Thursday, November 11, 2010

Eli's coming-better hide your heart!

Eli-10 weeks

Gunner -10 weeks
Meet Eli 

Okay, you must have either been born before 1970 or you are a huge fan of 70's music if you caught the reference  in the title of this blog. But really, who could resist twenty-plus pounds of squishy black lab?

Eli (along with his sister Haven, being trained by the very talented fellow Karen Pryor Academy grad, Sheila Allen) is the newest member of the Freedom Dogs team. Eli will be the second puppy I train for Freedom Dogs, Gunner (photo above) being the first.

Eli arrived in Oregon via Alaska Airlines on November 9th. He will live with me during the next six months as he learns foundation behaviors. After all, without a solid foundation, anything you build will, at best, be shaky (let us not forget the fatal lesson learned by the Three Little Pigs!)

"Go now" is our cue to go potty

Eli will learn many specific behaviors while living in my home. He will learn to go potty on cue, walk on a loose leash, target, and many more skills.

The most essential skill to becoming a service dog, however, is that of self control. A service dog has all the same reactions that pet dogs have-he sees a chicken and his first reaction is "Oh yeah, it's ON, brother!" as he vanishes into the horizon, fully engaged in CHASE mode. There is no magic that turns this reaction off-it is a learned skill that takes practice on the part of the dog and great care and patience on the part of the trainer.

Eli on a walk-click/treat for being by my side

Dogs must learn that being by our side is the most rewarding place to be of all. This means lots of reinforcement and marking until the  behavior becomes a default.

It would make a far more exciting story if I made up some juju to account for successful training (perhaps something about "positive energy"?...hmmmm) but the truth of the matter is boring old common sense-"what is reinforced is likely to be repeated."

I hope you can follow along with us on this journey.

Happy Training!


  1. Love the photos! Great examples of foundation behaviors! Like your writing too! ; )