The Dog Agility Bloggers’ Event topic for June 2014, addresses the topic SUCCESS. To view all the posts go to
Posts Tagged ‘basic dog obedience’
I apologize for going silent the last few weeks and months. Business got in the way of blogging. My purpose for this blog is to join the agility blogging community and speak to the topic of “aging” …..
First – I’m so excited at the maturity I’m seeing in my youngster (Phoenix NAJ) who turns two years old this December. Running him has progressed from nerve-wracking and frustrating to magical in one weekend spent training with friends and Bud Houston. Phoenix’s 2-minute dog training was always steady, but any activity in a group setting met with high stimulation and distraction. I persevered. He grew up!
Second – puppy Katniss (at 10-11-months) has been registered as an All American with AKC and is being prepared for a February-March 2014 debut. I know there’s disagreement amongst agility people as to when we should start competing with our puppies, but I prefer to get them in the ring as soon as possible, let them have a fantastic time, find the holes in my training, and give them some ring experience. In the meantime, I used my new favorite weavepole training equipment, and Katniss learned how to hit entries and weave 6 poles in three 10-minute sessions. She doesn’t understand weaves yet, but she will very soon. I’m working at sending-for-independent-performance as well as running-at-side-with-great-excitement. I want her to be familiar with both situations.
Third – rescue Haymitch (at age 2-3 years) has been getting very little work. He needs another TDAA Intermediate Standard leg to be in Superior Standard and Games 3 for the TDAA Petit Prix and he’ll get it someday. He joined weekly classes last evening and daily training sessions for Haymitch will begin this week. I hope he’ll do well in October. I reserve all his training for Teacup (TDAA) agility, and don’t put him on big a-frames and teeters very often.
Fourth – I’m writing a BOOK on the 2-minute dog trainer protocols. Bud’s going to be my editor. Angie Houston has agreed to be my illustrator. I want this to be a book people read and enjoy re-reading, sharing with their friends, and giving as gifts. I find dog training to be hugely amusing and humorous, and I want to share my strange sense of fun with others.
Okay – now for my take on “aging” in the world of dog agility …
I don’t want to automatically sound like an old fart but those darned whipper-snapper kids don’t respect us old farts!
Sure, they can out run us. Sure, they have the time and money for classes, workshops, seminars. Sure, they can wake up at 5am on a Saturday and still be energetic for their last event at 5pm.
But can they drink 2 margaritas and still provide experienced, detailed analysis of a student’s novice jumpers run? Can they? I think NOT!”
I’m just kidding, of course. Codgers kid a lot.
I believe that clever agility enthusiasts should seek knowledge from coaches of all ages. From young coaches with tons of energy, who are developing new protocols for agility dog training, to crusty old coaches who have developed all the training protocols in existence up to this point.
If agility training is a journey I’d suggest youngsters make a point of walking in the footprints of handlers with a few years’ instructing under their belts (or suspenders, knee braces, support stockings). We’ve seen the reactions of hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs to specific handling moves.
After all is said and done it is the reaction of the dog that determines whether the handling skill is a success or failure. Certain types of dogs will often share a common reaction. And a crusty old coach will usually be aware of that.
Here’s to the crusty old coaches in the dog training world!
I’ve trained my dogs once today and will have another “contacts” session with supper, as well as a group beginner class for Katniss, so now I can totter off to my favorite recliner and margarita.
The second check from a local dog-training business has bounced. Bud’s been stiffed for a seminar fee AND all his expenses related to an April 21-22 seminar. The seminar was full and healthy. My blog addressing our frustration with this issue is in the works.
In other news — I realize I’m taking on a lot, adding Haymitch, a little chihuahua / corgi mix to our pack when Phoenix is only 6 months old.
But I have the time, now that we’ve formally closed our training center (we do just camps, seminars, private lessons, and building rentals), and I’ve noticed that my priorities are changing again.
My primary interest is training Phoenix, though Haymitch will probably enter a trial ring several months earlier than Phoenix.
My goal with Phoenix is to develop distance and speed skills which will allow him to move at his natural speed while I move slowly.
