Archive for December, 2010

2-minute-dog-trainer, TDAA ideas

December 24, 2010

We’re tinkering with a couple of ideas for TDAA programs.  Bud and I both believe that our number one customer, our primary focus, needs to be the TDAA host clubs.

Our first emphasis when all the TDAA materials and files arrive is to establish a working list of clubs currently offering TDAA trials.  Where there are no TDAA clubs we’ll work with interested small dog people to get clubs started.

Where there are clubs working hard to offer TDAA trials, we will work to help them profit (or, at least, break even) on their TDAA trials.  Note … we’re eliminating the overly-intrusive judge’s reimbursement plan and — to help clubs control their bottom line better — also eliminating the limitations on hiring judges. Also, we’re offering deeply discounted recording fees (the money you pay TDAA for each dog’s run) for small, less profitable, trials.

We are committing to visiting each TDAA trial group every year.

This will be more than just a visit, as Bud or I will provide one day of FREE teacup workshops at TDAA host club locations. These should be scheduled before or after a trial weekend. One of us will arrive (with our teacup Sheltie, Hazard, in tow whenever possible) and teach a teacup workshop.

We will pay for our own travel expenses, our own room and board, and will run Hazard in your trial. Your free workshop can take place at your trial site, or at your training site.

You may allow your students and trial exhibitors to attend for free, or you may charge enough to break even or profit from the workshop.

At the same time, we’re striving to provide the best possible customer service to those hundreds of agility enthusiasts who currently show in TDAA.

2-minute-dog-trainer, the touble with Tempest

December 19, 2010

Sometimes training isn’t so much about teaching skills or behaviors.

Sometimes it’s about attitude adjustments.

Tempest has decided that he’s got time on his hands while he runs, jumps, enters tunnels, and does contact equipment.

In his spare time he wants to “buzz” his handler and bite her.  Well, not actually bite, just snap his teeth in a very happy, threatening, and loud manner in the general neighborhood of my hands and butt.

He started this behavior a week ago and it escalated this past Thursday. 

We’ve actually helped people with their biting dogs for many years. I created a training protocol for Banner (in 1999) called “My Dog Bites Me” through which Tempest will get to work.

My philosophy behind “My Dog Bites Me” is that:  1) the dog doesn’t automatically know that we don’t like his inappropriate herding behavior, and  2) we can apply positive reinforcement and negative punishment to influence the biting dog’s behavior.

In this training protocol we set up equipment in a large oval, the shape of a simple race track. The training, afterall, needn’t involve “handling,” no fancy sequencing.

Instead, we focus on simple movement forward without biting (or barking for that matter), and the simple race track allows us to focus on the dog, not the equipment.

We begin by performing ONE obstacle, and rewarding the dog for not biting or barking during that performance.

If the dog bites or barks, we turn our back (“shunning” the dog) and walk away. We return to the start line, at which time we again focus on the dog and bring him to his spot on the take-off side of obstacle one.

We repeat obstacle one perhaps a dozen times, rewarding the dog with food when he performs quietly, focused on the work, and shunning the dog, returning to the take-off side of obstacle one without comment when he barks or bites.

The more we repeat obstacle one, the stronger our dog’s understanding will be regarding the behavior we want versus the behavior we don’t want. We certainly do not want to hurry through this phase of the training.

When our dog is performing obstacle one quietly and with focus, we add obstacle two. Increasing the sequence at this point is going to no doubt result in barking and biting. When we know what to expect we can be prepared for it.

The instant we hear barking or see biting or snapping, we shun the dog and walk back to the take-off side of obstacle one. We repeat obstacle one – reward or shun – repeat obstacle one – reward or shun – repeat obstacle one until the dog has successfully repeated obstacle one 3 times without biting or barking.

Then we try to add obstacle two to the sequence again.

We build the sequence in this manner.  After three successful performances of a particular sequence we add another obstacle.  If the dog fails at the larger sequence we return to the smaller sequence and try for three successful performances.

We build, and build, and build until the dog understands that the entire sequence is to be done quietly and with focus on the work.

We’ll see what Tempest makes of this training protocol. <g>

In other news, I’m working on a few TDAA projects:

1) establishing a new mailing group for our host clubs. Cheryl Hoffman already has one list, with 58 members.  There are 71 host clubs, so I’d like to get everyone on the list, obviously, so we can post new programs and processes as they occur.  Not so obvious is Cheryl’s dislike of Bud (and me, by association), so establishing a new trial host list was a necessary duplication of effort.

2) working with the membership roster (680+ members) and getting invitations sent to as many as possible to join our list.  The list currently has only 268 members, so lots of folks have chosen not to join the membership e-mail list. We want to emphasize the benefits of membership, including:  1) involvement — receipt of the TDAA newsletter AND the ability to submit positive ideas for programs and processes, as well as  2) perks — such as access to on-line dog records, and a guaranteed invitation to the annual Petit Prix.

