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A quarterly training publication by

Phins with Fur Animal Training

Tips from the Pool Winter 2013

Volume II, Issue I

Is Your Pet Vet-Ready? Special points of interest: Is your pet vet-ready? Fish K.I.S.S. Alligator dogs Relationship building in fearful animals

Inside this issue:

Clicker Shy Animals

Alligator Dogs



Trick Corner: Shell Game




Those of you who have dogs and cats who hate the vet know the feeling. The anxiety has been building since you made the appointment. As the day comes closer, your dread increases. Finally, you must shove Fluffy in a carrier and drag Fido to the car and hope no one gets hurt as you, the techs, and the vet scruff, muzzle, restrain, and avert disaster for the longest hour of the year: the annual checkup. If you have an emergency, this situation is intensified exponentially.

to get bitten and likely went into the profession because they wanted to help animals, not terrify them! Luckily for the both of you, there are easy ways to prepare your pets for their annual checkup. 1.

It is unfortunate that an appointment meant to keep your pet healthy can cause the both of you so much stress. It can be a major headache not only for you, but for the vet as well, who has no desire

Simple exercises can prepare your pet for vet visits

Avoid using aversive training 2. tools. Many people save their “safety nets” for situations when they need added control (such as the vet) but these can cause more anxiety about the vet. Shock, prong, and choke collars can not only cause physical damage to your pets, but your dog can associate the pain caused by these tools with the vet’s office, or even view these tools as predictors of a vet visit! If you need extra control at the vet, use a front-clip harness such as an Easy Walk or Freedom Harness.

Bring special treats. Bring special treats that your dog only gets at the vet to help him associate the vet with great things! Ask the techs and vet to feed your dog to help him make friends! Feed small amounts at a time, and check with your vet to ensure the procedure you are having done allows for this. Some blood tests require fasting, so double check! (continued on pg. 2)

Minimize Yourself: Beginning Relationships with Fearful Animals Many of us have encountered pets that seem to have no desire to interact with people. Many small pets, such as rabbits and hamsters, and birds, such as parakeets, seem automatically fearful of people. Just because these

little guys seem to prefer to be left alone, it isn’t healthy for them. We have to interact with them to clean their homes, feed them, or take them to the vet. When it comes to little guys, stress can be enough to

kill. But where can we even begin to help? Free feeding, a method of training where you simply feed for anything that is not undesirable, is a great way to begin (continued on pg. 3)




Vet Readiness Continued from front page

3. Train it before you need it. Work with your pet before you have an emergency or your annual checkup. This may mean kennel training for your cat or working on simply being calm in the waiting room for your dog. Check with your vet office to see if they mind if you bring your dog into the lobby for training. Many vet techs will likely appreciate the effort to make your dog vet-friendly! 4. Desensitize your dog to vet tools and restraints. Vets use a lot of tools during a check up: fecal rods, rectal thermometers, stethoscopes, needles, syringes, and otoscopes. Slowly intro-

duce as many of these items as you can to your dog (all of the listed are available at stores like Target and Wal-Mart) and make interacting with them fun! Even if you don’t have the tools, you can reward your dog for allowing you to inspect their ears, holding still while you handle their tail, lift their paws, and feel their abdomen. Make these sessions short and very reinforcing! Use more or better treats, and keep things lighthearted! Also make sure to get your dog comfortable with the various methods of restraint.

After tackling vet fears, take on bath-time!

5. Use counterconditioning for muzzles . It will take a while for you to change your pet’s mind

“But He’s Afraid of the Clicker!” Many pet owners want to get started in clicker training but get stuck when their pet shows fear at the sound of the clicker. Although you could countercondition your pet’s response to the clicker, there are also alternative ways to mark a behavior. Verbal markers are special words such as “Good!” or “Yes!” used in place of the clicker. I find these to be less effective because it’s easy for us to let our emotions slip into these markers. For example, if your dog sits immediately after the cue, you

might say “YES!” in a super happy voice whereas if he takes a while, you might say “Yeessss…,” reluctantly marking the behavior. If you want to stick with a clicky sound, you can use a

about the vet if he hates it. In the meantime, try to countercondition your dog’s feelings about the muzzle, since you will likely have to use one. Don’t just put a muzzle on your dog’s face; slowly introduce it. Reward him for touching it with his nose, allowing you to slip it on a little, then put it on and take it off, and wear it for increasing periods of time. Remember, when you muzzle your dog, you are taking away his method of defense, which could be very scary if he fears the vet! Many pets are afraid of the vet, and it can take a lot of time and effort to teach them that the vet can be fun! It is very rewarding to have an animal that is comfortable (or even happy!) at the vet’s office. Just go slow, keep it short, and have fun!

