“My, what big teeth you have…!”

Remember the story about Little Red Riding Hood and her inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and the wolf? That failure (especially when it came to the infamous teeth)  led to a rather “Grimm” ending for Little Red Riding Hood. (Sorry for the bad pun!)  With our more contemporary canine friends, it’s also important to distinguish between a display of teeth that is a traditional warning versus one that may convey something very different (and far less dangerous).

Recently, one of our supporters sent us this link for a cute video about a “smiling” Golden retriever:  “Funny Dog: The golden “smile-retriever”!”   Watching this, I realized it was a very good example of what is called a “submissive grin,” a behavior that is often hard to capture in a picture or video. Gracie’s owners seem to have taught her to demonstrate this behavior on cue, which makes for not only an entertaining video but an instructive one as well!

Gracie, the "smile-retriever" was adopted from a Golden Retriever rescue in California.

Gracie, the “smile-retriever” in the video, was adopted from a Golden Retriever rescue in California.

Many people have never seen a submissive grin before and it’s very easy to mistake this expression for the wrinkled lips that accompany a canine snarl.  I once introduced an adoptable dog to a family who had come to look at a different dog that wasn’t the right match for them. Mollie (the second dog shown) was fairly new to our program and I hadn’t gotten to know her that well yet myself. When she came into the exercise yard and ran up to one of the family kids with what looked like a snarl on her face I about had a heart attack. It was, in fact, just a submissive grin and once we got to know Mollie better we learned that her “grin” was a trademark characteristic of this sweet, totally gentle and loving Golden.

That experience reinforced for me how the differences between a submissive grin and a snarl can be quite subtle. However, once you are familiar with the submissive grin it’s much easier to know which is which.

Most importantly, a dog displaying a submissive grin is not a threat to humans; in fact, he or she is showing deference and – as indicated in the terminology – submission to the humans in the environment. There may be some anxiety or stress going on, but not aggression. In contrast, a snarl is definitely a dog’s way of saying “Back off…what you are doing or planning to do is making me very uncomfortable.” If not heeded, the dog’s next step may easily be a snap or bite.

There is nothing friendly about this dog's expression. Note the "hard eyes" and overall menacing demeanor. This is NOT a submissive grin! (Note: the choice of breed in this picture is in no way intended to suggest a specific predilection for aggression. I have seen this same expression on dogs of many breeds; this just happened to be the image best available to use.)

There is nothing friendly about this dog’s expression. Note the “hard eyes” and overall menacing demeanor. This is most definitely a snarl and NOT a submissive grin. Often the difference is not as easy to differentiate, however.

To me, a dog displaying a submissive grin is reminiscent of a donkey braying, as undignified as that may sound.  (Either that or the dog REALLY wants to show the dentist just how faithfully they’ve been brushing their teeth.) Kidding aside, it’s very helpful to look at the whole demeanor of the dog in addition to the teeth and mouth in order to understand what he’s “saying.”  In this article about submissive grinning, the author notes that:

When a dog smiles or grins submissively, there is usually motion in the dog, often fast-paced over-exaggerated movements, squinty eyes, and overall excitement.

In addition, the behavior is often seen as part of a greeting ritual with people (or other dogs), whereas a truly aggressive dog is typically engaged in some other kind of behavior. The same article referenced above shows a video of a dog guarding a toy, with a lot of growling and lip curling indicating his unwillingness to give it up. (As the author notes, this video is definitely not one you’d want to replicate but it is helpful to watch it.)

“To Pet or Not to Pet,” an excellent blog post from Success Just Clicks, also has some great examples of canine body language that illustrate the key variations between submissive grinning and snarling.

If you’ve ever wondered just what the terms “squinty eyes” and “hard eyes” really mean, be sure to look at the side-by-side comparison of Denver and Sally in this post. It doesn’t get much clearer than this! Also scroll down and view the photos showing dogs who are inviting petting versus those who are disinclined to be petted; these photos would be great to share with kids as well.

Kory (12-004) is another DVGRR alumni with a very distinctive submissive grin, which we first saw when she was at Golden Gateway prior to adoption. Her adoptive  mom took this picture showing her famous "grin," which has taken more than one neighbor aback until they understood her display of teeth was perfectly friendly.

Kory (12-004) is another DVGRR alumni with a very distinctive submissive grin, which we first saw when she was at Golden Gateway prior to adoption. Her adoptive mom took this picture showing her famous “grin,” which has taken more than one neighbor aback until they understood her display of teeth was perfectly friendly and totally non-threatening.

