Tag Archives: dog photo

Learning Zone – dogs

A stressed dog will not absorb training.

A stressed person will not absorb training.

If you and your dog are in your comfort zone, really in your comfort zone, you’re probably just repeating the habits, repeating the things that you’ve already learned, already done, many times before. That’s why they are comfortable. Same environment, same people/animals, same games, same, same…

Learning happening here? Not unless something changes.

Learning takes you out of your comfort zone, but not too far out of it. It should make you slightly nervous, somewhat frustrated … still you’re willing and in control.

So what happens if you hear/see a handler whose dog was being difficult and she’s proud because she showed him who is boss?

The somewhat stressed handler still felt she was in control, and she felt accomplished. But what about the stressed dog?

Photo by J. Renzoni
Photo by J. Renzoni

So the dog ended up in sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) mode. What does that mean for the next time? Now does it become clear why it’s likely the same problem will be repeated? Why so many dogs trained in this way wash out …

Think about it.



Doing the Critical Core Games from S. Garrett

Several days ago the free part of S. Garrett’s Recallers opened up. Free – Critical Core – Games

So, of course, I’m doing them with all my dogs and any extra dogs/people I can find. This means a minimum of 12 games per day (3 per dog). I’m starting on Game 3 today. This training option is time limited, so if you’ve always wanted to see what a world famous trainer teaches – here’s your chance.

(for whatever reason I couldn’t get this to just link here)    http://susangarrettdogagility.com/2015/07/recallers-or-the-day-we-broke-our-technology/

And the link is posted several times on Gentle Touch Dog Training facebook page. Use it, do them and thrill your dog.


Luv the games - woof!
Luv the games – woof! Sign in and start playin’      Photo of Obie, by Jeanine Renzoni

You will be glad you signed up, it’s well worth your time. Seriously!

Why One Key Trainer for the Pup? – a planner and a sleuth to figure out what’s going on…

Hi everyone.

It’s springtime in Wisconsin – snowing out and getting colder today,  going the opposite direction of warm and nice, just like sometimes occurs in training classes. I thought I’d talk about the reasons for having one key trainer (and making sure everyone else in the household assists and is consistent with the training process).

This topic comes up when I have a puppy or dog in class who, instead of progressing all the way through, begins digressing or becomes more attention deficit instead of becoming better at focusing. Or if the canine becomes apathetic about learning new things. Or more aggressive or fearful when it should be going the other way. Then something isn’t right, something is bothering them – either physically or about the process.

So why does this happen? (we’ll omit the physical, since that needs to be discussed with the vet if anything seems off about their health).

*Maybe the importance, the loyalty to the trainer isn’t high enough… Maybe the food or games aren’t tied to you enough. Maybe there’s not enough engagement in the process — it’s all about the delight in the process. Maybe luring is used too much and not faded.

*Maybe there’s too much criticism – or old-style training using force. That is very deflating for the relationship. Maybe control is trying to be achieved by shouting or jerking or hitting when the dog is over-excited at home — many dogs get higher and higher in their response when this is used.

*Maybe the thing the dog loves most is not what his handler is ever offering or maybe they are offering, as a reward, something the pup doesn’t even like (like being petted on top of his head). They need to figure out a REAL reward.

*Maybe the act of being un-attentive gets better rewards or more attention or more action from their trainer. Sooo then digression or ADD gets reinforced = what’s reinforced increases.

* Maybe during non-training time they are getting rewarded (by family, environment) for things that are contrary to the training goals.

*Maybe the mechanics of offering a reward is a problem. Quick/immediate rewards are great when first teaching a behavior, but then the time between the ‘do’ and when the reward comes needs to be lengthened and secondary reinforcers built-in.

So why one lead trainer? Someone needs to sleuth out the real picture, find out the pieces and put them together. Someone needs to decide what will be trained and how and be consistent. Someone has to (as Bob Bailey said) Know what you have, know what you want and create a plan to get there. Getting too worried about the perfect why of the problem won’t help, because we won’t ever really know truly why will we.

