June 4 2014
The Bark had a chance to speak with Ken Ramirez about his experience with clicker training and what the future holds for him in his new role as Executive Vice President and Chief Training Officer for KPCT.
The Bark: Why is it important that people successfully train their companion dogs?
Ken Ramirez: There are so many reasons that training is important. It is a critical part of good animal care, just like veterinary care, nutrition and a safe environment. You cannot give animals all they need unless it includes a training program. Good training helps teach animals how to live successfully in our world, and helps to build a strong lasting relationship between people and their pets.
Bark: Tell us about your professional experience with operant conditioning or clicker training.
Ramirez: I began my training career working with guide dogs in a very traditional training environment. However, right out of college I had the opportunity to work with a variety of marine mammals, birds, and big cats in several zoological facilities. That is where I was introduced to the world of positive reinforcement and marker-based training. That experience changed my life as I experienced how powerful this type of training is. Not only is it force-free and fun for the animals, but it assists in developing strong relationships with each animal partner. I went back and re-read all my animal behavior text books, made contact with my professors, and began trying to understand why this type of training was not more wide-spread, except perhaps in the world of marine mammal training. My quest for knowledge exposed me to Karen Pryor and some of her early works. I read every positive reinforcement training article I could find, sought out conferences and training organizations that could forward my knowledge and understanding of effective positive reinforcement training. I had the good fortune to travel to many corners of the world and work with a wide variety of species of animals, and discovered just how universal this technology really is. In 1989 I was hired by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to oversee the development of their animal training program. Since joining Shedd, I have had the good fortune to oversee the care and training of more than 32,000 animals representing over 1500 species. I continued to consult with many zoo and aquarium programs worldwide. Then, in 1997, Western Illinois University asked me to develop a graduate course on animal training, which I still teach today. In 1998, I returned to dog training as a consultant to several search and rescue dog teams, which led to my involvement in many other working dog programs including service dogs, law enforcement, and a return to guide dog work. When Karen Pryor decided to start ClickerExpo, she chose Chicago as her inaugural location. She invited me to that Expo as a guest speaker, which led to an invitation to join the faculty the following year, and I have been on the faculty ever since.
Bark: What has been the biggest revelation about this method of training animals?
Ramirez: The biggest revelation for me every time I train an animal is how much they enjoy the process and how it assists in relationship building. Additionally, as someone who began my career more than 35 years ago using more traditional training methods, I always marvel at how well positive reinforcement works and how much stronger and precise behavior is trained in a fun force-free environment.
Bark: Is it your experience that most animals enjoy learning and training exercises?
Ramirez: Absolutely. That’s what makes positive reinforcement so effective—the animal is a willing partner in the process and it is so much fun for them.
Bark: What has you most excited about working with Karen Pryor's clicker training programs?
Ramirez: I am excited about everything that Karen Pryor Clicker Training represents. Karen was an inspiration to me personally as I was seeking good information about the use of positive reinforcement training during the early stages of my career. I am passionate about educating people about the power of positive reinforcement and the beneficial impacts it has on the welfare of the animals in our lives. Each program, whether it be the ClickerExpos, the Karen Pryor Academy, or the production of positive reinforcement books and training tools furthers the education of the public about marker-based positive reinforcement training. I am excited about helping to continue and further the amazing body of work that Karen has produced over the years.
Bark: Do you currently have a dog, cat or other pet?
Ramirez: I have had dogs my entire life. Sadly, my 12-year-old Spaniel that I adopted from a shelter after my first Clicker Expo 11 years ago, recently passed away. I will probably look for my next dog at one of the local Chicago shelters sometime later in the year. However, I established a dog training program with dogs adopted from local shelters at the Shedd Aquarium several years ago, and I consider the four dogs in that program close companions and training partners. These four dogs include a Pit Bull, an Airedale, a Shepherd, and a Lab.
