And it could not have gone better!

On Saturday the 30th January Redlands held its first Agility and Jumpers trial under COVID safe conditions. Thanks to the many hours of planning by our hard-working committee, an abundance of volunteers and a generous sponsor, the night was a huge success.

We had a limit on entries due to the new world we find ourselves living in but they all showed up, checked in and sanitized and excited to be back competing in the sport that we love! The Agility community are very supportive of each other and this camaraderie is very evident at the trials.

Seven of our Redlands Agility trailers competed on the night and a record number of club and committee members showed up to help which allowed our competitors to focus on their dogs. Their contributions cannot be overstated.

Amongst our team, we had some entertaining runs and some very close misses but also some great successes!

Lauren, who is one of our newer recruits but also already an invaluable member of the team, managed to get her final qualifying round needed in Novice Jumpers with her joyous Golden Retriever Walt, gaining her Novice Jumping Title and a first place! Lauren and Walt are always a joy to watch and are the perfect example of how much fun this sport is.

Well done Lauren!

Samantha, another of our very welcome newer members, got a beautiful clear round with her zippy little spaniel Harriet in Excellent Jumping. Harriet only ran faster on the night when she left the agility ring to race to where she was sure Mum had left her ball…

Samantha also ran her husband’s dog Finn. Finn is still very young and less experienced but rose to the challenge and worked absolutely beautifully under Samantha’s direction, doing himself proud. He is incredibly fast and will undoubtably be taking out some first places in the near future, especially with such a competent handler.

Vicki and her ever popular Beagle Elsa did not disappoint in the entertainment on the night either. Elsa was in great form and running well but some Pilot Error stopped her from qualifying in her events. She did still take out first place in Excellent Agility… that’s how fast she is!

Elsa is also obsessed with Border Collies. There are a lot of Border Collies at the average Agility competition and spotting one of these running in another ring almost proved too much for Elsa who tried to join it but thanks to our wonderful bunting, she was foiled.

Sonia and Jedda ran a lovely run in Open Jumping, gaining their second qualification in this event and taking out third place. Jedda competes in the 500-height division which pits her against the fastest of the dogs (those border collies again) so that gives you some idea of how fast this little Labrador can go!

Jennie and Alfie, her Australian Shepherd, ran despite Jennie having a serious knee injury and qualified in first place in Novice Agility. Alfie also runs in the 500 class.

It is a joy to watch Jennie and Alfie compete together as they really do showcase the bond and teamwork between handler and dog. Alfie adjusted his run to suit his injured handler and showed just what a classy act they are!

Tess and her bouncy Boxer Layla ran some lovely rounds and were real crowd pleasers. No Qualifying runs on this occasion but some great teamwork and both seemed to be enjoying the courses.

Next time Tess!

Last but by no means least, we had our lovely Kate running with Charli. Charli and Kate always run a solid round together and only the most minor of faults held them from getting clear rounds. Charli always manages to smile throughout her runs and knows she is a good girl regardless of whether or not she Qualified!

Topping the night off at the prize giving, we had some generous donations from our proud sponsor Eukanuba. Eukanuba specialize in performance and nutritional science and produce premium dog foods that have been fuelling sporting and working dogs for over 50 years.

Special thanks to Karen Deguet for managing the trial from beginning with advertising, to end with prizes. And to our judges, Bob Mills and Barb Murphet for the fun courses.

Thank you to our many volunteers and helpers – Ruth Harrison, Roz Jackson, Karin Burns, Margaret Patterson, Wendy Marshall, Di Metcalf, Gaille Newton, Rebecca Waldron, Sue Hunt, Kathy Brzoskowski, Sue Conway, Stephen Were, Sarah Were, Karen Moule, Gail Masters, Mal Duffy, Anne and Paolo Lencioni. You all were brilliant!

And thanks to Ruth and Ben for your photography prowess.

Cane Toads

By Nicky Wright – @nickytheanimaltrainer

How to recognise them, signs of cane toad toxicity in our pet dogs, and cane toad toxicity first aid.

Image sourced from https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/

Recently, one of our beloved members dogs was rushed to a 24 hour emergency vet with cane toad toxicity; in light of this event I thought it appropriate to shed some light on these pesky invasive amphibians.

