Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Help Keep Politicians Safe!

Politicians and their campaign workers frequently encounter dogs while going door to door during a campaign. Many of these encounters are not happy ones and sometimes the worker is bitten or threatened. Doggone Safe has produced a handout for politicians with advice to help keep them safe from dogs they meet on the campaign trail. Click here to download this.

If you are a Doggone Safe member you can download a version of this from the members area and customize it with your logo and contact information. Sending something useful like this to your local politicians is helpful to them and could be helpful to your business too. If you live in an area (such as Ontario,Canada) that is soon to be involved in an election campaign, send a copy of this to your local politicians.

Door Knocker Tips

Safety Tips
  • Stand still like a tree if a loose dog approaches. Ignore the dog until it leaves you. Move away slowly keeping the dog in sight. Resume the tree position if the dog returns to you. Repeat as required.
  • Be alert for signs of a dog, such as worn grass, dog house, feces, dog toys or evidence of chaining. Leave the property if you are uncomfortable.
  • Learn about canine body language so you can tell if a dog is friendly or anxious. Take our online course!
  • Do not try to make friends with dogs unless they come to you wagging and panting. Ignoring the dog is best. 
  • If you feel you must pet a dog, scratch him on the side of the neck. Dogs don’t like hands coming over their heads.
  • Do not approach a house with a dog barking from behind a screen door or with a tied dog that is barking or lunging.
  • Be sure that the door is latched before you knock to prevent a dog from escaping.
  • If you hear a dog barking in the house after you knock, stand off to one side so that if the dog runs out he will go right past you. Stand still while he comes back to investigate. Ask the owner to put the dog away.
  • Avoid leaning over a dog or reaching over a dog to shake hands or to hand something to the owner.
Basic Body Language

Warning: Yawn, lick, half-moon eye, freeze and stare, raised
tail, barking, backing away, advancing and retreating.

Friendly: Panting and wagging his tail loosely.

Beware if he stops panting or wagging or becomes stiff.

Never run from a dog or try to fight a dog off

Thanks to Jan Mowbray of Milton ON for giving us this suggestion

Free Resources for World Rabies Day

World Rabies Day is on September 28, 2011. Partners around the world are holding events and engaging in public education campaigns to help eliminate this completely preventable disease. Key campaign messages include: Vaccinate your companion animals and stay away from stray animals and wild animals.

Despite being 100% preventable, it is estimated that 55,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year, approximately one person every ten minutes.  The World Rabies Day initiative is a global rabies awareness campaign being spearheaded by the UK charity Alliance for Rabies Control and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“This campaign offers all of us a unique opportunity to increase global awareness of the most deadly disease known to humans,” says Dr. Deborah Briggs, Executive Director for the Alliance of Rabies Control. “A major part of this effort is the declaration of an annual World Rabies Day on September 28th. Events are planned throughout the world to increase awareness about rabies, and to raise support and funding towards its prevention and control.” 

The cornerstones of rabies prevention are vaccination of companion animals and avoiding contact with potentially infected wild animals.

Free Resources from Doggone Safe

Doggone Safe will join the list of international partners who are rallied towards Working Together to Make Rabies History!  “Doggone Safe is proud to be a World Rabies Day partner and we encourage all our members to get involved with Word Rabies Day events in their communities” says President and co-founder Joan Orr. “We have produced a postcard to help kids and families learn how to help animals and prevent exposure to rabies.” The main focus of this is to stay away from wild animals and loose dogs and to tell an adult. The best way to help an animal is to stay away from it and call Animal Control.

This year we have two versions of the postcard: one that focuses on North American wildlife that may carry rabies and on that focuses on stray dogs and cats. This is also available in poster format and in a version to which you can add your own logo and contact information (if you have the capability to edit the files - Photoshop for example). Download these from this link.

Rabies is rare in domestic dogs in most developed countries, so a loose dog that a child encounters is not likely to be rabid. Children should be encouraged to stay away from all dogs that do not have an owner holding the leash and to Be a Tree (stand still and quiet and avoid eye contact) if a loose dog comes up to them.

Doggone Safe has experts in dog training, dog behavior and dog bite prevention education available for interview. More information about the World Rabies Day Campaign can be found at

Monday, August 15, 2011

Community Event Display Ideas

We wanted to share some great ideas for community event displays that members have sent over the years. Manning a booth at a community event (pet fairs, mall displays, school events, shelter fundraisers etc) is a great way to help promote your cause or business. Using content from Doggone Safe gives interesting and useful information that the public really responds to. There is a lot of free content at the Doggone Safe website, including photos and handouts. You can use any material found at the site for educational purposes with credit given to Doggone Safe as the source. Here is a link to our free resources page:

If you are a Doggone Safe member, you are entitled to add your company logo ans contact information to many of the handouts. Here are two links (requires member login):

If you own the Doggone Crazy! board game, the manufacturer (Doggone Crazy!) gives you permission to copy and enlarge the cards for use in non-profit community event displays with credit given to the source.