Finally, take a look at this Vetstreet article by trainer Mikkel Becker, whose tips are super helpful for dog owners of all experience levels.  Mikkel was answering a question from a puzzled reader: “My Dog Smiles When She Greets People – Is This Normal?”  The information provided in the article is similar to what we’ve already covered, but in addition to reading it you HAVE to click on the link Mikkel included as her example of a “submissive grin.” It will take you to the video of a Goldendoodle that I guarantee will put a smile on YOUR face, just as it is on his. Enjoy and let me know if your dog’s expressions are equally giggle-worthy!

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How to Clicker Train a Bat

A few weeks ago, I had another run-in with a bat. I had just been reassuring myself that since I’d put a new roof on my house last fall, my days of being surprised by another whooshing black critter with those delightfully spiny wings were over.  Not so, I’m afraid. There I was, relaxing on the living room sofa one March evening, when my most recent little visitor (the third or fourth in as many years) made his appearance. As usual, I first tried to convince myself it was a bird that just swooped across the ceiling. But, unfortunately I knew better.  Cue the stereotypical panic, dog locked in a bedroom, and wildly swinging broom…

OK, full disclosure….this post won’t really teach you how to clicker train a bat. (Something I’m sure you weren’t really aspiring to anyway, right?) However, Heather Hatt and I recently watched an excellent webinar on nonprofit blog writing where we learned the art of composing attention-getting headlines, so I confess I was practicing my newfound skills on this one. I hope it worked – did it??

In fairness, my reference to clicker training does have a connection to this tale of late night woe with a bat friend.  A better title for the post might have been “How to Communicate with a Bat” (or in my case, how NOT to communicate with a bat), but I suspect that wouldn’t have had the same impact or would have driven readers away, rather than hopefully enticing them in!

Clicker training, as many of you are no doubt aware, is one form of communicating with animals (most notably dolphins and dogs), and it can be an exceptionally powerful and effective one. I’ve been spending some time improving my own clicker training skills, so the advantages of this training/communication tool have been forefront in my mind.  As noted on the Karen Pryor Clicker Training website, the concept of clicker training is pretty simple:

i-Click™ Clickers sold by the Karen Pryor Clicker Training website.

i-Click™ Clickers sold by the Karen Pryor Clicker Training website.

Desirable behavior is marked by using a “clicker,” a mechanical device that makes a short, distinct “click” sound which tells the animal exactly when they’re doing the right thing. This clear form of communication, combined with positive reinforcement, is an effective, safe, and humane way to teach any animal any behavior that it is physically and mentally capable of doing. [bold added]

Howcast has a great little video that also talks about the communication aspects of clicker training. I was first introduced to this technique at a seminar many years ago that I attended with some other DVGRR volunteers/staff, and I’ve been hooked on the idea ever since.

Clicker training does take practice (and some extra coordination at times!), but it’s a fun and definitely force-free way of teaching everything from basic manners to complicated tricks and skills. For me, one of the most interesting aspects is having the clicker essentially replace speaking to, touching, or giving hand signals to an animal as the primary means of interspecies communication – at least during the initial training steps. Removing those other communication tools helps the animal focus better and more clearly understand the behavior that is desired by the trainer.  When you’re used to conducting a running conversation with your dog during the day, staying quiet while teaching is often a challenge!

So…back to the “bat battle,” where staying quiet definitely wasn’t part of my strategy. Even though I have some experience with pursuing and/or capturing wayward bats (sad, isn’t it?), the sight of one brings out the agitated, flustered side of me in about two seconds. With the front door propped open (even at the risk of letting in more critters!), I tried my darndest to maneuver the little guy towards the open air night freedom. I succeeded only in chasing him further into the house, towards the kitchen, where I then propped open the back door as well.

During the whole encounter, I kept up a constant stream of dialogue directed at the bat. In case you’ve never had the joy of one in your home, they tend to fly around frantically in short bursts, then land in some hard-to-find spot, fold their wings, and act blithely catatonic. During these interim rest periods, I’d gingerly walk around the room searching every corner, curtain, and chair rung, my entreaties escalating: “I know you’re in here. What spot did you pick this time? C’mon, show your face! Gosh darn it, where the *&$#@ are you??????”

A bat resting on a curtain before his next flying sprint. Sometimes the wings are more folded, making it harder to spot them.

A bat resting on a curtain before his next flying sprint. Sometimes the wings are more folded, making it harder to spot them.

