Archive for November, 2010

2-minute dog trainer – toys for work solutions

November 24, 2010

I began this morning with the journey of finding a solution to Tempest’s misunderstanding about his “toy entitlement.”

I wanted my training to address 3 scenarios:

   1)  stationery exercise, release and reward with toy … with Tempest on the ottoman at the base of our bed, I asked for a down … Tempest assumes a down position and I tell him “stay” … I toss the toy onto the bed … I say “okay” to release Tempest and “get it!” to encourage him to jump on his toy … I immediately grab part of the toy to engage him in tugging with me.

   2)  moving exercise, reward with toy … I ask Tempest to hop off the bed onto the ottoman … I tell him “hup up” onto the bed and toss the toy … I say “get it!” … I immediately grab part of the toy to engage him in tugging with me.

   3)  retrieval of toy for tug game … with Tempest on the bed watching me, I randomly toss the toy saying “get it!” … when he hops on the toy I immediately grab part of the toy to engage him in tugging with me.

Verbal cues I use include “Get it!” which means get the toy and bring it to me for tugging, “hup up” which means perform a moving exercise which corresponds with the physical cues I’m providing (ex: pointing at the bed, tossing the toy, etc), and “stay” which means hold that position even if I move, point, toss the toy, etc.

Missing elements might include:

   4)  stationery exercise, reward with toy in place, no release from stay

   5)  moving exercise with different equipment and longer sequences

   6)  retrieving different toys for tugging as well as for treats

In other news, the hullabaloo surrounding the membership vote to restore TDAA to private ownership versus member ownership and board of directors is dying down. With this vote we’re expecting a member mandate to assume leadership roles and institute some policy changes.

A couple of clubs have expressed interest in hosting the 2011 Petit Prix and we’re brainstorming improvements to the annual event.

We’re also considering clarification or changes to on-going programs such as judges’ code of ethics, limitations on judging assignments, and club-building weekends (formerly known as working seminars).

In the meantime, registrations, memberships, and jump height cards are being processed daily.

All these functions, as well as trial approvals / advertisement / premiums, trial results postings, and title certificates are being scrutinized to ensure that members are getting the best possible service for their TDAA investment.

2-minute dog trainer – toys for work

November 23, 2010

Today I spent 5 minutes in our training building, showing my Mother and Sister how Tempest is doing with his agility lessons.

Instead of using food treats, I picked up his cloth frisbee. I learned an important lesson in that 5 minutes.

The toy creates a distraction for Tempest through which he’s unable to work (at 8 months of age) because he’s never be trained that toys are the reward for work.

This seems to be a simple thing, doesn’t it?  But clearly, when you’re an 8-month-old border collie a toy should be the reward for breathing, and work should be shunned. <g>

I’m going to do a little work with him over the next weeks and months, to let him understand the work-for-reward (whether food or toys) system that dog trainers use to shape behavior.

I’m not overly-concerned with Tempest’s behavior. I remember the days when I was doing Golden Retriever rescue and would pull “free to a good home” dogs from disfunctional homes, rehabilitate them, and find lovely homes for nicely trained dogs.

The dog’s behavior when I got them was more a function of their age — almost always 8-to-1o-months of age — not their breed or training or the family’s commitment to keeping them.

I always tried to get the family to actually train through these adolescent months, with the idea that they’d have a fabulous family dog in 6-8 months.

They always just said, ” I need to get this dog out of my house before my [spouse] gets rid of it.”

There’s no reason to believe that my puppy, with the advantages of 2-minute dog training from age 2 months to 8 months, will be this age with any extraordinary blessing.

He’s 8 months old.  I just tell myself, “Deal with it.  Stay steady, be consistent, don’t get upset, let Tempest come around after he gets through this period of adolescent growth.”

2-minute dog trainer – validation from Tempest

November 15, 2010

I created the 2-minute-dog-training protocols many years ago when Bud and I owned Dogwood Training Center.

In addition to their 2-minute protocols my dogs had access (generally) to an hour class every week. We didn’t always get to work in the class as I was sometimes teaching, but most weeks I was able to slip into class for 30-60 minutes.

And we did league play every week for many years, so my dogs had access to a weekly fun run.

Tempest, at 8 months of age, has worked in 2-3 beginner workshops, for about 30 minutes each time. He has spent countless hours in his ex-pen watching advanced classes.

However, 95% of his training has been in 1-2-minute sessions at mealtime.

Yesterday afternoon Tempest attended his first full class, starting at 4:00 p.m. with introduction to spread hurdles, and ending at 6:00 p.m. with an introduction to wired weaves.

Without any drilling, armed with just the 2-minute work we’ve done and the little bit of beginner sequencing he’s had this past summer and fall, Tempest was actually doing agility.

My practice of walking away from him when he throws away his training in response to over-stimulation had a profound effect on him, by the way.  He works harder and harder to focus and stay in working mode.

I know there will come a time when we need to work on more complex handling skills, and that training sessions may stretch to 10-15 minutes to get things working right.

But I hope I remember this important lesson (my validation in the concept of the 2-minute-dog-trainer) — that tiny lessons, repeated often, worked at mealtime, can train a dog to be both driven and biddable.

At 8 months Tempest was the star of his agility class yesterday. As he should be with all the advantages he’s had.

His behavior demonstrated 6 months of laying a solid foundation of relationship — and focus — and desired behavior being rewarded.

