Posts Tagged ‘choose to heel’

2-Minute Dog Trainer – Tempest prepares for rally-o

August 14, 2010

Tempest has been doing tiny heeling patterns for breakfast and dinner.

In addition, he goes with me to the training building once or twice a day for agility training or just play. We’re working on training “in drive,” encouraging him to be excited and vigorous in his tugging after an accurate agility performance.

Having trained 4-5 dogs who weren’t overly drive-y, most of the training “in drive” is for my benefit. I have to learn to recognize new criteria and reward them in a timely manner with the lungewhip toy or the tug toy.

Tempest turned 5 months old today, August 13, 2010. In about 5 weeks I’m entering him in a rally-o trial (novice B of course). It’s all on-lead, and my expectation is for a happy puppy at the end of our run.

The skills he’s going to need are:  1) Let’s Go!,  2) heeling,  3) come front,  4) finish right / foward right,  5) finish left / forward left,  6) right turns,  7) left turns,  8) automatic sits,  9) down,  10) stand,  11) stay for walk around a sit,  12) stay for walk around a down.

He doesn’t have to be conditioned to respond to verbals only, or to signals only. He’s just going to dance around with me for a few minutes.

There’s probably more, and I need to review the novice signs. There’s no reason a puppy can’t do the excellent signs, and work off lead, so he’ll probably do a lot of that as well.

Bud and Kory are at their third weekend in a row for novice agility trialing. I have to keep reminding myself that Tempest has an entire YEAR to train before I can start entering him in agility trials.

I’m so excited about his training that I am tempted to rush things. Fortunately, I know better, and I’ll have Bud here to tell me to ease off.  And those long winter days will be here before you know it, trial weekends will become few and far between, and I’ll get to start running him in class.

By the first of September I’d like him to be able to do 5-6 signs in a row.  With no treats on me. Hmmmm …. I may try some toy or play training with him for rally.

Unlike tradition obedience, rally has no place for the handler and dog to break off and play. So I don’t want to fall into the habit of carrying treats or toys, but I’ll break off after the LAST sign on the course, run off and play with his toy.

The trick with Tempest, I believe, is to start with tiny courses — run off and play.   Then add a sign and go 10 seconds longer — run off and play.  Add another sign and another 10 seconds — run off and play.  Etc.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest gets serious

August 2, 2010

With Tempest 4.5 months of age, and with the idea in mind that he may perform novice rally in a couple of months, it’s time for me to start some more serious training — beyond our foundation work, all of which will continue.

I’m going to plan on twice-daily trips to our training building to work on heeling and rally doodles. Since novice is all on lead this should be fun training for a puppy.

I don’t teach a rigid handler posture, or militaristic performance from the dog. My training is all about applying the rules of a dog in motion, and body language from the handler, to rally doodles. So Tempest should find this a fun little dance-with-mommy.

Additionally, I’m going to devote at least 3-4 sessions a week to Bud’s jump (or hoop) training.

I’d like to start with the exploding pinwheel, where puppy learns to own the pinwheel and learns “go on!”  The pinwheel starts out close and tight, with little opportunity for error, and then explodes outward to a full-size pinwheel layout.

After Tempest understands “go on” in the context of the pinwheel, the semi-circle of jumps will begin expanding even more to become 3 jumps in a nearly straight line, and finally a straight line of jumps … from the original 3 to 4, then to 5, then 6, etc.

That’s the plan, anyway.   I want to get Tempest working for toys and tugs as much as possible.

He’s a total chow-hound as opposed to anorexic Kory who lives for toys and tugging.  Bud likes to play little games with Tempest, and this weekend taught him “come by” — driving from a sit-in-front clockwise around Bud to a ball tossed from beside the left knee.

It was clear that the puppy I had working for clicks-and-treats had more drive and speed when a toy was added to the mix. Time to get serious and appreciate the drive Tempest has.

Bud started Kory’s training with NADAC hoops (no jumping), but I want to mix it up a bit with hoops and wing jumps (with bars on the floor — noactual  jumping) in separate working layouts.