Once flying commenced again, my dialogue ran towards the following (expressed in a high-pitched LOUD voice, close to a screech, accompanied by much broom swinging to illustrate my points): “The DOOR! It’s over there! This way! C’mon, c’mon – you know you want to go out! MOVE! Not that way, OVER HERE!”

All fruitless, of course (though I eventually succeeded in steering my bat friend out the back door, thank goodness!). Even though bats do have excellent hearing, obviously my visitor was clueless to what I was trying to communicate. And therein lies the association with clicker training.

In reflecting on the experience later, I thought of how we so often expect our dogs (much less non-domesticated animals) to understand what we want via the use of language – OUR language. Sure, dogs can learn to recognize a variety of human sounds, but our perception of them “hanging on our every word” is no doubt colored by our love of dogs’ “family member” status that we’ve cultivated in our society. I have no problem with that status (and fully subscribe to it myself), but when it comes to conveying important information from human to canine, the clicker’s advantages seem very clear. It uses sounds and associations that do not depend on species-specific language, unlike the spoken (or, in some cases, screeched) word.

If you are interested in learning more about clicker training, the Karen Pryor site is an excellent one with tons of resources. I also like “Clicker Training Lessons” by Mary Woodward, a trainer in Delaware. Mary and her associate Susan Greenholt are the owners of Greenwood Dog Training School, where I took two classes in clicker training with my adopted Golden Tyler (01-047) many years ago. I learned so much from them!

Oh, by the way, according to this article by certified dog trainer Stacy Braslau-Schneck, owner of Stacy’s Wag’N’Train in San Diego, bats really CAN be clicker trained. Stacy notes that:

…clicker training has worked on every animal attempted, from killer whales to rats. With the help of clicker training, large monkeys are taught to willingly give blood samples, bats to spread their wings for inspection, llamas to go in their trailers, and pigeons to follow laser targets and take spy photos.

As for HOW the bat training is done, no details are given. I’ll stick with dogs myself, thank you very much!

Training Tipsters – Part II

Every dog trainer worth his or her salt will acknowledge that training is not all about successes…those missteps, mistakes, and goofs that everyone experiences are what often teach us the most. When I asked Sara Braverman (whose history with DVGRR dates back to our really early days) to share her favorite tips, she was kind enough to include those that have worked and those that have not. All are most instructive, as you will see!

Three of Each – Good and Not-so-Good Tips

Tipster: Sara Braverman, DVGRR First Vice President/Volunteer/Adopter

Let’s start with three valuable training tips that have been especially helpful for my dogs.

1)  First, the “wait” command is one of the most useful ones my dogs know.  They learn to pause when a door in the house opens – and with teenagers coming and going, this is not only useful but an important safety measure! I also use this command when opening up a car door; the dogs know to wait before jumping out.  Since I often have multiple dogs with me, this is definitely another way to keep everyone safe.  I practice “wait” on walks as well, both with a 6′ lead and with the long lead I use when hiking in the woods.  I let the dogs walk out a bit ahead of me and then periodically call out “WAIT!” When the dog pauses and looks at me, I toss a treat at them.  They quickly learn that “WAIT!” means a treat will be falling from the sky and this helps them remember to listen to the command when it is truly needed.

When you're just a few months old, "waiting" is usually not high on your priority list! Nonetheless, Sara's puppy Rudy will learn the "wait" command from a young age to keep him safe and mannerly.

When you’re just a few months old, “waiting” is usually not high on your priority list! Nonetheless, Sara’s puppy Rudy will learn the “wait” command from a young age to keep him safe and mannerly.

2) For young energetic dogs and untrained foster dogs, nothing beats a round of “puppy push-ups” at opportune times. When a dog is doing that “bored little kid thing” of wandering around the house, messing with the other dogs and cats, mouthing inappropriate items, and so on, I call them to me and we do a quick but intense session of  sit/down/sit/down/sit/down…i.e., puppy push-ups! I’ll do a few other commands, then a second session of puppy push-ups.  This usually serves to focus their minds and burn off some of the excess physical energy. Soon they are ready to go find a dog bone and settle down to relax – at least for a while!

A few rounds of puppy push-ups and young Rudy is ready for a nap. He worshipped his big brother Ruddy, who sadly left for Rainbow Bridge not long after this picture was taken.

A few rounds of puppy push-ups and young Rudy is ready for a nap. He worshipped his big brother Ruddy, who sadly left for Rainbow Bridge not long after this picture was taken.