My goal with Haymitch is to develop obstacle skills, and confidence skills, which will allow him to attend TDAA trials and have some fun.
The dogs are really on two different training tracks. I’m interested in knowing if any of my readers have experienced this, and how you tracked progress.
Bud and I have always had multiple dogs. As many as 10 at one time.
As our seniors began passing our pack diminished to three dogs. Then we added Tempest for four, but I had lots of time for training and we were able to travel with the entire pack.
Then we lost Tempest and were back to three dogs, with a gaping hole where Mr.T had been.
Phoenix arrived and bumped us back up to four dogs, and I threw myself into training him and preparing him for travel and trialing.
Last week Margaret Hendershot came through on a request from a year ago. She’s involved with Multiple Breed Rescue here in Ohio and I’d asked her to keep an eye pealed for my next teacup dog.
So wee Haymitch arrived 9 days ago and fit right into the pack. My goals for him aren’t as specific, and he’s a quick study, so I started some training and will be taking it nice and slow. He’s over a year old, seems to be housetrained, is learning his new name and is clingy, so he’s not much of a chore.
But Haymitch bumped us to five dogs, so we now need to return to the days of arranging for a dog-sitter when we travel. I wasn’t too worried though, as Phoenix isn’t old enough for trialing for a year, and Haymitch isn’t going anywhere soon.
However, yesterday, with a flurry of black puppy fuzz, our world exploded around Django, Bud’s new BC puppy.
Django was an unexpected surprise. We weren’t shopping or even looking. And, if we were, he probably wouldn’t have been our choice.
Okay, so here are his positives. He likes food and toys. He gets along great with the other dogs. He grins (which I ADORE). He’s fearless, humble, and lovable.
Here are his negatives. He’s huge. And he’s going to get bigger than any other dog in our pack. His feet, at 12 weeks of age, are bigger than Kory’s, Phoenix’s, or Dash’s feet. They’re all 40-45 pounds. Django is going to be an enormous border collie. And he’s long-haired. I was just getting to the point where my old canister sweeper was able to keep the balls of hair at bay.
Some folks love all things puppy. I’m more a fan of the adolescent dog. So Django has no power over me.
Did I tell you he grins?? ….. [sigh, as my heart melts]
Now our training has to kick into high gear. We have two dogs who don’t know how to eat with the group. They leave their own bowl to visit others. Just that fact makes for a hectic mealtime.
Mealtime training, for me, may mean that my young dogs eat at separate times.
If someone were to quote “Marsha-isms” I hope one they would choose is my favorite —
“Most dog training problems, and most dog behavior issues, are the result of ill-timed or inconsistent reinforcement.”
Dogs learn through reinforcement.
The more often they’re right, the more frequent the reinforcement for the right behavior, the faster they learn.
The smart dog trainer makes sure her dog is right 95% or more of the time.
Some unwanted behaviors are self-rewarding so the clever trainer must install the replacement behavior before the puppy discovers the unwanted behavior.
Regardless of whether it’s an agility performance or house manners, responsibility for the dog’s behavior sits firmly on the shoulders of the trainer.
My puppy cannot behave in a manner I’ve not taken the time to train.
Phoenix has two behaviors in class that really annoy me. More because they point out my shortcomings as a trainer than any other reason.
Let me start by saying he has no natural impulse control. I’m teaching him, incident by incident, how to control his puppy impulses.
At class last night he had a couple of out-of-control moments which embarrassed me slightly, and put some things on the top of my “to do list.”
1) Phoenix barks in his ex-pen when other dogs run, and when our students are excited and are encouraging their dogs. It’s just a matter of over-stimulation on his part, but I’ve not spent the time encouraging quiet.
2) When Phoenix wants to visit people and dogs he likes, my recall is worthless. I work on recall occasionally, but need to put more emphasis on it because it is truly NOT reliable. He approaches people and dogs as if everyone wants to be his new best friend (sorry Crystal <g>).
So, in the first instance, I’ve not established enough reinforcement for the replacement behavior (quietly lying down in his ex-pen while other dogs are running).
In the second instance, I’ve not conditioned an immediate response to my recall.
