I'm lost somehow! Where is the pressure of getting it done, the excitement of seeing what everybody else did and the supportive comments? Thank you Jamie for this great course and thank you fellow students for your wonderful support. I miss it already!!! BL (graduate of the Certification Class)

I love it! What I love most is how your understanding of and caring about your dogs comes through. If the people who will do the class can learn this from you (and they will with your class!) then there will be so many happy and fulfilling relationships between people and their dogs! AND also: this will be next in line for my new project, after we will have done Jennie's class.

I can't even begin to tell you all what a great experience this has been for me. Getting to know all of you has been wonderful :) Cue Louis Armstrong
I have learned so much from this course and all of you... more than I ever imagined.
BS (graduate of the Ceritification Class)

This has nothing to do with homework but just had to share. I often take Java to the park to play and groom him due to the amount of hair that flies. This is the first time we have used the play stuff - can't believe there is almost nothing there. Anyway - huge first for him shows how much trust he has in me. First the fail - then the success, achieved by walking beside me. We will be back to play on it until he does it alone.

Welcome to Canine Game Theory™

It takes a lot of courage to leave behind what you thought were tried and true methods and explore the unknown.  It takes courage to test out hypothesis and create theories in the face of what seems overwhelming group think to the contrary.

It was hard enough for me to abandon a methodology that used compulsion, force, fear and pain to control dogs and make them do what I wanted, not what they were doing.  It took a long time to overcome that, especially as the trainer friends I had at that time didn’t understand my journey, the reasons for it and that I saw so much potential with a different body of knowledge.  They were all into “but what we do works” and “the other ways takes too long” and “you’ll have to have cookies in your pocket forever” as well as many other not quite so nice explanations about how wrong I was being.

I knew that one day inevitably someone would commend me for that journey from force to reward, what I didn’t expect was that the journey didn’t stop there.  There was more to discover then just giving a dog a cookie for a job well done.  Other than seeing the new skill you have taught, what I was searching for was a way to truly create a dog that thinks. It takes courage to seek out new methods and be okay with what others may think….be it the positives or the negatives.

If you have the courage to step away from the accepted, the scientific, the traditional and customary;  If you have the courage to truly examine the basis for myths, old wives tales, rigid dogmatism and a need to control and try something new. If you have that courage, even when the end is unclear and even though you know what you have done in the past would work again and again, you will reap rewards so great it will blow you away.

In 2011 I started exploring.  I’ve known for long that giving control back to a human gave that human a better handle on life, why could not the same be done for a dog.  I was looking for a way to do that.  With Susan Garrett’s Recallers class and all the information she presented about how to create teaching games, I finally found the solution and combined with the structured games used in Montessori, Summerhill, and other progressive human schools Canine Game Theory™ was born.

Canine Game Theory™ is not just training a behavior in a new way but changing the entire training ethos in a world that only marginally supports it, and that support was in child education, not dogs. I knew in my heart it was the way forward and along the way I questioned myself if I'd made the right decision. As time goes on I get confirmation (from results) that I most definitely made the right choice. It still feels uncomfortable at times, especially those times when a potential client choses another trainer, but now I love creating new games, games that teach a dog how to solve problems; games that teach a dog and its human how to think, to reason, to explore and even be creative.

Canine Game Theory™ is still evolving.  It now covers not only basic obedience but foundation behaviors for dealing with a human world, behavior modification for shy dogs, aggressive and reactive dogs, snake avoidance, prey drive, and (my favorite) service, therapy and assistance dogs. 

Canine Game Theory™ is easy to teach to new clients, both the furry and the skin type.  The learning curve is nearly non-existent.  You just play games.  But the thing with teaching something new is that it takes COURAGE!  It takes the same courage that astronauts have, top athletes, innovators in all walks of life and the person who starts a corner café in the middle of a war torn country.
    • Homework becomes easy and fun and more fulfilling.  It becomes easy to find time and put in extraordinary effort with our dogs to perfect silly games.
    • Everyone has fun – dogs, handlers, you as the trainer and onlookers. 
    • Games are harsh and critical judges.  This includes knowing what you and your dog need to work on and developing a plan to address those.
    • Games build strong relationships
“Play is often talked  about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Shaping With Markers

Marker training has been one of the most effective of any method I have seen in my 40 plus years of training dogs. Marker training is mostly a black and white method of indicating what is the right movements that make up a behavior.

Marker training provides a method that allows a human to communicate with his dog at the exact moment his dog does something he likes. It provides a non-punishment based method of telling a dog that you like what he is currently doing and you want him to continue to do exactly what he is doing at this moment in time.

The process of marker training looks something like this:

1) Get a dog

2) Decide what you are going to use to "mark" behaviors. This can be a word, a sound you make, or a sound you create with a tool like a 'clicker'.

3) Decide what behavior you wish to teach

4) Picture in your mind, or write down, the different movements that produce the final behavior that you want your dog to do

5) Watch your dog. As soon as he makes one of those movements, "mark" that movement and reward the dog.

6) Keep watching your dog. He should make the same movement, if he does, mark and reward.

7) Repeat #6 several times and then wait a little longer to see if the dog can add to the movement the next logical move toward the behavior you have decided upon.

8) Mark and reward all such movements in sequence that will finally produce the wanted behavior

For example The first steps of Take It

  1. Final Behavior: Take the toy from the human and hold it
  2. Closest behavior the dog already does: Looks at toy.
  3. Reinforcer for each approximation that meets the criterion: freeze dried liver.
  4. Progressive approximations – Mark each time the dog attempts any step, raising criteria as proficiency is gained.
    1. Look at toy
    2. Move toward toy
    3. Touch nose to toy
    4. Grab toy with teeth
    5. Grab toy with teeth and pull away from human
    6. Hold toy for some duration without chewing
    7. Repeat previous approximation for longer durations