3) collection of TDAA tasks and jobs to our place in Ohio. The jobs of TDAA have been scattered to the four winds, with three satellite offices in Illinois, one or two satellite offices in Wisconsin, one satellite office in Oregon, etc.  The work is getting done, but every query involves countless e-mails and lots of digging through old files. As soon as everything is at our place we’ll be documenting systems and figuring out how to streamline them.

4) working on the 2011 Petit Prix — we’re days from an announcement of location, a few weeks from a premium. I’m so proud of our dedicated host clubs who have stepped up asking to host this national event. TDAA club owners are energetic, intelligent, and highly driven — like our little dogs. <g>

Details will be coming later to our various lists ….

2-minute dog trainer, toys-for-work continues

December 16, 2010

Tempest’s enjoyment of toys and tugging overrides all his foundation training, so I’m minimizing the use of toys in his training for now.

At 9 months of age he’s at that fractious age where he needs consistency from me, and a reminder of his early lessons.

He’s got tons of drive and really enjoys working, so there’s a temptation to do more, and more, and more. But I remind myself that his body is still growing and maturing, and now is a good time to revisit all the basic stuff.

Our agility lessons in the building are mostly performed for string cheese. Tempest is coming together nicely for 4-5 obstacles in a sequence.

He can remember his foundation training for the 15 seconds required to finish that small sequence. Then his head explodes. <g>

His 2-minute-dog-training at breakfast and dinner focuses on two key elements:

1)  foundation skills, including sit, down, stay — Tempest has a lovely sit (a little slow) and stay (a little “iffy”), but his “lie down” had begun to deteriorate the most because I wasn’t using it over much.

His new mealtime routine began with an up-close lie down. I held his food bowl in my right hand, laid my left hand gently on his withers, and immediately fed him for lying down.

At first Tempest wanted to jump back up when the bowl of food came in, but I gradually convinced him that continuing to lie down led to continued eating. If he hopped up I’d remove the food bowl.

I didn’t tell him stay, necessarily. It’s an assumed stay — that is, “if I tell you to lie down I want you to lie down until I tell you something else.”

As usual, Tempest was a clever student who loves his chow, so it only took about 3 days for him to slam immediately into a down at the words “lie down,” and staying in a down while he eats.

By the way, he quickly began anticipating my verbal cue, so I’d have to return to him and get him into a sit or stand. I want “lie down” to be an action cue — it means to move immediately into a down and wait for further instructions.

2) foundation skills, building distance — I asked Tempest to lie down from 6 inches away, from 1 foot away, and — most recently — from 6-8 feet away.

If he offers the lie down before I can cue it, I return to him and put him in a sit or stand again.

3) foundation skills, building distraction — another issue Tempest faces is being distracted by our other dogs eating while he’s working.

Sometimes I put the other dogs’ food bowls down and have Tempest practice his sit/stays in the midst of all that gobbling.

I set him up on the edge of the eating dogs, have him sit, tell him “stay,” and walk through the gobbling dogs to the far edge of the eating activity.

He has to sit and stay for a few seconds with all that distraction going on between us. If he gets up I simply walk back, put him back in his proper place, and return to the far side of the activity.

4) foundation skills, building duration — while Tempest is working on impulse control around distraction, and a little bit of distance, I will not build duration for the skill.

That is, I may ask him to sit/stay around the distraction of the dogs eating, or I may ask him to “lie down” from 8 feet away, but I won’t ask him to hold any position for more than a second or two.

There’s time to build duration later. Right now I want instant response and perfect clarity on his part.

Tempest’s other 9-month-old issues include some pottying issues. 

He’s become a poop-eater, so I try to pick up feces as soon as possible.  Additionally, he’s found one place in the yard he likes to toilet and he puts pile on top of pile if given the chance.

With horses, I believe they call these “stallion piles” and it’s the horse’s way of designating territory. Tempest’s pile is at a point along the fence where rabbits and other critters come through the fence. Interesting ……

When time and weather permit I’m going to return to the exploding pinwheel to increase his obstacle focus and help him understand he should gather before and after jumping.

In the meantime, he loves to work, loves food, loves toys, loves me, and is everything I’d hoped for in a puppy!

In other news, Bud has a judging assignment this weekend in Indianapolis and will be coming home with a trailer load of TDAA work. We’re creating our advisory committee and preparing the “member guest suite” for TDAA members wanting to come play with their dogs and work for TDAA.

We’re going to ask the clubs who are currently showing interest in hosting the 2011 Petit Prix to find ways to cut costs.

I’m really serious about having TDAA “go green,” and want to reduce our carbon footprint considerably.

For example, TDAA has numerous electronic filing systems, yet all the paper records for 10 years have been saved as well.

We’re looking at creating electronic membership forms, dog registration forms, height cards, host club applications, trial applications, etc. Ensuring access to the records — making sure nothing gets lost — will be job #1 over the next weeks.