Smaller Steps Make for Faster Progress: Splitting for Yourself

Last week we talked about the concept of “splitting” (breaking larger steps or behaviors into smaller steps) and how it will improve your training with your pet. But I’ll clue you into a secret: the rules of behavior science apply to all species. That means that we can take the concept of splitting and apply it to our own learning as well! Those of you working with a dog trainer or behavior consultant (or physical therapist, occupational therapist, etc.) might notice your professional doing this for you already. It usually looks like:

“Start with this step and then we’ll add to it in our next session.”

It’s not that your professional is looking to draw out the training process or for more money by adding sessions, it’s that they know that splitting enhances learning for all species. In other words, they know you’ll be more successful this way. It’s easier to focus on one thing at a time until you become proficient at that, then add a second activity, then the third, and so on. Otherwise, you’ll likely find yourself overwhelmed, unsure of what to work on, and ultimately giving up. 

How can I split my own learning process?

It’s one thing for a trained professional to break down the steps for you and guide you through the process they’ve devoted their life to and it’s a completely different thing for you to do this for yourself. If you’re like me, you want to do or learn a bunch of things all at once and be proficient at them tomorrow. We all want things right now and unfortunately learning to proficiency just doesn’t happen that way. But here are some steps to help you split your own learning process to make it both more efficient and less overwhelming:

  1. Choose one thing to focus on at a time. That might be one thing today and another tomorrow but you’ll make more progress focusing your effort on just one skill, activity, or goal. Choose something that will be easier but also impactful. 
  2. Find someone (or several someones) who’s done what you want to do and learn from them. You may be saying, “Allie, what gives? You’re supposed to be giving me tips on how I can do this by myself.” Yes, that’s true, but let’s be real: you likely aren’t going to even know the steps to take to learn a brand new skill. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire a professional. Blogs, podcasts, videos, and interviews are a great way to learn from someone who’s been there and done that. It’s also nice to do this step early in the process so that you can decide if you really do need to hire a professional sooner rather than later. 
  3. Write out a few steps that you know need to happen based off of your research in Step 2. Again, narrow your focus down to just one of these items.  
  4. Zoom in on that step. What are the tools, skills, and resources you need to complete that one item? Write all that out. Research more if necessary!
  5. Looking at your list, what is the one thing that you can do right now with the skills and resources you have? There’s always at least one thing that won’t take too long. 
  6. Congratulate yourself for taking the first step! Choose another easy one. Continue until you run out of steps that you can do right away with the skills and resources you have. 
  7. Choose another step that requires something you don’t have: tools, resources, skills. Get what you need to complete that step and then do it! Continue until your list is done. 

After going through that process a couple of times a lot of people decide that it would be easier for a professional to split the learning process for them. That’s true and okay to decide! That’s what we’re here for: to track your progress and dole out learning in bite-size pieces for you. But know that you can always ask to split your steps further or take the above steps to do it yourself. You’ll be on your way to more proficient learning in no time!

Now what?

  • Choose something that you want to learn and start the above process!
  • Reach out for help when you get stuck. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it!
  • Have fun! Find ways to incentivize your learning so that you stick with it. 

Happy training!


Smaller Steps Make for Faster Progress: Splitting for Pets

I recently met with the cutest new puppy, Maddie, and her family. Maddie’s mom told me that she was having trouble teaching their new puppy some basic manners. During their training sessions Maddie would get frustrated, grumble, and walk away. That made it frustrating for the humans, too. 

I asked her mom to show me what she was doing and quickly discovered the problem: the steps were too big. I offered to work with Maddie and described the process I was using called “splitting”.  Maddie made quick progress and was learning enthusiastically. Her mom exclaimed:

“Ohhh, I was expecting too much!” 

Maddie’s mom started working with her again– this time splitting the steps– and Maddie learned enthusiastically for her as well. Hooray for Maddie and her family!

Splitting is the process of taking a task or larger step and breaking it down into smaller steps. It’s like teaching a child how to read: first we teach the letters, then how the letters sound together, then how to sound out parts of the word, then the whole word and so on. If we started teaching the word as a whole first the child would likely get frustrated and give up. We need to split it into smaller steps. 

Here’s an example of splitting while teaching a go-to-your-bed-and-lie-down behavior:

  1. Look at the bed 
  2. Lean towards the bed
  3. Take one step towards the bed
  4. Take two steps towards the bed, 3 steps,etc.
  5. Put one foot on the bed
  6. Put two feet on the bed, then 3, then 4
  7. Turn head over left shoulder
  8. Turn over left shoulder until facing human
  9. Bend elbows
  10. Lie down on bed

Even within this example there are several times that I lumped smaller steps together for the sake of convenience (which is usually why we lump instead of split in the first place!) However, you get the picture. There are a lot of steps that go into that single lie-down-on-bed behavior and we can and usually should be reinforcing our pet every step of the way. 

Splitting allows us to create easier wins for our learners (all species included!) That means less frustration and more success. Splitting also makes it easier for us to have a higher rate of reinforcement (aka how frequently we’re treating) which can do things like speed up learning, boost confidence, and improve our relationship. Splitting provides us and our pets with a ton of benefits. 

If there are so many benefits then why don’t we do it more? Well, splitting is a skill and like every skill we need to learn how to do it and practice it to become more efficient. Also, not only is it a skill that many people have yet to acquire, but it’s also a process that can seem counterintuitive. We need to take smaller steps to reach our goal faster? That doesn’t sound right. But, as we saw with Maddie, splitting into smaller steps usually does help us reach our goal faster. It’s like the old saying goes…

Slow and steady wins the race!

So the next time you and your pet are stuck take a moment and ask yourself, “How can I split this step?” Your pet will thank you for it! 

Now what?

  • Practice conceptualizing splitting. A good way to do this is to watch a video of an animal performing some behavior. Slow the video down and watch it frame-by-frame if needed. Write down each step the animal takes to perform the behavior; essentially, each new thing the animal does in each frame. If you’re looking for an extra challenge try to watch the muscles contract before the animal moves! Now that’s some serious splitting.
  • Consider a behavior you would like to teach your pet. Write down each step your pet will need to take to perform the behavior. 
  • With your steps in hand, start teaching your pet the new behavior and treat each step along the way. Phase out treats as your pet becomes proficient at performing the smaller steps. Did your pet learn the behavior faster when you treated for each step along the way? Were you and your pet more or less frustrated? Were there times that you had written down smaller steps than your pet needed? 

Happy training!


P.S. Next week we’re going to look at applying this concept to humans!

Podcast Episode 27: Transcript

#27 - Ellen Yoakum: Enrichment for Separation Anxiety

[00:00:00] Ellen: And I think we can often lose sight, of the things that make up this whole suite of behaviors, because it’s not just be home. What do you want them to do? How do you want them to spend their time? Do they have the skill set to self-regulate, and cope, and relax with you there, and then without your intervention with you there, and then without you there?

[00:00:20] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:00:41] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:43] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts

The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was our very own Ellen Yoakum.

Ellen Yoakum, Certified SA Pro Trainer, KPA-CTP is a trainer and behavior consultant with Pet Harmony. She loves helping families build communication and cohabitate successfully by developing strategies and plans that will benefit everyone. Ellen’s passion for animal welfare and training was ignited during her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington where she was able to work as a research assistant focusing on captive animal welfare and enrichment. For over a decade, Ellen has been working within animal care and behavior in multiple capacities, including dog day care and boarding, wildlife, rehabilitation, zoological, captive animal welfare, research, and private training.

In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Ellen talk about why separation anxiety isn’t that different from other maladaptive behaviors, should you use food when working on separation anxiety, and how enrichment makes your SA training easier. All right. Here it is, today’s episode, Ellen Yoakum, Enrichment for Separation Anxiety.

Are you a pet parent or behavior professional, working with a dog exhibiting separation anxiety, and looking for even more tips from our very own Certified SA Pro Trainer, Ellen? Head over to, and we will send you a free video from Ellen with five of her favorite tips for working on separation related cases.

[00:02:42] Emily: All right. Let’s start, as we always do, by having you tell us your name, your pronouns, and your pets.

[00:02:49] Ellen: I’m Ellen Yoakum, I use the pronouns, she, her. Name, pronoun, and pets. And I have two dogs, which I think listeners have already been exposed to. I have Griffey, who’s a six year old best guess hound mix, and I have Laika, who is a 10 year old best guess terrier mix, and I also have my lovely partner in the house as well.

[00:03:13] Emily: Yes, your lovely partner, Nathan, who we all adore. Tell us your story and how you got to where you.

[00:03:19] Ellen: It’s always such a big question, so I’ll give you the abridged version. I think like most people in this profession, I had an affinity for animals at a relatively young age. And when I got to the University of Washington for my undergrad, I lucked out that we had a psychology department that had a big emphasis on animal behavior.

So, in my undergrad, I went and worked with Dr. Eduardo Fernandez, who also has a podcast episode that I highly recommend. And Drs. Jim and Renee Ha on animal behavior. And from there I worked in wildlife rehab, dog daycare, dog boarding, zoological, live education programs, dog training, and now behavior consulting.

[00:04:01] Emily: Yeah. And we scooped you up a couple years ago now. And we’re never letting you leave now. So, so you’re with us forever now. One of the things that you have special knowledge and skills in is how to treat separation related problem behaviors.

You even went through a certification program, SA Pro, I believe.

[00:04:21] Ellen: Correct.

[00:04:22] Emily: Excellent, and you are really kind of an ideal person to talk about how we address separation related problem behaviors through an enrichment framework, because you have this deep background in enrichment research and application, and now you also specialize in treating and addressing separation related problem behaviors.

So, can you talk to us about that? What’s your approach generally using the enrichment framework to address those issue?

[00:04:51] Ellen: Great question. I could talk about all of these things that you mentioned for days, hours. And I think the first thing that’s really important as a professional, because I will tell you back in 2018, as I was shifting back from zoologic to domestic animal work, I would be the first person to tell you I absolutely 100% do not wanna work with separation anxiety.

It’s scared the pants off of me. It was felt overwhelming in all of these things, and then I decided that ” Ya know what? You like to make yourself uncomfortable. This seems like a great way for growth.”

So, I think the first thing as professionals that we need to acknowledge is that if we’re working with maladaptive behaviors, whether it’s separation anxiety or we’re working with reactivity, aggression, resource guarding, any of the other things that we’ve talked about on this podcast, that it may look different, but the foundation is gonna be the same regardless of what issue you are.

So, if we’re looking at the enrichment framework, we might start with listing desirable and undesirable behaviors and goals. What are we trying to achieve? And that’s gonna be the same, separation anxiety, leash, reactivity, any of those things that we work with so commonly. The first thing is, what would you like to change, and to be as objective about that as you possibly can.

What do you wanna change? What would you like to see? And what are your goals? And once we set those, we have a nice foundation of what we’re working towards instead of what we’re working away from. And then from there, we can start to help families meet their animals’ needs that we’ve identified as a collective.

And one of the things that I always coach families on is that we’re gonna be working on a couple of different skill sets. It’s not just I want my dog to be home alone, or I want my animal to be home alone, because being home alone is comprised of a lot of different things.

Griffey who is my, I got this from a client last week and I will forever be using this is my “not his advertised dog.”

Some of you have heard me talk about him, read blog posts, he is the dog that had all the things that I was not interested in working through when I acquired him. As we were working through all of these things, we had to work on, can we leave you? So, can I leave the room? Can I leave the house? And you be comfortable with that?

Can you be home alone by yourself? That’s a different skillset than can you be cool while mom shuts the door to go to the bathroom, which was not something he could do when we first got him. Can you comfortable home alone for a certain level of duration. And when my partner and I looked at what that looks like, it looked like a dog who was able to sleep.

It looked like a dog who was able to drink, and eat, and play with toys without the presence of a human. When we were looking at the skill sets that he needed for that, it also included self-soothing, and coping, and self-regulation. Because whether or not Griffey was home alone, whether I was there or not, things would happen and he would react to them like sirens, motorcycles, dogs barking, packages being delivered, all of those things.

And before I could expect him to be comfortable home alone, I had to work on can you self-regulate with me home? It was too much to expect him to be able to without me. Come back down from this big explosion when a siren went by, so sometimes when we’re working on separation related stuff, we have to identify what are the needs that are gonna be foundational for you long term.

For him it was, can you cope, and self-regulate without me, but with me present for these other triggers that were something that you needed to work on? And I think we can often lose sight. Of the things that make up this whole suite of behaviors, because it’s not just be home. What do you want them to do?

How do you want them to spend their time? Do they have the skill set to self-regulate, and cope, and relax with you there, and then without your intervention with you there, and then without you there?

[00:08:49] Emily: Yeah, I love that, that we’re starting off with the same foundation, the same process that we always do, which is what can the animal already do? What would we like them to be able to do, and where are we hoping to get?

So, after we’ve established those goals and we have a clear picture of behavior, how are you looking at their kind of environment and their, the client capacity. And the dog capacity to determine how to treat this, what we’re gonna work on, and what you’re gonna prioritize, and all of that stuff.

[00:09:22] Ellen: Such a good question, and here comes the answer that everybody loves so much. It depends because it’s gonna depend on client skillset, it’s gonna depend on dog skillset, it’s gonna depend on what sort of support system the client has. I have clients that are like, “Yeah, I absolutely don’t have to leave my dog home alone while we work on this.”

And then I have other clients that are like, “Okay, most of the time I don’t have to leave my dog home alone, but there are gonna be times where I have to.” So, for some clients, we don’t need to create some sort of, when emergencies happen plan. Other clients, that’s absolutely necessary that we have some sort of plan about when you do have to leave.

So, that’s part of it. What is available to us in terms of time, energy, bandwidth, resources, and that’s gonna be different for everybody. And then sometimes it’s looking at what are the things that we can do in the day-to-day life that are going to help build a nice foundation for us to work on.

And this might be things like scent work. I get most, if not all dogs started on some sort of scent work cause there’s been a lot of research that indicates that it has really positive effects when we are working on behaviors that we might consider emotionally charged, or frightening, or anxiety inducing or something along those lines, and just for general welfare overall.

And if we look at some of the things that we often recommend as professionals, food puzzles, scent work, certain physical exercise options, really depends on the dog and any number of factors, but if we look at those and say, “How can I make those things that we have to do anyway work for me here?” You can get a lot of bang for your buck without adding a lot of additional weight, time, bandwidth, energy to your client.

So, it might be one meal a day, can we do through some sort of scent work? Or what about a midday scent work opportunity? Or if your dog eats raw food, can we do licking instead of out of a bowl or something like that? So, you’re meeting the client where they are, and trying to take the things that are already happening, and morph them into something that is going to be beneficial to your goal.

[00:11:25] Emily: Yeah, I love that. And I would like to circle back a little bit to something that you said because you hit on something that absolutely blew my mind when I first learned about it. Because when I started out as a consultant, I had been taught, a sort of standard sort of, sep-anx protocol that didn’t it was a little more floody than what we do now.

And one of the components of that was just practicing leaving them right off the bat. And then as I learned more, and more research became available, so we all, as a profession learned more, when they were like, “Hey, we actually shouldn’t be leaving these dogs alone until they’re capable of handling it, because the more that a learner is exposed to that panic inducing stimulus, the more deeply kind of, embedded that panic becomes, right? And that blew my mind, and it was like completely changed my outlook, and also made so much sense because I was like, “Of course that’s true. I can identify with that with the things that induce anxiety or panic in me. The more I’m exposed to them, the worse that anxiety or panic becomes.” This idea that they’ll just get over it is, is a misunderstanding, but also that just became one of the things that I dreaded the most about getting any kind of client with a dog who had separation related problem behaviors or any species, not just dogs, because for me it’s really hard to tell people, ” By the way, you can never leave your pet alone until we’ve actually gotten far enough in the plan where they can be left alone successfully.” So, I would love to hear you talk more about that. How do you address that, especially bearing in mind the enrichment that needs to happen for both the dog, or the pet, and the client?

[00:13:11] Ellen: I think this is a great element and one of the reasons that I was wholeheartedly terrified about working with separation related stuff is because I didn’t wanna be the bearer bad news. Nobody wants to be the, well, I would assume most people don’t wanna be the bearer of bad news. It doesn’t feel good it’s just not pleasant.

And we also know that separation related stuff, if we’re going with the let’s not leave the animal, let’s not go through these trials, is hugely impactful to the family that is trying to work through this with their pet. And also, that is not a deal breaker for me to work with a family because there are gonna be times where it may not be something that is available to us.

And instead of saying you can never leave your dog. It is going to be, can we leave your dog three hours less? Can we leave your dog a day less? Can we find a way to navigate and leave your dog for two days less? So, that we can approximate into that schedule with the wholehearted understanding that what you said is true.

If we have a dog that five days a week is left for 10 hours a day and they’re panicking the whole time, you’re not going to see the results of the progress that you want by practicing a safe session one day a week. That’s not going to tip the scales in your favor. And for me, it’s really helpful to think of scales when I’m doing this, have that visualization in my head of am I putting enough weight in this safe situation for my dog to be able to learn that?

And the other thing that we run the risk of is that the dog doesn’t feel safe when we’re trying to do the safe condition. So, if your dog knows that these things tell you that you are leaving the entire time you’re practicing, they might just be holding their breath waiting for that thing that is uncomfortable them, dog or pet.

So sometimes it is, can we approximate into not leaving your dog? And some people this is going to be readily available either because they have a great support system nearby or because they have multiple people in the house, and somebody works from home or any number of things. And then other people, it’s gonna be more difficult if you have a dog that doesn’t do well with other dogs.

Dog daycare is not gonna be available to you. So, we have to come up with some more creative ways to minimize the impact of the time that you do have to leave your pet home alone. And often that means bringing in additional people onto their team. Working with your veterinarian or a vet behaviorist to make sure that you have any sort of support that they can offer already on board before we start to try and make progress on these things.

[00:15:41] Emily: Yeah, I love that approach. I love how much care you put into meeting your human learners, where they’re at, and helping them to reach their goal by shaping through approximations, not just the non-humans. Obviously, as you know, that’s really important to me, and I have a similar analogy to yours.

I talk to clients, the scales analogy is beautiful. I actually think of it more as like movement through space where if we have an end goal, the more that we practice that, that safe experience for the animal, every time we practice that it’s like a step towards the goal, and every time the dog practices panicking while being alone, that’s a step away.

So, we have to make sure that we’re practicing towards the end goal more than steps away so that we’re actually in total making forward progress. I love hearing your analogy because when I can collect more analogies, I can pick the one that’s right for the specific client who might resonate more with one than another. But I love that so much.

So, you are taking care of both the client and the pet as you’re supporting them through this process. One of the things that I really love about your approach and what I learned from is splitting approximations, even tinier, so that instead of just focusing on the dog, practicing being alone while the client is gone from the house, the dog can actually practice being alone while the client goes to the bathroom or goes and gets the mail or the garbage can or something.

So, can you talk more about bridging that gap, like how you break those down? And identifying like where you, how you get from point A to point B?

[00:17:22] Ellen: Yeah, we talk about tracking progress a lot here in the Enrichment Masterclass, on all of our things because it’s really important to us. And sometimes what tracking progress can look like is reaching those milestones. Because when I have a family that comes to me and they’re like, “I need my dog to be home alone for six hours at most, six hours, and that’s gonna be four or five days a week.”

If we are tracking to your dog being home alone for six hours, it is going to feel miserable. Even if we go super-fast for separation related stuff, your dog is just blasting through and we’ve hit that like sweet spot where we can just get there. It’s gonna feel miserable to the person. So instead, we can identify, I’ve been doing this long enough that there are certain things that I know mean we’re trending in the right direction, and I can celebrate those with my clients.

So, there are certain things that I always track for my clients as approximations. And it might be those little things that your client comes to you and says, “I just want to.” When I have a client that says, “I just wanna be able to take the garbage out, that is not unreasonable.” Your dog thinks, or your pet thinks it’s unreasonable, but for you to say, “I just wanna take the garbage out or get the mail, or if I forget something in my car, I don’t want it to feel like this huge weight to go get it.” It lets your client take some load off when they’re working through these things so that they can really spend that time, energy, bandwidth thinking about the next thing, not preventing something.

The first thing I look for is the time that the dog chooses to go to their favorite bed instead of having to be with the person.

I remember there was one in one of our separation courses, we had somebody who said that they had to go out in the yard daily to check a fence line or something, and their dog hated the cold, but would go with them every single day because the cold was less worse. Being in the house with the door open and the first time that dog decided like, “You know what? I don’t have to go out in the snow.” That was huge. Because we don’t have a dog at that point that’s working under what is the least worse of these two options. We have a dog that gets to choose to think that they would rather do. So, it might be you can go out in the yard and your dog’s like, “You know what, It’s raining, not worth it.”

It might be a dog who goes and sleeps in their favorite spot, or a dog that goes in the other room to sleep in the sun. If that is something that you have observed that your pet really loves is sunning themselves or something along those lines, but they can only do it when you’re around. If you see that they leave the room you are in to go do that, that’s huge.

That is a massive win. That may feel really small, but it’s a really important first step. Being able to shut the door to go to the bathroom is another one. That was a huge one for me. For those of you that have heard me talk about Griffey, we brought him home, introduced him to our other dog. They did really well.

