Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Barn Sour Horses - Routines Matter

Barn Sour Horses - Behavior Change through modification of riding routine.

About 25 years ago I had a very barn sour horse.  He was okay in the ring as long as he was in sight of his field and stall.  He would move around obediently changing gaits and directions and hop over little jumps when asked.  Once the work part of day was over I would take him out for trail rides in the rolling hills of western New Jersey.  This was our time bonding as we enjoyed the beauty of nature together.  Only there was no bonding and little enjoyment.

Trail riding that horse was more work than ring riding.  I’d keep my leg on him, pushing him every step as he tried to spin me around and drag me back to the barn.  It did not matter if we went out with other horses, he wanted to leave them and go home.  As soon as we turned towards the barn he’d act like a Kentucky Derby prospect showing off for the railbirds.  The ride home was a constant series of my demanding half halts, side passes and circles until I was dizzy and fed up.  Sometimes I’d just let him gallop up the trail because I was tired of arguing.  

Every thinking horse person knows this gallop home was a bad decision.  I’d let him fuss and misbehave and then rewarded this bad behavior with exactly what he wanted, an express ticket back to the barn.

Several horses later and after years of professional dog training experience and the attention to behavior modification that goes with it, I can see even more mistakes in my riding routine.

When you have a horse you usually ride with a plan.  Most people’s riding plan looks like this:

Work horse in ring.  Bends, transitions, collection and extension.  This is difficult stuff.  You are both working hard.
As a reward for this hard work you take your horse on a trail ride.  Together you meander along woodland paths or wander through fields relaxing and loosening muscles tense from work
You return to the barn, groom the horse and fuss over them.
Turn the horse out on pasture or put in stall with hay/grain.

Why would this make your barn sour horse more difficult to ride away from the barn?

Let’s break down what we are doing using dogs as an example.  

If your dog is not very food motivated a biscuit will not motivate that dog,
If that same dog really likes playing fetch with tennis balls you can train with those as a reward for good behavior.   If your dog most of all wants to go outside and sniff around the chicken coop a short, successful, training sessions before going out chicken sniffing is going to yield better results than food they care nothing for.  

Which things are rewarding to this particular dog from most rewarding to least rewarding?

Chicken sniffing
Tennis balls and other toys

The point is, you must use rewards that are valuable to the animal you are training, not rewards you think should be valuable.  So though you may think food is the best choice for dog training, in this dog's case it is not.

In training terms this is called a reward hierarchy.  What makes you very happy?  What makes you pretty happy?  What do you think is Okay?  What don’t you like very much at all?

My reward hierarchy might look like this:

Spend the day at the barn

⇓                                        ⇓

Go to the beach with friends                ͇           Explore a new town with friends

Stand around in high heels and stockings at a fancy party

Clean under the sink (yuck!)

Clearly any task that always ended with my receiving a good under the sink cleaning session would be disliked and avoided.

If you want me to do every task on the list start with sink cleaning, the sink cleaning leads to a high heel party.  Next reward me with fun and friends and end the series with the barn day.  If this is the order or progression every time I will anticipate getting to clean under the sink because it starts such a nice reward chain.

The reward hierarchy of a horse that is uncomfortable away from their barn, aka Barn Sour might look like this:

My stall, my field, my shed

Grooming, Petting, Human Attention
Ring work if my stall/field/shed is close
Trail Riding – WHERE IS MY STALL?!!

Horses That Find Being Near Their Barn Comforting Will Find a Trail Ride LESS DESIRABLE Than Ring Work On The Farm even though the ring work appears to be harder to do.  For that horse ring work is not the most difficult thing, being away from the barn causes them anxiety and is more difficult than collection, bends, etc..  These are BARN SOUR HORSES.

Why does this matter? 

Under my original riding plan when my barn sour horse adequately completed his ring work,  # 3 on his list of things to do, he was made to do something he liked even less.  # 4 on his hierarchy, trail riding.  

In behavioral terms I punished good ring work with something the horse really disliked.

I then rewarded poor behavior on the trail with grooming, food, stall or turn out #'s 1 and 2 on his list. 

The sooner he got trail riding over the sooner he got to do something he really wanted very much.  So he became frantic to end the trail ride.

Training this horse I should have worked TOWARDS the most desired thing, holding it back until the all of the less desired activities are satisfactorily completed in order of desirability from lowest to highest.

