Thursday, April 29, 2010

Foundation Agility Class

Foundation Class started Wednesday night and we didn’t touch ONE PIECE of agility equipment! How can you have agility class without equipment! It’s easy!!

Apparently NO ONE picks up there TOYS!!!!!

One of the most obvious, to me anyway, pieces missing between handlers and their dogs is relationship. When I say relationship, I do NOT mean they do not like or have any bond with each other. By relationship I mean, under any conditions, the dog will look to the handler for ‘what’s next’!! When the handler asks their dog for interaction, they will not go off to see another dog, smell the grass, and check out their neighbor’s treat bag, they will look to their handler for some type of interaction.

Thus, we worked on some relationship building exercises that will help in agility, and also any other performance venue they might be interested in.

We started with a wading pool full of empty plastic water bottles. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. This idea came from Michael Ellis, I’m not saying he ‘invented’ this idea, this is just where I got it.

The exercise gets your dog use to things moving under his feet, and probably one of the best benefits is it gets him use to the NOISE!! Some dogs are more noise sensitive then others, so what a great way to have positive interaction with your dog, AWAY from agility equipment. It’s just a fun game, and should be treated as such.

The Rules of the game. No pulling, pushing, or forcing of the dog into the pool in any way shape or form. It might be best to do this without a leash on to avoid this temptation. If you use a leash, it should only be used to keep your dog from leaving you. No, you can’t pick your dog up and place him in the pool either. You CAN lure him in with food or a toy. You can also use a clicker and be sure to reward when he takes a step toward the pool and remember your placement should be on or near the pool edge. For dogs that struggle with this it’s important to reward OFTEN! The more reinforcement intervals, the better.

You can also add other items to your pool with your empty bottles. Maybe a goose or deer decoy, be creative, it’s all just fun!!

Just when you thought the fun was over, we bagged up some of those plastic bottles and sat on them! Yes, MORE NOISE!! Okay, so most people just stepped on them. It’s obvious I can’t get everyone to do what I ask!! LOL. You can do this with aluminum cans, these make a nice noise too. Of course cans are worth a nickel a piece, and plastic bottles are free!

After your dog is fine with you making noise with the bag of bottles, see if you can get your dog to pounce on it himself. Let the dog make the noise! Again, the reasoning behind this is, agility equipment makes noise! Your trialing or training environment isn’t going to be sterile! Get your dog use to strange noises and textures and have fun! It’s all okay!

Next we got out the ‘Elephant Boards’. You can use ANYTHING to do this. A bowl, a small cooler or plastic container turned upside down. If you want to make an actual board, these are 12X12” square and have two 2X4” boards along two opposite sides. Easy to make from scraps, but you do not need one! The other items work just as well. This idea I got from Ann Braue’s puppy seminar, that Seeker attended about 2.5 years ago.

The idea here is to lure your puppy’s front feet onto the board with a cookie. Then you are going to manipulate your puppy with your own body to get him to move his hind feet. If you use a clicker, you’ll want to click each time he starts to lift a hind foot. Be sure to go both directions as they will be better going one way than the other.

Why do this exercise? It teaches rear end awareness! This is especially important for those larger dogs that never seem to realize that their back ends have to follow their front ends, until they end up on a long narrow board. This is also a helpful tool for pivot work in obedience. Not to mention, it’s just FUN!!

You can use this board for other fun things too! “Two on and off” behavior, then pivot, sit on the board, one front and one back foot on, let your imagination go wild! It’s all relationship building!

We also worked on teaching our dogs to look for a hoop, and run through it, we’ll use this later on for contacts. Finally we touched on assuming 2/2 on a plank, just pouncing into position.

As promised, here are the instructions on Four Feet in a box from a former post.
More body awareness and Relationship building exercises!! HAVE FUN!!

See December 11, 2009 post on four feet in a box work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Continuing Education?

Are you getting your CEUs in Dog Training?

Methods of dog training seem to change faster than Iowa Weather! Keeping up with new theories, philosophies and methods can make a sane person’s head spin. If you’re already insane, it should be no problem at all for you!

It’s important that you keep searching for a ‘better way’. Avoid falling into the old habits of, “that’s how we’ve always done it”. For example, how many of you grew up with your parents yelling, “Rub his nose in it!”, when puppy, Fido, had an accident on the floor. Dogs, being the kind hearted souls they are, learned in spite of us.

How many of you practice this method now? I actually had a co-worker ask me few months ago, about a housebreaking their young dog. The puppy had lived out in a dog run before they’d gotten him and was very confused with the whole ‘where to go’ business. Moving from and ‘outside dog’, to an ‘inside dog’ can be confusing. Her husband, Carl, wanted to rub his nose in it and she wasn’t sure that this was the right thing to do. So, he suggested that she ask me. Smart GUY!!! I told Mo that this was a brilliant idea! I could tell by the look on her face that this was NOT the answer she was expecting.

So, I explained further. Who ever’s turn it is to watch the puppy must do that; WATCH THE PUPPY! If the puppy has an accident ‘on that person’s watch’, the WATCHER gets his/her nose rubbed in it. This will guarantee that the puppy is taken out often and rewarded for his proper behavior. Mo stated that she would tell Carl I agreed, but that she knows SHE’LL have puppy watching duty. I’m happy to report that puppy is housebroken and Monique’s nose is clean. I think?

The point is, things change! Are you changing with them?

If you are instructing others, I think it’s even more important that you keep up with your continued education learning. How can you help others if you don’t have the knowledge or at least resources to do so yourself?