I went to the bathroom, shut the door, and he screamed like somebody was mortally injuring him. And so for me, the first time that I could close the bathroom door and he was able to be comfortable was huge. It took a huge load off of the number of stressful trigger stacking events that I was having throughout the day. Let your client tell you what is that like next step that they need to track to, rather than six hours or whatever it happens to be.

[00:20:42] Emily: Yeah, and it’s such an important component of helping people do this kind of, long term project, this journey that can take several months or more, to give them those like milestone goals along the way so that they’ve got something that they can celebrate between the beginning of the journey and the end.

So, I love that. All right. I have one last question for you. I wanna talk about the use of food in these separation related problem behavior protocols because, I think what happened a lot and with some of the older protocols, certainly the ones that I was taught when I started out, is people would leave kind of food puzzles or something to keep the dogs occupied during the day, and then they would leave the house.

And so, that ended up resulting in reverse conditioning. The food became the predictor of the aversive stimulus instead of the aversive stimulus becoming the predictor of food. And then we would have this problem where the dogs didn’t wanna use their food puzzles or they didn’t wanna eat those things because they were like, “No, you’re about to leave me when those come out.”

So, I think because of that, I think because of that history now, there’s almost a stigma against using food when addressing separation related problem behaviors. I feel like that’s throwing the baby out with the bath water and it was really validating for me when you came on our team to see that you also still do use food during this process.

 So, can you talk to us a little bit about why you use food in separation related problem behaviors, and also how you use it, or give us some examples of how you use it.

[00:22:14] Ellen: Yeah, and you’re right, there’s a really big stigma, and we tend to take a prescriptive approach that all dogs need X, Y, Z for this thing. Rather than a descriptive approach that says, “I think this dog would benefit from a tweak to the system.” And that’s not all people, you do the Google search and you’re getting blog posts that were written to hit the majority, not your specific situation.

So, it may not necessarily apply to you. When it comes to using food, there are a couple of things. One, it might be a beautiful approximation into your ultimate goal. The way that I tend to work with clients is different than a lot of the way I see other separation people working with their clients where they will provide a daily training plan, and here are the steps that I want you to go through, and all of those things.

When I’m working with clients, I really coach them to be able to do that on their own. It’s a skill set that can be really helpful for them. And I like having clients that don’t need me. Like I love to support them and I am there for them and all of that, but it’s really satisfying to me when I kinda work myself out of a job.

So, that’s one element of it. It can be a really nice approximation, especially for people who are used to using food. So, one of the things that I saw happening really frequently is that we have an idea of what dog training is. And we are training our dog, and so it should look like this. and instead of going through this whole big, long thing about why we may not be using food or any of those things, we can approximate that in and say, let’s start with food, lay a foundation, and then if we see that this is helpful for the dog, continue, run with it.

Griffey was one of those where food was hugely impactful to the progress that he made in the speed that he made it. And then if we see that food is not helping us, or is hindering the process, because I want a dog that’s snoozy and relaxed, and if they are super excited about food, that’s not gonna be helpful towards my goal, then let’s adjust and go from there.

But I don’t need to change everything all at once. I can change one thing at a time and see what happens. You may find that depending on how each dog presents with separation stuff, some will benefit from the use of food. Some will, their progress might be hindered by the use of food, and that can be influenced by a large number of factors.

I think the other thing to, to keep in mind is the that we used to have with using food is that we didn’t have the technology available that we currently have. Food had to come first. There was not really a way for me to say, “Hey, Griffey, you’re doing a great job.” Chuck food and not be present. Now, we have all sorts of devices that can help us do that with visual access to our dogs and say, ” Oh my gosh, you just went to your bed?” Boom, food. And as long as they’re eating, and they’re comfortable, and they should be able to eat if they’re comfortable to the level that I would like them comfortable home alone. Then congratulations, you went to your bed, and it rained your favorite treat. You played with your toy? Treats. So, that we’re also reinforcing all of those things that we want them to be able to do while we are not home.

[00:25:19] Emily: Yeah. All of those remote treat devices that are out now. I mean, first of all, they’re getting cheaper than they used to, which is great, but also there’s just such a wide variety of them, which is also great because different dogs are going to, or different pets are going to respond to different noises better, or people, the structure of their house, it’s gonna make more sense for them to use a certain technology than another one, or how far away they are from their house.

So yeah, I agree with you that all of those different devices are certainly helping us. It’s making our job easier. So, before we wrap up, I would love to hear if you have any final thoughts or any like morsels of wisdom to share, just to kind of wrap up and leave people with something that you feel really important, or really strongly about.

[00:26:09] Ellen: I, I have two, so I can’t just pick one. The first one is if you can’t do it what you think is a hundred percent, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. That just means you need help. So, if you are somebody who’s ” My dog really struggles being home alone, and I don’t know what that first step is because I can’t commit to X, Y, Z thing.” Then work with somebody and ask if there are approximations that you can do, or perhaps we have some really clever ways to manage the situation that you have. Because, if you’re a pet parent going through it, one, I’m so sorry, it’s exhausting. Been there. Two, we don’t expect you to have all of the answers, that’s what we’re actually here for, to help you make all of those things.

And then the last one is that I encourage people to reframe when we’re doing separation training from, “they’re not anxious” to “they are comfortable”. I use the word snoozy. So, for me, that looks like a dog whose muscles are nice and loose, their breathing is deep and very rhythmic, their eyes are droopy, their ears don’t hold any tension. This is gonna kind depend on the morphology, the physical look of the dog, what that might look like. But I’m looking for those indicators that they are breathing soundly and deeply, at any point could fall asleep. And when we’re working on that level, we can really see every little thing, every approximation. So, if I walk six feet away and my dog’s eyes bolt up and they were about to fall asleep, that tells me a lot about the impact of me walking six feet away on my dog. It gives me a really clear, nice slate to work with, and it makes it much easier to see the impact of what we’re doing on our dogs’.

[00:27:53] Emily: Yeah, I love that piece of wisdom and it, and you give me a way to talk about relaxation in general, even when we’re not talking about the separation related problem behavior. Because what I have been telling people about the relaxation protocols is you want them, to be melty. That’s the word I use. And if there are anything other than melty that tells us that we need to give them more agency, and give them more freedom, and higher rate of reinforcement, maybe stay here before we move on.

And so, I love that you’re even more specific than me just saying like an animal is melty. You’re like, “Hey, look at if their eyes widen,” if you know something like that’s good information about how they’re feeling about this exercise that you’re doing. I’m stealing that from you

[00:28:38] Ellen: And I got that, I’m gonna give a shout out to Tracy Krulik who has since retired, but I did a mentorship with Tracy Krulik and we had a dog that we were working on and we got, we plateaued it like a minute, 45 seconds, two minutes, and could not break past that point. And we zoomed in on this dog, got the camera quite a bit closer, and we realized that for this dog it was holding its breath.

Every time that the person left, if you were too far back, the dog looked super melty. They were a puddle, but a minute, 45, 2 minutes, it was like can’t hold my breath anymore, gonna get up and be sad about this. So, for me it was looking for what is the tell for whatever individual dog we’re working with.

Eyes are usually a good one. Ears are usually a good one, and breathing is usually a good one as a foundation, but it’s always important to know what your dog’s individual tell is.

[00:29:29] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. That’s, that level of specificity is so helpful, and I think a lot of people, including myself, undervalued that level of specificity until we see how powerful it is. So yeah, thank you for bringing that up. All right, thank you so much for joining us for our mini-sode today.

I appreciate all the knowledge that you shared with us, and I will see you all the time because we work together.

[00:29:56] Ellen: It’s been fun.

[00:29:57] Emily: Yay.

[00:29:58] Allie: And here’s the outro. Okay. How good was that minisode? I feel so lucky and grateful to have Ellen on our team so that I get to experience her wisdom every day. Ellen is the epitome of embracing the Pet Harmony Enrichment Framework to achieve big results for her clients. You do not need to be me or Emily to do all of this.

Next week we’ll be talking with Dr. Jessica Heckman in Does dog breed affect behavior?

And remember, if you’re looking for even more separation anxiety tips from Ellen, head over to, and we will send you a free video with five of her favorite tips for working on separation related cases.

That’s Pet harmony forward slash s as in separation, A as in anxiety tips

Thank you for listening. You can find us at and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.


Thank you for listening and happy training.

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Results are not guaranteed because behavior, human, canine, or otherwise, are not guaranteeable.

November 2022 Training Challenge: Teach a New Behavior Through Shaping

I don’t know about you, but October seemed to just fly by! Let’s hop into this month’s training challenge, which is the next installment in the “ways to teach behavior” series! 

As a reminder, in September we talked about how to teach your pet something new through capturing. Capturing is waiting for your pet to do the desired action naturally and then rewarding them for doing so. 

Last month, in October, we talked about how to teach your pet something new through luring, which is utilizing a piece of food or a toy in your hand to guide your pet through the motions. 

And that means, this month, we challenge you to teach your pet something new through shaping!

Like with the last two months, I am going to use the behavior of “go to spot” or “go to bed” for demonstration, but there will be a list of additional tricks you can teach your pet through shaping at the end! 


And of course, let’s talk about what shaping is first!

When we are talking about shaping, we are talking about a way to teach a new behavior by reinforcing gradual or successive approximations toward the end goal. The idea is kind of like playing “hotter – colder” where you lead someone around in space by saying things like “warm, warmer, hot, hotter…” as they get closer to a spot, or “colder, ice cold…” as they get further.

It is very common to hear the term “splitting” come up when we talk about shaping. So let’s also define that as well. When we talk about splitting, we are talking about how we are going to be breaking down the steps for our goal behavior to find those gradual or successive approximations. 

If you ever had to do the exercise where you wrote instructions for an alien from outer space to make a PB&J, it’s kinda like that!


Teaching something through shaping can look something like this… 

And don’t worry! We are going to break all this down even more in just a bit. 


But first, let’s talk about why we may or may not choose to shape a behavior.

There are a lot of reasons we might suggest taking a shaping approach to teaching a new behavior. 

  1. When you start from that very first approximation and work your way up, you always have a foundation to return to. If I have 10 steps that I can use to teach my dog to do something, I have 10 ways to help my dog remember the thing we were working on! 
  2. When done well, it reduces frustration for both the teacher and the learner by increasing the rate that the pet “wins” or “gets it right”. You can get many repetitions really quickly, and hey, who doesn’t like to “win”!? 
  3. It really builds communication between you and your pet. It’s a conversation as you’re teaching. 
  4. You can teach some incredible things that would never be possible with capturing and luring. 
  5. You are always starting from a place of success and focusing on what you do want rather than what you don’t! 

All that sounds great! Why might you not choose to shape? 

  1. It does require some foundational skills, and you may need to work on those first. The teacher needs to have clear communication through their mechanics, keen observation skills, and clear consistent timing to help the learner figure things out. 
  2. While you’re gaining those skills, might you get a little frustrated, and so might your learner, and nobody enjoys frustration.
  3. It takes planning. Before you go to teach your pet something new, you need to consider what the steps of your plan might look like. 

Now, to be fair, those are all true of any time we are teaching a new behavior, and none of that is to scare you away! Shaping can be incredibly fun once you and your pet get the rhythm down! 

All right, now that that is out of the way, let’s take a look at how you might prepare to shape your pet going to spot or bed. 


Determining your plan

First, clearly define your goal. It could be something like, I want my pet to place all 4 feet on the blue towel.

Once you have that, I find it easiest to work backward.

So, then ask yourself, in order for my pet to place all 4 feet on the blue towel, what does my pet need to do? 

In order for my pet to lie down on the towel, they need to put 3 feet on the towel. 

In order for my pet to put 3 feet on the towel, they need to put 2 feet on the towel. 

In order for my pet to put 2 feet on the towel, they need to put 1 foot on the towel. 

In order for my pet to put 1 foot on the towel, they need to move toward the towel. 

In order for my pet to move toward the towel, they need to orient toward the towel. 

In order for my pet to orient toward the towel, they need to look at the towel. 

If we were to then reverse the order it might look like this: 

Step 1: Look at the towel 

Step 2: Orient toward the towel 

Step 3: Move toward the towel 

Step 4: Put 1 foot on the towel 

Step 5: Put 2 feet on the towel

Step 6: Put 3 feet on the towel 

Step 7: Put 4 feet on the towel

Now, keep in mind, your pet might offer something that is not on your list, and that’s okay, they aren’t robots! Anything that is “hotter” toward your goal gets marked and treated! See the example below! 😀


Sweet! We’ve got the plan. What next?

Get ready for your session! Grab your treats, and your clicker or marker, your towel, and call your dog over! 

Put the spot or bed down, and be ready! Most dogs will immediately look at the thing, and that’s your chance to get that first approximation and get the ball rolling! 

As soon as you see anything that is “hotter” toward your goal, mark and then delivery a treat to your pet. Even if it wasn’t something you expected, like Griffey touching the basket with his nose, and raising his paw up to the rim of the basket. You can see me working through the process with Griffey here: 



Now, I couldn’t come up with anything “new” for Griffey to practice with. We’ve done this a lot. Like a lot, a lot, so there are a couple of things to keep in mind. 

Griffey is a champion of this behavior. We’ve practiced it with a ton of things, in a ton of locations, and it has paid VERY well for him in the past. Don’t expect your pet to “get it” within a minute unless they are also super well-practiced! 

If you and your pet are new to shaping, keep it short, keep it sweet, and keep your rate of reinforcement high! 


And as always, some tips to help your training

  1. Minimize distractions. Shaping can really work that noggin, so try to practice in low-distraction environments. 
  2. You want to mark and treat for movement, not for stillness. If your pet stands there staring at you to do something, then toss a treat, and the second they are done, start marking and treating them for movement. Their eyes move? Mark and treat. Their weight shifts? Mark and treat. They turn around? Mark and treat. Some pets, especially those new to shaping need to be taught that trying things is what pays, not waiting for us to lead the way. 
  3. Be prepared before you engage with your pet. It can be really frustrating for our pet to be waiting for us to be ready, so be prepared before you get your pet out of their comfy spot. Plus, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to mark and treat! 
  4. You may need to split more finely than I did above, and that’s okay! The more steps you fall back on, the better! 
  5. Where and how you deliver the treat will make a difference. If you get stuck, ask yourself, can I deliver my treat in a way that will make the next approximation more likely?


Additional tricks or skills to teach through shaping:

  1. Crawl under something
  2. Switch the light switch
  3. Back up
  4. Peek-a-boo
  5. Reach for the sky!
  6. Close the door


Now what? 

  1. Decide what you’re going to teach your pet through shaping! There are so many options beyond what we listed here, and Kikopup has fantastic tutorials for so many things! 
  2. Start teaching the thing! Remember, if both you and your pet are new to shaping, it won’t look exactly like what you see in the videos, and that’s okay! It’s a learning journey for you both!
  3. Let us know on Facebook or Instagram what you’re working on! We’d love to see your progress! 

Podcast Episode 22: Transcript

#22 - Practical Problem-Solving

[00:00:00] Emily: I think one thing that can really trip people up, is the notion that intention influences the consequence and that’s not always the case. So, sometimes there are intentional consequences, in other words, consequences that we’re actually trying to construct or apply. And then there can be unintentional consequences where, either we are doing something that we don’t realize is impacting the behavior, or there’s something else in the environment that is impacting the behavior that is actually acting as a consequence, and what we are doing is irrelevant to our learner.

[00:00:35] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:00:53] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:54] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts. Last week we heard from Ken Ramirez, and one of the topics we discussed was troubleshooting your training. This week, we’re going to dive further into problem solving and talk about implementation with the animals in your life.

In this implementation episode, Emily and I talk about what to do when seeing with your eyes, not your ideas is difficult, expanding the antecedent picture, and a situation in which treats were punishing. Let’s get to it.

I loved everything about Ken’s interview. And it was so interesting to hear him answer questions about enrichment, that we get all the time and to be able to hear how he answers those questions.

[00:02:00] Emily: Same. I stand by my statement that even though we approach enrichment differently than he does conceptually, when it comes to practical application, we’re pretty much doing the same thing. And I’m not gonna lie. That is super validating.

[00:02:16] Allie: Yeah, I literally put that in the interview notes section when he was speaking.

[00:02:20] Emily: Did you see me grinning like a fool and like practically bouncing outta my chair? I, I would’ve been embarrassed, but I was too excited to care.

[00:02:27] Allie: I feel like that’s been your MO for all the interviews, but yes, I did. And especially when he was talking about troubleshooting your training.

[00:02:36] Emily: Why you gotta call me out like that, Allie, but yeah, but yeah. I mean, troubleshooting is a favorite topic of mine, as you know. So, let’s talk about our three takeaways from what he had to say about troubleshooting, because this is such an important aspect of animal care. Being able to figure out why things aren’t going as planned instead of just blaming the animal, and jumping to corrections or force is really a critical component of animal welfare.

[00:02:59] Allie: Right, the rat is never wrong. So, the first step in this is to identify if a behavior is increasing, or decreasing, or staying the same. And this is especially a time where you need to see with your eyes, not your ideas. There are plenty of times where I see someone doing some sort of exercise, or activity, or whatever it is.

And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, this is like, this is working. We’re getting more of the desirable behavior.” And then when I ask them to send me a log that says the same thing, their log does not say the same thing.

There are a lot of cognitive biases that impact how we think about those particular situations. And so, this is a situation where if it’s hard for you to see with your eyes, not your ideas, which that’s true for all of us at some point in time in our lives, because like I said, cognitive biases.

You need to log that. So, set up some really simple way that you can use to log that information so that you have tangible data that says, yes, this behavior is increasing, or decreasing, or staying the same.

[00:04:16] Emily: And then I think the next part of that, which, I mean, sometimes these can happen concurrently just because this is the second takeaway doesn’t mean that they have to happen sequentially, right? But the second take away, or facet of troubleshooting is identifying what is the consequence to the behavior.

I think one thing that can really trip people up is the notion that intention influences the consequence and that’s not always the case. So, sometimes there are intentional consequences, in other words, consequences that we’re actually trying to construct or apply. And then there can be unintentional consequences where, either we are doing something that we don’t realize is impacting the behavior, or there’s something else in the environment that is impacting the behavior that is actually acting as a consequence, and what we are doing is irrelevant to our learner. So, we have to identify what the actual consequence is that is either increasing, or decreasing, or maintaining that behavior. And also, we have to remember that animals aren’t super great at delayed consequences. Really the thing that happens immediately after their behavior is the most likely thing to be impacting the behavior. And that’s something that we mistake a lot. So, if you try to apply a consequence, minutes or hours after the behavior’s performed, I can guarantee you that that is not actually acting as the consequence for the behavior you think it is. Because the animal got a consequence immediately after they performed the behavior, and the consequence that you applied happened, way, way, way later, after about, you know, 80 something, other behaviors. So, really pay attention to what is happening immediately after the behavior, and that’s probably the thing that’s influencing the behavior.

[00:06:04] Allie: And an example of what that could look like is, we get, I don’t know if you get questions a lot about this Emily with clients, but I do get questions from clients asking about timeouts for, you know, particular behaviors, and we talk about, okay, well, what does that look like? How are you implementing this? What’s the actual consequence that’s happening? All of that, because one of the things that I see a lot when clients are asking me, if my usually dog, cause that’s usually the species I’m working with, ” If my dog is being annoying to, to me to another animal in the household, can I give them a timeout?”

And I ask them to describe what that looks like when they give that time out. And they say, “Well, I either grab a treat and I lure them into their crate.” Or “I grab their collar and I relocate them into their crate.” Or, or whatever it is. Usually it’s one of those two things, and I ask them, “So how’s that working out for you in teaching them, not to be annoying?” And the client usually at this point’s like, “Hm. Not great. They’re still annoying.” and so we talk about, okay, because the timeout isn’t actually the consequence to that behavior. It’s you grab a treat. Or you walk towards them, you are in some way paying attention, or saying there’s going to be a treat here, or whatever it is.

And this little light bulb clicks on, usually at this point where they’re like, “oh, there’s a lot of steps in between them being removed from the situation and the actual behavior that I’m trying to change.”

And, and so we talk about here’s what else you can do in this situation, and also if you just need a break from your dog, yes, they can go into their crate, as long as you understand that that’s not actually going to change the annoying behavior. And. Here’s a, a, a few tweaks to make it more effective for, for you here. So, that’s an example that I see all the time with my clients where, they think that the timeout is the consequence. When in reality that’s like six to 10 behaviors down the road.

[00:08:15] Emily: I have another favorite example. We’re just story-tastic season. But I have another example of this, which is actually kind of cute. So, some friends of mine, have the biggest hearts, hearts of gold. And they took in this stray tom cat, who had been really badly beaten up by another cat, and they’ve spent an enormous amount of money on vet bills, and have been taking care of this kitty, despite vigorous protestations from the kitty.

They have decided to adopt this little cantankerous little dude. I, I just, I love them so much and also because I’m a behavior professional and they aren’t, I had a really funny experience where we were, my partner and I went over to hang out there out at their house, the husband was showing me how this cat gets really cranky with him.

