Posts Tagged ‘basic dog obedience’

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!

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 TDAA_trial_hosts@yahoogroups.com 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 TDAA_members@yahoogroups.com 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.

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 – holes in my training

October 16, 2010

Tempest is now 7 months old. I’ve had him for 5 months.

He’s 95-100% consistent on the following behaviors:

1) 2-on-2-off contact performance on dogwalk, a-frame, and teeter

2) automatic down on the pause table

3) coming when called

4) letting go of his toy when I say “okay”

5) releasing off the start line when I say “T!”

He’s 75-80% consistent on the following behaviors:

1) heeling off my left leg, looking up at me (he tends to forge to “head” me off)

2) taking his nose away from an item of interest when I say “leave it!”

3) walking on a loose leash (he walked with my Mom the other day and she said he walked beautifully for her, but he tends to forge with me)

4) sitting at the start line (he anticipates the run and can’t be bothered with sitting)

5) tunnels (he has started “heading” me by running to the entrance of the tunnel, whirling around to face me and stare, heading me as he would sheep or cattle)

6) jumps (he has had little or no jump training because of his age, so he takes the jump if I’m really specific and goes around it if I’m not)

7) tire (again, little jump training so good response if I’m really specific but no desire to do the jumps or tire if I’m vague)

Thursday night class:

Much to my delight, my work schedule allowed Tempest and I to attend this past Thursday night’s agility class. It’s an advanced class, so I did mini-sequences with Tempest and kept them brief so we didn’t interrupt the training going on with the more advanced dogs.

Here are the holes in our sequencing and obstacle training and my resolutions for filling in those holes.

A)  turning … Tempest loves to get a head of steam over 1-2 jumps and would, I suppose, just like to keep running until he hits the state of Virginia.  To fill in this hole in his training I resolve to teach him to target my hand, come to hand, and recognize the word “close” as his cue to come into handler focus. Because I don’t want him to constantly be in handler focus I want to be very specific about when and where handler focus will occur.

B) working away … just this week Tempest decided to run ahead, turn and face me, and head me off as he would livestock (or his brother Kory).  To fill in this hole in his training I resolve to return to return to work at sending him ahead to do work. When I point to a tunnel and say tunnel I want him to stay focused on the tunnel until he’s completed the task. If he turns to face me I’ll break off my attention, turn my back on him and walk away. The training will continue when he discontinues heading and follows me. This training won’t take place in a class setting as it involves too much time and patience. When others are waiting I’ll be impatient and won’t allow Tempest to think through his error, so I won’t make the mistake of trying to work on this problem during classes and workshops.

C) jumping and tire training … an intentional hole in Tempest’s training, left until last because of his age. I resolve to get our hoops out and teach Tempest some obstacle focus when I’m moving. He needs to begin operating like an agility dog in motion (following the line I’m creating) instead of a herding dog (controlling my movement by heading me off).

This is a really exciting phase in training for Tempest and I. We’re getting to run, we’re building a partnership, and we’re going to become a team.

A few things I’m pleased with include:  my weight loss (due to my job I’m working off about half a pound a week), Bud’s and my resolution to eat better and live healthier, the general health of our pack of dogs.

Creaping slowly toward winter I’m reminded of the old dogs we lost this year. I dreamed of them last night and miss all the effort we used to spend making sure they were steady on their feet, warm, and dry. I see the rubber attached to the ramp into the yard and am reminded of Banner’s difficulty with the slippery ramp last winter.

My heart aches every time I pass the graves of my dearly departed. No dog will ever replace any one of them. Each of them held a special place in my heart.

In the words of Eric Clapton, “will you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?”

2-minute dog trainer – agility sequencing begins

October 8, 2010

Now that Tempest is nearly 7 months old, has recovered from his neuter surgery, and has nearly reached his full size, I’ve begun agility sequencing using the obstacles he knows pretty well — tunnels, contacts, and jumps.

Jumps are not too familiar to him as we just started some very low jump training about a month ago.

Breakfast training still focuses on heeling, though I had an epiphany yesterday morning. I had this clear realization that I don’t have the time or money to show in two sports.