Reggie with his fleece tug.
Reggie with his fleece tug-no stuffing in this toy.                                                 Photo – Jeanine Renzoni

Back on Wester Ave…I just gave Reggie, (the almost 10 yr old Parson Jack Russell) a stuffed toy to disassemble. I buy them a the local resale store for $.50. He enjoys destroying them extremely much. I think I’ve been too hesitant about letting him have them, although when he first came to us almost two years ago he was random in his tearing up/stuffing removal activity. I lost a two quilts and almost a couch pillow. Which led to removing tennis balls as an indoor toy (he would hide them and then tear through stuff to retrieve them), limiting options for destruction, and encouragement for retrieving games, and always closed bedroom doors (no access to bedding). And lots of training – tricks, basic cues, agility.

He’s stuffing the pieces of the toy under a dog bed and pushing it around, but not trying to rip through anything. Yay! More disposable stuffed toys in his future, maybe one each week or two?


Training successes, dead-ends? Have you gone to a training program, had success and then something went side-ways?

What will come next?

hikingatspearheadjan132013 007

#1 .  Black lab puppy and running child … what comes next?

#2.  Rabbit hopping and dog let out the door … what comes next?

#3.  Door bell rings and the dogs are in the house … what comes next?

#4.  Get coat on, dog is jumping and barking, and open the door… what comes next?

#5.  Meat on the counter, dog is known counter surfer … what comes next?

#6.  Dog always on the couch/bed, new baby brought home … what comes next?

Crying crash? Laughing tumble? Bellow _____ come here? Just a minute, then yelling? Run out the door, hey, wait! Who took the ham? Get off from there!

These are all reactive and unlikely to change the scenario either this time or the next or next. The environment offered the reward – aha – fun, excitement, hunting/chase, food, comfort.

We can’t be both reactive and proactive at the same time. It’s not possible because our thinking has to flip/flop. If I’m ahead of the process I can change it, if I’m surprised by the process then I’m part of the fall out. If I’m surprised once, you wouldn’t think I would keep being surprised when the scenario occurs again, and again, and again.

Understanding the pattern of what is likely to happen next is a key to becoming proactive and controlling the environmental rewards. Then being several steps ahead I can decide what needs to be trained, practiced and managed so I can actually fix the issue instead of just react to it and let my dog pay for my lack of foresight.

Any issue I keep being reactive towards instead of getting ahead of and fixing? I need to figure out the benefit, so I can judge the cost? Is it worth fixing or is reacting to it what I want to do for the rest of the dog’s life.

Leashes and fences and reactivity:

Underground fences (electric) do they promote reactivity in people? (I’ve seen the reactivity in dogs ratchet up higher and faster than with regular fences, but what about their owners?) Thoughts?



Thankful for: wolf sized Nylabones to gnaw in comfort recline.
Thankful for: wolf-sized Nylabones to gnaw in comfort, total recline.
Thankful for: dog coats, wool blankets and dappled sunshine.
Thankful for: dog coats, wool blankets and dappled sunshine.
Thankful for: Fast feet, fun games and toys all mine.
Thankful for: Fast agile feet, fun winter frolics and sureness of direction.
Thankful, to do, to be, just thankful.
Thankful, to do, to be, just thankful, for time and reflection.


Woods hikes – walks on the wild side

BoatrideChelseaLakeOct112014 014

Have you been too worried to go on a hike with your dog in the woods? Worried about your dog getting lost? Or worried about risks of being on the hike?

Taylor County in northern Wisconsin has great places to hike and most of them are dog friendly. Not to say there aren’t risks, but in 30 years of hiking with dogs I haven’t had anything really serious happen on the hike and I’ve hiked with lots of dogs, lots of times. I’m not saying we didn’t have some things happen. It’s why we go into the wild.

