Extinction, adult/puppy interaction, and the transition from community puppy to owned free-roamer

This is the full description to go with this week’s free-ranging dog video! If you’ve already read the first part on my Youtube video description, continue reading at the heading “Barkiness, extinction and correction.”

If you are only just starting to read here, start from the beginning, below the video!

Lots and lots of things to observe in this week’s video!

A little escape artist

In the beginning of the clip, right before I started filming, the white puppy squeezed through the iron rods of the fence/gate I’m pointing out at 00:22. It’s a little hard to see, but the square openings between the iron rods of this gate are JUST big enough for this puppy to squeeze out with a bit of effort. They won’t be able to keep doing this for long – soon, their head and shoulders will be too big to fit through, and they’ll stay confined unless the gate is open.

I know this puppy because I used to see them in the center of town, and they used to participate in Veronica’s community dog feedings. (See https://youtu.be/WNF5DDNnkBE ). I’ve seen this puppy in the center less lately, and I’ve never seen them behind the gate on the outskirts that they just came out of. This leads me to suspect that the community puppy has become an owned village dog – the people who live behind that gate likely took this puppy out of the community dog population. However, since the puppy is familiar with the center, they are escaping when something tempting happens outside the fence – such as Game and I walking past!

The escaping will likely stop as soon as the puppy doesn’t fit through the gate anymore (unless this house tends to have its gate open; if so, the puppy may be roaming the center even though they get fed at their new home – or they may not, depending on how big of a homerange they end up choosing. They will get fed at home, so home range size will not be determined by food availability, but by their genetic propensity to roam). Some owned dogs are not confined by fences and won’t even leave their patio – they just don’t have the need for a larger home range. Others will wander quite far … just because they can, and they like to.

Behavioral changes likely caused by becoming an owned dog

The white puppy here is already displaying behaviors they didn’t use to display: they are being quite brave and behaving like a homed puppy: barking at Game (who they have met and ignored in the past), trying play-biting at me (for example at 03:11/12, when they grab a belt that’s dangling down from my treat bag). This puppy is behaving like a confident and playful Western household puppy when they meet a new person, not like a community puppy. Community puppies know to stay in their lane. Western household puppies know they can get away with a lot more towards the people in their lives! This puppy has (I suspect) been homed for a week or so, and had lots of interactions with people – interactions like the one they are trying on me right now. In the time they were still a community dog, they wouldn’t have had these interactions with people and therefore not displayed the behavior of jumping and grabbing at human clothes because these behaviors would have been punished. In a homed puppy, they are often reinforced: there may be toy play, or at the very least laughter and attention when the puppy tries something like this. Both of these are reinforcing.

Barkiness, extinction and correction

The barkiness is also new. The puppy barks to get Game’s attention – they want to play and interact. Game is not in the mood, and she is handling this really well: she basically pretends the puppy doesn’t exist. She doesn’t correct the puppy (she would correct an adult dog much sooner for barking her ear off).

There are two potential consequences:

  1. If barking is a learned attention-getting behavior for this puppy (it may be; I’ve never seen this puppy bark when they were still a community dog), the absence of reinforcement (attention by Game) will lead to extinction: the barking at Game will disappear, either in the course of the current interaction, or in the course of the next one. It is entirely possible that the puppy has learned that barking gets attention from other dogs and/or humans in the week that they have been homed, simply by their barking being followed by attention.
  2. If barking is intrinsically reinforcing to this puppy (that is to say barking itself releases feel-good hormones or neurotransmitters in the puppy’s brain, independent of external consequences), ignoring the barking will not make the barking go away because the barking is not maintained by external attention, but by internal states of feeling positive emotions. Shelties tend to be in this categorie: they’ll often LOVE to bark, and you can ignore them all you want – this is not going to change anything!

Only at the very end of the clip, at 10:22, does Game correct the puppy for barking at her. She’s patient with puppies, but her patience has limits. This is a very appropriate and soft correction – just right for this puppy who immediately understands her and backs off. Dogs who spent their sensitive socialization period as community dogs or owned free-roaming puppies tend to have excellent dog/dog social skills, and this is exactly what you see here: the puppy reads Game well. No need to escalate the reprimand.

