The ABCs of Problem Solving

Problem solving is a big part of dog training and behavior consulting. Many problems are very straightforward: my dog pulls on leash, my dog jumps on visitors at the front door etc. Some problems are more difficult: my dog bites the mailman on the third Tuesday of every month except during July on leap years.

At times these problems can be very difficult to get a handle on. Some of them, like the contrived problem I made up above, seem to have countless moving parts. Where do we start? Where do we finish?

And of course we have the seemingly unlimited lists of “common sense” rules and “facts” about dogs and how they operate. Packs, leaders, alphas, betas, rules for 2 females in the same home (if your particular breed or rescue cult allows that), rules for 2 males in the same home (again if your cult allows this – the fact that some people think that this is Not Allowed For Their Breed™ is a matter of great pride for them), rules for when dogs can eat, rules for where they can do their business, and other facts about this and that amazing thing. Many fascinating things that some people might be tempted to say don’t have much to do with much of anything. Like me.

What if, dear readers (all three of you), I could give you a formula that would help you focus in on the real problem while giving you a very very big hint as to how to solve it?

And what if I could tell you that there is a formula that is so basic and so fundamental that it’s been used successfully on just about every known species on this planet? (The only reason I am saying “just about” is I’m assuming there are species no one has tried to work with yet.) This isn’t a new discovery and it’s not some silly “dog training secret” that I am going to hide behind a shopping cart or a membership site. That would be silly and dishonest since this is good old behavioral science and you can Google it and find hundreds of thousands of pages on it, many from colleges, universities and other reliable sources.

This is the good stuff. The stuff that really works.

Antecedent (A) -> Behavior (B) -> Consequence ©

An antecedent is the thing that comes first. In a colloquial sense you can say it “causes” the behavior.

The behavior is, well, the behavior. The thing that happens.

The consequence is what happens as a result of the behavior. (Remember, consequences don’t have to be "bad.")

Let’s look at a common problem:

Antecedent: Someone enters home through front door.
Behavior: Dogs jumps up on person.
Consequence: Dog receives attention.

The most important thing that ABC gives us is a template with which we can focus in on the specifics of a problem. What’s missing from the example above? Quite a bit, and that’s what makes it so powerful. Because what’s missing isn’t needed to solve them problem at hand.

Let’s break down the three components a little further to illustrate how this helps:

Antecedent: Someone enters home through front door.

The antecedent has a couple of basic rules: it has to be a change in the environment made by someone or something other than the dog and it needs to be as specific as possible.

So “the dog runs to the door” would not be a proper antecedent. Why did she run to the door? The antecedent needs to be a stimulus that elicits a behavior, to be all scientific-ky about it.

Similarly, a “person is there” is not really specific enough for us to really start solving a problem. Even “a person walks in the door” could use some help. Which door?

Behavior: Dogs jumps up on person.

Defining the behavior would seem pretty simple, and it usually is. There are, similar to antecedents, 2 pitfalls to look out for.

When describing the behavior, stick to behavior: things that are observable and measurable. “The dog greets the person enthusiastically” is nice and colorful but it doesn’t tell us what she is actually doing. “The dog greets the person inappropriately” also tells us nothing other than someone isn’t happy with whatever happened.

Measurable is a little more complicated. In this example we could measure how high the dog jumps, or for how long she would do it if no one intervened. We don’t need to include a measurement in this specific example, but we could. We might use measurements when we need to describe something involving a specific distance, such as “the dog begins to growl when a person comes within 10 feet of him while he is eating.”

Consequence: Dog receives attention.

Identifying the consequences of the behavior is where things can get tricky.

If you worked with a trainer that uses and talks about positive reinforcement you should have heard one very important fact: the dog decides what is reinforcing and reinforcement and punishment are measured by results. If it doesn’t increase or maintain the behavior it wasn’t reinforcing. If it doesn’t decrease or eliminate the behavior it wasn’t punishing.

Sometimes this means making an educated guess. In our example we have a dog that is jumping on people and presumably not biting them, so we can safely assume she is seeking to greet them and then getting the attention she wants. Here is where what the human thinks might ought to be punishing “Daisy! Get off! Stop it!” and what the dog actually finds reinforcing can be the same thing.

Sometimes it’s more obvious:

A: Child leaves cookies on toybox.
B: Dog jumps onto toybox.
C: Cookies.

Food is a primary reinforcer. We can assume that the cookies are the consequence that is sustaining this behavior.

How can we use this formula to solve a problem? Since I am already past 990 words, I am going to have to save it for next week. Stay tuned and let me know what you think in the comments!

The ABCs of Problem Solving is a post from: Dog Spelled Forward

Dog Spelled Forward Website and Blog

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Grooming Your Golden Retriever

Grooming your Golden Retriever is a never ending process. The entire process should be down once or twice a week, and will take you around a ½ an hour of time. Brushing your dog while he is shedding will help to control shedding quite a bit. While outside, if your Golden Retriever manages to get burs or other defects in his hair, you should instantly take a few moments of your time and get the burs or other matter out of his coat.

