Archive for January, 2009

Blue’s back cross, standard jump

January 31, 2009

Here’s the final update on Blue’s back cross training on a non-wing, standard jump.

Today I’m adding wings to the jump and will work with those for 2 days. We’re going to move on to the tire next week and repeat all the jump training, including obstacle focus and handler focus exercises, on both the standard tire and the teacup lollipop tire.

To keep a record of my progress on the “Foundation Sport Package” for the 2-Minute Dog Trainer brochures, here’s a list of the 8 brochures:

1. Come to front (complete) … Blue’s first skill in our home!

2. Stay in sit or down (complete) … for walk away, for walk around, for obed and agility

3. Stay in stand (complete) … the most confusing for Blue, probably because she’s 13″ tall and I can’t get down there

4. Standard and wing “jump” (complete) … includes obstacle focus and handler focus exercises

5. Tire “jump”

6. Weavepole entries

7. Unambiguous contacts

8. Heel position

Blue has actually done all the work associated with these 2-Minute trainers but I’m going to train through them again as I address each skill in the package. I’m certain she needs remedial work with the stand/stay, and re-visiting the weavepole entries will be good practice for her. Our contact trainer is out on loan so I may play some with the basement stairs instead.

Last evening, with Blue’s dinner, I tested her skills on the single jump.  With dog-on-right I had her do “jump, post turn to the left, come to my right hand,” then circle around to face the jump again with dog-on-right “jump, back cross turn to the right, come to my left hand.” She nailed both jumps and was being very watchful.

Then, with dog-on-left I had her do “jump, post turn to the right, come to my left hand,” then circle around to face the jump again with dog-on-left “jump, back cross turn to the left, come to my right hand.”  Again, nailed both of them. So I fed her entire dinner for having done the 4 jumps in a thoughtful, watchful manner.

The whole event probably took less than a minute. Again, I’m amazed at the cleverness of this dog, but also am convinced that her learning was facilitated by the 2-Minute, highly-motivated, process. At no time along this journey have I drilled her on jumping, on turns, on any skill.

I’m off to the shelter this afternoon, if I can get out of our driveway. We’ve had a week of snow, followed by sleet and rain which froze, followed by snow, followed by more rain which froze. Our vehicles were treacherous to clean off yesterday afternoon, with huge sheets of ice breaking away and sliding down the side towards me.

And I’m having to be ultra-careful where I step as I’ve hyper-extended my bad knee twice in 2 days. It seems a little sore, stiff, and tight, but I’m cautiously optimistic that it will continue to improve.

In the meantime the weather and my infirmity have convinced me that this is not the place I’ll grow old and die, especially if Bud goes first and leaves me alone in my old-age. Back when I was a kid, and immortal, I used to say, “I’ll never go into a nursing home — I want to die at home, with the first person who finds me being the mail carrier who can’t stuff any more mail into the box.”

Yeah, well, the view of that situation is a bit different from this side of 50. A week of being trapped in the house with nothing to entertain us but work and television has convinced me that I really AM a people person. The thought of being old and infirm and living 20 minutes from town on a GOOD weather day isn’t nearly as appealing as it used to be.

We had a student at Dogwood (where we were 15 minutes from 2 large towns) who used to say, “how can you stand living out here in the country, especially when Bud’s gone, all by yourself?” She’d say, “I would worry about falling and hurting myself, and having no way to get to help.”  Of course, I never worried about that because I wasn’t going to fall.

But now I’ve actually found myself, when Bud’s out of town and I’m here alone, limiting my travel about the 28-acre property. What if I were to go down to the pond and have an accident? It would take a day or two for someone (my mother or sister) to wonder where I was and why I never answered the phone. Then another day for them to come looking for me and find me at the pond.  I certainly wouldn’t go tromping through the woods. They’d never find me, that’s for sure. Maybe I’m just getting old …

At the shelter they’ve had 3 transports since I was last there. A bitch with a litter of puppies went to Toledo yesterday, 2 dogs went to Parkersburg this morning (for a trip to Hagerstown, probably), and a van load went to Pittsburgh this morning as well.