If you want your barn sour horse to be both a ring and a trail horse try a brief and low distraction (non-scary) trail ride first.  Return to the barn before the horse becomes frantic, even if the first ride is just stepping outside of the farm gate and then calmly returning. (Important see *Note)  When the horse completes the trail riding exercise he is not rewarded with his favorite thing, he goes to the thing he likes more than trail riding, but less than freedom, food or attention - ring work.

When the horse is good at a low distraction, short duration and short distance trail ride begin to expand these three variables, distraction, duration and distance, one at a time. 

Since the very best thing in his life is not put at the end of the thing he dislikes most your horse should become less frantic for the trail ride to end. Why? Because the trail ride ends with work, not reward.

New Order of Operation for the Barn Sour Horse:

*Note: you MUST first do enough ground or mounted ring work that your horse is safe and ready for a trail ride.  Do this work then go out on the trail.  When you return from your trail ride go back for more ring work.  Trail rides end with ring work, EVERY TIME.

Trail Ride
Ring work
Groom, treats, attention
Stall with hay/grain or turnout with hay/pasture.

If this program does not yield any results in about six weeks consult a horse behavior professional.  

Some places to look for a horse behavior specialist:

Happy Riding,

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka
Savannah, Ga.   Train This Dog, LLC (C)2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Canine Pica; My Dog Eats Socks, Rocks and Blocks!


What is Pica?

Your dog stops eating, they vomit or look cramped and uncomfortable.  They may pooping too much, they may not be pooping at all.

Your dog could have something stuck in their intestines.  Dogs, particularly puppies, are notorious for eating just about anything they find.  If a dog eats non-food items habitually the dog has pica.

The cause of pica is somewhat mysterious.  In some cases, it is caused by mineral or vitamin deficiencies; other dogs develop pica because they are bored or anxious, some just seem to eat what they find.  Pica may become habitual, just like finger nail biting in in humans.  This behavior is an abnormal manifestation of normal dog behavior.  For most of history dogs lived mainly outdoor lives and they foraged and hunted for a substantial portion of their food.  If a dog found a dead squirrel, it ate that squirrel.  Our modern homes have a dearth of dead squirrels, but a sock left on the family room floor sure looks a lot like squirrel to a bored dog.

It is very important when you have a new dog, particularly a puppy, that you supervise them closely, make sure they have a variety of appropriate chew toys, and redirect them in a firm but cheerful manner when they put inappropriate things in their mouths.  (Sounds a lot like having a toddler, doesn’t it?)

Yes, this is work.  But a sock lodged in the intestines can cost thousands.  A friend of mine lost her small dog to zinc poisoning when that dog ate a penny. Supervise, use gates, especially for kids’ rooms and pick up your shoes and socks. If your dog's experiments with eating the wrong things become a habit you will need to make the following changes.

What can you do if your dog has a pica problem?  Do all of these!