And he’s like, “I just want him to get on my lap and uh, he’ll come up to me and I’ll pick him up and, and he gets cranky about it, and so I’ll try to pet him, and then he bites me.” And I was like, “Yeah, okay. So, first of all, the cat already like said, ‘I don’t like this.’ And then, ‘ Oh, you don’t like that. How about this other thing that you definitely don’t like?'” So, we’re looking at body language, and we’re seeing this escalation in behavior, right? So, we’re at their house and kitty is watching me from a distance, and every time I look over the cat, I just kind of slow blink, and look away. And the cat kind of starts scooting a little closer, and a little closer, and I look, slow blink, look away. And then kitty jumps up onto the arm of the chair. And I offered my hand to let the cat sniff, far away that the cat would have to move towards my hand, and the cat sniffed my hand, and I didn’t touch him, and he was like, “All right.” So then he like bumped my hand, he’s like, “All right, well, you can pet me now.” So, I, I did a little head scratch stopped and he was like, ” Okay. I think I can probably crawl into your lap now.” And so, he sat on my lap, and I didn’t touch him. And then he was like, “Okay, but you can touch me now.” and then I touched him. So, this is kind of a consent story, but what it really is, is a troubleshooting story. Because the husband was like, “How did you do that? How did you get, he doesn’t do that for us? He doesn’t sit in our lap.” And I was like, ” I was paying attention to the behaviors, he was offering me, and I was giving him things that he wanted when he offered a behavior that I wanted.” And in a few minutes, I got a cat who was definitely not interested in me to sit on my lap, and that cat stayed on my lap for hours that night, he was my buddy.

So, that’s how fast those consequences happen. They’re giving you immediate feedback, and you’re giving them an immediate response. And that’s just this conversation that happens. So, those consequences, it may seem like little, tiny things that aren’t that big of a deal, but that’s a really good example of a contrast and consequences and what a huge impact that had on the behavior of that animal.

[00:11:07] Allie: And I think that illustrates really well why professional behavior consultants exist. Because there’s so much thought that has to go into it, and we’re talking about such small moments in time and fleeting moments in time where like, if you had missed a slow blink, you might have been done right then and there. Because it’s a whole lot more to think about than the average pet parent, uh, is really aware of.

Our third takeaway is when the low hanging fruit, isn’t the obvious answer we need to dive deeper. And one of the things that Emily and Ken talked about in last week’s interview was expanding that antecedent picture that you’re looking at, looking at everything that’s happening in the environment that sets the stage for that behavior to occur and not even just everything in that particular moment and environment, but that could also be what happened previously. Do we have moments where we have trigger stacking going on with the animals that we work with? That is very frequently the answer, is that there are moments of trigger stacking going on. We need to expand the picture that we’re looking at if we weren’t able to find an obvious answer.

[00:12:28] Emily: And that’s really where enrichment comes in, too. Because we’re looking at the animal’s physical, behavioral, and emotional health, so that’s also some internal stuff. The solution may not be obvious, because it’s not actually something that’s happening in the external environment, but in the internal environment, something like illness, or pain, or motivation, or fatigue, right?

There are things like that that can also influence the behavior that we’re not gonna find in the external environment, because it’s happening in the animal, and that’s why we are such strong advocates for taking an enrichment approach to behavior change, because if we consider those things first, a lot of times, troubleshooting becomes a lot easier.

[00:13:12] Allie: That is absolutely true. We’ve said it a million times that if your needs are not being met, then you cannot be the best version of yourself. A lot of times, not all the time, but a lot of times there’s something in the internal environment that is, making troubleshooting more difficult than perhaps it needs to.

 And so, because there are so many complexities when it comes to how to expand that picture and what to look at, we really recommend going back to Ken’s episode. I mean, let’s be real, you probably already have about 20 times, at this point, because I know I have, but going back to listen to what Ken was talking about when it came to troubleshooting, and all of those complexities.

[00:14:00] Emily: For sure. If you’re anything like us, you’ve definitely already listened multiple times. Pretty much, as soon as we finished recording it, I wanted to go back and re-listen to everything he said.

[00:14:09] Allie: Absolutely, about halfway through my, my brain was like, “Hold on. There’s a lot of information happening. We’re gonna need a moment to digest and come back to this.”

All right. So, let’s get into some troubleshooting stories. You’ve already heard a few troubleshooting stories today, but let’s get into more stories.

And the first is I worked with this dog, like five years ago. I do not remember this dog’s name. I’m gonna call her, Bailey because there’s a good chance that was actually her name. There are a lot of Baileys in my area, especially five years ago. So, we’re gonna call her Bailey. Bailey was this cute, little scruffy thing of a dog, and she was scared of just everything. She had been recently adopted by the sweetest elderly lady, and Bailey was a stray prior to coming to the shelter. It looked like she did not have a lot of experiences with humans, and perhaps the experiences that she did were not amazing. And so, bailey was pretty much afraid of everybody, including her new adopter.

This woman came to me with Bailey asking to improve the relationship, to help Bailey not be afraid of her. We talked about Bailey’s body language signals, we talked about all the things that, that we always talk about with, uh, clients who have pets with maladaptive behaviors. We then started working on some hand targeting with Bailey. We said, okay, hands are very scary for her, to the point where like feeding was difficult, treating was difficult, doing things that, uh, it would be nice to be able to incorporate in our training was difficult because hands were scary.

So, we decided to do some hand targeting and, and let Bailey come to the hand. I set it up in the least aversive way that I could possibly think of, I sat on the floor, I sat sideways to Bailey, I had my hand resting on the floor, and every time Bailey looked at, or approached, or interacted in any way, shape or form with my hand, I would say a little tiny verbal marker, cause a clicker would’ve just completely freaked her out. Did a little tiny baby verbal marker and placed a treat in front of her. She investigated my hand a few times. I continued. Yes, placing the treat in front of her and then she stopped investigating and I said, “Oh, that’s interesting.” There’s nothing in the immediate environment that’s changed, let’s look at the consequence. And I thought back for a moment, and I said, you know what? There was the ever so slightest lean back, weight shift. When my hand would come out to put the treat in front of her, I bet I inadvertently punished her by giving food in that way.

And I had chosen that, cause I thought throwing would’ve just been the absolute worst, and she would’ve stopped playing with me. I accidentally punished by giving treats in this particular way, what could I do instead? So, I was like, all right, let’s try like, the tiniest baby toss, where it’s more like a, like a flick than a toss, and let’s see what that does. So, I let Bailey know there’s a new way that treats are happening, here’s just a, a freebie treat, so you know that there there’s a new way that treats are happening here. And Bailey said, “Oh, I did not like placing. I do like this whole flicking, the treat thing, that’s okay. I can get behind that, and freeze dried liver just happens to be delicious.”

And so, we got through that snafu and by the time we were, we were done for that session, her mom was able to actually start lifting her hand off of the floor and have Bailey willingly come over, happily touch, and move away to be treated. So, that’s an example where the consequence that was happening was not the consequence I thought I was delivering. And I really needed to go back think through the body language that I was seeing the super, super subtle body language that happened to figure out what was wrong with my consequence, and change that according.

[00:18:31] Emily: It’s such a powerful reminder that only the learner decides what’s reinforcing and punishing, or what’s appetitive or aversive. Because we would assume that that would be positive reinforcement, but it turned out to be a positive punishment instead. So, I love that example. I have a little bit of a different example of troubleshooting, where I was working with these absolutely fabulous clients. I adore them and they have a fearful and reactive Bernese mountain dog, and we were working together on a lot of stuff, they’re super committed. We were making a ton of progress. We were working on the relaxation protocol, and they hit a snag where they couldn’t do any part of the relaxation protocol that involved them moving away from the mat because the dog would follow them off the mat every time.

The standard kind of go to troubleshooting for that is splitting the approximations into smaller pieces. So, instead of doing three big steps backwards, we’ll do three little baby steps. And then when the dog can handle that, we do three like medium size steps. And then when the dog can handle that, we do three full size steps. The dog was still following the clients off the mat, and so then we, I tried splitting the approximations, even smaller. Dog was still following client off the mat. I said, okay, it’s strange, because when I do this with her in our sessions, she doesn’t do it for me, but when you do it, she does it for you. I have them, send me a video of when they were doing it when I wasn’t there. What I noticed is that the client, cause when I was there, the client was looking at me, but when I was not there, the client was making direct eye contact with her dog. When we had been working on recall with the dog, she had taught this dog a recall where she’s making eye contact with the dog the whole time and encouraging the dog. I realized that eye contact had become an inadvertent cue for following the client. And so, she was giving this dog conflicting signals, right? Because she’s making eye contact with this dog as she’s backing away.

And the dog’s like, “Okay, we’ve, we’re locking eyes. This must mean I’m supposed to follow you to the ends of the earth, but you like, don’t like that. You’re, you’re you were wanting me to stay here. I don’t understand.” I, I suggested to the client, instead of looking at your dog, when you take steps backwards, I want you to look at your own eye level at whatever is behind the dog. So, in this particular situation, the dog’s relaxation station was in front of a dresser drawer. So, I said, look at that drawer handle that is at your eye level when you’re backing away from your dog. So, she tries that while we’re on a zoom session. Immediately she’s able to walk three full, huge steps away, and the dog just like hangs out on the mat, super chill. And so, I was like, that was the difference. That was the thing. That was the reason that it wasn’t working is because she had previously, that dog had learned that if mom makes eye contact with me, I follow mom wherever she goes. And that was interfering with what we were trying to do with the relaxation protocol, and so all it took was shifting the client’s eye contact from the dog to the dresser behind the dog, and magically the dog could stay put while, while she did the rest of the relaxation protocol. It was one, a little tiny detail that made a huge difference, but this time it was an antecedent instead of a consequence, it was happening as a part of the cue instead of a part of the consequence

[00:21:57] Allie: And that happens so, so, so frequently where someone will say I’m having trouble doing x activity, and we’re like, okay, there’s this part of the environment, or what the human is doing, or whatever it is that has become part of the cue, and if that thing changes, then the animal does or does not do a particular behavior. And I think that’s why video is so helpful for that. So, you can really slow it down, go back, watch individual things over, and over again, to see what is actually changing, when a behavior sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t happen.

Also, I got the Gilmore Girls theme songs stuck in my head. When you were talking of the like, where you lead, I will follow. Okay. We’re done.

Today, we talked about problem solving, and figuring out what the obstacles in the environment are. The steps are first, identifying if a behavior is increasing, or decreasing. Then identifying the consequence of that behavior. And finally, when the low hanging fruit, isn’t the obvious answer, diving deeper and expanding the antecedent picture that you’re looking at.

Next week, we will be talking with Lisa Clifton-Bumpass. Lisa is one of the most compassionate, empathetic people I know, and she absolutely brings that into her work with animals. She is starting conversations in the animal behavior fields that I think will become some of the biggest topics of discussion in the years to come. I know I said in season one that I want to be Mara when I grow up, well, I also want to be Lisa when I grow up. And Ken and everyone we’ve talked to.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.

Thank you for listening and happy training.

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Podcast Episode 19: Transcript

#19 - Kathy Sdao: Food
Motivation Myths

[00:00:00] Kathy: Nothing spooky right after food. Being mindful of not putting food, peanut butter in the bathtub to get the dog to walk into get the bath. Yeah, I’m just going to go, we might create an aversion to peanut butter, some cases we might create an aversion to all novel foods.

[00:00:16] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:00:35] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:36] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts. The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was Kathy Sdao. Kathy Sdao is an applied animal behaviorist. She’s been a full-time animal trainer for 35 years, first with marine mammals, and now with dogs. At the University of Hawaii, she earned a master’s degree as part of a research team, which trained dolphins to understand sign language. She then worked for the United States Navy training dolphins for open ocean military tasks. Kathy also worked as a marine mammal trainer at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. After leaving the zoo world, she co-created Tacoma’s first dog daycare. Kathy launched Bright Spot Dog Training in 1998. Services include consulting with families about their challenging dogs and mentoring professional trainers who want to maximize the power of positive reinforcement training.

Kathy is proud to be an original faculty member for Karen Pryor’s ClickerExpos. She’s taught at 41 of these popular conferences. Kathy has lectured at venues across the United States, Canada, and Europe, and in Australia, Israel, Japan, and Mexico. In 2012, she published her first book, Plenty in Life is Free Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace.

Food motivation is a term that comes up a lot when folks are talking about training their pets. And while all individuals are intrinsically motivated by food, because they have to eat to survive, it can get a little more complicated when we’re talking about the behavior of reliably eating. Which is usually what many folks are really referring to when talking about food motivation. And not reliably eating, can lead to some sticky situations.

In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Kathy talk about being a detective when your pet doesn’t eat, because it’s a behavioral emergency when they don’t. Why the back of your pet food bag, probably isn’t an accurate recommendation for how much food your pet should eat. And how you can create aversions to food, doing things that people very commonly do.

All right, here it is, today’s episode. Kathy Sdao Food Motivation Myths.

[00:02:57] Emily: All right, let’s get started. I’m gonna ask you to tell us your name, your pronouns, and your pets.

[00:03:03] Kathy: Kathy Sdao, she, her and my dog is Smudge, and Smudge is a seven-year-old, I don’t know, do we trust the DNA? We’ll call him a pointer, boxer, border collie rescue, who we’d all say as a catahoula leopard dog, if we were walking him on the street, but I adore him and he’s my only dog currently.

[00:03:29] Emily: I absolutely accept that as a label for your dog. That’s pretty cute. All right. So, tell us a little bit about your background, and how you got to where you are.

[00:03:42] Kathy: Yeah. It was a crazy serendipitous, convoluted route. So, the summary is I got, my undergraduate degree in Psychology, specializing in animal behavior, and then, weirdly started graduate school in organizational psychology a very long time ago. You may not have been born. It was a long time ago. And in a month decided organizational psychology was so boring. I couldn’t cope. Quit graduate school abruptly, got a job at the local mall, watched a TV program, there’s the serendipity. A Nova program on teaching sign language to dolphins. I was 25 years old, I lived in New York state, that program was in Hawaii. I decided I’d apply, got accepted, moved to Hawaii changed my entire life based on the fact that I thought that was the most fascinating thing ever.

So, got my master’s degree at the University of Hawaii, teaching sign language to bottle nose dolphins along with a big research crew there. And, subsequently got hired by the US Navy to do dolphin training in the open ocean, that was also in Hawaii. It was very expensive to live in Hawaii and all that was a kind of a dream job. Decided to move to the mainland, and there was a job opening in Tacoma, Washington at their zoo Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, for a marine mammal trainer. I had a pretty niche job, and so moved to Tacoma over 30 years ago now and fell in love with it, it’s a beautiful place. I am looking out my window right now at all my cherry trees in bloom.

They’re gorgeous. It’s spring here and worked at the zoo for many years with a whole lot of different Marine mammals, but after a while, decided that that was not the career I wanted for the rest of my life, and struck out and opened a dog daycare. I wanted to stay in Tacoma, but there weren’t any other jobs for marine mammal trainers in Tacoma.

Imagine that! it was only the zoo. And so, starting, doing dog training by opening a daycare, so that I could immerse myself in, you know, Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour eyes, which I didn’t know at the time, but I knew I didn’t know enough about dogs. So, uh, owning a dog daycare will immerse you in that really quickly, lots, and lots, and lots, of dog behavior.

And that was almost 25 years ago. So, have been working right now, especially since the pandemic, as a behavior consultant with families and their dogs, who have behavior problems, especially aggression and anxiety. Before the pandemic, and maybe now, I don’t know, cross our fingers, will travel again to teach seminars and workshops to trainers and other dog advocates, on the science of training, which I love. So, used to do that pretty regularly before the pandemic, and may start up again.

So, I’ll give a shout out at the end of our conversation about upcoming in person gigs. I have on my schedule, which seems really weird, ‘cause it’s been a while. That’s my business, Bright Spot Dog Training is my business, and again, it’s mostly I’m consulting with families, about their dog behavior problems, and also traveling to teach.

[00:06:36] Emily: I love that. Yeah. I think we’re all easing our way back into in person interactions, so I can empathize with you there.

As you know, our podcast is focused on enrichment and all that that entails. And food is a big part of enrichment, a lot of species-typical behaviors are centered around food acquisition, foraging is a big part of an enrichment plan, and of course we also use food and training a whole lot. So, when people report that their pet doesn’t seem to be food motivated, that’s a big deal.

Since you offer some fabulous resources on food motivation, we wanted to chat with you about your take on this topic. To start off, can you give us a broad overview of what’s actually going on here when animals appear to be unmotivated by food? What are some of the common contributing factors here?

[00:07:23] Kathy: So, your question is so important to me, Emily, that it’s a topic I’m so passionate about, that I feel like I could just talk for a straight half hour on that big, broad question, so I’d rather, like let’s have a conversation about all the things that can be going on when you and I, and, and our colleagues who are listening, hear our clients and students say, “Oh, I’d love to do that positive reinforcement kind of training with my dog, but I can’t because my dog’s not food motivated.” So, for us, it’s foundational that it is a factor in people making choices about what tools they’re going to use, which parts of the operant conditioning quadrant, specifically to get geeky, they’re going to be drawing on to be able to do some training, especially with their pet dogs.

When my own clients say that to me, I consider it a behavioral emergency. When they say, “Ah, but my dog’s not food motivated.” It seems like a tangent, and to me, it’s absolutely the first step in creating a successful training plan for the dogs that I’m working with. Trying to be detectives about what might be going on is a big, broad, and important question, and Emily, one of the weird things that’s happened since the pandemic, it it’s changed all our lives in so many ways, and one that I wouldn’t have been able to predict is how often I’m doing consultations on Zoom. That’s a surprise to me, I like to be in the same room as my human and dog students typically.

But one of the topics that I’m doing a good number of zoom consultations on are colleagues, other dog training professionals, who are struggling with this issue, both with their own dogs, but with their own clients and students. So, I’ve been heartened in how much it’s resonating with colleagues as a topic that we need to be really thoughtful about, and that we can do something about.

So, the other good piece of it is I get to have feedback from each of these, you know, behavior is the study of one, there is no formula for how to resolve this. There are ideas I have, things we want to consider, and that’s what we’re going to talk about, but then I get to see, as clients are applying those suggestions, how they work or don’t work, and we can continue to customize the plans.

[00:09:35] Emily: I love that you pointed out that it’s a behavioral emergency, because I think for a lot of species, there are some legitimate reasons that it may be harder to figure out what this animal Is motivated by, or how to use food and training, but for dogs, particularly they, as a species are opportunistic scavengers.

So, when we see that a dog doesn’t appear to be food motivated, that to me is an indicator that they are not physically, behaviorally, or emotionally healthy, or some combination thereof, so we really do need to get in there whether or not somebody wants to use food in training, right? That’s still a sign that we need to explore, are there some physical, behavioral, or emotional health issues we to address, which is enrichment at its core, right? It’s not just an, a behavioral and emergency, it is a welfare indicator that there’s more to explore there, right?

[00:10:32] Kathy: Oh, so beautifully stated. Exactly that. Sometimes, when my clients will say, “Well that, you know, that really doesn’t matter.” I just did a consultation, for new client going to her apartment it. So, it’s fairly new for me to go into people’s homes to do consultations. I lost my consultation space recently, and so I’m going back to meeting new clients in their home on occasions when that’s a safe thing to do. And so, for this young Yorkie puppy, the food bowl was full, I could see when I walked in, the food bowl was full, and already, that gives me a lot of information. We can, we can talk more about that as we’re going, but when I said to the client, “Huh, little concerned, that your dog might not be a reliable eater.” She said, “Why would I care about that?” And it’s interesting to me who was for many years, a staff biologist at a zoo, for many species, the only indication you have that they’re not feeling well is they refuse food. So, if that becomes a daily baseline for you, your dog often refuses food, I just don’t know how you know, when they’re not feeling well, we are missing a huge physical welfare indicator. So, I’m so glad you brought that up. It’s crucial information.

[00:11:43] Emily: I, uh, spent 23 years and the veterinary world before I moved to behavior consulting and absolutely, inappetence is one of the first symptoms of many, many, many, many diseases. And so that’s always the conversation I have with clients as well. If your dog is chronically inappetent, then there’s a risk of a disease progressing past the point of being able to treat that because you don’t recognize that because your dog is just kind of always inappentent. So, first things first, we have to rule out a medical cause, right? I think that’s the first step in solving this problem.

[00:12:20] Kathy: Absolutely, and you know what you just said reminded me, I’m not making this up, it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but my own dog Smudge, a seven year old medium-sized mixed breed, a couple of days ago on our walk, I handed him a piece of the treats I often use on our, our walks together and his latency to eat, it was about, I’d say five to seven seconds. And I got home and called the vet. That’s how much his baseline eating is: offered food, eats immediately upon release if he’s on a down stay, if he’s not on a down stay, I mean, eats right away. Zero latency. That brief a latency to me, indicator something is actually not right for him physically.

So, on that tiny little bit of information, I can call the vet and hopefully get in front of any kind of sickness really early. And I know for some of my clients, they’re like, “How long do I wait for them to eat?” How long do you wait for him to respond to any other cue?