Interspersing the jump work with the rally doodles should provide us with a nice mix of puppy play.  One will reward drive and distance and independent work with toys and tugging, the other will reward up close and attentive work with clicks and treats.

This is an experiment and a training laboratory, so my next report may be that toys and tugging have superceded treats for Tempest’s training.

2-minute dog trainer, practical applications for Tempest’s training

July 23, 2010

There are 3-4 special behaviors I’ve been encouraging in Tempest and last night we tested the practical application of this special training.

1)  the sit-and-down-stay … though a four-month-old puppy can’t be expected to stay for very long, I’ve been doing little tiny stays with Tempest at a few of his meals.  I expect a stay while I walk away, a stay while I walk around him, and a stay sitting right in front of me.

Last evening, while the more advanced dogs were working in class on equipment, Tempest and I worked on our pause table stays.  I’m amazed that, at his young age, Tempest is able to stay focused on me, with other dogs running, while I walk away from the pause table and give his release word, then come running to me 10-15 feet away. He was so cute — staring intently at me as if trying to figure out what all this had to do with anything.

2)  the fetch … toy training is going to become a huge part of Tempest’s agility and obedience training. Toys and tugging build confidence, build drive, and are just more powerful for a toy-driven dog than treats. Tempest has begun the initial training on a formal retrieve but, in the meantime, is getting the idea of the play retrieve. “Every time I take it back to Mommy she throws it again — whee !!!”

After class, while I chatted with our instructor, Tracy, Bud was sending Tempest to the tunnel (from 6-8 feet!) and tossing the frisbee for him.  Tempest was happily jumping on the cloth frisbee and “killing it,” but then — every time — would take it back to Bud !!!   At one point Bud got distracted and Tempest stood beside him with the frisbee in his mouth, looking up as if to say, “hey, I’m not done here !!”

3) walking on a loose leash … I began by simply stopping forward movement but, when Tempest figured out how much fun the training building was, he still wanted to rush to get there.  I began a series of left 360-degree turns, turning directly into Tempest if he forged ahead of me.

Last evening, on his walk to the building and anytime I walked him from one spot to another in the building, Tempest offered me loose-leash walking.  Quite a bit of self-control for a baby, I think.

4) we have mulch and wood chips in our dog yard, so I’ve been teaching Tempest “leave it” to drop stuff out of his mouth.

This morning, as we were returning to the house from breakfast, Tempest picked up a piece of wood.  I said, “T – leave it,” and he spit it out !!  Amazing.  What a good boy.

In the meantime, Tempest no longer gets his puppy lunch but instead gets just 2 meals a day of adult food.  He’s growing slowly, getting some of his adult coat (looks a little scraggly right now), and still needs to grow into his EARS and FEET.

He’s a loving little boy who happily follows me around, sleeps next to wherever I sit, and comes when called.  I’m so happy with him, and so completely satisfied with his ability to learn our little lessons and remember them.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest’s contacts and heeling

June 21, 2010

Using my 2-minute dog training principals (no drilling the puppy, no positive punishment, no harsh corrections for incorrect performance, no lengthy training sessions) I’ve been cross-training Tempest, now 14 weeks old.

His legs are getting longer, his body is looking less like a sausage and more like a border collie, and this past weekend his ears pricked. So much for the reverse fold. <g>

Breakfast and supper find us at the contact trainer Bud assembled for us in the basement. Our dogs all eat together, loose if at all possible, and some of them finish their meal before Tempest is done with his training.

He has, on a couple of occasions, given the other dogs a growl or snap when they approach his meal. A bit of resource guarding isn’t a huge problem if it keeps him from getting his meal stolen, but I don’t want him to take it too far. So I ask him to continue working for his food and, if at all possible, ignore the circling wolves. And I continually lay claim to his food, helping him understand that it’s all mine.

I started Tempest’s contact training by laying down his food at the base of the trainer, taking him gradually higher and higher on the ramp, and allowing him to drive down the ramp to his bowl. It was placed about 3-4 inches from the ramp, encouraging him to place his front feet on either side of the bowl while his rear feet remained on the ramp. He’d do 2-3 of these descents per meal.