Barrier frustration and the fascinating fence effect

Two interesting things happen (or, rather, one interesting thing happens, and another one interestingly doesn’t happen) earlier in the video. Between about 02:00 and 00:05:50, we are walking through a corridor of confined dogs: first two Mals, two Boxers and two Great Danes (only one of them seems to be outside today) on the left and a German Shepherd on the right, and then a small barky dog behind the hedge fence on the left.

All these dogs are barking and fence-running, but neither Game nor the puppy are giving them attention. Game doesn’t because I’ve taught her not to. The puppy doesn’t because they’ve grown up being a community dog, and community dogs generally learn fast to ignore the dogs who are yelling at them from behind fences: they learn that actual interaction is impossible, and they do not share the frustration of the respective dog behind the fence because they are free to do what they want.

The dogs behind the fences are not free to interact or do what they want. Fences (leashes can also have this effect) have a high potential of causing barrier frustration because they make it impossible for the dogs to interact like dogs normally would. Fence barking usually goes out of hand quickly because the dogs behind the fences are being reinforced for barking.

This is negative reinforcement: the dogs (or people) walking past outside the fence will eventually go away. The superstition a chronic fence-barker is likely to develop is that it is their barking that made them go away. If the initial barking was frustration-driven, the disappearance of the frustrating stimulus on the outside of the fence will be experienced as a relief. So they will continue barking. Even if the initial barking was attention seeking, attention seeking is highly likely to turn into frustration because they can’t go up to the other dog. If the initial barking is fear-driven (it is not in any of the dogs in the video), it will also be reinforced by having the fear-inducing stimulus on the outside of the fence eventually go away (simply because the stimulus outside the fence will move on with their life, and keep walking).

The puppy already knows that no real interaction is possible with fence barkers. So they don’t respond to the barky dogs, but keep pestering Game instead. Game is outside the fence. Interaction with Game is possible! Smart puppy!

Pet dogs (I am using “pet dog” to refer to a dog who is not free, and who is likely to be walked on leash) do not usually know this, and would join the fence-barking/fence-running if given an opportunity.

Game has learned that fence barkers are a cue for her to pay attention to me, because I will often pay for attention in these circumstances. You’ll hear me praise her (when I speak German, this is always praise for Game), and you’ll see me give her a treat at one point (02:49). Game also knows the meaning of fences. If a dog is yelling at her from behind a fence, she will ignore them. If these adult dogs were barking and coming at her without there being a fence, she would not ignore them. I’ve built this behavior by both preventing her from fence running with other dogs, being barked at from behind a fence being followed up with treat scatters, and marking and reinforcing attention when in the proximity of a fence barker/fence runner. At this point, Game would be able to walk past these dogs in a relaxed fashion even if I didn’t reinforce her. I still do though when I have treats on me (i.e. intermittently). Her off-leash relaxation in the face of fence-runners/barkers is important to me.

The adult black dog

At 08:46, an adult black dog comes into view on the little wall to the left of the sidewalk. You’ll see that this dog’s body is stiff – for example when you pause the video at 09:34. This dog and Game have run into each other several times, and the black one is always stiff. This wall is within the black dog’s home range and within Game’s core area. Game doesn’t care about the black dog, and the black dog … well, the black dog never really seems to trust or approve of Game. Maybe this will change if we stay for a few more months, or maybe the black one will always disapprove of Game. Some personalities simply don’t match, just like with people. As long as no one escalates a personality mismatch, there’s no issue: live and let live.

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The free-roaming world is not all rainbows and butterflies. No big deal.

This is the long version of my video description to go with today’s Free Roamer video. Subscribe to the channel here to not miss videos I don’t share on my blog. I also love comments, and am happy to discuss, clarify, and go into detail on Youtube.

Stand-offs with free-roamers

What you are going to see is two dogs in a stand-off. They don’t know each other. This is Game’s home range, but we don’t go here often. I don’t know if the other dog is in their home range or core area. First, Game is ready to curve politely. The other dog approaches frontally instead. As a result, the meeting itself starts off tensely: the free-roamer is tense, and Game responds with tenseness herself. They are in a stand-off: both stiff. Neither one giving an inch. I know it’s going to erupt.

I happen to have someone who’s taking video for me (thank you, Rodrigo!), which is rare – that’s the reason I do not interfere or manage when I see the other dog is tense rather than loose-bodied. I want you to see what happens in a situation like this: not a whole lot.

