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Thursday, October 25, 2012

#BarkWorld HOWL-O-Ween Party!!

I think Halloween is SO FUN!   And this year, I get to spend it at the BarkWorld Expo in Atlanta, GA!

Tonight, they had a HOWL-o-ween party- hosted by my friend Rick Rockhill (who is awesome!)   He's here representing Natural Balance Pet Foods.
It was so fun.  (and yes, the song "Thriller" is still stuck in my head!!)

OK - first of all- Rick and I TOTALLY did NOT plan this!  But we both came dressed in matching pirate costumes!!!  LOL.  What can I say?  Great minds think alike!!!  ;)

There were so many great costumes!!!  We all entered a costume contest.  The winner was the guy who was dressed like a fisherman!  (and his bulldog Pudgie was the fish).  It was adorable!

This is our friend Niqqi!!!

These were cool.
Karen and Norman the Scooter Dog were there performing!

 This is our friend Preston.                                    and Pepper

Isn't this a GREAT costume?   Kona is a purse!

 This is our costume- the Pirate Gang.
This is Cosmo!  The other Havanese here!

A lot of effort went into these costumes!

This is Jan.  Such a kind-hearted person!  She just loves Jazzy.

So- that was our fun-filled night!  After it was over, I took Jasmine on her walk outside.  It dawned on me that I was dressed up as a pirate walking down the streets of Atlanta.  LOL.  Only at BarkWorld.  ;)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#BarkWorld, ready or not, here we come!

I can't believe it's only one more day until we leave for BarkWorld!!!  (This is a little teaser video I made of our trip last year!)

I was so thrilled when I found out Natural Balance and Petco were sponsoring Jasmine's trip out to Atlanta for BarkWorld 2012!!   

We attended last year, and had a blast!!   Last year, we gave a presentation on "How To Make Your Dog A YouTube Rockstar" along with our best friends Lauren and Paige.  Sadly, our partners-in-crime can't be there this year because of work obligations.   But NEXT year 2013- we'll have our reunion!!  :)

 This year, we get to just enjoy the conference!!  (I'm sure I'll remember so much more when I'm not worried about giving a presentation!)  LOL  

This year, I'm going to try to keep updating my blog/Facebook/Twitter a little better than last year.  (I kind of know what to expect this year!)  

If you want to stay in touch, here's our info!

My Favorite Pup Jasmine  :)

I can't wait!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Happy 96th Birthday!!! :D

 Boy, oh boy, Jasmine and I have had a busy month!!   Last week, we performed at a retirement center for this lady's 96th birthday!  I can't even tell you how much fun we had.  We did about a 30 minute trick show that showcased the majority of Jasmine's resume.  (Minus the tricks that had heavy props- like getting a drink from the fridge!)
     They got such a kick out of Jasmine's little tricks.  It was so fun!  Then I took her around and let each resident pet her, and we talked about the pets they used to have.  It was so sweet.  There was a lot of animal lovers in the audience.   I also passed out Jasmine's card to everyone- so they could remember what she looked like. 

When I approached one lady, she was smelling the card.  When I got to her, she asked me what the card was.  She wanted to know if it was perfume?  (That's when I realized this lady was blind.)   
I said "No, that's a picture of my dog Jasmine!"    
She said "Oooh!  I love dogs!!"
 I said, "Well, I have my dog right here, would you like to pet her?"
"Oh yes please!" 
I took her hand and placed it on Jasmine's back.  The lady was so thrilled.  She just smiled and smiled while stroking Jasmine.  It was the sweetest experience.  She was so happy to be petting a dog again.
 And Jasmine is such a good sport.  She let everyone pet her, and still begged to do more tricks.  (to get more treats!)   This was how we ended the show:
What a great experience.  And I have to say THANK YOU to my friend Stacy- who came to help me.  I don't know what I'd do without her!  She ALWAYS comes whenever she can to help me with my Jasmine gigs.  She's so awesome.

 I had posted on Facebook that we were performing at this lady's birthday party... and Stacy jokingly wrote "Can I come?"  (Even though I had already asked to have her come with me!)  I wrote back jokingly...  

"Ummm... I don't know. I'm going to have to look over your resume to see if you qualify. Do you have any past experience working with a trick dog? I need someone who can juggle being Jasmine's stage manager, remembering her tricks, prompting me, helping me with props, giving me driving directions and being my navigator when I'm lost, and being Jasmine's personal assistant, not to mention my moral support and encouragement. On top of that, I need someone with a super friendly, caring, cheerful personality who is great with people. But can also be our expert photographer and videographer. It's a complicated job! Hmmm..... although looking over your resume here, I see you do have excellent references and personal recommendations. Ok- yep, you're absolutely perfect. You're hired. You can come."   LOL

Stacy and Jasmine both help bring a lot of joy to this world.  And I'm just along for the ride.  :)

P.S.  Yes, I did get video.  (Stacy did.)  But life has been so busy, I have not even had time to look at it!!  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Be on the look at for Norman at #BarkWorld to win @Naturalbalance Prizes!