3) It’s a simple concept, but one of the most important things people should remember is that we can reward a dog best by listening to him and understanding what he values. Just like with humans, what is rewarding for one dog may not be rewarding for another dog. Once we figure out what works for each canine family member, our interactions can become SO much more successful.  The dog feels “heard” and gets a reward that is meaningful.  We too feel “heard” and have fun training.  Win-win.

Now for my mistakes. Wow, I have made so many along the way, but learned a great deal in doing so.

1) One of the biggest that comes to mind was my long-ago use of a prong collar.  I was pregnant and had two young, strong Goldens who both pulled on lead. Later, walking with the baby in a Snugli or stroller, I still needed the dogs to walk without pulling so hard.  At the time, choke collars were typically recommended by trainers and books.  The prong collar had just come on the market and was being touted as the more “humane” device, because it didn’t put pressure against the dog’s trachea – it distributed even pressure around the dog’s entire neck instead. So I bought one and it did indeed keep my dog from pulling as hard.  However, it also taught my eager, dog-friendly boy that if he pulled to say hi to a dog friend, he received a correction on his neck (and one that was not so “humane” after all).  He soon started to become dog reactive (i.e., to lunge, bark, and growl at other dogs on leash), which could have escalated to a huge problem. I opted to get rid of the prong collar and never used one again….ever.

2) Another mistake that comes to mind is not fully understanding the importance of continuing to socialize dogs.  I know now that this is an ongoing process throughout the dog’s life – we don’t just teach our pups to be brave and then cross it off our list.  Rather, we need to keep introducing dogs to new and novel experiences –people, places, situations, other dogs – and showing them that the world is a good and safe place.

3) Lastly, the reactive dog lessons….so many!  I have fostered and adopted several reactive dogs and made many mistakes with the first ones.  For example, I used to get very tense when I saw another dog approaching, knowing that MY dog was going to make a fool of both of us.  My solution? I tightened the leash, scolded him for bad behavior, and took fewer walks.  Nope, didn’t help.

Jack is Sara's current reactive dog. He's come SO far and taught her SO much along the way.

Jack is Sara’s current reactive dog. He’s come SO far and taught her SO much along the way.

Since then, I have learned the power of a loose leash (even when a voice in your head is saying “uh-oh”) and how well a happy, chirpy tone can calm an anxious dog.  I have learned the importance of timing with treats and praise and the need to walk a reactive dog every day. I have learned to use my body to physically block my dog’s line of vision between him and the other “scary” dog. I have learned to set aside my pride and not worry about observers judging me upon seeing my dog’s fearful, yet seemingly aggressive, behavior.  Instead, I have learned to ask people for their help. I explain the problem and enlist them and their dog in helping me desensitize mine.

I now find it such a thrill to work with a reactive dog – to show him that there is a better way to react, and no reason to be afraid.    My dog knows I am to be trusted and that I will keep them safe, as well as reward them for calmer behavior.  I feel joy at having lessened the burden of their worries and find that we all look forward to outings now.

Note:  Sara’s article on our website, “Thoughts from a ‘Reactive’ Dog,” contains more of her great insights on this topic. Well worth a read!

The opportunity for great socialization with other dogs is one way to stave off reactive issues later in life. Here's young Rudy learning play manners from his other Golden brother, sweet Gus.

The opportunity for early socialization with other dogs is one way to stave off reactive issues later in life. Here’s young Rudy learning good play manners from his other Golden brother, sweet Gus.

Learning and Unlearning

Tipster: Donna Baker, DVGRR Education and Community Awareness Manager

Conventional wisdom would suggest that “learning” is a good thing and “unlearning” is a problematic thing, right? Well….not always. For my own foray into this post, I’ll talk about times when just the opposite is true. Of course, I’ll use my favorite canine subject to illustrate my points…13.5 year old Alli (10-239), who currently shares my life, home, and sofa, and owns my heart.

Alli sofa

Taken last night after dinner, this picture shows Alli in her favorite repose on the sofa. At a few months shy of 14, she’s earned the right to stretch out and relax wherever and whenever she so desires (which is most of the time). Keep this “usual” pose in mind when viewing the next picture of her a little further down…

Variable Reinforcement

Canine learning is of course a very complex subject, one that trainers, behaviorists, and pet owners can spend many years studying and shaping. One aspect you’ve probably heard about, however, is the concept of “variable reinforcement,” especially as it pertains to dogs learning new behaviors.  The related concept is “continuous reinforcement.” Both of these concepts are key elements of positive, reward-based training techniques.

