Last weekend Jane Killion (author of When Pigs Fly: Training Success With Impossible Dogs) was the honored guest at Come-Play-Stay!  Saturday she covered “Pigs Fly” basics and an introduction to free-shaping, and Sunday participants did some agility coursework with a problem-solving session, followed by a talk on course analysis.  Jane was a blast to hang out with, super funny and very people-oriented (not so with all great dog trainers I’ve met!).  We will certainly have to have her back in the near future. 

Idgie was one of the designated clicker-savvy dogs for Saturday, meaning she got to be shaped by tons of people! I was very proud of her, she worked for every person with the same gusto and brilliance she brings to the table with me.  Most of the people in attendance were by no means shaping experts (some had never even heard the term or picked up a clicker before!) so Idgie’s ability to push past frustration and keep offering behaviors was very impressive.  She was the star, offering all sorts of behaviors with each exercise.  One of the shaping stations was a skateboard, and she took to it like a lab to water, so I have decided to teach her to skate.  She is rocking it in record speed, of course.   Good whirlie girlie!

 It is interesting how no matter what the topic, people always find excuses with their dogs.  One of the saddest facts at the seminar is that most people hadn’t read Jane’s book and attended because they feel they have some “problem” dog that is forcing them to engage in this terrible practice of clicker training! Our participants SIGNED UP for a shaping seminar, and a good handful of them protested or invented reasons they couldn’t do certain exercises.  Some even got downright defensive when Jane pointed out holes in their training.  As Susan Garrett says, “embrace your holes!” it is the only way to success.  You have got to own up to the shortcomings in your training, or you will never turn them into attributes.  And as usual, the blatant disregard for stress in dogs was apparent in most teams.  A little upsetting, but I feel that each participant got back exactly what they put in.  One of my favorite moments of the weekend was when Ashley’s dobe Diesel, who had previously developed a strong aversion to weave poles (pre-cancer, long story), was shaped to weave again.  Ashley had tears in her eyes, and I had chills.  It was funny, every dog that was channel-trained took to shaping the weave poles like it was NOTHING–all channel-trained dogs should be so lucky to get to try it this way! 

Here’s a few gems I took away:

  • Don’t click a lure. If you click a lure, you are clicking the action of following food, and that’s just not good dog training.
  • Don’t put a green rider on a green horse–in other words let shaping virgins try their hand at an experienced dog whenever possible.
  • Don’t just train stays, click releases too. 
  • If it is making behavior happen more frequently it IS a reinforcer, and if it is making behavior happen less frequently, it IS a punisher. Let all other preconceived notions go and look at the facts.
  • Train working distance and shut your mouth on course–your dog will love you for it.

There were many more, I’m sure.  For now, I am feeling re-inspired about training, and I’m ready to tackle my next class with the zest for shaping I had all along and sometimes forget to show.