History Of The Cane Toad

Rhinella marina, aka the cane toad, was introduced to northern Queensland in 1935. They have a devastating effect on the native predators and amphibians, and have no natural predators of their own (however some native species are learning how to safely eat them). 

image sourced from (https://ib.bioninja.com.au)

How To Identify A Cane Toad

Most Queenslanders will have NO problem recognising one of these creatures. However, the key identifying features are:

  • Heavy Build
  • “Warty” skin
  •  A bony ridge over eyes
  • No webbing between toes on forelegs
  • Leathery webbing between toes on hind-limbs
  • Sit upright and move in short rapid hops
  • Adults have a large parotoid gland behind each eardrum (tympanum); these glands are where the poison is secreted from.
Image sourced from https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/

Cane Toad Toxicity

Each life stage of the cane toad is toxic to our pet dogs: from their eggs right through to the adults.

image sourced from http://ourherpclass.blogspot.com

The parotoid gland can be recognised as a large fatty wedge-shaped mass behind the external eardrum. This secretes a thick and milky poison, which is produced when the animal feels threatened, or when pressure is applied directly to the gland.

Toxicity results in severe cardiac toxicity and neurotoxicity; this is due to the catecholamines, vasoactive substances and bufotoxins. It affects the heart, the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system.

Why Are Our Dogs So Susceptible To Cane Toad Toxicity?

The nature by which the cane toads move, and the predatory pattern of many dogs, makes Fido a prime suspect for cane toad interactions. Don’t forget the Coppinger and Coppinger basal canine predatory motor sequence: orient > eye > stalk > chase > grab-bite > kill-bite > dissect > consume. The toxin most commonly comes into contact with the mucous membranes of the dogs mouth (gums), from the dog mouthing or licking the toad.

The toxin is a sticky/goopy substance that adheres to the mucous membranes, where it rapidly absorbs into the blood stream. The toxin is also present in the tissue of deceased, and even dried cane toads.

What Symptoms Should We Look Out For?

Other than the obvious diagnosis of witnessing your dog interact with a cane toad, the common signs of cane toxicity are not dissimilar to most signs of toxicity from other toxic substances:

  • Excessive salivation and/or frothing from the mouth
  • Red “injected” gums; it’s useful to familiarise yourself with your dogs normal gum colour.
  • Sticky or slimy gums: this is usually the toad secretion
  • Irritated mouth. Your dog may start to “paw” at its mouth and gums
  • Vomiting or retching
  • Weakness; the dog may appear “drunk” or disorientated
  • Muscles twitches, tremors or seizures
  • Rigid limbs; occasionally the whole body will become rigid
  • Increased body temperature (accurately assessed by a rectal thermometer)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Collapse

Death is not uncommon. In an average sized dog death may occur within 15 minutes… therefore your next steps are critical!

First Aid For Cane Toad Toxicity

Your next actions could save your dogs life…If you have witnessed, or even suspect that your dog has come into contact with a cane toad you should immediately begin the following steps:


Your goal is to remove the toad secretions from the dog’s mouth; this will reduce the contact time the toxin has with the mucous membranes and will desist any further absorption of the toxin.

  • Use a damp Chux type cloth and begin wiping the dog’s gums, palate and tongue.
  • Frequently rinse and wring out the cloth, if possible replace it frequently. As part of your dog first aid kit I recommend having a packet of Chux (you can even cut them up); this means that in an emergency I can quickly soak several and they are ready to go.
  • Continue wiping for 15 to 20 minutes. Even if you think there couldn’t possibly be any more secretions. 


  • Always call the vet clinic you are planning to go to; this ensures they can have team prepped and primed to see your dog the minute you walk through the door.
  • Where possible, have one person wiping the dog’s mouth (step one) whilst in transit to the vet. If this is not possible, and your dog appears stable and is not displaying any life threatening/severe symptoms, prioritise the wiping before travelling to the vet.  If your dog consumed the toad, go immediately to the vet, they may be able to induce vomiting and provide toxin preventative and supportive therapy to the dog.

