Posts Tagged ‘rally obedience’

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This is an experiment and a training laboratory, so my next report may be that toys and tugging have superceded treats for Tempest’s training.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, Tempest at 4.5 months

July 26, 2010

I’ve initiated “self-control” training with Tempest. He’s too young for prolonged self-control exercises, but his upbringing makes self-control a fundamental part of our relationship.

Since I got him at 8 weeks we’ve enforced:

1) sit to get out of your crate

2) sit for attention

3) random lie-downs while playing with his toy

4) 2-on-2-off on his contact trainer — holding that position while he eats and, most recently, after he’s done eating he has to hold until he gets his release word

5) formal sit/stays and down/stays

6) settling while I trim toenails, do basic grooming

This morning I stepped up Tempest’s stay training. With his breakfast in a bowl in one hand, and his clicker in the other hand, I cued a sit, stepped away, clicked, stepped back, and fed part of his breakfast.

I did this 2-3 times, moving closer and closer to the contact trainer.

On the last sit-stay, I set Tempest in front of his contact trainer, cued “stay” and stepped away from him, walking nearly half-way down the contact trainer, click-return-feed.

On the last exercise, I set Tempest in front of his contact trainer, cued “stay” and stepped away, walked partway down the contact trainer, then cued “walk-it,” and fed him when he hit his 2-on-2-off.

In addition to a brief sit-stay prior to performing his contact trainer, I’m initiating TWO bits of handling in conjunction with his down-contact.

FIRST, now that he’s getting the performance I want, I’m naming it “LIE DOWN.”  I’m saying LIE DOWN in a quiet, authoritative tone, not shouting.

Like Bud’s Kory, I want LIE DOWN to signify “look me in the eye, pay attention, get in the position you know is right, and settle in for a second or two.”

It’s nice to have the same conditioned responses to the same conditioned cues as Bud has for Kory. That way we can run each other’s dogs without being totally confusing to them.

SECOND, now that he’s got a performance and learning the cue to hit that position on his contacts, I must install a release word, or “OKAY.”

OKAY becomes the release word from all stays, including staying in his 2-on-2-off contact position.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, what with Bud’s work-study camp and tons of projects and preparation for my 2 days in Medina (for obed and rally).

We’ve also had excessive heat, in the mid-to-upper 90s, making trips to the training building uncomfortable.

So I’m delighted we still have our 2-3 minutes a day while Tempest is gobbling down his breakfast and dinner. This training is designed for folks who don’t have tons of time to train, or have limited access to equipment.

While I was on the road I didn’t have much room for training, but Tempest did a brief sit-stay for breakfast and supper. Also, first thing Sunday, while the rally building was empty, Tempest and I did some heeling training on lead.

I’m really impressed with Tempest’s capacity to focus in the presence of distraction. He heeled twice around the outside of the rally ring (about 50×40). He loves string cheese, and was incredibly interested in getting a little morning snack.

The stressful elements of the building, the things that worried Dash, received no attention from Tempest.  I’d call Tempest “brave,” but he’s really not being brave because he’s not overcoming concern — he’s just not concerned —  he’s simply focused on the work and blocking out the rest.

Dog in Motion — GPS, mapquest, and Rand McNally

July 26, 2010

The following essay has been in the works for a few months. One of the interesting elements of being a thoughtful instructor is the constant search for analogies to which people can relate.

This month I’ve spent a good bit of time driving to and from obedience / rally trials, dragging poor Dash around the ring and in and out of Red Roof Inns. My 82-year-old mother has gone with me, just for company on the road and to provide her with entertainment.

First aside — Dash has earned his CD and RE, and is nearly half way to his RAE.  He’s had two experiences in Open A, the first of which was the “least sucky” NQ in his class of 5 dogs, and gave me hope, the second of which was a complete meltdown on his part. He injured himself twice jumping into his crate in the back of the Tahoe, because of a miscalculation of the crate opening, and this is no doubt his last year of trial travel.

Second aside — after 5 days of watching rally and obedience and asking lots of questions, my Mom asked, “do you know ahead of time what courses you’ll be running tomorrow?” When asked if she feels she’s understanding things more, she said, “I still don’t get this whole thing about legs and titles and DQs.”  “NQs,” I said. Wish I hadn’t corrected her — clearly she missed the most important point of the trip — or maybe not!  Perhaps she saw through the superficial legs and Qs and titles to the core of the sport: enjoyment of dogs and dog-people and dog-activities and dog-people-watching.