Free-roaming dogs are usually excellent communicators. That is to say, they may have attitudes and opinions; they may even be snarky and barky, feisty and mean. But they do not harm each other. Fights are loud, and then everyone walks away, shakes off, and continues with their day. Think Lucha Libre or Capoeira (it’s ritualized like a dance; it may be about winning, but it’s not meant to harm the opponent), not Krav Maga (few or no rules, and the aim is to knock out, eliminate or even kill your opponent quickly and efficiently).

Let’s define “usually” …

Let’s define “usually excellent communicators”: I have lived in free-roaming worlds (Thailand, Guatemala, Mexico) with my dog(s) for the last five years. In these five years, we’ve met multiple ree-roaming dogs every single day. Let’s say on average, I will meet 5 a day (that is a conservative estaimate). Only twice have we met a free-roaming dog who did not have great communication skills – it happens so rarely that I remember. So “usually,” in the sense I’m using it here, means close to 100% of the free-roaming dogs Game and I meet.)

Game is an excellent communicator as well. She is usually friendly, but can be a jerk, like any living being. Even when she’s being a jerk, she will not draw blood. This is why I am not worried even though I know the situation is going to erupt in this situation.

What if I didn’t want the situation to erupt? I’d manage or interfere the moment I saw a stiff-bodied free-roamer.

What options do I have to manage/interfere?

1. Space permitting, I could curve my leashed dog around the other dog in a wide half-circle, giving that dog space. I can’t cross the street here because there’s a fence separating the two lanes; if I could, I would just cross the road

2. I could do a u-turn with my dog. (I don’t usually do this because Game is a very stable dog, so it’s not necessary. I would do it with a puppy, a dog-aggressive dog, or a fear-reactive dog.)

3. I could tell my dog to stay next to/behind me and throw treats at the other dog.

4. I could tell my dog to stay next to/behind me, and threaten the other dog (free-roamers mostly respect humans and keep their distance).
Levels of threat I can use:
I Facing them frontally.
II Direct evil stare into their eyes.
III Throwing invisible stones.
IV Walking towards/into them while doing I and II.
V Kicking the dog if none of the above do the trick, while still having my own dog stand back. (Game knows if I am taking charge of a situation or if I am letting her take charge.)

5. I could tell my dog to come into “middle” position (see this video), and, if necessary, keep the other dog at bay with any of the methods mentioned in points 3 and 4.

When do I know it’ll erupt?

The moment I am sure it is going to erupt is when their stand-off starts. At this point, I know that the situation can only be resolved by an eruption – but who will give in and who will go forward is not yet clear.

It’s like arm-wrestling: while they are both stiff and staring at each other, it’s like both wrestlers are equally strong; their arms are vertical. They are holding this position for several seconds, and then one of the wrestlers will start losing ground.

The same happens between two dogs in a stand-off like this. One of them will give in. In this case, it’s the other dog. In an arm-wrestling match, this will most of the time result in the winner smashing their opponent’s arm down.

Things were standing still or moving in slow motion until that moment. Because the other dog gives in by retreating a step, Game goes forward (smashes the other one’s arm onto the table).

Loose leash

Notice that I’ve made sure to keep my leash loose the entire time. I can’t tell my leashed dog that she gets to handle a situation, and then keep her from freely communicating by tightening the leash. It would not be fair Tight leashes are only an option if I am going to handle the situation myself, and my dog is not expected to do anything.

However, I’m not going to let her tie herself and the other dog up in the leash, so I just stay where I’m standing. Situation over; you won, Game. She’s already defeated the opponent; it’s over as soon as Game reaches the end of her leash and the other one gets out of dodge (out of Game’s leash radius). And we continue on. All is well.

What if there was no leash?

You may ask yourself what would have happened if Game was off leash. Would she have ended up in the same stand-off? Yes, if I hadn’t managed or interfered, she’d probably have ended up in the exact same stand-off.

What would have happened if I had chosen to not interfere? I would have continued walking because I am a magnet for my dog. I don’t want to increase her power by staying close, but pull her with me by keeping moving. I would have walked past them, and then watched from a distance. Game would have had to finish her stand-off before catching up with me (otherwise, she would have become the one taking a step back, and the other dog would win and smash her metaphorical arm on the table).