When you groom your pet, you should always start with a good brushing. Brush his entire body, then once you have finished brushing you can switch to a comb to get out any loose hair that remains in the coat. While you are getting out the hair, you can also inspect your pet for ticks, fleas, and other types of skin ailments. If you wish, you can also check his ears and trim his nails as well.

Bathing your Golden is essential to grooming, and can be somewhat complicated. Before you attempt to give him a bath, you should always brush him first, to get rid of tangles. During shampooing, you should always use shampoos that are specifically for dogs, since human shampoo can dry a dog’s skin out. You don’t need to bathe your dog often, once every other week is good enough. If you properly maintain your Golden’s coat, you’ll find it’s much easier to clean.

To prevent matting, which is very common with Golden Retrievers, you should always make sure that you brush your pet on a daily basis. Metal combs and brushes work extremely well, and will help you to get a great deal of the hair out. Although some people choose to use scissors and cut the mats, you can easily injure your Golden if he happens to move or jerk. Scissors aren’t recommended, as brushing and proper bathing will help to prevent matting of the hair better than anything else.

When you cut your dogs nails, you should trim them a great deal, all the while avoiding going down into the quick. You should never let your Golden’s nails get too long, as long nails can easily take the shape of the dog’s foot, resulting in a splay. Therefore, you should always check your Golden Retriever’s nails and trim them every few weeks. If you trim them just right, you’ll have at least 2 weeks before they need to be trimmed again. If you do happen to trim the nails past the quick, bleeding will occur. To stop the bleeding, always keep some styptic powder on hand to make sure that you are prepared if you do make a mistake.

With other types of grooming, you should also make sure that you clean your Golden’s ears as well. They can get ear infections quite easily, if you don’t clean their ears on a regular basis. To get the best results and protect your pet from ear infections, you should clean his ears once a week using a quality cleansing solution. This way, you can rest assured that your Golden has healthy ears.

Grooming is an essential aspect to the health of every Golden Retriever. All it takes is a little bit of time from your day to groom your pet and keep him healthy. If you don’t have the time to groom your Golden, you can always take him to a professional. Whether you do it yourself or take your Golden to a pro – grooming is something that simply must be done.
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Latest Flea Topical News

Bayer HealthCare Introduces Seresto™, Offering Easy-To-Use Flea and Tick
With Seresto, we give consumers a new alternative to spot-on topical flea and tick, and oral flea prevention." Seresto will be sold in veterinary clinics, pet specialty stores and select online pet pharmacies beginning on January 21, 2013 at a
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It's in the Bag!
Much like Jack Benny's plot-oriented radio and television programs provided an early template for situation comedy, there are few post-'60s topical absurdists who haven't in some way responded to the legacy of Benny's good-natured archrival, Fred Allen
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Debra Atlas: Farm Dog Naturals offers all-natural salves
Salvation Salve is great to treat yeast in dog ears, topical yeast, paw pads and general dryness. It's also an effective treatment for dog nose crust — thick, hard crusty gunk that's a common issue with bulldogs and older These pesky conditions
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Project Life 365 – Week 3

Yikes.  This is almost becoming a weekly blog!  I’ve felt busier than usual since Christmas.  Constantly scrambling, nothing ever really getting completed.  I’m not sure what is different (other than this project), or how to fix it.  This weekend probably isn’t going to help as Friday night I went and had some fun photographing a basketball game, then Saturday I spent the day taking in a photography workshop on editing and today I’m meeting my Dad and his wife Shelley in Waterton for a snowshoe.  (Can you just say snowshoe, the way you say hike?  Feels weird, yet right.)

Anyway, here are my pictures from the week.  I like looking at them all together because it shows me that I’m actually doing a variety of subjects even though it doesn’t always feel that way.  I’ve had some more fun with the Lensbaby on days 15 and 17. I’m still struggling with focusing it but I’m getting better. :)

Day 13 – Forgotten
I’ve forgotten what it is like to sleep soundly through the night.  Luckily for me, I can usually fall asleep again fairly easily.

Day 14 – Temptation
I didn’t really want to admit what all my vices were, so I decided to torture Coulee with hers instead.  I’m going to try this again one day.  I really wish you could have seen her face, but she refused to lay down on top of the kibble. Next time, I’ll arrange the kibble after she is in a down stay.

Day 15 – Confusion
Ears up or ears down?

Day 16 – Sign of Winter
Wool and fur, don’t leave home without it.

I have mixed feelings about the fur, just like I have mixed feelings about eating meat, but I feel it is OK if I am putting it to good use and provided it is obtained ethically.  On those really cold blustery days, this small amount around my face really does make a huge difference.  If you are interested in the fur policy of this particular jacket manufacturer you can find out more here -

Day 17 – This is so me
I’m one of those people that actually like rules. I think rules help make the world go round.

I even like the “Pets on Leash” rule which may surprise you as I constantly break it – but I only break it when we are alone. The dogs always wear emergency leashes around their necks and they both have a pretty decent recall in case they need to suddenly be on leash.

One of my biggest pet peeves is dogs running off leash when they should be leashed.  Ironic, I know.  But if I can see it happening, it means we are too close and the dogs should be leashed.