Third aside — every meltdown of Dash’s caused me to flash back to running Banner. She loved performing, didn’t have the stress issues that plague this old boy, and I only had to think about handling my dog. With Dash, I’m constantly battling his panic attacks. He’s able to recover from panic in 45-60-seconds but, unfortunately, panic can pile on top of panic and no recovery is possible before the next attack. I was a little disappointed in my rally judge who told me “go ahead, you’re not going to get that sign” when I was struggling to overcome Dash’s panic at sign 2 on a 15-sign course. I thought his comment showed a complete misunderstanding of the situation, and a lack of sensitivity to a dog’s emotional state. Nothing new, really.  Part of my drive to become a rally judge is that I think I can do better than just about any rally judge I’ve shown under. They’re friendly enough, but they often show no understanding of how dogs move, what the handler’s path will be, how a dog shouldn’t JUMP DIRECTLY INTO THE DOG SITTING AT THE HONOR STATION.  DUH !?!?!

So here’s my essay:   “Dogs in Motion — GPS, Mapquest, and Rand McNally”

Traveling with my mother makes obvious the upgrades in geographic technology.

On every roadtrip she insists on bringing her atlas, circa 200?.  It makes her comfortable to know where in the world she is, currently, and she wants to use her Rand McNally to find driving routes for me. So I get navigation information such as “we’re going to take I-76 to Portage Lake, then connect with I-77 south.” (All the while we’re looking at conflicting information from two more updated forms of driving directions.)

On the other hand, my Mapquest directions break every trip down into little tenths of a mile, and is very difficult to read and understand. It’s impossible to read mapquest directions and drive at the same time, for me. The order of directions should read, “after 3 miles look for exit 153, then take route 25 south towards …”  And I don’t need to know that I’ll drive one tenth of a mile on Some-Local-Hero-Drive to get to the Red Roof Inn.  I know what the motel looks like, can see the sign, and can find the entrance. Does ANYone really follow those tenths-of-a-mile breakdowns?

GPS devices, on the other hand, give real-time information in a timely fashion. “In 3/4 of a mile exit LEFT onto I-77 south … exit left … exit left (as I’m exiting left) … continue for 117 miles.”

When traveling with my Mom, I’m listening to my GPS device, I’m hearing my Mom discussing what her Rand McNally looks like, and (when I say, sharply, “what’s Mapquest got me doing here?”) it takes her 30 seconds or so to figure out where we are on the mapquest directions, and I’m often through whatever confusing intersection caused the scuffle.

In addition to reading her Rand McNally, and struggling with Mapquest, my Mom tries to micromanage my driving by pointing out “do not enter,” “one way” arrows, red lights, etc.

I finally said to her yesterday, “Please put away your Rand McNally and my Mapquest directions — I’m following my GPS device.”  It’s just too confusing to listen to  1) timely directions from GPS, plus  2) late directions from mapquest being read by my mother, plus  3) a general discussion of where we are (complete with a finger pointing at a spot on a map of Ohio — “Hello?!?  I’m reading signs and driving !!   I can’t see what you’re pointing at!”).

As our dogs run agility or rally, they want timely information. “I’m done with this now.  Where do I go next?  Left? Right? Straight ahead?”  Barking is often the dog’s way of saying “I’m not getting information soon enough!”

Our course walk-throughs should focus on finding those precise spots on the course where we need to provide TIMELY directional information.

Whether we train absolute directionals (left-right-ahead) or relative directionals (come-turn-go on-get out-close), the dog must be the FIRST to know what they’ll need to do next.

The pre-cue is taught to the dog to ensure that a FAST dog (one running ahead of the handler) knows before approaching an obstacle what the new direction and the next obstacle might be.

I use pre-cues in rally, and we’re teaching our fast dogs a precue for agility. They’re not perfect for slow dogs, though knowing what’s next, even for a slow dog (one running beside or behind the handler) may be prudent handling.

When you’re running your dog, whether in agility or rally, be a GPS device.  Give timely information.  Let them know ahead of time what’s next. Help them prepare physically and mentally for what’s coming next.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest’s first rally-o lesson

July 18, 2010

Tempest is just over 4 months old. My intention is to enter him in a local obedience trial in 2 months, asking him to stick with me for three novice rally performances.

“That’s a lot of pressure for a young puppy,” one of our campers said.  “If you know Marsha you’ll know she doesn’t put any pressure on her puppies, or her adult dogs,” Bud responded.  That made me feel good, that my husband recognizes my generous attitude towards the dogs I train and run.