Things would likely have ended in the same way: the other one would have given in, and Game would have responded by going forwards (smashing their arm onto the table). Because in this situation, there is no leash stopping her, the “fight” (remember: Lucha Libre or Capoeira, not Krav Maga: sparring for show, not to do harm) would have lasted a little longer. Maybe 30 seconds. Then, everyone would have moved on with their day; no blood, no harm – except maybe for that other dog’s ego.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because people tend to be afraid that when dogs get into fights, blood is going to flow. This is really rare among dogs who grow up free-roaming. It is not so rare among pet or sports or working dogs. If you live in a world mostly populated by the latter, it makes perfect sense that dogs getting into fights is something you are worried about. Free-roaming dogs are different in that their social skills are on a different level.

Why is Game good at this stuff?

Game has been hurt (bitten to the point of blood being drawn) by my own previous dog (who was severely dog aggressive), and she has been hurt by a pet dog who was with their owner. She has never drawn blood herself, even though she has been a jerk on occasion. Why is that? Take a minute and think about your answer before you scroll down and keep reading!

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No, it’s not because I’m the world’s greatest dog trainer and turned a blank-slate puppy into the best version of a Malinois. It’s because Game is genetically an extremely stable dog. I would not blame her if she had developed aggression after living with my previous dog. But Game did not develop aggression. She has two personality traits that keep her from it: high confidence, and high sociability. The combination of these two allows her to assume that other dogs she meets are not going to be psychopaths despite her own bad experiences. She acts like a dog who has never had a bad experience, and is simply confident (will not submit if challenged) and sociable (will usually be friendly). So do most free-roamers we meet. Not bad at all, this part of the world, is it?

The Norbert Experiment, part 4: adjustments

So much to learn from yesterday’s session!

The reason I ran out of both high-value treats AND kibble is that I did not expect to go more than 2 or, at the most, 3 sessions. But such is life! I learned:

  1. As long as the toy is out, Game will keep going.
  2. Game is indeed able to choose the toy over the cat after running down the staircase several times (her motivational state is likely different at that point due to being hot and tired because neither of us is used to this climate).
  3. Game can take kibble within this staircase marker game – at least starting at the 4th round.
  4. Once in the bedroom after the 7th scatter (no sight contact to cats or toys), Game is able to relax right away.

Based on this, I will adjust in the following way:

  • Remove the toy during the scatter (leaving it on the floor until then will give Game the option to grab it if she needs to earlier on).
  • Only go down the staircase once.
  • Move swiftly to the bedroom after the scatter and take a break – no matter whether there are cats or not.

Making it measurable

I’m going to do a session like this, and then decide how to best measure our progress. I also realize this is not necessarily going to be easy to measure because there are different cats, and the distance at which they appear often differs, too. Sometimes they move, and sometimes they are stationary. Sometimes there is only one at a time – and sometimes there is more than one. Sometimes, they stare at us (we are in a display window at this AirBnB – for people and cats). This means the sessions are not directly comparable, which is a shame. We don’t live in a lab!

If anyone readong along wants to throw their suggestions of how they’d measure this at me, go right ahead! I’m writing this up more slowly than I’m training, so by the time I read our suggestion, I will likely already have implemented whatever I came up with myself. But if you want to think along and decide what you would do in my situation – go right ahead and have fun with this in the comments, and I’ll be sure to get back to you there!

Since I have no video for you today – take one of the cats instead:

The Norbert Experiment, Part 2: cats happen faster than expected

This is a short one, just showing you how messy real life is! I filmed the baseline pretty much right after getting to this AirBnB and seeing the cats. Then I tethered Game to the couch and opened the glass door so there was only the screen door because it was HOT inside! I was still getting set up here myself, but managed to prepare some of what I would need for cat sightings (chop up high value treats) by the time this cat – the next one after the baseline – walked past. Both the longer leash I’d rather use for Game’s tether and the harness I’d prefer to tether her on (as opposed to a collar) are still doG knows where in my luggage or in the car. They’d have been up on top had I known how cat-y this AirBnB was going to be.

So life happens, and we make the best of it!

Below, as I was still digging through my luggage, a cat walks past. I record the cat (rather than attending to Game right away), and then I quickly run down the marker cue staircase.

The good news: it works well and Game is able to respond to the tug cue right away.

