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What Has Dogs Rock! Vermont Been Up To?

It has been quite a while since I’ve had the chance to sit down and write a blog post! I had the opportunity this summer to work with so many loving families and their dogs, it was awesome! But, now that fall is here, I’m taking a bit of a break to sit back and assess some of my business and training goals.

If you’ve been here before, you’ll see that my website has been updated! I am proudly offering a lot more of my puppy and beginner obedience classes at the Vermont Dog Club in Essex Jct.  The Vermont Dog Club is a great venue which offers a variety of trainers and classes.

Some young pups enjoy the day training program at Vermont Dog Club!

Some young pups enjoy the day training program at Vermont Dog Club!

In addition to teaching basic obedience and advanced obedience classes at the Vermont Dog Club, I’m also the newest addition to the Day Training Program. Day Training is an excellent alternative to daycare for dogs who may be overwhelmed by large groups of dogs. The Day Training Program limits it’s size to 10 dogs a day. That’s one trainer for every two dogs – talk about one-on-one attention!

Additionally, I’ve modified my services for behavioral training needs. As the Burlington area’s only Associate Certified Behavior Consultant the majority of the phone calls I get as a trainer are for behavior problems that owners are facing day to day. In order to meet the individual needs of each of those clients, I have begun limit the number of cases that I take on so I can provide the most comprehensive of services. You will see that I have updated my page on Behavior Consulting to help guide new clients through the process a bit.

I’ve also hooked up with Mary Tracy of Unleash Canine Adventures and Tara Martin of Vermont Canine Adventures to bring you the Burlington area’s first Reactive Dog Class based off of the science-based clicker training curriculum of Emma Parsons (I had the chance to meet Emma recently- she’s just the best!). I’m currently teaching my fifth round of classes and the feedback has been great so far!

Members of the Vermont Professional Dog Trainer's Network attend Dog Aggression Seminar together.

Members of the Vermont Professional Dog Trainer’s Network attend Dog Aggression Seminar together.

In all of my free time (ha, ha), I’ve also been going out with the ASPCA’s Field Investigation and Response Team on deployments. I completed my first deployment last April, and most recently I helped transport some dogs across the Midwest during Hurricane Harvey to free up staffing for them to send folks down to Texas. It was awesome to be able to help in crisis mode, and I’m proud to have been able to go out with such an amazing organization. I also visited the Great Danes in New Hampshire in July, and spent a few days with the HSUS Animal Rescue Team!

Next month, I’m off to the Pet Professional Guild Summit in Orlando, Florida. This week long conference is an exciting opportunity to attend seminars from some of my favorite Force-Free dog trainers, such as Emily Larlham!!! Continuing education for me is so crucial, and I’m excited for the opportunity to get out there and network with some awesome folks.

All in all, it’s been hectic around here lately, but well worth it in the end. The field of dog care and dog behavior is near and dear to my heart. Helping people understand their dogs is just one of my ultimate goals. But be on the look out for larger projects coming up, such as shelter, daycare and facility consulting for staff, operations and daily care, presentations on working around dogs for service-based work places, and workshops and seminars for the local community. Thank you to all of those who have made this career a possibility for me!!!

 

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The Three D’s of Dog Training

The Three D's of Dog Training

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine made a great analogy about dog training. I’ve felt compelled to share it with my clients ever since.

“From the dog’s point of view,” he said. “It’s like a person being taught how to work on a car, except they’ve never worked on a car previously and also have no idea that they are being taught how to work on a car. The person teaching them can’t explain to them how to do it; they can only reward them when they get something right and indicate to them when they’ve done something wrong. Imagine them trying to change an alternator?”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at this comparison. It was such an accurate description of how dogs learn-  through a series of reinforcements and consequences.

Luckily for our dogs, we can make things easier by breaking down training into stages and adding variables gradually, significantly increasing the likely hood of success. In dog training, we call this The Three D’s.

The Three D’s

Duration

How long can your dog hold the behavior?

Distance

How far away can you move from your dog or how close can your dog be from an external stimulus before they break the behavior?

Distraction

What can happen around your dog while they are performing the behavior?

 

An Example of Training the Three D’s

One of the most straight forward examples of how we use the Three D’s would be to teach a dog to stay on a mat, commonly referred to as, “Go to your Place.” It is a foundational exercise many dog trainers (and pet owners) implement to help their dogs with impulse control.

To train a dog this behavior I would teach them lay down on a mat and reward them for staying on it. Then I would start to increase the time that they stay on the mat before rewarding them.

After gradually increasing that time to about 10 seconds, I raise the criteria for my dog. I am going to ask for the stay and back away one step. When I step back I am going to decrease the duration to 5 seconds, step back to the mat and reward them for staying with distance added.

Notice that when I added the distance, I decreased the duration. 

I will practice this a few times until I can back up one step for 10 seconds. Then I will add the second step, decreasing the duration again, and then building it back up. I repeat these exercises until the behavior is proofed.

Now, I’ll begin to add distractions. This is the big one. Once the dog is on the mat, I might move a few steps towards the door and come back. Next, I move over to the door, touch the door nob, jiggle it, and return rewarding the dog for staying put. Let’s add in that noise. I ask a friend to come by and knock on the door or ring the bell. I stay with my dog (decreasing duration and distance), while the friend knocks on the door. I reward my dog for staying put. I have them do it again, this time, I take a few seconds before rewarding, and then I add distance with further repetitions. Eventually, the dog will stay on the mat while I turn away, open the door and greet my guest before I release them.

It seems like a long process to accomplish one simple task, however each time your dog learns a new behavior, it becomes easier to learn the next. Just like a person working on a car, once they’ve replaced an alternator, it becomes easier to start replacing other parts. Eventually, they might even be confident enough to replace a timing belt.

The brain begins to remember the mechanics of learning. Every time you practice new behaviors with your dog, they learn them faster and faster. Our dogs want to learn, but it’s critical to remember that they have a harder time doing so. Using the Three D’s in dog training will help you achieve your goals better, faster and with less frustration! Have fun!