DO NOT “flush” the dog’s mouth with a hose or by splashing water onto the gums

DO NOT encourage the dog to drink any water

Steps You Can Take To Prevent Cane Toad Toxicity

  • Replenish outdoors drinking water sources each day (morning is best); including any pools you may have available for your dog/s
  • Supervise your dog in the evenings. Where possible, bring them inside at night. When they are going outside for toileting, go with them: if your dog is known to chase or catch animals, put your dog on a lead for toilet breaks. This particularly applies when it is raining or it is humid.
  • Teach your dog a reliable “Leave It” cue.
  • Teach your dog a reliable recall – off distractions.
  • Make your yard “Toad Proof”
    • Avoid having unnecessary light sources such as solar garden lamps, and turn off outside lights that may attract insects (yum yum).
    • Keep your yard neat and tidy, toads like quick escape routes such as long grass or dense low foliage.
    • Actively keep the toad population down in your area; the RSPCA guidelines suggest using “HopStop” – available from Bunnings Warehouse, and hypothermia – place the toad in the fridge for 12 hours, followed by 24 hours in the freezer. Deceased toads can be buried (away from access to your pet) or placed in the general rubbish bin.

The RDOC Foundations class teaches crate training, leave it and recall; each of these are life saving skills.

AGM 19/20 – Nov 2020

Thank you to everyone that came along to this years AGM, we had a great turnout. Thank you also to Cllr. Tracey Huges for taking on the role of returning officer.

Your new committee is as follows.

Ruth Harrison – President

Jennie Day – Secretary

Ben Fraser – Vice President

Vicki Hogan – Treasurer

General Members
Kate Hutchinson

Sonia Austin

Nicky Wright

Jan Dixon

Thank you to our past committee for all you have done and welcome our new committee. Roll on 2021!

For those of you that couldn’t attend you can find the president’s speech below.

Firstly, I acknowledge the Quandamooka People, Traditional Custodians of the lands, waters and seas where I stand today. I pay my respects to Elders, past, present and future.

I would also like to thank Councillor Tracey Huges for joining us tonight. Councillor Huges is the councillor for Division 8 which includes Judy Holt Park. I would also like to acknowledge the support that both Councillor Huges and Redlands City Council have provided us this year in the form of grants that have enabled us to complete a strategic plan and redo our very old constitution that we will look to ratify tonight.

I would also like to acknowledge the Community Gaming Benefit fund that has also supported us this year with a grant to purchase two new equipment trolleys for our obedience trial equipment. We applied for this grant as part of our ongoing drive to make the club more accessible and safer for a wider range of people looking to get training for their dogs and get involved with dog sports.

Finally, I would like to thank all my fellow committee members and club volunteers.

2020 has and is a year that will go down in history. The fact we are sat here tonight in Nov rather than our usual September is down to the fact that this year has been challenging.

It certainly hasn’t been easy but we are starting to see the light and for this club that is down to a lot of hard work. We may have been closed for, I can’t even remember how long, but we certainly made the most of the time we were closed.

It may seem like a lifetime ago but we have achieved a lot in the 2019/20 FY.

We held our first Christmas Market. It was certainly an adventure one I am not sure we will repeat in the heat of the summer and one we were certainly not in a position to take on this year but it was worth doing. Thank you to Karin and the Market committee that got that off the ground! I am sure we all learnt a lot!

We went to the Dogs Queensland End of year presentation night with a sniff of a chance of going home with Rally club of the year. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be but we had fun and both Caroline and Sharon walked away with trophies. Congratulations to both of them. Sadly trialling hasn’t been much of a focus since.

And on that note, we will be looking to hold all our 2021 trials here at Redlands, assuming that we remain COVID safe.

We have some amazing local and international trainers speak to use virtually during our closure. That was truly great and so much value for everyone was gained. Thank you to everyone that helped sort all of them out. It was a bit of a labour of love but we have some amazing videos for our records for future club trainers.

We have also trained a number of new instructors across both obedience and agility. Thank you to all those who took part in the course. I can’t wait to see you all taking your own classes in the new year!

Just some of the things I can also remember include,

  • Completing our Strategic Plan
  • Rewriting our constitution
  • Applying for a variety of grants
  • Organising our new obedience trolleys
  • Christmas market
  • 2019 trials
  • Updated a variety of policies including our vaccination policy (thanks Karin for leading that, it was certainly complicated)
  • Got COVID safe
  • Run a completely new instructors training course (thanks Nicky)
  • Ran a Sausage Sizzle at Bunnings
  • Had a couple of online quiz nights……

What we have managed to achieve this year is amazing.