pen-click instead of a clicker. I used these with my clicker-shy parakeets! Whistles, common in dolphin training, can also be used; just be aware of emotion-laced whistling! (No long whistles for responses you love! All should be the same! You can use a hand signal, like a thumbs-up, for deaf animals, or tactile markers, such as a doubletap. For my fish, I use flashlights.

Panama, a deaf dolphin, recognizes a pointed finger as a marker (also known as a bridge)

Be creative! Virtually anything can be used as a marker signal!

Alligator Dogs: How to Deal with Treat Snatchers We used to joke that my Golden, Roxie, did a great gator impression when given treats. Roxie, a sweet senior dog, would engulf your entire hand in her mouth when given treats! Because I tossed her treats to catch often, Maddie began to leap up, jaws open, when given treats. There is a simple way to deal with this:

Dogs can take treats harshly because of excitement or stress.

Start with a small treat in your hand (I used kibble.). Maddie would come at my fingers teeth first. I held onto it and as soon as I saw her flick her tongue out to lick at the treat, I let her have it. It’s an extremely simple exercise to help your dog learn that licking, not biting, will get her the treat!

Keep in mind also that taking treats harshly is an indicator of stress. If you are training outside, be aware of external factors that may be stressing your dog such as other dogs, people, cars, etc. If you suspect your dog may be stressed, remove her from the situation. If you are in a relatively stress-free environment, however, like a quiet room, get your dog to give a lick!



Working with Fearful Animals Continued from front page building a relationship with a fearful animal. Simply offer food to the animal by tossing it or holding your hand. Toss it far enough away to where the animal will feel comfortable enough to eat it in your presence. In some cases, the animal will not feel comfortable enough to eat, but the more you practice this routine, the more the animal will not view you as a threat. It is important to remember that if you scare the ani-

mal, even unintentionally, you have reinforced the fear. Not in the sense that you rewarded the animal for being afraid, but the animal will feel that it was correct in feeling afraid, because you just scared it!

Chubbs, a budgie, learned to trust through free feeding and non-threatening body language

There are some important body language tips to follow with fearful animals:


ing, especially to prey animals, which recognize our frontallyplaced eyes as those of a predator. Move slowly. It allows you to be seen as non-threatening and more predictable. If you must move towards the animal, move with your back turned! Make yourself small. Sit (back turned!) and be still.

Keep your back to the animal. It shows your vulnerable side-no one attacks with their back turned!

Talk! It may seem silly at first, but predators never talk while they stalk! Make sure you don’t suddenly change your tone (i.e., getting higher pitched when your pet approaches); your pet was attracted to the tone you were using!

Avoid eye contact. Eye contact can be considered challenging or threaten-

Working with fearful animals is difficult, but rewarding in the end when they take the first step!