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The Ethics of ‘Results-Based’ Training

The Ethics of 'Results-Based' Training

Defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or conducting of an activity, ethics is a topic that weighs heavily in dog training, but is often not talked about – at least to the general public.

As someone who went to school for journalism, ethics is always a topic that sits near and dear to my heart. I spent countless hours pouring over articles before sending our student paper off to print. In the author biased? Is the article factual? Is this best reporting we can deliver to the public?

In the vast world of dog training, there are many different types of trainers that have subscribed to working with specific methods of training. On the two extreme sides you have trainers, such as Emily Larlham who uses strictly positive reinforcement in her training, and the well known Cesar Milan, who primarily uses negative reinforcement and positive punishment- even if he doesn’t admit to that. I could go on and on about why so many dog trainers have moved very far away from the Cesar Milan methods of training, but that’s a whole other article in itself.

Today, I want to bring to light a phrase that is used more commonly by dog trainers that I find both off-putting and realistically unethical – “Results-based training.” If you did a google search and looked at various trainers’ websites, you would see it used frequently, popping up most often on websites of “Balanced Trainers” – or trainers who use all four quadrants of operant conditioning.

I find the wording of the phrase to be misleading to its audience for many reasons, but today I’ll stick to two.

It directly assumes that:

  1. Not all dog trainers are driven to find solutions to training problems and dog behaviors
  2. Clients understand that results driven training means “by any means necessary,” which includes using aversive methods.  

Assumption 1.. is so unbelievably inaccurate.  Assumption 2. is some pretty scary stuff.

Professional dog trainers (not to be mistaken for hobbyists), have spent years studying various training methods in addition to having countless hours of hands on experience. I have met and engaged with trainers from all different backgrounds who reflect various philosophies and have yet to meet one dog trainer in my travels who’s only concern is making money off of their clients. I would willingly argue that the goal of all dog trainers is to achieve the best solutions for their clients, both human and dog alike. My point is, it’s just a matter of how they achieve those results.

The truth of the matter is, dogs don’t exist in a vacuum. Dog training is so much more than forcing compliance out of our dogs in order to achieve results. Professional dog training is evaluating each dog as an individual, allowing that dog the time to learn new behaviors and then giving them the chance to succeed. There is no one-size fits all approach. I think all dog trainers can agree on that.

However, science shows time and time again that when we try to change behavior or force new experiences onto our dogs too quickly, it can lead to long-term damaging effects. When the brain is put under stress, cortisol levels increase, which engages the internal fight or flight instinct (this happens in humans too). This instinct causes the dog to function enough to get through (aka survive) a situation, but does not always address the root of the problem nor does it encourage the dog to make a choice, decreasing the likelihood of the dog making the “correct” choice again in the future when put in that same exact situation.

The brain under stress does a terrible job at retaining memories, let alone transferring them into long term memory. If nothing else, when forced to comply under stress, the dog’s brain and body either learns how to shut down to further avoid conflict or react negatively out of fear. At the end of the day, when you are the one holding the opposite end of the leash, it will be damaging to the overall relationship between you and your dog.

Some people need solutions to problems right away.As a trainer, I understand that. Pet owners may not want to take the time, or may not have the time, to improve their dog’s behavior using the most humane methods by following the Humane Hierarchy. However, it is critical for consumers to understand what balanced training is, and what “results-based” means so they can make a moral and ethical choice for their dog and their relationship.

When reading the phrase “results-based training,” the consumer needs understand that they are waving a portion of their dog’s trust in order to gain the results they desire by using certain methods advertised as communication tools, such as choke collars, shock collars, spray bottles, finger pokes, etc. And while your dog is actually shut down or over aroused, it can easily be mistaken by the untrained eye as your dog looking obedient or happy. Not all dog trainers even understand this difference, hence the importance of having an education in addition to hands on experience.

I love my dog, just as my clients love theirs. I want my dog to work with me, not for me. This is the type of relationship in which I find dogs and people the happiest. I’m incredibly blessed to have gotten the level of experience and knowledge that I have in this industry and I am happy to share that with fellow dog lovers and my amazing clients. The dog training industry is highly unregulated. As a pet owner, no matter what trainer you chose, it is critical to educate yourself on their training methods and the long term effects of those methods on your dog.

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Montreal BSL is Back

Montreal BSL is Back

Montreal pit bulls have lost again.

After the passing of breed specific legislation (BSL) laws in September, the Montreal SPCA spear-headed a suspension of the laws, citing that they were too vague in wording, discriminatory to the dog-owning public and would lead to the euthanasia of behaviorally sound animals.

The Montreal Court of Appeal overturned the majority of the suspension on Friday, Dec. 2, citing that the laws were largely put in place for public safety and therefore could not be suspended.

What this means:

  • All pit bulls or “pit bull-type dogs” must wear muzzles outside
  • All pit bulls or”pit bull-type dogs”must be on a 4″ leash or less outside
  • All pit bulls or “pit bull-type dogs” must wear harnesses outside
  • All pit bulls or “pit bull-type dogs” must have a special registration

What this does not mean (but could in the near future):

  • All pit bulls or “pit bull-type dogs” will be euthanized once they enter the sheltering system

 

Professional dog trainers recognize that dog bites are a serious issue facing communities across North America, especially in major urban areas where dog populations tend to be higher.

However, breed-specific legislation has been proven to be ineffective in controlling the amount of dog bites sustained to the public. In fact, many municipalities across North America are repealing their BSL laws as they are beginning to understand the negative impacts it’s causing in their communities.

And contrary to popular belief, the majority of dog bites and attacks occur within families or close friends and know the dog who has attacked them. These bites and attacks are largely contributed to a lack of education in canine behavior and a lack of supervision of children around dogs.