In my job as volunteer coordinator I’ve been contacted 2-3 times to arrange for back-up drivers for transport. These e-mails have pointed out a real weakness in our current system of logging volunteer information. I correspond primarily through e-mail and most of our volunteers never answer e-mail. And I’m not going to spend every waking minute of my life on the phone calling for assistance.

I’ve decided to create several “call sheets” for the staff and volunteer leaders at the shelter. Each call sheet will list the names and phone numbers of folks who have volunteered to help with their specific need. The rule will be, “call them once, if they accept the task they stay on the list, if they turn you down flat take them off the list, if they turn you down but tell you to keep them on the list give them one more opportunity.” Hopefully this will enable each of the leaders at the shelter to boil their lists down to a key 5-10 people they can call on to help them.

Having 150 volunteer forms to search through is just too overwhelming. And the excel database created by the last (hard-working) coordinator is a little awkward to use. So I’ll probably re-do the whole thing in FileMaker Pro and then be able to create the separate call sheets on 8-1/2 x 11 paper.

My dogs are patiently awaiting their breakfast, so I’m off to get dressed, feed dogs, and take off for the shelter.

Playing with an old dog

January 30, 2009

This morning I looked at Banner, lying down in the living room, and she stared at me across the sofa. I use the word “stared” but, in reality, Banner (at 13) only sees shapes and movement.

I gave her a little huff sound, and waited for her to get up and start following me. I walked around behind the furniture and she followed, giving her little huffing noises (“this is fun!”).  When she arrived at the spot I’d occupied she hesitated for a fraction of a second before continuing to follow me around in a circle behind the furniture.

At one point I stopped moving, had the windows behind me, and she froze looking right at me. When I didn’t move she turned away and walked to the bathroom to check if I was there. By not moving I had disappeared for her. When she returned from her trip to the bathroom I huffed again and she trotted around the furniture to catch me.

This time I told her what a good girl she was and stayed put. She barked, huffed, mouthed my hands, bumped her butt into my legs (she’s an aussie, afterall), and generally looked delighted to have played a game with her Mommy.

I think it will become part of my daily life with Banner. She knows how to “find Mom,” and it would be a terrific exercise for her to play hide-and-seek with me, or tag as we did this morning. Of course, this is when the young dogs are locked away where they can’t take over the game and bump the old girl out of position.

Good times!  And one more great memory of Banner for the future. She was my ONLY puppy ever. I got Banner on Memorial Day in 1996 and named her Imagineer’s Patriot Red after a color of glass produced by my (then) employer, Fenton Art Glass Company. I really loved the bicentennial colors Fenton produced and decided to name dogs “Patriot Red,” “Independence Blue,” and “Valley Forge White.”

Banner taught me about positive reinforcement training for competition obedience, she was my wild child when I met Bud and was the beneficiary of my learning agility from him. She was hopelessly challenged with USDAA 26″ jump bars and 6-foot A-frames, and was the dog on whom I experimented for many years.

When Banner was 9 years old she attended the CPE Nationals in Michigan as a “come along” dog. I had no expectations for her, just thought she’d enjoy the trip. Every time she ran I’d return to our truck and Bud would say, “how did Banner do?”  “Well, hell has frozen over and Banner ran clean,” I’d reply. Day after day, run after run, Banner ran clean while I was busy concentrating on Dash’s negative reaction to electronic timers.

On the last afternoon I meandered over to the awards area thinking that, perhaps, Banner had won something in the “toothless, swayback, old-dog division.” I was a little peeved to discover that she was actually having to compete with all the young, healthy dogs in the 20″ division (though she was running at 16″).  Even with all the great dogs running at 20″ Banner was listed in 3rd or 4th place.

We drove home through horrible weather — it was 100 degrees when we left Michigan and, in Toledo, we were met with high winds and tornado warnings. Two days after arriving home I received an e-mail from Linda Eickhold that, after a recalculation of the stats, Banner had actually WON the 20″ division for level 4 standard. It was the highlight of Banner’s agility career, and she had shown a level of consistency I’d not seen when she was young.

A year later I was heading to the Aussie Nationals in St. Louis and, once again, decided to take Banner along as her “last road trip.” She was entered in novice preferred, jumping 16″, and had a great weekend. As I was packing my truck I heard the announcement that Banner had won the preferred jumpers division, with the fastest YPS in the preferred field of aussies.