So I’m focusing on agility from this point on. Obedience heeling will be an elegant way to approach the start line, and all the basic stuff will still be reinforced (loose-leash walking, coming when called, sitting for attention, settle in the house, grooming, etc.).

My new job has me away from home 3-to-5 days a week. I leave home by 10:00 a.m. and don’t get back until 8:00 p.m. I miss all of Bud’s training time, all our private lessons, all our group classes.

I have managed to ask for time off on all the Sundays we have workshops but often find myself too tired to enjoy them. That’s going to change as I become more comfortable with the demands of my job.

In the meantime, with Bud at the TDAA Petit Prix in Washington state (with Hazard), and beautiful fall weather outside, Tempest and I have added 2-a-days to our breakfast and dinner routine.

Breakfast and dinner — with his meal in a remote location Tempest heels to a position on the floor adjacent to his contact trainer. I cue “left” or “right” and “walk-it!” and he turns away from me, climbs his contact trainer and gets part of his breakfast for a 2-on-2-off position. We repeat this once or twice for a total of 2-3 performances per meal. 

Next week I’m going to bring a jump into the basement feeding area and do at least one meal a day for ’round-the-clock jump training.  Jump is the middle of the face of the clock, handler moves with dog around the edge of the clock, dog-on-right, dog-on-left, sending to the jump from 6″, from 12″, from 18″, from 24″, from 36″, etc.

During our training in the agility building we’re working on sequencing and start-line stays.

In exchange for allowing me to lead out, walk around equipment, and return, Tempest gets games of tug and — on occasion — gets to do agility equipment.

For this week’s private lessons and class I had a layout in the building conducive to training a puppy.  Low a-frame, lots of low jumps and tunnels, nothing too difficult.

So Tempest and I worked on a simple sequence.  Jump-tunnel-jump-tunnel. (Sorry, I don’t have CRCD so can’t draw it for you — set 3 jumps in a straight line — take c-shaped tunnels and put them off to the side, facing in towards the dog’s path on the line of jumps.)

Sequencing on this layout provides the puppy with some interesting training opportunities:  1) jumps may be set up as a slice, to show that a “jump is a jump is a jump, whether facing you or set at an angle,”   2) tunnels won’t always be straight in line with your start-line position,  3) when you come out of a tunnel look to me for instructions,  4) the sequence may not end at a tunnel,  5) there’s tugging to be had if you do everything I ask!

He was a motivated student (working for his tug toy).  I felt relaxed and un-stressed (it was my day off).

We had a blast.  I hope to be able to fit more of this training into my daily routine, even on days I have to work.

I can either take him to the building between breakfast and heading out to work (between 9-10 a.m.) or take him to the building after work (8:30 p.m.).  Morning would probably work out better for me, as I’m more likely to have the energy then.

But, on the other hand, when Bud’s here I sometimes go swimming before work (still working on getting rid of the last 10-20 pounds slowing me down).  AND, Tempest might have a more relaxing evening if he gets a little work after dark. 

AND, Tempest would probably be more comfortable working several hours after his supper instead of several minutes after his breakfast — probably healthier to allow his meals to settle.

I’ll work sequencing into his schedule through the winter, though.

My goal is to get him into the agility workshops for mini-sequences (if the class is doing 9 obstacles Tempest and I will do 4 of those, for example) through the fall, build to bigger sequences through the winter, and be ready for advanced sequencing by his first birthday in March 2011.

In the meantime, his behavior in the house is pretty good considering his age.  He loves to chew on OAK, so he’s damaged some of my nice furniture when Daddy allowed him free run of the house and I’m away. 

Sight of chewed oak furniture was shocking enough that no further warnings were necessary about the need to crate the puppy when he can’t be watched closely.

In the meantime, I’m off to work today and the next 2 days (beatings will continue until morale improves <g>) — all the while Bud and Hazard are whooping it up at the TDAA Petit Prix in Auburn, WA.

Good luck at the Petit Prix to my sweeties !!!!