The ban put in place in Montreal specifically targets the American Staffordshire terrier, the American pit bull terrier, and the Staffordshire bull terrier, any dog containing any mix of any one of those breeds or any dog that looks like it may physically contain breed characteristics of anyone of those breeds.

Science has repeatedly proven that you cannot designate a mixed breed dog as a specific breed based on how a dog looks. DNA testing is the only true way to determine the true genetic makeup of a dog.

If the suspension is fully repealed, this ban will result in the euthanasia of behaviorally sound animals completely suitable for family living. Families who are unable to comply with the restrictions required by the new ban, for financial or resource reasons, will not only lose a part of their family due to these new laws, but will have to live knowing that their family pet was euthanized based solely on how he looked and not on his actions.

Rather than imposing a band which will take up community time and resources it would be better to allocate that funding towards low-cost spay/neuter, low-cost annual medical care for pets and low-cost dog training for owners.

What can you do to help?

Take a look at this article, Here’s How You Can Help the Victims of Montreal’s Pit Bull Ban, for suggestions and ideas of how you can make a difference right now in Montreal.

Consider making donations to local rescues, such as All Breed Rescue Vermont, who have already begun moving dogs out of the city and to Vermont.

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Holidays: The Social Dog vs The Anxious Dog

Holidays: The Social Dog vs The Anxious Dog
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Moose explores his new surroundings for the holidays.

Hurray! We all survived Thanksgiving! I’m hoping that yours was filled with laughs, fun and food! I for one got to take Moose, my new forever pup, on his first multiple day adventure to my Aunt’s house and beyond.

This was a perfect opportunity to mix in some training while being faced with many new and fun distractions! I brought things that were familiar to him – his toys, blanket, bed, and favorite treats, and sprawled them around his new space. After letting him wander my Aunt’s house briefly, the first thing we did was refresh some of his basic cues. Remember, dogs do not generalize behaviors well – they actually kind of suck at it – so whenever you are bringing your dog to a new environment, it’s important to remind them that they do know how to do all the behaviors they know at home!

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Moose makes a friend in Brooklyn.

Moose, ended up doing very well and was a huge hit with the family! He even came down with me to Brooklyn, made a new doggie friend and helped me pick out some new skates!But all of this got me thinking about how many dogs (and families) miss out on this bonding time because of poor behavior? I have actually never had the chance to experience a good holiday myself. Having a social dog now is pretty amazing, but it wasn’t always so.

My holidays used to be SO stressful because my dog at the time, Charlie <3, could not be in these types of environments. My holidays were always mixed with lots of travel, dog walkers, coordination and seriously timing everything perfectly so Charlie would not know the difference between a day I was leaving the house for work and a day that was a holiday or special occasion. You may think I am crazy, but any slight change in routine and he knew. Yes, he knew! If I didn’t plan things right, I would come home to a stressed out dog- dilated pupils, heavy panting, urine puddles and trails everywhere and sometimes on really bad days, something I loved totally destroyed.

My anxious boy, Charlie, always creeping around the dinner table. Lots of talking and excitement would stress him out.

Lots of talking and excitement would stress Charlie out.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have done a lot more to work with him, but he was so complicated it was hard to figure out where to start. Good thing I am here now as a professional, to help you with your pup! So here’s some tips and tricks I picked up along the way, mixed in with a little dash of professional advice just in time to get ready for Christmas.

Things You Can Do Right Now

  • Plan Ahead
    • Play the scenario out in your mind
      • What has this looked like previously?
      • What can I do differently this time around?
    • Discover the trigger that sets off the behavior chain
      • Is it the door bell?
      • Is it loud talking?
  • Understand
    • Think about why your dog is anxious
      • Are they sensitive to noise?
      • Are they sensitive to space?
  • Take Action – guide and comfort your dog during situations where they become anxious instead of getting frustrated
    • Can you create a safe space?
    • Can you give them a toy or puzzle to focus on?

 

Thinking Ahead to the Future

  • Establish a relationship with good dog trainer
    • Seriously, just like having a life long relationship with your vet, when you are the owner of an anxious dog, it is so helpful to have a professional to bounce ideas off of for upcoming situations. I wish I had done this sooner!
    • Don’t think for two seconds you are bothering your trainer by calling them or reaching out. If you have a GOOD dog trainer, they want to help you and your dog through difficult situations whether they are getting paid or not. Let them know you have a big family event coming up and discuss best scenarios and options.
  • Make a plan
    • Start with a management plan!
      • How will you deal with specific scenarios in the future?
    • Don’t let anyone dismiss your thoughts or ideas!
      • You and only you understand the relationship you have with your dog. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are over reacting, or being a “crazy dog lady” (yeah, I’ve heard that), or “s/he’s fine” or “let them figure it out,” when you are trying to better your relationship with your dog.
    • Get everyone on the same page
      • All family members should understand the plan, the goals and celebrate even the smallest of achievements!
  • Work with your dog when they are not anxious.
    • We all do it. We get used to our dogs “the way they are.”
      • With an anxious dog, it’s easy to get stuck in this rut because, let’s face it, dealing with an anxious dog is exhausting. However, dogs are always capable of learning new things.
      • Fact: Work with your dog when they are not anxious and they are more likely to respond to you when they are.

 

We all love our dogs and want what’s best for them. Don’t stop at expecting poor behavior or normalizing it! Work with your dog to help them through their difficult times! And if you are lucky enough to have a social dog, make sure you work with them to keep them social too!

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The Moose and The Motorcycle

The Moose and The Motorcycle

You’ll commonly hear dog trainers talking about the importance of socializing your dog. Because all dogs are different, some are more likely to be social on their own than others. Regardless of the social nature of your dog, fearfulness can still develop towards people, objects, other dogs, specific locations and various situations.

Depending on how well you know your dog, you instinctively begin to predict things that may make your dog fearful, such as loud noises or fireworks, and prepare for those situations. Other times, you may not know a trigger before it happens.