Both of these are minor wins by most people’s standards, I’m sure, but — for Banner and I — these were milestones and gave me great memories of a dog who always had the will, but who struggled with the physical requirements, of competition agility and obedience.

Banner went on to rally training, earned 7 legs in 7 attempts, won her “B” classes regularly, even though she couldn’t see very well. I was preparing to finish her rally excellent title when, in practice, she showed me she couldn’t do all the sits required. Banner retired 2 years ago and has been my treasured old lady ever since.

She has been the queen of the house for about 9 years (since 2000, right before Brandi died).The crown hasn’t rested easily on her head and she struggled with royal demeanor. Now it appears Red (my 5-year-old aussie bitch) is preparing to de-throne her. I expect a peaceful transfer of control. Red has begun with an occasional “hard stare” when Banner stumbles into her, though she quickly recovers and softens when she realizes who bumped her.

Just last week one of the other dogs bumped Banner and Red immediately corrected the offending canine. In my mind that’s the definition of a queen bitch — protecting the aged, teaching the young, and providing a calming effect over the pack.

Blue’s back cross progress

January 30, 2009

With tonight’s dinner Blue ran toward her jump, then ran back to get into heel position and walk excitedly with me to set her food bowl on the shelf. When I set down the bowl she ran to perform the jump just once, but then came back to my side and awaited my direction.

My first request was a post turn, dog-on-right, turning to the left.  Then her back cross, dog-on-right, jumping and turning to the right. She nailed both turns and seemed to be watching me!  I gave her about 50% of her dinner.

My second set-up was a post turn, dog-on-left, turning to the right. Then her back cross, dog-on-left, jumping and turning to the left. Oops!  No-can-do.  We finished her dinner with a couple of back crosses, dog-on-left, turning left and eating.

I was really interested in the fact that Blue has decided I’m worth watching now that we’ve transitioned from an obstacle-focus exercise (just “go jump”) to a handler-focus exercise (back crosses, post turns, alternating).

Tonight was fun run night at Country Dream, and I would usually say “I’m going to see if Blue’s jump focus improved with this new jump training.” But Bud’s blog (link at right) illustrates our driveway, frozen solid, with a 6-inch layer of snow/ice/snow/ice. Only one student called asking if we were ready for students and I didn’t encourage her. No one else showed up or called. They knew it wasn’t going to be a good evening for a drive into the country.

So I have yet to test Blue’s jumping skills. I’ll keep working on it and pray for a thaw.

In the meantime I was walking through the yard with the dogs this morning and re-injured my knee by hyper-extending it when my heel fell through the crust of ice and my toe stayed on the surface. Fortunately we don’t have neighbors. They’d have heard me yelling, crying, cussing.

I limped back into the house and have elevated my knee all day. We’re approaching the 11-month mark with this injury and, where there was no pain yesterday, I feel a little, sharp ache.

2 Minute Poster Dog

January 28, 2009

Blue, my all american shelter dog, and I are having so much fun working our way through some 2-Minute jump training. I have some interesting results to report.

After a week of training she would obsessively take the jump while I walked to our training area with her food. Blue will try to pick up where we left off, returning automatically to the previous exercise while she’s waiting to see what I’m going to do.

I’ve been doing these exercises with dogs for eight or nine years. My aussies tended to be wait-and-see dogs, perhaps offering a performance or two while they were waiting, but not throwing themselves into the game like this Blue hooligan does. I’m immediately struck with the fact that I’ve trained aussies for 12+ years, would have given anything for this kind of temperament in those relatively expensive dogs. This time, I walked up to a shelter dog who had a compelling look, who stared at my face, who appealed to me — and she turns out to be the most clever dog I’ve ever trained. I find that very interesting.

Okay, so back to our recent training. For the last 2 days I’ve been showing Blue back crosses at our jump. True to her typical learning pattern, Blue started out totally ignoring all my physical and verbal cues, repeating her jump-tight wrap or jump-jump-jump in a figure 8, as we worked on earlier.

In order to achieve a back cross I had to totally remove the jump from the picture at first. I had Blue do a back cross on the flat (which she was able to do) then fed her, moved closer to the jump, did another back cross on the flat then fed her, and finally managed to get one back cross over the jump, fed the remainder of her breakfast.