Okay, so today I resolved to start working on Tempest’s STAYS (stay-for-walk-away, stay-for-walk-around, in a sit, down, or stand).  First, some history …

With my first puppy, Banner (born 1996), I wasn’t allowed to take her to classes until she was 6 months old. While I was waiting for the opportunity to get her into group classes I worked at home, alone, on heeling, automatic sits, and stays.

At Tempest’s age, Banner came with me to the horsebarn twice a day and worked on sit-and-down-stays while I fed my horse. My feeding routine had me walking in and out of the barn door, or in and out of the stall, and Banner had to get used to the idea that she’d sometimes lose sight of me.

When Banner was able to join group classes she had tons of opportunities to practice her sit and down stays. Our instructors would return to dogs who changed position and correct them, and this made a huge impression on Banner.

She learned really steady stays while I was in-sight, as well as out-of-sight.

With Dash (born 2000) I was learning clicker training, he had no confidence, and I struggled to get an extended stay from him. I tried tiny increments but he tended to “hunker-down” if I asked for even 30 seconds in a sit stay.

Another clicker obstacle was that Dash got excited about offering behavior and I liked the confidence-building benefits of this process. But he offered behaviors so quickly, so rapid-fire, that it was difficult to isolate the sit and to get him to expand his sit-stay.

Every time I tried to get Dash to sit and stay, he experienced what I laughingly referred to as “stress-induced narcolepsy.” He’d start licking his lips, his eyelids would droop, he’d glance nervously about his environment, and, within a few seconds, would drop to the floor.

I relate his stress to the feeling I get when I know I have a long drive ahead of me. If I can start first thing in the morning I’m fine.  I get prepared before bedtime, I get up and go.  If I have to start mid-morning or after noon, however, I get very stressed. The more stressed I get, the more tired I get. Just thinking about a long drive makes me tired and sleepy.

So Dash has always struggled with any sit-stays over a few seconds. His ASCA Companion Dog title was earned at age 4 with his typical stressy heeling scores, and sit-stays that were on the edge of failure every time.

His AKC Companion Dog title was earned at age 10. His heeling was stressy, but I spent nearly 4 months having him do long sits after his breakfast and dinner, while the other dogs were finishing their meals. We built his skills gradually, with me returning to him after just a few seconds at first, and building to 5-6 minutes.

Additionally, I’m moving around, in-and-out-of-sight, hoping that this training will help him be calm and confident. His recent obedience performances have featured the same stressy heeling skills, but Dash has achieved a steady sit-stay about 75% of the time.

With Tempest, I want to see if I can fix my past mistakes without having ANYone correct my dog for moving on the sit or down stays. So we’re starting early.

First I set my criteria and created a mental picture of the sit-stay I wanted.  No slouching to the side — a nice, tight, tucked sit.  No loss of attention — staring directly at me.  No shifting to watch me moving around — holding steady for me to walk away from him, or walk around him, in any direction and at any distance.

Because I start every exercise with a clicker session, I decided to combine clicker work with another method I’ve used for years. I was introduced to this method by Leslie Nelson, a fantastic obedience trainer who gave a seminar I attended many years ago, with my new puppy Wizard (so it must have been in winter ’97-98).

Leslie set up a pile of treats or kibble, in a spot where the dog can see it, and the puppy in a sit facing the pile of food.

One treat at a time, the handler carries food from the pile to the puppy’s mouth. If the puppy breaks his sit, the handler makes a big deal of returning any food to the pile, re-sets the puppy’s sit, and begins feeding again.

I’m combining Leslie’s method with my clicker. I have a bowl with Tempest’s kibble, in a spot where he can see his reward. I have him sit, nice and tucked, then I cue “stay,” reach into the bowl, get a piece of kibble.  If Tempest stays I click and feed him the food.  If Tempest gets up, I make a big deal of returning the kibble to the bowl, and put him back  in his sit. Then I cue “stay” again, reach into the bowl, click and feed.

In our first training session Tempest began offering every behavior in his relatively vast repertoire. He was throwing me everything very fast, and it took me a few seconds to calm him and get him to successfully sit for a second or two.

The key to this training, for me at least, is to stay calm, be patient, don’t prompt or lure, allow Tempest to think and learn, take deep breaths, and wait.

After he achieved a 5-10-second sit-stay with me nearby I began walking to his left and right, walking ahead of him, in one and two-step increments.

Within just a few minutes Tempest was able to maintain his stay while I walked away, while I walked around him, while I stood still nearby.