After about a week of this I decided to see what Tempest would do if I simply stood next to the contact trainer with his meal and a clicker.

He threw everything he had at me — and I was surprised to see just how many behaviors he knows will earn reward.

Sit.  Down.  Sit.  Down with his front feet on the board.  Climb up the ramp.  Turn around and sit on the ramp. Hop off and come front. Another down. FINALLY he climbed up the ramp, turned and sat at the bottom of the ramp, and stared at me.

When I did nothing, he carefully stepped off the end of the ramp with his front feet.  CLICK !!!   FOOD !!!

Within 2 days he was quickly assuming “the position where all good things happen.” All on his own, no verbal cue, no luring, no prompting, no physical steadying. Bingo.

We’ll continue feeding breakfast and dinner for this fine behavior, since this conditioning becomes so very important when our agility dogs get their “kowabunga” moment.

For lunch, and on occasion when I take him to the training building, we’re beginning to work on heeling.

My dear friend, Gwenn Clow, presented me with my very own copy of Dawn Jecs “Choose To Heel,” when she read my blog regarding my version of Dawn’s work.

With Tempest, I carry my clicker in my right hand, a few treats in my left hand, and take off walking with my focus down on the floor to the left of my left leg.

As soon as he attempts to move up for a treat I click the moment he arrives in heel and pop a treat in his mouth.

Yesterday, after practicing this skill on 2-3 occasions, he seemed focused and purposeful in his movement beside me. He was pacing himself, glancing at me periodically, and keeping up with whatever speed and direction I assumed.

Every 10-12 feet, however, he would purposely tuck in closer to my leg, earning “Click! – YES !! – treat.”

My goal for Tempest is to get him in the novice rally ring when he’s 6 months old.

I’ve had a number of dogs experience ring stress and I want to head that off with Tempest. I train in my own “backyard,” so to speak, and am not welcome to join classes at the nearby obedience training club because they’re concerned I’ll steal their students I suppose, so it’s going to be important that Tempest get ring time anytime and anywhere I can arrange it.

When he travels with me to trials where matches are offered, he’ll partake. When possible, we’ll practice on the trial grounds, or alongside ring gating when classes aren’t going on.

My poor Dash has few coping mechanisms when he finds himself in stressful situations, but Tempest is going to have as many advantages as I can give him.

And I figure he’ll have better tools for dealing with stress in agility if he starts with obedience (stress-central <g>).

Besides, he can’t show in agility until he’s 15-18 months old, but novice rally is available to him at 6 months, is all on lead, and is just a couple of minutes of choreographed dancing with my puppy.

2-Minute Dog Trainer, T’s contacts

June 8, 2010

Tempest and I spent a few minutes this morning on the new contact trainer Bud made for us.

I had his breakfast in a bowl, my clicker, and a hungry, motivated 12-week-old puppy.

I sat on a short stool next to the down-ramp of the contact trainer. I blocked the other side of the ramp with a plastic storage crate.

Tempest’s first attempt to engage the ramp resulted in a rattling sound from the ramp. He acted concerned.

I tossed some food on the ramp, he re-engaged the ramp, the rattle occurred again but he was eating and was unconcerned. This was “prompted shaping,” versus “free shaping,” which involves waiting for the dog to do the behavior.

I continued to click for engagement with the ramp, increasing my criteria in tiny increments. After the initial prompted shaping I employed free shaping.

click 1 – nose on ramp

click 2 – front foot and nose on ramp

click 3 – front foot placed onto ramp

clicks 4 through 10 – front foot placed purposely on ramp

click 11 – waited for both front feet on ramp

clicks 12 through 15 – both front feet placed purposely on ramp

click 16 – waited for a rear foot to be added to the 2 front feet on the ramp

click 17 – waited for 4th foot to be added to the 3 feet on the ramp

clicks 18 through 25 – all four feet on the ramp

click 26 – tossed kibble away, Tempest chased and ate, returned to put all four feet on ramp

clicks 27 through 30 – tossing kibble away, Tempest ate and returned to put 4 feet on ramp

click 31 – with Tempest facing up the ramp, I laid his food bowl at the bottom of the down ramp, he turned and stepped off the ramp with his two front feet — CLICK !!!   Tempest ate out of his bowl. (Prompted shaping)

click 32 – Tempest climbs back up the ramp, I place his food bowl behind him on the floor (prompted shaping), he turns and steps off with his two front feet — CLICK !!!  Tempest finished his breakfast.