Oh yeah, and he jumps up on people. And most people reinforce that. So my work at sitting-for-petting-and-attention must get more focus.
Topdog Agility Players agility club
Beginning June 1st our training center will be transitioning to a club where our agility friends can come and play, and work, and train, and even teach!
We’re not so much “closing the training center” as discontinuing classes, rosters, paperwork, and e-mail reminders.
When we become a social club we have a few expectations:
1. we’ll get assistance with responsibility and maintenance, OR
2. we’ll have less public appearance maintenance
3. we’ll grow a few new (and amazing) agility instructors, as
we’ll be allowing our members to run their own classes
4. our members will have incentive to invite members
5. we’ll spend time and effort commensurate with income
Members will have access to our instruction (Bud’s on Wednesdays, mine on Tuesdays) and we’ll still have occasional workshops. Members will have unlimited access to the training building and fields. We’ll expect them to assume some responsibility over their training goals.
It’s all about consistent reinforcement, after all.
Bud’s been teaching agility classes for 20 years. I’ve been teaching obedience and agility for 18 years. In 2012 about 90% of our reinforcement (reward) comes from non-agility-class activities.
We’re hoping this transition allows all of us to train our dogs and have fun doing dog-related activities, gets us some assistance keeping up the public appearance of the agility building and surrounding zone, and spreads some of the responsibility associated with lesson plans, rosters, and e-mail updates.
Or maybe it will still be just Bud and I maintaining a 60×120 pole barn and parking lot, and playing with our dogs.
Some folks object to change of any sort, so it remains to be seen what the response will be to our plan.
Phoenix occasionally joins my beginner agility class as a demo dog. His drive is lovely, though his youth is evident in his desire to visit with the other friendly handlers and dogs.
Phoenix has a bro-mance with “Bear,” a 7-month-old Aussie, and an affection for “Lisa,” a sweet little Icelandic Sheepdog.
He’s starting to attend my recall faster and faster, and we continue to work on recall skills for 1-2 meals a week.
In addition to his mealtime training on the contact trainer, and on the 30-foot dead-away send through hoops and jumps, Phoenix has begun three new training protocols.
First, using the same line of hoops and jumps where we practice our “send,” we’re practicing start-line stays.
I believe I’ve created a unique start-line stay philosophy and training protocol — I’ve seen no one else addressing it in the following manner.
My philosophy is that dogs generally do not “break their start-line stay.” Instead, what they actually do with great frequency, is “anticipate the release to do agility.”
If I examine my dogs’ behaviors at the start line, and compare it with training for an obedience recall, I see two ways a dog may fail the exercise: 1) breaking the stay, leaving the task, putting nose down and sniffing, wandering off, and losing interest, OR 2) anticipating the release to follow me, or simply “jumping the gun.”
As a trainer using positive reinforcement, my responses to these two failures are distinctly different. If I treat anticipation the same as I do lack-of-interest, my training will be the biggest failure.
My training for “jumping the gun,” or anticipating the release to do agility, involves three elements.
I wish to reward the dog for staying, and will reward tiny stay performances at first, building consistently and in tiny increments with each training session.
My negative punishment (removal of reward and attention in order to extinguish behavior) for anticipating involves the absence of the reward, and having to return to the original position.
The third element of the start-line stay, and one I believe is unique to my start-line stay training, is the idea that the dog learning to stay in front of a jump, tunnel, dogwalk, whatever, must NEVER be released to that obstacle during start-line training.
Instead, I cue the “stay,” leave the dog, walk around the jump (or tunnel, or dogwalk, whatever), return to my dog’s side, reward the dog for the stay, and then release him to another, nearby, obstacle.
I want to establish in my dog’s mind the tiniest doubt that the course is going to progress in the direction of the obstacle in front of which they’re staying.
I want my dog to look to me for direction always, not assume and anticipate.
He’s able to stay while I leave his side, circle one jump or hoop, and return to his side to feed him his dinner. At first he was quite distracted and hyperactive but, once he was successful on a couple of short stays, he started catching on.
With stays I try to remind my students constantly that dogs learn through their successes so, the more successful they are, the faster they learn.