I plan to continue with this training while adding heeling and automatic sits to Tempest’s program over the next few weeks.

2-Minute Dog Trainer, Tempest @ 15 wks

July 12, 2010

Learning is stepping up now that Tempest is fairly solid on the basics:

1) coming when called

2) responding to his name with eye contact

3) walking on a loose leash

4) pottying on cue and outside

5) greeting people by sitting

6) sitting to ask permission to exit crates and pens

7) allowing handling of ears, paws, eyes, teeth, etc., plus bathing and toenail trimming

eight) greeting other dogs with a non-challenging glance, and leaving them alone unless given permission to do a more detailed greeting

My early efforts were all focused on getting these behaviors solidified, while introducing some more advanced obedience and agility concepts, including:

1) 2-on-2-off contact performance, which Tempest has generalized to footstools and milk crates as well as contact trainers.

2) heeling, with just a couple of sessions because I don’t want to stress his body with a bunch of “heads up” heeling

3) fronts, mostly while I eat my cereal, with Tempest in a nice tucked sit with his head nestled in my legs

4) self-control, doing a “lie down” and breaking off from his whip toy, then getting to play some more (aka “drop on recall)

5) a play retrieve, learning that everytime he brings the toy back to me it will be tossed again

6) a formal retrieve, using Sue Sternberg’s inducive retrieve

This past weekend Tempest had his first trial weekend.  He traveled with Dash and I to Dayton for a 3-day obedience and rally event (Fri Rally only, Sat Obed and Rally, Sun Obed only). We stayed in a terrific Red Roof Inn just south of Dayton, with a quiet parking lot, restaurants in walking distance, and plenty of grass.

Several of Tempest’s learned behaviors made the weekend more pleasant, and I’m always surprised that people don’t take the time to teach these easy tricks.

First, Tempest learned from day one that first thing in the morning we pee and then we immediately poop before going back inside for something to eat.

This little trick makes life incredibly easier on his person, who has more than enough chores to do between waking and taking off for the trial site. The training for it involves little more than patience when the puppy is really young — having a set phrase you use consistently, and patiently waiting for the littlest of puppies to perform their duties before running happily back to the room for breakfast.

Wow, how great was it to be able to finish this chore in just a few minutes.  We then were able to return to the room, feed the dogs, go get coffee, and start our personal preparations.

Second, Tempest is learning to jump up into his crate in the truck. At his size he can’t quite make it all the way, but I want him to have a response when I open the crate door and tap on the bumper.

Learning to jump into the crate enables the dog to pick his own footsteps into the crate, to enjoy the very first step of traveling with mom, and takes a lot of heavy lifting off my back.

With the right bumper configuration (on my Tahoe I have 2 levels of bumper and a third level into the crating area) even little Hazard (our 10″ sheltie) can jump up and get into a crate without being man-handled.

Third, and on the same lines, Tempest is learning all about jumping.  He learned to jump onto the bed at home using the ottoman as an intermediate level, but the motel beds were at a convenient height for him to learn the power of his rear legs for lifting. Within a few seconds of his initial attempt to hop onto the bed, Tempest gave a bit more effort and was rewarded with petting and attention.

In addition to jumping up onto the bed, of course, Tempest began his formal broad jump work by jumping from bed-to-bed. I imagine this is incredibly common amongst dog-owners who stay in motel rooms with 2 beds. <g>

Fourth, I want Tempest to have a focused response to my movement. His job is to assume a path parallel to me.  I will not accept biting, nipping, diving in towards my legs, or barking. I do not want Tempest to move into inappropriate herding behavior, just because he sees movement.

I created a protocol in 1999 to teach Banner how to do agility without barking or biting.  I called it “My Dog Bites Me,” and it’s been incredibly useful to  a) help people see that biting is BAD in dog agility (the hardest part of the training), and  2) help the dog see that agility continues if they’re silent and moving parallel, and that agility stops if they’re barking, biting, or diving in towards their handler.

The key to this training is a timely and consistent response to the behaviors we wish to extinquish — all attention is removed from the dog, handler stops moving, turns back on dog, walks placidly to the beginning of the sequence.

Another important element of this trainin is to incrementally build from one obstacle done silently, to two obstacles done silently, then three – four – five – etc.

The most common mistakes include:

A) Allowing even a small nip, whine, yip — all precursers of bites, barks, and screaming.  If we allow the precurser we create confusion in the mind of the dog. The early stages of negative behavior are allowed while the latter stages are not allowed?  That’s way too complex for people, let alone dogs.  I want my dog to know I expect SILENCE and FOCUS ON THE WORK.

