Trainer in Training

The dog training association I am certified with, CCPDT, requires one to stay up-to-date with current trends and ideas in the positive reinforcement training world by requiring trainers to complete 30 continuing education credits every 2 years.  I spent the first year of my business focusing on developing the business and teaching what I had learned from experience.  It is now the year to continue my education for which I am excited.

Not only am I taking classes which offer CEU’s, but I am also taking some training classes WITH my dogs.  Last week Mesa, Ole and I headed to Great Falls for a private lesson with each dog with another R+ trainer.  We had a ball, and a frisbee, and a tug!  We actually have homework again and that has created more focus in my training with each of my dogs, including Winnie the Lab we live with.  We worked on Ole’s recalls and lay downs.  We worked on desensitizing Mesa.  For those of you who have met Mesa, you will understand. This means I am working on her to be more comfortable with welcome hands, especially mine,  reaching for her head/neck to enjoy being petted.  We also worked on go-to-mat for all 3 dogs, especially for when I am cooking dinner.

I know there are quite a few of you out there that would be interested in the training’s I take, even if you don’t need the CEU’s.  Here is a list of online resources I am using to learn.  If you take any courses, please do let me know and I’d love to hear what you think about them over coffee, my treat!

Let the Learning Continue and the Training Never End.

Classes on CCPDT site.
Raising Canine site.

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Classes Canceled for this Evening – Jan 18

Classes Canceled for this Evening – Jan 18

Do to terrible winter and driving conditions, all classes are canceled for this evening.  If you have any questions, please do contact me by calling 406-570-8559 or by emailing me at  Stay warm.

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The Cost of Cooking for My Dog – Priceless

The Cost of Cooking for My Dog – Priceless
Now that I have been cooking for Mesa for 3 months, and talking highly of the results I am seeing, I am getting to you what a lot of people have been asking…how much does it cost. Here is the break down of our home cooked diet. We admit, we have an advantage of living on a ranch and getting our own beef butchered, as well as living amongst big game hunters who kindly share their elk and deer meat. And a great big shout out again for our local butcher, 5-D Processing, for helping us with this project by giving us raw meaty bones, and other organ meat – oh and a really sharp knife!

Mesa's Meat Mixture

Mesa's Rice Mixture

I work at a local organic grocery store, so I do most of my shopping there due to convenience. Thus, Mesa’s ingredients are also purchased from Mountain Front Market. They may be a bit pricier at that store than others but if I eat organic, why shouldn’t my dog?

The original recipe we began with was taken from Monica Segal’s book called K9 Kitchen: Your Dogs’ Truth Behind the Hype. My recipe goes like this (price is per recipe which gets us through 1 week):
4 lbs Ground Elk – $0
16 oz Beef Heart – $0
4 oz Beef Liver – $0
2 Eggs
7 oz Sockeye Salmon – $5.95
4 C Brown Rice – $4.00
32 oz Carrots – $5.00
1 C Lentils – $1.75
8 t Calcium Carbonate – $0.97
2 t Kelp – $0.19
40 mg Zinc Gluconate – $0.28
1 tablet Vitamin B – $0.08
6 capsules Vitamin E – $1.88

TOTAL  –  $20.10
Knowing What is In My Dog’s Food – PRICELESS.

It truly is priceless knowing exactly what is in my dog’s food.  Of the 13 ingredients, 6 ingredients are made here in Montana – I love buying local.  Take a look at this image:

This is taken off of the dry kibble I do feed to my other dogs, and what Mesa ate before her home-cooked meals.  I admit, when we are low on home made food, or are traveling, Mesa still gets this dry kibble.  Let me get to my point.  My point is that there are 53 ingredients, yes, over 4 times the amount of ingredients in this dry kibble than there are in the home cooked meal we use.  None of the dry kibble ingredients are produced locally. There are several (most) ingredients that I don’t even understand what they are or what their purpose.  Yes, I could do the research on those but who wants to spend time  researching that many ‘things’?  I don’t.  I would rather train my dogs with that time than spend the time on the computer…

I forgot to mention time – after all, time is money.  Aside from shopping for the store bought ingredients for my home cooked meal, I spend 1 hour a week making a pot of food.  It takes me 30 minutes to drive, one way, to get to my kibble distributor.  1 bag costs $50 and can get me through nearly 2 months of feeding 1 dog.

So on paper, buying dry kibble for my dog is more cost effective.  But knowing exactly what is going in to my dog and knowing where each ingredient came from and it’s purpose, that makes up the difference.

Which would you choose?

Mesa's Final Cooked Meal

Dry Kibble

If you have any questions about feeding home cooked meals, please contact me.  I am happy to answer any questions I can, get you started, and point you in the right directions for more information.