Offering food is a cue to do a behavior. And we don’t normally wait more than about five seconds. So, do you understand what I’m saying to be able to go, that is actually great information for your veterinary staff. Yeah. Thanks for that perspective.

[00:13:27] Emily: Yes, absolutely. And I think the other thing that happens too is even, even when it’s not a physical health issue, I think in general, our culture stigmatizes mental health issues and downplays them. And that’s even more true for non-humans than it is for humans. So, even if the animal is physically healthy, we still have to acknowledge that this inappetence, especially in an opportunistic scavenger species, where they, as a species eat, whatever they can, whenever they can. That can be an indicator of a behavioral, or emotional health issue, which is a whole other can of worms, right?

[00:14:02] Kathy: That’s exactly right. And don’t you find that the explanatory fictions that pop up about that breed, not being a strong eater or, and, and especially if you’ve worked with a lot of species, you’re like, “Huh? Come again?” What do we, what, what is the actually that well-intentioned excuse compensating for? It’s compensating sometimes for us having heartbreak, when we admit our dog is really too uncomfortable right now, behaviorally, mentally, emotionally to be able to eat, they’re not in a great brain state to be able to eat. And that is a much more complicated answer than, “Oh, this breed tends to be finicky.”

[00:14:43] Emily: What’s interesting to me about the conversations around breed, I think is, is, is true for anything, when we don’t have a deep understanding of a topic, we tend to oversimplify things, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of, that’s a very human trait, right? But I think what happens with these conversations around breed is that people are recognizing an experience that is valid, or a pattern that they’re seeing within a breed that is valid, but they’re misattributing the cause to say, “Oh, this is a genetic thing.” So, for example, if we say that, Pomeranians are finicky, it’s a finicky breed, the kernel of truth in that is that Pomeranians might be more prone to anxiety disorders. And so, because they’re prone to anxiety disorders, that frequently impact their ability to eat because they’re kind of existing under this chronic stress. We still have to treat that, right? One of the things that I learned from my time in the veterinary world is we have to differentiate between common and normal, just because it’s common for a Pomeranian to be so anxious they don’t want to eat, does not mean that that’s healthy, normal, and we still have to treat that for what it is.

[00:15:48] Kathy: Wait a minute, how am I this far into my career, 40 years in, and I’ve never heard common versus normal? That’s fantastic. Where did I miss that little nugget of wisdom? Oh, I am so stealing that and I’m going to give you credit for it. That’s lovely, because exactly right. That those are very different statements.

[00:16:12] Emily: So, without giving us your entire webinar, which I would love for you at the end of the episode, to tell people where they can access these webinars that you offer, but without giving away the whole webinar, talk to us about some of the different aspects of behavioral or emotional health that may be the culprits for some of this finickiness that people perceive in their pets.

[00:16:33] Kathy: So, I’d love to even operationalize a little bit like what we’re talking about when we say, and again, it’s sort of a cliche phrase. It’s often stated, at least when I hear it, “My dog isn’t food motivated.” That’s actually a weird phrase, right? Food motivated. And so when we dive down a little to go, what does that actually look like?

To me, there’s two kinds of contexts. It could be finicky about mealtime, and finicky about food offered as treats outside of mealtime. Now, we know that’s a continuum there there’s no like dividing line between what is a meal in a bowl, and what are treats offered in a more training context. They sort of overlap a bit, but those seem to be two different contexts that humans offer food.

And when I say not food motivated, I’m looking at, I already mentioned the latency to eat. Dog has offered food, released to eat it, how long does it take them to start chewing, you know, picking up food in their mouth, chewing and swallowing? How often do they snub food? Is this a occasional thing? I’m working with a lovely client right now, remotely it’s beautiful a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, who has a weird occasional inappetence.

So, we’ve been doing some really great sort of data collection. He’s a scientist, so we’ve got these cool graphs, and all this data he’s collecting. It’s given me life, right? So, we’re still varying some of the sort of environmental variables before we doubled down on going back to the vet, the dog has had a medical checkup, and seems fine, but something else is going on.

So, it’s this occasional, not very often, but when the dog doesn’t eat, the dog doesn’t eat at all. So, we’re, we’re being good detectives about what that might be. But I also have as a criterion, once the dog starts eating, do they continue eating? How long does it take them to say yes to eating? How often do they completely snub a meal or a treat, say, no, I can’t eat that at all?

Once they start eating, do they continue to eat? Do they go all the way through the meal basically, and get to the very end? So, looking at that allows us to kind of say, what is it that we want to improve? When we say my dog isn’t food motivated, and Emily is as you and I are coming at it from a training perspective.

My quick answer to folks, as I’m trying to be pithy, especially when I’m meeting a new client, I don’t want to go into all the words I’m using here. I will simply say to them “yet.” So, they will say, “Ah, but my dog is not food motivated.” And I just say “Yet.” Which goes, there’s learning involved in this behavior, and I want to look at eating as the initial behavior, we want to increase the frequency of. Basically, we would go eating is the first operant, we’re going to work on to get it to be more likely right? And more sort of reliable using consequences, which is what we do as trainers all the time for other behaviors. So, the little bit of a perspective shift is simply to go, it is actually the behavior of eating that we want to improve before we go on to improve other behaviors where we might be using the food as the consequence, as the positive reinforcer.

[00:19:44] Emily: Operant behaviors are behaviors that are elicited by a stimuli in the environment called antecedents and are affected by other stimuli in the environment called consequences. You can think of opera behaviors as actions.

I absolutely love how you frame that for clients, that you’re saying they don’t eat readily yet because it validates their experience, you’re not arguing with them. You’re not saying like, “Nah-uh your dog should be a good eater.” You’re saying your experience is valid, and it is an experience that we can change.

There’s something we can do about this, we’re not powerless in this state of your dog, not being food motivated. That’s something I’m going to steal from you.

[00:20:30] Kathy: Good. We can inform each other’s, you know what I’ve realized again, in I’m doing, individual consultations with clients over the past couple of years, pretty heavily on this topic, is one of the topics that I cover. One of the things that’s become apparent to me in a way I couldn’t have verbalized before, is how much grief is involved in watching a dog not eat. Because for most of us, we’re old enough to have had to suffer through a dog dying, and often that dying process includes inappetence. And so even if we can’t state it, it’s crushing to see a dog, not eat for many of us, because it brings up all kinds of anticipatory grief for the current dog that isn’t eating. It’s actually painful.

So, to not only not argue with what your experience is, but to have great big open hearts of compassion to go, it is hard to watch a dog not eat, because some of the interventions we want to do some of the environmental shifts we want to do involve being really thoughtful about how we offer food.

And sometimes this is hard for the humans, and I used to go like, why is this so difficult for the human to change their behavior around this? Oh, because you’re actually picking up a full bowl of food when your dog says, “Yeah. I’m not hungry right now.” Is really painful for the human. So, it’s been helpful to go, I think we have authentic grief around this sometimes, and to minimize this as a “Eh, he’ll eat eventually, no dog starves themselves. Just to have some tough love around it.” That to me feels a little harsh for folks who are doing the best they can, loving that current dog, and suffering when they turn away from food, because they’re predicting this dog might actually be sick. And gosh, this might be more than just sick.

[00:22:17] Emily: And I think another thing that happens, or at least in my experience with clients, I see also a feeling of hurt or betrayal, like culturally, they come from a place where food is love, and so when the dog doesn’t accept that offering of love, it feels like a break in the relationship, like why doesn’t my dog except these, my love language, right? On the opposite end of that spectrum, I also see clients who have a lot of anxiety around food for themselves, so then, they almost need their dog to not be food motivated because that’s how they relate to food, and so this idea of like, trying to make their dog eat food kind of brings up a lot of stuff from their own life. So much of this conversation around food with clients, I love how sensitive you are to the client experience, and what they’re bringing to the table, because it’s not just about the dog, right? It’s also about the human experience, and their background, and their traumas that is informing how they perceive their dog’s relationship to food.

[00:23:23] Kathy: Oh, my gosh, this conversation Emily is giving me life. Both of those insights are fabulous. My Italian grandmother concurs completely with food as the language of love and there is no possibility there isn’t a huge rift in the relationship, if you would turn down, right any of, I’m sorry, I’m going to, I don’t want to breed stereotype, I also don’t want to sort of racial stereotype, or heritage, but my Italian relatives you eat. Right? I mean, you eat or else you got big problems. Also, that whole idea of our own relationships with food and how really complex human relationships with food are. We could go down a really big rabbit hole. Years ago, a friend gave me a book called, ” Women, Food, and God,” and I thought, “Why? I don’t actually have a problem with food. Like, it’s one of the few sort of things I don’t have a problem with!” And the book, I’m pretty sure it was a book by Geneen Roth was fabulous, because it brought home for me, like your relationship with food touches everything, including your spirituality, and like, wait, what, we’re just talking about an operant behavior of eating, aren’t we?

I love that you’re alluding to, “No, there’s lots of layers to this and it’s a rich conversation.”

[00:24:38] Emily: I think that’s definitely a part of this approach of helping people to troubleshoot, why their dog doesn’t seem to be food motivated, is also troubleshooting where the client is at in terms of their perception, their emotions, their core beliefs around food, all of that stuff, can be a huge component of that.

[00:24:57] Kathy: Can I just tell you really quickly a case study, it just very quickly, and it hits on what you’ve just said. It’s actually, if you asked me like my top five, most, you could either say memorable or really end of the bell curve consultations I’ve done, like really unusual was a client who came to see me.

This is more than five years ago now with a little dog, who wasn’t eating, and in doing the interview with her, I still remember the dog’s name, Frankie, the little schnauzer mix. The conversation with the client was so unbelievable in terms of the function that the dog’s inappetence was serving in her own behavioral and mental health issues.

It was astonishing to me, her feeding rituals took three to four hours a day for this little dog. And we’re very ritualistic. It had six steps to it, as I’m talking to her, I’m like, “Yay. I can actually help you. I’m so, oh, I’m so confident I can help you. I don’t even need to hear your whole current ritual.”

 She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t do the thing I was suggesting. It was really not going to work for her to solve this problem. So, at the time I didn’t have words to be able to go, “Let me move a little slower with you. This is really threatening.” But it gave me some insight into that three to four hours she was spending, trying to coax her dog to eat, who by the way was two pounds overweight, that whole, great ritualistic feeding program she developed was serving in an avoidance function in her own life for some other issues. And so, I didn’t realize that at the time, I’m just like, “Yay, I’ve got the answer for you!”

And she could do it for a very short term, and then she couldn’t do it. And so, we’re looking at an issue that, you’re having so much wisdom into how complicated it can be. And we as behavioral professionals go, ” Let me make some suggestions to give you ideas on how you might accidentally be reinforcing inappetence.” Right? Which is where we’re actually going with this, is actually we’ve trained them not to eat well.

[00:26:59] Emily: That recognition of, “Oh, we need to stay in our lane.” Like, this is actually something where I need to refer you to a therapist, because this relationship that you have with your dog, you need help that I can’t provide because there’s some human aspects of it that I’m not qualified to give you help with.

But the other thing that you brought up that I loved is that the dog was actually two pounds overweight, right? So, that’s one of the first things I look at. If somebody tells me their dog, isn’t food motivated, I look at the dog’s body condition score, and if the dog is, you know, within a normal, healthy weight range or even overweight, my question to them is what do you mean when you say your dog isn’t food motivated?

Because I can see that your dog is getting a sufficient number of calories every day, so where’s that perception. And a lot of times it’s something as simple as the back of the dog food bag says that my dog should be eating two cups twice a day or whatever. Right?

[00:27:54] Kathy: Absolutely. In fact, I would say that question about what your dog’s ideal weight has to go into our training plan. And I’m going to tell you very few of my clients have ever had this conversation with their veterinarian. I have lots of veterinarians who are friends of mine, and I will say, “Oh, your dog’s carrying some extra pounds.”

The veterinarian whom I adore has said that the dog’s weight is fine. And so, we get into the conversation about what does actually fine mean? No, we want ideal weight. Let’s have that conversation with your veterinarian because to me, ideal weight is going to be leaner than you would expect, and it absolutely rarely follows the instructions on the back of whatever bag of food or box of food you’re feeding. That’s not how to make our decision.

And so that conversation, that motivating operation of how much extra weight is your dog carrying is a huge factor in being successful in this. It’s the question I first asked when people send me an email and go, “Hey, I heard your webinar about food motivation, and I’d like to talk to you specifically about my case. Can we do that?” That’s how I’m getting these zoom consultations. My first question is going to be, tell me about your dog’s current weight, and your dog’s ideal weight, and weirdly that’s often not been a consideration. It is much more, they’re not eating as much as the bag says they should. Huh? Different question.

[00:29:18] Emily: Motivating operations impact how effective a consequence is going to be in a specific context or situation. They can make a consequence more or less motivating for the learner. They’re also called four term contingencies because there are four components to this type of learning, the motivation, the antecedent, the behavior, and the consequence.

Yeah, maybe it was 2006 or 2007, I was still a vet tech, but I was already sort of moving into the behavior world at the time, a study came out, showing that, I can’t remember the exact percentage now, so I don’t even want to quote, but a very high percentage, something like three quarters of veterinarians and veterinary staff, can’t actually accurately identify a body condition score for dogs and cats in the United States, because we’re so used to seeing overweight pets that we’ve kind of skewed up to where we think that that is a normal. So we’re back to the common versus normal. Right? So, I think that’s, it’s funny that you brought that up because that, when I read that study and I was still a vet tech that kind of blew my mind, I was like, “Oh, wow. Our perception of what is normal has been skewed.” And part of it is because those dog food companies based their daily caloric recommendations on working, breeding animals, in other words, the ones who are using the max amount of energy, and that’s does not describe most of our pets. Right?

[00:30:45] Kathy: Absolutely. When I used to travel to Europe to teach, and hopefully will again, the very first time I ever went, this was in, I think Norway is the first country. I didn’t know what was happening. I’m like, where are all your normal weight dogs? Like seriously walk in the streets. And then it was like European country after European country. Oh my gosh. It was such a shock for me to see that average dogs on the street were what I would have called skinny. No. Oh my gosh. The flip side, all my European friends who visit us, I’m like, oh, you don’t even book. Yeah. How to, how to accurately judge what the ideal weight is.

[00:31:26] Emily: And the, and the mantra is underweight is under muscled, right? So, people try to make a decision based on, can I see the ribs? Oh, I can see my dog’s ribs, they must be underweight or, or, oh, I can see my dogs, you know, pelvic bones, they must be underweight. It’s actually underweight is under muscled. If your dog is well muscled, it’s okay to see a little rib, a little spine. That’s, that’s, that’s actually a healthy, normal weight for dogs.

[00:31:51] Kathy: a client, a long-term client, who’s always had beagles, and she’s lovely. She has got a beagle now who’s maybe about a year and a half, and so when I went to visit them this last time, she said to me, “Oh my gosh, everyone is giving me grief about this dog’s weight.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, it’s the most beautiful beagle I’ve ever seen. Like, no, no, hold the course. It’s oh my gosh.” But when you actually are like doing that really thoughtfully, she’s getting grief from her family, from her friends, from people passing by.

[00:32:19] Emily: I had a client who, when I was still doing service dog training, I had a client, who lived in a condo and she was reported to animal control because, several people in her condo thought that she was starving her service dog. And I had fortunately had a good relationship with the municipal shelter where she got reported to it.

And I had to have a conversation with the ACO about underweight is under muscled, and that we have to keep this dog lean because she’s a weight support dog, and we have to reduce pressure on her joints. And fortunately, everything worked out well for her, but for a disabled woman to go through that stress of being reported to animal control, being accused of abuse, and starving her dog, when it’s just that people in this country can’t recognize what a healthy weight is, to me, that was a huge eye-opener.

[00:33:04] Kathy: I will tell you when I had my previous dog Effie, who looked like a Fox hound mix, she was 60-ish pound dog. The difference in her food motivation when she was 63 pounds and she looked fine, nobody would think she was overweight and 60 pounds really an ideal weight was astronomical. Those couple of pounds on that dog made a real difference, and people will go, I have had clients now that I’m consulting with go, “Oh, I really don’t feel good about starving the dog.”

I, nowhere near this is not a food deprivation solution at all. And Effie was in no way serving, but the difference in her sort of willingness to do learning for food was really intensely different based on those couple of pounds. So, when you and I are having this conversation about ideal weight, it’s not just an interesting cultural phenomenon in the United States.

We’re having a conversation about, it feeds back into the loop of, it will change your training. And people only come to see me about training, unfortunately, when they’re, I’m one of the last resorts like training, maybe lifesaving at the point, I’m working with clients. It doesn’t matter. All training is important.

I’m not saying that special, but in the cases here where I want to go, we want to be super efficient in our behavior modification plan. You’re making a big decision based on whether we have success or not. That food motivation makes a difference in how efficient we can be.

[00:34:27] Emily: Absolutely. I loved that you brought that up, that it’s not food deprivation, but when you just let an animal go through the normal hunger cycle that they would go through, it is a game changer, right? Because as we know, fullness, the experience of being full is an abolishing operation for the behavior of eating as it should be. Is your dog not food motivated because your dog is full all the time is, is that the actual issue that we’re dealing with here?

Abolishing operations are motivating operations that decrease the effectiveness of a consequence. For example, being full acts as an abolishing operation for food as a consequence because food isn’t as effective as a consequence if the learner is full. This is contrasted against establishing operations, which increase the effectiveness of a consequence. So, to continue our example, hunger is an establishing operation for food as a consequence because hunger can make food more effective as a consequence.

[00:35:31] Kathy: I loved the way that you just said that, so that idea, that dogs would experience some hunger, that’s a good thing. Not food deprivation, not that. And, and you know what? I went to graduate school long enough ago in animal behavior, food deprivation was a thing like people would be worried about that for really valid reasons, if you’re going to the original research, and looking at those lab rats at 80% of their, like, I get it, I get where the fear comes from. But that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about normal hunger, which is a need that animal has to fulfill, which is what training is based on. Training is fulfilling the needs of your learning partner.

That’s a good thing to have needs. So weirdly, you know what I’m saying? When we go now everything is available to you all the time, the constantly full food bowl, which I’m seeing in this young Yorkie, that actually to me, is a real problem. And I get why people get to free feeding, because the dog’s finicky, they want to maximize the opportunities to eat, but it doesn’t actually work that way.

[00:36:33] Emily: Yeah. It’s, it’s counterintuitive, I think, but by letting them have actual mealtimes, whether that’s coming out of a bowl, or a food puzzle, or training session, however it’s happening, letting them have food mealtimes is actually more species-typical, than a constant, unending supply of food. That that’s not realistic for their environment at all. Really, for almost any animal, except maybe, you know, grazers who have just an unlimited supply of grass.

[00:37:04] Kathy: And sometimes in order to be pithy, I will say trying to be kind, “Gosh, dogs are grazers.” This little Yorkie puppy was picking up a kibble or two occasionally, carrying it to the other room, batting around with its paws. Like when, when kibbles become toys like already, you’re like, yeah, that’s, that’s not, that’s now we’d like food puzzles when we set them up that way. But when the actual full bowl of food becomes interesting, because I can bat it around, yeah, that’s not normal eating behavior for a dog.

[00:37:35] Emily: We’ve discussed, the fact that it might be a physical health issue, and the fact that it may be some emotional or behavioral health issue, and we’ve talked about the fact that, actually the dog may be perfectly food motivated, we’ve just maybe fed them a little too much.

What about the times where, well, I’ll just share my experience and ask you if this is something that you see too? I recently moved from a state where there’s a lot of this use of food and like a reward, the good punish, the bad type of way. And so, as a result, I got a lot of clients where the dog would eat out of a bowl, just fine, but really avoidant of food around hands because of that negative conditioned emotional response, if food is being used in training, that also means shock, or shaker cans, or leash corrections, whatever. How do you talk to clients when you encounter that, or first of all, I guess, do you encounter that, when and if you do, how do you talk to them about that?

Conditioned emotional responses are emotional responses that result from classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a type of learning where one stimulus becomes associated with or connected to another, by being paired close together in time. It is response independent learning because the learner can make these associations without responding or acting in any way. It is also called two term contingencies because there are two components to this type of learning, the neutral stimulus, and the stimulus that already carries meaning for the learner. Classical conditioning is also referred to as respondent conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning.

[00:39:19] Kathy: I encounter this every day of my life with clients, with colleagues, with people I’m just watching on the street, at the vet clinic, because I think it takes a sensitivity to what you just said, how associative learning, how classical conditioning is happening all the time, being efficient learners, we humans, dogs, mammals probably beyond mammals, let’s just keep it to mammals for now, are constantly trying to anticipate what’s going to happen next. It’s one of the main ways we learn. And so, this very pervasive problem of, and you said it so insightfully, Emily, it is literally the context of food in a human’s hands, specifically a treat held between thumb and forefinger.