The whole training session took less than 8 minutes. I know I’m a 2-minute dog trainer, but I wanted to get him over his concern with the rattling noise, and didn’t want to stop while we were on such a roll.

Since Tempest is so young I’m in no hurry to get him to perform his 2-on-2-off contact performance on cue. I’ll continue shaping this but won’t name it yet.

In the meantime …

Two days ago I was teaching a competition-obedience workshop. Our topic of the day was heeling and I was working my 10-year-old aussie, Dash.

I teach my version of Dawn Jec’s “choose to heel” training. I call it my version because I’ve not trained with Dawn, I’ve only read a 14-or-15-year old article on “choose to heel.”

I’m certain that there are differences between what Dawn Jecs created and my understanding of it, so I don’t profess to be teaching Dawn’s method. But she inspired me to do this type of positive reinforcement training, and I admire the cleverness of “choose to heel,” so I attribute my method to Dawn Jecs every time.

I brought out Tempest who, at 12 weeks of age, has already been introduced to the idea of loose-leash walking — that is, we don’t move forward if I feel tension on the leash.

With a handful of string cheese bits, I started walking forward, enticing my puppy. He’d come into heel position and eat cheese. I kept walking if he fell behind, he’d catch up and eat his piece of cheese for landing in heel position.

It was all accidental on his part, but he found it so rewarding that, within a couple of minutes, he was following my movement in heel position. So fun … !!!

2-minute dog trainer, last camp of 2009

November 15, 2009

Today we start the first day of the last camp of 2009!

This camp is followed by about 3 weeks of frenetic travel for Bud including two 3-day trials, a NADAC judging clinic, and 3 days of NADAC judges testing. He’ll be flying from here to Kansas City, home, then to Florida, then to Texas, and finally home again in early December.

Because of his busy schedule in the next month I decided to have him bring the big Christmas tree from the basement. My Mom and sister helped me assemble it and get most of the lights working.

This tree came with the house. No one in my family wanted it, so it stayed with the house for which it was purchased.

It’s a pain in the butt, frankly. I decided about 5 years ago to not buy “pre-lit” trees anymore. When one light goes a whole branch goes. The manufacturers give you all these instructions and extra light bulbs, but who in their right mind is going to try to follow the cords on a 300-light tree to find the one bulb causing all the problems.

What most folks do, of course, is buy a cheap strand of lights and add them to the tree. So wouldn’t it just be easier to buy the tree and the lights separately? That way, when a string of lights is broken you just replace them, rather than leaving them on the tree and adding more lights.

Anyway, bottom line, it’s November 15th and I think I’ve broken all my previous records by actually having my Christmas tree up in the living room. I even had it lit for a few hours yesterday, just for kicks.

Our campers arrived before dark so they didn’t notice the lit tree in the living room. They’ll see it tonight when they come to dinner. Their comments will be interesting.

This group of campers are all friends and most of the dogs working in this camp will be Brittanys. One camper’s aussie injured himself 2 weeks ago (chasing a cat and ran into a framed picture leaning against a wall — I have aussies, so I can picture the lack of impulse control that started the whole scenario).

She’ll be working a Houston loaner dog, my 9-1/2-year-old Dash. I still think of him as a youngster but I’ll have to keep an eye pealed to any signs of exhaustion on his part.

With only 4 dogs working in camp they’re sure to get a lot of work. On Tuesday, with evening classes coinciding with camp dinner, we’re going to give our 2010 camp schedule a test run.

Our 2009 schedule is all group training — 9-to-noon and 2-to-5 — with dinner at 6:00.

Our 2010 schedule is part group training — 9-to-noon — then private lessons or small groups — 1-to-5 — followed by an optional group meal at 6:00 p.m.

I’m really intrigued with the idea of being able to deconstruct the elements of a camp and allow folks to pick the events they want.