Retrieves (formal and play)
I must admit, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE training retrieves, both play retrieves and formal (aka obedience dumbbell) retrieves.
When I started training Banner (my Novice A obed/agil dog) to retrieve in 1998, I met Sue Sternberg and was introduced to her inducive retrieve methodology. She left me with a charming self-published training brochure, with hand-drawn pictures of the trainer and dog.
Banner picked up on the training so quickly I swore I’d never use another method for training the retrieve.
Last week Phoenix started learning the inducive retrieve. The methodology is to position a treat behind the bar on the dumbbell, and the dog has to “go through” the dumbbell, touching or grasping with teeth, in order to get to the treat.
In his first 5-minute session Phoenix showed me he’s a fun guy willing to offer all sorts of behaviors which make no sense to him. He quickly started putting his teeth on the dumbbell, then grabbing it out of my hand, staying engaged and focused the whole time.
In his second 5-minute session he progressed to picking it off the floor and swinging his head, with the dumbbell still in his mouth, toward me.
In his third 5-minute session he progressed to chasing it when I tossed it 4-6 feet away, picking it off the floor, and returning partway to me with the dumbbell.
Tonight, in his fourth 5-minute session he progressed to sitting while I tossed the dumbbell 10 feet away, going after it when I said “get it!”, picking it up and bringing it all the way back to my hand.
WHEEEEE!!! Awesome. Mommy is VERY pleased.
For his play retrieve I began with generally conditioning him to put his mouth on various toys. When he brings the toy back to me I immediately toss it again. When he fails to bring the toy back I follow him, take the toy, put it away, and end the game.
Now, a month since I began this subtle training, I try to not over-do the play retrieve because I want to end the game while he still eager and willing to play.
Now that he’s mostly conditioned to the play retrieve, I can begin using a toss of the toy as his reward for agility performance, knowing he’ll return to me with the toy.
Sequencing (running with me)
I’m incredibly excited about Phoenix’s temperament and biddability. He’s learning everything very quickly.
But the most impressive thing about Phoenix is the calm intensity with which he follows my movement between agility obstacles.
He doesn’t bark or carry on. He leaves the start line focused and in high drive. He turns on a dime whether presented with a front cross, back cross, blind cross, whatever.
My beginner class is made up of three dogs, including Phoenix. We have plenty of time to put together and practice rather long sequences. The equipment is jammed pretty tightly into the 30×60 space.
My students are GOOD students. They try to do their homework, they listen to instructions, they watch me demonstrate, they absorb the philosophical discussion, and we progress quickly.
Four weeks ago, Phoenix was coming out of his crate for a couple of 2-minute demonstrations each class.
Two nights ago he spend nearly 45 minutes out of his crate, engaged in agility play (and flirtation).
His ability, at 5 months, to follow my movement on sequences, is breathtaking for me. Couple that with bold, fearless, obstacle performance, and you can imagine the fun I’m having.
I often think fondly of Tempest, and miss him every day, but Phoenix is providing me with a new agility life.
I would love to get comments from my regular readers! Tell me how your training is going, what suggestions you’ve tried with your own dogs, or how you’ve modified a protocol to suit your needs. Comments please!
Don’t worry — I’m not going to leave you hangin’ for 4 months. I just want to comment on the fact that no two puppies develop or train the same.
When Tempest was 4-or-5 months old, I took a job at a local hospital. It was entry level grunt work, but it supplied Bud and I with health insurance, plus a small paycheck.
I hated the job. I came home exhausted 4 or 5 nights a week, after an 11-to-7:30pm shift. I was generally irritated with the mean girls and dopey managers with whom I worked, and would cry about the rudeness I was forced to endure each work day. It was awful and no one deserves that life for $12,000 a year plus health insurance.
When I started the job Tempest was about 5 months old, and when I quit the job he was 9 months old. Tempest’s training was put on hold from mid-August to nearly Christmas 2010.
After quitting my horrible job, Bud and I took leadership positions with TDAA, Bud had an automobile accident in Indiana, and our lives were in turmoil. Tempest’s training slowed for the winter, and we didn’t really start sequencing until he was about 11 months old.
At 12 months he started learning how to weave, and began an intermediate agility class at a local club.