Ken Ramirez is a regular consultant for zoos, oceanariums, and parks around the world. He has held top leadership positions in most of the profession’s associations, including as past president of IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association). As part of his leadership, Ken has been involved in the creation of a certification process for animal trainers in zoological settings. He has been featured on television and in the media numerous times, including as host of a popular Australian television series Talk to the Animals. Ken has been on the faculty of KPCT’s ClickerExpo conference since 2005; he also teaches graduate-level courses at Western Illinois University.
Ken began his training career working with guide dogs for the visually impaired and has maintained a close connection to dog training ever since. At the Shedd Aquarium, Ken spearheaded the development of a program to rescue dogs from animal shelters and to train and care for them in order to show the public the transformative power of marker-based positive-reinforcement training. Outside of Shedd, Ken’s canine work includes training for search and rescue, guide and service work, scent detection, animal husbandry, and more.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fun, functional and fruity characterize our product round-up
June 3 2014
A. Viva Coco is a nutrientrich coconut water powder that can boost your dog’s health and hydration. Mix with water and offer after a period of high activity or simply as a liquid treat. 100% all-natural and GMO-free with no artificial preservatives or flavors. Viva-coco.com
B. Fruitables Chewy Skinny Minis are an allnatural, low-cal treat for your pup. Their small size and soft texture make them perfect for training! Available in five yummy flavors. Free of gluten, wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors and colors; sourced and made in the USA. Fruitablespetfood.com
C. Fetchbee means no more slobbery, tired hands, no more stooping. The plastic arm clips easily onto the special disc, helping you play a little longer with your disc-obsessed dog. Fetchbee.com
D. Keep your dog safe in the backseat with Canine Covers Canine Travel Seatback Barrier. The US-made mesh barrier fits most vehicles with two bucket front seats. Easy to remove and fold up for storage. Caninecovers.com
E. Handmade Pet Company’s Slip-Thru Collar Bandanas stay put, which means they won’t come off during a romp on the beach. A readyto- wear line is available, or request a custom design that perfectly fits your dog’s unique sense of style. Handmadepet.com
F. Turn mealtime into a challenging “stimulation” game with The Company of Animals Green Slow Feeder. Scatter food in between its grass-like blades. Finding the food can slow down intake, which can reduce vomiting, gas and the risk of bloat. There is a Green Mini too for smaller pups. Companyofanimals.us
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Garden organically, for the sake of both the planet and your dogs.
May 26 2014
Raised beds protect plantings from scampering paws and swinging tails. Dogs can be taught where they’re permitted and where they are not.
Digging pit, preferably in shaded locations, give dogs places to practice their excavation skills without disrupting your garden beds. You might entice them to use it by lightly burying (as they watch you) a treat-filled Kong.
Leave a plant-free “patrolling” area around the perimeter of your yard; dogs instinctively (and repeatedly) cruise boundaries and fence lines.
Construct a barrier around plants of the nightshade family, including eggplant, tomato and potato; their foliage and stems contain dangerous alkaloids that can kill a dog. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Larkspur (Delphinium ajacis) have toxic effects on the heart and circulation. When dogs eat large amounts of onions, they may suffer red blood cell destruction. Rhubarb leaves (Rheum rhabarbaram) contain oxalic acid. In quantity, it damages kidneys.
Avoid cocoa bean mulches; their chocolaty smell makes them pup catnip, but they contain theobromine, which is toxic for dogs.
Cross almond or walnut trees off your list for areas used by dogs; tannin is a canine toxin, and almond and walnut hulls contain it; moldy walnuts are also a problem. Avoid trees with toxic bark, such as cherry (contains cyanide-like components). And, some stone fruit trees (apricots, plums) can provide raw material for obstruction by indigestible pits.
Do not use snail bait containing metaldehyde, which is highly poisonous to dogs and cats. Copper barrier tape is a good alternative; slugs and snails are deterred from crossing it by the tape’s tiny positive electric charge.