By pricing camps as components a 2010 camper may choose to do 2 or 3 days of a 4-day camp with their friends. They may, as a group, choose to fix their own meals in one of the cottages rather than coming to the log house for dinner.

And they may choose to join our Tuesday night classes and league play while here as well.

This Tuesday, with classes from 6-8:30 p.m. coinciding with campers dinner, we’re going to test out the 2010 camp schedule.

We’ll work group exercises from 9-to-noon, take a 1-hour break, then have either private lessons (friends are welcome to stay, videotape, take notes, whatever) until 4, take a short break, and meet for dinner before classes.

I’m looking forward to a busy month, followed by winter with lots of writing projects (including all the 2-Minute Dog Training homework for “Go Rally Training Manual”), some dog training, lots of swimming, and a few evening classes and workshops.

I’ll be reporting in DogSports magazine the results of my sport foundation training class. Hickory (aka “Kory”) will be my primary guinnea pig, though Hazard is going to be learning obedience and rally through the winter as well.

Sport Foundation homework, 2-min dog trainer

November 3, 2009

We begin our sport foundation class tonight and I’ve chosen three topics for training and homework:  Heeling (my version of Dawn Jecs “choose to heel” program), stand/stay, and start-line stay.

There will be 2-minute dog training homework handouts for each of these skills by 5pm today.

I’m planning to work Hazard in this sport foundation class, let her be my demo dog and get used to being brave around strange dogs. Everyone should be on-lead, so there’s little danger to Hazard in this 6-7pm class.

Following sport foundation class is our Tuesday league play. I’m encouraging EVERYONE from the sport foundation class to join in league play.

There will be some folks who just stay and watch, I’m sure, as we’ll have a couple of beginner agility dogs in our foundation class.

I put the Tuesday night schedule in place with Hickory and Bud, as well as Hazard and Marsha in mind. It’s SO easy to develop instructor syndrome (the instructor’s dog never gets worked) or private lesson syndrome (the instructor’s dog always works in an empty building with no other dogs to provide stimulation and distraction).

The two syndromes result in a dog who attends their first trial with two strikes against them:  1) they’re under-trained and lack the hundreds of hours of foundation training that leads to a good first experience in the show ring,  and  2) they’re over-stimulated and unused to the carnival atmosphere of the trial site.

Tonight’s class will be an investment in our young dogs’ agility and obedience careers and I hope our students get as much out of it as we will.

League play will be our first C-Wags agility session for 2009. I’ve handed out some dog registration forms but will need a dozen-or-so more forms for new students tonight.

When dogs are registered with C-Wags the organization will begin tracking Qs and titles, and providing certificates for achievement.

We’re charging a whopping $5 per run starting tonight. Part of that fee will be passed on to C-Wags. Students will pay for their scribe sheet, add their dogs’ names and C-Wags numers (or “pending” if applicable), and hand the scribe sheet to the scribe before their run.

This is a new experience for us but I believe these weekly matches will be good practice for me, in preparation for our first actual C-Wags trials in 2010 (dates to be determined).

We’ve been a C-Wags club for a year or so now but haven’t put together a trial committee, established set dates, applied for trial weekends, etc.

Now that C-Wags offers obedience, rally, AND agility, it becomes a weekend certainly worthy of our attention.

Hopefully our students will agree …

In other news, DogSport magazine is featuring lots of coverage of the TDAA Nationals, our 2009 Petit Prix in Racine, WI, in the upcoming issue.

Additionally they’re creating an on-line forum for trainers and instructors (students as well, I’m sure) who are interested in discussing dog training.  The link is:  

I’ll be posting about our sport foundation class, as well as bits of information from our new Thursday night masters classes. An interesting new way of distributing information!

The dog leash

June 12, 2009

I delight in watching people with their dogs. I’ve been a student of the human/canine relationship for many years but, as I sag into middle age certain elements of that relationship pique my interest. I’ve begun to study dog owners’ and trainers’ use of dog leashes. Following are some of my observations.