For supper we attempted a back cross in the opposite direction and had to return to back crosses on the flat to get her attention. I absolutely believe in making a skill as easy as possible at first, so this isn’t so much of a hardship for me. I’m just fascinated with the way she learns and this terrier-mix is quite the independent thinker.

One of the benefits of having a 4-path approach to the 2-Minute Dog Trainer brochures (1. training Blue, 2. working with the shelter dogs, 3. writing this blog, 4. creating the brochures) is that I’m getting a full picture of training implications. Regardless of how well-concealed the issue I’m probably going to run into it somewhere on one of the four paths.

I believe that, with Blue, my biggest struggle is going to be getting her OFF the morning’s task in the afternoon, OFF the afternoon’s task in the morning, etc. Unlike my aussies, who always benefitted from a few mornings of remedial training prior to a trial, Blue may need a few days off as her surest preparation strategy.

On another note, our local college (Marietta College, a private institution) may be providing our shelter with some public relations assistance. There’s a “PR writing” class where teams of students take on PR tasks for local businesses. I provided their advisor with 3-4 PR ideas and she now says there may be TWO teams wanting to work with our shelter.

Specifically, I’d like to have them research and design PR materials to address a few shelter issues — 1) the benefits of spay/neuter directed at the public of our area versus more urban settings, 2) the benefits of adopting from a shelter versus purchasing from a pet store, backyard breeders, etc., and 3) HSOV’s new SMART team, explaining what we’re trying to do, building interest in joining our team, benefits of SMART to the efforts of HSOV.

I’m really interested to see how these college kids perceive the rural issues we face.

Enough of that — I’m off to feed the dogs their dinner and see what challenges I face with Blue !!

My Guardian Angel

January 27, 2009

This is our quiet time of year, a time for writing and projects and tax returns. I take the dogs for “family walks” in a fenced area around the training building, usually every day. I’ve discovered that they behave better, relax more, and get along better if they have more exercise and time to run, sniff, hunt, chase each other.

Yesterday I went about my day without checking the calendar. I worked a little e-mail, had several phone conversations with my mother and sister (who was unexpectedly home because of snow – she’s a 5th grade teacher), did a couple loads of laundry, and did some writing. Mid afternoon we put together plans to drive into town for dog food and some groceries, met Mom and Janice for dinner at a great little Mexican restaurant (“Las Trancas,” Bud refers to their menu as “Ohio Mexican”), and then headed home.

When we arrived home I put some clothes in the dryer and took all 9 dogs for a family walk in our 2-acre fenced exercise and outdoor agility fields. The dogs were having a blast chasing each other, sticking their noses into mounds of dried weeds, and marking as many trees as possible. About 15 minutes into the walk a car pulled into the driveway. “Did Bud or I have a private lesson?” I asked myself. “YIKES! – Yes, I’ve got a lady coming for basic obedience!”

So here I am in the agility field with 9 loose dogs, only one leash, and a guest with a dog in a car in the parking lot. A vision of our guest being mobbed by our dogs flashed through my head. A co-worker of hers had recommended me for basic obedience training and I wondered just how much disobedient damage my dogs could do to her or her car before I wrangled them into the yard.

Events such as this are actually nice little tests, IF things go well:  1) Does the trainer actually practice what she preaches or will she require force to manage her own dogs while being a proponent of no-force training to others?  2) Will the trainer’s dogs pay attention to her without treats, clicker, food bowls?  3) Is it possible to get a reflexive response to cues in the midst of a distracting stampede of dogs across the parking lot?

The event demonstrated to me that I could actually remain positive with all my dogs even when feeling a bit panicked because of the unexpected guest. That I got all nine dogs across the parking lot (in 2 bunches), mostly off-lead, without treats. And that, for the most part, the dogs stuck with me and ran from the agility area to the dog yard.

Do I just have really good dogs? Anyone who has ever come here for classes or camps knows the answer to that question is a definite NO. I think the reason this situation turned out positively is because I maintained an upbeat tone with the dogs, I moved decisively from one yard to the other, and because I visualized all the dogs coming with me as I walked.