New things are scary

Take my newly adopted pup Moose as a case study. We’ve been a team for about two months now, and I’m slowly starting to figure out things that make him nervous, such as young puppies and screaming children. I keep a list in my head and know that if I will be around any of his fear triggers to bring my special treats with me. It’s important to give your positive interactions through times of stress. But, you can’t expect to just have treats on you everywhere you go, right? Right.

When walking out of a building the other day, Moose makes eye contact with a yard ornament that moves, and has bright colors, and he totally and completely wigged out. I mean, he bellowed out the loudest bark I’ve heard so far. He then proceeded to start growling and backing up. He backed up so hard, he slammed himself into the door.

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Day two. Even from this far away, you can see his focus on the yard ornament and if you look even closer, you can see his hackles raised.

Here I am, walking out of a building, carrying my jacket under one arm, a cup of coffee in my hand, a binder full of training paperwork under my other arm and now a dog having an epic meltdown in a parking lot full of people and other businesses.

The easiest thing for me to do in this circumstance would have been to drag him to my car which was not very far. Above being a dog trainer, I am a human, so yes, I thought about it. However, avoiding situations doesn’t accomplish much and there’s no learning involved in that, so where’s the fun?

So I place/drop all of my things on the sidewalk, turn him around and walk back into the building. I give Moose a moment to calm down so he can focus on me. Once his brain has come back to reality, I ask him for sit and give him some pets. I connect with him. This is important. I’m still here for you buddy.

We venture back out the door, and I remind him, “Moose, I’m still here.” I speak softly to him and encourage him to follow me.

We take some time walking towards the thing. He is doing okay with some reassurance, but stops again about 15 feet away and has another fit. Patience is key. We take about two steps back and I ask him again for some eye contact and a sit (this is where foundational training also becomes so important). He looks at me, he looks ahead, he looks back at me and gives me a slight tail wag. At his pace we continue.

It took some time for him to feel comfortable going up to it, but eventually he did. He sniffed it, and backed up. He looked at it a bit. I reassured him it was okay. He sniffed it again, turned away from it. He still didn’t trust it fully, but he began to accept it.

Finally, he came to his own conclusion he’s uncomfortable with it, but willing to tolerate it’s presence. On this good note, I said, “okay, let’s go dude”, and we headed back towards the car. The next day, we repeated our exercise. On day two it took us about half the time of day one. Progress!

 

Why is it important to have taken the time to do this with my dog? 

  • We just worked through a fearful situation together
  • He learned how to do something other than become reactive to something he is scared of
  • We just spent time bonding by working through a problem together

 

Socialization and why it’s important

You’ll often hear dog owners say whole heart-idly that their dogs is fearful of men, or brooms, or newspapers because they must have been abused or suffered at the hands of a terrible hat-wearing man with sunglasses that liked to read newspapers and occasionally raise them over their dogs head. But what is actually more likely, is that the dog may have had a lack of exposure to sunglasses, hats or large objects moving above their heads. In Moose’s case, it was obvious he had never seen anything like this spinning lawn ornament before. Without ever having a good experience to relate these things to, the dog has nothing to base it’s reaction on. By basic means of animal survival, it’s smarter to be cautious of something until you know it does not pose a threat.

So taking what we now know into consideration, understand that fearfulness in dogs is absolutely normal. In fact, dogs that are over confident tend to be the ones that professional trainers keep an eye out for. However, for dogs to survive and continue to develop in our society and our societal standards we must work with them to either prevent fearfulness by socializing them as youngsters, or we must work to counter-condition their current fears through positive associations. The more your dog is exposed to in a positive way, the easier it becomes for them to overcome their fears in situations down the road.

Too much socializing?

Believe it or not, some dog owners make the mistake of going a bit overboard with socializing. I often hear from dog owners that they were told to take their dog everywhere with them as a puppy and to make sure to get them used to being around other dogs at a young age. What I actually see happen are puppies taken to overwhelming situations such as Church Street in Burlington or to the big dog section at the Shelburne Dog Park for “socializing.” For dog trainers, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing well-meaning dog owners traumatizing their dogs at young ages by flooding them with situations they are not developmentally prepared for. Every time I see a puppy get pinned at the dog park or jump back at the sound of a car horn on a busy road, I cringe. If the owners seem open to helpful feedback, I typically will engage in a conversation with them then and there. However, not everyone is always open to feed back from a stranger in public. Side note: The one thing that makes a trainer’s job difficult? There are dogs everywhere, but you can’t help every dog or owner you see.

Tying it all together

At the end of the day, the goal here is improving you and your dog’s amazing relationship. Each person-to-dog relationship I work with is unique and requires a different pace, structure and attention. Watching a dog’s trust build with their owner is my favorite part of what I get to do. Listen to your dog. Don’t ignore their fears and don’t force your dog into situations they are unsure of. Truly love your dog and your dog will love you back.

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Dogs Rock! Vermont Officially Certified Through the CCPDT

Dogs Rock! Vermont Officially Certified Through the CCPDT

Dogs Rock! Vermont is proud to announce that Laurie has become certified through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). Laurie is incredibly proud of this achievement and has been working towards this accreditation process for the past two years. Certificants must follow a strict code of ethics, which Laurie feels strongly reflects her morals and values as a dog trainer. Laurie’s goal is to always give her clients the most up-to-date, knowledgable, effective and humane dog training techniques available.

Until the creation of the CCPDT in 2001, there was no true certification process for canine professionals. Many schools teach dog trainers and offer certifications for their specific programs. These certificates, therefore, reflect the teachings and quality of a specific school. Other organizations offer take-home tests for “certification.” These canine professionals are not monitored to ensure they are completing the test without any assistance or collaboration nor is the testing process standardized.