Exceptions to the hardly any risks, aka doggy adventures. The time one of our Airedales charged into a pond swimming after and briefly catching a beaver. He had the bite puncture wounds and vet visit to prove it. He responded to being called before anything worse could happen (it was a big beaver). If he hadn’t come in would we have joined him in the pond to become beaver gladiators? Who knows.

Getting skunked or porcupine quilled happened several times (certain dogs had a knack for it). We ended up always carrying needle nosed pliers with those dogs hiking (it’s much better to get as many quills out as soon as possible, you wouldn’t believe how quickly they embed if left unattended). Skunk spray stinks amazingly bad and there’s nothing to carry along to really neutralize it.

I saw a bear on the trail once (it was a big bear with a white splotch on its chest), but I called the dogs before they saw it and the bear skeddadled  – I did head a different direction. What about wolves? I’ve seen tracks, had one time when the dogs seemed worried – about what I don’t really know, but no wolves and you’re not likely to ever see any.

We don’t have any poisonous snakes and the toads are only mildly toxic (cause mouth foaming and face rubbing).  There are hunters – currently bow season, small game and bird seasons are ongoing.  During deer gun season we don’t hike in the woods and orange vests adorn the deer colored dog(s). We did have one dog get her foot caught in a beaver trap – we got her out and no broken toes.

There is a lot of water, bogs, streams so dehydration is unlikely, all our dogs have been good swimmers and willing to get muddy. Giardia from drinking contaminated water is possible though and has happened on several occasions more recently. Which is not fun.

In the early years there were some ticks, but not like now. Now ticks are very prolific, so the risk of Lymes, anaplasmosis,  ehrlichosis or some other version of tick borne disease is quite high. So I use flea/tick repellents and check the dogs over after the hike (visually and I use a flea comb) and do it again the next day (by feel) and the next. The most likely areas for ticks are on the face, ears, neck and shoulders of the dog.

So despite the exciting hazards it’s the ticks that are the most worrisome for dog and person alike. Check, check and check for them.

The fun and experience of woods/trail hiking with your dog is worth it. Beautiful, great exercise and a feast for the senses. Some of the best times I’ve ever had with my dogs have been hiking, x-county skiing and snowshoeing.

Still worried, thinking you’ll lose your dog? Or get lost yourself?

Go on an established trail and go with someone who knows the area and hikes it. Update ID, vaccinations and licenses on your dog’s collar. Bring a leash and use it if leashes are required and if your dog doesn’t listen to summons to come it’s time to improve their come here anyway, now you’ve got an even stronger reason. I’ve never had a dog get lost…keep moving and they’ll move with you. FYI rabbits circle, so if your dog chases one they will head away for a while but then come around closer again (I had a beagle as a kid so I know).

Your dog not fit enough? Start with short hikes and play hide and seek with your dog to sharpen their ability to keep track of you.BoatrideChelseaLakeOct112014 012a

STAR puppy #20 – staying on leash with another person

puppykindergartenJune2014 039I like pups and dogs that want to be with me,  keep track of me, follow where I lead and check in if we’re on an unleashed hike. They are less likely to wander off or get totally involved in some expedition all their own. So in many ways they are easier, except, of course when it comes to being left behind. Then the desirable trait of staying close becomes an issue.

This is not an issue of misbehavior, they aren’t wrong because they are distressed and don’t want to be left or stay further away. They just need to be assured that being left is OK, it’s temporary and they are good and fine even if they aren’t in sight or close, and they also need to know whining/barking or other dramatic actions aren’t the key to resolving this situation.

As the AKC STAR puppy evaluator’s guide states: “Shaping is the best way to teach this exercise for dogs who are concerned about owners leaving. The owner steps back 1 foot and returns, then 2 feet., etc.”

It continues, “If owners are using food rewards, remember to tell owners not to return to the dog and give it a treat if it is squealing and/or pulling on the leash.”

