Posts Tagged ‘basic dog obedience’

2 minute dog trainer – intro of Phoenix

March 8, 2012

My sweet Tempest has been gone 3-1/2 weeks.

Our new pup, Phoenix, has been with us 2 weeks.

When Tempest passed I decided to bequeath his place in our home to a rescued dog, perhaps one who had never experienced the level of comfort and love we can provide.

I checked on a daily basis. There were a bunch of border collie mixes in local shelters but no little faces called out to me. I put an application in with a local border collie rescue and began the extensive approval process.

On Tuesday, February 21st, with my application slogging toward approval by  border collie rescue, I went back to

Much to my surprise this little red-tri border collie face gleamed at me from my computer screen.  He was a couple of hours away, and (at 8 weeks of age) probably already adopted, but I decided to contact the rescue group and express my interest.

Long story short — the rescue group was marvelous to work with and several friends worked as go-betweens to make this little boy available for adoption to Bud and I.

I saw the picture at 10a.m., contacted the rescue group at 10:30am, had an e-mail application completed by 2pm, had a phone call at 3pm, had my application reviewed by 5pm, and had a call at 6pm saying “when would you like to come get this little boy?”

I’m just saying ….. I understand the reluctance of rescue groups to place dogs without complete home checks and calls to references and vets. On the other hand, isn’t it better for a foster home to provide for the veterinary care, feed, housing, training, and relationship-building for 1-7 days instead of 10-12 months?

I’m certainly not criticizing rescue groups, but sometimes dogs are left too long in foster homes and released too slowly to forever homes.  I know they’re well-fed, cared for, but they’re always “the foster dog.”

Anyway — we met the wonderfully nice foster mom who was so very impressed with my 8-week-old border collie puppy and brought Phoenix home on February 22nd.

I have doubts about his official story, but a young family supposedly turned him in to rescue at 8 weeks. Hmmm. Has nice bite inhibition, is very sociable, is bold and brave, has a little resource-guarding issue, but hard to believe a young family would purchase and ditch a puppy in a week.

Doesn’t matter — he’s mine now and his past is of no consequence.

I’m starting back into my 2-minute dog trainer protocols.

For the first few days Phoenix was with us we focused on the mealtime resource guarding.

Each meal Phoenix was presented with an empty food bowl. Human hands brought food to the bowl versus Phoenix’s greatest concern — human hands dragging him away from the bowl or taking the bowl away from him.

When we said his name and he glanced up he was rewarded with another handful of food. “Come” became part of the picture, and my little boy was on his way to becoming a trained dog.

We had one little bump in the road — Phoenix turned his nose up at dinner on February 26th and 27th, so he went to my vet’s office early on the 27th. He tested  positive for parvo.

The vet’s office kept him on the 27th, giving him fluids and antibiotics through an IV. By noon they were suggesting I should be prepared to get him at 6pm. “He’s pretty full of himself,” my vet said, “he’s chewed through his IV tube twice so we’re giving him fluids and antibiotics sub-cutaneous.”

She explained that, if I could get him to eat, he could begin getting meds orally and stay home for his long-term care.

I picked up a happy pup at 6pm. He was very hungry and ate little spoons full of canned dog food each hour.

Next morning Phoenix returned to the vet for more fluids and meds, but was cleared to come home by noon. Each day in the past 10 days he’s shown good appetite, kept his food and meds down, and gotten more energetic.

Over the next few months I’ll be documenting his progress with the 2-minute dog trainer training.

This, his second full week with us, Phoenix is eating breakfast starting with an empty bowl and accepting hands coming towards his bowl with more food.

For lunch he’s doing some targeting of my open palm, touching either of my outstretched hands for a click and food.

For dinner he often gets to train with Bud on the a-frame contact trainer. After just 3-4 sessions he’s already got the idea that sitting on the a-frame with his front feet on the floor makes the food keep coming.

I think about Tempest all the time. His ashes have been brought home. I know he wasn’t perfect, and his extreme epilepsy was devastating to all of us, but he was the ultimate clean slate on which I wrote my dog-training hopes and dreams.

The slate has been wiped clean again. Our work has evaporated into thin air, but we have a plan with which to start again.

2-minute dog trainer – 19 months update

November 10, 2011

I apologize for neglecting my blog in recent weeks. Here’s what’s going on with my youngster.

The 2-minute dog training protocols have served us very well for contacts, weaves, tire, jumping, pause table downs, and for many of the minutia of dog agility.

Tempest has been a breeze to run in Standard classes, where I have the opportunity at every contact obstacle and table to redirect him.