This unprecedented process was originally implemented by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the largest association of dog trainers in the world, founded by noted veterinarian, behaviorist and author Dr. Ian Dunbar. A task force of approximately 20 internationally known dog training professionals and behaviorists worked for three years to research and develop the first comprehensive examination. Professional Testing Corporation (PTC) was hired to ensure the process met professional testing standards. APDT then create a separate, independent council – The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers – to manage the accreditation and pursue further development.

Graduates who pass the exam earn the title Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed and may use the designation “CPDT-KA” after their names. All certified trainers must earn continuing education credits to maintain their designations or take the examination again every three years.

Laurie is looking forward to continuing her education in dog training as well as canine learning theory. She is currently enrolled in canine courses through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy and will be attending the Karen Pryor Clicker Expo in March 2017. Check out Laurie’s Dog Professional Profile!!!

 

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Meet & Greet, plus free seminar at the VT-K9 Merchant’s Market

Meet & Greet, plus free seminar at the VT-K9 Merchant's Market

Do you have questions about your dog or are interested in learning more about canine body language and behavior? Come hang out with me at the Crate Escape, Too! in Williston, Vermont on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and join me for a free talk and discussion on canine socialization at 1 p.m. at the VT-K9 Merchant’s Market!

The Crate Escape, Too! is  hosting the VT – K9 Merchant’s Market in conjunction with our open house on Saturday November 5th to celebrate local small businesses, organizations and non-profits that invest so much of their lives in the care and happiness of our communities pets. This event is entirely free and open the public. Due to space limitations and ongoing demonstrations, attendees are urged to leave their four legged their four legged friends at home (unless they have a scheduled appointment with one of the vendors).

Some of the other vendors confirmed for the event are the Vermont Police Canine Association, Therapy Dogs of Vermont, Trupanion, Ultimate Companions Dog Training, and Buddy’s Bandannas!

Raffle Prizes from Pet Food Warehouse and The Dog and The Cat will be available as well!

Don’t miss this awesome event! Not only will it be fun, but it will also be educational and entertaining!

RSVP here!!!!

 

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Vermont Dog Festival to feature Dogs Rock! Vermont

Vermont Dog Festival to feature Dogs Rock! Vermont

This Saturday, dog lovers alike will converge in Ensoburg Falls, VT for the first ever Vermont Dog Festival! Dubbed as a “fun, family friendly event that caters to our canine counterparts.”

Laurie Lawless of Dogs Rock! Vermont is excited to have been offered a spot to speak at the event. Laurie will have the opportunity to spend 15 minutes discussing positive reinforcement and relationship building in dog training with Emily Lewis of A Click Away Dog Training.

As a member of Vermont Professional Dog Trainers, a group made up of dedicated Vermont Professional Dog Trainers who strive to provide the most up-to-date scientific training methods to their clients and their pets, the sheltering and animal welfare community and service and working dog groups, Laurie is excited to present this topic to the dog-loving Vermont community.

The full day event will feature local rescue dogs, games, vendors and more! Please come find Laurie and her new pup Moose at the festival! She will be stationed at the Vermont Professional Dog Trainers booth.

Laurie is looking forward to meeting you! RSVP on Facebook to let her know you are coming!!!

 

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Dogs Rock! Vermont Becomes Member of Pet Professional Guild

Dogs Rock! Vermont Becomes Member of Pet Professional Guild

I am so excited and proud to announce that Dogs Rock! Vermont is now a full professional member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG).

What does that mean?

According to the PPG’ website, “The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) was founded based on a commitment to provide educational resources to pet care providers and the public coupled with an emphasis on building collaboration among force-free pet trainers and professional pet care providers and advocates for mutually agreed guiding principles for the pet care industry. PPG partners, members and affiliates focus on each pet’s physical, mental, environmental and nutritional well-being adhering to a holistic approach to the care and training of family pets.” Proud-Members-Badge

Why is this important to you and your dog?

According to the guild’s mission statement, “Effective training procedures lay the foundation for an animal’s healthy socialization, capacity for learning and will help prevent behavior problems. Since a wide variety of equipment and tools are commonly used when training pets and in their daily activities, the pet-owning public needs to be aware of the potential problems and dangers some equipment may pose.”

Why do I care so much?

The application process included having to demonstrate my knowledge and skill level, along with my training background and philosophies, to their board of directors and selection committee. Being a member of such a forward-thinking, knowledgeable organization means that I now have unlimited access to thousands of educational resources.  I will be able to provide the best, most up-to-date and humane services I can to my clients. This is also an exciting opportunity for me to expand my educational opportunities to a national  level with access to webinars from top trainers across the country.

Thank you to my clients and on going supporters for continuing to push me to become the best I can be! The learning will never stop- that’s a promise I can guarantee!

PPG HomePage

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Why I Stress the Importance of Impulse Control

Why I Stress the Importance of Impulse Control

One of the ideas I stress to my clients during foundation work is the idea of impulse control in our dogs. A lack of impulse control can lead to things such as high arousal, which as this article points out, can lead to aggression. When companion animals don’t know how to stop themselves from becoming aroused, it can lead to dangerous situations, even if they are unintentional and seemingly harmless.

If a squirrel darted out in front of you during a walk, would your dog yank you down the street? If you drop food on the floor while cooking would your dog dive bomb for it? If your dog was put in an uncomfortable situation would he take the time to think about how he would react, or would he just revert to instincts and bite?

Each dog possesses a certain amount of impulse control, but every dog is absolutely capable of learning where they may fall short. That’s where foundational training is crucial in forming a respectful relationship with our dogs.

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Public Event: Dog Park Safety Q&A at the Shelburne Village Dog Park!

Public Event: Dog Park Safety Q&A at the Shelburne Village Dog Park!

If you attend the dog park regularly with your pup, now is your chance to make sure you are doing it safely!!!

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Laurie Lawless of Dogs Rock! Vermont discusses the importance of dog training with local reporters at Starr Farm Park.

Laurie Lawless of Dogs Rock! Vermont is an expert in off-leash, large group dog play and she wants to share her knowledge!