When I have this problem I set up the place they’re being left with a filled kong, or remote treat dispenser or person with good treats and move around and come back – rewarding each time. If I make a mistake in judgement and they begin whining or barking or otherwise acting upset I wait for the cycle to finish and then come back to reward basically calm and silent pup. If I can’t  make it back because of resumed whining/barking I turn my head or body away to show that attention is not forthcoming for drama pup. This situation is greatly helped by the timing of remote treat dispensers.

Further up the cycles; the place or/and person are not treat loaded or the remote treat is not automatically dispensing, only I am. If I can do 9 of 10 step aways with no issue I increase the distance by double until I start to see some early signs of worry and then back off from that distance. Then keep building (variably – sometimes more, sometimes less). From here add distraction or different more upsetting location but reduce distance and time.

For Obie, who had learned he could dismantle a leash to get freedom, I did short distances and rewards keeping an eye out for any leash chewing action (which there was none). This practice was each time I fed the horses, so it was on a regular repeated multi-times daily schedule. It quickly improved his reliability when briefly left alone tied. Each time I returned only when he was completely quiet and calm he got kibble and praise rewards (the food was his preferred reward).ObieAug232014 003

This next week starts the Treat & Train remote trainer program for him to improve his ability to be calm and quiet in crates (no matter where they are located) and calm despite distractions.

For dogs who have before had this issue, got better, then for other reasons the problem resumed, the training cycle is much longer and needs much more plotted steps … no lumping or jumping onward.

In the process of trying to fix this issue I strongly recommend avoiding punishment beyond briefly removing attention for whining/bark/lunging/jumping because adding punishment (like jerking, reprimanding, scolding) will just make the anxiety worse instead of creating calm. Plus punishing your dog for wanting to be near you seems very mean, doesn’t it?

Jeanine Renzoni is an applied behaviorist dog trainer using positive training methods and an AKC CGC evaluator.


Why would I foster a shelter dog?

Why would I foster a shelter dog?

Jax learning to respond to a kiss-kiss noise (since most people can make this sound it's easy to use as a positive interuptor).
Jax learning to respond to a kiss-kiss noise (since most people can make this sound it’s easy to use as a positive interrupter).

It’s a hassle, it disrupts the household, it takes time and they’re usually unruly. I’m giving away my expertise for free.

They need it.

They bark, they chew, they make messes, they come from checkered pasts. They expect bad behavior from people and worry. They’re fearful or overly assertive. I’m more likely contacted for the loud and rowdy ones, who are fearful underneath.

They need it.

They jump up, leave bruises, pull on leashes, rush doorways and are careless with their teeth. They don’t know; how to accept grooming, how to greet people, how to come when called, how to play well …

They need it.

Whoever adopts them has no clue what the difference was.

The new owners may propagate the same old bad behaviors all over again. But maybe not.

They need it. Maybe it’s the difference in their lives.

I get to know them. Get my patience stretched, use all my many strategies to get them to make good choices. Then they start to be like my dog – a dog that knows good things and that I would like and then it’s time for them to go.


Reading your dog – why use video

Top of head pat? (note a rub is different than a pat). Well pat attempted for photo several times, he ducked away so I could touch his ear and neck. Right after, he offered me another chance at petting being very obvious about where I should pet, perhaps hoping for a better attempt.

I get a fair amount of push back from people when I say things like “patting him on the head isn’t a reward, he’s not liking it.” And maybe I should be more factual, “when you patted him on the head he ducked away and left you, or he started sniffing the ground, or he moved away and came to me, or he sat briefly then became rowdy with the kids or other dog.” Which means he did not feel it as a reward because when we’re rewarded we want more attention from the one rewarding us and we don’t feel the need to escape or distract.

One of the easiest ways to know how your interactions are going is to video them then review it several times; first time to see how silly you look, second to focus on what you wanted to look for, third to find other things you might want to improve and fourth to find the really good things you want to keep in place and be proud of for you and your dog.