We have 2 issues right now that have haunted us, and we’ll be spending the winter working on them.

Bar-dropping … Tempest has no respect for the pvc bars and, therefore, finds it as thrilling to go through them as to go over them. In an attempt to solve this issue I worked Tempest at 4-inches over his measured jump height for a few weeks. I entered him in a weekend of AKC agility at 24″. He actually jumped better, and looked more thoughtfully, at 24″.

Straight lines versus turning … Tempest keeps bars up best, and seeks out the mission of jumping (looks for the work and takes responsibility) when I use the “Go On!” cue.  Unfortunately, he “goes on” when the judge has the course turning.  In a jumpers’ course, for example, there are often 3 jumps in a row, but then the course veers sharply in one direction or another. Tempest prefers to take a fourth and fifth jump in that straight line.

My goal 2-3 weeks ago was to finish up our 2011 trial schedule, and then embark on some jumping and turning protocols to teach him:  1) keep the bars up regardless of their height, and  2) watch me for turn commands and absolute directionals.

Then we attended a 3-day trial in Zanesville, OH.

On Friday Tempest was adjusting to the 24″ jumps, had a few lovely runs (though no Qs) and was looking like a real agility dog. His weaves were, for the most part, lovely.  He stuck all his contacts, recognized the teeter and rode it down, and did an automatic down on the pause table.

On Saturday evening I took the dogs for a walk in our field and adjacent woods. Tempest came wandering back at the end of our walk on 3 legs.

I checked his leg for cuts or briars, but saw no injury.

On Sunday morning Tempest was still lame, but I was committed to returning to the trial with one of our students. Tempest rode along but didn’t perform at all that day.

Some friends suggested I have him checked for Osteochondrosis. Eight x-rays, and one week, later we had our positive diagnosis and an appointment for consultation with Dr. Barnhart at MedVet in Columbus, OH.

On Monday 11/7 we met with Dr. Barnhart. Tempest’s left shoulder was very painful and he’d lost substantial muscle mass in just 2 weeks.

On Tuesday 11/8 Dr. Barnhart performed arthroscopic surgery on Tempest’s shoulder to remove the flap of cartilage.

We’re 2 days into 4 weeks of total crate rest. He’s on pretty strong pain meds, and we begin Adequin injections this afternoon.

By the first week of December we’ll be ready to begin building him back up. The official rehab begins then.

By New Years I hope to be able to start the jump training to fix the aforementioned issues.

In the meantime everything here has screeched to a halt. My lesson in being patient began yesterday.

2-minute dog trainer – Bud will be so pleased

August 28, 2011

Bud has pointed out a couple of miscellaneous skills Tempest doesn’t have, skills which have been on a back burner.

This week Bud’s been out of town more than he’s been home, so I’m using my free time to focus on these skills. Hopefully we’ll have great news for daddy when he gets back into town.

First, retrieving.  Tempest’s favorite game is chase-the-toy-and-kill-it, then drop-it-and-wait-for-mom-to-come-get-it.  The game the dog likes is the correct reward, right?

However, it means a ton of walking for me, and I’d much prefer a dog who fetches his toy and hands it to me.

So this week we began working on a formal retrieve. Once he is retrieving his dumbell to hand I’ll introduce various toys, and help him start generalizing the “fetch” command.

When he’s retrieving to hand I’ll be able to use the toy for a reward and get more training done. The current game is very time consuming as MY toy-fetching speed is a direct reflection of my age and physical capabilities — I’m no 18-month-old BC.

Second, absolute directionals. Bud often says, “You’ve spent the time on Tempest’s contacts that I spent on Kory’s absolute directionals.”  And the dogs’ skills reflect the time we’ve spent on training them.

So Bud can direct Kory through a complex course, using minimal movement and well-conditioned absolute directionals.

Tempest and I, however, struggle with any sequence where I can’t be in the picture helping direct him.  If I say “left!” he’s more likely to spin right, indicating two things — 1) he has no idea what “left” means, and  2) just shouting “left” confuses him and makes him spin.

“Right” is an easier directional for Tempest. Primarily, I believe, because “right” consists of a hard vowel followed by a hard consonant. While “left” consists of a soft consonant followed by a soft vowel and a hard consonant.

So our mealtime training has been to train left-and-right.  At some point in the afternoon I break away from my TDAA and computer work to do a little retrieval training with him.

Mealtime left-and-right — with Tempest’s food bowl in my hands, I have him face me.  He immediately starts guessing what I want, often getting two 360-degree left turns in while I’m setting up.

After several days of “left” training, nearly all his guesses involve “left,” by the way.