B) Building sequences that are too long too fast and too early in the dog’s training. If a puppy isn’t showing signs of nipping, barking, biting, etc., then sequencing takes a normal path. For the biter or barker, however, we have to place tons of little rewards and positive responses to silence and focus.

Instead of building from one obstacle to 5 obstacles in six tries, it may take 20 tries. It may take 30 tries. The more Tempest gets to do one or two obstacles, with a treat or a toy as a reward for silent focus, the better his foundation will be in this behavior.

If the handler moves too quickly to 5 or 6 obstacles, and the puppy gets over-stimulated, the more likely the negative behavior will emerge.

In other news, Dash earned his first two RAE double Qs (he needs eight more for his RAE)  AND  he earned his last Novice B obedience leg to earn his CD in an incredibly stressed performance yesterday.

On Saturday Dash was in the ring for his Excellent B rally performance. While he was working folks were tearing down their metal crates, folding chairs, and generally spooking him. (Dash’s early training with his moronic first owner made him sensitive to any sudden noise.)

As Dash was setting up for his honor performance the trial secretary turned on the PA system, causing a loud cracking noise, making everyone in the room jump and yelp, and spooking the crap out of Dash.

Then the nice leash runner attempted to place the next dog’s leash on the ring gating near the honor position and tripped, falling foward and nearly knocking the ring gating over into Dash and I.

Lastly, and perhaps most unfortunately, the dog we were honoring was large, slow, and — instead of taking a normal 1.5 to 1.75 minutes — must have run 2.5 to 3 minutes.

It was all too much for Dash and he stood up about 2 minutes into his honor sit, losing 20 points or so for that.

His stress from Saturday’s disaster carried over to Sunday morning in the same ring. His last novice B obedience leg was probably a gift, though he did manage to do his sits and downs even though the dog next to him jumped up and ran directly in front of Dash to head towards a back door in the building.

I’m thankful to be done with Novice, with all that on-lead heeling, and have moved him to Open A for our trial at the end of July. Less heeling (which Dash hates and where all his stress shows up) and more fun stuff, like retrieves, drop on recall, and jumping !!!   YAY !!!   Our big challenge will be the out-of-sight sits …

In the meantime, he’s now   ARCH Slydrock’s Dash For Cash CD RE AX AXJ … and my best prospect for a CDX.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest week 8

July 5, 2010

Tempest is now 16 weeks old.  In another week he’ll be four months old and I’ll be dropping the “weeks” designation, hopefully.

In a week he’ll also go onto a good quality adult dog food and off of puppy food. I’ve been feeding him Wellness puppy food and have been very pleased with his response to it, and his general good health.

Tempest had his last puppy vet visit last Tuesday, getting his last booster shot for Parvo, etc., and his first Rabies shot. So he’s good-to-go as far as getting around other dogs at shows, etc.

He’s accompanying me to Dayton next weekend for obedience trialing, along with my entourage which includes:  1) Dash, my obedience dog,   2) my Mom who may come along for the sheer pleasure of sitting all weekend at an obedience trial and watching her grand-dogs,  3) my dear friend Gwenn who lost her beloved Poochie this year and who enjoys watching the dogs and dreaming of her next pup.

I’ve been doing doggie activities on a regular basis since 1995.  My siblings like dogs, but none of them immersed themselves as I have.

Upon retiring from 35 years as a 5th grade teacher, my sister has joined agility classes for the summer. She works my veteran Dash in intermediate agility. He likes the cheese, but wears out prematurely halfway through the 2-hour workshop.  I think agility training may have found its way onto my sister’s “bucket list.”

It’s fascinating to me that Janice not only enjoys agility with Dash, the activity and the training, but is quite a good student. When faced with a sequence she asks all the right questions and has a basic knowledge of the learning process. Probably a result of all those years in grade school. <g>

But what she enjoys most is the sense of community and comraderie in the advanced class that follows hers. She stays and watches, contributes to and draws from the potluck offerings, and chats with students. Perhaps I’ll get her to travel to shows with me sometime.

Janice, my sister, is Tempest’s second mother, and takes a special interest in him. She keeps hoping he’ll turn into a “dud” so she can take him. That’s probably not going to happen, but it’s funny watching her try to spoil him for dog agility.

Last week I stepped up Tempest’s training on several fronts.