Look for body posture that is open and interested, training that is fun for both of you. Look for consistency and clarity in how you ask for known cues. Look for patience on your part and persistence in trying to figure it out on the dog’s part. Look for the relationship. What do you think your dog is telling you with his actions, where does he look, what does he do if something is confusing? Just look and then think about what you might want to do. Jot it down so you remember.

I’m also in northern Wisconsin where a common training method is threatening – looming, angry voice in the ‘do it or else mode.’ I was attending an outdoor sports show today and at the tail end of it a man went walking by with his off-leash retriever, who he kept threatening to keep the dog from leaving him. The dog was low body-ing it and showing fear by ducking and tucking his tail, also he sat 4 feet away and wouldn’t come closer to his handler. I kind of wish I could have shown the guy a video of his training, I wonder what he would have seen.

Sometimes if a certain way of doing things is pervasive, it’s hard to see a problem in it. The video can give you a separate picture, a different point of view. And even if you would never think of being threatening, often the video process can make you a much better trainer because it lets you see what you actually did, not what you thought you did.

I know it’s a hassle to set up, but it’s really cool to see and very worth it. Then maybe you can tell the trainer what kind of rewards your dog really likes, because you’ll already have noticed that patting him on top of the head just doesn’t cut it.



7 Things to do – Resident dog vs new dog or new baby or new…?

Snowdogs,StB,Max, Jazzie 002
Max meeting a puppy St. Bernard, out in open area after pup had exercise. Max is very good with new dogs/pups – notice the ‘don’t jump on me body posture.’

The excitement, the expectations, the changes can all be overwhelming and can all be turned into upset, disappointments and even all the way to real bad if not handled with finesse.

In this article I’ll list 7 things you can do to make it more likely dog vs pup and dog vs child will go well and have everybody liking each other.

There are certainly resident dogs who do fine no matter what is thrown at them, and if so lots of times they are lucky enough to have the situation that works – escape options, extra people who offer just the right amount of support, plenty of early socialization so they are not scared or worried and perhaps have laid-back temperaments so they really don’t care much. Hopefully you know if your resident dog isn’t one of these dogs and if you aren’t sure, act as if he isn’t. Taking more care with the introductions will not hurt anything and may save much grief.

When it’s a new dog or pup that the older dog won’t tolerate well often families sent the newbie on his way. This doesn’t have to happen if they’re willing to control the meetings/contacts better or for much longer. I’ve seen dogs who initially were quite upset by each others presence if given time and prevented from aggressive displays come to like and play with each other (I’ve got two such dogs, and a cat, living in my house right now – and it took about 7 or 8 months of being careful with the environment to get them more and more comfortable, and I still watch for bad situational set-ups).

Of course, if it’s the baby, then the dog is banished, either from the family totally or from the house or from certain areas. A family loss in any event.

1. Low key, non-confrontational introductions. (Don’t start with child or pup running or grabbing or crawling at dog or the child/baby screaming/crying upset or any version of bursting through a door). For babies, offer their scent on some clothing first and offer it non-excitedly. Just put the baby-scented item down and let the dog smell and then go on to other things. A sleeping baby’s foot is also a good thing to smell. We always want safety for the little one, so make sure of it.

Let dog see children from a distance, let dog walk by children that are going in the same direction, let calm child drop food. Let dog walk and pup walk and you walk (movement forward in a group is good). Let dog approach, don’t pursue dog or drag the dog closer. Let dog leave if they want to, have a way for them to escape if they need to. Observe how the dog is acting – where is their tail, ears, eyes and how does their mouth/muzzle look? Loose body posture or tight? Wary or relaxed? We want loose and relaxed.

2. Play-acting practice. Let dog see mom-to-be carting a bundle, rocking with doll and let him check this out. Practice low-key, practice without excitement, practice rewarding disinterest. Reward dog for going and lying down out-of-the-way. Practice with the stroller (with doll) going for walks. Have another family member pick up lots of mom-to-be’s dog duties so he won’t be so surprised that she isn’t paying much attention to him.