Here are some photos to give you some ideas...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Clicker Training Basics for Kids and Families

By Joan Orr M.Sc.

Clicker training. All the smartest dogs (and cats) in town are talking about it – but what is it exactly? A clicker is a small device that makes clicks when pressed. Pets love the sound because it always precedes a treat. The click is precise, it’s clear, it means the same thing each time. A trainer uses the click to tell the pet “Yes! That was right, you win!”. Soon the pet tries to do things to get its person to click. The person clicks and treats when the pet is getting closer and closer to the desired behaviour. This is fun for the pet and the person. It is similar to the “hot” and “cold” game we used to play as kids, but there is only “hot” in clicker training. If a pet makes a mistake the trainer just ignores it and manages the environment to prevent further mistakes. The absence of the click tells the pet to try again, try harder or try something else. There is no punishment, scolding or correction in clicker training. There is just a click/treat or no click. Clicker training is different from traditional training in that the trainer thinks about what the pet is doing right and works to increase it, while a traditional trainer thinks mostly about what is wrong and tries to correct it.

Clicker training is a fun game for both pet and trainer, and can produce highly reliable behaviour. Clicker training is used by the elite animal trainers of the world to train zoo and aquarium animals, free swimming navy dolphins, police dogs, drug and bomb sniffing dogs, service dogs, guide animals for the blind and movie animals. Anyone can learn to clicker train and any animal can be clicker trained. Even young kids and people with physical limitations can be great clicker trainers. Inmates in juvenile detention centres and families learning to reduce violence are clicker training shelter dogs in special programs that teach them empathy and how to interact positively with the dogs and people. Many veterinary behaviourists recommend clicker training as the most effective way to train a dog and to build a safe and loving bond with family members.

An Example – Teach a Puppy to Walk With You

Count out 10 treats. Walk around. When your puppy comes close click and toss a treat for him to pick up. Keep walking and repeat the click/treat each time the puppy comes close. Now choose a side on which you want the puppy to walk. Continue wandering about and click/treat only when the puppy is near you on the left side of you (or right side if that is your choice). When the puppy is consistently returning to your left side after he has picked up his treat, make it a little harder. Click/treat after you take one step with the puppy at your left side. Then increase to 2 steps, then 3, then back to 2, then 3, then 4. Mix it up so the puppy is not quite sure how long he needs to keep beside you to win the click/treat. Move quickly and give lots of clicks/treats. Soon your puppy will be trotting along happily beside you waiting for his click/treat. Now give the behaviour a name so that the puppy knows when you want him to do this. When the puppy is walking beside you voluntarily, say the words “Let’s go”, then click/treat. Repeat this over and over at least 20 times while the puppy is actually in the right position. When you think the puppy might understand what “Let’s go” means, try saying this when the puppy is not beside you and see if he comes to walk beside you. If he does, click and give him a whole handful of treats, or an especially tasty treat. If he does not come to walk beside you, go back to walking around and click/treating him for being in the correct position, while saying the words “Let’s go” when he is in the position. It may take many repetitions for him to connect the action of walking beside you with the words “Let’s go”. Once he does make this connection, he will be much faster to learn other cues since he will understand the concept that a spoken word from you can be associated with an action from him that will result a click/treat. Training sessions should last only a few minutes each. Once the 10 treats are gone, play with the puppy, give him a break and after a few minutes have another 10 treat session.

Here is a video that shows the results of a week of this type of training with a young puppy. Notice that the puppy no longer needs a lot of clicks and treats in this familiar situation. If we were to go to the park however, we would need to give clicks and treats with great frequency because the level of distraction would be so much higher.

When we take a puppy anywhere we always take lots of treats in a treat pouch, the clicker and the toy on a  rope. The toy on a rope is essential! You can use the toy on a rope to get the puppy's attention away from distractions, provide something to bite other than you or your kids and reinforce walking beside you on a loose leash. Here is a video that shows this:

How Young is Too Young for Clicker Training?

It’s never too early or too late to start clicker training. Old dogs can learn new tricks! Some breeders introduce the clicker while the pups are still nursing. They start clicker training the puppies to teach them basic manners such as sitting for their food, keeping their paws off people and coming when called before they even leave the litter. Clicker training expert Teresa Lewin of Milton K9 Obedience in Milton ON suggests that you start clicking with your new puppy as soon as you get him home. The best way to get started is to train the puppy at dinner time. Use a portion of his dinner to teach him to sit and come to you and then let him eat the rest from him bowl. After a week or so introduce small, nutritious treats slowly into the training sessions. If you have a new kitten, ferret, bunny, bird or other pet you can start clicker training it right away as well.

