, carefully, off-leash in a fenced in area so they could run at full speed and explore. They loved it! Then we took a long lunch break in the air conditioning and the dogs napped.
 
After lunch, we worked on training some more, and then we FINALLY got our puppies into the pool! It’s good for puppies to learn to swim because it builds confidence as well as increases physical ability. It’s good for humans to swim because it is HOT outside! After the puppies were done, we put them back in with the air conditioning and then WE went swimming!
Jun 212017
 

Today we learned a lot about the mechanics of working with a dog.  You can’t just hand a dog a treat — you need to plan your whole motion, including how you present the treat, how you lure, signal, or cue the dog, where you place any obstacles or objects, and more.  If you are awkward or don’t do it right, the dog can become frustrated because treats are not being delivered fast enough, or properly, or even at all.

As a demonstration of this, we all tried to eat donuts off a string without using our hands, like dogs trying to take a treat from a handler.  The string wobbled, weaved, and bobbed, and we had a lot of trouble getting our reinforcers!  This really drives home how much we need to pay attention to when working with the dogs.

Afterward we worked on training with the “pedastool”, a platform the dogs need to climb on.  At the end of the day we had a visit from Rhyna, the head groomer at the Dirty Dog, who taught us how to make decorative collar bows!