Come join her Sunday, August 14th from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for an open Q&A session! You can ask her anything! Respond to the Facebook Event Page now and let us know you are coming!

Dog Park Safety Packs, cleverly dubbed by a park goer as the “peace of mind kit,” will be available for purchase!

Knowledge is power! Let’s make dog parks safer for everyone!!! See you there!!!

The Shelburne Village Dog Park

740 Harbor Rd,

Shelburne, VT 05482

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Transport Pups – Raising Awareness in Rescue

Transport Pups - Raising Awareness in Rescue

As a potential adopter it is important for you to know of the major changes in the animal welfare and sheltering world over the past decade, particularly in the North East . There are many theories as to why our shelters are running out of “adoptable dogs” and why it’s almost impossible to find litters of puppies in the sheltering system here, but the bottom line is that it is happening, and shelters and rescues from all over the North East are pulling their dogs up from the South or over from the Mid-West by the thousands.

What do you need to know when you are looking at adopting a transport dog or a dog that was already transported North:

Vaccination informationIs everything up to date? Dogs over 16 weeks need a Rabies vaccination, and can receive them as early as 12. All puppies should have a completed vaccination series for Distemper before transport- key word here is should. Many rescues don’t finish the series which can start as early as 6 weeks, because they want to get the dogs up here as soon as they can. Foster and shelter space is limited and dogs are killed by the thousands in these shelters. But, Parvovirus is scary. Very scary, and also deadly. If the puppy you are adopting is in the middle of the series, this may be fine, just be diligent and get to the vet for your own check up as soon as you have the pup! Also, until the series is done – please stay away from pet stores and dog parks where other dogs go.

WORMS – All rescues should be deworming their dogs, regardless of where they came from. But, I can tell you now, there are so many types of worms out there. Go get a fecal, and deworm again. And again in 6 months. And probably again. Trust me on this!

Heartworm Tests – More and more dogs are coming up north with Heartworms, which is an incredibly dangerous parasite. In very young and elderly dogs it can be deadly and incredibly painful to go through treatment. Surprising to many adopters, Heartworms that are not fully developed many will not show up on initial testing! That’s correct. Puppies and dogs alike can test negative during their first screening, only to come up as positive six months later, after they’ve been running around the Northeast and possibly infecting other dogs. Always re-test your dog roughly about six months after obtaining your Southern/Midwestern Transport buddy.

Temperament Testing – This is crucial to ask a rescue or shelter. What is their evaluation process? Almost all rescues and even some shelters are volunteer run and don’t have professionals on hand when making decisions about pulling dogs. It takes years of experience to be able to see what behavior suppression looks like or to understand when a dog is being reactive due to stress, but isn’t actually aggressive. Temperament tests are designed for professionals to be able to put pieces of a dog’s actual personality together – not to set dogs up to fail, but to set adopters up for success with their new pup. Ask them – how do they pick the dogs that they pull? What is their definition of aggressive? How do they screen for aggression? If you have questions ask a professional!

Adoption is hands-down one of the most rewarding experience you’ll ever be a part of. And what gets better than saving a life? But, before taking the plunge, educate yourself on the process and be knowledgeable of what is happening behind the curtain before your new pup arrive at your local shelter or transport drop-off location!

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Public Event: Is this Dog Friendly?

Public Event: Is this Dog Friendly?

Mark your calendars! On Wednesday, September 21 at 7 p.m. I will be giving a presentation at the Brownell Library in Essex Junction! As always, I am excited to give you a glimpse into my world and show you how to be safe with your dog and others.

Presentation Description:

“Nation-wide shelters and rescues are working towards the “no-kill” movement- a movement described by the No Kill Advocacy Center as, “an end to the killing of all non-irremediably suffering animals,” or animals in physical pain.

On the surface, “no-kill” sounds great, but animals have more than physical needs and as professionals we are beginning to see more dogs with behavior and aggression problems being placed into homes.

What does this mean for you? Understanding dog body language is absolutely key to keeping you and your family safe and out of harm’s way when greeting unknown dogs. This presentation will focus on dog body language basics, stress behaviors and absolute warning signs that a dog is asking for space immediately.

This presentation is open and free to the public.”

RSVP HERE!

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Understanding Positive Reinforcment

Understanding Positive Reinforcment

Dog trainers who use mainly or all positive reinforcement methods while training dogs and teaching clients frequently come under fire from balanced (trainers who use both positive reinforcement and positive punishment) and aversive trainers (trainers who almost all positive punishment techniques includes prong collars, shock collars and e-collars).

Many of them think we don’t believe in leadership, they think we let the dogs walk all over us, the most ridiculous of them claim that we are using treats to bribe dogs into doing what we want. What these trainers don’t have is a true grasp on classical and operant conditioning, knowledge of the dangers in behavior suppression or long term effects of aversive techniques.

Dog training is a very technical profession. I actually spent about three years watching dogs for roughly 40 hours a week. That comes out to about 6,000 hours of hands on experience in dog-to-dog behavior. I thought I knew a lot. I really thought I knew what various behaviors meant, the cause and effect of corrections, red flags and a general understand of dogs. But really I just knew exactly that-  what I thought.

I moved forward with learning how to become a dog trainer about two years ago. I finally opened a book and started reading. I found webinars and started watching. I interned with a local certified trainer through the ABC program. I was shocked by how much I really didn’t know. Many of the behaviors I believed to be one thing, turned out to mean something entirely different. As a matter of fact, I am reading a new book and just yesterday learned something new about a behavior I’ve been watching dogs do for years! Dog training is one of those fields that requires us to stay on our toes for better or for worse because the field is constantly evolving.

Dogs are awesome creatures. They are opportunists, they are smart, they have impeccable timing and they have an incredible ability to learn way more than we give them credit for. Taking the time now to understand how your dog learns and what his true motivators are is crucial to forming a loving, respectful and positive relationship with your pet. The days of dominating are over and no it’s not because we like to hand out free cookies; it’s because actual science has proven there are more effective (and humane) ways to train your dog.