Right? So, so food, especially for some dogs, interesting smelly food, because that interesting smelly food has been using the antecedent position as a lure, and it’s been followed by something the dog finds aversive. So, the food has been used to do some quote efficient training, to get the dog to do something, and there’s an icky thing following. Now, this has many iterations. You said, gosh, there are training interventions, environmental changes, consequences that are happening in a flow, and if you are a balanced trainer, who’s using all the quadrants of the operant conditioning grid, both punishers and reinforcers, and you’re using them in real time flow, it actually means that some of your food is going to be followed by something aversive because you’re using aversive of training tools, but that doesn’t even have to be the case. You can totally not be a trainer who embraces punishment techniques, and this backward counter conditioning, this inadvertent poisoning of the food. And by poisoning, you can’t see me, but I’m doing air quotes, because in this context, we mean poisoning in the learning sense, there has been an unintended associative learning that’s happened.

[00:41:27] Emily: Counter conditioning is a procedure in which a stimulus is paired closely in time with another stimulus in order to change the way the learner feels about it.

A poisoned cue happens when a learner associates, a cue, which is a kind of antecedent, with something aversive and is therefore less likely to perform the behavior in the future.

[00:41:47] Kathy: So, one that happens, I’ve got lists, but here’s one that happens all the time. You have a shy dog, and so you hand out treats to strangers, and you say, ” Can you actually give my dog some food?”

And so, first off, I’d like to just go let the shy dog have time and space to approach at their own pace, that’s going to be, to me a way better learning experience. You won’t get as much done in a unit of time, but the dog has consent in being able to approach, but you’re, you’re wanting to, quote, socialize, close quote, um, the dog to stranger.

So, you hand out straight to a stranger, and let’s say you gave that stranger three treats, and the stranger squats down and gives you a shy dog, coaxes them over to come close and eat the 1, 2, 3 treats. Let’s say the dog even eats them. The vast majority of humans, at least that I see when the treats are gone, begin being handsy, being primates, our hands now are going to touch that dog. So, what the dog has experienced is reluctant approach to go get some food, ate, got punished for eating by intrusion of a stranger who leans over and pats their head. How long does it take to go? Yeah. I’m not actually going to approach food for the next stranger that offers it.

Do we then diagnose that situation as, oh, I think there was an unintended aversive that followed the last iteration of food in a stranger’s hand? Right. We go, oh my gosh, look how look, how shy look, how oh, dog doesn’t even like food. Dog doesn’t like food now. Right, that food avoidance is a functional behavior to go, I learned that another shoe drops after being presented with food. So, I’ve kind of gotten a reputation for, nothing spooky after food. Nothing spooky right after food. I much rather not use food with my own dog Smudge in a veterinary setting, if we have to get something done in the veterinary clinic with my veterinarian, who’s my dear friend, and if it’s a procedure Smudge, isn’t currently trained in cooperative care to do fully consent, we got to get something done, get it done, efficiently, low stress handling, do your best, even if it involves restraint and Smudge saying, “I don’t consent”, we’re going to do it fast and efficiently. Food can come after that.

So, it’s not the idea of, we don’t bring food into veterinary exam rooms. Not at all. Goodness gracious. Being mindful of not putting food, peanut butter in the bathtub to get the dog to walk into get the bath. Yeah, I’m just going to go, we might create an aversion to peanut butter, some cases we might create an aversion to all novel foods.

It’s the sequence of food followed by something the dog would behave to escape. It doesn’t have to be egregiously awful. It doesn’t have to be just shock, which tends to be my extreme version of not going there. Yet don’t go anywhere where the dog would go, I wouldn’t choose that after using food. And the reason I’m being so careful about that is I use a lot of food in training, it’s really important to me. So, if you wreck that, if you poison food, it really limits my efficacy as a trainer. I have other positive reinforcers, I do, but they’re not as efficient in training as willing, trusting acceptance of food. It makes a big difference.

[00:45:09] Emily: Yeah, Allie and I are over here, vigorously nodding our heads because we both, we met working at a sanctuary together where there were a lot of feral dogs, puppy mill dogs, hoarding case dogs, all super shy, and we saw that over, and over, and over again, where some backwards conditioning would happen, where the food would predict the scary thing instead of the other way around. And a lot of our work was focused on teaching people how to get their chronology right, so that the best thing was happening at the end. So, all the icky stuff per predicts, the awesome stuff, instead of ruining our food, by having the food predict the icky stuff. So, that’s where over here, like grinning and nodding, because we, we are definitely, onboard with, with everything that you were just saying about that.

[00:45:55] Kathy: And Emily, I feel like for non-training geeks, like, you know, I’m going to say I’m a training geek, I feel like I’m, you know, on a conversation with the train at geek, which is a good thing, but I’m saying like you’re sort of middle of the bell curve person, I feel like it, it seems like we’re splitting hairs. And we’re so not that order of events, the chronology, you just said is so meaningful that there’s no way to undo that. Like that matters in a foundational way, like gravity matters. So, you can go, “Yeah, I don’t really believe in gravity.” Gravity doesn’t care. It still keeps doing its thing. So, this order of events, this predictive learning, happens all the time, it’s so much a part of our learning heritage. We have evolved to be efficient learners, getting the order of events right, in something like a counter conditioning procedure. You’re going to go out, and you’re going to use food for your dog who lunches and barks at other dogs on walks. And you go, I’m going to use food in that context. Excellent. How many of our clients are using food when the human notices an approaching dog, they start to feed that is not going to do the work we needed to do. We actually need the dog to perceive the trigger. And that makes no intuitive sense to folks. They’re like, it’s all just food. Oh no, it’s not. No, it’s not.

[00:47:17] Emily: Absolutely. So, how do you help clients when they’ve ended up in that situation with all the best intentions, they have a dog who’s food avoidant, because they’ve had this learning history, how do you help clients through that process?

[00:47:32] Kathy: Me as a psychologist, we changed the environment, right? So, we’re the folks that go, I still remember, I tell this story a lot, but it’s so, uh, I’ve been blessed to be part of every ClickerExpo from the very beginning, so let’s see, I think we’re coming up on our 20 year anniversary. I’ve taught at 44 ClickerExpos, and this is amazing, right? Not that they get to teach, that I get to learn from the other faculty because those are some really awesome teachers, right? So, over the years, so much learning from Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, who is pithy, and funny, and genius.

And so, we’re sitting at a faculty meeting once for ClickerExpo, we’re doing some planning, and I use the phrase behavior modification, and he gives me sort of stink eye down the table, and later I’m like, “What are you giving me grief about?” He said, “Oh, behavior modification. We don’t do that. We do environment modification.”

I’m like, “Oh, God, I can’t stand you.” Of course, that’s true, because I know, right? Like, we change antecedents, we change consequences, we change context, right? Of course, we do. So, every time I say behavior modification, which is like the common English phrase, which like the rest of normal people use it. I hear, Jesus in my head with his accent going, “No, that’s wrong.”

 The sort of, big bucket answer is, we change antecedents, and we change consequences. Let’s just talk about mealtimes first, ‘cause I think these are kind of two related problems, but a little separate. So, often the context that people are contacting me about is the dog is not eating meals.

[00:49:04] Emily: Antecedent are the stimuli in the environment, which signal that a specific behavior is likely to result in a specific consequence. They set the stage for an operant behavior to occur.

Consequences are the stimuli in the environment that happen in response to an operant behavior and make that behavior more or less likely to occur in the future, in the context of the antecedent which elicited the behavior.

[00:49:32] Kathy: It begs the question of how many times a day should a dog eat, and what does an actual meal look like? But let’s just use sort of the common, who I’m not going to say common and normal as synonyms anymore. The common iteration of 2 meals a day, in a bowl, in the kitchen. What’s often happened is, I think that clients have inadvertently trained all that particular meal prep to be a cue for don’t eat, right? So, I’m very much about teaching animals to respond to cues in the context outside of eating, but when you look at eating as an on-cue behavior, we’d actually say you have actually a poison cure right now. It’s very much like a client coming in saying, my dog won’t come when he’s called, pretty sure we’re going to use a different word or a different gesture than you’ve been using.

It’s just a mess. The word “come.” That is not a reliable predictor of positive reinforcement. That’s what a cue is. So, we’re going to change the cue, which for my clients means, how are we going to do mealtimes differently. And I sometimes feel like I’m playing a game of Clue, like currently it’s Colonel Mustard, in the Conservatory, with a pipe. Like, okay, we’re changing all of that.

So, we’re not using that bowl, and we’re not feeding at that time of day, and if there’s another human, it’s another human feeding, and we’re maybe scattering it on the ground, and it’s a much smaller meal. We’re going to change what mealtimes look like to be such a blank slate that I want to get the dog to say yes.

So, my criterion is, what can you feed, where, when, and how that you would bet me a hundred dollars a dog will say yes? Because what we’re actually trying to do, is teach a behavior with the cue already present. We’re using the context as the cue. So, we don’t want to get no’s. We never in clicker training or marker-based training, give a cue with our fingers crossed.

We don’t give cues if we think, oh, 50-50 chance that dog will do it. Because when the duck doesn’t do it, our only recourse, being folks that don’t use punishment or don’t intentionally use punishment very often, let’s be more specific is no reinforcement happens. Well, that’s not great. We really want, when we give a cue to have set up the situation, the dog is super likely to say yes. So, we have to start there.

So, what it often means is mealtimes don’t at all fit the human’s definition of mealtimes. The good news recently has been so many folks have been home during the pandemic that we don’t have to do twice a day meals, before I leave for an 8, 9, 10 hour day of work, and when I come home, that’s all I’ve got with the dog someone’s at home.

So, we’ve been able to do 10, not even meals a day, feeding trials a day, because all we’re doing is keeping score. How many times did the dog say yes? What is saying yes mean? Well, let’s talk to you about what your criteria is, for me it would be you put the bowl down, go release or eat or nothing, you just put the bowl down and the dog is in the bowl eating, immediately finishing what you put in. Only of what you put in possibly is three little pieces of meatloaf, one strip of squeeze cheese, one bit of whipped cream, I have a client using now. Are we going to stay at this shaping approximation, cause the dog can’t eat whipped cream, Kathy? I know, but shaping always starts almost always at a ridiculous little sliver of behavior, right?

Shaping doesn’t start at a productive thing. The dog leans one inch toward the dog bed and we click and treat it. And people are like, what the heck? What did you do? There wasn’t even movement. What are you clicking? Tiny little movements in the direction of the big behavior I’m building through shaping, shaping is awesome.

Can we shape eating? Yeah, but it’s going to start in a place that you don’t recognize. So, clients are like, wait, wait, wait. That’s not the healthy food. That’s not enough food. That’s not where I want to end up feeding him. I know, I know. We’ve got to start somewhere where the dog says yes. So, all those variables, Emily matter where, in what container, who’s feeding, what time of day, what’s in the bowl.

We’ve got a lot of things we can shift to get behavioral momentum on saying yes to eating. I realize we’re not going to start in the completely healthful space. Yes, let’s have a conversation with the veterinarian, if it feels like we’re skewing the food too far away from healthy, there are certainly foods we would not feed, they are just toxic for dogs. I get that. But we are also probably going to expand the definition of what is a healthy food, because for some of my clients, healthy food is the kibble the breeder said to feed for the rest of the dog’s life. Certainly, there are prescription kibbles that we’re going to have conversation with, with veterinarians about limited food.

This is probably beyond the scope of our conversation, I am saying I find people being very narrow in their definition of what their dog can eat, in a way that is life-threatening because they’re never going to get reliable eating. We’re shaping. We’re not caving, and going, I’m feeding you cake every day to the toddler child.

We’re saying I’m going to start with something palatable full enough and novel enough that you’re going to say yes, that we’re going to get that ball rolling. There’s other ways to do that, but to me, that’s the most, fruitful conversation to have with people of, which of those variables can you shift and which of them can’t you shift?

[00:54:59] Emily: Shaping is a procedure in which a learner is taught a new skill in successive approximations. We start by reinforcing the behavior that the learner can do, which most closely resembles the goal behavior. Then reinforcing increased accuracy over time until the learner is able to proficiently perform the goal behavior.

I think that you’re right, that’s a whole can of worms, but I think it is important to, to kind of point out the clients that kibble has only existed for about a hundred years. What do you think dogs ate before kibble existed? It’s not human food. It’s just food, right? And it’s okay for them to eat food.

[00:55:35] Kathy: This conversation is so thorny to be able to stay honest about the conversation about healthful feeding dogs. It’s political, it’s controversial, it’s commercial, there’s so many levels. And I’m going to say to my clients, I want you to be really curious about this topic forever. It’s a topic you can just keep learning about for your whole life.

We’re going to learn about our own human nutrition as well, but we really, we shouldn’t make it more complicated to feed a dog than to feed ourselves. It, it, yes, it involves science, but it doesn’t involve rocket science and It’s not just commercially sold foods. Of course, that’s a broad conversation.

Of course, the veterinarian’s part of the conversation, but in the narrowness of what is allowed to be fed it, it often hobbles the shaping program. Right? So, if we can be a little bit loosey goosey in the front end and go, I don’t actually know what’s going to matter. And what’s interesting, Emily, is in doing all these varied consultations, sometimes it isn’t the quote palatability of the food, which I would be looking at and going, I think that’s a big factor. Often. It is who has been feeding. So heartbreaking client that I work with, a lovely trainer really realized quickly and doing the experimenting, it was her presence in the room that stopped eating.

As soon as she left the room and had a camera on the dog, dog ate immediately, her leaving the room was actually the free signal for the dog to eat her coming in the room. Nope. Dog stopped eating, and it wasn’t because she was doing anything wrong. It’s because her presence had been involved in so much coaxing, pressure, hovering, helping the dog to eat. The dog was flummoxed by her presence. So, we were able to fade her back in pretty quickly, but it was an interesting, like, oh, it didn’t have to do with actually what was in the bullet had to do with my helpful hovering.

Yeah, that wasn’t helpful.

[00:57:13] Emily: What are some observable goals and actionable items that people can take away from this discussion?

[00:57:20] Kathy: I’d say don’t use food as a lure to move a dog to something scary ever. Like don’t use food to do the heavy lifting to get your dog to step on the teeter-totter, or to approach the stranger, or to get in the bathtub. It feels like drinking saltwater to me. Like it, it relieves your thirst in the minute, like it worked, it worked, it got the problem solved today, and it made your problems so much worse down the road, which we don’t want to do for anybody, right?

So that sort of having that really short goal of, I just have to get them in the bathtub. If it creates that tentativeness around eating, to me that’s going to be a big price to pay. You know, I’ve started teaching a course in teaching dogs to swallow medication, unhidden in food in, you know, don’t hide the medication in the food, don’t put it in a pill pocket for a lot of dogs that works forever and ever. And that’s great, but I want you to be mindful about whether that’s actually creating some hesitancy in just grabbing the food and swallowing,

 You know, I’ve worked with marine mammals, they don’t chew, you give them food, they swallow it.

Like that is kind of what I want my dog to do. I don’t want them feeling the food in their mouth to go, is there anything icky in there? Like I’m going to gobble the food down. And it, could you sway it too much too, they’ll eat anything. Yeah, I actually, I think I could tell this story because, oh my God, she’s such a rock star, but trainer Emilie Johnson Vegh, my amazing Swedish friend, coauthor of Agility Right From The Start said her dog was such a fluent eater, she accidentally handed her dog a tiny little washer that had fallen in her bait bag, cause she had been doing some home repairs. That she realized that she handed the washer over the dog was going to swallow it because dog swallowed anything, she handed the dog and I thought, yes, every bit of training has a trade-off like you would go, oh, that would make me not train this.

And it made me go, oh my gosh, that’s like cautionary tale, but kind of funny as well. That the dogs, like you handed it to me, and I swallow it. That’s the deal that we have. I’m really cautious about any form of upgrading. So, this is very common. It happens all the time, and one of the contexts that it happens in is you have a bait bag and it’s filled with, you know, the bait bag I carry around every day has a front compartment, which is the really good food. It’s my homemade meatloaf treats, which are awesome on my website, if you want to make them, they’re super easy. But they’re healthy, palatable, breaking the teeny tiny little pieces. Don’t make crumbs all the things I want as a trainer. So, the good foods in the front of the bait bag, and then sort of the less palatable food like kibble is in the back of my bait bag.

So, when I’m taking my own dog Smudge out in the world for walks, we already went on our five mile walk this morning Smudge, and I like to walk. Um, he gets the meatloaf for handling the presence of a dog near him with grace, which means he’s doing a train behavior in the presence of dogs, rather than lunging, and barking, and scaring people, and embarrassing me. He gets meatloaf for this sort of just, you know, he’s re responding to cue might give him, he might get the kibble. So very often people have more than one level of palatability of food at their disposal. What often happens is they’ll try the lower value food. Hey, I think kibble might work here or you’re meeting a new dog, like you’re a dog trainer and you’re like, hey, I’ve got different varieties, I’m going to try the kibble to start off with, let’s see if the dog will take it. And if the dog says, no, they turn their head away. Don’t do anything. Don’t do anything else right then. Just let that be information to you. Go make some notes, go talk to the client. Don’t reach for a better treat then. That is exactly how you would train inappetence.

If you needed to do that as a trick for a movie commercial, or your movie set or commercial, like you’re hired as an animal actor trainer to teach a dog to snub food for the bad guy in the film. That’s how you teach it. They would actually turn away from food and you would click and treat that and pay them something better.

Don’t do that accidentally because of dog refusing food, calls to you to use your training skills to fix that right away. Don’t fix it right away. Move away for a minute, come back and use the better treat if you need to. So, we do a lot of testing to see if you’ll eat something. And if you won’t, we do something to the meal right then.

Oh, I have chicken in the freezer, in the refrigerator from last night, let me add it to your meal. You can add the chicken later to the next meal. If you want to change what you’re feeding the dog, based on the information you got from a refused meal, do it, use the information, do it later, do not do it contingent on the snubbing.

You will reinforce snubbing and get more of it. So wonderful. Australian trainer, Alexis Davis said to me, oh, wait, what I got from your teaching is you could add the chicken, but add it later. I’m like, oh yeah, that’s pithy.

[01:02:02] Emily: What, what I’m hearing is the other actionable item that you have for people is mindfulness in training, so that when something doesn’t go as planned, and instead of just scrambling to, to salvage it, take a step back, observe, figure out what’s going on before, just like coming in and swooping in with some higher value food.

[01:02:25] Kathy: I actually had to make it more, because I love the word mindfulness, and to me, that calls out like a set of behaviors I’ve been working on recently, and I’ll use my scientist client right now, ‘cause I’m just sort of loving the conversation he and I are having. I had to give him a replacement behavior for doing the next thing to get the dog to the toller to eat, which is you are keeping data, go mark in the scorecard, right?

You’re keeping you’re keeping score, so just go mark what just happened. In the time it takes them to go to the computer and do that, literally enough time has passed, but if you did another trial, it’s not immediately contingent on the snubbing.

[01:02:58] Emily: That is brilliant. So, we asked our Pro Campus and Mentorship Program members to submit questions for our podcast interview guests, and the most popular question for you is what do you wish you had learned earlier in your career?

[01:03:16] Kathy: How long do we have left to talk? What is Are you kidding? What do I wish I’d learned earlier in my career? Oh, girl!

[01:03:26] Emily: Okay, let’s rephrase it. What is one thing you wish; we’ll narrow it down? Pick one thing.

[01:03:32] Kathy: Oh goodness gracious, um, wow. Uh, you know, I gotta give you two. One is a good one and a bad one. I wish someone had said to me, you will learn to see behavior, and you can’t unsee it.

So, I just think a lot of us carry around the, for, for those animals that don’t have voices, all the non-humans, they’re speaking all the time with their behavior and we get better and better at seeing nuances.

And it’s, uh, it’s a lot for our hearts to bear, right. Because there’s a lot of suffering for, for everybody, but I think we’re, we get sensitized to it and that’s a lot. So, I wish someone would have just said, you’re going to have to like, keep your own heart healthy in doing this work because, yeah. So, the, the flip side of that, the good thing is, I wish somebody that told me, cause I don’t think I would’ve believed it, we’re all doing the best we can and sometimes I just want to go, well, that’s just not good enough. You just need to do better.

And yeah, we all do, and we’re all in it together. So, I think I have been able to be a bit more compassionate to realize we’re all carrying a lot around and, yeah, so when we see the suffering of the non-human animals, it’s easy to be judgmental and blaming. And so the flip side of that is I choose to believe that we’re all doing the best we can, and that includes me.

[01:05:02] Emily: Yes. One of my favorite things that I learned from our friend, and business partner, Ellen Yoakum is something that she learned from a book she’s reading, I think it’s The Body Keeps the Score.

[01:05:13] Kathy: I’m reading it now! For the third time!

[01:05:15] Emily: So, something, I think it’s from that, but you can tell me if I’m, if I’m wrong about which book it comes from,

[01:05:20] Kathy: third time!

[01:05:21] Emily: So, I need to read this book as what I’m hearing.

Um, but there’s a discussion in the book about how one of the things that we need to do for like trauma informed care in our healing process is to recognize that all of us do harm at some point in our life, or at many points in our life, and coming to terms with that, or having some peace about the fact that we all, we all cause harm.

And that’s just part of being alive. That was so huge when Ellen said that it was like, Whoa. That’s the piece of the puzzle I’ve been missing. We’re all doing the best we can. And that means that sometimes we cause harm and being able to accept that as a part of trauma informed care. Right?