Essentially, when you start teaching your dog a new behavior, you’ll get the best results by rewarding each and every time the dog performs the behavior.  Dog sits, dog gets a treat. Dog sits again, dog gets a second treat. Dog sits a third time, dog gets a third treat.  Receiving the treat (or any other kind of positive reinforcement) helps the dog learn what behavior is desired and what earns him or her the reward. This is continuous reinforcement.

Eventually, of course, you want to get to the point where treats aren’t as necessary to still elicit the behavior.  If you just stopped giving treats/other reinforcement “cold turkey,” your dog would probably decide very quickly he’s no longer interested in sitting on command. What’s in it for him?? BUT, if you start using variable reinforcement, i.e., sometimes giving the reward and sometimes not, the dog maintains interest in the activity because he knows the chance to earn the treat is still there….just not every time.  And – important point here – the fact that the treat does not come every time actually increases the strength of the behavior.

[You’ve probably heard the analogy of variable reinforcement being akin to the psychological appeal of slot machines – and that is indeed a great way of looking at it! Here’s one writer’s take on the candy machine versus the slot machine concept. ]

So what’s the downside here? Well, just as you can use variable reinforcement to intentionally strengthen the likelihood of a dog performing a desired behavior, you can also use it to unintentionally strengthen an undesired behavior. And here’s where Ms. Alli comes in…or really where her errant owner comes in (me).

Like most Goldens, Alli has the “nose nudge” down to a science. Actually in her case, it’s more like a “whole upper body nudge.”  I’ve never captured in it in a picture but she’ll come over to where I’m sitting, climb halfway up so her front legs are on my lap, tilt her head and neck, raise one dainty but lethal paw, and swipe at me…HARD.  Multiple times if necessary. Sound familiar?? I call it her “pushy broad” routine and I’ve yet to figure out what it always means. Clearly there are times when it means, “Mom, bathroom emergency!” but more often it’s Alli-speak for “I’m bored – pay attention to me,” “I’d like a cookie, please,” “Are you going to stare at that computer screen ALL night?” or “Ah-hem, you forgot to make my Kong again!” It can be cute, but honestly, it’s pretty annoying most of the time.

Trouble is, sometimes I turn away and ignore the behavior (if I’m really busy and sure it’s not related to a potty break), but other times I give in, get up, and resignedly deliver the cookie or the Kong or that attention she wants.  Hmmmm….sure sounds like variable reinforcement, doesn’t it? Indeed it is, and what I’m unfortunately doing is ensuring that Alli’s “pushy broad” behavior (one I would prefer to see diminish) will instead continue as a major part of her communication repertoire.  And why not? She’s learned that probably 60% of the time that paw swipe works, courtesy of her lowly human servant’s lack of consistency. So in this case, “learning” is not necessarily a good thing! Still sounding familiar???

I call this picture “Alli bread face” and it cracks me up every time I see it. Alli LOVES bread of all kinds and I’d just finished sharing a soft, warm roll with her in the kitchen. You know, “two pieces for me, one piece for you, one piece for me, two pieces for you…” Then I took the rest into the living room for mom ALONE to enjoy on the sofa. Alli rarely pays attention to my living room snack (see previous photo), but this time –having just been successful in the kitchen with her all-time favorite food – she gave me her best “…and three pieces for me, right??” hopeful look. Nope, I didn’t cave!

I call this picture “Alli bread face” and it cracks me up every time I see it because she is not usually this animated late at night. Alli LOVES bread of all kinds and I’d just finished sharing a soft, warm roll with her in the kitchen. You know, “two pieces for me, one piece for you, one piece for me, two pieces for you…” Then I took the rest into the living room for mom ALONE to enjoy on the sofa. Alli rarely pays attention to my living room snack (see previous photo), but this time –having just been successful in the kitchen with her all-time favorite food – she gave me her best “…and three pieces for me, right??” hopeful look. Nope, I didn’t cave!

Here is another basic but very useful article about variable reinforcement from one of my favorite authors, Kathy Sdao: “Dogs as Gamblers”    As Kathy notes, “This type of unpredictable reward in return for a relatively low-cost behavioral investment can create intensely persistent habits.” Just be sure the habits are ones you want to encourage in your dog!