The not so great news: by the time I took this video, I had not had time to think through the details. For example the tug play you see in this clip is not what I later decided I wanted, and then described in part 1 (cooperative tug): here, I am reaching for the toy way more often then I’d like. The leash is too short to play on well, and I end up tossing a treat towards (rather than parallel to) where the cat used to be – outside of Game’s leash radius. And for most of this, Game’s not even in the frame of the camera. Oh well!

But after that scatter, the cat was gone, and Game was indeed ready to move on with her life. So while by no means perfect, the basic structure is working – and we’ll be better prepared next time! (With the camera set up in a good spot and ready to record, high value treats and toy ready to go, a longer leash and a harness!)

In the video below, I pick up the toy when moving to “Get it” treats. I might experiment leaving it on the ground next time so Game herself can restart the game if she needs to channel some more cat feelings into it.

Body language in free-roaming dogs, or: meet the dog in front of you!

This is the full version of the description that goes with today’s Youtube video on the Free Ranging Dogs channel. If you’ve read the first part of the description already, pick back up under the heading “Dog #4”! If you haven’t – here’s the video description from the beginning:

Game is happy to be allowed to run off leash again (nothing to worry about – the surgery I mention in the video was minor and all is well, but she’s only been out on leash for the last 2 weeks).

This video shows how, in just 3 minutes, Game meets 5 different owned free-roamers. Just like pet dogs differ, so do the personalities, looks and behaviors of these dogs.

All 5 free-roamers in this video are owned dogs. That is to say, they live in the respective yards they come out of. Their gates are always open. This street is part of Game’s home range and part of the other dogs’ core area. Only dog #4, the Doberman/Lab (this is not a Doberman; I’m just picking look-alike breeds for you to distinguish them) is not inside their own yard – the person working on the car is probably their human, and the dog is out here with them.

Dog #1: the Husky

Game sees the Husky before I do. At 00:29, she greets them with a friendly wag and moves on. What you see at 00:29 is a behavior that lets me know there is a dog to her right.

00:36 The Husky comes out – hackles up at first, but Game has already moved on, so the Husky doesn’t care. Instead, they show curiosity/interest in me, and their hackles come down all the way.

Dog #2: the big black-and-white pup

00:54 This one looks pretty young to me – but I can’t say for sure; he may just look that way because of a recent hair cut. He, too, comes out of his territory. Unlike the Husky, the pup is interested in Game: friendly, waggy and playful.

01:02 Game responds to the friendly interest the pup is showing. She may be in the mood to run together. That’s because she’s been deprived of exercise for the last 2 weeks, and I’ve also mostly kept her away from from other dogs. When that happens, she tends to act more playfully until she’s back to baseline in terms of exercise and intraspecific social interaction. It usually takes her a few days to get back to baseline.

01:16 Game would have pooped here, but because the pup is still there and being playful/friendly, she forgets about pooping and reciprocates the playfulness.

01:19 Btw, the ear position you see here in Game – ears up and turned back – is what she’ll usually show when we’re out and about. This is not a sign of insecurity, submission or fear. (Game can do a whole bunch of things with her ears; this is just one of her many expressions.) She’ll usually have her ears up and back like this when she’s ahead of me. She watches what’s up ahead, and keeps an ear on me at the same time.

Here, she’s running towards me, and her ears are up and back to keep an ear on the pup who she’s allowing to chase her. Ears up and back are a sign of split attention in Game: eyes in one direction, ears in the other one.

01:24 … and running back the other way, in exactly the kind of speed that is right for the pup (who seems to have a hurt paw/leg and is not super fast). Game enjoys both being the chaser and being the chasee.

01:25 And yes, I say in this video that she’s been on limited activity for a long time. For me (and for Game, but really, mostly for me), 2 weeks are a fucking long time! Walking is my thing. And without a dog, it isn’t fun.

Dog #3: the Chihuahua

01:42 The Chihuahua has just come out of their yard, and wants to see what’s going on out here! Since the 5 dogs (the free-roamers) are all neighbors, the Chihuahua isn’t interested in the pup, but in Game.

01:45-01:48 The Chihuahua displays their interest by sniffing. They are confident and curious, and the fact that Game ignores them (“Too small; whatever; also I’m done playing”) likely raises the Chihuahua’s confidence to the bouncy, chasey level you see here.