  1.     Veterinarian support.  Check for physical causes of pica, particularly nutritional issues,    parasites, poisoning and digestive abnormalities.
  2.    Management!  Close doors, put up gates, use toy boxes, sweep the yard for rocks and other    items your dog may eat.  If they can’t get to it, they can’t eat it.
  3.     Supervise!  Also have a dog safe area where your dog can relax when you can’t supervise.
  4.    Exercise!  Exercise will make your dog tired and calmer.  A tired dog is not restlessly  wandering your home looking for things to do.  Lots of tug, fetch and play!
  5.     Dog Daycare.  Can’t exercise your dog enough, dog daycare can be a lifesaver, literally.
  6.    Use a head harness (gentle leader brand, snoot loop or halti) if your dog grabs things off the    ground on their walks.  Be sure to teach your dog to wear a head harness slowly, don’t just jam  the harness on their head and think it will go well.  This link may help.
  7.   Toy variety.  You might think rubber bones are amazing, but your dog might want a tuff root or  ruff root, a  deer antler, a cow hoof a nylabone for tough chewers, or a bumper made out of  firehose.   
    1.  If they eat fabric then plush toys may not be a good idea. Some dogs also swallow rawhide whole.  If you do get rawhide, be sure it is reconstituted or compressed rawhide
    2.  Supervise when introducing new toys to be sure your dog does not demolish and ingest them.
    3. Go crazy, get them EVERY kind of toy you can think of.  Rotate your toys.
  8.   Stuff hollow bones, kongs, and other toys.  FREEZE these to make them last longer and make  your dog chew more.  Chewing is a naturally calming activity for dogs, probably one of the  reason anxious dogs are often chewers.
  9.    Use NO CHEW Sprays.  Some I have had luck with are Bitter Apple, Phooey and Yuck.      Bring your dog to a pet superstore with a paper towel torn in several pieces.  Conduct an  experiment.  Douse pieces of the paper towel in various sprays and see which one your dog  really really hates.  Some people have had luck using essential oil sprays in lemon or  eucalyptus.
  10.   Over the counter tryptophan supplements can help your dog.  There should be a variety  available at pet shops and on the internet.  Your veterinarian can also provide prescription  tryptophan supplements.
  11.   Teach your dog LEAVE IT and a DROP IT.  Not a "He does it sometimes if he feels like it,"  behavior, but good, solid cues your dog listens to.  You may need a dog trainer for this work.
  12.   Try something new and fun for you and your dog.  Hike, swim, jog, fly-ball, agility, herding,    tracking, scent work, barn hunt, lure coursing.  These will get you two out having fun and you  and your dog will both be happier, healthier and more likely to make great choices.
  13.    As a last-ditch effort, if none of the above allow your dog to live safely, then Prozac or an      antidepressant may be appropriate.  That is a matter to discuss with your veterinarian.

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka

Friday, March 3, 2017


Welcome To Puppy Training!

This brief overview will tell you:

  • What to Bring to Class
  • Where Class is
  • Which vaccinations your dog needs to attend class
  • Who can come to class

Thank you for choosing Puppy class at Train This Dog, LLC.
We look forward to working with you and your dog.
The following information is important, please read carefully so you are prepared for class.
Classes are held at
Catnip n Biscuits
2615  Skidaway Road
(next to Taco Bell near the intersection of Victory Road)

Please show up five to ten minutes early to your class. Use the extra time for to allow your dog to potty.

When you come to class you should bring

Your SHOT RECORDS.  (you can take a clear photo with your phone and bring that in if you like).  

A hungry dog!  
Do not give your puppy breakfast if you have a morning class.
Do not give your puppy supper if you have an evening class.
(Note, this works for most dogs, if your dog is underweight or there is another issue, please use your best judgement)

a collar or harness

a six foot standard leash, no flexi (retractable)leashes permitted

delicious low-fat treats.  Plain boiled chicken in tiny pieces works well - dog biscuits will probably not work well at all.

A long tug toy. No hard ropes or plastic.  Something soft and fuzzy is good.

A treat pouch or clothes with pockets for your treats

Comfortable clothing and well behaved children.  (They will need to sit and listen sometimes, other times they are welcome to help you train your puppy.  They are not allowed to visit other people's dogs during class.)

A check to Train This Dog or cash.  I do not take credit cards.  Class is $125.0 for the session! (if you have a One Love Animal Rescue Voucher, please bring that)

If you must miss a class we can schedule a make up for $20.00 or I will help you catch up during the next class -  Don’t stress, this is puppy class, it’s supposed to be fun!

The following link will direct you to my Puppy Packet.  It has lots of hints for things like house training and no jumping.  It also has a list of things to bring to your puppy classes:

Please do not let your pup visit other puppies as you come into the building.  We don't want to teach them that the way to visit other dogs is by pulling on their leashes.
Please call or email if you have questions or need help.

Thank you for choosing Train This Dog, we will work together to make your new family member the best puppy they can be!

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka
Facebook: Train This Dog!
Website: wwwtrainthisdog.com

Basic Training Level 1 Welcome

This brief overview will tell you:

  • What to Bring to Class
  • Where Class is
  • Which vaccinations your dog needs to attend class
  • Who can come to class

The Dates for the class you have chosen are on the 

Welcome to Train This Dog Basic Training Class!

Thank you for choosing to work with me.

The following information is important, please read carefully so you are prepared for class.

Classes are held at:

Catnip ‘n’ Biscuits
2615 Skidaway Road
Savannah, Ga

Please show up 5 to 10 minutes early to your class.  Use the extra time to allow your dog to eliminate on the grass near the entrance.