Tips for Kids

Once an adult has taught the puppy to sit on cue and to wait for his food without rudely jumping and grabbing, then the kids can get involved. The best way for new clicker trainers to learn is for one person to click and the other to treat. Kids can just toss the treat on the floor for the puppy to pick up. Tossing the treats is a great way to deliver treats since it protects fingers and helps the puppy to focus on the click and the trainer and not focus so much on the hand with the food. It also resets the puppy for another try. If the puppy sits and gets and a click and the treat handed to him, he is still sitting and not ready to sit again. Getting up to get the treat resets him ready for another sit. To increase the sitting time, just wait 1 second and then 2 seconds etc after the sit and before the click.

Teach the puppy to touch a target. A metal spatula makes a good target since puppies usually don’t try to bite metal objects. Hold the target near the puppy, when he looks at it click/treat. Then click/treat when he takes a step toward it or even touches it with his nose. Click/treat each time he touches it and after a few tries, move the target so he has to follow to touch it. If the puppy has no interest in the target, try putting a tiny dab of cream cheese on it to get him started. Start saying the word “touch” when he touches the target. Once he understands about following the target use the target to teach him to come to you, walk beside you, spin in a circle, jump onto a chair, go to his bed and do just about anything without needing to drag him by the collar.

Clicking Forever?

People always ask “Will I have to carry a clicker and treats around with me forever?”. The answer is no. The clicker is a highly effective training tool and you will probably want to keep using it forever to teach your dog new things and as a refresher if he ever starts to forget. You do not need to keep using the clicker and treats on a regular basis once a behaviour is learned. Because the training is all positive, the behaviours the dog learns with this method themselves come to be associated with positive feelings. The dog does not need to get a treat every time, or even very often once a behaviour is solidly learned. Petting and praise can replace the clicks and treats for the most part.

Dos and Don’ts of Clicker Training

Click exactly as the behaviour happens
Use really good treats
Give a treat after every click
Keep sessions short (5-10 minutes)
Increase difficulty for the dog in baby steps
Quit after a success
Work in a low distraction area at first
Work off-leash at first

Scold, punish or use physical force
Yank on the leash
Click more than once
Use kibble when liver is needed to keep the dog interested
Train when you are in a bad mood
Expect more than your dog can deliver

Side bar – History of Clicker Training

1904 - Pavlov discovers that dogs can be conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell that was previously paired with food, even when there is no food.
1938 - BF Skinner discovers that behaviour that is positively reinforced is repeated.
1942 - Keller and Marion Breland (Skinner’s graduate students) apply these principles to the training of pigeons to guide WW II bombs and later train over 140 species in their business, Animal Behavior Enterprises.
1960s - Karen Pryor co-founds Sea Life Park in Hawaii, creates spectacular dolphin shows and brings this new type of training into the public eye.
1984 - Karen Pryor writes the classic book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” that popularizes force-free training
1992 – Karen Pryor brings clicker training to the world of dog training (
2002- Joan Orr and Theresa McKeon apply these principles to sport coaching and TAGteach ( is born
2006 – Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin write the first book about clicker training rabbits.(

Resources – Karen Pryor’s website for free getting started information

Kikopup YouTube Channel - lots of free clicker training videos - clicker training for rabbits and other small pets

Clicker Puppy DVD – children training puppies with clicker training (

A clip from the Clicker Puppy DVD:

Author Bio

Joan Orr is member of the Karen Pryor Clickertraining Clicker Expo faculty and a member of the Advisory Committee to the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior . She is the producer of the award winning Clicker Puppy training DVD ( co-creator of the board game Doggone Crazy! and co-author of the book Getting Started: Clicking with Your Rabbit ( Joan is also the president and co-founder of Doggone Safe, a non-profit organization dedicated to dog bite prevention through education ( and co-founder of TAGteach International a company that promotes marker-based positive reinforcement in the teaching and coaching of humans (

Some Messages from Kids About the Be a Tree Program

Kids love the Be a Tree program, and presenters love getting feedback from kids. Here are some quotes from kids that some of the Be a Tree presenters have shared with us:
"...I learned a lot from that presentation, it was very interesting. I told my Mom about it and she was amazed ... I saw this mean dog one day and I did the tree ..."
"... I liked the part when we got to come to front of the class and act things out. I didn't know that dogs don't like hugs and kisses ..."
"... It is helpful because if I see a strange dog I will know what to do. I also learned that dogs get scared too. I enjoyed learning about keeping safe ..."
" ... I really enjoyed doing the actions like the tree ... I am kind of afraid of dogs, but now I feel much safer ..."
Here are some end-of-the-year messages some kids wrote in their memory books to a child whose mother had come in earlier in the year with the Be a Tree program. The children were to write about the things they liked most, or were most important to them that happened during the school year.
“I liked it when your mom came in to show the class how to behave with dogs because now I am OK around them!”
“ The Be a Tree thing was fun. I thought it was good”
“ Do you remember when your mom did the be a tree thing? It was fun learning how to be safe when a bad dog comes near you.”
“ I thought it was Awesome when your mom came in for that be a tree thing now I am not so afraid of big dogs.”
Click here for more information about the Be a Tree program and how you can become a presenter or book a session for your school or group.