The Chihuahua and Game aren’t playing – the Chihuahua is sniffing while chasing Game, who ignores them because she’s already on her way.

Game is aware of size differences and is much more likely to ignore a small dog than a large dog. The Chihuahua isn’t unfriendly, but not exactly friendly either.

01:49 Game may just have left the little one’s core area, making her less interesting and me (I am still in the core area) more interesting. The Chihuahua folds the ears back and wags at me in a friendly-submissive greeting gesture.

Dog #4: the Doberman/Lab

01:52 To your right, where the cars are parked, you’re about to see the Doberman/Lab. This dog is insecure and barky. They are in their core area (this is one of the neighborhood dogs here), but not in their own yard. They are likely out here with their human.

You’ll see the insecurity in the retreat and the continued barking:

02:01 Retreat.

02:04 Now that Game has passed, the dog is coming forward again: when one dog turns their back on another one, the other one will feel safer. Game just passed and ignored the Doberman/Lab.

02:06 … which is why the Doberman/Lab can now come forwards again and bark – this time at me.

02:12 The response to me is barky, but not fearful. There was only a fear response when Game was walking towards and past the parking lot – so this dog’s insecurity is dog-specific.

02:14 It’s hard to say whether the Doberman/Lab is in their territory or in their core area. In any case, the person at the car is probably their person.

It is entirely possible that the dog’s response to Game and I would be different if there was no other human present. Being with their human generally gives dogs greater confidence/perceived strength.

Dog #5: the second fluffy big one

02:19 This dog was probably alerted to Game’s presence by the barking of the Doberman/Lab. Like the Chihuahua, he wants to see what’s going on! He is not interested in me and runs out of his territory (yard) and right past me to check out Game. The barking you keep hearing in the background is still the Doberman/Lab, not dog #5.

02:28 Game is done socializing for this outing, which is why she isn’t giving dog #5 any attention. Dog #5 is just curious about her – no strong feelings in any direction. Having caught up with her, he sniffs where she sniffed, and later, he’ll pee on the corner of the wall.

This dog is confident, has no ill intentions, and is an adult. Among confident adults with good social skills, if dog A ignores dog B, dog B will also politely leave dog A alone. (There are exceptions. Sometimes two adult dogs – just like humans – dislike each other at first sight. But that would be an exception for socially confident good communicaters. Politeness is the rule: live and let live.)

02:39 You can see dog #5 pee and look around (for example at me) with loose body language. He has gotten a good look at Game, had the chance to sniff where she sniffed and where she stood to collect information – that’s all he needs.

02:46 Dog #5 is done; ready to head back home. He has learned all he needed/wanted to learn about Game.

02:56 Even when Game is back outside the forest, dog #5 is still good: he has satisfied his curiosity and is ready to return to whatever he was doing. (Probably snoozing outside his house.)

Distractions as cues, day 2

(We’re at step 3 of our training plan.)

Day 2, session 1: breakfast

I put down rugs today to prevent sliding on the tiles.

This video doesn’t only show Game being a brilliant learner – it also reveals a hole in my marker cue training: my click is not strong enough to get her to leave the food on the ground. (I know that a recall cue or leave it would get her to leave the food behind, but I need to sharpen up that click!) Marker cues are cues, just like other cues. My tongue click is a cue to eat food from my hand. In order to do so, the previous behavior (in this case, eating food from the floor) needs to be interrupted.

In this session, the treats from my hand are the same as the food on the floor (kibble).

Session 2: dinner

In this session, you’ll see me work on the click by using it at opportune moments (right when there is no treat left in front of Game’s nose on the floor).

I’m setting myself up for success in this way even though the treats from my hand are the exact same as the treats on the ground. I’m re-establishing the habit of immediately responding to my click.

You’ll see the session end in personal play, and looking for a toy. That’s how Game expresses joy and pride in her own work!


Wanna work on this or similar behaviors with your own dog? Join me in Out and About at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy!

Distractions as cues, day 1, session 1: dinner fun indoors

Here, you see me work on step 2 from yesterday’s post:

Practice your verbal cue with an easy version of your distraction in an easy location (at home, in your house). Make sure to cue the behavior after the dog has seen or accessed the distraction (new cue – old cue, in this situation, means first comes the distraction, then the verbal cue). We want the distraction to predict the verbal cue.