It hasn’t been all been sunshine and rainbows though. Sadly, our flyball team decided it was time to move on and we wish them luck and thank them for their contributions over the years. We have also seen our OIC take a break and we wish her well and thank her for her dedication to improving our training methods. We also lost Anne on this day last year. It has been a very weird year yet it doesn’t seem like 5 minutes ago she was here doing all the things she did. Of which there were many, much more than her role of treasurer did include.

We have had lots of ups and downs, but we have got through. I want to personally thank everyone for all their efforts to get us here today. The club continues to evolve, and it will continue to adapt to the challenges in the future. We have already brought in new classes in the form of Noseworks and Foundation Rally and look to bring more in the future. We are also looking to work more with our local community, whether that is our Redlands Community or our Dog Club Community.

I would also like to take this opportunity to let you know that I won’t be re-standing next year. This will be my final year as President. I feel that we have achieved an awful lot in a short time and once we have managed to complete some things in the background to set the club up in a more efficient and inclusive manner it will be time for me to let someone else take the reins.

Here is to 2021!

Ruth Harrison – RDOC President.

And the Treasurers Report

Treasurers Report

Well, this has been an interesting year from a financial point of view.

You are welcome to look at the Audited accounts which are available to view.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I would like to thank Anne Lencioni for being our behind the scenes accountant. With Anne’s help we have migrated our banking online making it so much easier to track and audit our accounts. Not only are we saving trees with a lot less paperwork, it has made our auditor’s job much easier and quicker with no unexpected surprises.

This year we have recorded a loss of just over 4 and a half thousand dollars.

However, in 2019/20 we actually brought in more money than the previous year. The reason for the deficit is in part down to a lack of training fees coming in for the period we were closed, that also includes the fact we couldn’t bring in new members either. But the majority of the costs for last year were down to maintenance and upgrades to the lights. The lights are a big cost to the club and need regular maintenance. We also had to sort out some issues caused due to vandalism.

Considering the weird year we had, we have come out of it pretty well. A couple of other stand out items were costs for COVID safety and of course insurance. We have a number of insurance policies to protect the club house, trailer, equipment and the committee.

If you have any questions about the financials please email – treasurer@redlandsdoc.com.au

Christmas Party

Tuesday 8th Dec – 6:30pm

Free for members and their families

Come join us for our end of year celebration!

There will be games, food, and a chance to celebrate the year that 2020 has been. We will also be lighting up the Shed and Santa will be visiting!

We will have a selfie booth with Santa and don’t forget to dress up!

Prizes for the best dressed and our games winners!

All members and families welcome, but for COVID safe reasons you must register.

You can register on K9 Entries Here

Members’ family members can register here – no need to login to K9 Entries for extra family. Please put Christmas Party in the purpose box.

Every person attending must register.

You will be able to park on the clubhouse side of the field, but please leave space next to the clubhouse for those setting up the party.

Door Prizes

We will have a number of door prizes including

Christmas Raffle 2020

To celebrate the year that 2020 has been we will be having a Christmas Raffle.

Tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20 and can be purchased online at Show Manager or at the club (Card Only).

Purchase Tickets Here.

1st Prize – Klimb Professional Dog Training Platform

Valued at over AUD $400 – this multipurpose training platform can be used for all sorts of dog training.

Thanks to Pet Barn – Mount Gravatt for supporting us with 2 fantastic doggy hampers valued at $150, containing all you need for your training success, including treats and Provadore High-Quality Protein Dog Food.

Thanks to Eukanuba for supporting our raffle.

5 X LickiMat SloMo – Valued at $18 Each

Terms and Conditions

The Raffle will be drawn at 8pm AEST on the 8th Dec at the Christmas Party. The raffle will be drawn live on Facebook and can be viewed here for participants not at the event.

Raffle tickets are only valid for current residents in Australia.

Prizes are for collection from Redlands Dog Obedience Club, Birkdale Queensland. Postage is available at cost for interstate residents. No international postage will be available.

Items will not be posted until postage is paid for. Postage will be charged at cost and is postcode dependent.

No refund is available on tickets purchased.

Raffle closes at 7pm on Dec 8th 2020.

*Klimb will be sent or made available to the winner as soon as it arrives, it is currently on order.

Contact president@redlandsdoc.com.au for more information.

