Posts Tagged ‘rally obedience’

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 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 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 – 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.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest learns directionals

September 2, 2010

With my new job keeping me away from home at dinnertime, Bud has assumed the role of Tempest’s 2-minute trainer for one meal a day.

I’m still feeding breakfast every day, and Tempest is learning how to find heel position from a multitude of positions.

He seems to like my hands hanging at my side (versus left hand at my waist) and that’s going to be just fine with me. I was trained, 20 years ago, in the “old school” position, dress code, etc.

Now I’m more comfortable with a natural heel position, handler’s arms relaxed, dangling at side, dog relaxed and attentive at side.

So Tempest is learning how to find heel position without a lot of signaling from me. I’m going to teach him a lot of verbal cues, including “Heel!” for a left finish, for heeling forward, etc.

In the meantime, Bud’s teaching Tempest “Right!” with a spin to his right.

He began by luring Tempest in the turn, then began removing the lure and allowing Tempest to choose the behavior.

If Tempest makes the slightest indication to the right, Bud produces the lure/reward and helps him around.

He’s been doing this for about 10 days, and Tempest has a pretty solid spin to the right, about 50-60% reliable. Bud plans to continue along this protocol path until Tempest is 90-100% reliable on “Right!”

He’ll then begin the mirror image protocol for “Left!”

In the meantime, you can imagine the amusing options my puppy offers when he’s in front of me and I say “heel!”

First he gives me a couple of right spins, sometimes spinning straight into heel position.

2-minute dog trainer, fall 2010 classes

August 24, 2010

We face many of the instructing challenges faced by clubs and private training centers worldwide.

Our students are an even mix of dedicated (and intense) obsessed agility enthusiasts, and social (not-so-intense) weekenders who enjoy the comraderie of dog training classes.

In an effort to address the intensity of our most obsessed students we’ve created three new student designations over-and-above our former levels.

The most intense students will become Boot Campers. We want to go back to basics, retrain some old habits, get them thinking along new pathways. We want them to learn multiple strategies and build a solid toolbox of agility handling skills to answer the puzzles put forth by agility judges. We want them to engage in top level dog-training activities, and reinforce consistently the performance that will win.  We’ll do video analysis of their trial runs and work on specific issues as they wish.

Boot Campers attend all 6 Sunday workshops, all 13 Thursday night classes, get a private lesson every week (and free use of the building in between), and free attendance to our October 2-3 Houston’s Country Dream Boot Camp.

Slightly less intense students become Platinum Students. Our goals are the same but the training addresses their limited time.

Platinum Students get all 6 workshops and all 13 Thursday night classes, plus they get a private lesson every month (and free use of the building in between), and free attendance to our October 2-3 Houston’s Country Dream Boot Camp.

A step back in intensity, though still more active than our former workshop attendance, is the Weekend Warrior.

The Weekend Warrior gets all 6 Sunday workshops and all 13 Thursday night classes at a 50% discount (I expect they won’t make it to all 13).  They get discounted private lessons and are eligible to attend our Boot Camp (Oct.2-3) for $200.

Because we want to encourage these enthusiastic trainers we’ve applied our discounts to these three levels of commitment, and removed discounts from the casual-occasional-walk-in students’ registrations.

Our Sunday workshops will remain available for the casual-occasional-walk-in students at $40 each (for 4 hours) and our Thursday night classes will remain available to them for $40 for a month’s classes (4 or 5 training opportunities).

Already, with nearly 2 weeks before our first fall 2010 training event, we have 3 boot campers and 3 platinum students. How exciting is that !!

2-Minute Dog Trainer, Tempest’s directionals

August 21, 2010

I’ve started a new job that enables Bud and I to have awesome health insurance benefits, so my puppy training is going to reflect the amount of time available to me.

Frankly, this is going to put my training more on line with most of our students (and readers of this journal), and I’m going to be focusing on how to fit little training sessions into a busier schedule.

Tempest is continuing his heeling work at mealtimes.

I put his food bowl on a table and walk away from it into the basement.  I face back toward the food bowl and get Tempest into heel position (click!).

We immediately heel forward about 2 feet (click!) and run to the food bowl.  I make this first pattern really short because Tempest will be very anxious about his food bowl, and all the other dogs eating.

After Tempest has eaten about half his food, I remove the bowl and put it back on the table.

We walk away and establish another beginning point in the basement. Tempest, knowing the remainder of his meal is on the table, gets a little “eager” (he LOVES eating <g>).

I calm him, get him back in heel position, and do a few more complex patterns.

Today, for example, we started out in heel position, facing the food on the table, and did a “Forward U-Turn from Halt” and then we heeled in a counter-clockwise square (a series of left turns) with Tempest giving me really nice eye contact and maintaining heel position.

This heeling pattern lasted about 45 seconds, and ended at the food table where Tempest offered a sit — “YAY !!” — food bowl went down and he got to finish his breakfast.

In addition to heeling, Tempest is getting schooled on his directionals by Bud.  This week’s lesson has been “Right!”

When I got home from work yesterday I said, to Tempest, “Right!” and gave him a little signal.  As he was turning to the right I sensed a great deal of movement off to my right.