Day 18 – News
The sports news is the one section I’ll skip completely in the newspaper.  Although I quite enjoy watching sports live, and I’m really enjoying photographing basketball, I don’t actually care who wins as long as it is entertaining.

Day 19 – Style
No one would ever describe me as stylish.  I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.  Plain Jane and boring.  That’s me. But I did find a pink rubber belt that I love.
Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey

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Black PUG = Odie Pig Beige PUG = Simba Pig Together = free scratches!

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#AmazingPetExpo Giveaway: Enchanted Home Pet Bed!

As you know, we’re Official Blog Ambassadors for Amazing Pet Expos, some great (free!) shows around the country especially for pet lovers. One of our sponsors is Enchanted Home Pet™, a company…

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Common dog Illnesses

Unfortunately there are many common dog illnesses and diseases that can be life-threatening to your pet. Many of these illnesses are viral and the easiest way to prevent them is by vaccination.

If you think that your pet is very ill, you’ll need to monitor your dog’s behavior and make notes on what you observe. Then call your vet as soon as possible and report your observations.

Some of the most common illnesses in pet dogs include heartworm, bloat, canine distemper, parvovirus, tapeworm, and rabies.

Heartworm is a parasitic disease that is spread by mosquito bites. Once a dog is infected, the parasitic worms grow and live inside the dog’s heart chambers. The most common symptoms of this disease are coughing, difficulty in breathing, an aversion to exercise, and congestive heart failure. Heartworm is very difficult to treat and the sad news is that many dogs don’t survive heartworm treatment. The good news is that heartworm is easily preventable by giving your dog a monthly dose of a heartworm medication available at most pet stores.

Bloat is a life threatening condition commonly found in large dog breeds like Great Danes and Mastiffs. Bloat occurs when a dog overeats or eats its meals too quickly on a regular basis. This causes gas or fluid to build-up in the dog’s stomach. The stomach can then become twisted and will cut off circulation to the internal organs. If this serious condition is not treated immediately it can kill your pet.

Symptoms of bloat include:
• Dry heaves that occur every 5 to 30 minutes
• Weakness or collapsing
• Swollen, bloated abdomen
• Restlessness or anxiety
• Lack of normal digestive sounds in the abdomen
• Tapeworms in the dog’s feces

Another common dog illness is canine distemper, a dangerous and incurable disease that can seriously affect your dog’s health and longevity. Treatment for distemper can be expensive. If your dog survives canine distemper it may suffer neurological damage for the rest of its life.

Symptoms in the early stages of canine distemper are coughing, diarrhea, and mucus discharge from the eyes and nose. As the disease progressively worsens and enters the final stage, the dog will have seizures.

Adult dogs have a fifty percent chance of surviving canine distemper but unfortunately, puppies have only about a twenty percent chance of survival. It is vital that your dog receive a distemper vaccine shot to prevent catching this deadly disease.

Parvovirus is another viral illness that is especially dangerous for puppies. The symptoms of parvovirus include vomiting, decreased appetite, bloody diarrhea and lethargy. Treatment requires lots of fluids and antibiotics. Parvovirus kills about eighty percent of the dogs that become infected with this disease, but it is preventable through vaccination.

Tapeworm is a common dog illness caused by parasites and affects many dogs. Tapeworm parasites live inside a dog’s intestines and can grow as long as eight inches. When a dog gets fleas and swallows one that contains tapeworm eggs, the condition will spread.

It’s easy to tell if your dog has tapeworms because you’ll see small white segments of the worm moving around in your dog’s feces. Tapeworms can easily be treated with medication taken orally.

Rabies is a very serious viral disease that spreads from one animal to another through saliva. Rabies will cause an animal to become aggressive, and it can easily spread the disease through bite wounds. Rabies is deadly and contagious to humans also. In all U.S. cities dogs are required to have rabies vaccinations.

The symptoms of rabies in the beginning stages include fevers, behavioral changes, and slow eye reflexes. As the disease gets progressively worse, a dog will become increasingly aggressive, bark excessively and without reason, and is bad-tempered and restless. In its advanced stage rabies leads to coma and death. Dogs who contract rabies are required to be euthanized.

No ailment in your dog should be considered just a common dog illness and left untreated. The consequences can be the loss of a dearly beloved pet.

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Help Support Animal Shelters and Rescues With Pet Food Purchases

Remember that every time you make a purchase from Trilogy, part of your purchase will be allocated to the Trilogy HealthyPetNet Foundation. The HealthyPetNet Foundation is a wonderful organization developed by Dr. Jane Bicks and helps a number of worthy animal causes like small animal rescues and shelters.

Feel good knowing that while you’re providing your cat or dog with healthy, nutritious food, supplements and care products you are also indirectly support local organizations who are in desperate need for financial support.

Head over to my Trilogy website to order your pet food and treats today and help support these organizations!

The Perfect Pet Food Blog

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Flea Jump Mystery Solved

Forty-four years after the debate about how fleas jump began, researchers say they’ve solved the mystery thanks to high-speed cameras that show the insects pushing off with their toes rather than with their knees. Jorge Ribas reports.
Video Rating: 4 / 5

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