When you come to class you should bring:

1.      VACCINATION RECORDS indicating your dog is current on rabies, distemper, and has received a distemper vaccination in the last 6 months  

2.      A Hungry Dog.  Your dog will get plenty of food in class, and will pay better attention if they are a little hungry. 

3.       Good treats.  Good treats are soft, and have a smell.  I like boiled chicken breast cut into pieces the size of a pea; it is actually cheaper by the pound than packaged dog treats, and fat free.  Do not bring hard biscuits.

4.       A treat pouch or good pockets you don’t mind loading with chicken or hotdogs.

5.       A basic, well-fitting collar or harness.  No chokes, chains, or prongs, please

6.       A basic 6’ leash.  FLEXI (retractable) LEASHES ARE NOT ALLOWED IN CLASS.  Just get a plain old fashioned dog leash.

7.       A wonderful, long, soft tug toy.  NOT a rope or hard plastic thing.  I like the ‘road kill’ flat ones, personally, they have squeakers too.  Don’t let your dog play with their new toy until they get to class.  Hint:  The smaller the dog, the longer your tug toy should be, so you don’t get a sore back.

8.   We hope you bring your family, including children who are old enough to sit still and be quiet when requested.  We will allow children to join their parents as often as possible, but sometimes they will be required, for safety and training purposes, to sit in the audience.  If your children are too young to quietly comply please bring another adult to watch them, or make alternate arrangements.

Cash or a check made out to Train This Dog for $125.00.   If you have a One Love Animal Rescue training voucher, please bring that. 

When you come into class have a seat, and keep your  dog close.  Please do not let your dog visit other dogs as they come into the room.

Many of the questions you may have will be answered there.  If you have others please don't hesitate to contact me.  (Text messages work great!)

I look forward to help you and your dog become a wonderful team! 

Train This Dog                      Savannah Georgia
Train this Dog's Facebook Page
Train this Dog's Google+ Page              
Phone: 677-2861
Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka

Friday, March 18, 2016

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dogs and Children                 

Exercises for dog owners and parents to keeps greeting safe and fun for everyone.

Children and dogs go together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly.  But a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like a great child-dog friendship, takes a little preparation. New friendships between children and dogs are more likely when both parties are having a good day, and have learned good manners and respectful greeting behaviors.  I hope these words help you prepare your dogs, and your children, for great times together.

To Parents

Parents have the ultimate responsibility for their child’s safety.

Here are some rules to follow that can help your child have safe and happy dog experiences:

a.       Ask the dog owner if the dog has experience with children your child’s age before allowing a greeting

b.      Hold your young child’s hand. If the child is likely to squeal, run, pull the dog or hit you must be ready to intercede before the child acts.

c.       If either the dog or the child seems hesitant stop the greeting in a happy, cheerful way.

d.      Always supervise interactions between your child and any dog, even your own.

Children who have good dog greeting skills don’t happen by accident.  As a parent it is important to teach your child appropriate dog greeting skills that will stay with them their whole lives.  

Rehearse the following with your child on well known, friendly dogs before (cautiously) venturing into the world of greeting strange dogs.

1.  Children should always ask permission of the dog’s owner before approaching a dog, even a dog they know.  No matter what the owner says, parents have to also assess the situation.  If you are unsure the situation is safe don’t feel badly about walking on.

2.  Children should stop several feet from the dog and let the dog approach the last few steps.  If the dog does not seek contact the child must accept that the dog wants to ‘say hello’ from a distance.

3.  Children need to learn not to grab dogs by the collar, reach over their heads or try to hug them.  Petting should be gentle, and soft.  Avoid the eyes and ears, some dogs are sensitive in these areas.

4.  Children should not approach a dog while either the dog or the child is in possession of food.

5. Children should never take anything from a dog, food, toy, or stolen object.  Children should never sit on any dog or yank on a dog.  If the dog has taken a child’s possession the child needs to inform an adult not remedy the situation themselves.

5. Children should stay calm and speak softly.  Do not squeal and run. 

6. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie is a more than a proverb; it is a great rule for greeting dogs.  Make sure the dog is awake, alert and aware of your approach before your child touches them.