Fun with marker cues!

You’ll also see me use 3 marker cues in this session: tongue click (food from hand), “Get it!” (chase a thrown treat), and “Okay” (release to the environment, in this case, the kibble on the floor). I call Game out of eating a few times just to make sure my recall cue is as strong as it needs to be for this training project to work – and it is.

I’m using the same value food here from my hand and from the floor (kibble).

Please note: if your dog does not like being “pestered,” only interrupt them once while they are eating. Game doesn’t mind because she’s a Mal, and loves to work. Not all dogs are like that. While we want to test our recall cue, we also want to make sure it keeps its positive connotations and doesn’t feel like we are nagging the dog!


Wanna work on this or similar behaviors with your own dog? Join me in Out and About at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy!

One Wild and Precious, E7 Dog geekery: pet dogs or free-roaming dogs … who’s got it “better”?

Listen to this episode on any other major podcast player – just look for “Our One Wild and Precious Lives (and Our Dogs).”

Link to Apple Podcasts.

Link to Spotify.

Injured free-roamers referred to in E7:

1. The free-roaming dog with the big wound on his leg – pictures:

To give you a face to go with the pictures of the wound below – we’re talking about the dog who looks like a Mal mix. He’s Game’s and my friend, and the young Husky mix next to him is his buddy. You may have seen both of these dogs in some of my videos already:

Picture of the wound on this dog from January 27, 2022:

A better pic I managed to take on February 1st:

The wound starts looking smaller – the picture below is from February 8, 2022:

And below, 2 pictures from February 14: now there’s no way of denying that he’s healing up!

I didn’t take any pictures after this, but a few weeks later, you could hardly tell there had ever been a wound!


2. The dog with the dangly leg I saw near a freeway on my road trip:


By the way, if you want to roam and ramble with your dog the way I (Chrissi) do with Game – who’s not free-roaming, but has a lot of freedom when the two of us are out together – join me in Out and About at FDSA! Registration is still open, and class starts on October 1st. Gold students tend to work on a large variety of eclectic topics related to being out in the world with their dogs. It’s always an interesting and rich class to follow along with, even if you’re only reading along at the Bronze level!

Sue doesn’t teach a class in October, but the spay/neuter webinars she and Jessica Hekman presented on September 22 may still up for purchase on the day this podcast episode airs! I attended both of them live, and highly recommend them. Grab ’em while you can: https://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/self-study/webinars


PS: For a weekly glimpse into the life of free-roamers, subscribe to my latest passion project: my Free Ranging Dogs Youtube channel! I discuss their behavior, body language, interactions and various ethological concepts in the video description, and release a new video each Sunday afternoon. My goal is to build a free resource and share the free-roamers Game and I encounter on our meanderings with anyone who’d like to learn more about them.

The free-roaming dogs of Mexico

I started a Youtube channel on the free roaming dogs I encounter on my own free meanderings. Every Sunday at 5pm CT, you’ll get a little glimpse in their lives and encounters. Make sure to read the video descriptions for more information and context.

Today, I released the third episode – here are the first three to give you an example of the kind of content I’m going to feature. To stay up to date, subscribe to the channel.Feel free to videos that interest you with your friends! I love sharing “my” free-roamers with you all!

Game chooses to stay close to me so I’ll keep her safe

Video description

Game is good with dogs. She’s got excellent social skills, and she’s a confident girl. However, this is the morning after a night of fireworks that made her quite uncomfortable. She’s not up for dealing with other dogs today, and chooses to stay near me. We have a system of communication, and within our shared language, this means that she is asking me to deal with the dogs for her. So I do. All is well.

Game meets a playful free roaming puppy

Video description

Before I got the camera out, the puppy approached us, ran towards and play-bowed at Game. By the time I start filming, the roles are reversing and Game is finding out if she, too, will get to be the chaser.

We walk here a lot, but haven’t seen this puppy before. She does not behave like a typical free-roaming homed puppy. That and the fact that there is a busy street nearby is why I joke about her wanting to be my dog – that’s not a thought that usually crosses my mind. If she were either an obviously homed free-roaming puppy or this was a pedestrian area (one or both are the case for almost all – let’s say 98% – of dogs I see in Guanajuato), I would keep my distance. This is not the case for this puppy, which tempts me to interact more with her than I would with a typical free-roamer whose life I feel I shouldn’t interfere in much. I would usually offer neither food nor pets, and keep my distance, just observing.