Lockdown Learning

We might not have been able to go to training or compete in any trials over the last couple of months, but we have been very fortunate that our club has organized some amazing dog trainers to present webinars for our members.

Thank you to Ruth, our club president and to Julia, our head instructor and OIC for organizing these events.

The 3 speakers we have had so far have all been different types of people from different walks of life involving dogs. Peta Clarke is an exotic animal trainer and also trains dogs and other species for television, movies, musicals and commercials. Steve Austin trains dogs for detection work. This can be anything from detecting for conservation purposes, effluent and water pipe leaks, bacteria in bee hives or detecting drugs and explosives. Lauren Langman is an Agility winner at Crufts and has a successful international dog training business. Although all quite different, they all share a passion for dogs, as well as some common threads about dog training.

They all agree that positive reinforcement and negative punishment is the way to train their dogs. When your dog does a behaviour you want you mark and reward. When the dog makes a mistake you just withhold the reward. This way your dog will never be afraid to make a mistake and will always be willing to have a go. If you have found the reward that your dog regards as high value, by withholding it when he makes a mistake will make doing the correct behaviour even more desirable as this will be highly rewarded.

Positive punishment is not used and takes away the drive and enthusiasm of the dog.

Play lots of games and make training and being with you the most fun the dog has in its day. Playing games builds your dog’s confidence and the relationship your dog has for you.

The delivery of the food is important. Make it random and keep the dog guessing. Consider a poker machine concept where the dog continues doing the behaviour knowing it will eventually be rewarded and sometimes may receive a jackpot. And the position where the dog receives the treat is also important. Consider delivering it behind you if your dog forges ahead.

Don’t over train your dogs. End the session with the dog wanting more. Don’t train your dog sport every day, but play games every day.

Keep training sessions short and sharp. Only train for a few minutes or less at a time and do this frequently throughout the day.

Ditch the bowl. All the dog’s daily food allowance should come via you the owner or from enrichment games.

Only reward the dog when it has done a behaviour you want. All rewards have to be earned.

Not all rewards are equal. Some foods or toys may have a higher value to your dog than others. This is up to your individual dog, it is not your choice of what you think has high value.

Your dog is an individual. Train the dog in front of you. Behaviour is the study of one.

Dogs need to be in a calm state to learn. Scatter feeding on the ground and walking in figure of 8’s is a calming exercise for a dog. Scent games where the dog is allowed to sniff and forage for food is also calming.

Aggression in dogs is usually the dog feeling fear which is an emotion. To change the way the dog is feeling, we pair the trigger to their fear with something pleasant such as food. This is not reinforcing the aggression, we are changing the emotion.

Have a good attitude to training, set some goals, break training down into smaller sections and enjoy the dog you have. Be positive and focus on what you want.

We still have a few more webinars to go, so it is well worth registering and finding out what these international and Australian dog trainers have to say.

Some of the information may be knowledge you already know, or you may need to be reminded for it to sink in. Sometimes a different dog trainer may present the information in a way with a different example and that helps you understand how it applies to you. Either way, these are great opportunities not to be missed as we take advantage of these great trainers having time for us in these unusual times where they are not able to carry out their usual job or be out competing or touring.

More information about these speakers as well as the upcoming webinars can be found on our club Facebook page.

Detailed Accounts can be found in this blog, or click on the links above.

Peta Clarke

We started our first set of webinars in mid-April with Peta Clarke. Peta has been an animal trainer at Taronga Zoo and has trained many different species for movies, TV and commercials. She is an extremely knowledgeable and informative lady and an entertaining and down to earth speaker.

Her webinar ‘Learning about Learning’ involved the science of behaviour change.  Her experience training many different species has given her an immense insight into understanding animal behaviour. Understanding why and how an animal does a behaviour involves understanding the science.

There are 4 different sciences that can be looked at as to how to understand an animal’s behaviour. These aspects will affect how and why the animal behaves in that way.

Medical- the age and physical health of an animal will affect how it behaves. Behaviour is a symptom. For example, if the dog has a physical medical problem it may act differently. Therefore it is important to have your dog vet checked if its behaviour has changed.

Ethology – is a study of an animal at a species level. It involves the evolution of behaviour in the species as a group with specific behavioural traits that are true and common to that species. I.e. innate behaviour. This behaviour is set at birth and is not learnt.