When I’m set up I say, “watch me!” then “left.”  I’m looking for an indication of his head to the left. Sometimes it’s a flicker, sometimes he does a complete turn to the left, depending on how hungry he is.

The “watch me” command settles him down just a little and stops him from countless offerings of “left” head flickers and spins.

Not that I don’t want him to offer behavior, but I’d really like him to watch me and offer the behavior he hears/sees me cue.

He’s improved from 20-25% accuracy to about 65-70% accuracy in 2 weeks. So, as Bud says, “that’s better odds than just guessing, so somehow he’s starting to make the connection,” between the left-or-right commands and the correct direction for his head turn.

With the retrieve he’s progressed really quickly from jumping on the dumbell, putting it in his mouth, dropping it, and eating a treat …. to …. picking up the dumbell and bringing it toward my hand.

I’m helping him a bit at this point, getting my hand in really quickly so he’s delivering it to hand without too much effort.

The training I’m doing is following Sue Sternberg’s “Inducive Retrieve.”  It’s the method I’ve used to train my dogs to retrieve since 1997 and I’ve always be incredibly pleased with the results.

Sternberg’s method emphasizes the retrieve-to-hand, and the dog is constantly rewarded for releasing the dumbell into my hand.

As I learned some time ago, “fetch” has nothing whatsoever to do with chasing a toy or carrying a toy around.  It has nothing to do with holding a dumbell, or trotting across the floor with a dumbell in mouth.

Fetching is the act of putting something in my hand. Period.  Afterall, dogs carry things in their mouths all the time. They chase things all the time. Neither of those activities result in the item in my hand.

Sternberg’s training puts so much emphasis on dumbell into hand, treat into mouth, that the rest of the “fetch” behavior becomes just a means to an end. The toughest part of my dogs’ retrieve training is the stay while the dumbell flies away. They love retrieving, and I’m hoping Tempest is no exception.

Sue Sternberg’s well-written publications, including the inducive retrieve brochure, are available at <> and all proceeds benefit the dogs in her Rondout Valley shelter in upstate NY.


2-minute dog trainer – a day of firsts!

July 31, 2011

Bud and I have taken all four dogs to Dayton Dog Training Club’s 2-day AKC trial. We both entered everything, of course, including “Time To Beat” on Saturday morning.

First first was our Time To Beat class. Neither of us had run it before and it was lots of fun.  Bud’s going to document it on his blog, probably, but certainly it will be included in the soon-to-be-published electronic Houston’s Book of Agility Games.  Points are awarded to dogs for qualifying (must run clean, refusals are not faulted), with additional points awarded to the fastest qualifiers in the class.  Ten (10) Qs and 100 points earns a title.  When a title is earned the slate is wiped clean and you start from scratch.

Second first was our Novice JWW run where Tempest ran clean (yikes! we scared up some off-course jumps) with no off courses and no bars down.  The ring crew had forgotten to set the electronic timer at the final jump so Tempest’s time didn’t get recorded properly.  I was given the opportunity to accept SCT or re-run for time.  Well, of course I re-ran for time.  Our second run wasn’t nearly as clean as the first but it was fast, earning Tempest ….

Third first was the blue ribbon Tempest brought home for his first Novice JWW qualifier.  These two runs took place within minutes of each other and left me with a slightly over-stimulated youngster.  I put him in his crate and waited for the crew to build Open Standard, a tiny class with only about 15 dogs entered.

Fourth first was Tempest’s approach to the start line for Open Standard.  He was still over-stimulated from his jumpers’ run and I should have seen trouble brewing. He held it together through 75% of the course, hitting his contacts and holding them, nailing his 12 weaves, performing an automatic down on the pause table and holding it, though dropping 2 bars in a long line along the back wall. The closing line began with a really tight pinwheel and I was providing limited motion when everything went pear-shaped.  Tempest started to the first jump, turned to look back at me and, when I said “go jump!” he darted in and nipped me so hard and so quick that I yelped “Ouch!”   The judge didn’t see it, but I asked to be excused.  Tempest’s first “BC walk of shame” occurred after that nip.  I got a blood blister the size of a dime on my thigh and he listened to me repeat “no biting!” all the way to the ring gate.

Let me reiterate that I train with positive reinforcement and negative punishment.  Positive reinforcement is the application of reward for wanted behavior that you want the dog to offer again.  Negative punishment is the removal of reward for unwanted behavior you don’t want the dog to offer again.

Positive reinforcement trainers and force-based trainers often get into arguments about which system is better. When the argument degenerates into “I love my dog too much to hurt him” the language becomes a barrier to further discussion. I don’t think force-based trainers love their dogs less, they just don’t trust that the dog will offer behaviors consistently without being required to.