So... the clock is ticking!

BarkWorld is just over a week away!

And I just found out something cool!  My friend Karen and her scooter-riding dog Norman are going to be there!!  (Norman is on the Natural Balance Pet Foods sports team!)

(Remember how Jaz and I were on the Animal Planet TV show "Who Let The Dogs Out" earlier this year?  Well, Karen and Norman were some of the judges!)

Norman is going to be performing at the Howl-o-ween party at BarkWorld on Thurs. Oct.25th!  (and a few other guest appearances through-out the conference!)  If you haven't seen him ride his scooter, this is something you won't want to miss!

The best part is ..... Natural Balance is going to be doing a promotion so that BarkWorld attendees can win some seriously great prizes!!

Here's all you have to do to enter:  (TOTALLY easy!)

STEP 1:  Write a blog post that mentions Natural Balance, Norman the Scooter Dog, and BarkWorld.  Then tweet the link to @NaturalBalance  (1 entry)
STEP 2:  Leave a comment here- telling me about your pet- his/her name, breed, etc.  And what your favorite dog trick is.  (Just to give me some ideas!)  (Extra entry)
STEP 3: When you're at Barkworld- Tweet to @NaturalBalance- every mention and RT is another chance to win!

And if you do that... here's the prizes!

1 GRAND PRIZE-  $500 for your favorite charity (must be a 501c3 non-profit.)  PLUS a year's worth of free dog or cat food!  (For either YOU, your blog readers, or your favorite charity.)  You get to pick.
2 FIRST PLACE PRIZES- 1 years worth of free dog or cat food.  (Again, for you, your readers, or your favorite charity.)

Jasmine won a 6 month's supply of Natural Balance dog food by getting 2nd place on "Who Let The Dogs Out".  (Not to mention a gigantic gift basket of treats!)  We're just barely getting through it!  (Of course I had to share with Jaz's friends!)

So- speaking from personal experience.... it's totally worth entering!!  :)

Even if you're not able to come to BarkWorld, you could still enter by writing an educational blogpost about BarkWorld, Natural Balance, and Norman the Scooter Dog!

Good Luck Everybody!!!  :)  :)

And to those of you going to BARKWORLD.... let the countdown begin!!!!  :)  :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dog Training Tips- Clicker Train using healthy dog treats

Now that Jasmine is getting more well-known nationally, I get a lot of email messages asking about how I train Jasmine to do all these tricks.

I will tell you it's a process, and it takes time.  I train Jasmine by positive reinforcement- using a method calling "Clicker Training".

You can google it to get all the details.  But the basics of it is... rewarding your dog for a job well done.

First, you have to find what the motivation is for your dog.  Is it Toys?  Treats?  Praise?    Some dogs are super motivated by a special tennis ball, some want their reward to be a game of tug-of-war.   Jasmine happens to be REALLY food motivated.  She could care less about a tennis ball or a rope toy. She wants treats, and she wants the good stuff!

(That's my other secret.  Use something special for training.  Something different that is a high-value treat.)  Rewarding with pieces of kibble from her dog dish just doesn't cut it.

It's important to use soft treats.  (preferably healthy dog treats) that you can toss to your dog.  (If your dog is treat motivated, make sure you use really small pieces.)    I use another method called "Jackpot"- which means I vary the # of treats I give Jaz as a reward.  And if she does the trick exactly like I wanted, I give her a jackpot of treats, and quit for the night.  My secret is... you always leave them wanting more.  And you always end on a good note.  (So they learn to enjoy trick training.)  If we're learning a new trick that's difficult, I'll end the training session with an easier one, so Jasmine ends the session with success.  

“With dogs, it’s all about finding their favorite currency. It may be a special treat or a special toy. Find what your dog’s favorite currency is and use that when training them new tricks.” - Zak George

Once you know what motivates your dog, there are 3 ways to train a trick:
There are 3 methods of trick-training.