A.  Movement was added, both mine and Tempest’s.  Instead of a stationery 2-on-2-off for meals, or a small drive down the dogwalk plank, I started him on the ascent of the a-frame (he quickly learned that he needed to drive up the center of the a-frame to find the descent plank of the dogwalk on his contact trainer), and allowed him to drive all the way down the descent without having his food bowl on the floor as a lure.

Additionally, I was moving, and would assume any casual position as he was working. I don’t want my movement to be part of his performance, so it becomes a variable instead of a constant. I want him to really focus on what he should do, not on what I’m doing.

Additionally, Tempest ran with Renee Clark last Thursday night and showed a propensity for biting and barking as he ran.  I resolved to begin my protocol called “My Dog Bites Me” as soon as possible. This protocol shows the dog that running silently, and without putting teeth on flesh, is a good thing. Bud’s Kory runs silently, mostly because that’s who he is — Bud didn’t teach that behavior. But he said, “I really don’t mind the dog barking while he runs,” to which I replied, “Well, I hope to do gamblers and other games, so I DO mind if he barks while he runs.”  LOL

Barking while running, though sometimes an outward sign of inward joy, rattles my brain and disqualifies a dog in rally or obedience, so it has no place in my canine partner. Work is best done silently — he needs to be listening to me, not contributing to the noise level of the venue.

So yesterday I worked at sending Tempest to a tunnel (which, for some strange reason, he loves!) and letting him see me running as he exited. The first few times he caught sight of me running and came after me barking and nipping. My response was to go completely deadpan (for barking) and to down him (for actually biting me — this only happened twice before he realized it wasn’t nearly as much fun to bite me as one might assume).

Within 5 tries he was working silently, exiting the tunnel and running to whichever lead hand indicated the treat. My next step, this week, will be to add the stuffed toy and allow him to do the tunnel, come to my lead hand, and drive forward for the tossed toy.

B.  Tempest was introduced to weave entries last week, using my clicker for a proper entry and a treat thrown on the floor ahead of him. I’d like to transition this month to toy training, but first have to teach him to …..

C.  Retrieve!  Tempest has had 2 short lessons in the inducive retrieve using clicker and food. He’s gone from being totally focused on the food to touching the toy, to putting teeth on the toy, to lifting the toy, to tossing the toy, to bringing the toy toward me, to fetching and lifting the toy toward me. He’s about 25% of the way to a formal retrieve with his first prop — his stuffed hawk.  When he’s retrieving it nicely he’ll get to play with it on the agility equipment.

Bud’s Kory learned a terrific play retrieve. Since Tempest will be doing formal retrieves he needs a little more foundation training which encourages the pup to drive directly to the item, pick it up without mouthing, return directly to me, and sit-in-front to present the toy to me.

D. Tempest got to spend an hour doing agility with the beginner class yesterday. The class goes 2 hours but I didn’t want him to peter out during class, so I withdrew him mid-way. It was 90+ degrees, so the heat was another factor in my decision to quit early.

In class, Tempest got to do the table (getting on, hearing his attention word, turning to me and getting his treat) about 6 times, the trainer teeter a dozen or so times, the trainer dogwalk a few times, and — most importantly — beginner sequencing!!  Table-dogwalk-tunnel was his big sequence, and he shows a ton of drive when I’m moving and he’s working.

Things are getting exciting !!!

On a domestic note …. our house is very quiet without Wizard alerting us to movement outdoors. Students note that they miss his barking as they drive past the house.

I’ve put dog beds and the ottoman next to where I commonly hang out, and Tempest has decided that right-next-to-mom-on-the-cushy-thing is the best place in the whole world.

Dash is going to attempt to get his CD and his first 2 legs towards his RAE this coming weekend.

Kory is just a few weeks from his AKC Novice debut — in Dayton, Ohio, inside their training building, on rubber mats.  There’s a possibility we can both go to the trial, and I’d love to get to watch my boys run for real, to be in charge of videotaping and cheerleading.

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 … !!!

Christmas eve 2009, 2-min. dog training tasks

December 24, 2009

It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and “all through the house, not a creature is sturring, not even a mouse …”

Are you kidding?  I live with 8 dogs, one of which is a 10-month old BC pup!  Right now, as I prepare for the day, he’s enlisted his cronies in a game of wrestling.

Our 10-year-old Dash and 12-year-old Ringer are Kory’s favorite wrestling buddies. I think this says something for the mental maturity of the modern canine, and their capacity to remain puppies forever.