2-minute dog trainer – Tempest gets neutered

October 1, 2010

This was the week where all my obedience training paid off. <g>

Tempest got neutered about 10 days ago and was supposed to be kept quiet for 7-10 days.

The first day was no problem. He was sore and drugged with pain meds. He stayed nice and quiet, walked in and out of the house on lead, spent the day in his crate and ex-pen, and mostly slept.

By the 4th day he was dying to chase Bud’s BC, Kory. He skittered down the ramp into the yard instead of walking quietly.

I used as many obedience cues, in as calm a voice, as I could muster. He really is a very good puppy, so I’m lucky with that. The 6-7 days of total confinement (for Tempest AND me <g>) went quickly.

Fortunately I had a long period with no work days, so I got to spend 24/7 with Tempest and keep him from having to endure an elizabethan collar.

After 6 days of total quiet, with 3-4 trips each day to the training building to walk around with my antsy pup, I gave him a little more freedom.

He still wasn’t ready to rip and tear with Kory, but I gave him a 30-minute break in the yard by himself. He seemed to enjoy sniffing the edges, eating grass and sticks, and relaxing in the sun.

While he was recovering from his little surgery we worked on:  1) sitting for exiting crates or pens, exiting the house, entering the training building, etc.,  2) walking on a loose leash,  3) greeting people by sitting, and  4) being attentive.

Now that he’s done with pain meds and being confined, we’re back working on continuing to reinforce his 2-on-2-off contact performance with breakfast and dinner.

I take his food bowl to the part of the basement that holds his contact trainer. I set the bowl 10-11-feet away from the down ramp he’ll be using.

We walk away from his bowl (he usually heels at this point, since he’s not sure if this is a heeling exercise or agility — I LOVE that!).

I tell him “walk up!” and he mounts the contact trainer and drives to the floor, where he rushes into position.

I, on the other hand, do not limit my movement.  I don’t necessarily establish a parallel path but, instead, sometimes head off in a totally different direction while he’s moving down his ramp.

If he makes the mistake of coming off the ramp, I make a big deal of putting the food bowl back down and we repeat the exercise.

If he nails his 2O2O position I walk around, casually pick up the bowl, set it down in front of him and let him eat about half his food.

We repeat this exercise, for a total of two performances, with each meal.

SIDEBAR:  About 2 weeks ago I decided I wanted Tempest to know my contact performance criteria demanded he assume his position in perfect line with the ramp. I want his front feet to stay in line with the bottom of the ramp, and don’t want Tempest hopping off the side of the ramp with his front end. One of the problems with the sideways contact performance is that it complicates the dog’s approach to the next obstacle. If the dog is supposed to turn away, into a tunnel perhaps, they’re facing the wrong direction right from the get-go.

It’s been weeks since Tempest made the mistake of coming off the contact trainer in the basement. It’s been a week since Tempest made the mistake of coming off the dogwalk in the training building.

But he’s still making occasional mistakes when we work on the real agility equipment, so I’ll continue his training in the basement for several months.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest finds heel

September 14, 2010

A week ago I came to the conclusion that Tempest was NOT going to debut Sept. 25 in rally obedience.

Because Tempest’s debut was put off (for months, actually), my goals have changed.

Instead of encouraging him to dance with me, whether in agility or rally-o or obedience, I’m limiting my movement and asking him to think about what I’m saying.

He’s learning quite a few words, including (but not limited to):

1) “T” means “pay attention to me,” versus “Tempest” which is his name. “T” is a cue in itself, while “Tempest” means another cue will follow.

2) “Come” which means “drop what you’re doing and come to me.”

3) “Leave it” which means “drop the mulch,” “walk away from Kory’s dinner without stealing any of it.”

4) “Lie Down” which means freeze in a 2-on-2-off position on the contacts. This was Bud’s language with Kory and he’ll be running Tempest some of the time, so I surrendered my choice of language on this one. Upside is we get to use the same words on an agility course. Downside is Tempest doesn’t actually know that “lie down” means “lie down.”

5) “T-down” means “lie down.”

