Midwest Veterinary Conference-Intro

No way, no how, will everything fit in one blog post, but I've got to start somewhere.  My flight adventures are memorable and highly amusing now that I'm safely home.  Not quite so fun as I was running as fast as I could from gate G20 to H6 at Chicago O'Hare airport this morning.  My flight to Chicago was "early" so we sat on the Tarmac for long enough that I had 5 minutes to get from one point to the other.  I was the last one on the plane, then they say we're waiting for our pilot!  Apparently his connecting flight was late too!  I called Kristen after I could breathe again and I think my body tried to kill itself between recovering from that run and laughing so hard.  The poor guy sitting next to me heard me hacking and laughing so much, he probably thought I was nuts!

Tired Griffin... he helped pick me up at the airport in Ohio!

You people are pushy, and waiting for seminar notes aren't you?  A couple of Kathy's key phrases deserve more attention than I will likely give them, but they all deserve a chance!

"Leader vs Feeder"
Don't get overly concerned about maintaining leadership in commanding ways.  Being able to provide reinforcement for desirable behaviors causes the dog to look to you for information about life.  Food is a powerful tool, and a primary reinforcer.  One of Kathy's favorite lines seems to be "every dog is food motivated" if it is alive.  We can use that to reinforce behaviors we like, use management to prevent undesirable behaviors, and co-exist peacefully with our furry, four-legged friends.

"The power is in reinforcing good behavior."
Follows the same model of thinking that the above quote does.  We can use fancy and impressive-sounding terminology like "leader" too.  We just may lead with a different motive, and through different means.  Controlling resources and being able to provide primary reinforcers gives us a lot of power.  The key is to not abuse that power and use it wisely.

Buzz enjoying his vacation while I enjoyed mine!
(photo courtesy of Crystal)

"SMART-See, Mark, And Reward Training"
Rather than calling it "clicker training" or "positive reinforcement training," Kathy has started using "SMART" to define the kind of training she does.  I think this is ingenious.  There are so many trainers out there using terminology incorrectly that it can be difficult for potential students to identify the instructors true philosophy on training.  She addresses the key aspects of competent, positive focused, operant conditioning trainer will use.  See the behavior.  Mark the behavior (with a clicker, whistle, verbal, visual, etc).  Reward the behavior and don't forget that the reward must  be rewarding for the dog.

Gina and Abigail... after we made waffles!

"Men have clearer, louder voices that are easier to understand."
This does not mean she thinks only men should be dog trainers, though it would have been funny to hear her say that.  Many people tend to think men have better control of the dog because of a commanding/authoritarian voice.  Men tend to use their voice in the same way every time.  Women tend to alter their voice to the occasion.  We, as trainers, need to be more aware of how much our voice can change.  It is often difficult for us to understand people from a different part of the country than us.  The person may still speak American-English, but due to an accent, there is trouble with effective communication.  When I try to cue Luna "around" apparently I say my "ou" funny, and she doesn't respond.

Bailey can't wait for ball season!  That's after winter, and after mud season.
You'll have to forgive the lack of seminar notes tonight.  I did school work every day while in Ohio except last night.  My classes officially end on Friday, so look for scattered information until then and hopefully I'll be able to share real information after that (if I can still remember it and read my notes).  I used this blog as a reinforcer.  Work on the paper, get to write in blog, work on paper, get to write in blog.  Maybe I'll actually multi-task successfully in the process of motivating and rewarding myself for doing my school work.


"I have no reason not to be sleeping right now"

Seriously.  I have absolutely no reason not to be sleeping right now.

Lance has this awesome foot crossing trick on the cue of Laura's feet.  I've admired it for a long time and never really gotten around to teaching it.  Tonight we started working on it.  I'm not sure how Laura taught the behavior, but I started with a target because we love foot targets!  My goal was to place my target and click for the motion of moving the foot toward it.  I was NOT expecting her to be so quick while laying down!  She made contact with my hand pretty often.  Re-evaluation time!

In the end she was actively offering foot "things" which is pretty normal.  I got a couple really nice crosses, but they weren't very deliberate.  I need to video sessions again now that we have video capabilities.  I bet my timing was off just enough to be shaping a different part of the planned trick.  I'm not sure what kind of cue I'll put it on.  The two people I know who have this trick on cue use different cues.