Positive reinforcement trainers often lack the training consistency to build behavior consistency in the dog. And, regardless of the quality and quantity of the reward system, you must have a response when the dog performs incorrectly.

I’ve practiced a “no command response” to errors in performance. Often the positive reinforcement trainer is caught out with no prepared response, and their disappointment is evident to all (including their observant canine partner, of course).  Disappointment is counter-productive, and is enough to shut down the softest dogs. The response to incorrect performance has to be neutral, the removal of all good responses.

On the other hand, when the dog does bad things (i.e. “bites the momma”) the response has to be immediate (i.e. “Ouch!”) and have an effect on the dog.  If the dog continues to smile and play, if the handler continues with the course thinking “I need this Q!”, if there is no immediate negative result from the bad behavior, the dog will be confused and unable to process the results of their behavior.

If we consider that dogs are constantly calculating “when I do this A happens, but when I do that B happens” then we know what we need to do.

Our response must be black-and-white.  “This is my response when I like what you’ve done (over-the-top praise, treats, tugs, toys, continuing with the course), this is my response when you’ve made a small error (removal of all positive reinforcers, allow the dog to try again), and this is my response when you’ve crossed the line into bad behavior (no attention, no continuing with the course, no praise, no tugs, no treats).”

A trainer cannot be too obvious with these cues. We get confused dogs when the handler’s positive responses are quiet and subtle, and their negative responses are big and pronounced.  The dog may think, “Well I know I did something wrong but I wonder what the right thing is.”

I’ll be interested to see if Tempest learned a lesson with Saturday’s standard round.  Our courses always end with over-the-top praise, tugging, lots of attention.  Small errors on course earn a neutral request to try again. His bad behavior was followed by no praise, no tugging, a “lie-down” for his leash, and no attention afterwards.

Today will be a little test.  His novice jumpers’ round will be quickly followed by open standard, and I’ll watch for over-stimulation at the start line.  I’m going to keep him out of the room as long as possible so he doesn’t get jacked up, and I’ll try to keep moving on the course in order to not incite his inappropriate herding behavior.

2 minute dog trainer – Tempest coming of age

June 2, 2011

We have two more weeks before Tempest’s AKC agility debut, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how he’s progressing.

I’m also pleased with myself on several counts (sounds weird, but bear with me).

First, I created the 2-minute dog trainer for basic obedience — four (4) modules including a) attention to name and recall, b) greeting a friendly stranger, c) walking on a loose leash, and d) calming behaviors, grooming, overall house manners.

Second, I created the 2-minute dog trainer for local shelters — seven (7) modules including a) choosing the right shelter dog, b) teaching new name and recall, c) housetraining, d) managing destructive behavior, e) greeting friendly strangers, f) walking on a leash, and g) calming behaviors for your home.

Third, and building on the previous two packages, I wrote the 2-minute dog trainer for Sport Foundation training, including  a) come to front,  b) stay in sit or down,  c) stay in stand,  d) standard or wing jump performance,  e) tire jump performance,  f) weavepole entries,  g) unambiguous contacts,  h) heel position training.

All the time I was sharing these protocols with campers, writing and publishing as electronic documents on our website, I personally had no dog on which to practice them.

Fourth, I focused all my attention, and brought 14 years of opinion, on purchasing the right pup on which I would practice these 2-minute dog training protocols.

Fifth and finally, I continued with the 2-minute Sport Foundation protocols during Tempest’s puppyhood, during my 4-month stint as a slave in the kitchen of the local hospital (seemed like much longer, but that’s because I was in a state of constant physical pain and psychological torture <g>), during a long winter where we took on tons of new TDAA work, and into his competition preparation.

Near Tempest’s 1-year birthday I added 2-a-day training sessions to the 2-minute protocols. These additional training sessions involved weaving and sequencing, and each lasted no more than 15 minutes.

At the same time we joined an intermediate class at another location, giving Tempest experience on other equipment.

Now, at age 14-1/2 months, Tempest is well ahead of many other pups his age in terms of performance skills, especially 2-on-2-off contacts, start-line stays, and weave entries.

He’s also WAY better behaved on basic obedience skills than most dogs we encounter, either here at home or out in the world.

And I’m very careful to not over-stress his young body, while keeping his active mind occupied. Though he’s advanced in skills for a pup his age, he never experiences intense or extended training sessions.

All training is done in 2-5-minute play sessions. If the temps or humidity makes training stressful or uncomfortable, training is discontinued. I never insist on multiple repetitions.