It was Kory, offering right spins over and over and over. LOL  He’s such a good boy.

2-Minute Dog Trainer – puppy’s “bang it!”

August 16, 2010

When I started thinking about getting a new puppy, my wish list was pretty simple:

1) brave … “self-destructive brave” was how I phrased it in conversation … I wanted a pup who, like my last pup (Banner ’96), would go boldly where and when asked … no fear response, no lack of confidence, no questioning the sanity of the request … just brave.  Later I thought about bravery as “overcoming fear” and decided what I really wanted was a puppy who had NO FEAR.  I didn’t want a pup who had to be brave to overcome fear.  I wanted a pup who said, “what’s there to be afraid of?”  I adjusted my wish list to “unconcerned and confident.”

2) “I don’t want one of those pricked-eared, coyote-legged, black tri string beans.”  Oh well … I’m madly in love with a pricked-eared, coyote-legged, black tri string bean, and loving every minute of it.  Sooooo … back to the unconcerned and confident bit. <g>

It’s not that Bud and I don’t love our rescued, non-confident, fearful, or carsick dogs. We adore them.

But there’s something intoxicating about walking to the start line of agility, obedience, or rally, with a dog who has only has eyes for you, is unconcerned about people / dogs / gates / stewards / flooring / equipment / etc.

So you can imagine how pleased I am with Tempest’s teeter performance.

After Kory showed a lack of recognition for the teeter at his first show (Bud calls all contacts “walk up”) we decided it would make sense to use a separate name for the teeter.

I’ve always called it “teeter,” and all other contacts “walk,” but teeter sounds alot like “T” — and I use “T” as an attention-getting device when Tempest is working. “T” means look-at-me, check-in, pay-attention, etc.

So we settled on “Bang it!”  We’ve both been doing “bang it!” exercises with our dogs 1-2 times a day.

My equipment layout for Tempest is simple … straight line from a pause table is a wing jump and 20 feet of empty floor to the teeter.

Exercise 1:  the table exercise … criteria I’m rewarding includes  a) move in front of me to the table,  b) hop on without hesitation,  c) turn and face me,  d) lie down. When I approached this exercise the first time, with Tempest’s toy, he didn’t get the idea of behaving in such a specific way for the pleasure of tugging with his toy. So I put away the toy and brought out his string cheese and clicker — he got the behavior I wanted in just a few minutes. Now that he understands (as much as a 5-mo-old pup CAN understand) my criteria, I’ve brought out the toy again and reward for quick downs with excitement and release to the toy.

Exercise 2:  the stay exercise … criteria I’m rewarding include,  a) lying down or sitting for a stay,  b) staying in a nice-tucked posture — no slouchy sits, no floppy downs,  c) an implied stay, that is, if I say sit or down I expect you to maintain that position until I give you more information.  He’s had a couple of training sessions on stay, learning to let me walk away, walk around him, or stand beside him — in a sit or down.

Exercise 3:  the lead out … criteria I’m rewarding include the stay criteria above, plus  a) recognition of my release word,  b) excited and vigorous dismount of the table,  and c) coming to me across the jump.

Exercise 4:  bang-it! … criteria I’m rewarding include,  a) approaching the teeter from a wide variety of positions (Tempest puts himself on the teeter, from straight on, from the side, etc.),  b) controlling the board’s tip,  c) moving boldly to the high end of the teeter and riding it down,  d) freezing in position as the board drops,  e) stepping off the board with 2 front feet and freezing in his 2-on-2-off position.

I forward chain the complete sequence.  First we do a couple of table exercises. Then a couple of stay exercises, leading out a few feet, then walking around the jump, always returning to Tempest to reward him for staying.

After a few of these exercises, I have Tempest go to the pause table and lie down. I say “stay” and walk away.

My goal is to walk to the descent of the teeter but, if Tempest anticipates the release I calmly turn and, without recrimination, return to the table.

It usually takes a couple of tries but he’s always solid on the third or fourth lead out, so I’m confident he’s getting the idea that stay means stay, regardless of where I go.

I walk out to the descent of the teeter, turn a face him, stick my lead hand in front of his path (as a target and an indication that he’ll end his work there), and cue him “T – bang it!”

He comes boldly across the jump, runs with decent speed to the teeter, runs up the teeter, bangs it down, sticks his 2-0-2-0, and freezes.  I toss the toy ahead of him, give him his release word (“Yes!”) and let him play with his toy.

I’m pretty excited about this from a puppy.

At mealtimes we’re working on heeling.  Not long distances, but with good attention and some precise movement.  A few 180’s, some stops and starts, and backing up when he forges towards his meal.

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 at 5 months

August 9, 2010

Tempest turns 5 months old in about 5 days.

In addition to being a treasured pet he’s going to be a bit of a “business partner” for Bud and I.

When you offer dog-training classes, whether obedience or agility, your reputation and credibility rest on the shoulders of your canine partner.

As we say here at Houston’s Country Dream — your dog’s behavior is a perfect mirror of your training skills and dedication. (Of course, temperament and personality play a big role in behavior as well.)

