BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION TRAINER ACADEMY


Okay, I’ll admit it, I have favorites. I teach several different trainer academies throughout the year, and my Level 2 BMod is always my favorite. I sometimes forget how much I like them until another one rolls around, but the group that just finished last week reminded me, in spades, how rewarding this work is.

I like the BMod academy for several reasons – one of which is I get to see return students. Successful completion of my Level 1 Academy is a pre-requisite for Level 2. There are some “equivalents” but most of the Level 2 trainers are Level 1 returnees. So that’s always fun. It’s a pretty good bet that the ones who come back enjoyed their first experience here, and are very committed to their ongoing education, so we get a lot of great attitudes and study/learning ethic at Level 2.

Then there’s just the fact the behavior modification is so darned interesting. I think I will go to my grave (in the far distant future, I hope!) still knowing that there is always more to learn about behavior. I am fascinated watching our BMod students work with their dogs, and listening to their oral presentations on Day 6, when they talk about what they did during the week, and what they’ve learned. Great R+ for me, as well as for the students!

Here is last week’s cast of characters, in alpha order by last name (no playing favorites):

  • Keith Dorans, of The Paw Pad USA (www.thepawpadusa.com ), Cranford, NJ. Keith worked with Max, a Sheltie from the Humane Society of Washington County, MD (www.hswcmd.org) . The majority of BMod students bring their own dogs with “issues” to work on, but for some reason with this group, 4 out of 6 chose to work with shelter dogs.

Max “came” with aroused jumping up and hard nipping behaviors that the shelter worried would decrease his adoption potential. His jumping and nipping, it seems, were related to the stress of being at the shelter, and by Day 2 of the academy those were well-resolved. Keith found other things to work on, however – we discovered that he also had some significant anxiety-related behaviors, and was very reactive to moving vehicles. And horses.

  • Dara Lambert of The Enlightened Dog (www.theenlighteneddog.com ), Summerduck, VA. Dara brought her own Border Collie mix, Sancho, to work on his dog reactivity, barrier aggression, and in-car aggression.

Sancho made good progress during the week, although at the age of 9 years we had no expectations that we could “fix” him in 6 days. Dara was pleased with her progress and the new information she obtained about working with reactive dogs in general, and Sancho in particular. Dara was the Academy Star as well, tying for high score on the oral final, and overall high score for the academy. Congratulations, Dara!

 

  • Margaret Marsh, Charlottesville, VA. Margaret also brought her own dog, the lovely Ruby, a young black-and-tan Hound mix. Ruby was also dog reactive, and, we realized during the week, had some generalized anxiety issues.

Ruby tended to fluctuate in her behavior, depending on how many stressors she encountered in a given day. Margaret keeps Ruby at home a lot in Virginia, so hadn’t had the opportunity to recognize how generalized her anxiety might be. When a dog is stressed by a lot of different things, it can be hard to keep her below threshold. Ruby had some good days here, and some more difficult ones, but Margaret did a great job of learning how to read her dog and remove her from stressful situations before she went over threshold, and went home with lots of tools to work with. Ruby really didn’t like the horses!

  • Sue Rissing, of Great Falls, Virginia. Sue worked with Beth, one of two undersocialized Border Collie sisters from the shelter. These 5-6 month-old pups were, fortunately, reasonably well-socialized to people, just not to environmental stimuli, so they had good potential for behavior modification.

Beth did spectacularly well during the academy as she learned to walk on a leash and get brave about all kinds of scary things, including banging chairs, hula hoops, getting in the van, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, microwave oven, nail grinder and more. She even took field trips to the nearby Outlet Mall! Best news of the week, one of our PPaws apprentices, Beth Joy, brought her fiancé Matt and their Min Pin, Roxie, to meet Beth (now renamed Annabelle) and they are adopting her this week. Yay!!!!!


  • Heather Smith, of Fayetteville, PA. Heather worked with yet another shelter dog, Riley, a 10-month-old Beagle. While Riley makes good use of his Beagle nose-heritage, he is also one of the most human-affiliative Beagles I’ve ever known. When we assessed him at the shelter, we were concerned about his easily-triggered submissive urination, and dismayed by his moderate to significant display of resource guarding behavior over a high-value object (cheese-smeared pig ear).

Because a BMod Academy was coming up, we were able to send him to a foster home (thanks, Sarah James!) to await behavior modification. Riley was a star at academy – only a very occasional spot or puddle. He, too, visited the Outlet Mall and didn’t even pee when greeted effusively by a large, intimidating male human. Heather, who also tied for high score on her oral final presentation (congrats, Heather!), worked mainly on his guarding behavior, and we were able to see great progress. Although there was still, not surprisingly, some tension at the end of 6 days when I pushed him a little with the Assess-A-Hand, he was quite comfortable with Heather approaching and interacting with him as he chewed on his meatball-filled cow hoof. We even suggested to the shelter that he could go to an experienced home with older children, as long as the family was very clear about the importance of management when Riley had a high-value resource. Riley won the “too cute for words” award at this academy!

  • Last in the alphabet is Alicia Williams. Unfortunately, Alicia had to leave us on Day 5 due to a family emergency, but during her 4.5 days here she made excellent progress with Beth’s sister, Border Collie Pippin. Pippin seemed a little less confident than Beth, so didn’t make quite as much progress, but also responded amazingly well to all the classical conditioning work Alicia did with her.

We didn’t want Pippin to miss out on her last day at the Academy, so Sue hiked and worked with her on Saturday as well as with Beth/Annabelle. In the right hands, these two girls have the potential to be fantastic companions!

Here’s the whole graduating class, minus a couple of dogs who declines the group shot:

So, with another academy come and gone, it’s time again to look to the days ahead. I am mega-excited about next weekend’s Shaping Workshop in Asheville, North Carolina, hosted by my friends at Cold Nose College (www.coldnosecollege.com ), Lisa and Brad Waggoner. PPaws was located in Chattanooga, Tennessee for several years, and many of my friends from that area are coming – I am sooooooo looking forward to seeing everyone there. Then it’s a Nose Games Seminar here at Peaceable Paws (still room to come have fun with us!), and (can’t wait!!!) 10 days off for a vacation/motorcycle ride to the bike rally in Laconia, New Hampshire. Yes, in my “other life” I really am a biker chick – compete with tattoo!

Until next time…

Warm Woofs and Happy Training!

Pat

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