I don’t think we ever made up for those lost months. Before he got sick (Dec.2011) my plan was to spend the winter doing the training we had missed Fall-Winter 2010.
So, in other words, I was continuing with the 2-minute dog training protocols, and Tempest’s individual obstacle performance was great, but his introduction to sequencing and following handler direction cues was LATE and INADEQUATE.
I’m hoping to redeem myself with Phoenix.
My work life is different now. My work day revolves around my laptop and I spend a great deal of time in my office. I do all the paperwork for TDAA, as well as the class and camp rosters.
At 4 months of age, Phoenix is enjoying obstacle training for 3 meals a day (will be transitioning to 2 meals a day in about 2 weeks).
Once a day, for about 15 minutes, Phoenix and I go to the building where we do simple sequencing with his tug toy as a reward.
My first goal with each session is to make sure he’s conditioned with each of the obstacles I plan to use in my mini-sequence.
When he’s confidently performing each of the obstacles in the sequence I start putting together 2-and-3-obstacle bits.
When he’s putting the sequences together, I practice the longer mini-sequence (5-6 obstacles).
Last week’s mini-sequence was teeter-tunnel-teeter, with a front cross between the tunnel and the second performance of the training teeter.
Today’s mini sequence was tunnel-under-the-aframe, across an 8″ jump, into another tunnel, front cross, turn-back into the same tunnel, and through the tire.
The sequence isn’t important. What is important is that he learn to look at me for his directional cues.
I’m pleased with Phoenix’s drive to run with me, with his interest in focusing on obstacles as we run, and his quiet, calm working style.
By conditioning individual obstacle, then conditioning tiny 2-3-obstacle sequences, then performing longer sequences, I hope to build in him an understanding that agility is fun. But that the fun of agility is following Mom and doing what she says to do.
Mealtime training this week (15 weeks of age) includes: 1) breakfast = contact trainer, 2) lunch, pause table on the ottoman with an automatic down, working on STAY as I walk around the living room, occasionally disappearing from sight, 3) dinner, contact trainer or hoops / jumps in the back yard.
We do contact training with breakfast x 7 days a week.
We do pause table training with lunch x 7 days a week.
We do contact training with dinner x 3 days a week.
We do jump training with dinner x 4 days a week.
Therefore, we do 21 training sessions on obstacle performance each week.
If I add one 15-minute sequencing session 5 days a week, I’m totaling over 125 minutes of training each week with my puppy.
All without stressing his body, overworking his little brain, or interrupting my life overmuch.
That’s what the 2-minute dog training protocols are all about. They’re designed to fit training into every day with your dog, and into every interaction with your dog.
Because Phoenix is a rescued pup we’re not sure of his birthdate. The rescue group, on Feb. 20, guessed he was born 12/20/11, and was 8 weeks old. I thought he had to be older than that (who ditches an 8-week-old puppy in rescue?!?).
So now, the first week of April, he’s either 14 weeks old, or a little older. I’m waiting for his teeth to start falling out at that 16-week mark to have a better idea of how old he is.
I’m going to establish a birthdate of 12/15/11, making him 16 weeks old this week. We’ll see what happens with his teeth.
Regardless of the precise age of this pup, he’s learning rapidly and is a joy to train.
First, the resource guarding is a constant training opportunity for us.
Instead of a little growl when I touch his bowl, I get a happy face and a wagging tail. I always hold the bowl and stroke Phoenix’s back, and the tail continues to wag.
If I touch his face with my free hand, the tail stops wagging, but he doesn’t freeze up anymore. This is going to be a long-term training objective, and we can’t ever forget that he doesn’t like having his food bowl approached.
He has half-a-dozen behaviors which he offers in sequence when I pick up his food bowl.
He loves to offer: sit, down, 2-o-2-o contacts, front, heel, table, and go-to-bed (get in crate and lie down).
For breakfast we work on contacts. I’m allowing him to climb the ramp now, so 2-on-2-off is done in motion, at some speed.
For lunch we work on pause table (on the living room ottoman) and go-to-bed (with his crate).