Frankly, I was as proud of myself as I was of my puppy.  And I was actually pleased that my gruesome job with its annoying hours away from home has kept me from obsessing over drilling Tempest.

In the next four months I want to get Tempest fluent in front crosses, pre-cued front crosses, and tandem turns with EITHER body language or absolute directionals (left and right verbals).

In March 2011 we’ll begin weave training, though he’s already being rewarded for entering a set of 2 weaves correctly for his toy or for cheese.

By this time next year, hopefully, I’ll have attended a couple of novice trials and will start filling in any training gaps made obvious by that experience.

You can’t imagine how exciting it is for me to AGAIN have an agility dog who runs with me from the start line, eager and willing to play the game.  SO much fun !!!

I had forgotten how intoxicating dog agility can be with a bold, brave, willing partner.

2-minute dog trainer – adapting to change

November 7, 2010

Tough economy, hard times for potential students, new work schedules, decreased time for dog training, etc., etc., etc.

I still have an 8-month old puppy needing attention and training, and this is work I’m committed to.

The 2-minute dog training protocols are perfect for this situation. Regardless of how busy my schedule is, Tempest still gets trained each day on:

Absolute directions — with the potential for great speed, and my desire to ensure he fulfills this potential, we’re training Tempest to know “left” and “right” just as Kory knows them.

When Bud’s here and I’m at work he’s in charge of dinner training. Bud works on absolute directionals with no equipment involved other than a hungry puppy and a bowl of dog kibble.

Bud began this training with luring, repeating “right” – “right” – “right” – “right” and assisting (then allowing) Tempest to spin clockwise — and immediately giving a positive marker (“YES!”) and feeding part of his meal. 

With one bowl of food there are a dozen or so opportunities per meal.  If time is an issue Bud will do just 3-4 repetitions and let Tempest finish his food.

When Tempest became 90% reliable on “right” Bud introduced “left.”

At first there was great confusion but Bud persisted, repeating “left” – “left” – “left” – “left” and assisting (later allowing) Tempest to spin counter-clockwise.

When Tempest became 90% reliable on left Bud introduced “right” again.

Some observations — when given a choice, Tempest will revert to the first cue he learned (“right”).

Also, I believe the verbal cue “right” is more dog-friendly than “left.”  “Right” is a stronger-sounding word, that it, it has a hard vowel sound versus the soft vowel sound in “left.”

I believe this accounts for Tempest’s preference to performing “right.”  He simply gets it easier.

We will persist.

Sequencing — the hoops had to be withdrawn from the dog yard, so it takes more time and effort to get Tempest working on “hoop – go on – touch – hoop – go on.”

I found one of Bud’s new hoops (NADAC-style) chewed, with the PVC base deconstructed. My first fear was that Tempest had chewed it to destruction, but I was able to put it back together.

Still the hoop portion is nearly chewed into 2 pieces, so the hoops were taken out of the yard.

However, with his breakfast, Tempest gets to work a little on sequencing. Considering that sequencing is simply doing one thing after doing another, with the reward coming after all the work is done, Tempest is doing sequences of just 2 events.

I have him either in front of me or beside me, with his contract trainer off his opposite shoulder from where I’m standing.  (For example, contact trainer with Tempest standing off to the right of it, and ME standing off to the right of Tempest.)

I want to use his absolute directional training to get him to turn away from me, with the idea in mind that I can use body position to turn him toward me in most situations, but a turn away from me at a distance might be more probable if he understands an absolute directional to move away.

With Tempest, then the contact trainer, on my LEFT, my cues are “LEFT – WALK IT.”

Tempest gets a positive marker (“Yes!”) for making the correct turn, and gets to eat for hitting his 2-on-2-off position on the contact trainer.

Then, with Tempest, then the contact trainer, on my RIGHT, my cues are “RIGHT – WALK IT.”

Tempest gets another positive marker (“Yes!”) for making the correct turn, and gets to eat for hitting his 2-on-2-off position on the contact trainer.

Interesting Note:  Tempest is 100% reliable on his absolute directionals when the contact trainer is the target, or the end of the sequence.

The problem, of course, is that I may be inadvertently providing a physical cue of turning in the direction of the contact trainer. I try to stand still but old habits die hard.

In other news, TDAA business is now being handled by a small army of volunteers. 

Several people in Illinois are collecting the suite of agility equipment and office supplies, transferring responsibility for the bank accounts, arranging for audits, and arranging for other services to continue or improve.

Bud continues to receive proxies, and we’re preparing the TDAA Member Guest Suite in our house.

Opponents continue to bad-mouth Bud (me too, probably) to anyone who will listen, but the number of people willing to listen is limited. We’ve actually received proxies from some folks who have first-hand knowledge of this behavior.

I realize that all politics are local, and that every endeavor is political in some way, but can’t we all agree that Dog Agility (for God’s sake) should be an enjoyable activity, as devoid as possible of politics?

We continue to work toward establishing protocols for speedy delivery of dog registrations, trial premium approvals, trial date publication, trial record uploading, dog record keeping and publication, and title certificate distribution.

Additionally, we’ll be looking at “who should pay for what” in our efforts to build TDAA clubs and support the hard-working individuals who are currently supporting the TDAA organization.

We want to enable all clubs to grow, and assist financially when possible, without bankrupting TDAA as an organization. This is not, however, a time to be stingy with the organization’s resources.