A little visualization and positive action goes a long way to convince my dogs that they should stick with me.

I had a nice lesson with my student and her 8-month-old Golden, Lucy. We worked through 2-minute exercises for “attention to name and recall,” “greeting a friendly stranger,” and “walking on a loose leash.”  Lucy did so well she should be my poster dog.

I truly believe in this style of training and relationship-building. And I thank my guardian angel (my mother’s mother, Belva Woodburn) who was watching out for me yesterday afternoon. She made sure I was home when my student arrived and kept me calm during the stampede.

Belva Woodburn, by the way, was a woman who ended up alone with two small daughters when her husband deserted them for a young girl who had worked for them in their country store. This country store was in the front room of their home, they had a gasoline pump in the front yard, and the whole operation occupied about 200 square feet.

The first time I met my maternal grandfather was when I attended his funeral. He left his family in the 1930’s, divorcing my grandmother and refusing to pay alimony or child support. Scoundrels exist in everyone’s pedigree, I suppose. This situation may have led my mother, who had no good father-figure in her life, to marry my father (another no-good father figure, I’m afraid).

The Puppy Puzzle

January 24, 2009

Sorry breeders — this isn’t a blog on how to test puppies for their agility or obedience or conformation potential. THis is about the issue of litters of puppies arriving at the shelter, and what we should do with them.

Our shelter has, in the last week, received a dozen-or-so litters of puppies from folks who don’t understand that a bitch in heat needs to be kept indoors or confined. With almost all of them the litter came as a complete surprise. Their failure to spay their dog was a result of lack-of-funds or laziness.  All were mixed breeds, with both the father and mother being of unknown heritage.

A week ago some folks were observing a litter of puppies and their young son was showing interest in a little brown-and-white pup. A shelter employee popped up and said, “those pups are going to rescue so they’re not available.” It was a little irritating to me that our local citizens were being kept away from puppies, that their only choices were a unch of 9-month-old (or older) dogs, and that all the puppies coming into our place got shipped off to shelters and rescue groups operating in parts of the country where mandatory spay/neuter laws meant they had a limited number of puppies available to adopters.

My first reaction, spoken only to myself, was “the citizens of Marietta and Washington County, who are supplying the funds for this shelter, should have an opportunity to adopt these puppies.”

Today we received 3 more litters of puppies. I watched folks picking them up, watched the pups peeing and pooping all over the shelter floor (viewing this, by the way, goes a long way to fortify my immunity to puppies — they’re just not as fascinating to me as they should be), and observed one elderly fellow observing the youngest litter of sheltie mixes.

He started telling me about his puppies … “their eyes aren’t even open yet” … “I have miniature rat terrier mixes” … “if I have left over puppies I get rid of them in Newark” and – after advising him to clean his clothes and shoes before getting in with his little puppies – decided to dig for a little more information.

Turns out this fellow has a smallish bitch he breeds at every possible opportunity to whatever dog shows up when she comes in heat. “She needs to make back the cost of her dog food!” he admonished. When he has puppies it’s not a problem because he takes them to the Petland in Newark. In our neck of the woods Petland is about the only pet store still offering dogs and cats for sale — most are working with their local shelters to adopt out pets.

I counted to 10 — twice — and then couldn’t stop myself. I first told him that 3-4 million dogs are euthanized each year because there aren’t enough homes for them. And that up to 50% of the dogs purchased at pet stores end up in shelters because they’re rejected impulse purchases. I shared with him that none of the dogs at our shelter would be adopted without being spayed or neutered.

One has to ask oneself why this fellow was standing, looking at the litter of little puppies. I figure he was looking for his next brood bitch in that bunch of 8-week-old sheltie mixes. So I said to myself, “I sure hope these litters of puppies go to parts of the country with mandatory spay/neuter laws and don’t get adopted by some guy who runs a 1-dog puppymill.

So there you go — maybe our local adopters need education more than they need puppies.

The good news is that I welcomed a new SMART team member today — Angie — and we worked with a few dogs. We got out a few of the dogs I trained yesterday and they all showed improved people skills.

Then we got Callie out of her kennel and had time to really work with her, getting her to relax and re-connect with people. She really liked Angie and ended up lying down on the floor next to her. Some potential adopters were stepping around her to get into the dog room and saw how connected Callie was to Angie.