It’s important to me that Tempest is confident. It’s important to me that he behaves in a manner that indicates he’s been properly conditioned to perform the behaviors required.

Beyond that, I want him to be a happy member of my pack, and a loving /lovable pet.

For 2010 my goals for Tempest included:

1) basic obedience completed, with systems put in place to ensure continued good behavior.

2) beginner agility begun with Tempest offering confident performances on baby equipment, and responding with excitement to my movement.

3) advanced obedience begun, using my version of Dawn Jecs’ “choose to heel.” My firm goal is to enter an obedience trial with Tempest in about 5 weeks. He’ll be entered in Rally-Novice and maybe Beginner Novice obedience.

Last week I began some short heeling sequences prior to giving Tempest his breakfast and supper.

Rather than feeding with every step, I’m asking Tempest to heel for about 15 seconds — toward his meal — with no food in my hands.

Additionally, Tempest did obedience class last evening for about 90 minutes. He didn’t work that whole time, of course, but he had several training sessions, including:

1) heeling “rally style,” with halts, sits, downs, walk-around-your-dog, call front, etc. called out by me or by my students.

2) call front exercise, working at getting Tempest to focus on sitting straight rather than focusing on the potential food in my hands.

3) recall exercise, with Tempest staying while I walk 20-feet away, and call him to me.

4) right and left turns, where Tempest is starting to get the idea that he should stop moving forward and — indeed! — move backward when I say “back” and step into his path. He much prefers right turns and forging. (Better than lagging, IMO.)

5) introduced to cone exercises, first doing rally-in-a-box where we tighten up all the exercises by specifying they be performed in a 4×4 square, and finally by setting out the serpentine exercises and working him through the “serpentine, weave twice” sign.

ALL THIS, most astoundingly, without food in my hands. The food was nearby, but my hands were empty.

I’d really like for Tempest to have the skill to stay focused in the ring, regardless of how often the reward comes.

2-minute dog trainer, advanced puppy work

August 5, 2010

I’m so lucky to have a pup who loves to go out to the building to train, who loves both toys and food, who is always interested in interaction with me.

I’m also lucky to have a pup with an “off switch.”  When he’s in the house, Tempest is relatively calm and quiet. He takes wicked-deep naps, has what I can only assume are awesome dreams of barking and chasing, and is very nearly house-trained now.

He still has accidents on occasion, but he seems more capable of holding it until he gets outside.

This week I’ve started advanced puppy work, including:

1) heeling … I pour Tempest’s food into his bowl, set it up on a table, and walk about 10 feet away with my clicker and my puppy … we turn and face the food bowl … I put Tempest in heel position in a sit … I position my hand as it would be for heeling (at my waist) … we heel forward about 2 feet and halt (with a click and sit) … another 2 feet and halt … I ask for 2 or 3 tiny heeling events … then make a big deal about putting his food bowl down.  YAY !!

In the past I’ve experienced dogs who had issues with delayed reward.  I want Tempest to realize from day one that there are going to be times when he’ll be expected to behave in a particular way even without food immediately available.  Perhaps this is the “working dog” benefit, but it seems to be working for us.

So he doesn’t get food with every heeling movement, with every sit. It’s more of a jackpot for being biddable for that entire 30-second period of time.

2)  contacts … we go out to the big-boy dogwalk a couple times a day … with our tug toy in my off-side hand … ask for a “walk it — lie down” and play tug for a completed 2-0-2-o contact performance … I try to not insert physical cues, to not handle Tempest, to let him choose to get into position … then lots of tugging and play!

The “lie down” cue is sort of a universal “look-at-me-and-freeze” command.  Since Bud will be running Tempest some, and I’ll be running Kory some, we’ve chosen to establish the same criteria, teach the same skills, and have the same verbal cues.

3) bang-it! … Bud’s teeter cue used to be “walk it!” and mine was “teeter!” … Kory demonstrated some confusion over the teeter last weekend so we decided “bang it!” might be a good meeting place for both our dogs … Tempest and I go to the baby teeter and he runs from end to end … “Bang it!” has him running to the end, riding the teeter down, and assuming his 2-o-2-o position … he really stretches forward with his front feet, waiting for …. the tug toy!

4) self-control … with a line of jumps in front of him, Tempest is able to sit and stay while I walk around the first jump … he gets his tug toy for staying … then back to his sit stay and gets to take a jump … he gets his tug toy for staying … I don’t want to always release him to the jump … sometimes I’ll release him in another direction.

Tempest shows amazing self-control, but it’s not surprising — he’s been taught self-control since he was 8 weeks old. I believe I’m seeing the benefit of all my “sit for attention, sit to exit your pen, sit to exit your crate, sit to exit the house, sit to make the babygate open,” etc.

I’m using toys and tugging for Tempest’s agility training, and food and clicker for Tempest’s obedience training. Lucky for me he LOVES BOTH !!

Bud leaves for a 4-day trial and seminar trip tomorrow, so Tempest and I will have plenty of time to ourselves.  We’ll continue our advanced puppy work with jump work and some beginner weave-work (2 poles, no twisting).