[01:06:01] Kathy: Absolutely. The only alternative than in recognizing that and wanting to minimize the harm we do, I think at some point the extreme is we don’t do anything, and the world is urgently in need of skilled behavior folks. Right?

We, we are the people that can help change the world. So, we will do harm, and we will make mistakes, and we’re still going to get out there, and keep learning.

That’s the important piece is keep learning and being humble about the, all the stuff we still don’t know. Every client I work with on this topic that I would go, ooh, I got to experience, and I got book smarts like, wow, I learned something really should have known before.

[01:06:41] Emily: Right, yes. Learn better, do better.

[01:06:43] Kathy: That book, The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. The third time, I listen to audio books, I’m listening to it for the third time. And it’s a long book, I actually have to stop it, take deep breaths, and write notes. It’s the third time through. And I’m still having my mind explode. There is so much in there that’s really relevant to our own lives, but the work that we do.

[01:07:03] Emily: I definitely am excited about reading that book. That’s how I am about to Behave by Robert Sapolsky. I’m on my third read and same thing, I’m like, how did I miss this the first time around? So, there are some books like that, that it’s like, you just have to keep rereading them. Okay. So, we always ask everybody on our podcast, the same few questions as a kind of wrap up.

Hopefully, these will go pretty quickly. What is one thing that you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession or enrichments in general?

[01:07:33] Kathy: I would say that training isn’t, making dogs do things human want them to do, like, I feel like the, the word training has a bad rap and I love people to embrace training for the fun that it is, the break that it can be in our lives that can be kind of heavy, the incredible enrichment, it can be no matter what you’re teaching.

 I remember years ago teaching my best student ever ET the male walrus at Point Zoo who is, we could do a whole podcast on that one particular, unbelievable animal. But I remember that sometimes zoo patrons would be critical that, you know, he knew how to dance on cue, he could play a harmonica, he could, you know, kind of goofy things, and they would go, well, you know, that’s not very dignified for him.

And I think there is a line I wouldn’t have crossed with him, like, I don’t think we would have dressed him in costumes, right? But those body movements that he learned that were kind of silly or the control, it took him to be able to play a harmonica, were enriching for him. Yeah. Training as a welfare issue for all the animals we’re blessed to live with, right?

[01:08:40] Emily: I agree with you. It’s, it has a bad rap, and it’s a reframing of, it’s not about control, it’s about skill building, and relationship building. It should be anyway, we can, we can make it that. That’s what it can be.

[01:08:53] Kathy: Well, and the work you and Allie are doing in the world, and your book goes such a long way toward that. Your book is such a embracing of something, I think that folks who work in zoos know, that training is a welfare issue for so many of the animals in our care that it, it feels like it shouldn’t be optional for all dogs that we’re blessed to live with.

[01:09:14] Emily: What is one thing you’d love to see improved in your field?

[01:09:17] Kathy: Gosh, one thing. Yeah, it’s a tedious answer, but it’s true. It, it’s hard that there’s no criteria for a professional trainer. And it’s a very thorny, I’ll use that word again, issue. There is no easy route to that, but it is difficult for me to look locally in Tacoma, Washington, at trainers still in business that feel so abusive that I just, I don’t understand. That we want consumers to have some ability to make really good choices about the professionals who are going to care for their animals, so that we’re still missing the boat on that. And I don’t know the easy answer to that, but I know brains way smarter than I am, are working on, on improving them.

[01:09:58] Emily: Yeah. What do you love about what you do?

[01:10:03] Kathy: Every day, most, every day I get to see learning happening. It feels like magic to me every time, every time! Every time I meet a new client, and I’m talking about this Yorkie puppy, because it’s my most recent new client in fact, I’m going to see her after this interview. When we end, I’m going back to do a follow up only a couple of days later with this Yorkie puppy, who really has a lot of, there’s a lot of issues in this young dog’s life.

But in the moment of watching him learn, free shaping him to do a couple of tricks, while I’m talking to the clients, I’m talking to his mom, and then free shaping him to do a backup and a scoot, that she’s not noticing I’m doing. And so, then when she looks down, she’s like, “What happened?” I’m like, “Your dog, without my touching him or talking to him, learn to do this really cool trick in like the last five minutes!” Isn’t that? How is that? How do we get to do that?

 Oh, love it. Love that we’re able to do some in-person stuff, we can do that virtually, but it’s a lot easier to do it in real time with the actual animal in the room. So, love that, and I don’t get tired of it.

[01:11:04] Emily: Free shaping is not a technical term. And therefore, has a couple of different meanings in this context, free shaping refers to shaping a behavior without using any other teaching techniques, such as luring, or capturing. This type of free shaping is also sometimes referred to as pure shaping.

Awesome. What are you currently working on? If people want to work more with, or learn from you, where can they find you?

[01:11:30] Kathy: Probably easiest to go to my website, Kathy Sdao dot com. That’s K A T H Y S D A O, funny Italian last name, and it’s nothing fancy there, but you will find, all the things I’m working on, I will add this podcast to the free offerings that people can find there. You can find my meatloaf recipe if you go to my website for no other reason than that.

 I’ll have you guys be able to provide a link to the webinar on increasing food motivation, which reiterate some of the things we talked about today but has some other information in it. So that would be available for purchase, from Dog iBox one of the webinar hosts that I work with. So, I can give you that link, but that’s also on my website, and I’ll just mention one other project, which is a little different than the normal work I do.

And that’s Lima L I M A Beings and Lima or Lima for animal professionals, we know is an acronym for at Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive, humane approach to how we choose our tools. That’s an algorithm for choosing, training interventions, behavior modification interventions. And a group of colleagues and I, Dr. Chris Pachel, Marissa Martino, Barrie Finger, and Lynn Ungar a little over a year ago, started a membership community where we can have conversations about extending that positive reinforcement ethic, that unconditional positive regard to the humans that we work with. Because I think once we start using verbal language, we get tripped up in our dedication to using positive reinforcement.

We fall into more sort of punitive, judging, and blaming habits that we learned as kids, even if we’re positive reinforcement professionals. So, we have a membership community that is trying to get better at the practice of extending Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive to all the humans, clients, students, colleagues, uh, that we work with.

[01:13:24] Emily: We had Chris Pachel on for season one, actually his episode just aired a week or two ago, and we have Marissa coming for season three, so we have basically the crew’s, is represented.

 Well, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate your time, and this lovely conversation, I hope to catch up with you again soon.

[01:13:50] Kathy: And thank you for all you and Allie are doing. Your book is such a game changer. It’s you know, it’s funny, I often don’t carry my own book, Plenty in Life is Free, written about 10 years ago, still available. I think it’s still a good read, but it’s funny. I often don’t have that in my gear bag when I meet a new client, but I have other people’s books, and yours is one of the books I often carry with me to say to clients, “Oh my gosh, you’re gonna get so much practical information from this book.” And then they say, “And where’s your book?” I’m like, “Oh yeah. Oops. I forgot that.”

[01:14:19] Emily: That’s funny.

[01:14:20] Kathy: Yeah.

[01:14:20] Emily: Yeah.

[01:14:21] Kathy: Keep, doing what you’re doing. I’m grateful.

[01:14:23] Emily: We have a companion workbook coming out in the very near future. So.

[01:14:27] Kathy: Something else to put in my gear bag.

[01:14:32] Emily: Absolutely. All right. Well, thanks again, Kathy. It was such a delight to speak with you.

[01:14:36] Kathy: You’re welcome.

[01:14:36] Allie: Okay, how good was that episode? I always get so many good nuggets of information from Kathy. This is a topic that I think we really need to be talking about more, as Kathy said, eating needs to be the first behavior, and it’s a sign of welfare. Diet and nutrition is one of the 14 categories of enrichment after all. Next week, we’ll be talking about building food motivation.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.


Thank you for listening and happy training.

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Podcast Episode 16: Transcript

#16: Flight Training Mini-Sode

[00:00:00] Emily: But when people go all the way to the end, I really love watching the wheels turning and the dogs, like little brains where they’re like, “This is unpleasant, I’m going to leave now. Okay. Bye!” That’s just delightful to me.

[00:00:14] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:00:33] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:34] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World. And I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts. We have a special mini-sode for y’all today. We get a ton of questions about Flight Training. So, we wanted to put together a little episode to answer the biggest questions that we get in honor of our Flight Training for Professionals On-Demand Course, coming out the day this episode airs.

In this episode, Emily and I talk about what flight training is, why everyone should have this skill, and a brief overview of how to do it. Let’s get started.

So, let’s start with the number one question, what is flight training?

[00:01:27] Emily: I have to always start by saying there’s nothing new under the sun, every protocol that exists on the planet is harnessing, you know, the same finite number of behavioral principles that just exist in the world, so there’s nothing particularly new, or shiny, or sexy about the flight training protocol.

However, the reason we found so much success with it is because really what we’re doing, is breaking down the components of reactivity training, and starting with the one that gets overlooked the most often or is done in a kind of aversive of way unintentionally. And we’re making it fun instead. And that aspect of reactivity training is choosing to escape, choosing to move away from a stressor when you can’t handle it.

So, we’re basically pulling that part out and saying, focus on this first, and then we can teach the animals how to check in with you, and then we can teach them how to investigate when it’s necessary or appropriate. So, flight training is really focusing on how do we teach animals, how to escape first in a way that is teaching them the concept. So, they’re conceptually learning, when I feel overwhelmed by something, I can move away from it to get relief.

[00:02:52] Allie: I think that’s a great point that there’s nothing new under the sun and for what it’s worth, we, for the longest time, were calling it flight training, because we don’t have a better word for it.

You know, this is not something that we intended to create or anything. It was just that we saw a need. We saw a need for animals to be able to move away from stressors. And we started putting together, different exercises to see what would work best, and that’s how we came up with our, our flight training.

[00:03:20] Emily: That’s a good point that we weren’t actually trying to create a protocol, we weren’t like, “You know what? Let’s create a new protocol that’s just a variation on the theme.” We started doing this at a sanctuary where there are over 400 dogs that were in incredible amount of stress and the protocols that we had already been taught, kind of, sort of worked? But with that, with that environment, it was really hard to implement the existing protocols, so we had to like mosaic together, different aspects of different protocols, and work on making it really fun for it to even be effective in that environment. And then when we went back into private practice, we were like, oh, yeah, this is actually a really practical way to teach clients too, because we’re splitting those approximations and we’re focusing on one skill at a time, instead of trying to, like hit them with everything at once.

[00:04:08] Allie: So even though we kind of just stumbled into the protocol that we now teach to almost every single one of our clients, and our entire team teaches to almost every single one of their clients, I now think that this is a skill that everybody should have, and I don’t mean like specifically our flight training protocol skill.

I mean, the skill of being able to move away from a stressor, and not just for our pets, honestly, for everybody. I. my favorite thing that somebody said, when I was talking about this, I don’t even remember who it was or in what capacity, but they’re like, “Man, can you teach that to humans for internet fights?”

And I like, yes, all individuals need this skill. So, one of the reasons that I think everybody needs this skill goes back to something Emily said is that this is a coping skill. It is unrealistic for us to think or expect our pets to be comfortable in 100% of situation. It’s much more realistic for us to teach certain situations, and to help our pets be comfortable in those particular environments, and then teach them coping skills to handle anything else that might be thrown their way.

[00:05:24] Emily: Yeah. And I think one of the things that we both learned first at the sanctuary and then continued to learn in private practice is that it’s really so much easier if we teach animals, especially dogs, how to escape first, before we ask them to try to do anything else, like engage, check-in, or investigate. Because it’s a pretty, I think universal experience, I feel pretty comfortable making this assertion, I don’t have any evidence aside from anecdotal evidence, but I feel pretty comfortable saying, that it’s a pretty universal experience that if you know, that escape is an option, you don’t feel the need to escape as often.

Whereas when you don’t have escape as an option, it’s all you can think about and you’re more likely to fall back on fight, or shutting down, then flight, if you don’t know that flight is an option. And this was really made apparent to me at the beginning of the pandemic when we were like that first two weeks where everybody was like in total lockdown, right.

I work from home, and I like never leave the house, I leave the house like maybe once or twice a week, and that’s fine with me, like I’m totally a homebody, and happy to stay at home. But as soon as they were like, you can’t leave your everybody’s in lockdown, all I wanted to do was leave. And I think we see that with animals too, we have to start by teaching them that escape as an option so that it’s easier for them to stay in the moment and do that kind of engaged, thoughtful, checking in, or investigating feeling safer because they know that they can leave if they need to.

[00:06:55] Allie: The example of that, that I give to my clients is the doctor’s office.

You go into your room, examination room. Is that what they’re called? You go into your room, the nurse says, okay, the doctor will be in, in a moment. They closed the door behind you, and you say, “Okay.” And if you’re me, you start scrolling your phone because what else are you going to do during that time? And you’re fine.

You’re fine, being in the room with the door closed. However, If the nurse were to take you into the room, say the doctor’s going to be in, in a moment, close the door, and lock it from the outside. You’re not going to be okay with that situation, you are going to try your hardest to get out because you can’t.

So, agency is so important, and it really changes how stressed you are, that changes how much you’re going to be able to learn, that changes how much progress you’re going to be able to make, like we said before, it’s just a way better option. Then a lot of the other options, you know, the majority of animals who are coming to us are coming to us because they are using those fight type behaviors, aggression, anxiety, however you want to term it.

They are telling other individuals that in no uncertain terms, they want them to go away, and if they’re able to leave the situation, instead, the majority of people like that option better.

[00:08:16] Emily: We really broke it up into let’s teach flight first, then we can teach engage, then we can teach investigation. But we have to break up that flight part even further, because a lot of times when people try to do this, what they end up doing is just dragging their dog away from a stressor, which actually increases the stress for the dog, which then could make the reactivity worse.

So, we have to actually teach that as a skill, so that dogs know to do it first of all, and secondly, enjoy doing it, which is how we buffer against the stress of the situation. So, we break this down into three parts. Allie, do you want to get that first part going?

[00:08:57] Allie: Sure. So, for professionals, this first step is going to come as no surprise. It is teach this cue and skill in a place with minimal distractions where the learner is going to be successful. You’re pretty darn sure that the learner is going to be successful with this, and this step doesn’t usually take long, which is fantastic. And then we can move on to the next step of actually being able to use this with stressors.

[00:09:22] Emily: Yeah. So, after the dog learns that that cue means that fun things are going to happen. If they follow their handler, then we can teach them when you see the stressor and you can’t handle it, which at first is like all the time, right? We’re going to practice this all the time, we’re going to move away from the stressor until you feel relief until you’re not stressed anymore, and then good things will happen. And we just keep doing that until the dog learns, when I’m in the presence of a stressor, I can move away to get relief.

[00:09:56] Allie: And once we start seeing that, where they’re asking for space, then we can lean into how they ask. A lot of times I see animals ask for space in different ways, and part of this seems like a preference thing, part of it seems like an environment thing, and part of it seems like how they’re humans teach this skill.

I’m sure there are a lot of factors, but this can look differently depending on the animal. So, I tell my clients, however, they’re seeing their pet ask for space and internalizing this flight cue, lean into that, whatever that looks like. If that is them trying to cross the street, as long as it’s safe, they can do that. If that looks like them doing some sort of fidget type behavior, like a displacement sniffing, then lean into that, whatever it looks like lean into how your pet is interpreting and processing that skill.

[00:10:48] Emily: The beautiful thing about this is that in, in many cases, when the client is consistent about this and continues to proof the behavior, what we see is that the dogs learn the concept. They internalize the concept, so they don’t need a cue anymore. They just have this realization that if stressor is overwhelming for me, I’m going to move away to obtain relief for myself. And that’s really the goal. It doesn’t, we don’t always get there because a lot of times clients are just happy where they’re at, and they don’t want to finish the plan, and that’s fine too, if they’re happy with where they’re at good for them. But when people go all the way to the end, I really love watching the wheels turning and the dogs, like little brains where they’re like, “This is unpleasant, I’m going to leave now. Okay. Bye!” That’s just delightful to me.

[00:11:36] Allie: It’s the best when you see that, and I want to mention to, you know, we’ve been talking about primarily pets with maladaptive behaviors, but like we were saying, this is a skill that everybody should have. And so, even if you have a pet who doesn’t have maladaptive behaviors, chances are, they may be already choosing to move away from stressors, and that’s why they don’t have maladaptive behaviors, but this is a skill that really every pet, regardless of their behavior should have. Sometimes we just have to teach it, and for other pets, we don’t have to teach it.

[00:12:08] Emily: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. Every animal, every, every individual, every learner across species should know how to move away from stressors when they’re overwhelmed by them. And so, I think it’s kind of prophylactic, if we teach animals, before they have an issue, we can prevent issues from happening in many cases. So, that said, we obviously, with what we do in the clients, we see, we’re typically dealing with clients whose pets have maladaptive behaviors, and one of my favorite examples of how powerful the flight cue was with a client of mine who had two large, kind of mixed breed dogs, they were both in the 60 to 80 pound range, their names work Gog and Magog and they had been getting along, for like the first couple of years that they were together, she took them to obedience training, and then they started fighting, and we won’t get into that whole saga.

Because they were such big dogs, and they were both fairly persistent dogs, their fights were actually pretty expensive, and injurious, like they would really damage each other, and have to go to the hospital, so it was a really big problem, and we worked on a lot of different things to help address this.

I, I do not want to make any kind of claims that the flight cue was the only thing they needed, these types of behaviors are serious, and they typically need a multifaceted approach, so just know I’m not getting into the whole case study, but the flight cue is a really important component of that, and it was one of the first things that we started because at the beginning, they couldn’t be in the same room with each other without trying to go after each other. And so, the first thing that we had to teach them was when you’re upset about this other dog, you move away and you go to a safe space, and the safe spaces where all good things happen, and the other dog doesn’t go there.

And then we also worked on other stuff, one of my favorite emails, I save emails from clients that are like really touching. And I saved this email from this client because she said they had a management fail where they left the house unexpectedly and forgot to put the dogs in their respective areas. They have rooms where their dogs go when they’re out of the house, and she panicked because she realized that she had left the dogs out unattended while they were gone, and when she came back, the dogs were fine, and they were hanging out in their respective safe spaces.

And she looked back at their webcam, and like a delivery guy had knocked on the door, and the dogs got upset and started barking, and then like, they both got up to the door, and they kind of looked at each other, and then they just like, moved away in each went to their own, their own little like relaxation station and she was like, “It was a miracle!”

And I was like, “I am so proud of you. Good work. Obviously let’s try not to have another management fail, but like how beautiful to know that that was a little safety net for the moments when management did fail.” I just loved that because that’s the goal, is that they don’t need a human to cue the behavior, they can do that on their own and make that decision for themselves

[00:15:15] Allie: That’s an amazing story. As we were trying to come up with our anecdotes before this episode, one of the things Emily and I were talking about is that it’s actually kind of difficult to come up with stories because just like what we were talking about with relaxation protocol, for, for us, this is like, yes, welcome to Tuesday.

We, we teach this so many times, but that’s a really memorable story. I wanted to mention too, when we’re talking about this, a lot of times we are using some of our more sensational stories to really drive home how impactful this can be, but a lot of times it doesn’t look as sensational as some of the stories that we tell about this.

And so, I wanted to take a little bit of a different approach and tell a story that is very common for our clients, and our clients are thrilled when this happens, but to outsiders who aren’t living in this experience, they’re like, “Yeah. Cool. Okay.” Because that’s kind of more what we actually see. So, we want to make sure that if you’re working on flight training and you’re like, “Yeah, cool, this is great.” That you recognize, like that is a huge win. It doesn’t have to look like these sensational stories that, that we have. We have years of flight training, so we get, you know, we can amass some of those sensational stories.

So, one of the clients that I think of with this is, I don’t even remember this client’s name, this dog’s name, I remember that he was a German Shepherd and that is all I remember of this client. They were pretty early on in my private client days. I remember the situation so clearly because it was in this moment where, like Emily said, we, we developed this protocol at a sanctuary, and then we were like, “Yeah, this could actually be helpful for private clients too.” It was this moment where I was like, “Yes, this will work for private clients too.” Where I had that like generalization light bulb moment. And so, we were working with this German Shepherd just in their driveway and I was using a stuffed dog as the neutral dog, and the stuffed dog, Mr. Pickles is my stuffed dogs name, and he was across the street, and we are just working on some look at that with a stuffed dog. We had already taught this German Shepherd, a flight cue before we started working on look at that because as Emily said, we need to be able to get out of the situation before we can start working on the situation.

This dog was working great for a couple of minutes, and then got up, and started moving away from Mr. Pickles, and moving towards the garage. And I said, you know what, go ahead and follow him, and the clients followed him. He went and sniffed around the garage, I prompted them to play a little, find it game with him. He did, he took another couple minutes sniffing, and then it was like, “Okay, I’m ready to work again.” By himself, unprompted, he went right back to the spot where we were originally working on the look at that game, sat back down, and continued the game. It was so beautiful to see this dog very politely ask for a break, his humans respond appropriately, and give him the break, and then he said, “Cool, and I’m ready again. I’m not stressed anymore. Let’s go back to the fun game. “

[00:18:39] Emily: I love that so much, that’s the goal, right? And most of the time a really good training should make for bad TV, right? It doesn’t have to be sensational. It should kind of be like watching paint dry. To the outsider, it should look like the dog being boring. That’s what we want from a dog who has a history of disproportionate responses to things in their environment. I love that cause it’s such a good example of like, like you said, our welcome to Tuesday. It’s like, this is, this is what most of our cases look like. We get a dog from being very TV worthy to being like not good for TV at all, cause they’re just like a dog hanging out, living their life. And that’s what we want.

