Archive for January, 2011

2-minute dog trainer – making progress

January 12, 2011

After 8 months of training Tempest (he’s 10 months old this week) we’ve stalled out for a few weeks. I’m taking the long view with this pup, and am in no hurry to get him out to agility trials.

We continue working on “left” and “right” with his meals, and he’s a very willing student.

Additionally, I intersperse work on positions (sit, down, stand) from heel side AND from 8-10-feet away, facing Tempest.

By the way, I rarely refer to him as Tempest. “T” is a much easier name, and he responds beautifully to the sound.

In fact, this afternoon, as Bud and I worked on TDAA trial numbers — all start with a “T” — I’d call out a number and find a cute little face poking up between me and my worktable.

I’ve become a believer in the axiom, “it’s all in a name.”  The choice of name for a performance dog is more important, in my opinion, than most folks believe.

In the meantime, while struggling to streamline all the TDAA processes and bring them in-house, while trying to enjoy my family a little during the holidays, and while trying to keep training my puppy, I’m more and more convinced that the 2-minute dog training protocols fit into busy lives.

So, it’s Tuesday as I write this. Last Thursday Bud took off to St. Louis, MO, to meet with the author of TDAA’s software. The goal was to  1) understand the current “batch” entry system,  2) to discuss the creation of a new “forms” system better suited for a single-office operation,  3) work through a couple dozen dog registrations and trial applications that got held up in the old mailing system to understand the old system, and  4) come home with a current data file.

On Thursday afternoon Bud’s truck and empty trailer hit an ice slick west of Indianapolis. At 4:50 he called on his cell phone, as I was in the training building, to say “I’ve been in an accident and the paramedics are here getting me into the ambulance.”

He spent Thursday night in ER, with occasional black outs caused by a mild concussion. On Friday morning he was shifted to ICU and monitored constantly for drops in blood pressure. Friday evening he was moved to yet another room, then released on Saturday afternoon.

We’ll be forever thankful to our dear friend, Deb Auer, who drove from her home to Indianapolis, hovered anxiously awaiting news on Bud’s condition (I remained 5 hours away, at home), asking what she could do, and performing the awesome task of retrieving all Bud’s personal items from the truck.

Bud’s home now, safe and not-quite-sound, and telling me I’m going to run Kory and Hazard this weekend in a local USDAA trial.

This is a great indoor trial hosted by BRAG, in Columbus, Ohio, and features all the starters and advanced classes, plus 2 rounds of Steeplechase.  The trial takes place in their training building, where Hazard has shown in the past, and this will be Kory’s USDAA debut.

I feel bad that Bud’s missing this opportunity, but only one of us can go because we have agility workshops on Sunday.

So I’ll be running his dogs at the trial, and he’ll be teaching the workshops in my place.

I’m a little nervous (understandably) about the 2+ hour drive, the possibility of bad weather, seeing old friends, and not looking like an idiot running Kory. This pup is a brilliant, biddable boy, but the slightest mis-step on my part will result in a train wreck, and I’m not looking forward to that feeling.

It will, however, give me yet another opportunity to get ready for what I hope to see from my own youngster.  Cross my fingers and just hope Tempest is half the dog Kory has turned into.

Wish me luck!

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2-minute dog trainer – teaching “go on”

January 3, 2011

Tempest (aka “T”) is now 9-1/2 months old, and incredibly full of himself when on the agility floor.

In most situations he’s a lovely boy. He hasn’t had an accident in the house in weeks, has learned how to tell me he needs to go outside, and has learned how to “hold it” for 15-30 minutes.

He torments Bud’s Kory, herding and stalking him in the yard. They play nicely together most of the time, though, and are good brothers to each other.

Between my job (Aug.13-Dec.13) and our increased workload with TDAA, and the holidays, my training time has been limited.

Bud and I have committed to setting aside 30-45 minutes each day to train our youngsters.

A few days ago Tempest attended our advanced Thursday night class. He chilled nicely in his ex-pen and got to do a little bit of work when I felt it wouldn’t interrupt class.

Bud had students working on a 8-or-9-obstacle sequence that included a right-turning tunnel under the dogwalk, with a sharp 180-degree turn to the right to run up onto the dogwalk itself. The entrance of the tunnel stuck out beside the dogwalk about 4 feet, blocking my path alongside my pup.

A week ago I tried this 2-obstacle sequence and Tempest kept hopping off the dogwalk onto the top of the tunnel. I was stuck between the entrance and exit of the tunnel, and my movement down the dogwalk required that I dodge out to get around the tunnel. My running around the tunnel brought Tempest off the dogwalk.

We did a couple of conditioning exercises to assist him in fixing this little sequence.  First I worked him on entering and performing a tunnel that turns away from my position. (Ex: Tunnel turns right, “T” is on my right)

It took him several tries to get that he was supposed to perform the tunnel going away from me. The first few tries he’d pop into the tunnel, whirl around, and stare at me from the entrance.

Bud often refers to this as a novice-dog-error, that the dog wants to go the same direction as the handler and, as soon as they notice the tunnel turning away, the pup turns back and comes back out of the tunnel entrance.

When I had Tempest performing the tunnel turning away with good consistency, I put him into the tunnel and headed down alongside the dogwalk.

When I was able to get him into the tunnel and get ahead of him down the dogwalk, he never again hopped off the dogwalk onto the tunnel.

We practice this 2-obstacle sequence again Thursday night. The class was doing a longer sequence, but all I wanted to do was the tunnel-dogwalk bit.

Tempest entered the tunnel boldly, turning away from me, I was able to take off down the side of the dogwalk, he exited the tunnel, turning sharply up onto the dogwalk, and performed it perfectly, assuming his 2-o-2-o position on the downside (even with a tunnel sitting 10 feet ahead of him).

I was training with string cheese, rather than with his toy, so he could maintain focus a bit better.

I went back to my seat with Tempest and awaited my next turn. The second time I had a cloth tug toy instead of string cheese, and this situation generally puts his enthusiasm over the top.

Instead of getting out of control, however, Tempest did the two obstacles perfectly, held his 2-o-2-o, and jumped to tug with me when I said “okay.”

I felt hopeful for us. <g>

Last night Bud acted as bait-meister so I could work on “Go On!”

We set up 3 jumps in a row and I gradually conditioned “T” to do all three jumps.

First I led out to the landing side of jump 2, called him over 1 and 2, then sent on to 3. Then I led out to beside jump 2, called him over 1, directed him to 2, and sent him over 3.

Soon I was able to lead out just past jump 1, sending him over jumps 2 and 3. The final step was to stay on the take-off side of jump 1, sending over jumps 1, 2, and 3.

Bud would toss little bits of string cheese onto the black rubber-matted floor about 6 feet beyond the landing side of jump 3.

Tempest quickly got the idea that there were treats to be had for doing all three jumps.

When he was consistently working straight over 3 jumps away from me, Bud stopped dropping the treat and — instead — I praised and rushed up to treat “T” from my hand.

Gradually Bud moved off to the side and out of the picture for “T”.

Tempest continued to do all three jumps, turning back to me after jump 3 and rushing to greet me and his treat.

It took about 15 minutes total. I think I can commit to that … <g>