Neurobiology –this science is still evolving and changes with new technology. It involves the structure and function of the brain. Neurotransmitters are modified by the environment and by what the animal experiences.

Behaviourism – this science looks how a behaviour is influenced by the environment. Each individual within a species has to be approached a little differently. Behaviour is the study of one. Therefore the individual animal modifies its behaviour depending on how that individual has experienced the environment.

Applying the science to Dog Training

Traditional dog training (punishment and dominance) was based on Ethology, i.e. that the dog evolved from the wolf and the dog obeys out of respect to a leader. Those methods are now outdated.

Modern dog training now uses Behaviourism. Its stems from the works of scientist BF Skinner and his methods of behaviour analysis.

Now we can mark and reward dogs for a behaviour we want using positive reinforcement. The animal are not obeying us out of respect for us, they are obeying the laws of learning. The animal is behaving based on its past consequences in the setting that it finds itself. Emphasis is placed on the trainer, not the dog and every dog is an individual.

We must remember Behaviour is the Study of One.

We can get general information and foundation about what is typical species behaviour but we must look at the individual animal we are going to train. The individual animal tells us what they like and don’t like by their individual behaviour. E.g. does your dog like or not like to be patted, does it like chicken or does it prefer pork?

Where to start when Training your Dog

There is always more to learn.

Trust the science. The applied behaviour analysis has the answer. So if you have a problem, the answer will be in the science and to learn how to apply it to the real world and becoming better at understanding it involves practicing it.

Practice seeing Antecedents and consequences.  We can’t always look at just behaviour. To influence a behaviour you can change the consequences and change the antecedents, i.e. the environment. Antecedents are the smallest unit of behaviour, eg a cue, it is a stimulus that cues an animal to perform a behaviour.

Find people to learn from. If someone is doing training that you find is fantastic, then learn from them.

Train other species. – this will help you understand how animals learn and will help you understand your dog’s behaviour.

Remember that our dogs won’t always obey us, and this is not what we want, but they will always obey the laws of learning.

Q & A


Are the stimuli that the animal can perceive. It has meaning to the animal. It refers to the environment or preceding events of the behaviour of interest being analysed. Eg. Cues.

When owners want a quick fix.

Treat the owner as an animal also, in that advice should be dictated to the type of person the owner is. When they are in an emotional state, then they are not going to learn while in that state or develop a meaningful relationship with you. I.e. Unlike our dogs, some exotic animals don’t come with an in built level of appreciation of humans.  Therefore we have to build a level of rapport when the animal/human is feeling threatened or vulnerable.

The instructor can interact with their dog rather than just telling the owner what to do.

Walking multiple dogs.

We need as much information as possible when giving advice, so ask more questions. Walking multiple dogs at once is the same as training 4 dogs at once. Therefore the handler needs experience and success at walking 2 or 3 dogs first and then success with different combinations of the dogs.

Apply the method of giving the dog a treat while walking a dog at your side. So look at where and how the handler delivers the reward. I.e. try delivering it behind you if dog is pulling forward. Be consistent, same rules apply if there is one dog or 4.

Before aiming to walk 4 dogs at once, which is a high level activity, they need to start training 4 dogs at once at home at a lower level.

Fear in dogs

The dog needs to have a safe place in its home where no one can impinge on its space.

Understand that the stress chemicals in the brain have a longer shelf life than the happy chemicals. This is because fear is required for survival. It takes at least 72 hours after a traumatic event for the high levels of stress chemicals/glucocorticoids to reduce back to normal levels.

So if you have a stressed/fearful animal, then leave the dog alone for at least a week. Be aware of your body language.ie don’t lean over or hug them which will perceived as threatening.

Introduce scatter feeding, allow sniffing in boxes. Sniffing and foraging for food allows the dog to release dopamine and start to feel good. I.e., don’t feed from a bowl.

Aggression in dogs

The dog is in an emotional state. Understand it could be an environmental aspect also. To change the behaviour, need to change the emotional state of the dog.

An example is the story of clouded leopard who was uncomfortable with the keeper passing her enclosure. To solve the problem, the keeper fed the leopard, regardless of what behaviour it was doing. This is not reinforcing the aggression. It took 2 weeks and the leopard would be calm when it saw the keeper approach. The lesson it learnt was ‘when I am in your presence, you will receive food.’