Within 30 minutes Callie was going to her forever home. We’ll never know if it was this little bit of training that made her more attractive, or if she was just the type dog this woman was wanting, but Angie and I had a great cheer and hug when we heard of Callie’s good fortune.

There’s no surprise that shelter staff get burned out, and that folks argue endlessly over mandatory spay/neuter laws. If conflict can exist in me, imagine how much conflict can exist in the population. Bud remains too soft-hearted for shelter work. I’m learning a lot and am more and more convinced this is a great place for my talents.

A Great Bunch of Dogs

January 24, 2009

I spent 3 hours today, working my way through shelter dogs, devoting 30-45 minutes to each one. I’m using Sue Sternberg’s shelter dog training protocols in an attempt to get the shelter dogs to:  1) self-calm,  2) follow a lure and learn how to learn,  3) walk nicely on a leash.

I was struck by what a nice bunch of dogs we have at the shelter. Because of a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder in spring of 2007 (just stopped hurting about 6 months ago) and a torn cartelage in my left knee in spring of 2008 (just stopped hurting about 2 months ago), I limit myself to dogs in the 20-40 pound range.

That makes me feel slightly sad for those big, boisterous dogs I can’t currently train. Tomorrow we’re having a training session for volunteers and hopefully I’ll have new volunteers willing to work with just the big dogs.

There are two old dogs at the shelter that just break my heart. Last Friday, these two neat, 10-or-11-year-old Great Dane mixes were brought to the shelter by 3 young men in their carhart suits. They had just spent the holiday season talking Mom into a nursing home, they all had to get back to work and lives elsewhere, and Mom’s terrific old dogs needed to go somewhere. As our “” photographer took pics of these old girls, one of the young men kissed them on the face.

They’re still at the shelter, sharing a large kennel run, sleeping curled up near each other. No one is interested in them, even the older couple I spoke with today who wanted an “older, spayed female.” I’m reminded of a line from “Elephant Man,” where the scientists are questioning whether or not this deformed human being had self-knowledge. “We can only hope he doesn’t know what’s happened to him.”

I did have an opportunity to meet a lot of cool dogs and do a little training —-  1) Sampson the young pit mix with the prick ears, very hyper at first but, when he realized I had treats, focused on my nicely,  2) Elvis the shepherd/ cattledog mix, so calm and sweet, loved to lie down for attention,  3) Baby, the boxer mix bitch who was a stray, then was adopted, then was returned to the shelter because her person had lost their apartment,  4) a no-name border collie cross with the sweetest temperament I’ve seen for awhile,  and  5) Kalli, a little shepherd-cross bitch who has been at the shelter for a couple of months and who turned out to be pretty kennel-jaded (not really interested in me as a human being, just wanted out of her kennel and walked outside — perhaps the product of too many months with too many dog-walkers who didn’t bother training her for anything).

More importantly was who was missing — the little chocolate lab puppy I had shown a couple a week ago (and they said they wanted to adopt) and two little aussie crosses who went to rescue groups in the northeastern US.

Our shelter manager has resigned, we have a temporary manager assisting with transition to an un-named, soon-to-be-hired new manager. The possibility of taking on that job remained foremost in my mind for several days. Then my mother reminded me that this is our QUIET time of year and that, perhaps, a 40-hour-a-week, minimum wage, no benefits job might not fit so nicely into my schedule during agility camp and trial season.

Cabin Fever

January 22, 2009

We’ve had a good bit of very cold weather recently, so our dogs act as if they’ve been on a 4-day “down stay.” There’s no way to count how many times I’ve said “go lie down!” at dogs nagging me for breakfast, for dinner, for family walks in the woods, for cuddle-time on my lap. They’re restless and want to get outside to play.

I’d love to let them get more exercise outdoors, but we’ve got a bunch of old dogs and their arthritic old bones can’t withstand the cold and snow for very long. Just this afternoon old Birdie decided to stay overlong in the yard. He didn’t see the rest of the dogs coming in and can’t hear when I call or whistle, so I left him outside for a few minutes. Then I got involved in a phone call and, though I heard him barking, thought he’d be fine for a few minutes.

