Extreme Mutt Makeover 2012: Meet Lilli!

The Extreme Mutt Makeover is a one of a kind event that helps promote pet adoption and the benefits of positive training. I was really excited when I heard that my friend Michelle would be participating this fall in the Extreme Mutt Makeover. I asked Michelle if she would be interested in writing a couple of guest posts for my blog about the competition. In this post, she introduces herself and Lilli, her partner for the competition.

My name is Michelle McClelland and I am Lilli’s dog trainer for the 2012 Extreme Mutt Makeover. Lilli is a two-year-old terrier mix that was pulled from a kill-shelter to compete in the Extreme Mutt Makeover. The Extreme Mutt Makeover started in 2009 as a partnership between the Humane Society of North Texas and the Mustang Heritage Foundation. Each of the 15 trainers will have six weeks to train their shelter dog. Their goal is to learn, observe and teach the dogs the skills they need to become more adoptable. Trainers are advised to use force free methods while training and training tools such as e-collars, prong collars, and choke collars are prohibited.

On October 13th, trainers and mutts will compete to showcase their skills. They will be challenged with an obedience style course and a 90 second choreographed freestyle routine. The teams will be judged not only on their ability to perform the given course and routine, but also on the relationship that they have built over the past six weeks.

My goal during the competition is to teach Lilli the skills she needs to make her a great family pet. We have started working on foundation skills, since those will be the most important when she goes to her forever home. Focus, targeting, and capturing are just some of the things that we have worked on so far.

As a trainer who has been given a strict deadline, I have found it is easy to get stuck on the small stuff. I have been doing a lot of observations with Lilli to really understand how she learns. She loves to play and is very motivated with toys and food. She does not fully grasp the idea of offering a behavior yet, so I have really had to be even more observant to reinforce even the smallest approximation toward the end behavior to keep up her motivation.

Lilli is a “waggy” dog. If her tail stops wagging during training sessions, we need to find another way to work on the behavior or try learning something else. I have found that it is very helpful to give her play breaks during our sessions to give her brain a chance to relax before we try again.

Lilli and I have been a team for a week now and she is blossoming, just like her name! I will be using clicker training to train Lilli. She was able to grasp the idea of the clicker being a marker very quickly. Lilli is now gaining confidence about trying different things to make the clicker click. She is also responding well to cues in our training room and we are now transitioning to practicing her skills in new locations.

You can keep up with Lilli’s progress by visiting Lilli’s Facebook page.
I encourage you to “like” Lilli’s page, Michelle has been posting Lilli’s training updates, as well as lots of cute photos of Lilli.

Michelle McClelland is a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner from Duncanville, TX. She is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, Doggone Safe, and Dog Scouts of America.

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