Three months ago we began focusing on jumping and sequencing, and Tempest started learning how to weave.

Two months ago jumps became job one, with weave entries job two.

One month ago jump bars began moving up from 12″ to 16″ to an occasional 20″ jump.

With our debut in just over 2 weeks we’re now focusing on control and close work.

After several weeks of playing with toys and tugging to reward him for sequences, contacts, weaves, etc.,  I’ve switched back to string cheese and have increased his reinforcement schedule.

Last night in class he dropped just 2 bars the whole hour, though many of the jumps were approached from odd angles. This is a huge improvement over his previous tendancy to blast through the jump bars instead of going over them.

He hit and held 95% of his contacts (he popped off the teeter twice).

More importantly, he followed my movement and stayed on course most of the time. He took a couple of tunnels without being asked, but we weren’t working at the time so they were purely “time killers.”

Instead of being nervous about his debut I’m excited and looking forward to a good laugh with him.

Months ago, when I was considering my next agility dog, and before I had Tempest, I just wanted a dog who was brave and willing.

Now I have that brave and willing partner, and he has mad skills, and I credit the 2-minute dog training protocols (and my persistence and consistency) with the working relationship we’re building.

2-minute-dog-trainer, Tempest at class

April 29, 2011

My youngster has been attending group classes for a couple of months. Each week our training gaps are made apparent and our homework is filling in those gaps in my training.

On Wednesday nights we attend an “intermediate” class at another club’s facility. It’s been marvelous getting T on new equipment and he’s shown himself to be a brave, bold partner.

This week was his first experience with their full-sized, rubberized teeter. He had no issues with the equipment, running to the end, riding it down, and sticking his 2-O-2-O position.  I’m really pleased with his contacts and he continues to eat one meal a day on his contact trainer.

In the last 8 weeks he’s also learned to weave, but I’ve been focusing so much on jumping in the last 2 weeks that he’s missing most of his entries now (loss of focus as we run at the weaves).  Back to weave training, interspersed with jump training.

On Thursday nights we attend Bud’s advanced-to-masters class here at home. Our course last night was 17 obstacles with all contacts, 2 sets of 6 weaves.

For the first time I ran Tempest at 20″ in the entertainment round. We do most of our practicing at 16″, and he’s been known to run with the 12″ dogs part of the time, but I wanted to see if 20″ made him more thoughtful and careful.

He dropped one bar due to my pulling away as he was jumping, and he missed both of his weave entries.

In general he was awesome and fun. If I can iron out the kinks in the next 6 weeks he’s got a chance to have a solid performance at his debut.

With regards to his general demeanor, I’m still really pleased with my choice of a middle-of-the-pack puppy.  He’s not a bully, and he’s not a chicken.

Where he once became frantic watching other dogs run agility, he now observes keenly but quietly.

He’s a wonderful little house dog, choosing to lie quietly at my feet as I work. But he’s ready for any activity, any time of day or night.

He sleeps in bed and, generally, through the night without needing to go out for a potty break. The exception to this is on training nights he’s usually had a lot of treats and water, so he’ll often need to lay his head on my arm and let me know he needs to go outside.

He travels well, accepting hours in a crate, though he objected to being left in the back of Vicki’s truck while we ate dinner in Medina.  He’d have been quiet in his crate, but was barking because he was loose.

I’m delighted that I took the time and put the effort into   1) choosing the right puppy,  2) teaching him good manners,  and  3) training contacts-contacts-contacts.

2-minute-dog-trainer, countdown to T’s debut

April 25, 2011

I know I’m going to walk to the start line for Tempest’s debut trial run feeling unprepared and unsure of the outcome. But that’s how it’s supposed to feel, right?

My target is mid-June through early August as T’s debut.  An AKC trial since they’re accessible.

Tempest is 13-1/2 months old and I have less than 2 months to work through a few issues we have (though I must say I refuse to feel pressure to rush him through these foundation lessons …. wouldn’t be prudent):

First, jumps and jumping … though this is job one in agility I’ve held back from a lot of jumping exercises because of T’s age. Last week he approached an off course jump set at 26″ and cleared it with lovely style – thoughtful and careful.

But, in general, T approaches jumping as he approaches baby gates — blasting through is as good as going over.

I don’t want to use any sort of correction for the careless jumping, but I find myself getting irritated with his disregard for jumping when people are watching, so that’s an issue I have to work on in myself.

In the meantime, our jump training needs to take place outside of class where I can bring him along as I wish, without people watching.