Passing a shy free-roaming dog on leash

A typical encounter. As it turned out, the dog was in his core area – the little store likely belongs to his folks.

Happy training, observing and learning, everyone!

One Wild and Precious, E4: The unique city of Guanajuato, sharing a multicultural house, making panditas, and human connection

New episode! This is the first time I experimented with recording a conversation in the same room rather than over Zoom. I don’t have professional audio equipment, so we recorded a single audio track, hunched over Andrés’ little table, crumbs of mota and my laptop. The sound quality isn’t perfect – but it worked well enough!

I’ve been living with three Mexicans, and on this episode, I talk to one of my housemates: Andrés Ortega. We chat about the trials and tribulations of living with strangers, cultural differences, the colors and facets of Guanajuato City, and what we have learned from each other. Get ready for laughter, city stories, lots of mutual appreciation, and a rant about pocket-less pants!

I’m really glad I found this house, and the three wonderful people already living in it. You guys are awesome! Game has been enjoying it here as well. She’s loving the leftovers that are being saved for her (especialls the month Ivan used to cook way too much), and every time tortillas go bad, or Andrés buys an entire roast chicken. Game has also received two toys from Moi. One of them, the yellow sheep, is still alive and being well loved. It is her new favorite, and even went on a road trip with us.

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Moi opened the door to his room to Game and I when we first moved in. We were invited to take over his bed – even Game! – and hang out, watching movies. We both felt comfortable and at ease right away. I’m thankful for Moi’s intuition and perceptiveness about making me feel at home!

I am grateful to have met my three housemates, having learned new modismos and gotten to know Los Simuladores. I couldn’t have found better people to share a house with. I appreciated sharing my imperfect pizza experiment with you all, having lots of coffee breaks with Andrés, sharing lunch tortas with Moi, lounging on the kitchen furniture with my dog at my feet and new friends by my side. And Ivan! Thank you for lending me your car, and introducing me to your inflables and their casa. (Ivan runs what probably is a not-entirely-legal bouncy house rental business. He also forges data for the government, but the bouncy house business is way cooler and more fun.)

I’m the lucky one. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, I would thank them for my time here, and for the freedom I rediscovered. And for something I thought everyone did, but am realizing may not be as common as I used to think: I see beauty around me all the time. I meet amazing people. (I, too, see the shadows, but also: so much good stuff!)

There’s something else I learned from Moisés that I didn’t mention on this podcast, but have to share with you because it’s brilliant! If you have raw eggs that aren’t fresh, and you aren’t sure they are still good, there’s an easy way to find out: fill a pot with water. Put the egg into it. If it sinks to the bottom of the pot, it’s still good. If it floats, it’s bad.

The other trick I learned: if you’re making coffee in a drip coffee machine (we are making a lot of coffee!), you don’t have to put entirely new coffee into the machine for every new can of coffee! You can just add a spoon or two of coffee to the used coffee already in the filter, add water, and you’ll end up with coffee just as tasty as the previous round … And you’ll be using up less coffee overall! (This is going to save me a lot of money going forwards, since I drink LOADS of coffee.) Up until now, I used to empty out and refill my filter every single time!

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You all, whether you’re reading this or not – I’m going to tell you in person again anyway: thank you for the conversations, the movie nights, water-refill and bouncy-house-recovering trips. Thank you for cotorrear-ing about dogs and the world, girlfriends and human beings, and anything from our personal challenges to family history.

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I’ll be leaving because I want to live in the middle of nowhere again, not in a place surrounded by highways. But if I could bring Moisés, Andrés and Ivan (just pack up the entire house), I totally would.

LINKS & RESOURCES

Get in touch with Andrés:

https://www.instagram.com/xerxes_man/

Get in touch with Chrissi:

www.chrissisdogtraining.com

chrissi.schranz [at] gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/chrissi.schranz/

https://www.instagram.com/adogisabondbetweenstrangers/

Thank you …


Thank you to Lesfm for providing our royalty-free intro, outro and en-tro music, and to Isabelle Grubert for designing the logo of the show!