6) “Heel” is a cue meaning “move into heel” or “move to stay in heel” position. Most important — key to my rewarding the performance — is moving. It’s important that Tempest sees heeling as a sport activity, rather than as a begging or groveling position.

7) “Settle” means lie down and relax quietly, whether in a crate or in the living room.

In addition to the words he’s learned, Tempest remembers all my foundation training, including “sit” is the way you ask for things like going out through the door, coming in through the baby gate, and entering or exiting a crate or pen.

At the strangest moments I’ll find him sitting facing the back door (Mommy, please, may I go out?).  Or sitting in the dining room facing toward where I’m sitting and the other dogs surround me (Mommy, are you coming this way to feed us?). Or sitting in the training building facing the open door as the rest of us follow him in (Kory, would you please come play with me?).

Sit has become his default, his means of controlling his environment. And I love that.

Down has become his self-control posture, and his means of calming himself. I love that, too!

2-minute dog trainer – 2011 goals

September 8, 2010

A huge (though temporary) disappointment for me was the bit of confusion over whether I’d actually be given the day off on September 25, the Saturday of a local obedience trial where I had hoped to get 2 more RAE legs for Dash (who is 10-1/2 years old), and where I planned to debut Tempest (at 6 months) in his novice rally introduction.

I had requested the weekend off but, as a new employee, I was confused and discouraged when I saw the work schedule listing me working that weekend.

I drove home engaged in an angry rant. By the next morning, however, I had decided to take the long view with my little boy, keep training, and look toward spring and brighter days. I’m going to invest the money I’d have paid for the trial in Tempest’s neuter surgery and heartworm / flea prevention meds.

In the big picture, and considering the current dismal economic picture, we’re fortunate to be seeing healthy growth in our training center, to have affordable health insurance, and to have two lovely new puppies in addition to our great pack of dogs.

So Tempest continues with heeling training with his breakfast. Now, because there’s no rush to get an extended heeling pattern from him, I’ve made his training more granular, breaking it down even more, letting him make more choices.

This week we’re working on “find heel.”  I really want him to eagerly whirl into heel position. The obedience teams which capture my attention most are those where the dog is really throwing itself into the performance. That’s the type of partner my dear, departed Banner was, and I’d love to have that back in Tempest.

I take Tempest’s food bowl away from the rest of the pack (all gobbling down their meal), set the bowl on a high table, and Tempest quickly volunteers heel position.

“Yes!” is my response for the first heel position, but no food yet.

I take either:  1) a short step forward,  2) a right pivot,   3) a left pivot,  or  4) a long step forward.

If Tempest sticks with me he gets a “Yes!” and his breakfast.

If Tempest fails to stick with me he gets a “Let’s try again!” and we repeat the exercise. His focus and desire to do work while blocking out distraction are superior to any dog I’ve had before, so I don’t want to spoil that by setting my criteria too low or allowing him to believe that sub-standard performance is “good enough.”

The best thing about a working stockdog puppy is that I don’t have to spend 50% of my training efforts building confidence and drive.

I do, however, have the responsibility of maintaining criteria. If I waver in my visualization of the correct performance, if I make Tempest question the proper behavior, my training will be set back.

Clarity of vision, and a resolve to “do it right or don’t do it at all” are my best tools with Tempest right now.

It has long been my belief that dogs make errors in performance (obed, rally, agility, whatever) because of ill-timed or inconsistent rewards in their training.

Ill-timed rewards make the dog wonder “what was it that earned the reward?”

Inconsistent rewards make the dog wonder “does she like what I offered or not?”

Clarity — consistency — constancy — these three tools will get Tempest and I to success in our journey.

It doesn’t matter whether we debut at 6 months or 14 months. It doesn’t matter whether his debut is in rally or agility. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether his debut is with me handling, or with Bud handling.

My joy is in the journey. My joy comes pouring back to me from Tempest’s eyes. His enjoyment of the process and growing adoration of me is a sustaining constant in the turmoil of these busy (and occasionally obnoxious) days.

My puppy is my joy now.  Bud’s pleasure over Tempest’s personality is my joy now.

All the rest will pass.