1) Luring- using a treat to get your dog to follow where you lead.  (This is how I taught Jaz to "Say Your Prayers")  I lured her to put her paws up on the couch.  Then I clicked to reinforce that was the correct behavior I was looking for.  Once she got that down pretty well, I used food to lure her into ducking her head.  And then clicked to reinforce that behavior.   Over time, they learn to do it without the food lure.
2) Shaping- allows you to break complicated behaviors into smaller, easier ones.  This is how I taught Jaz to "Hide in the Suitcase".  First I put a treat in the suitcase with the lid open (so she would jump in and get it out.  (That was a lure)  Then I asked her to lie down in the suitcase.  Once she had that down pretty well, I put the treat in and closed the lid of the suitcase.  So she had to use her nose to flip it open to get to the treat.  Then she knew to jump in, and lie down.  (When I asked her to.)   (This is also called back-chaining.)  You start with the last behavior, and then teach the one before it... until they can do it all together.
3) Capturing- this is the hardest one, but you can get some great behaviors that you wouldn't ordinarily be able to teach.  People ask me, "How did you teach Jasmine how to sneeze?"   I didn't.  I "captured" her doing that behavior naturally.  This one takes time.  You have to click and treat every time your dog randomly does the behavior you're looking for.  (Like sneeze.)  At first, they just look at you, wondering why they got the treat.  But over time, they begin to connect the dots.  (I think it literally took us 6 months to get the "sneeze" trick on command.)  Jasmine just had to figure out what I was rewarding her for!

Once you know how to train a trick, then you work on the 3 D's of Trick Training.
1) Distance  (Building up the amount of space between you and the dog)
2) Distraction (asking for the behavior amid distractions of other dogs, sounds, smells, places, etc.)
3) Duration (building up how long the dog holds the trick)  -and remember it's ALWAYS important to have a release word.  (So your dog knows when it's over.)  

Like I mentioned, it's so very important to always keep it positive.  Tricks are just for fun.  And you learn together.  I focus on Jasmine's strengths and what she has to offer.  Sometimes I'll start training with a trick in mind, but Jasmine won't do it.  But she'll do something else instead.  Good enough for me!  I follow her lead, and add that trick to our resume!    

People ask me what's the hardest trick I've ever had to teach Jasmine.  And believe it or not, the answer is Fetch.  Jasmine generally doesn't like things in her mouth.  (Which is great- because she doesn't chew up my shoes.)  But it makes training difficult when so many tricks involve holding things in her mouth or pulling on things.  So for the first 5 years of Jasmine's life, she just mainly did tricks that involved her paws.  But every now and then, I'd ask her to hold something in her mouth, and gradually she learned that was okay!  (But it still can't be fuzzy or heavy- or she spits it out.)  So I just work with what Jasmine likes to do!

And she LOVES trick training.  She'll bug me at night, if she hasn't had any mental stimulation during the day.  She'll lead me over to the treat counter, and start sneezing.  (her new way to "beg")  Because sneezing always got her a treat!

My last secret is to keep training sessions short.  (Maybe 10-15 minutes a day, if that.)  And that's it.

People ask me if it's just Jasmine that's really smart, or if any dog can learn tricks.  The answer is - any dog, any breed, any age can learn tricks.  You just have to be willing to invest the time and patience with the dog.  And keep in mind, Jasmine and I have been practicing tricks for 6 years now.  So if you want a dog like Jasmine, you just have to be willing to invest the time, the love, and bring a few good treats.  ;)

Those are my best dog training tips.  So now when people email me, I'm just going to forward them this blogpost!!   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jasmine the Therapy Dog visits an elementary school!

Last Friday, Jasmine and I got to go to an elementary school and 
do a presentation for all the 3rd Grade classes!    
They had just finished reading the book "Rosie the Visiting Dog"- 
and then they got to meet a real life therapy dog! 
If Jasmine went to this school, I bet she'd be the teacher's pet!  ;)
Jasmine demonstrating her "Be Shy" trick.
Jasmine is showing her "Cowboy Trick" to all the kids.
After our trick demonstration, we had Q & A.  Then each kid got to pet Jasmine and received a card with her picture on it.  (The same ones we get from the hospital to pass out to the patients.)
Sure, I can get the dog to look at the camera.  
But how do you get all the kids to do the same?? 
 Beats me!

 We did this last year too, and had such a blast.  
It was so fun being invited back again this year!

I didn't get any video this year because my friend was unable to come.   But here's the video from last year's demo!  Maybe next year we'll get another video with the kids!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Therapy Dog Visit to an Elementary School

In October, all the 3rd graders here read the book "Rosie the Visiting Dog"- about a therapy dog.

Last year, my friend (who is a 3rd grade teacher) asked if we would come visit the school, so the kids could meet a real therapy dog.  

We went and met with all the 3rd grade classes.  And we had a blast!!   3rd Graders are so much fun!!! (and hilarious!)

We talked a little about being a therapy dog, then did a trick dog demo.   Here's the video from last year:   (We ended up doing this same presentation at 2 different schools.)

I was just asked if I could bring Jasmine back again this year!  There's a whole new bunch of 3rd graders... ready to meet Jasmine the Therapy Dog!  So we're going this Friday!  I'll let you know how it goes!