Please Don’t Bite The Baby book launch on Thursday, October 29th!

Lisa’s new book Please Don’t Bite The Baby launches Thursday October 29th at the Ridgefield Library with a reading hosted by Books on the Common and ROAR.

PleaseDontBiteMark your calendars!

On Thursday October 29th Books on the Common in conjunction with ROAR (Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue) and the Ridgefield Library will be hosting a launch for my latest book Please Don’t Bite the Baby.

The night will include a talk with tips, readings, and – of course – books will be for sale and I will be signing your copies.

The event will be at the Ridgefield Library in the main program room at 472 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877.

For more information, please see:

See you there!

Top three reasons to love the Whole Dog Journal

The Whole Dog Journal has been a staple of mine for more than fourteen years and I recommend it as required reading for everyone who loves their dogs.

The Whole Dog Journal has been a staple of mine for more than fourteen years.

  • Each year I devour the annual pet dog food (both wet and dry) issues (Reason #1 and pun #1). These analyses allow me to choose the best food based on the specific ingredients and my dog’s needs—not the food that advertises the most.
  • This leads me to reason #2—No Advertising. Because The Whole Dog Journal does not allow advertisements, all their product articles from food to equipment are well researched and without pressure from advertisers!
  • Which leads me to reason #3—their staff of writers are credentialed and passionate about their work. They contribute to the research and they have the backgrounds that offer them the knowledge to comment appropriately on topics of health, training, behavior, and more.

Three Dogs Training encourages you to take a look at The Whole Dog Journal if you have not done so already! Maybe even as a gift to you and your pup(s)!

Things Your Dog Will Love: Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine

Half slot and half gumball, the Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine is a puzzle toy that not only keeps your dog challenged but is a blast to watch.

Yuppy-Puppy-Treat-MachineDogs are natural problem solvers and we see it in them everyday when they do something pleasantly unexpected or when we’re left scratching our heads to figure out where they got that from. Again.

If we don’t figure out new and engaging ways to keep them cognitively challenged we risk them doing it on their own in ways that won’t be acceptable.

This is why I love puzzle toys so much, keep a closet full of them at home, and why my dogs’ eyes light up every time they see the Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine come out.

In essence, the Treat Machine is half gumball machine and half slot machine but what it really is is a window into the sheer power of the positive reinforcement variable reward schedule.

It takes a couple demonstrations on the owner’s part to get the dog to understand how it works – pull the bone-shaped handle down to dispense some treats – but once it clicks in their minds they’re hooked.

In theory, the Treat Machine dispenses with each successful pull of the bone-shaped arm but the beauty of the puzzle is that most dogs just aren’t all that coordinated with their paws to be able to pull the arm with each try so they introduce the necessary variability into the reward schedule to get them coming back again and again.

The variable reward schedule that the Treat Machine takes advantage of is the secret sauce of positive reinforcement training and it’s just as strong in humans as it is in any other animal – if not more so.

By providing a reward of sufficient value in terms of monetary value, physical gratification, or sheer yumminess at a frequent enough schedule to ensure a relatively good chance of receiving it with each attempt, the variable reward schedule can essentially coax the mind into repeating behaviors that will hopefully lead to the reward payoff.

While in positive reinforcement dog training we leverage the variable reward schedule for the benevolent purposes of teaching and shaping fun or pleasing behaviors, the sheer power of it that I mentioned earlier is also what leads in humans to gambling and drug addiction, risk-taking behaviors, and why people stay in unsafe relationships.

Coming back to more pleasant territory, the Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine fulfills my criteria for a great positive reinforcement puzzle toy:

  1. It’s relatively inexpensive.
  2. It does exactly what they say it will do and will consistently keep your dog challenged.
  3. It’s not something they’ll ever grow bored of provided the rewards dispensed remain interesting to them.

I use the Treat Machine at home with my own dogs and I use it in class frequently. I think it’s a great tool to add to our positive reinforcement bag of tricks and believe you will, too.


The Great Crate Debate

Like all tools, there is a right and wrong way to use a dog crate. Here is an easy-to-follow list of do’s and don’ts to make your dog love their crate.

A crate is a lovely and secure place for dogs to spend time when you can’t be watching them or when you are not home.

It should be a safe place where they are not disturbed and where they can have fun with wonderful safe things in there with them – toys, food, etc.

However, like all tools there is a right way and a wrong way to use a crate:

[box type=”tick” style=”rounded” border=”full”]We always want the dog to go happily into the crate on their own.