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New Class Schedule

New Class Schedule
Rocking K9 Companions new class schedule is up!  We begin classes on January 11th.  This session we are offering C.G.C., Puppy and Adolescent Foundation, and a Let’s Weave Class.  We will begin a new session of Agility 101 in February.  Please visit the classes page for more information.  Contact Prairie if you have any questions and to register.

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Basket of Toys

Basket of Toys
Each indoor play session with toys begins with polite behavior.  Nothing in life is free.  That is the rule for my dogs and now that I think about it, all of us.  We must work in order to get paid.

Polite Behavior

All of my dogs’ toys are placed in a basket at the end of each play session, ready for the next.  They are each allowed 1 toy per play session, any toy they want, but they only get 1.  So really, there are 3 toys out per session, which is plenty.

Basket of Toys

Allowing the dogs to only have 1 toy a piece keeps the novelty in all of the toys.  The ball is just as important as the squeaky penguin which is just as important as the brown bear. This concept also keeps toy life longer.  The dogs aren’t able to hide a toy and chew on it with out me knowing.   But most of all, this concept teaches them that polite behavior gets them FUN!

Rushing for Toy

Winnie Getting Toy

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Basket of Tricks

Basket of Tricks
To keep training sessions simple and random, I write all the tricks I teach my dogs on 1/2 of a recipe card, fold it up and put it in a basket.

Basket of Tricks

Each training session I pull out 3 tricks to work on.  This allows us to work on tricks that are not as fluent as some.  I am guilty of it, and I have seen it done numerous times, that handlers tend to train over and over the tricks, or behaviors, that are fluent with the dog – thus being nearly 100% successful.  It’s great and necessary to maintain those fluent behaviors but it’s also equally important to work on those behaviors that aren’t as fluent to get them to be just as fluent.

First 3 Tricks

Next 3 Tricks

I train my dogs 4-5 times a day.  Each training session is no more than 5 minutes long – and we incorporate training into our daily walks.  But to make it easy, I like to pull out 3 tricks for the morning session, 3 more tricks for the noon training, 3 more tricks for afternoon and 3 more for evening.  I keep each set of 3 out of the basket until we have worked on each trick in the basket.

Try it.  Keeps training fun and interesting.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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Media Hit

Media Hit
On Saturdays, we (2 or 3 dogs and myself)  load up into the car and head in to town.  I work at an organic grocery that creates a monthly newsletter and spotlights local producers who contribute their harvests to the store.  Since our birds have been laying eggs, I have been able to sell some to Mountain Front Market and therefore, we were highlighted in November’s newsletter.

Producer Spotlight

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Chicken Clicker Training part 2

Chicken Clicker Training part 2
Now that the chickens now how to walk up a ramp in a non-overwhelming environment, we added some distraction.  The 3D’s (distance, duration, distraction) are the criteria I use in order to build fluency.  The distraction in the next step of training the chickens to load into a pickup is the pickup.  I use the clicker followed with food treats as reinforcement to encourage them to walk up the ramp into the pickup.  At the top, once they are inside the pickup, they are heavily rewarded with fresh kitchen compost.

Note that I only reward the birds for walking up toward the destination, not when they walk down the ramp away from the goal.

Enjoy the video.  Please feel free to contact me for questions or comments.

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Hunter’s or Halloween Orange?

Hunter’s or Halloween Orange?
I posted this entry last fall.  I just want to remind outdoorsey folk to play it safe during hunting season. 

I like to hike with my dog, alot.  Fall is one of my most favorite times of the year to get out into the mountains for fresh air and beautiful scenery.
I would be willing to place a bet that a lot of you like to go hiking where the deer and the antelope roam too.  During hunting season, I like to play it safe with my dog in order to let her enjoy this season as well.

Hunter's orange keeps dogs safe.

I make her wear hunter’s orange. I found a cheap, plastic hunter’s orange vest at a local store and it was large enough to cut 4 or 5 strips, tie each one in a loop, and slip over an adult dogs’ head.  I still make her wear her collar of course, but with the orange she really sticks out now when she’s running through the trees, lessening the chances of her being tragically mistaken for a 7 point bull elk, or a black bear, or any species that is being hunted where I hike this and next month.
And, personally speaking, I think she looks good enough to trick or treat with me too.  Too bad she can’t have any chocolate candy.

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Fall Class Session Posted

Fall Class Session Posted
As the cooler weather, and shorter days quickly approach, consider signing your rocking canine up for some fun and confidence boosting classes, giving you and your dog an activity to look forward to do together.  This next session we are offering Agility 101 and CGC on Wednesday nights, beginning November 2.  Please visit the classes page for more information on each class and contact Prairie for registration.

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