Protect young trees, especially if you have a male dog. Be sure to frequently rinse the trunk and soil with fresh water. Or, secure a copper or galvanized splash guard of appropriate height and circumference around the developing tree the first couple of years to divert unwelcome attention from your pup.
Dog's Life: Travel
On-the-road advice for a safe Memorial Day weekend.
May 22 2014
Memorial Day means warm weather, a weekend getaway and, of course, plenty of driving. If you plan on making the weekend trek with your dog, here are a few important tips to ensure everyone has a safe and happy vacation:
Keep your dog secure. You wouldn’t let a person ride unrestrained in your car, and you shouldn’t let your dog, either. Dogs should ride in the backseat, away from the dashboard and safe from airbags, and there are a few options for keeping them secure: Use a full-body safety harness that attaches to your car’s seatbelt to keep your dog buckled into the backseat. (Do not use a restraint that attaches only to your dog’s collar.) Keep your dog in a well-ventilated crate or carrier—one that’s large enough for your dog to stand up, sit and lie down in. Or use a secured barrier to keep your dog safe in the cargo area—provided that cargo area isn’t an enclosed trunk. Also, if your dog has to ride in the bed of your truck, a crate securely fastened to the bed is your safest option.
Keep heads and ears inside the vehicle. Your pup may love the sensation of wind whipping through her ears. What she won’t love is a piece of gravel hitting her face at 40 mph. Those little bits of road debris can turn into dangerous projectiles at high speeds. Make sure your dog can’t poke her head out the window, and keep those rear windows locked so she can’t lower them by accident.
Bring her ID. Make sure that your dog wears her collar and tags at all times. In addition to a tag with your home contact information, make her a travel tag with your cell phone number, destination phone number and any other relevant contact information, and keep a recent photo of your dog on hand. Also, if you are planning to have your dog microchipped, now would be a good time to do it.
Pack a first aid kit. Cuts and scrapes can happen as easily on vacation as they can in the home. Pack a first aid kit—some companies sell pre-made kits, or you can make your own based on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s checklist—and be sure to keep it somewhere readily accessible (not at the bottom of your suitcase!). Also include any medications that your dog might need on the road, and remember that human medications like ibuprofen can be toxic to dogs. Don’t give your dog any medication without first consulting a veterinarian.
Don’t leave your dog in the car. Never, ever leave your dog unattended in the car. Even with the windows cracked, a car can quickly turn into a furnace on warm days or an icebox on cool days.
Remember to hydrate. Keep water with you on those long car trips (as well as on any hikes or long walks) and make sure your dog takes regular drink breaks. Unfamiliar water may upset your pup’s stomach; bring water from home—or fill up on filtered water at a restaurant—to help prevent tummy troubles.
Bring her vet records. Hotel and campground managers—and even the authorities—may want to see proof of your pup’s vaccinations. Plus, if your dog is injured or falls ill far from home, it will be easier on you and an unfamiliar veterinarian if you have all her records on hand.
Stay leashed. When she’s not in the car, the leash goes on. Remember, your dog is in a strange place with lots of scary and exciting sounds and smells. Even the most well behaved dog can run off and become lost. Staying leashed is a small precaution that ensures you and your dog will be able to enjoy your vacation together.