I want him to love jumps, so basic jump conditioning is the first step.  Around the clock with the jumps set at 16″, around the clock with the jumps set at 20″, and around the clock with jumps set at 24″ or 26″.

Sidebar: A few days ago Hazard, 11″ tall, jumped onto a 20″ tall ottoman …. that’s the equivalent of my 21″ boy jumping onto a 40″ table … yesterday I had him jump onto a 35″ table for grooming and he managed that with ease … I’m thinking 26″ jumps will be no problem for him.

When he gets over his “blast through or ignore” jumping issue, and becomes a thoughtful jumper, he’ll work most of the time at 20″.

At the same time I’ll work on pinwheels, asking Tempest to own the work ahead of him and to love jumps. Starting at 16″, working up to 26″, and settling back to 20″ or even 16″ for longterm.

The dead-away send (as in closing line on a course) as a “go on” will be trained as an extension of the pinwheel.  As he starts understanding the pinwheel I’ll shift jumps to straighten the line bit by bit. (Right now Tempest often misses the last jump in a line, opting instead to stare at me and draw in — typical novice mistake.)

When he’s loving jumps, owning the pinwheel, and managing dead-away sends I’ll introduce a couple of turns he hasn’t learned yet.

Tandem Turns and Back Crosses — Tempest hasn’t had more than 2 training sessions on the tandem turn, and I must admit to being a little confusing when it comes to turns away from me, or ahead of me.

Tempest has about a 65% success rate with absolute directionals, and Bud’s wanting him to know “jump-right” and “jump-left” with the same accuracy as Kory, but it isn’t my strongest training skill and I often forget to use those skills when faced with a turn after a jump.

So T’s confusion is a direct result of my own confusion, and that’s something I have to think about in my training.

I want to set up jump sequences to practice distance handling skills including absolute directionals.

For example … three jumps in a row to a 180-degree turn back to a tunnel or chute or weaves. Practice first with me on the inside of the turn, then with me on the outside of the turn, and finally with me behind and on the outside of the turn.

This training will be done at 16″ at first, and finally at 26″, in preparation for his trialing debut.

I may regret having held back on jumping, but I really don’t want Tempest experiencing a lot of dropped bars or strained shoulders, so — if I’m wrong — I just have to fix it with my next dog. <g>

Bud wants to publish a “Bud Houston Jump Training” document.  We have our own theories and might as well get them in print.

Second, start-line stays and returning to me when the course is finished … sounds easy enough for an obedience instructor, right?

But I have a tendency to “over-tame” my dogs and don’t want to squelch Tempest’s enthusiasm or develop a submissive posture from him with either of these skills.

So each will become a mealtime training event, lots of reward and reinforcement.

Starting this evening, Tempest’s supper will be fed in the training building for jumping.  He’ll continue to eat breakfast in the basement on his contact trainer (I absolutely love his contacts).

Sounds like a plan …. I’ve got it on paper (here) as well as on my clipboard on my desk, so there’s no excuse for not following it.

Well, actually there are lots of excuses, but I’m not going to let lawn mowing, string trimming, flower planting, swimming, cabin prep, camp meals, and TDAA office work spoil my plan. <g>

2-minute dog trainer, Goodbye to a good old dog

April 19, 2011

In 2000, Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline (ARPH) assisted in raiding a Spencer, Ohio, puppy mill where dozens of aussies, shelties, and beagles were being bred irresponsibly.

The dogs had been existing in stacked crates with the steel trays removed to make clean-up easier for the owner. This meant that the dogs in the bottom crates were constantly getting peed and pooped on.

Over 140 dogs were brought out, including many undersized dilute merle aussies due to the puppy-miller’s breeding of merle-to-merle, small-to-small, etc.

ARPH needed foster homes for these poor creatures. Bud and I agreed to provide a foster home for as long as needed, for one of the released dogs.

We met the ARPH representatives near Wadsworth, Ohio, at a lovely farm where temporary pens had been erected to provide homes for dogs being picked up by their foster families.

A dozen or so people showed up to transport dogs to foster homes around Ohio.  Bud and I were the only individuals actually taking a dog into our home, so we got first pick of the available pups.

We walked past pen after pen of dilute merles huddling at the backs of their pens. It was impossible to tell if dogs were deaf or blind as most of them refused to approach people, or even look in our eyes.

However, at the front of one pen, a black tri aussie trotted back and forth, engaging us and begging for attention.

We got him out of his pen and Bud started walking him around the barns to see what his temperament might be. This dog had been in a bottom cage, so — even after 2 baths — reeked of urine and feces.

We had decided to call him “Ringer,” and provided ARPH with all our contact information in case they found Ringer a home.