Dog owner responsibility when greeting children

As the dog’s owner you have twofold responsibility.  The parents will be taking your word that your dog is reliable with children.  But, you are also the guardian of your dog.  If things go badly it is always the dog who is blamed, no matter how inappropriate the child may have been.  Be very clear with the child’s parents about your rules for greeting your dog and if it seems that the rules will not be followed politely decline their advances and walk on.

The following guidelines will help keep everyone safe and happy.

1.       Don’t Test or Practice on other people’s children.  If you are not sure your dog is going to be friendly and respectful just politely decline the greeting.   If you have treats the child can stand at a distance and gently toss them toward your leashed dog.  This is a great first step in teaching your dog to appreciate children.

2.       Be aware of how your dog is feeling every day.  Are they hot, tired, or stressed by the surroundings?  Are they on a new medication or not feeling well?  Have they had a recent scare?  All of these can make a normally happy dog cranky or distrustful.  If your dog is having a bad day, think twice before they greet children.

3.       Be aware that small children can be knocked over.  If you have a large dog, teach them to SIT or DOWN when children approach or have the children in a place where they cannot be toppled.  A park bench is a great place for a child to sit when petting a large, friendly dog.

4.       For a dog babies are different from toddlers.  Grade school children are different from teen agers.  Just because your dog likes your 13 year old daughter and her friends it does not mean they will like a 4 year old.  A dog who likes a 4 year old may be terrified by a 15 year old boy.

5.       Be aware of stress signs and watch for them when your dog encounters children.
Stress signs include, but are not limited to:

 Yawning - as if suddenly tired
 Hackles Raised- This involuntary response means your dog is upset
  Scratching while looking away
   Lip licking like they just ate or smelled food
    Eyes averted from the child or you can see the white of the eye
    Head and/or ears lowered
   Attempting to stand behind you
   Excessive drooling, sudden stiffening, hard stare, or low growl * (Don’t scold, punish or insist the dog greet. Remove the dog immediately and ask a professional for help)

 If you see any of the above halt the greeting for that day.  If it is important that your dog likes
children please consult a professional for a safe and slow desensitization program.

6.       Don’t use a retractable (flexi) leash around children.  They can catch children around the legs, torso, or even neck and cause rope burns and nore serious injury.

*Never punish or scold a growl.  The dog was uncomfortable and chose to give a verbal warning rather than bite.  This is a good thing.  Remove the dog from the situation immediately, stop and think about why your dog was uncomfortable and consider asking a professional for help.

We hope this little pamphlet keeps you safe and happy and sets everyone up for a lifetime of great dog-human friendships.

Train This Dog offers Group Classes and Private Training for the Family Pet
Day training for older dogs and Puppy Not-a-boot-camp is also available for busy owners

Behavioral clients for issues such as fear, aggression, separation anxiety, food and object guarding accepted on a case by case basis.  Please enquire.

Train This Dog                      Savannah Georgia
Phone: 677-2861  
Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall 
The +P and -P of Raising Puppies and Children

A few thoughts inspired by a post on Reisner Veterinary 

Behavior & Consulting Service's Facebook page


I am going out on a limb here to quote my very unscientific 

"Into each life a little rain must fall." How does that work for dog training

Aversives are something the dog or child would rather avoid. 

Sometimes the dog does not want to sit, sometimes the child does not want to pick up her room. If the parent or trainer insists the child or dog perform the task anyway this would be seen as an unpleasant situation to the young one.

When the task is accomplished the unpleasant stimulus goes away. (Mom backs off and allows the now compliant kid or puppy to engage in alternate, more pleasant behavior)

Why is it important to ask a dog (or child) to choose one behavior over another?

To me, SIT as an alternative to cat chasing is a form of IMPULSE CONTROL, and impluse control, is key to raising dogs and children who make good decisions.

 As a mom and a dog trainer I don't hit and I don't yell. I don't use harsh correction collars on my dogs.  There are however times that nothing happens until my canine or human subject makes the appropriate choice.  

My Focus is to help the dog develop the internal control necessary to choose appropriate behaviors, even in challenging circumstances.

Appropriate behaviors for dogs include Sit, Down, Stay, Wait, Come, and walking calmly on leash without pulling or barking.

Am I a 100% positive trainer? Probably not. My goal is to be a firm, fair, consistant trainer who rewards good behavior often enough that I rarely have to stop everything in order to halt poor decisions.

7 month old Puppy Wilkes making good choices
Trained, in this instance, by Twiz the Cat.