If you are interested in learning more about forming a better relationship with your dog, contact me! It’s seriously never too late to start!

To learn more about Classical and Operant Conditioning, and why it works, read this awesome Blog Post on Positively.com!

 

 

 

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Dog Park Safety Q&A & Shelburne Village Dog Park

Dog Park Safety Q&A & Shelburne Village Dog Park

If you attend the dog park regularly with your pup, now is your chance to make sure you are doing it safely!!!

dogparkphoto

Laurie Lawless of Dogs Rock! Vermont discusses the importance of dog training with local reporters at Starr Farm Park.

Laurie Lawless of Dogs Rock! Vermont is an expert in off-leash, large group dog play and she wants to share her knowledge!

Come join her from 11am to 1pm for an open Q&A session! You can ask her anything! Respond to the Facebook Event Page now and let us know you are coming!

Dog Park Safety Packs, cleverly dubbed by a park goer as the “peace of mind kit,” will be available for purchase!

Knowledge is power! Let’s make dog parks safer for everyone!!! See you there!!!

 

The Shelburne Village Dog Park

740 Harbor Rd,

Shelburne, VT 05482

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Breed Matters in Dog Play

Nature vs Nurture. How much does each play into the development of your dog? In this amazing video we see a group of young hunting dogs stalking the prey held before them – intentionally honing natural born instincts to hunt. This is how working dogs are trained to complete specific tasks.

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Now think about your dog and their breed or breed-mix. Do you notice specific behaviors your dog does that is different from your neighbors? When your dog plays with another dog, does it like to nip at the ankles, bark loudly or growl a lot? The more you know about your dogs background, especially rescues in which we know very little, the better!

Breed does not determine everything about a dog, nor should it. Each dog is an individual and should be treated as such. But understand breed disposition is part of the larger puzzle that we need to look at when trying to understand our dogs.

Take a minute to watch your dog the next time it’s interactive with people or animals. I bet you’ll see something new.

This blog is a response to this Facebook video!

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Fireworks and the Absolute Myth of Reinforcing Fear

Fireworks and the Absolute Myth of Reinforcing Fear

I was holding back writing about the Fourth of July. It’s that one time of year that all dog lovers’ Facebook walls get flooded with articles about keeping pets indoors, playing calming music, creating forts under coffee tables, etc. I certainly didn’t want to add to that collection- there’s already plenty of that information out there!

However, last night my dog was having her yearly melt down and I happened to be traveling with her and some friends. Now, here we are in a new place, with new people and she completely out of her comfort zone. One of my friends mentioned the idea of not coddling her, because she heard that it reinforces the fear of the fireworks. Okay, let’s stop there!

This is so far from true! Here is another myth created by dog trainers and “dog experts” that has no actual scientific truth or back up. The sad thing is, that I believed this at one point to be true as well! You know where I first heard this? From watching “The Dog Whisperer.” How can you not believe sometime that is being broadcasted as fact on National Geographic? So, no I don’t blame you for believing it either.

Dogs look to us as their companions. We are their leaders, their support system and their strength. In a time when your best friend is most vulnerable, would you turn your back and ignore them, or even worse, punish them for being afraid? What would that do to your relationship? It would probably ruin it a little bit.

Remember above everything else to love your pets this weekend. Be aware of their mental state. If your dog asks for space, give your dog space. If your dog asks for comfort, comfort your dog! Most of all, have a fun, safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!!!

Read this awesome article by Patricia McConnell about why you can’t reinforce fear in dogs!!!

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Meet Holly!

Meet Holly!

Meet Holly!!! This lovely lady is working on her basic obedience and is looking for her forever home!!! Part of the Dogs Rock! Vermont free shelter training program at All Breed Rescue Vermont, Holly’s adoption would include a free training consultation!!! To find out more about Holly go to http://www.allbreedrescuevt.com/animals/detail?AnimalID=9666306

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Know Your Trainer’s Background

Know Your Trainer's Background

In an industry that is incredibly unregulated, it is so important that you as a pet owner understand that ANYONE can create a business card and start charging money for “training” dogs.

The fact that you are reading this means you have found me, and you are so lucky to have found me before finding another uneducated trainer with a fancy website and promises to “fix your dog.”

I stay up-to-date with science and I learn from the best trainers out there! I pride myself on my knowledge and can give realistic and authentic approaches to dog training. Every dog is an individual that requires a unique approach.

Dogs Rock! Vermont is the result of more than half a decade of experience, observation, education and applied skill. Thank you for choosing Dogs Rock! Vermont and me to work with you and your dog!!! I promise I won’tlet you down.

Response to More Than Fancy Words by .

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Meet Bama

Meet Bama

Dogs Rock! Vermont welcomes Bama of All Breed Rescue Vermont to it’s shelter dog free training program. This sweet girl had my heart within moments! Today we worked on some very basic obedience to get her ready for her forever home. 

She’s very smart and will make an amazing companion!  Learn more about Bama at: http://www.allbreedrescuevt.com/animals/detail?AnimalID=10079556

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Know Your Breed

Know Your Breed

When greeting and playing with other dogs, pit bulls (generally speaking) are confident, exhibit stiff posture and are borderline confrontational.

It took me years to master the skills of honing in on incredibly subtle cues and I am still usually on edge when introducing one pit bull to another dog (pit or not) when I don’t know their background or history.

When evaluating ANY DOG for aggression thresholds, it’s incredibly important to take that dog’s socialability (with people and other dogs) into account because a dog with low socialability, given the right circumstances, will not hold back from defending itself or things they may consider valuable to then. You do not know a dog’s bite inhibition until it actually bites. So when that dog happens to be a pit bull at high arousal, things can get dangerous very quickly if they have low or no bite inhibition and because of their genetic predisposition to bite and hold.

The most important thing to take away from this post is to know your breed. Do your research. Know what your dog is capable of and don’t set them up to fail.