First, dogs have different reactions to leashes. For some a leash is the early signal that great fun is about to occur. For others the leash is a dreaded control device to be avoided at all costs. I don’t know any dogs who neither love nor hate their leash. Ambivalence isn’t a canine character trait, perhaps.

Second, people have different associations with leashes. For some it represses their dogs’ enjoyment of life. For others the leash is the ultimate safety device. Leashes can be used as a replacement for a relationship with a dog.  Leashes can, as surely as a printed T-shirt, tell on-lookers all about you and your dog.

Third, leashes can be decorative, utilitarian, gentle, harsh, safe, and dangerous.

Some thoughts on leashes, in no particular order (just getting words onto the page at this point) — a training paper will probably follow when I’ve sorted out this puzzle.

BANNER — doesn’t need no stinkin’ leashes, but is submissive to my wishes when wearing one. She’s 13 years old and has always had a mind of her own, thank you. When Banner was a youngster I took her to herding camp in Vermont. For 2 weeks before the trip I spent time teaching her to potty on command and on lead. When we got to Vermont we spent a few hours in Honey Loring’s back yard with a dozen dogs ripping and tearing about and all the herding camp people sitting on the deck. Breaking away from the play pack, Banner ran to me, put her front feet in my lap, and barked. “What do you want?” I asked. “Timmy’s in the well!” Banner responded.  “Is Timmy in the well?” I asked.  “Yes! Come quickly!” Banner barked. I got up to follow her and she loudly led me to an area designated as the potty zone by a plastic fire hydrant. As I followed her Banner led me to the potty yard, peed, and resumed her play with the other dogs. She had been taught that peeing takes place within the length of a leash from Mom and, rather than coming to me and peeing near me, brought me to the peeing place. It was our relationship that made me follow her but she was using it as deftly as any handler might use a leash.

WIZARD — loves leashes, just loves ’em. Never gets to go anywhere but the vet’s office and an occasional trip to Watertown, but the leash signals the ultimate luxury — going bye-bye with Mom. When a leash is dangled in front of him Wizard puts as much of his body as possible through the loop, jostling with the other dogs to be the lucky dog who gets to go.

RINGER — a dog who would really like to visit the neighbors and do a walk-about, Ringer has to be walked on leash from our training building to the dog yard. All the other dogs run around, smelling where the rabbits slept overnight, then come when called to the yard or building. When Ringer sees the leash he runs full force at me, jumping up in an attempt to put his head through the leash, then pulls continually and makes a bee line from the yard to the building, from the building to the yard. However, if released from the leash even one foot from the door of the building or the gate to the yard, he veers away and takes off — Freedom!  His relationship with the leash might be described as love-hate.

BOGIE and BIRDIE and DASH — when the leash is on we have full compliance and connection, when the leash is off we have exploring and selective deafness. When any of these sweet boys are loaned to students, the leash becomes secondary to the string cheese or weiners in the students’ hand. I have to giggle as students fumble with the leash and treats. “Just take the leash off,” I tell them, “You’ve got treats and he’s not going anywhere but with you.”  Seeing Dash walk to the start of a sequence with a student, in heel and perfectly attentive, the leash tight and controlling, is an abomination. A snug leash on this dog? Are you kidding? Perhaps people are concerned that, if he’s off-lead, he’ll take off for parts unknown. Or perhaps they’ve adopted a relationship with their own dog defined by a controlling, tight leash. Regardless of the leash dependence of the handler, all these sweet boys are biddable and forgiving.  They seem to accept that, for some people, the tight leash is required to feel connected to a dog.

RED — as with most of our dogs, Red sees the leash as the first step in a journey. I get the leash off the rack to help Banner get up and get outside, and Red’s head, neck, body, have to be extracted from it twice in 10 seconds. She loves the leash. Loves it, and sees it as a barrier to communication with dogs. On lead Red demonstrates inappropriate greeting behaviors with dogs. She barks and snarls and lunges. Unlike real aggression, Red’s behavior is largely ignored by other dogs. “She’s just being a butt,” they seem to indicate. If she’s being inappropriate I drop the leash and the behavior turns off like it was on a switch. Red becomes a wiggling dog-lover and appropriately greets others. Leash tight = bad behavior.  Leash loose or off = good dog. She had this behavior when I got her at 11 months from her breeder. She had been returned by her first owner and got to spend a good bit of time fence-fighting with visiting dogs. My theory is that the leash behavior is an extension of fence-fighting.