One thing she offered that was utterly adorable was laying on her side and crossing her paws.  I rewarded it, how could I not?  In fact, I debated THAT being our trick instead.

I really should be sleeping, we really should be working on scent articles, I really should be packing, I really should be doing homework, I really should be blogging about important things.  I shouldn't say how many blog posts I have started over the last week and... left in drafts!

Bailey and I are going to bed.  Where we'll dream of foot target behaviors.



Nope, not school for the dogs.  School for me.  Yay, more school!

It really helps my ability to be productive when I
A) Enjoy the topic of study
B) Am sufficiently physically exercised
C) Sufficiently rested
D) Sufficiently fed
E) Enjoy the topic of study
F) Ensure the creatures are sufficiently exercised

Tonight's study session was HOURS long with only school-related interruptions.  I'm sure there's something I can apply from this to dog training, but instead I'm heading back to do more homework.

Fun fact of the night: "girls with Asperger's syndrome may be more difficult to recognize and diagnose due to coping and camouflaging mechanisms" (Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome 2007).

It also helps when you have a friend interested in the same field, in a different light, to discuss information with.  It's like having classmates who are smart and interesting, at my fingertips!  He also had a professor who is quoted in this book frequently, so that part is kinda-really-fun too!

School is also a reason for the decrease in blog post frequency, though not directly I suppose.


Tromping Through the Snow

Group Photo Fail #1

Group Photo Fail #2
This is what everyone looked like by the end; success!


Rascal Update

Tentative diagnosis of 'idiopathic cystitis' due to his urinalysis not showing signs of an infection or crystals, his xray not showing signs of stones, his health profile not showing signs of internal problems, and his apparent "recovery" in such a short period of time.  Last night he urinated large amounts in his litter box.  YAY Rascal!

What's changing?  
**He's getting more Cosequin.
"Some veterinarians also recommend Cosequin to help support urinary bladder health. The inner lining of the bladder wall is protected by a layer, which contains some of the same compounds as are found in cartilage. This layer prevents urine and the waste products contained within it from seeping into and damaging the lining. Since the low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate found in Cosequin is available to more than just cartilage cells, the bladder may use it to help support this protective layer."

**He's going to practice being crated more frequently.  I don't know if it was stress of being crated because he hadn't been in so long, or a stressful event that happened in the house that I didn't notice.  Regardless, I want his crate to be a happy place again.  Meals are being fed in it.  He'll spend multiple days and/or nights in it for the next couple weeks.  It has a litterbox and a bed.  It is in a warm part of the house and in an area the dogs can't get to.  He used to be crated for every meal because otherwise he would steal from Rasza!

A suspicious timing of food change has also prompted feeding Fromm again.  He's eaten Fromm most often since transitioning off of urinary diets.  He was eating Eagle Holistic for the last 1-2 months.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Am I concerned, yes.  Simple solution is just to go back to the food they both did well on.  I will also be better about feeding frequent canned and raw meals.

Crucial points from the article linked above (courtesy of the Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital):

Just as water is primary therapy for prevention of urinary stone recurrence, we think that environmental enrichment is primary therapy for prevention of recurrence of elimination disorders, including FIC.

Behavioral and ethologic research suggest that cats prefer to eat 
individually in a quiet location, where they are not startled by other 

animals, sudden movement, or activity of an air duct or appliance that may 

begin operation unexpectedly.

He spent the day outside of his crate while I was at work.  Tonight he'll be crated again so I can monitor urine output.  He's currently sprawled out on the dog-air bed.


A Request

I know this is a dog blog, but our resident black and white feline is having urinary problems... again (he blocked the summer of 2006).  We visited the veterinarian today after I noticed him urinating on the carpeting and in a suitcase.  Thankfully his bladder wasn't full, he is still able to urinate, but it is definitely in small amounts.

Tomorrow we visit the veterinarian again.  Good thoughts for my little monster please?  We're really hoping we caught it early enough to avoid sedation/physically unblocking, but we'll know more tomorrow.

He rules the roost, and knows it.

He's in a kennel at home tonight so I can monitor input and output until we head into work tomorrow.  Of course he enjoyed his dinner of canned Hills c/d, which hopefully won't be a long term thing again.  I have thoughts on this urinary problem, but they'll have to wait for tomorrow.