Is your typical family companion raised pit bull going to maul a child out of nowhere ? No. Are all pit bulls inherently dangerous creatures? No! Are pit bulls incredibly strong, muscular animals capable of causing a lot of damage? The answer to that one is yes.

This blog was a response to this Facebook post by Jo-Rosie, Archie the Super Pit & Co.

 

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Release the Hounds!!! – GoT style

Release the Hounds!!! - GoT style

Do we have any Game Of Thrones fans out there? Last night’s episode was pretty grotesque towards the end, but if you’re a dog nerd like me over here at Dogs Rock! Vermont you would’ve been drooling over the beautiful creatures Ramsay Bolton deemed “his girls.”

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Cane Corso Italiano

Meet the Cane Corso Italiano, sometimes referred to as an Italian Mastiff. These amazing dogs were originally bred and used for hunting and protection. They are best known for their size (approximately 100lbs) and large, notable head. 

The Cane Coso breed is intelligent, independent and determined. They are loyal to their families and are fantastic protectors! It’s important that owners of Cane Corso Italianos understand their breed and provide continued structure and leadership throughout their relationship.

I’ve met a handful of these dogs and just love them to pieces! If you get to know one well enough, it’s just so much fun to smush their big faces and shower them with kisses!!!

Thanks for reading my dog nerd post of the day! Over and out!

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Simple Solutions to Everyday Struggles

Simple Solutions to Everyday Struggles

Monitoring kids with dogs is incredibly important! No matter how tolerant your dog is of children, it is reasonable to believe that each individual dog has a threshold they can hit. Once that threshold has been reached, it takes only a split second for irreversible damage to be done.

But, don’t worry! Protecting your dog and child from each other is easy and can be done with minimal effort. Pictured below is a good friend of mine who’s toddler started walking last year. Taking preemptive steps to give Gus, the dog, the space he needed, she began blocking off his food area. Now-a-days, Gus has his own feeding room her child is not allowed in, but this temporary fix seen below helped Gus feel safe during meal times and kept the little one safe from harm until a more permanent solution could be put in place.

Take this moment think about how you protect your dog from children, whether they are your own or if they are visiting. Then think about how you protect children from your dog. Post below with suggestions and ideas!!!

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Meet Sue Ellen

Meet Sue Ellen

Derp! I am Sue Ellen!!! My free training session by Dogs Rock! Vermont was number 3 of 118. Today we worked on loose leash and focus skills! I am a sweet and gentle girl who loves snuggles and butt scratches. 🐶 If you are interested in learning more about me, please visit All Breed Rescue Vermont at http://www.allbreedrescuevt.com/animals/detail?AnimalID=9834236

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Why Do Dog Trainers Hate Caesar Millan?

Why Do Dog Trainers Hate Caesar Millan?

Cesar Millan took the world by storm with his show, “The Dog Whisperer.” As a young dog enthusiast, I once used to love him too! I dreamed of the day I could meet Mr. Millan and thank him for the countless animals he had saved. I even hung out with a local “dog whisperer” because certainly there had to have been some merit to all this pack leader talk.

Then one day it all clicked and I realized- it was wrong. Cesar, the miracle man who saved all the death row dogs, the one I dreamed of meeting one day, was wrong.

I realized that companion dogs are not pack animals. We bred them out of that a long time ago. Every dog is an individual; their sociability thresholds fall in different places and change in various situations. Companion dogs follow strong leadership, not dominance. True leaders don’t threaten their followers, they build trust, respect and compassion.

This realization didn’t happen overnight- it took years of education. I spent half a decade watching dogs interact with one another on almost a daily basis – internally itemizing cause and effect. I took it a step further and attended seminars by world famous dog trainers and listened to what they had to say and evidence they had to show. I spent countless hours working with shelter dogs. I started reading book after book about cognitive behavior and conditioning. I saw with my own eyes what “dominating” behavior did to dogs over time. How dogs with no regard for human companionship reacted and behaved under pressure.

“Red Zone” dogs cannot be cured in a 60 minute TV show, but they can be taught to suppress their social cues to the point that they learn to stop giving warnings. They can learn very quickly to suppress their aggression until they have a moment of brief confidence and a split second to act upon it. Dominance “works” because you stop SEEING the behavior, but has the behavior been changed? The answer is no.

My train of thought above was triggered by this article written by Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker.

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Play Bites or Play Fights?

Play Bites or Play Fights?

While I agree with the thought and logic behind this article, I definitly can call out some “facts” in here that are actually incredibly common misconceptions- and you should be aware! Dog park education is so important!

Assumption: “Some dogs play too rough for others. Though they’re not trying to be aggressive, scratches or play bites can happen.”

Truth: Dogs do not accidentally bite. Every time a dog places his mouth on something, it is with intent. After years of watching videos of incidents between dogs, I began to realize that each time a dog received an injury, such as an ear tear or skin scrape, something I normally would have considered a “rough play accident”, was actually the result of a momentary aggressive action. These actions resulted from one of the dogs getting annoyed with the other because it was being bullied, the play becoming over stimulated, one of the dogs feeling threatened, and so on. Regardless of what happened before or after, the incident itself was always done with an intention behind it.

Therefore, when you take your pet to the dog park, and you hear of dogs giving or receiving accidental injuries, this should be a red flag for you to keep your eyes out, supervisor your pet while playing, and feel good about leaving if need to! The more knowledge you have, the safer your pet will be.

My rambling response was written because of this article circulating on Facebook.

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Meet Westside!!!

Meet Westside!!!

Meet Westside!!! FREE shelter session #2 at @allbreedrescuevt !!!! Westside is an adorable pittie who has been at the shelter wayyyy too long, solely because he’s a pit bull! He’s friendly, good with other dogs and is a super goofy dude! To find out more about Westside visit: http://www.allbreedrescuevt.com/animals/detail?AnimalID=9745046

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