[00:19:18] Allie: Yes, absolutely. And his parents were so thrilled to see that they recognized it for what it was that this was the first time he had ever asked for a break instead of going over threshold. And so, it’s not good for TV, but when you are living it and, in the moment, it is so exciting to see pets that make those decisions, use those skills.

All right. Thank you for joining us for today’s mini-sode, and y’all, if you are a professional and you want to teach your clients how to do this, our Flight Training for Professionals Course is now available. If you’re looking for a way to better meet your client’s and their pet’s needs, which means better compliance, more follow through, more money, and happier pets, check out our Flight Training for Professionals Course at forward slash flight training. And trust me, it is really for professionals, it is super heavy on how to teach to clients. Regular pet parents are not going to enjoy this course. If you’re a pet parent, and you want help hit us up, we have clients all over the world that we help teach this skill to.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.


Thank you for listening and happy training.

Copyright 2022 Pet Harmony, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Terms & ConditionsPrivacy Policy

Results are not guaranteed because behavior, human, canine, or otherwise, are not guaranteeable.

Podcast Episode 13: Transcript

#13 - Where to Start Your Enrichment Journey

[00:00:00] Emily: So, as you’re learning about and preparing for your new pet, think about these innate behaviors as being typical, something that’s totally healthy, normal, but give every individual the space to tell you what behaviors come naturally to them.

[00:00:19] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:00:36] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:37] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts. Last week we heard from Peter Amelia, and one of the topics we discussed was where to start on your enrichment journey. This week we’re going to dive further into what that foundation looks like and talk about implementation with the animals in your life.

In this implementation episode, Emily and I talk about why this episode should probably have happened much earlier, why we need to split hairs when it comes to species-specific, species-typical, and breed-typical behaviors, and examples of how we made the most out of situations in which we didn’t necessarily do our research beforehand.

Let’s get to it. I feel like this should have been an earlier episode.

[00:01:34] Emily: Yeah. Hindsight is 2020, isn’t it.

[00:01:37] Allie: That it is. So, here we are episode 13, talking about starting your journey. Better late than never, I guess. And the reason we should’ve started this earlier is we’ll dive into what you need to put into your backpack on your learning journey.

[00:01:50] Emily: Call back to episode one. What, what.

[00:01:52] Allie: What, what, indeed. And to be clear, even if you’ve started your enrichment journey, it never hurts to take a look back at your foundation to make sure you have everything. Much of mastery means mastering the basics and continuing to focus on your foundation.

[00:02:07] Emily: Yeah, that reminds me, was it Ken Ramirez? Who said masterful training is just basic training done really well? I feel like that applies to enrichment as well.

[00:02:16] Allie: I think it was Ken. And if it wasn’t, y’all tell us who we’re actually thinking about here. So, in our interview with Peter, we talked about the enrichment journey ideally starting before you even bring an animal into your home, and that starts with researching that particular species’ needs.

[00:02:32] Emily: Yeah, so the first takeaway from that is to find some reliable sources of information about the species in your care. Learn about their environment, their diet, social structures, et cetera, and find an ethogram that lists their species-typical behaviors in context. So, you can more accurately anticipate, identify and understand the natural behaviors you may observe in that species.

Learn about the species’ activity budgets, for example, how much of the day do they spend obtaining food? How much, and when do they rest? How much do they play? How much time do they spend alone versus with others? What kind of seasonal changes might they undergo? All of that information will help you to better prepare your home for a new pet. And before we go further, I want to sidebar a little bit because there seems to be a lot of confusion about species-specific, species-typical, and what those terms mean. The term species-typical is an updated response to the old term species-specific, which has fallen out of use in the scientific community.

The more that the various behavior sciences learned about behavior, the more apparent it has become that there’s actually a lot of complexity, and therefore variability in the individual expression of natural behaviors. The term species-specific implies that every member of a species will perform that behavior, and only that species will perform the behavior. In reality, there’s no such guarantees. So, yes, there are certainly a whole lot of innate, unlearned behaviors that are typical within a species, but the likelihood or degree to which any individual will perform any of those behaviors varies wildly.

Additionally, many of these innate behaviors are not unique to a species, which is the other reason we can’t accurately call them species specific. This might seem like hairsplitting, but it’s actually a pretty big deal if you think about what that looks like in terms of practical application. If we believe, for example, that all dogs should love playing with large groups of other dogs because it’s species-specific, right?

We might try to force a dog selective dog into a playgroup, and that would be awful for that dog. Another example would be like, if we believe that all scarlet macaws chew on wood, because it’s species specific behavior, then we might stock our macaws cage with nothing but wood toys, and then we might feel confused or frustrated when the bird isn’t playing. And then we might wrongly conclude from that, that our bird just doesn’t like playing with toys or that there’s something wrong with them. When in reality, they may just strongly prefer shredding paper or Palm leaves or something like that to chewing on wood.

So, this is really our second takeaway. The term species-typical reminds us that while we should definitely be able to identify those natural behaviors and provide an appropriate outlet for them when they crop up, at the end of the day, we really just need to look at the animal in front of us and observe the behaviors they’re offering to determine what they need.

And this is even more true when we’re focusing down to the level of breeds within a domesticated species since there’s even less definition or distinction among the breeds. We really can’t assume that any behavior is specific to any breed because there’s huge variability in how individuals within a breed may behave as well as profound similarities across breeds. And with mixed breeds, all genetic bets are off. So, as you’re learning about and preparing for your new pet, think about these innate behaviors as being typical, something that’s totally healthy, normal, but give every individual the space to tell you what behaviors come naturally to them.

[00:06:21] Allie: Emily, do you have a favorite place to look for ethograms and activity budgets?

[00:06:26] Emily: Literally, the internet.

[00:06:27] Allie: That was super helpful, I think what I meant to ask was places that will have up to date scientific information instead of like a half-truth blog post, someone shouted into the ether 17 years ago.

[00:06:40] Emily: I know, I know. I couldn’t resist giving you a hard time. No, but seriously when I’m looking up an ethogram, I really do just use Google. If I can’t find anything good through a regular search, I’ll turn to Google Scholar, but it’s not about using a special search engine, it’s about looking at the source to determine its validity.

Ethologists, that is people who have PhDs in ethology, are going to cite their sources. They’re usually publishing through a university or an academic journal, or in like the case of Roger Abrantes, they have their own website where their bio is like, ” Yo, I’ve literally devoted my life to this academic field, so you should, you know, listen to me about this topic.” And then they state where they got their degrees, and it typically includes links to the field research that they’ve done, stuff like that.

[00:07:25] Allie: One day, there’ll have to be a course for behavior professionals about how to critically assess information sources.

[00:07:31] Emily: Not just behavior professionals, the entire world, but yeah, gosh, if only someone would get together with a bunch of colleagues and mentors to create that course. Gee, I wonder who would take on that whole huge project?

[00:07:44] Allie: It’s like vague booking for podcasts instead of Facebooking. Anyhow, now that you’ve done the research as to what that particular species needs, it’s time to figure out what that would look like for you, and if it’s actually feasible. I wish I had done this when I brought Zorro into my household because I realistically would not have him if I knew what it meant to care for him. I love the little guy, and also, he doesn’t necessarily fit into my lifestyle as well as I would like. It’s one thing to know what it looks like to care for a species, and it’s a different thing to think through the day-to-day logistics of what that actually entails and how that’s going to change your life. Because adding an additional member to your household, regardless of species, is going to change your life in some fashion. So, we need to ask ourselves if that lifestyle change is feasible, and weigh the pros and cons. It can’t just be like, I like turtles, so I’m like at a turtle. It needs to be, this creature is going to live the next 25 years, and am I ready, willing, and able to care for him and the way he needs through the many, many life stage changes I’m going to go through in the next 25 years?

So, this is going to be a what not to do story about Zorro. I got Zorro when I was 19, you know, before my frontal lobe was fully developed and I could make decisions, that, you know, took into account what my life was going to be like. And I kind of knew how to care for him. I had a friend, actually, I was talking with her, I said something along the lines of, “I like turtles.” And she asked, “Do you want to turtle?” And the answer probably should not have been yes, but the answer was yes. Her family had several turtles and I got Zorro because he was a bully and he was picking on the other turtles in her household, and so they had to have it in a separate enclosure for him because he was a bully and had to be like, a Singleton turtle. That just wasn’t sustainable for, for their lifestyle. Their household was set up for one turtle, enclosure, not multiple turtle enclosures. So, she was looking to rehome a turtle.

I said, yes, and she did tell me how to care for him, the things that he would need, the routines that they had set up in place in their household to care for their turtles. But I didn’t really understand all of the details and the nuances that went into that. It’s one of those situations where somebody can tell you, and keep telling you, and until you live it, you don’t really understand what they’re talking about, and that was definitely my experience with Zorro.

I knew that he needed a basking lamp but didn’t know that the light needed to be UVA, UVB, heat, and that there were different types of light bulbs just in the world beyond 60 watt versus a hundred watt.

I also knew he needed weekly water changes, but I didn’t think through that that would include an hour of lugging buckets of water back and forth in the setup that I had, and I still have to do that in winter in my house now. And I definitely didn’t know that I would develop a chronic illness that would make that incredibly challenging.

I knew he would eventually need a bigger tank, but I didn’t realize that I would one day be buying a 100 gallon stock tank, which is still small, by the way, that’s still a small size for him, but I literally can’t fit anything larger into my house, there was like a centimeter on either side of that tank to get it through the door, into my office, so I literally can’t fit anything bigger and into this space. And he takes up almost a fourth of my office anyway. I definitely have done the research along the way approach with him, and I can honestly say that I would not have him had I known all of this before I brought him into my household. Had I really thought through how it was going to change my life, and the routines that I would need to develop around him.

But he’s an example of when you know better, you do better. And instead of dwelling on the past and beating 19-year-old me up, which, you know, I think all of us have experienced beating our teenage selves up for one reason or another. Instead of doing that, I figured out, how can I be the best pet parents to him?

Like I said, I love the little guy. He cracks me up on a daily basis, and I do want to be the best pet parent that I can be for him, so I had to learn along the way, how to be the best dang aquatic, turtle owner that I could possibly be.

[00:12:38] Emily: Yeah. I had a similar experience with rabbits. I’ve always loved rabbits and I loved whenever I would get a behavior consulting client with rabbits. It was always fun to work with them. But I’d never owned any, I’d never had any in my house, and then, somebody that I know through the shelter network, in Salt Lake, asked for a temporary foster home for a rabbit in a shelter who needed medication, and the like med routine and treatment routine was more involved than the shelter staff could do.

So, I was like, “Sure, I’ll do it.” She gave me again, like you with the turtles, she gave me good starter information, and I already knew a little bit about rabbits, just from working with them in a professional capacity, but I didn’t actually know what that would look like, what the implications were for having a rabbit in my home, and what that day-to-day routine would actually be like.

It was supposed to be a short-term foster and long, long story. But, eventually the rabbit was legally abandoned with me and I ended up doing, hospice, golden years routine, keeping this, her name was Little Flopsy Cottontail, so we called her LFC for short. So, I kept LFC until the end of her life.

And she was blind, and deaf, and older, and sick, so she herself, wasn’t actually a big lifestyle change for me, but because I had a good experience with her and I really enjoyed having her in the house, I then agreed to adopt a rabbit who was a behavior case, who had been rehomed multiple times for biting and I was like, “Ah, I could do it with LFC, I could do it with this young, adolescent, male rabbit. That’s totally the same thing. An older, blind, and deaf, female rabbit and a young, healthy, adolescent male. Sure.” And then I got the Zorro syndrome, right? Like, “Oh, what do I do with this rabbit?” Who, by the way, I named him, Harey Bundini, because he was so good at escaping his enclosure, and so I had to figure out how to integrate him into my whole bird room. He needed the entire room, he was not content to just live in kind of an ex-pen enclosure, and so I had to figure out how to cohabitate him with birds because there was nowhere in the house that I had space for him to live. And I had to figure out what I needed to change about my bird routine to keep him safe, and there was this whole thing about rabbit proofing the room and learning that, and then learning what that looked like, and what the implications were in terms of my cleaning routine, and how that would work.

And it ended up just being this, just like you experienced Allie, the more I got into it, the more I realized I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. And like you with Zorro, I love Bundini. I love having rabbits, it is such a joy, they are so cute, and fun. And also, I wish I had known what I was getting myself into because I wasn’t aware of all of the complicating factors. Oh, another one that I didn’t think about, was that a lot of rental homes don’t allow rabbits because they’re considered verminous pets. So, I right now, Bundini is staying with a friend of mine until my partner,and I can buy a house. So, that kind of stuff, like, I didn’t think about that. I didn’t know. I wish I had done my research. So, I think for both of us, that kind of take-home point is, even if you dive into something with an animal, and you know, find out you weren’t really fully prepared, you can totally still do that research, have that learning curve, and successfully have them in your home.

And I think on some level you’re learning until you die, there’s always more to learn about the species that you work with, but we are kind of cautionary tales, I think, Allie and I. Do what we say, not what we do, ideally learn about all that stuff and think about what that would look like for your day-to-day life. Before committing to bring that animal into your home, because a lot of times you get in and you realize exactly how much is required and it may not be something that you would have signed up for if you knew what it was going to look like.

[00:17:00] Allie: And I know that this whole time, you and I have been talking about other species because that’s really what we were talking about with Peter, but I wanted to mention too, that this can still be true with a species that you’ve had your entire life. I mean, I hear on a weekly basis from new clients that they have never had an animal like this before, and for a lot of people as we get further into it, and especially as I open up with my experience with Zorro, of like, “I love him, and also, I would have made a different decision if I knew what this meant for my life.” My clients will share with me, “Yeah, I would not have chosen this animal had I known what I was going to get myself into here.” And so, this is something that you can experience even with a species that you’ve had your entire life, not just a species that’s new to you. Especially as more and more people are wanting to help animals with behavior problems and bring those pets into their homes. A lot of people don’t know, like me with Zorro or you with a Harey Bundini, Emily, what that really means as far as their future lifestyle.

[00:18:16] Emily: For sure, and I think that message here isn’t, don’t adopt animals, right? That’s definitely not what we’re saying. But I think it does help a lot too, you know, informed consent is a thing, right? Go into it with your eyes wide open, and make sure that you’re prepared as much as possible, so that you can help animals without sacrificing your own quality of life or wellbeing.

[00:18:37] Allie: Absolutely. So, today’s episode, we talked about where to start your enrichment journey. Ideally, you’ll do this before you even bring an animal into your household, but we don’t always live in the ideal world. So, you can still do this, even if you’re starting in on this part of the journey with an animal who’s been in your household for years, that was me with Zorro, it did not start before I got him, it started after he was in my household. Our takeaway points are research the needs of that particular species. Again, even if it’s a species that’s been in your household for a while, you may be surprised when you do the research on that species, that there is some myths that may or may not be true, that you’ve thought were true.

The second is to save room for observing individual preferences, see with your eyes, not your ideas. And once you do that, do some thought work of what that would look like and how this animal is going to change your lifestyle. If you’re a pros and cons person, make a pros and cons list that would put Rory Gilmore to shame. If you’re a daydreamer, make Davey Jones happy. I’m done with pop culture references. Point is, really consider what it will be like, to decide if it’s something you can handle next week, we will be talking with Dr. Eduardo Fernandez about the science of enrichment.

Y’all I really feel like Eddie is the epitome of continuing to hone and master our foundations. He is always helping me to dive deeper, and really understand the nuances about enrichment, and also makes me question what I think I know to make sure that I actually know it, which we could all use someone like that in our lives.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.


Thank you for listening and happy training.

Copyright 2022 Pet Harmony, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Terms & ConditionsPrivacy Policy

Results are not guaranteed because behavior, human, canine, or otherwise, are not guaranteeable.

May 2022 Training Challenge – Getting in the Enrichment Habit

I’m gonna be calling out some people here right in the beginning. 

Raise your hand if you WANT TO DO THE THING, but something is standing in your way? 

And what do I mean by that? 

I want to give my dogs frozen food puzzles to lick once a day, but I can’t seem to do it. 

I want to spend 3 minutes training my dog, but I have only done it once in the last two weeks. 

I want to give my dog boxes with kibble in them to destroy, but it takes so much effort. 

I want to __________, but ___________. 

Yeah, friend. Me too. 

Building habits around our pet’s enrichment plan can be difficult in the constant churn of the rest of life. I have grandiose goals for my two dogs, but those goals often fall by the wayside as other fires appear on the horizon. 

If this sounds like you, then stick around, this training challenge is for you. 

This month, your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out what’s standing in the way of your best intentions. 

What is stopping you from turning your intentions and goals into sustainable habits? 

Oof, that seems like a big question, right? 

Don’t worry. 

We’ve helped thousands of families on their enrichment journey, and we’ve seen some of the common barriers among our clients. Check out these common barriers and the ways families have overcome them.


The “It Needs to be Perfect” Struggle 

Do you find yourself saying things like… 

“Well, I need to do all of these things before I can start.”

“I need to know all the things before I can start.” 

“If I can’t do it all, I can’t do any of it.” 

I think most of us have been there at some time in our lives. We want to do things “right”, so we put it off until we can feel like we are doing it “right.”

So, do you feel your inner perfectionist standing between you and your enrichment habit? 

You don’t have to know everything about everything for a stellar enrichment plan for your dog. That’s what behavior consultants are for, they can help you build your plan, leaving you to focus on execution. This doesn’t mean you can’t still learn *all the things*, but it does mean that you don’t have to do it with the cloud of pressure over your head! 

Separate the habit from the results. Integrating new routines into your life takes time, so sometimes, it’s helpful to say, “In order to benefit my pet, I need to do the thing. The first step, is getting the thing done”. Split the criteria for yourself. Start with doing the thing, and then add in those additional steps later. 

And remember, something is likely better than nothing, and you can start small. Start with one small step, and when you have that integrated into your routine, add something else. This is something else a qualified behavior consultant can help you with. Small steps are our specialty!


The “Too Many Choices” Paralysis

Do you find yourself saying things like… 

“I don’t know what to do today?” 

“I can’t decide where to start!” 

“Should I be doing this or that?”

And then doing none of the things? Analysis paralysis is a real thing, and with the millions of enrichment options available, we see it seep in often. Where do I focus my attention? What if I make the wrong choice? What if there is a BETTER option? 

So, do you find the sheer number of options overwhelming and paralyzing? 

First off, you won’t know if there is a better option for your pet unless you try some stuff. Working with a professional can help narrow down your options, and direct your focus, but at the end of the day, I can tell you most, if not all dogs, benefit from opportunities to partake in sniffing. What I can’t tell you is what format or structure of sniffing is going to most benefit your dog. Does scatter feeding in the yard, tracking scents, sniffing through boxes and obstacle courses for food, or sniffaris provide you the best results? We need to do some trial and evaluation. And until we have that information, there is no bad option as long as it is safe, healthy, and appropriate. 

Looking at 10 options is likely too much, but looking at 3 can be manageable. So, narrow it down to three. If your dog’s enrichment program has some flexibility, and a sustainable, realistic and effective enrichment program should have some flexibility built-in, then toss all the options into a hat and pull three out to choose from. Or better yet, learn your pet’s “Yes, please!” and “No, thank you.” and ask them to pick for you! 


The “Chasing the Shiny” Burn Out 

Do you find yourself saying things like… 

“I’ll just add one more toy to my shopping cart.” 

“My dog is too fast!”

“I saw this incredible thing on Instagram…” 

This one is often tied with The “Too Many Choices” Paralysis and The “It Needs to be Perfect” Struggle. In an effort to have the best-darned enrichment plan, we are constantly searching the internet, listening to podcasts like Enrichment for the Real World, and looking for new enrichment options, and I see a couple of things happen here.

You may feel like your enrichment plan isn’t enough because other people are doing different things. You may not be using the results in your pet’s behavior to gauge its effectiveness, and because of that, you may get to a point where it doesn’t feel sustainable, or realistic anymore. Doing more, doing different, and doing new constantly is not feasible. 

So, do you feel the burnout creeping in and blocking your enrichment habit? 

Remember, enrichment isn’t about the activity. It’s about the results in the animal’s behavior. So, if you’re chasing the shiny because you think novelty and newness are necessary for an effective enrichment plan for your dog, I give you permission to slow down. Close your 95 internet tabs that are open with new enrichment ideas, and return to the basics and foundations. More is not always more when it comes to enrichment. When you provide an opportunity for your pet, do they engage with it? Does the activity help meet your pet’s needs in order to empower them to perform species-typical behavior in healthy, safe, and appropriate ways? If the answer is no, then it’s not helping your goals. 