HAZARD — doesn’t need no stinkin’ leashes. In fact, when we pick up Hazard’s leash she starts circling away and avoiding us, as if the leash has negative associations for her. Hazard experienced some intimidation by big dogs while on a leash and, in my opinion, associates the leash with an inability to escape danger if she feels escape is necessary. I’m starting some obedience (rally) training with Hazard and have established a new leash set specifically for this activity. I’m not going to use any of our English slip leads for obedience training as she avoids all of them. Instead I’m using a lightweight martingale, rewarding Hazard every time she allows me to put it on.

BLUE — loves leashes but doesn’t really need ’em.

KORY — tugs on his leash beyond the point where he’s told to stop. The leash means Go!, means fun, means treats, means training, and is just part of the relationship he has with Bud. Watching this pup follow Bud around, on-or-off-lead, is a real pleasure. They’re pals and I’m certain the leash, for Kory, is going to become a bit of unnecessary material between his neck and Bud’s hand at agility trials. A traveling tug toy, Kory’s leash will probably take a beating for the next few years.

More observations on leashes later ….

Go Rally Training Manual and the 2-minute trainer brochures

June 9, 2009

In the upcoming weeks I’m going to start creating the homework brochures, in 2-minute trainer format, for Go Rally Training Manual.

I gave a great deal of thought to what direction my rally training manual would take when it came to dealing with different organizations, venues, and signs. Ruthann McCaulley chose AKC and wrote her book covering skills needed sign-by-sign. One year after publication she added 200+ pages to cover new signs.

I was pretty sure I didn’t want to try to get a new edition published each time a venue changes its rules or adds new signs. When I started rally there were 2 venues (APDT and AKC) and now I believe there may be 4-5 venues (C-Wags, UKC, ASCA being new additions) offering rally. So linking my book to a venue and writing just to that venue is problematic.

I considered how we deal with this in agility and chose that as my method for Go Rally Training Manual.  Essentially, we don’t talk much about venue in agility training. We don’t start a class with “now we’re going to teach CPE weavepoles.”  We just teach weavepoles and students apply their skills to whatever venue they choose for trialing.

So Go Rally Training Manual has 8 chapters (designed for an 8-week class or, as I did last year, a 4-day camp) covering 30+ skills.

My goal is to create 2-minute training brochures to be used as companion documents for the training manual. Instructors using my training manual will have brochures to hand out as homework assignments, as follows:

chapter 1:  brochures on intro to heeling, left turns, right turns, jumping up cloase, jumping at a distance

chapter 2:  brochures on heeling off lead versus on lead, stay for walk away, stay for walk around jump, jumping front

chapter 3:  brochures on lateral shifting sit to the right, lateral shifting front

chapter 4:  brochures on paces and pace changes, positions and position changes, lateral shifting sit to the left

chapter 5:  brochures on automatic sit, moving down, moving stand, stay for walk around dog

chapter 6:  brochures on finish right and forward right, finish left and forward left

chapter 7:  brochures on around, front, and retrieving

chapter 8:  brochures on right pivot, left pivot, back-up 3 steps with dog in heel

That’s a lot of brochures but I believe instructors will file these with the lesson plan for that week and will, when a student needs a specific homework assignment, hand them a brochure addressing that training issue in a 2-minute training format.

I’ve had a lot of years’ experience giving out homework assignments. I’ve seen those eyes glaze over as you describe the homework.  I know two things — homework is more likely to get done if it is simple and short, and homework is more likely to get done if it’s on a handout.

Go Rally!

Kory and my version of “choose to heel”

June 4, 2009

Years ago, when faced with the choice of pop-n-jerk heeling training and finding another way, I was given a very detailed article on Dawn Jecs “choose to heel” training methodology.

Over the last 13 years I’ve made several attempts to find a way to actually get to train with Dawn but none have panned out. Dawn lives in the great northwest, travels exclusively by RV, and limits herself to areas west of the Rockies.