Therefore, don’t add negative emotion by yelling when a dog is aggressive as they perceive you to be angry only when the other dog is there.

Engage a dog in Toys.

The aim is to get the dog to understand that Toys are associated with the food. Aim to train the only way the dog can get food is to play with the toy.

We are linking one stimulus with a consequence. Gather information about whether the dog prefers soft or hard things to mouth. 

Break the training into smaller bits, successive approximations. Introduce the toy as just holding it, then treat the toy as prey like.

The dog has to engage and work at getting the food. I.e. have the food in a pillow case or cardboard boxes where the dog has to engage with the object, by ripping and tearing at it to get the food out.

Handler’s emotions/mood

Some dogs are more socially sensitive than others. The science suggests that the dog picks up on the handler’s behavioural change. Dogs have learnt the value of being aware of our body language.

Calming Exercises

When working on an unwanted behaviour, focus on changing the antecedents/the environment rather than the consequences.

Example for a dog that barks is to wait until the dog stops barking then reinforce being quiet. This is difficult to achieve and rarely works.

When the dog is a demand barker, the dog learns to bark as it knows good things comes from you. It is releasing frustration.

Start to give the dog food, even if barking. Think of the example of the clouded leopard. Scatter feed on the ground. Handler is to talk to another person. Dog then expects that when it sees its owner talking to someone else, it will get food.

Train another behaviour to do when the dog is doing the behaviour you don’t want. It is difficult to train the dog to do nothing. E.g. when the car goes past, call the dog to another room and scatter feed on a mat.

Steve Austin

Our second webinar in early May was with Steve Austin. He is another fantastic Australian dog trainer who works training detector dogs for all sorts of things such as conservation work, detection of leaking water pipes, effluent leaks, diseases in bee hives, drugs and explosives detection in Australia as well as overseas.

His presentations are highly entertaining and he comes across as down to earth with an Aussie sense of humour. He has a huge list of qualifications but as he says, he lets his dogs do the talking.

He is continually amazed at how well his dog’s nose works. His dogs are able to easily find their target odours deep underground as well as the fact that it is possible to add more odours to the dog’s repertoire. It was thought a dog could be trained to find 5 or so odours, but now he has found dogs can be trained to find up to 15-20 different odours.

The art form and the theory of training the dog for detection is the same as any dog training involving operant conditioning, involving positive reinforcement and negative punishment.

Dogs working in the field may involve encounters with dangers or with other wild animals.

Therefore training must take into account what they will be working with in the field, in real life. So don’t just train in the one place or in your own yard. Get your dog used to the sounds, smells, sights of things they will encounter when working or competing.

Steve has a lot of work involving the protection of wild animals. He suggested that we as dog owners should Introduce other species to their dog early in their life.

When training, if your dog makes a mistake, just withhold the reward (i.e. use negative punishment). This way your dog will never be afraid to make a mistake, and will be willing to have a go. Your dog will then see correct behaviour as even more valuable as it will be highly rewarded. Mistakes are ignored and correct behaviour is highly rewarded.

Use mistakes as a benefit to your dog. If you use negative punishment, your dog won’t get his reward, and if you select the right reward for your dog, it makes the negative punishment even more effective.

Positive punishment is not used as it takes the drive and the enthusiasm away from the dog.

To entrench a behaviour clearly in a dogs mind, the finds/rewards need to be random. It could be after a few seconds, then after an hour, or after 5 minutes. The dog never knows when the reward is coming and this makes the dog push harder to make the find. The dog is in the jackpot/ poker machine mentality.

Q & A

  1. Operant conditioning Quadrants definitions

Reinforcement – you want the behaviour to reoccur – increases behaviour

Punishment – you don’t want the behaviour to occur- decreases the behaviour

Positive – adding

Negative – subtracting

*Positive Reinforcement. Example: ask the dog to sit, it does and you give the dog a reward. The reward has to be what the dog wants, not what you want. Some rewards will have a higher value to your dog than other rewards. e.g. cheese over kibble or the ball over a tug toy.

Negative Reinforcement – Example: put pressure on the dog to make it sit. When it does, you reward the dog by taking away the pressure.

Positive Punishment – Example: The dog jumps up at you and you give it something to stop it, eg yell at it, reprimand it. This is old school method and not used now.

*Negative punishment – Example: The dog jumps on you and you remove yourself or something the dog wants from the dog.