Unless, you’re like me, and chasing the shiny is part of YOUR enrichment plan. Sometimes, that activity can be cup filling for the human, and if that sounds like you, then, by all means, keep your 95 browser tabs open, and continue to scroll Instagram. But, watch out for those times when Compare Leads to Despair, and if you feel that happening, circle back to my above point.  Does the activity help meet your pet’s needs in order to empower them to perform species-typical behavior in healthy, safe, and appropriate ways? Take a moment to be present with your pet. When the activity we partake in helps to empower them to perform species-typical behavior in healthy, safe, and appropriate ways, slowing down to observe and appreciate our work is really important.


The “I Don’t Have the Bandwidth” Challenge 

Do you find yourself saying things like… 

“There’s no way I can do that every day?” 

“I don’t have the time to be able to _____.” 

“I’m so tired.” 

Yup. I feel all of that. We only have so much that we can give, and your oxygen mask needs to be on before you can help anyone else. 

So, do you feel like you can’t take on one more thing? 

Be kind to yourself. We all have 24 hours in a day, but we all have a different 24 hours. My partner is out of the house for 12 hours a day, and I work from home. What each of us can feasibly, sustainably, and reliably do for the dogs is different. If you have a bandwidth struggle, make sure you are taking care of yourself as best you can. (I’m going to plug a great self-care/self-enrichment resource here.)

And this is one where I really encourage you to work with a professional to strip down to the bare bones of what is necessary to meet your pet’s needs and your goals. You’ve got a certain amount of resources to share, so let’s make sure you are focusing on the things that will help you make the biggest impact. We can help you tweak small things that will make a big difference.

Meal prepping your frozen food puzzles for 2 weeks can make it more sustainable and more likely to happen. 

You can also prepare your dog’s food in boxes DIY destructibles if you store them in a pest-proof container and use them within a couple of weeks. 

It might be moving where your dog’s food is kept to make things easier for everyone. 

It might be putting up some window film so that your dog is able to rest throughout the day. 

Small changes can result in big wins. 


The “I Can’t Tell if it is Working” Fog

Do you find yourself saying things like…

“I think he likes ____.” 

“I guess it’s worth it.” 

“I don’t know if it made a difference.” 

To stick with an enrichment plan, you really need to see the wins. You need to see your pet’s behavior change. You need to observe the differences it is making, or else what is reinforcing you to continue doing the thing? 

So, are you not sure that your enrichment plan is working? 

Refresh your body language observing and interpreting skills! Through body language and observation, you’ll be able to see the changes better, or lack thereof, and can assess your plan with confidence. 

Keep a log of your pet’s behavior? What do you find undesirable? What behaviors do you find desirable? Are you seeing changes in either the undesirable behaviors or the desirable behaviors? Keeping a tally of your observations can help you be objective! You can see how Allie has done this with her nemesis, Winter Oso. 

If you aren’t seeing the desirable changes, make adjustments! Your enrichment plan was likely created with a goal in mind, so adjust to continue working toward that goal. 


Now what? 

  • There are a lot of reasons that can get in the way of building a sustainable enrichment habit. Identify some of the barriers that are getting in your way. Once you know what they are, or at least have an inkling, you can start knocking those barriers down! 
  • We’ve helped thousands of families not only create sustainable, effective enrichment plans for their pets but also troubleshoot barriers to creating long-lasting and effective habits. We’d love to help you, too! We see clients all over the world and can help with any behavior problem remotely. Click here to get started.

Happy training,


Podcast Episode 5: Transcript

#5: Creating a Restful
Environment for Our Animals

[00:00:00] Allie: The goal is for an animal to be able to complete their own stress response cycle. They need to be able to self-regulate their own stress levels. It’s not about stay. It’s not about going to a place. It’s about self-regulation.

Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:00:33] Emily: and I’m Emily Strong….

[00:00:34] Allie: and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts. Last week we heard from Dr. Chris Pachel and one of the topics we discussed was how important relaxation is.

This week, we are going to dive further into relaxation and talk about implementing this often-undervalued category of enrichment with the animals in your life. In this implementation episode, Emily and I talk about the difference between shutdown and relaxation, why stay is not relevant to your relaxation protocol, and a little Pom with real big feels.

I think this is one of my favorite topics. How about you?

[00:01:29] Emily: Yes. Same.

[00:01:30] Allie: I feel like I say that about most of the topics, but whatever, anyhow, relaxation. This is one of the facets of enrichment that we felt deserved its own category when we were talking about the pet world, because it’s so often overlooked and undervalued.

We hear that old adage of a “tired dog is a happy dog,” and so folks think that that means exercising the bejesus out of their pets as the answer. In reality. A lot of times when pets are struggling with relaxing it’s because they’ve never been taught that skill. So, exercising the bejesus out of them while it might seem like it might be working in the short term, doesn’t teach that skill, and so we often see folks then having an issue down the road, where they can’t exercise their pets enough, they created an athlete that they can’t keep up with, and the pet still doesn’t know how to relax.

[00:02:20] Emily: Yeah, I think this is one of the saddest things to me actually about the pet world, because you see people who are so committed to their dogs, that they want to do anything to make them happy, and they end up running themselves ragged, and they just end up with an animal who needs even more interaction instead of less. So, for sure, this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.

[00:02:43] Allie: And that’s a great point that it’s done with the most love in their heart but it’s just not as effective at getting that relaxation. And one of the things that I hear from my clients, I don’t know if, if you hear this to Emily, but one of the things that I see more than hear, is when I’m talking about, “We need to teach them how to relax” there’s a little bit of kind of confusion on their faces, as if they were thinking, “But they sleep, so I don’t like they do relax. I don’t get it.”

[00:03:15] Emily: Yeah.

[00:03:15] Allie: And you see the same thing?

[00:03:17] Emily: Yeah. I mean, people have even said to me, “I don’t think that’s the problem. My dog sleeps fine at night.”

[00:03:24] Allie: Right. And different skills sleeping because you are exhausted, is not that the same thing as being able to relax. And so, one of the examples that I give to my clients is, think about meditation. For people who have tried meditation, and I would say that’s probably like a lot of people in our country at this point, because it’s, you know, there’s been hype, there has been stuff about meditation and…

[00:03:51] Emily: Yeah.

[00:03:51] Allie: All the benefits

[00:03:52] Emily: It’s pretty well known by now.

[00:03:54] Allie: Uh, yeah. And so, I tell them, think about meditation. In the beginning, clearing your mind for even a minute, is a really challenging task, but as you continue to practice, then you can clear your mind for longer and longer. So yes, you have a lot of skill sitting there and doing nothing, but to actually be able to relax and calm your mind to the point of meditation is absolutely a learned skill. And that’s similar with our pets, too.

[00:04:27] Emily: I love that analogy because it’s, it’s spot on.

[00:04:30] Allie: I appreciate that. I’m glad you liked it. So, in short, most everyone can learn how to be more relaxed in their life, and that includes our pets. And that may mean overall in all situations, or that may mean in some very particular situations, like when the doorbell rings for dogs or seeing predatory birds outside of a window for our parrots, or when a strange, scary stranger comes in the house for everyone. That’s my biggest fear, is strangers coming into my house. I don’t need to be relaxed when that happens.

[00:05:01] Emily: Right? Yeah. I think most of us would be pretty freaked out by that.

[00:05:06] Allie: And that’s all right. Fear is, uh, is typical it got us this far. But in all those other situations, I think it’s fair to say that relaxation would, it would be a great goal. And so this topic is absolutely relevant to all species.

[00:05:21] Emily: I totally agree with that, and it was really interesting hearing from Dr. Pachel about how he teaches relaxation, because it’s different than how we go about it. How you and I do it.

[00:05:34] Allie: PS for those of you who are already in Pro Campus, you have access to our version of the Relaxation Protocol. Go into your course, weekly recordings, training challenges, then Relaxation Protocol. You’ll have a video describing how we train it, how we teach it to clients, and also a handout that you can use with your clients as well!

[00:05:57] Emily: And that’s just another example of how there are many paths up the mountain, and there are a lot of different correct ways to get the same results. So, some things that are the same between what Dr. Pachel does and what we do, and again, it’s not about right and wrong, it’s just different, ways to, to achieve the same outcome.

Is that, first of all, the animal has agency in the process. They have choice and control over their outcomes throughout the Relaxation Protocol that we’re using. Secondly, that we’re doing this in a way that provides the animal with opportunities to pursue things that they want to obtain rather than avoiding things that they don’t like.

And thirdly, we are determining whether or not relaxation is actually happening or not by looking at the change in body language signals and the change in breathing patterns, instead of stillness being our only criterion. Stillness is not necessarily the goal of relaxation protocols, although it is often a by-product of them.

[00:07:05] Allie: And making that distinction between goal versus by-product I think is really important. And I have that conversation with my clients a lot of, “We are not going to use a stay cue in your relaxation protocol, but if they’re relaxed, they’re going to stay there on their own. But again, it’s a choice and not a cue or a command.

[00:07:28] Emily: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that’s different about how we teach relaxation protocols versus a lot of the ones out there, is that we actually let the dogs be in whatever position they want to be in, so that we can use their choice to lay down as a litmus test for how relaxed they’re actually feeling. Which is a different approach than a lot of other people. And yet it is still very successful. Right? we do that all the time and we see that has a really good outcome in almost all, all of our cases.

[00:08:01] Allie: I think that conversation is really important too. You know that there are a lot of paths up the mountain and there are a lot of right ways to do something because there’s so many different protocols and exercises and activities out there. And we get asked all of the time, you know, which is the right one? And the answer is there isn’t necessarily a right one, you do you, like whatever works best for you and your individual pet. Yes, what we do may be different, you know, the, the nitty gritty of it might be different than what Dr. Pachel was talking about in his interview, but there are so many similarities, and those similarities are what’s really important and really salient and is what makes it, so that all of those different options work. And so, I love that you broke that down, Emily as to, if it fits these criteria, then you’re good to go. And there are a lot of ways to do the same thing. So, let’s dive a little bit deeper into how we can implement relaxation with our pets at home.

[00:09:07] Emily: Yeah, so this is another reason that we have to learn how to be able to read and accurately interpret body language. Because we can’t actually know if an animal is really, truly relaxing if we don’t know what to look for. So, there’s a difference between some of the protocols out there that are really focused on physically holding a dog, or a horse, or any other animal into a position until they relax. Which doesn’t actually achieve relaxation. It just achieves learned helplessness or resignation, versus any protocol that focuses on what are we seeing the animal doing that’s indicating to us that they’re truly feeling relaxed? Are we seeing that the whole process was being done in a way that they chose to engage with, and they had say in what was happening to them and they had choice and control over their outcomes? And then are we seeing body language signals of a really, truly relaxed dog or horse or parrot or cat? We’re seeing that nice, slow breathing that happens when we’re really feeling melty, right? Melting into the space that we’re in.

So, I think that’s the first takeaway. You’re going to hear us say this a lot, learn to read and accurately interpret the body language of the species that you’re working with so that you can see for yourself if they’re actually exhibiting relaxed behaviors, not just stillness.

[00:10:45] Allie: Shut down is not our goal.

[00:10:47] Emily: Right. Exactly.

[00:10:48] Allie: As you said, I think that’s going to be takeaway number one, for many, many, many of these implementation episodes.

[00:10:56] Emily: Our poor listeners are probably going to get sick of us saying it, but we’re going to keep saying it anyway until the day that we die.

[00:11:02] Allie: We’re sorry, everyone. Sorry, actually, it’s sorry, not sorry. Let’s be real about this.

[00:11:07] Emily: Yup, sorry, not sorry.

[00:11:09] Allie: So, takeaway number two. In last week’s interview with Dr. Pachel, we talked about relaxation protocols. So, I think we’d be remiss if we weren’t as warrants to talk about it here, but before we do that, let’s get super clear on the purpose of using one of the many relaxation protocols that are out there.

The goal is for an animal to be able to complete their own stress response cycle. They need to be able to self-regulate their own stress levels. It’s not about stay. It’s not about going to a place it’s about self-regulation. Now that we have that, there are a lot of re relaxation protocols out there and different people like different ones, and that’s totally okay. For example, we created our own version for Pet harmony based on Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. And that includes 15 different phases and a bunch of different steps. And that works really well for a lot of clients who aren’t as familiar with splitting larger steps down into teeny tiny approximations when it comes to training, because it does that work for them.

And I tell my clients that it does all the thought work for you, you just have to do the thing, it will tell you exactly what to do. And I appreciate that, I don’t have to put any extra brain cells into it, and I know a lot of my clients appreciate that too. However, I have a client who I would count more like a friend at this point, shout out to Amy, who told me it makes her anxious to have all those unfinished steps. So, she prefers Suzanne Clothier is Really Real Relaxation Protocol and she absolutely has the training chops to be able to do that one, so I told her, “Go for it. I, I don’t mind as long as we are working on relaxation with your dog.” So again, there’s not one right way up the mountain, figure out what works best for you and your pet.

[00:12:59] Emily: Absolutely. And obviously we’ve been talking a lot about relaxation protocols specifically when we talk about calming enrichment, because it is one of our favorite strategies. But there are a lot of other options here, it could be things like structured nap times, which is an especially favorite strategy for us when we’re working with shelters. It could be deep breathing exercises like Dr. Karen Overall’s, Bio-feedback Protocol. It could be giving them self-soothing opportunities like licking or chewing, if that does indeed soothe your pet. So, you don’t have to do a relaxation protocol, even as long as we’re achieving our end goal of the animal, being able to self-soothe and complete that stress response cycle when unavoidable stressors arise in their life, which they do, they will, right? Stress is just a part of life. Then as long as we’re meeting that goal, there’s just lots of ways to get there and do that.

 So, we like to tell you all success stories about implementation strategies, so that you can see what this looks like in real life and that we’re not just making this up. And to be honest, we had a hard time this time coming up with individual stories, because we implement some kind of relaxation procedure with almost every single one of our clients, and it almost always has a huge impact. So, it was hard to choose just a couple of stories because this kind of success story or outcome is kind of like, “Welcome to Tuesday” for us.

Relaxation is just a really important component of addressing maladaptive behaviors. We did have a little bit of challenge, but we were able to kind of pick two where it was especially poignant or meaningful. So, Allie, what was your story that you want to share?

[00:14:54] Allie: My story is Grizzly, and Grizzly is a little Pom who has real big feeling.

Grizzly has feelings about a lot of things to be honest, but one of the things that he has real big feelings about is the man who lives in his household. I’m just going to call him dad. So, Grizzly has real big feelings about dad, he thinks dad is scary, dad is like, “Why are you yelling at me all the time?”

There’s some relationship that is being repaired on both ends. Dad, dad is moving along faster than Grizzly. And side note. I have to say, this is one of the cutest cases in that this is a case where one of the kids is really involved, which I love to see those cases.

 There is a little girl and Grizzly was supposed to be her responsibility and I, I’m terrible, y’all at figuring out ages of kids. I know I was told at some point in time, and I don’t remember it at this moment. I’m terrible at figuring out ages because my niece and nephew, who are seven now, are like the shortest stack of pancakes you’ve ever met, and so I’m like, “Surely this child is like, I don’t know, four, because they’re the same height as my niece and nephew.”

And, and they’re like, “No, that they’re eight.”

I’m like, “Okay. I, I have no idea what I’m doing.” But y’all get what I’m saying of like, I’m really terrible at telling age with kids

So, I don’t know how old this little girl is, but ten-ish, I would say. Training Grizzly is one of her responsibilities and she takes this very seriously. It is so cute. And so, relaxation protocol was one of her tasks with Grizzly. And I have to tell you, like, behavior does not lie, we can tell when folks are working on things.

It was one of those situations where I could tell how much work this little girl put into Grizzly’s relaxation protocol. We were talking about how’s he doing? What are we seeing? And they were telling me that he’s going to his bed more frequently, he’s hanging out there, he is going there and being calm when he’s there, and relaxing when he’s there. And I was like, “Oh, this is beautiful. Okay. We are on the right path.”

And then in our last session, which I think is maybe the third or fourth session I’ve had with them, we said, all right, we’re ready to work on this new exercise, and let’s practice this with dad. Which is going to be challenging for everybody involved. It was so interesting to watch. I am obviously working remotely with this client because I only take remote clients at this point, but I was able to see the entire thing unfold, where dad came down the stairs and Grizzly was like, “I have feelings.”

 They had two beds for Grizzly and dad was coming closer and Grizzly was like, “I don’t know what to do.” and went to one of his beds, and he was like, “I can’t take food, I can’t train, but I am in my bed. Darn it. Because that is where I go when I’m stressed and when I need to relax.”

It was just so fantastic to see that even though we hadn’t necessarily talked about that next step of being able to use going to his bed and relaxing through that relaxation protocol as the next step in his plan, Grizzly showed us that he was ready for that next step.

He was like, “Y’all, I’m stressed. Can’t deal with you right now. I’m going to my bed. Talk to me later.”

It was so fantastic to see. So, Grizzly has more work to do, but he is just fresh on my mind and such an amazing example of when the dog has really dog, pet, whomever, when they’ve really taken it digested what we’ve been working on and are starting to implement it to self-soothe.

It was so great to see with Grizzly.

[00:19:00] Emily: Yeah. It’s so satisfying to see an animal, have a moment and then make a choice that is good for themselves. Because of what we’ve taught them. There’s just nothing in the world that compares to that experience for me. I just think it’s so extraordinary.

[00:19:18] Allie: Absolutely, and this was a dog who was yelling at dad every moment that he got, we had zero yelling. He just went straight to his bed and said, “Don’t talk to me. I’m here. I’m self-soothing right now.”

[00:19:29] Emily: I love that.

[00:19:29] Allie: And no barking.

[00:19:31] Emily: I love that. So. My story is about a dog named Reese who was adopted by a woman who was a grad student and lived in an apartment, lives in an apartment in downtown Chicago with three other grad students.

One of the other roommates also had another dog. And Reese had just a hard time. She was having a hard time adapting to living with that many people and another dog in a really busy downtown area. She came from a shelter, which we know to be a shelter that gets dogs from rural areas and brings them in.

So, it seemed to me like Reese was probably one of those rural dogs that had been adopted out into the city. Of course, four grad students are very busy, and they have, you know, friends come over and it’s a somewhat hectic household. And so, Reese was really struggling, particularly with, the man in the house, the male roommate, and with the other dog.

We started the relaxation protocol with both dogs, so that the dogs could just move away from each other and move away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Yes, we need to build other skills. Yes, we need to build trust and relationships. Yes, there’s a lot that we need to do, but as a first response, let’s have the dogs seek safety when they don’t have any of those skills onboarded yet.

So, we worked on the relaxation protocol with both of these dogs. I met with all of the roommates, and one of the things that one of the roommates who’s not the owner said was, “I didn’t think this was possible. She goes to her own bed now when she’s stressed out.” The client herself is delightful, great client to work with, but what was really adorable is that the roommate started really becoming a behavior geek and she was so floored by how well this was working, that she was starting to learn more about behavior because it just blew her mind that these dogs, both dogs could make a choice to go and relax in their respective bedrooms, when they were feeling overwhelmed by each other or by other stuff going on in the house.

And of course, from there, we were able to build relationships with other roommates and Reese was able to go out on walks and not react to everything out on a walk anymore. So yes, we did all of that stuff later, but the relaxation protocol was that first. I loved seeing not only the dog’s responses and how they learned that and used it, but it just was delightful to me to see the roommate and her response to that and how amazed she was that that was a thing that could happen. I thought that was really sweet.

[00:22:18] Allie: I love that. I love when it just opens up the world for the human learner, with what’s possible for their pet. I love that so much.

[00:22:28] Emily: You just get to see, like you’ve set them on their journey towards learning more and being passionate about behavior.

[00:22:34] Allie: Absolutely. So, our three takeaways, quick recap. Our three takeaways for this week, I think we had like kind of three and a half. I feel like that’s also going to happen where there’s three and a half.

The first one is, we need to be able to accurately learn and read body language. And again, our goal is relaxed, not shut down, and while those may seem similar on a cursory glance, when we dive deeper into subtle body language signals, there’s quite a difference between those. That’s the half.

[00:23:07] Emily: We should probably just have another t-shirt that says “Relaxation, not resignation.”

[00:23:13] Allie: [Gasp]

[00:23:14] Emily: I’m just saying.

[00:23:15] Allie: Okay, I’ll put it on my list to make that one.

[00:23:17] Emily: Okay.

[00:23:18] Allie: I love it. Oh, my goodness. You are brilliant. Okay. So, relaxation, not resignation is half-step, 1.5.

Number two is relaxation protocols, there are a lot out there pick which one works best for you and your pet.

And number three is there are a ton of other options, so try a bunch of things with your pet. That could be midday naps. That could be deep breathing exercises. That could be self-soothing opportunities like licking or chewing. There are a lot of options out there, and it’s just a matter of what works best for your pet.

Next week, we will be talking with Mara Velez about shelter enrichment, and playgroups, and agency in play groups, and it is exciting, y’all. Just trust me. You’ll be excited when you get there next week.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram, for those of you who are behavior professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes, and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. A special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixebay.

Thank you for listening and happy training.

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