Meet and greet with other dogs (find dog friendly dogs) – how does your dog do with them? Which kinds of meet and greet worked best for your dog? Use this knowledge when adding a new dog to the family.

3. Use confinement – gates, crates, kennels, doors. Create safe zones. There is no reason to rush into having everybody free in the room/house at the same time. If the dog’s free in the area, pup or baby is elsewhere and vice versa. The longer they are in the same household with no negative, exciting incidents the more likely everything will continue to go well.

If your dog isn’t used to being confined in the house, start practicing before the baby arrives … no need for barking, whining, pawing when everyone needs quiet to sleep.

4. Practice control cues – sit, down, go, stay, come. This is for both pup and resident dog. The more things they know to do well the better they will be able to cope and easier they are to have around. Use positive training techniques as these will help create confidence instead of anxiety. Offering food is calming and can change emotions toward more positive. I usually have kids toss or drop food to prevent pull away hand motions that encourage pups to grab.

5. Practice respectful child/parent and actively supervise. For child – if they are old enough to understand, set up rules on how to interact with the dog, places where child doesn’t get to bother the dog. For parents – parents need to know what are reasonable child/dog interactions and not encourage the child to do things that are abusive to the dog, (no hugging neck or rear, no kissing nose, no riding or climbing on dog, no poking at eyes or ears or mouth, kicking, hitting, jumping on … etc.) See Doggone safe.com website.

Puppies need to be respectful of older dogs too. Older dogs will often vocally and physically prove this to a pup who is jumping on them or repeatedly bothering them. Usually this is a quick outburst after several warnings, and the pup may fall down and flip belly up or go yipping away. This is right action by the older dog. Intervening in this is not recommended because then the pup may well continue to be obnoxious and the older dog may suffer through it until they just can’t stand it anymore. If your older dog is continuing to tolerate bad puppy behavior, give them a safe area to go to get away and prevent your new dog from harassing them. Find some other older dog (often female) who will help your pup have better dog manners over several play dates.

6. Play games that encourage cooperation. Give the dog some tasks that he can do well and reward him for them. Avoid setting up competitions for resources (food, toys), instead have each do his part of the game or task (keep food bowls, bones, toys separate or put up). Note that if the dogs start playing, let them, but intervene if it is obviously too rough … and I have rules about wild play in the house – wild play belongs outside.

7. If there is aggression display intervene by distracting, intervene with water if there is a dogfight, if not intervene by getting them to move on … Then review what went wrong, what was the set up that made aggression likely, what do you need to do in the meantime to manage it and what needs to be trained to fix it? (note that aggression met with aggression on the owners/handlers part has a  significant likely hood of increasing the aggression/fear and the behavior that was unwanted). Having a scuffle or even several does not mean they can’t ever be friends, just don’t let it keep happening by knowing what precedes it.

Children and growling dogs? Children need to know that growls mean quit it or else. Adults need to know that a dog that growls and isn’t playing is giving a vocal warning that things aren’t OK with them. Reprimanding the dog harshly is a poorly thought out reaction, what you really want is a dog that can cope and has other  good strategies. Many dogs lick children in the face to get them to go away, many dogs leave and go to their safe place (if they can find one), some dogs know how to distract children and will steal something from them to change what they’re doing and some dogs with unsupervised children have taught them with controlled nips or pushy rowdiness (not something I’d recommend).

Too much looming on child's part. Side by side is better. Chest pet good.
Too much looming on child’s part. Side by side is better. Chest pet good, but pup doesn’t look engaged.

What I like for the above is a safe zone that the dog knows he can go to and get away from kids and also increasing the dog’s tolerance of children by reducing their fears (games with kids where the dog gets to approach or find them and the child stays still or moves away and rewards the dog). In the process the child gets taught better games to play with the dog and what not to do with the dog.

Setting up the introductions, practicing the parts of things the dog will need to know or do, managing the rest until it can be fixed or modified can make most household additions quite workable and pleasant without sacrificing any members of them.