Back at Dogwood, Ringer immediately made friends with the pack of aussies and shelties, and then began resource guarding the water bowl.

Water bowls became a challenge for this dog who never had unlimited access to fresh water. We made sure everyone had plenty to drink, but the water bowls were spread out so that Ringer didn’t feel he had to hoard all of them.

He had never lived in a house, had never run through grass, or down a hill, so all these had to be learned.

We soon decided to adopt this funny boy, and registered him as Dogwood’s Independent Blue, keeping “Ringer” as his call name.  His nickname, unfortunately, was “Mr. Inappropriate,” as he never really learned how interactions with dogs and people should proceed.

We ILP’d him with AKC and registered him with ASCA, and started training him to do agility.

He was a willing learner of agility, but never managed to be in agility trials due to his overwhelming carsickness and his unwillingness to come when called.  We didn’t think we could keep him safe at outdoor trials, and indoor trials required lots of car travel.

Fortunately for Ringer, he had moved into a dog training center on 10 acres, with an active agility league. He got plenty of play, training, and competition, without ever leaving his back yard.

He discovered the joys of windfall pears and became our fruit-eating dog. If you were eating or cutting up fruit, Ringer would insist on sharing.

We guestimated Ringer as a 1997 pup, though he could possibly have been considerably older or younger.

For the next 10 years Ringer continued to be “Mr. Inappropriate,” continued to stare longingly through the dog yard fence, and continued to love his freedom.  Ringer, unlike most dogs, LOVED getting hugged (the tighter the hug, the better he liked it).  He routinely would finish his meal and come to Bud or me to give us a little thank-you “kiss” on the hand.

His favorite activity was to participate in “family walks” in the 2-acre fenced area near our agility building. He’d strike out alone, walking the fenceline as long as we’d let him stay out there. While the other dogs hung with us or chased each other, Ringer did his solitary march around the property.

This morning we said goodbye to Ringer. He was approaching age 14, probably, and was suffering from arthritis, hip displacia, rotten teeth, and probably a mini stroke or two.

In recent weeks he began having episodes where he would cry in pain. While in pain his bladder and bowels would void. After the initial pain he would carefully lie down and moan for several minutes.

Ringer’s struggle came to an end this morning. He’s buried outside the dog yard, where he always dreamed of being.

When spring arrives we’ll plant a pear tree near his grave. Ringer would have liked that, I think.

2-minute dog trainer – I’m Back!

March 7, 2011

It’s been a busy month and I’m going to try to fill in some blanks in how Tempest’s training has progressed.

He turns one year old next weekend. I’ve spent some time this past week watching video of him at 8 weeks. I had watched the litter from afar for 8 weeks.

Getting pick of the litter was a fascinating and fun experience after many years of adopting rescues and other people’s cast-offs.

Tempest was my birthday present. I contacted the breeder on my birthday, and Tempest was born 3 days later. He was born to be mine, so to speak. <g>

As I watched those puppies mature I created a list in my head of what I wanted in my puppy.

Drive — that is, an interest in playing the game with me, regardless of whether the game was agility, rally, herding, or tracking.  I wasn’t looking for over-the-top drive since I’m 55. Just a dog that’s happy to accompany me to the start line, and one that enjoys the activities and crowds surrounding dog sports.

Tempest loves doing agility with me, and puts up with obedience training even while other dogs are doing agility beside him. He chases and herds Kory, his half-brother, mercilessly.  He delights in being by my side.

Biddability — obedience in all it’s forms including formal obedience and house manners. I didn’t want an obsessive-compulsive activity addict. I wanted a pup who could stand beside me as I teach basic obedience or agility, interested in the activities but not acting like a nut, yanking at the leash, focused on other dogs.

Tempest can stand beside me for hours, watching other dogs do agility. He’s fascinated with the border collies, and only really gets overly excited when his brother runs. He’s an ambassador of his breed, kind and friendly with other dogs, eager to get attention and treats from other people, but always returning to me, his partner.

Level-headedness — tough to describe, but I knew it when I saw it.  I wanted a pup who could have his toy stolen by another dog without begrudging it or going on the attack. I wanted a pup who stood up for himself without being shy or fearful.

Tempest has been approached by nice dogs and not-so-nice dogs. His reaction is always the same. He lowers his head, stands his ground, and is left alone.  He’s not an aggressor, nor is he a bully’s victim.

So I’ve got the dog of my dreams.  And then life took an interesting twist.  When Tempest was 5 to 9 months of age, I was involved in a horrible job which left me little time to train, physically and emotionally drained.