I set up a large, soft, crate near my desk, with plastic on the floor underneath and a heavy plastic sheet inside. I layered a soft quilt and 2 dog beds, hoping to make a great environment for Banner to be comfortable in for these long winter days.

She leaks a good bit and no amount of medicine keeps that from happening if she gets into her water-drinking mode. So I gave in, stopped the meds, and made an old dog playpen for her. She hates it.

On the other hand, the rowdy boys find it’s perfect for a doggy cage match. Two dogs go in, they wrestle, and wrestle, and wrestle, and one comes out (the other one is probably dozing off by now).

So, the dog for whom the environment was designed has to be forced in, and everyone else loves to go in for a quick nap or a long, lazy snooze with a best buddy. There’s plenty of room for 2-3 dogs.

This afternoon we head into town for a Christmas Eve party with my sisters’s family and my Mom. I’m taking the left-over pepperoni rolls from last night’s agility classes, and my blackbean stoup (thanks, Rachel Ray!) which we eat as a dip for corn chips.

Janice, my sister, isn’t planning a big meal, just tons of food strategically placed where folks can get to it. Shooting pool, a couple of beers, some food, and home before dark probably.

Having dogs means never having to say ….. “sure, I can stay as long as you like!”  Potty and feeding schedules keep us from wandering too far afield unless we’ve arranged for a dog-sitter.

One of these days, though, these wonderful old dogs will be gone. We’ll be able to pack up the remaining dogs and be more footloose. In the meantime, heading into 2010, we have three 14-year-old dogs, two 12-year-old dogs, one 10-year-old dog, and two relative youngsters.

The approaching new year has me thinking about goals for 2010. So far I’ve come up with:

1) Get Dash back into Rally training and finish his excellent AKC title.

2) Get Hazard into Rally training at mealtimes and get her entered in her first novice AKC trial.

3) Prepare Hazard for the January 23-24 TDAA trial in Columbus, Ohio.  She needs 13 Superior Standard Qs (4 of which must be first-places) and ONE Games 3 first-place for her TACh3. In the past the first-places have been difficult because we weren’t a solid team yet and Hazard was a bit shut-down on course. She’s coming back to her old self, however, and things are going to get exciting for us, I hope. Vicki and Jackie want to practice Futbol … should be fun!

4) Prepare Hazard and Dash for the February 13-14 NADAC trial in Zanesville, Ohio.  I haven’t done NADAC since Fall 2002, when Dash earned 3 novice titles at 20+ inches. He’s now entered as a Veteran (running 16″) and Hazard debuts in the 8″ novice classes. Bud’s created the hoops and our early training indicated neither dog has a problem understanding their performance of the hoops.

5) Continue working with Kory on little, helpful behaviors that won’t interfere with Bud’s agility training protocols. Last night we worked on “lie down” and “relax,” with Kory quickly figuring out I wanted him to roll onto one hip. We also played the box game and he quickly got his two front feet inside for the click/treat. He’s not quite coordinated enough (and is too large for the box, perhaps) to fit his whole body into the box. Of course, we were playing with the box while agility was going on behind us, so a bit of distraction training as well. For a pup, Kory’s capable of an amazing amount of focus. He’s also capable of figgeting and whirling continuously for what seems a tremendous amount of time.

6) Keep up with my dog-washing schedule. I’ve been quite disappointed with the performance of Frontline Plus this year. I’ve heard it said that our local fleas have built up a tolerance to it.  We had a series of regular rain storms in the spring and summer, so the ground stayed moist. I’ve noticed that it’s not as oily as before so perhaps they’ve altered a good delivery system so that dogs don’t have that oily spot on their shoulders. And we’ve been beseiged with flea-ridden rabbits in the dog yard this year. All in all, a horrible year for fleas and (YUCK!) tapeworms. So I’ve gone old-school — washing dogs, washing bedding, putting down flea powder, vacuuming often, dumping out (or burning) the sweeper bag often, washing more dogs, giving tapeworm meds, applying flea powder, etc.

Time to feed dogs and prepare for my day.  Today I’m going to do some straightening, burning cardboard, picking up recycling that’s blown amuck, cleaning some in the training building for Sunday’s workshop, and bathing Hazard.

New camp plan for 2010, new weeknight classes

October 30, 2009

Bud and I talked on the way to and from Wisconsin about revising our camp program to answer the needs (both time-wise and money-wise) of agility enthusiasts.

Since 1999 we’ve done camps as “package deals.” Like seminars or workshops, the camper paid a flat fee and everyone got the same product. Four days of agility, 6 hours a day, plus a meal, accommodations extra whether campers stayed in a motel or stayed in our cottages.