I live in Ohio and have run training centers for 10 years, so my opportunities to leave for 7-10 days for a training camp have been non-existant.

I’m an uneducated believer in Dawn’s method, with just a rudamentary understanding of her training philosophy. However, with this limited information, I’ve taught countless students and my own dogs some pretty sharp heeling, without becoming leash dependent.

Leash dependence is created when the handler is convinced that the dog is with her only because of the leash, and the dog is convinced she only has to obey when the leash is on. It’s a very common fallacy, and one I rant about every time I see a dog “popped” for inattention.

If we focus on showing the dog what we approve of and pay for (walking in heel position with full, heads-up, attention) and refuse to acknowledge any other behavior the dog will nearly always choose the behavior that gets the attention and reward.

I’ve translated this method into a 2-minute dog training brochure for sport foundation heeling and — much to my surprise — Bud’s teaching Kory to heel as part of his puppy training!

I believe Bud’s decision to teach heeling came from Kory’s natural behavior to swerve left and right, to circle behind, and to generally get under-foot while walking on leash. Bud’s goal is to have a dog that walks at his left side without tangling the leash, without tripping Bud, and without yanking and pulling.

So you can imagine my surprise when, yesterday, Bud announced that he thinks he’ll show Kory in obedience. I laughed out loud as I pictured Bud at an obedience trial. Mr. Irreverant in the temple of the reserved and repressed.

However, if we ever get C-Wags trials going here, he’ll have ample opportunity to demonstrate his skills with both traditional and rally obedience behaviors. That’s a little more our style, probably.

In other news …. Bonnie Cippolone from Cincinnati has agreed to be our C-Wags trial coordinator and has given me a list of things she can provide for our trials. Now if I can figure out all the things that are NOT on her list, and get volunteers to help do those things, we’ll be cookin’ with gas. It may end up being Bonnie, Bud, Tracy Waite, our exhibitors, and me …

In other news …. I received e-mail yesterday from Erica Behnke that Diane Carr, who is attending a training retreat here this week with her friends, had been elected Queen City Dog Training Club’s 2009 AKC sportsmanship award at their Tuesday night meeting.  I created a little certificate so that Bud and I, as well as all her friends attending the retreat, could express our congratulations. That was fun!

In other news …. Tuesday’s temps reached into the 90s, everyone was hot and tired, and then the huge storm (aka “the wrath of God”) rolled through. Wednesday’s temps only reached into the 60s and quickly dropped into the 50s by dinner time. We went from air conditioning to “how do we turn on the heat in the cottage?” in 24 hours. Weird weather for June.

I was pleased to see that the storm did no damage to my plants though the sun shade on the back porch took a beating and had to be replaced.  I left it hanging down when I drove to my meeting and the wind and hail beat the crap out of it. Bud and I hung a new shade yesterday. Probably needed done anyway as the old shade was brittle and falling apart from 12 months of sun, wind, rain, snow, ice, more sun, more wind, etc.

This training retreat ends Friday at 1:00, they’re hanging out until 3 or 4:00, Bud’s leaving for a day of USDAA trialing in Columbus about that same time, Bud returns Saturday evening and has a private lesson with Katie and Dave (who are staying overnight for the Sunday workshop), then noon-to-4:00 workshops on Sunday, and a new bunch of campers arrive for a 4-day public camp Monday through Thursday.

We’re in the midst of our busy season and, much to my surprise, are staying fairly focused and positive. We sometimes lose perspective when faced with consecutive camp weeks, so this is a good thing.

In other news …. I started heeling training with tiny Hazard a few days ago. She prefers to run circles around me, barking madly for the string cheese, but will pick up on this quickly I’m sure. We discussed the possibility of attending the Sheltie Nationals together next year — Bud showing Hazard in agility, my showing Hazard in obedience and rally. I’m assuming they offer obedience and rally at the Sheltie Nationals.

The Sheltie people offer a whole day of agility at their nationals which, considering that Shelties are the premier mini-to-midi dog in agility competition, seems underwhelming. I don’t know of any breed besides Border Collies with better representation in agility.