May 9 2014
Perfect for the summertime, we have oodles of good reading in store for you. From first-time book author Matthew Gilbert, a charming look at his Boston dog park scene and a good reminder that snap judgments can snap back in a positive way, and that letting go of assumptions can lead the way to a new attitude. Gail Caldwell is back with another memorable memoir, this time including a jumpstart to her life with a new pup. David Koff supplies a classic “how I found my dog” story, and Joshunda Sanders offers insights on how becoming a dog person helped her revise her own perceptions about the black community’s relationship with dogs. Jill Smolowe shows us that having a daily routine to look forward to is valuable to those on both ends of the leash. Finally, be sure to check out our editors’ top-pick summertime reading roundup. Also on deck: Veterinarian Ilana Strubel has tips on how to get—or keep—the pounds off your pup, and we have an excerpt from an excellent new book by Linda Case, who explains what to look for (and ask for) when reading pet food labels. Then, imagine paddling a canoe down the Mississippi with a canine co-pilot and find out how Lucas Will and Tischer fared on their more than 2,000-mile adventure. For more outdoor inspiration, Suzanne Roberts recounts a backpacking expedition with her husband and their dog, Ely, along a challenging section of the Pacific Crest Trail. On the “news you can use” front, Sheila Pell investigates the proliferation of ticks (climate change strikes again!) and what we can do to ward them off us and our dogs. We also check out stem cell and hyperbaric oxygen therapies and backyard barbecue do’s and don’ts, and serve up an easy recipe for delicious and nutritious whole-grain peanut butter dog cookies. Mardi Richmond reports on what happened when a top guide dog–training organization transitioned to clickers, and Donna Jackel looks at worthy, locally based humane groups that are making remarkable impacts on their communities. We have important safety tips about summertime activities, and many reader-supplied ideas on where to find the best off-the-beaten-track adventures this season.
So, settle yourself and your dog in a cool, shady spot and dig into the summer issue. We think you’ll find lots to ponder and put to use.Features Tick Talk Is climate change behind the rise in the numbers of ticks and the diseases they bring? By Sheila Pell Dog Paddling the Mighty Mississippi Down the river with a dog. By Lucas Will Backcountry Trek A dog with a job makes a perfect hiking partner. By Suzanne Roberts Label Smarts Ways to improve your dog-food-selection skills. By Linda Case On View In the Company of Cats and Dogs. By Cameron Woo Tula The challenges and rewards of a new pup. By Gail Caldwell Cell Phone Lady Dog parks are full of pleasant interludes. By Matthew Gilbert Walking Misty Daily routines provide welcome relief at both ends of the leash. By Jill Smolowe Finding Carson A stray meets her match. By David Koff Color-blind Love Opening our eyes to stereotypes and dispelling racial myths. By Joshunda Sanders DogPatch Guest Editorial: Go Walk Shelter Dogs Bark’s Summer Tips Travel—ideas from our readers. Dogfroyo; Instant harness; Tails to Trails Last Chance IPA; Keeping it clean; Beware Compost SMILING DOGS: Simply irresistible Healing oxygen by Susan Tasaki Recipe: Whole Grain Peanut Butter Cookies Grooming: Summer Shedding Secrets Pop Art: Vintage Labels It’s A Dog’s Life THEATRE: Of Mice and Men + dog by Amy Kantor, DVM HEALTH: Pounds be Gone Help your pup shed excess weight. By Ilana Strubel, DVM HEALTH: Self Healing Stem Cells. By Megan Cassels-Conway, DVM SECOND OPINION: The Barbecue Blues Tips. By Nick Trout, DVM BEHAVIOR: Lessons learned from aggression cases. By Karen B. London, PhD WORKING DOGS: Clicker training conversion. By Mardi Richmond WELFARE: Grassroots Animal Welfare: Helping dogs, one community at a time. By Donna Jackel REVIEWS: Off the Leash by Matthew Gilbert; New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell; A Dog’s History of the World by Laura Hobgood-Oster; From Birdbrained to Brilliant by Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell; Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn; The Mountaintop School for Dogs by Ellen Cooney; Citizen Canine by David Grimm; Puppy Savvy by Barbara Shumannfang ENDPIECE: Murphy: A most unusual adoption arrangement. By Lisa Leshaw
News: Guest Posts
Volunteer photographer shares dogs in need of a forever home
May 8 2014
These are some totally wonderful, eminently adoptable dogs available now at the Coshocton county shelter in Coshocton, Ohio. Phil Samuell, a retiree extraordinaire who generously volunteers his talents to take these great photos, tells us that they only have a 3-day “hold” period there, so gotta act quickly. It’s too heartbreaking to think of what might happen to these lovely dogs!
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