Coffee + Dogs

*Disclaimer: Dogs should not eat/drink coffee – it is toxic to them. However, a warm doggy and a hot cup of coffee is the perfect combination to curl up with on the couch in the wintertime.


Kavir just made me an Americano with a bit of sweetened condensed milk. He really is the best. Rio is curled up next to me on the couch. Roscoe is sleeping in his crate right now next to the couch. It’s a peaceful late afternoon. I had a few lessons outside and came home quite chilled so this really is the absolute best.

Coffee with this guy.

My dog trainer friend Leeann of Pups Grow Up (shout out to you Leeann!) introduced me to this really great podcast, to which I have been “binge listening” (if that’s a term). Hannah Branigan’s podcast about training with positive reinforcement Drinking from the Toilet is great. Hannah talks about sitting around having a glass of wine with some dog trainer geek friends and geeking out together on all things dog training. That sounds fantastic, like I wish I could get in on that conversation. Listening to her podcast is the next best thing. And here is where I will throw in my two cents on my own blog. Except as I type this, I imagine sitting around drinking coffee with friends. Not that I don’t like wine. Wine is great, but I am a coffee fiend these days. Kavir got us an espresso maker and it makes THE BEST COFFEE!! Coffee makes me happy, energized, and ready to talk dogs.

Okay, so the last podcast I listened to (Drinking from the Toilet #49) was a conversation with Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh of Carpe Momentum in Sweden about the value of offered behavior. Sometimes I will listen to a podcast, be really excited to go try something out, go try it, and then realize just how much room there is to learn and grow as a trainer – feeling both discouraged and motivated in turns. This morning I tried a shaping session with each of our doggies – Roscoe and Rio – we were shaping back up. Back up is not a behavior Roscoe has worked on at all. Rio has it loosely on a hand signal, but it is one of those behaviors I originally taught with a lot of physical prompting (moving into his space), which has probably never been properly faded. I wanted to go back and get a clean ‘back up.’ I also wanted to focus on backing up in a straight line after we have the behavior itself and then maybe modifying it into back up in a circle around something.

Always more to learn!

Things to get better at

  1. Observation
  2. Record keeping
  3. Clean mechanics
  4. Focus
  1. Observation – those little weight shifts that predict movement is going to happen are hard to see -especially with quick-moving doggies. I ended up clicking for behaviors that aren’t necessarily precursors to moving backwards, or I waited too long and got a sit (happened 2 times with each). From a sit, you can’t get any sort of backing up at all so I just had to reset.
  2. Record keeping – I didn’t set up my video camera to record the sessions because I was too lazy. I had to put the battery back in the camera and bring it downstairs. But come on! I could have at least taken a few notes! Nope. okay, in the interest of positive reinforcement training – here are some ways I could set myself up for success on this front: (1) get a note book specifically to keep in my training space, (2) get my printer fixed so that I can print out some training calendars (3) actually print and update my training calendars
  3. Clean mechanics – well if I had that video….
  4. Focus – it’s kind of funny, we talk about having to work on our dogs’ ability to focus. Well, I also really have to work on my own. I notice this in a lot of areas in my life – dog training, business, blogging. I have “bright, shiny object syndrome” (BSOS), always chasing those shiny, new ideas. Here is another place where printing and updating those training plans could really help me. Record keeping could help me too. If I keep records I can notice progress. Noticing progress is reinforcing, leading to more motivation. Well, if it’s out here then at least it is somewhere. So the goal is for Roscoe to back up in a straight line – 5 steps on a verbal cue. For Rio, the goal will be to back in a circle around an object or around me on a verbal cue. It may take us awhile – so I’ll have lots of time to become a better record keeper!

Here are a few of the things that went well in the session this morning:

  1. Kept it short (need to keep it short at this point to make sure the non-working doggy does not begin to loudly insist he be the one working)
  2. Non-working dog was occupied with a Kong (didn’t get any whining or barking)
  3. Very little frustration with either doggy (no whining, scratching, or sniffing in session)

Those are some things to celebrate!

My coffee is gone. My doggy has left my side to go lay on the rug. It’s time to go. I look forward to my next coffee + dog conversation!

May a good dog be with you!


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