To acheive this we are going to spend some time tossing in toys, treats, etc., so that they learn that the crate is a Disneyland for them. Always start out slowly.[/box]

[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full”]We never want to “put” or force them into the crate.[/box]

[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full”]We never allow kids (or adults) to go up to a dog in a crate and hover or poke fingers at the dog.[/box]

Here’s how to get your dog to love their crate:

[unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • Toss some treats into the crate as you offer up a cue word, “crate,” “bed,” “house,” “kennel-up,” etc.  Pick one and stick to that command – don’t change it up.  Consistency is absolutely key, here.
  • Offer tons of praise when your dog first enters and toss more treats even further back into the crate.
  • Keep praising and tossing as your dog sniffs around, eats, and begins to think that maybe there will be more.
  • Don’t close the door until your dog is happily entering the crate on their own to see if there are more goodies inside.
  • Once your dog happily enters the crate, ask them to sit before you ask them to come out. Then begin to close the door and again ask for the sit to let them out. We are still keeping this very short.
  • Begin dropping a handful of kibble into the crate after your dog is inside with door closed.  Say nothing as you drop the kibble and walk away after you drop the kibble. Count to 10 and return if your dog is not fussing – if your dog is fussing, wait and only return when the dog is quiet. Repeat this often throughout the day increasing the count by one or two each time you leave the room.
  • On an ongoing basis – three or four times a week – please feed your dog in their crate so they also associate the huge jackpot of their meal with just being in the crate.[/unordered_list]

Here are a couple of items to note:

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If you have to leave your dog in a closed crate before they are completely happy with the crate, make sure you leave a Kong with the best stuffing in the world! (See below.)[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If your dog won’t go into the crate for treats or kibble, you will need to experiment with cheese, cold-cuts, hot dogs, etc.

Don’t worry that your dog will develop a taste for human food – they already have it.  Just watch them when you bring pizza home.

We need to make the crate a great place and if you have to use super high-value rewards then so be it. After your dog is happily going into the crate for the super high-value treats you can begin to substitute regular treats and occasionally toss in the super high-value ones to keep them interested.

Practice this when your dog does not need to go into the crate and when they will not be left in there so that when the time comes to crate them it will all be good and fun.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If your dog destroys stuffed toys and blankets in the crate don’t put them in there with your dog unless your dog is elderly and needs a foam cushion to lay on (at which point they probably won’t be eating their cushions anymore).

An empty crate with a couple of stuffed Kongs is just fine while they are learning good manners around stuffed and plush items.  Hands down, the best toy for a crate is a stuffed Kong. (See below.)[/box]

How to Stuff a Kong

Kong stuffing has become something of an art form.

A Kong can hold sloppy things like peanut butter, cream cheese, other soft cheeses, liverwurst, etc.  Some harder, broken-up treats or kibble can then be put in the bottom with the sloppy stuff at the top to make it more difficult to get the harder treats out. (Remember no gooey stuff at the bottom or you will be the one digging that out)

When stuffing for the new-to-the-crate dog it should have the greatest things in there.

Remember that, when stuffing a Kong, it’s not like stuffing a pepper:  it’s like a smear on a bagel and more than just a smear for the dogs new to the crate.

Be creative and always put something in that Kong when leaving doggie in the crate!

Once they are happily going to the crate, you can cut the amount and value of the treats you put into the Kong.


Things Your Dog Will Love: Twist ‘n Treat

The Twist ‘n Treat is a great positive reinforcement tool to control speed eating in dogs as well as to keep them cognitively challenged.

Twist-n-Treat-MainIf variety is the spice of life for humans it’s just as important to our furry friends – especially if what we’re aiming for is to keep them cognitively stimulated.

While the Atomic Treat Ball is our go-to puzzle toy to slow down speed eating (or to just keep one of our dogs busy), if it’s the only puzzle we give them it’s going to become less and less stimulating over time. In short, the name of the game is to not allow them to get bored.

Keeping our dogs engaged in problem solving – as well as on their toes – is where the Twist ‘n Treat shines.

At its heart, the Twist ‘n Treat is very similar in concept to the Atomic Treat Ball: a puzzle toy is filled with food and it’s up to the dog to figure out how to manipulate it to get the food out. While to us it might seem as if both puzzles are exactly the same, we need to keep in mind that canine cognition does not generalize well and that the two wildly different shapes of the toys essentially makes them two completely different skill sets for the dog to master.

Shaped like a flying saucer, the twist in Twist ‘n Treat refers to the rubber screw inside the toy that you twist to open it in order to load the kibble or treats. While the loading is more complicated than the Atomic Treat Ball, the fact that you can customize the size of the gap that dispenses the food means you have a lot more options in terms of what you can put in it and it makes for a great starter toy since you can make it easy at first then more difficult as your dog gets the hang of it.

While the Twist ‘n Treat is all upside for dogs, the thick rubber it’s made from tends to bounce pretty well and the shape causes it to roll – so don’t be surprised to find yourself hunting for it underneath furniture.

As with so many of the puzzle toys out there, the Twist ‘n Treat is not meant to be left alone with your dog – especially if they are a hard chewer.

Those minor quibbles aside, the Twist ‘n Treat is a really nice addition to your dog’s positive reinforcement cognitive toy box.  And for those of you whose dogs have not quite mastered other puzzle toys, this is a good learner-toy.