Counter Conditioning

Now that I’ve shared one of my training foibles, let me talk about one of my successes. Alli (and Morgan before her) have taught me a lot about how to use “unlearning” in a positive way. By working though some of Alli and Morgan’s behavior challenges, I’ve become a big fan of “counter conditioning” as a training technique. I didn’t fully understand this term or the process behind it at first, and find that many other dog owners, both novice and more experienced, lack full comprehension as well.

In reality, the concept is quite simple – it essentially involves changing the dog’s negative association to something into a positive (or at least neutral) association. Here is a great definition from WebMD:

To “condition” means to teach, and to “counter” means to change. So counterconditioning just means to re-teach the pet to have a pleasant feeling and reaction toward something that he once feared or disliked. We do this by associating the feared thing with something good so that it predicts good things for the animal. As soon as the dog or cat sees the thing, we give him a delicious treat to create a pleasant emotional reaction. Over many repetitions, the animal learns that whenever that thing appears, good things happen! Eventually, the process produces a neutral or positive emotional reaction to the sight of the previously feared or disliked person, animal, event, place or object.

So you can see why I think of this as “unlearning,” in that the dog is “unlearning” the previously negative or fearful association to whatever it is we are trying to counter condition. Seen in this context, “unlearning” becomes a desirable outcome.

With Alli, I’ve used this technique to help her gain a higher comfort level with grooming. When Alli first came into DVGRR’s program, she was very leery of being touched in certain places and needed to be muzzled for her pre-adoption grooming.  After she became “Alli Baker,” I was determined to make grooming less of an unpleasant, upsetting experience for her. Ideally, I wanted grooming to be something she enjoyed, but decided I would be happy with simply getting her to tolerate it more comfortably.

I now have Alli groomed every few months by my colleague Heather Hatt and we’ve made very good progress – no muzzle is needed and only rarely does Alli object to Heather touching, brushing, or trimming her. We’ve used a variety of techniques to help achieve this improvement, but in my opinion counter conditioning has been the most essential factor.

To counter condition my feisty old lady to grooming, I’ve taught her that getting up on the grooming table and being brushed or trimmed means she will be allowed to lick peanut butter off of a spoon.  Not just once, but multiple times during the session!  This is a super special treat for her, so it serves to not only distract her from what Heather might be doing, but more importantly, show her that “good things happen” when she is on the grooming table.

Here's Alli getting to lick the peanut butter spoon during her most recent grooming session with Heather.

Here’s Alli getting to lick the peanut butter spoon during her most recent grooming session with Heather.

I’ve also used other high value treats (“high value” meaning something extra yummy that isn’t on the usual daily menu), such as the Lickety Stik® product that dispenses meat-flavored liquid, for our counter conditioning purposes.* Oh, and during our last grooming session, I remembered there was half a left-over bagel in the Gateway kitchen so I used little pieces of bagel in addition to peanut butter.  (Remember, this is a dog who will do anything for bread!!)

*Note: The Lickety Stik® is a nifty product that has many potential uses in training. We are presently out of them in our store but more will be coming in soon.

A little better shot of Heather trimming Alli's ear while I feed my girl her peanut butter. I don't think Alli really wanted her picture taken here!

A little better shot of Heather trimming Alli’s ear while I feed my girl her peanut butter. I don’t think Alli really wanted her picture taken here!

Now, I can’t say that Alli really loves or looks forward to grooming (in fact, she tends to give Heather the cold shoulder for a few days after one of her “spa” appointments), BUT  it is definitely a less stressful and more positive experience for her than it used to be. (Which, of course, means it’s also less stressful and more positive for me! )

Here are some videos I found that help illustrate the technique of counter conditioning:

Handling and Grooming Counter Conditioning – McKenzie Lesson 1:  On the long side but very well done and instructive. This trainer is using a much more intensive and step-by-step process than I have with Alli, with excellent results.

Jean Donaldson gets conditioned emotional response when fitting Gentle Leader:  Great video showing how this well-known trainer gets a dog to see the Gentle Leader as something highly desirable as opposed to something to avoid.

Pit Bull vs. vacuum cleaner:  There are some things I might do differently in this video, but it shows how the trainer is getting the dog to associate the scary vacuum cleaner with yummy treats, thereby making it much less scary.

You can see that if done correctly and well, counter conditioning may take a lot of patience and time – it’s not usually a “quick fix” but it’s well worth putting in that time to see the change in your dog!  For more detailed reading on counter conditioning, I like this article by Jolanta Benal, otherwise known as the Quick and Dirty Dog Trainer. She is one of my favorites.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part post on training tips and I’d love to hear some of yours. Happy training!