We’ve added a new exercise for dinner. I’ve set up 3 hoops (ala NADAC) in the yard and am teaching “go on” as a cue to keep engaging the hoops.
If the sequence of 3 hoops is 1-2-3, I start with #3, “YAY” and reward, then #2-3, “YAY” and reward, then #1-2-3, “YAY” and reward.
We reverse direction and repeat the exercise. I can generally get three of four of these sequences in for a single bowl of food.
Yesterday I was letting dogs out of the house for the really-short walk to the training building. We walk this off lead because everyone simply wants to run to the training building.
Unfortunately, Bud was returning home from the hardware store (working on his chicken coop — see his blog for more info on that <www.budhouston.wordpress.com) and pulled into the driveway the second I let dogs out.
Hazard and Dash returned to my side when I called them, and Kory was on lead (due to his door-dashing issues), but Phoenix floated around the driveway for a minute or two while I called him and he ignored me, or dodged away from me.
Well — that won’t do, now will it ?!?!?
So Phoenix’s mealtime training has gone to module one of my basic obedience lessons — attention to name and recall.
With every meal I walk around, allowing him to forge ahead of me, “Phoenix come!” and food for sitting in a front position and allowing me to grab his collar.
We’ll work on that for another week or so … he’s really clever so I don’t foresee it taking very long.
His agility training is going really well. He’s absorbing the 2-o-2-o training as only a puppy can. He’s showing lots of good control over his rear-end. He runs to the contact trainer when food is available.
Lots of fun!
Phoenix has been with us for 3 weeks.
His breakfast training has focused on minimizing his resource-guarding tendencies. There’s always a hand in his bowl and sometimes the hand takes the bowl away.
He has discontinued the practice of growling when the hand comes in, choosing to wag his tail instead. Just a couple of days ago I set his bowl down, stepped away from it, then stepped back in. He looked up, wagged his tail, and backed away from his bowl. That really pleased me.
On the other hand, when the other dogs approach his bowl they still get a little growl, and they’re very accepting of it. Dogs see this as a natural behavior for a hungry puppy, I guess. (If anyone out there can tell me they definitively know what dogs are thinking please let me know.)
Phoenix’s breakfast training takes place at the dog-feeding station in the basement. In addition to working on resource guarding he’s being trained to assume a 2-on-2-off position on the contact trainer.
When we first started we went to the wider, steeper a-frame end. He was drawn into position and fed from hand.
Now, after just one week on this training, Phoenix heads to his contact trainer the second I pick up his food bowl.
He runs to the trainer and assumes his 2020 position on either the a-frame end or the skinnier dog-walk end. We’re surprised at his ability to control his back legs. For an 11-week-old pup he seems very aware of his rear end.
He’ll often hit the position a couple of times while I’m walking behind him. Occasionally he’ll be standing, watching me, and move just his rear feet into position. I find that very surprising.
Phoenix’s lunchtime training takes place in my office, in the training building, in the vet’s office, or on the road.
For example, yesterday Phoenix’s vet appointment was scheduled for 11:30am. I put his lunch and my clicker in my purse. He was rewarded for:
1) getting into his crate (x 2)
2) walking into the examination room (x 1)
3) being on the exam table, first lying down, then rolling onto one hip (relaxing), then sitting, then standing, then lying down and relaxing, etc.
4) getting back into his crate (x 1)
5) getting back into his crate after a quick walk around the nursery where I was shopping for a tree to honor Tempest (looking for an Austrian Pine) — got to finish his lunch in his crate.
Sometimes we do hand-targeting for click/food. Sometimes we walk to the training building, getting clicked/fed for loose-leash walking.
Phoenix’s dinnertime training involves more resource-guarding training, and more contact training. His little body mustn’t be stressed, so we don’t do any work with jumps, or fetching, or anything that might overwork him.
Sometimes late in the evening Phoenix gets a little snack of kibble, especially if he’s played with Kory for a couple of hours after dinner. He gets a little hungry, and will come tell me — sitting, staring at my face, jumping on my legs.
Feeding him a little snack before bedtime means I can hold off on breakfast for an hour or so after waking.
Next week I’m going to bring some hoops into the yard and get started with sending him through the hoop.