Aug 23, 2011 Issue #15 Published by Sue Skiff
A NOTE FROM SUE
A Note From Sue
It looks like this weekly e-zine has suddenly become a biweekly e-zine. I intend to remedy that.
This week, I offer you an article on dog training treats. It talks about why I believe that treats are a good idea, about how to use treats effectively, and about what to look for in a dog training treat.
Also included is the first part of a story that I originally wrote for storytelling time at Lindsay Wildlife Museum. It is a true story about myself when I was in college. When I originally wrote the story, I included a lot of information that I wanted to stress to help kids learn from the story. Much of this is removed in the interest of brevity. I also changed the language of the story a bit to fit an adult audience, and changed it from the third person to the first person. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy it.
As always,tell me what you want me to write about.
What do you want to know?
Why Use Dog Training Treats?
When I was young, using dog training treats was considered to be a bad thing. People said that dogs trained that way would not obey if there were no treats around. While this is not necessarily true, if someone were to say that to me now, I would probably respond with “so what?” After all, I expect to be paid when I do my job, so why shouldn’t my dog expect the same thing?
Yes, I admit, carrying dog training treats around with you all of the time can be a pain. However, if you use a treat bag (available at many pet stores, both on- and off-line), then you can easily transport your dog training treats, without messing up your pockets, or trying to deal with sandwich bags.
In my experience with dog obedience training, using positive reinforcement to train dogs is the most effective, most humane, and easiest way to train a dog. And, treats are the positive reinforcement that most dogs consistently react favorably to. Therefore, I recommend using treats in dog training.
Now, let me say here that while I recommend the use of treats when training dogs, generally I do not recommend bribing dogs by holding treats in front of them to get them to do what I want. What I do recommend is to reinforce your dog with a treat, as soon as you can, after your dog has performed a desired behavior. And, I recommend keeping the treats out of sight, until you are ready to give one to your dog. There are exceptions to this, particularly when working with aggression, but when I use treats differently than described above, it is in specific situations, and done in a specific way.
The other thing that I want you to understand is that dog training treats don’t have to be large. In fact, I recommend that they be only big enough to give your dog a little taste. There are three reasons for this. The first is that you don’t want to have to be waiting around while your dog chews up a treat before continuing with its training. Another reason is that you don’t want to make your dog fat. And, of course, a third reason is that it is a lot harder to carry around a lot of large treats than it is to carry around a lot of tiny dog training treats.
So, what constitutes a dog training treat? Well, anything that your dog enjoys eating, and is healthy for your dog, of course. This can mean pieces of dog kibble, treats purchased from the dog treats section of your local pet store, or just about any food that you have in your kitchen (and that isn’t harmful to your dog). I have used cut up vegetables and fruit, pieces of cheese, and cut up roast beef as treats, as well as many other foods and official dog treats, when training dogs. I strongly suggest that you get to know your dog’s preferences for food. Figure out which treats are acceptable to your dog, and which treats your dog finds absolutely irresistible. Then, use lower priority treats when your dog is being trained to do easy behaviors in distraction-free areas, and use the high priority treats when your dog has to do something hard (like come back to you in the midst of play at the dog park).
I do really want to stress your dog’s health here. Most popular dog treats are full of things that your dog shouldn’t eat; things like sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives. Find dog training treats that have a few simple ingredients; all foods that you are familiar with. No use to ruin your dog’s health while training it. Dogs have short enough life spans without being fed harmful chemicals and sugars. Now, go have fun training your dog!
The Lady and the Crows, Revised, Part 1
One day, I was riding my bike along a main Davis street that runs passed the University when I spotted two baby crows walking around on the ground near the street. Concerned that the crow babies might be run over, or caught by cats, I decided to move them to a nearby tree. So, I picked them up, and began to carry them to a tree that was away from the main road. Immediately, some adult crows noticed what I was doing. They became really upset. They screamed at me, and dove at me. They called their friends over. Soon, there were about thirty crows there; all letting me know that they weren’t going to stand for me hurting their babies. I put the babies in a tree, and left hurriedly on my bike.
A couple of weeks later, I was riding my bike to school, on a much less busy street, when I saw a baby crow walking around in the street. Not having learned my lesson, I stopped, picked up the crow, and moved it to a tree. I did it quickly; not wanting to repeat my previous experience. I wasn’t quick enough, though. The adult crows noticed me, and came over to tell me off. It was only a few crows, this time, thankfully.
The crows did not forget me. From that day forward, a sentry crow watched out for me. It would sit at the top of a tree, at the edge of a University parking lot, apparently just waiting for, me. Everyday, up to four times a day, while I was walking or riding my bike to or from school, that crow harassed me. It was rather humiliating, actually. There I would be, lost in thought, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, that crow would swoop down right over my head, and caw loudly. It would then fly to the top of a nearby tree, or lamppost, and plan its next move. Over and over again, that crow would swoop down over my head, and scream at me, until I got past the area that it was guarding. This went on for the entire rest of my stay at Davis, which, fortunately for my nerves, was only for a few more months.
Now, this activity did not go unnoticed by my fellow students. I got plenty of strange looks from others as I went through this. Every once in a while, a fellow student would ask me if it was my pet crow. I would answer, “No, it just hates my guts.”
That was the beginning of my fascination with crows. I wondered whether it was the same crow all of the time that harassed me, or if the crows switched off doing their sentry duties. And, I wondered how they recognized me, and so easily picked me out of the crowds of students traveling across the campus.
When I came to Lindsay Wildlife Museum in 1993, I first volunteered working with the birds. Not the raptors, the birds of prey that most people want to work with. I wanted to work with corvids; crows and their relatives, because I remembered my experiences with those crows in Davis. And, I got to work with some great corvids during the time that I volunteered with the birds. Over the years that I volunteered, I got to know two ravens, three crows, a black-billed magpie, two yellow-billed magpies, and a scrub jay; all of which showed incredible intelligence and cleverness. Oh there were other birds, that weren’t corvids, which I also enjoyed working with. But, the corvids remained my favorites.
Next week: My further adventures with crows and jays in Davis
It’s part of life in the 21st century. You get the kids off to school, work all day, pick the kids up at daycare, make dinner, and collapse. But, what about the dog? How do you find the time to train it to be a good citizen? Maybe, you managed to get your dog into a puppy kindergarten class, and then a basic obedience class. But, you really didn’t have time to practice the way the instructor wanted you to, and now, well now, it’s all kind of fallen by the wayside.
You know that your dog can do better. Perhaps, your dog has some behavior issues. Whether or not they’re serious issues, they make your life harder, don’t they?
So, what do you do when you’re already stretched, and you know your dog needs more? The answer is “day training.” Day training starts with a meeting with me where you describe your dog training needs, and your dog’s behavior issues. I then come to your house for an hour or so, on agreed upon days, to train your dog. You get to get on with your life, while your dog gets training and attention from a professional. And, that training and attention is customized to your and your dog’s exact needs.
Maintaining what your dog learned is also built into the day training program. At the end of each week of training, I meet with you to go over what your dog has learned, as well as what you need to do to maintain the learning. After the agreed upon number of weeks has elapsed, I return for a follow-up or two, to make sure that you and your dog are on the same page, and everyone’s happy. For more information on day training, visit
my dog training website
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Silver Linings is a publication of Silver Linings Pet Services, and is published for the purpose of marketing services. The current address of Silver Linings Pet Services is:
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