When he turned 9 months old I freed myself of that job. Bud and I began running TDAA (formerly run by 6-7 volunteer board members).  We started basically from scratch, bringing the jobs of the volunteers here to Ohio, learning the processes, streamlining where we could, and improving what we felt needed improving.

Since that magical moment TDAA has become our Job One — our life’s work — our contribution to the agility community. We’re delighted to be serving Teacup agility enthusiasts.

My training time with Tempest has taken another back seat, though I continue my 2-minute-dog-training sessions, teaching little lessons before breakfast and dinner.

Tempest’s heeling lessons all take place at mealtime.  And he’s learned a pretty nice recall and sit-in-front. I need to get him out in the world with these lessons so he doesn’t think all heeling is done in the basement.

He sticks nearly all his contacts, only losing self-control if a tunnel is nearby and directly ahead. He’s more excited about tunnels than jumps, but I’m shifting his emphasis and he’s picking up quickly.

He’s eagerly learning to weave, having been introduced to weaving just about 3 weeks ago. Bud’s got us doing some distance work, including “go on” — a send down a line of 3 jumps.

Now, as Tempest turns 1 year old, our trial-prep training begins.  He’s eligible for trialing in about 3 months, but I’m holding him back until late summer, with a mid-September trial goal.

I’m going to continue working contacts for breakfast, but I’m also going to work the 2-by-2-weaves for dinner.

I want Tempest to do 2-3 weeks of the “exploding pinwheel” exercise. I want to continue his “go on” exercises, especially with a double or triple as the last jump (why do judges always want to put the finish line on the triple?).

As the weather clears I want to get him doing work in more distracting areas — local parks can easily accommodate a 10-minute training session with 2 weavepoles and a jump.  I don’t expect him to succumb to distraction much. He really likes agility.

I want him to get the hang of running with me. That’s probably going to be our toughest lesson as he likes to cut across my path and head for tunnels.

I’ll start journaling more consistently.

With regards to TDAA, Bud and I have set ourselves on a timeline which has exhibitors’ title certificates (as electronic pdfs) arriving within 7-10 days of completing the requirements for that title.

We’re learning the database management, and becoming proficient on searches and entries. I’m keeping up-to-date on requests for dog registration forms and jump height certificates. We’ve cut the time a handler waits for a dog registration form from 2-3 months to 1-2 weeks.

It’s a full time job for both of us and we’re loving the challenges we face. It’s fun to learn the new skills, and find ways to more completely meet the expectations of our host clubs and exhibitors.

2-minute dog trainer, the end of puppy-hood

February 7, 2011

Tempest turns eleven months old February 13th. He really doesn’t act much like a puppy, and my training needs to begin reflecting his increased capacity for prolonged work.

I’ve begun taking him to classes and, when the advanced students work a 9-10-obstacle sequence, Tempest and I work a 2-3-obstacle portion of that sequence.

Tempest is drawn off his line, the line I’m defining for him, by the placement of tunnels. He doesn’t actually love tunnels but they hold a magnetic fascination for him.

So, if my path goes straight north with him on my right, and there’s a tunnel to the west, he’ll be drawn northwest. He’ll pass right behind me — looking straight at me the whole time, mind you — as if he thinks this is the right thing to do.

So I’ve implemented a few tiny exercises to help him learn to maintain that line. 

First, I practice a lead-out, calling him over a jump and straight to my hand for a treat. (The treat will eventually become the toss of the frisbee.)  Tempest has trouble coming straight to my hand even if I’m 5-6 feet away from him.

Second, I practice “sends” to jumps ahead of us, and run behind him to deliver the treat. (Again, the treat will eventually become the toss of the frisbee.)  Tempest is having much more luck understanding the send.

Third, I practice little “pre-cue” sends to jumps. My back is to the jump, I’m facing Tempest, I send him to the jump behind me and have him wrap the upright and come to my hand. Much to my surprise, he started getting the idea of this exercise immediately.

I’m going to continue working on jump sequences with him. This is his weakness and we’ll train to it.

In the meantime, he’s a lovely boy in the house, has really nice manners, torments Kory relentlessly (paybacks are a bitch — sorry, Kory), and is my shadow always.

Bud and I are busy doing the work of TDAA and gradually implementing changes. Our monumental task looming ahead is database management.

TDAA exhibitors, trial hosts, judges, and advisors are almost without exception a lovely group of people. Of course, there are those rare exceptions, and I try to not take personally the psychological assaults inflicted by one or two haters. Life must be rough when you have “be rude and insulting” as your personal goals. I try to not make their lives more of a grind.