*Positive reinforcement and Negative punishment for the majority of the training.

  • Qualities in a working dog.

Look for a dog that wants to engage with you or what you can give it, a dog with a high reward value from you, it prefers you to other dogs.

Working line dogs compared to show lines. Look for dogs that have courage and drive and bred for physicality.

  • Food rewards

The delivery of the reward is important, but the dog always gets its reward. Deliver the reward randomly. The how and when to give rewards determines how motivated the dog will be. The reward itself is not the only answer, it’s how to keep the dog focused and get the dog to work for it.

The dog has to keep guessing when the reward is coming and can gradually increase the time the reward is given. To increase the duration, start giving the reward 1in 2 behavious, then 1 in 3 etc. increasing intervals, but the dog doesn’t know when he is going to receive it. When in intervals of 1 in 5 the dog may get it after 1 behaviour or after 4 behaviours, the dog has to keep guessing. The dog has to know if he keeps doing that behaviour he will eventually get the reward.

  • Detection Training

Older or rescue dogs can be trained. Treat them as you would an 8 week old puppy. Ie give them all the forgiveness you would a puppy.

  •  How long to work a dog

If the dog is happy and willing to work, then keep it working. It doesn’t depend on its age. The dog will tell you when it’s time to retire. Working line dogs can work for 10 years or more, although they might slow down a bit with age.

  •  Time to train a dog ready to work

If you have a dog with high reward drive, have a step by step training plan and use positive reinforcement and negative punishment, Steve can train a dog to work in the field within 13 weeks. It takes longer to select the right dog. Make the rewards fun and only train for about 60-90 seconds at a time at a time and if possible for 4-5 sessions throughout the day. Training has to be the best thing in their life, it has to be fun.

Have a good attitude to training, set your goals, and enjoy your dog. The only disability in life is a bad attitude.

  • A dog that decides it doesn’t want to work anymore.

Put the dog on holidays and let it chill for a few weeks. Keep the attention toward the dog to a minimum. Only do groom, feed and minimum exercise. Set a plan. Reassess the rewards.

First time you take the dog out, only play with it, don’t train it. Stop training before you reach the dog’s peak of the training session, before they are over trained. Stop with the dog wanting more. Ensure you don’t give too much praise for nothing. The dog learns that rewards are only for when they work.

Preference for which sex of dogs.

Steve now prefers females. Female dogs are softer & may take a little bit extra work to train but in the long run he feels females are better. De sex the females after the first season. De sex the male around 18-24 months to allow for bone, muscle and brain growth. He emphasizes it is entirely your own preference & worth you doing your own research. Follow the science and make your decision based on what will benefit your dog.

  • Dominant dogs

Most likely not to be a dominant dog, the dog is more likely to be fearful.

Use classical conditioning. If a dog shows aggression towards another dog. A dominant dog won’t scare the other dog away, it wants the other dog to come closer so it can fight it. A fearful dog wants to scare the other dog away.

Find the threshold of the dog before it reacts. Pair the reward with the experience. If a dog is fearful of something, then find the distance the dog is under its threshold, and reward it. Use classical conditioning (Pavlov training). You can use all his daily food allowance for this exercise, work on changing his emotions. Don’t correct him. This may take 20-30 repetitions. When he receives all his food on this exercise, his attitude can change.

  • Fearful dogs

Sometimes it is difficult to determine what the dog is fearful of. The object may trigger the fear. It could be the sight, the scent, or have been hurt by it.

To overcome the fear, desensitize the dog against the trigger using classic conditioning. Have him at a distance where he is under the threshold. Need to fix his emotions first. Step back allow to calm down first. Also check the dog is physically and mentally healthy.

11           Resource guarding

Put 2 bowls out. Have the dog on lead. Drop a bit of food into its bowl, then take the dog to the other bowl, and drop food in. You become the instigator of giving food, not taking things away. Don’t correct as this behaviour is an emotional problem. The dog needs more confidence.

Train tricks, or any type of sport to give the dog more confidence. The more robust mentally and physically your dog is, the happier the dog is. Allow them to have small steps of success to grow their confidence.

12           Become a detection dog handler

Have an obedience title like UDX- show you have the ability to train your own dog.

A course such as Austin Education specializing in Canine Training and Behaviour