By the time I got him indoors he was shivering. We wrapped him in a sweatshirt, Bud held his feet to warm them, and I made a small bowl of hot oatmeal which he wolfed down. I’m sure he would have warmed up on his own but I can’t stand to see a little old dog shiver.

On Agiledogs list, Brenna Fender requested submissions for the USDAA website and newsletters. She was looking for training tips presented as one sentence, no more than 20 words. I sent her “Under stress, dogs will revert to conditioned behaviors more reliably than they will avoid behaviors for which they’ve been punished.” It was actually a blast to come up with a training tip or philosophy and then boil it down to 20 words. A little writer-fun …

I’ve been doing remedial 2-Minute jump training with Blue, our 2-1/2-year old all american from the Marietta shelter. She’s a bit of a savant, but finding time to train her isn’t easy. As a result she’s got great contacts, good weaves, but tends to give jumps a pass unless you specifically point out the jump. She hasn’t developed the proper response to the cue “jump!”  (aka “how high?”)

I’ve set up a jump in our basement, just 20 feet from the other dogs’ feeding frenzy, and Blue’s been getting to do jump training for breakfast and dinner. There’s not a lot of light in the part of the basement where I’ve set up her jump, so the first few cues were met with some confusion from her as she sought out the jump. Over the last week she’s progressed nicely.

After just 4-5 days of training, I pick up her bowl and head into the jump zone, she races ahead of me taking the jump forwards, backwards, in a figure 8, doing any performance that engages with the jump for her food. What a treasure — a dog who is agile, loves food, and has made the connection between the two. It is my belief that most dogs can be taught this connection.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Blue’s jumping skills carry over into fun runs tomorrow night.

brochure, page 4, “come front”

January 18, 2009

Page 4 of 4, training concludes and remedial lessons

final lessons


You now have your dog running away from you to

find the tossed kibble then returning at a run to

assume a position in front of your legs when you call out “name, front!”


With the dog’s meal in the same bowl, play a little game of keep-away, tossing kibble to distract your dog, running away calling “name, front!” and allowing your dog to really drive into a nice, straight position in front of you. Because you’re standing and your dog is

working to make eye contact, she’ll automatically sit.


Help your dog understand the exercise by only feeding when she runs at you and sits straight in front. Slow, distracted work earns no reward. If you get a slow response toss another kibble nearby and give a huge serving of kibble for a more motivated response.

remedial work


If you find this skill gradually degenerating as your dog gets into more advanced training, spend a few days reinforcing “front” for breakfast and supper. When you train young dogs you often stop training fundamentals in favor of more complex behaviors. If you find your dog starting to ignore more advanced cues, return to your foundation training for a week or two to restore your strong working relationship.


All foundation training is conditioning the dog to

respond, reflexively, to a verbal or physical cue. When you call your dog’s name and “come” or “front” you want an immediate whipping around of the dog’s head and rapid assumption of a sit directly in front.

brochure page 3, “come front”

January 18, 2009

Page 3 of 4 the training continues …

step 2


Dogs learn at different speeds and have varying levels of distraction. With an attentive dog you might move to step 2 within days. With a distracted dog you might move to step 2 in a few weeks. With any dog you might want to repeat this exercise for a couple of days every month for several years.


Step 2 involves asking the dog to move and drive into front position. When your dog sits in “front” and gives you eye contact, feed a piece of kibble, then toss a piece of kibble on the floor behind the dog. She’ll turn and go to get the food. When she’s distracted you call “name, front!” and reward her for rushing into position in front of you and the food bowl.

step 3


Get your dog’s food bowl, sit in your chair for the first few repetitions. When you have your dog’s attention, toss a piece of kibble to distract your dog, kick the chair out of your way and stand up straight. Call “name, front!” and reward her for rushing into position in front of you and the food bowl.


If your dog seems confused that you’re standing

instead of sitting, lean toward her and enable her to make eye contact over the rim of her food bowl. Feed the dog’s dinner bit-by-bit when she sits in front.


Many dogs make this transition easily. They’re

concentrating so hard on making eye contact that they don’t really notice what you’re doing. Others will need more repetitions with the chair, transitioning into a standing position, at each meal.