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Meet Kyrie - Mouth Everywhere, Feet Everywhere, Never Stops Moving! What Can I Do?

This is young Kyrie, with her new adult mentor Echo, in her early days with me.

This is going to be a very short post about a very important dog. Kyrie came to me for training at about seven months old with her brother. The blog post below tells a little of their story. Someday, I hope to settle in and tell a lot more about Kyrie. I will probably do that in pieces over the next few months.

But, here’s the deal. Owners often want their dogs to stop doing the above-described behaviors. Kyrie is an effervescently friendly dog with a lot of energy. Prior to coming to me, she had been taught to mand for attention. That worked for her to a point. When her learning brain engaged, she could remember to do this behavior, as she had been taught, but she couldn’t do it for very long. And lots of explosively active behavior preceded her successful attempts, followed her attempts, and around we go.

It was hard on Kyrie because she knew sometimes she was successful and sometimes she failed. Dogs don’t like to fail any more than people do. It was hard on her owners for a couple of reasons. They were trying really hard to be good trainers, so they failed half the time too, and being around Kyrie could be physically dangerous because she was so fast.

For these reasons and others, Kyrie came to me. What a delightful dog! This girl smiles with her entire body! So fun. When I walked into a field with her, this is what happened in the beginning: She bit my feet, she threw herself on the ground in front of me, belly up, she’d leap to her feet, and put her feet on my chest or back, she would grab my hands or my clothing in her mouth – and mand briefly – and on it went for about the first ten minutes, typically. This very good dog was just trying to figure out how to live in her own adolescent skin.

What to do? Targeting!!!

When she bit my feet, I would put out a hand to the side; she’d glance at it, I marked and reinforced her for that (verbal marker and tactile reinforcement to begin with), and I would quickly step to the left, or right, of her and attempt to take a step. In that way, over and over, I moved her, physically and emotionally, from behaviors I didn’t want to ones I like better – that also met her needs. That piece is very important; the target is my hand.

Immobilizing Kyrie by asking her to mand – for other owners, it might be to ask a dog to sit, or down, or stay – in no way met Kyrie’s needs, so it was a big ask, so she just couldn’t do it for very long, or very consistently. She really, really needed to move! And she had big social needs.

As a working dog, I want her to move! I want her to own things, to feel powerful, and to feel confident. The predictable byproduct of this is that both her brain, and her body, would become calm and consistent. In my time with Kyrie, I never asked her to stop doing anything, I just asked her to do something else instead.

The video is my very first clicker training session with Kyrie. Mostly, she didn’t know what I was marking or reinforcing her for, but she knew she was having fun, and she knew I adored her. Within days of arriving at my ranch, Kyrie’s crazy, fast behavior had diminished by at least 90% in most circumstances.

Am I an incredible trainer? Well, that would be nice to consider, but I doubt that is the reason for Kyrie’s success. What I did was give her a language to ask for things that she understood, a job she quickly learned to excel at, and a social connection with the addition of dear Echo, her mentor dog.

Stay tuned, more to the story, I promise. What I hope your takeaway from this brief story will be is how to build something, in terms of behavior, rather than to try to stop it or slow it down. If you aren’t sure what that would look like, please spend time watching the videos in my blogs library – and read my written explanations for what is going on. Good luck, and happy training!

Kyrie moved back home several weeks ago, taking Echo with her. They are thriving!

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