I’m convinced that today’s agility exhibitor wants more flexibility. Our 2010 camps are going to be sold as components, with every camper getting to customize their training experience.

Instead of having 6-7 people check in on Sunday night for a Monday-through-Thursday camp, some people will arrive Sunday, some perhaps Monday, some may leave on Tuesday, some stay until Friday, etc.

Instead of having accommodations be a block fee it will be based on the number of nights you need a bed.

Instead of assuming everyone wants to attend a group dinner in the evening we’ll offer that as an option and let people opt in or out of group meals.

The biggest problem is probably going to be explaining this system to folks.

For example, in order to give Bud some sort of regular schedule during camps we’ll keep the morning (9am to noon) group session. If folks want to participate in that group training the cost is $35 per dog.

Beginning at 1pm we’ll have 1-hour blocks set aside for private lessons. Cost will be $65/hour. Friends training and traveling together may bundle their private lessons and turn them into a group event.

A camper may choose to arrive Monday, have a private lesson Monday evening, attend the group session Tuesday morning, have a private lesson Tuesday afternoon, attend a group dinner Tuesday evening, work 2 dogs in the group session Wednesday morning, have another private lesson Wednesday afternoon and depart for home.  This example would cost $290 ($40/night for bed x2, $35/group class x2, $65/private lesson x2, $10/meal x1).

Another camper might want to do the full package — 4-5 nights in a bed, all 4 morning sessions, 4 private lessons, 4 group meals, depart on Friday morning.  This example would cost $640 ($40/night for bed x 5, $35/group class x 4, $65/private lesson x 4, $10/meal x 4).

Additionally, we’re rethinking the entire deposit process. We’ve gone from a $100 deposit in 1999 to a $200 deposit in 2009. We’re going to roll back the deposit to $100, and give a $25 bonus to early-bird registrants (before 12/15/09). We’ve offered this discount before, but the discount was always off the balance due rather than the deposit. Now, if you register early, your deposit is only $75.

Deposits will still be non-refundable, but transferrable (portable) once in the calendar year. So, if you put a deposit in early for a week in May and have to move it to June you’re not penalized.

This lower deposit will reflect the decrease in camp fees paid by folks wanting 2-3 days of vacation. Instead of making all our camps weekday camps we’ll also be doing some long weekend camps — Friday through Monday.

I’d really like to see a camp season where every day sees campers arriving and campers departing, and every one of them getting a customized vacation.

This will complicate my “chambermaid” duties a little, but there might be a time when your clean sheets are folded neatly on top of your mattress, rather than having every bed pre-made and sitting ready for you.

Most camps will become a bit “free-form.” No real roster, people coming and going, groups growing and shrinking.

However, we’re going to put our THEMED camps again, with topics including distance, foundation training, teacup, masters, and novice.

We’ll also be encouraging breed-specific camp registration … how fun to train with 4-5 others who share your love of your special breed!

While we’re rethinking the whole camp process we’re also instituting weeknight classes. When we moved here we swore off weeknight classes but they’ve gradually crept back into our schedule.

On Tuesday evenings we’re expecting a flexible and ever-changing group of people and dogs. We’ll start the evening with a 6-7pm foundation training class with homework from my 2-Minute Dog Trainer protocols. At 7pm we’ll break off to be briefed for the week’s game, walk and run the game. At 7:30pm Bud or I will teach a sequencing class, probably based on the league course and the challenges it presented. Cost per event, per class, per dog, is $5 — pay-as-you-play.

On Thursday evenings we’ve sold class slots in a 6-7 masters handling class, followed by a 7pm league play (same course as Tuesdays), followed by a 7:30 intermediates-to-advanced handling class. Cost is $35/month regardless on whether there are 4-or-5 Thursdays, with no make-ups for bad weather, and no prorating (that means, if you join for the last 2 weeks of the month the cost is still $35 to claim that slot).

We’re looking for students on Thursday nights who are serious about doing homework and seeing improvement.

We’re hoping that the Thursday night classes will take some of the pressure off the Sunday afternoon workshops. When Bud’s here we’re able to do split group work but his travel schedule has him gone for 1-2 workshops per quarter. By myself I’m hard-pressed to wear out 12 handlers and their dogs.

We going to adding THEMES as a training option for the Sunday workshops as well including, teacup, distance, masters, etc.

We’re eager to see how all these changes will play out with customers, campers, and students.