Trick Corner: Shell Game Maddie, my Labrador Retriever, loves to learn new tricks. In the Trick Corner, we’ll discuss our recent trick-training adventures, and give you some tips on teaching them to your dog. your dog to “Find it!” Ignore if your 3 clay flower pots (Make sure they dog sniffs or pushes have holes!) the second pot, and Liquid scent (I used a “ Premier Lick- celebrate when he ety Stick.”) sniffs the right one. Practice this step a Ball lot! This is where Maddie correctly identifies the shell with the ball your dog learns that This trick looks really impressive, finding the “smelly” but it is really simple to teach! In Make sure to store the “smelly” pot earns rewards! Be sure to switch up the this trick, you hide a ball underpot separately from the other two shells in a random manner; dogs are great neath one of three shells, switch (i.e., don’t stack them together), so pattern and position learners and will easily them around, and have your dog as not to confuse your dog. find out if the “right” one is always on the guess where it is! Your dog will alleft, or if they switch sides every time! Being Clay flower pots are great for this ways be right because he will be random also makes the game more fun! trick because they are heavy. looking for a scent, not the ball! Dogs tend to be really enthusiasGradually, withhold your reward to require Start by inconspicuously marking tic about this trick, so it’s a big your dog to spend more time indicating at the one pot (so you know which is corhelp! correct pot. Reinforce responses you like, such rect). Place the liquid scent inside This trick is sometimes taught by the walls of the pot. Place the pot in as pushing, sitting, or pawing at the correct pot. hiding treats under the pots, but front of the dog and excitedly ask dogs may develop a habit of “going him to “Find it!” and reward him for Once your dog is indicating, add a third pot. bowling” instead of searching, so I sniffing or pushing the pot. Do this Some dogs have a tough time going from two prefer using a scent. The ball is many times. to three, so be patient (and random!) and there simply to impress your audidon’t be afraid to go back to two if needed. Next, add a second pot, and cue ence! What You’ll Need:

This publication is proudly brought to you by Phins with Fur Animal

PHINS WITH FUR ANIMAL TRAINING Serving the Gainesville and Tampa communities with positive, force-free, and effective methods

Training. At Phins with Fur, we believe in humane, effective training. We rely on the science-based training that is used with dolphins. The best thing about these techniques is that it doesn’t matter what breed or species you are working with, because all animals learn the same way! We also focus

Phone: (813) 917-2441 Website: E-mail: Visit us on Facebook!

on developing a positive relationship to ensure that you and your best friend have a happy life together. We offer a variety of services including private and group classes in areas such as basic manners, puppy, trick training, problem solving, and more! We also offer services for non-canine pets! We are the ONLY training service in Gainesville certified by the Pet Professional Guild, the Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals.

It’s Dolphin Training...for Dogs! Fish I have learned my most important lessons about animal training from some unlikely teachers. Many people don’t view fish as highly intelligent, or even capable of maintaining information for more than a few seconds, but my Parrot Cichlids have taught me more about training than any book, class, or teacher!

solve many training problems! When working with dogs, it can be easy to be distracted by all of the additional feedback you receive! Dogs have evolved with humans for over 10,000 years, and have learned a lot about us! They can read our facial expressions (and we can read theirs!), are easily distracted by our reinforcers and other stimuli, and can walk away from us. Fish can’t leave sessions, don’t stare at your “treat hand,” and are usually pretty solid “food workers” and don’t find many other distractions as reinforcing! So, they don’t cause nearly the frustration or emotion that comes with working with dogs!

Fish are ideal training subjects because the conditions in which they are kept rival a behavioral laboratory type setting. Fish generally are kept in one tank, have little to no interaction with other animals or people, and have stable environments (most people don’t constantly change their fish’s environment, though they would likely enjoy the enrichment!). Because of this, fish training, for me, has been very black and white. My current fish, Russell, the performing Parrot Cichlid Russell, has helped me

After working with fish for over three years, I’ve learned important lessons that I apply when working with any animal:

with your dog; you may not realize how many extra cues or “hints” you are giving! The animal is always right! I discussed this a few times in the last issue, and Russ is the one who taught me this lesson! It’s easy to feel like your dog is “holding out” when you ask for something you think he knows. With fish, it’s obvious they aren’t being spiteful-your dog isn’t either! Be flexible! Again, dogs can cause us to be stubborn in our methods. Russ forced me to change my plan if it wasn’t working, because it very clearly wouldn’t work! Don’t be stubborn!

In addition to providing a great “scientific” model for training, fish are fantastic companions. Once you give your fish some time, they will love you back! I am confident that if Russ had K.I.S.S. (Keep It lungs and four legs, he’d be more loyal Simple, Stupid!) Video than any dog could hope to be! If you yourself while working have a fish, give him some love; you won’t be disappointed!

Tips from the Pool Winter 2013  
Tips from the Pool Winter 2013  

Topics in this issue include: ~Is Your Pet Vet Ready? ~Building Relationships with Fearful Animals ~Alternative Markers for Clicker Shy Pet...