Currently there are two handlers taking credit for ‘handling methods or styles’, can you name them? What are the differences between these to handling styles? What makes them different? Which do you use?

The two obstacles I see dogs have problems with time and time again are the weave poles and the teeter. There are a number of ways to teach each, do you know several?

Some of the methods used to train weave poles are; channeled, wires, weave a matics, push pull, 2 by 2. Some methods may work better for some dog/handler teams than others. Are you familiar with most of these? Would you be able to help someone decide which method was best for them?

The same applies to training the teeter. There’s table to table, bang it, pounce games, race games and such. At trials I feel pretty confident that I can tell what has happened to some of the dogs that ‘freeze’ midway on the board. Do you feel you could help someone with a problem such as this?

One of the most amazing things that have come about in the agility world, and probably other performance events, is that equipment/exercises are EASY!! It’s the relationship that’s key! If your dog doesn’t want to do things with you as a team, then you’re more than likely going to find yourself running as two beings out on course vs. ONE!

Continuing Education doesn’t have to come in the form of an expensive formal seminar or private lessons. It can come from watching DVDs, you tube, reading books, magazines, internet sites and the like on different topics. You can also learn by watching some of the top handlers run their own dogs. Look for what worked well and go home and practice it! Find someone that that’s dog as the skills you’d like your dog to possess. Ask, ‘how did you get (fill in the blank)” The best thing you can do for your dog and your students is to stay current on the newest training ideas! Things are changing! For the better!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Some More Time!!!

Kruz, Mad (chair) and Seeker
(Yes, that is a gas can holding up the poker)
(No, it's never had gas in it!!)

Or should I say, SMORE TIME!!!

We had another 'stay at home weekend', with a lot of things to get done.
The weather was BEAUTIFUL!!
We decided to burn some of the branches we'd cut.
What a perfect time for smores!
Better yet, what a great time for a little video!

Granted, this wasn't very fancy,
but the dogs seemed to have a great time!

Kruz was totally in his element, showing off all he knows.
Seeker just wanted to do SOMETHING!
Mad, well, like me....she was in it for the FOOD!

I must admit, after Seeker retrieved the Marshmallows the first time,
there was a hole in the bag! Mad was trying to figure out if she could grab one
'before' the retrieve!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Team Obedience - The Highlights.....

Put 4 dogs, 4 handlers, 2 judges and a rather rowdy audience outside the ring gates and anything CAN and WILL happen! When the dog(s) you are handling are not YOURS, then the odds have just doubled that there will be “Trouble A-brewin’”!

There was a respectable entry of 5 Obedience Teams at the ICDOC Obedience Trial held at the Amana Colonies Convention Center on Saturday 4/10. The Team’s in ‘working’ order were as follows: Senior Moment - (Made up of two 10 year old dogs and two 12 year old dogs), the handlers are still quite YOUNG! The Red Hat Society – Here’s where your old handlers showed up with walkers and canes. Luckily for the dogs, they discarded those devices during the heeling patterns! The DUMBELLES – a diverse group of dogs and handlers that were anything but DUMB! The Flower Power Team – was a colorful affair, with 1960’s bright colors and flower bouquets around the dog’s necks. The only one that seemed to enjoy the flowers was the boy dog. Hum, what does that tell you? Finally, Nauti-Poms – This Team was made up of Two Portuguese Water Dogs and Two Pomeranians. The four dogs were owned by 2 of the handlers, thus, there were 2 “fill in” handlers.

Senior Moment was the first team in the ring. This was rather distracting as the judges were trying to explain the pattern and there was a lot of exciting things happening around the rings. Not to mention we had a handful of bagged cookies (made by Meme) to toss to the awaiting crowd!! The bags listed each of the dog’s names and ages, in their coordinating colors (Bandannas and Handlers shirts). Kruz – 12, Robin – 12, Jamie – 10, Simon – 10.

The treat baggies sounded like a good idea at the time, however, it was terribly distracting for the two ‘non-obedience’ dogs! Kruz was very excited by all the loud voices and cheering from the crowd, he wanted to know ‘What was HAPPENING!”. He didn’t realize he actually needed to “Focus ESTER!” Luckily both Kruz and Robin had leashes attached, so they could only get about 3’ away from us. Generally forged! Jamie and Simon however, we seasoned professionals! Our figure 8 wasn’t too bad and the stand for exam was BRILLIANT!

Then the leashes came off. It became pretty obvious that Kruz and Robin were going to need some verbal support through this off leash heeling exercise. They were both pretty distracted by the crowd, now doing ‘cat calls’! At a DOG TRIAL! We barely made the slow, Jamie and Martha were ahead of us and I think Martha had a brace for awhile. Kruz did a blind cross (finally an agility maneuver that made sense!) and was back with me just in time for a right turn and a fast! That would have been fine, except he got so excited that he was now heeling with Meme and Robin! Actually, he was ‘between Meme and Robin’! I finally got him back and we thankfully finished the off leash heeling with a small amount of dignity.

The drop on recall wasn’t too bad. Robin just didn’t feel a need to ‘come’ when called. He was the smart one! Why bother coming when he’s just going to have to stop half way there and lay down? He decided he’d just watch those herding dogs do it and then catch Meme on the way out! SMART DOG!

The other three teams went and to be honest I didn’t have much time to watch them. I was bonding with my orange dog! From what I saw of them, they looked pretty darn good and it wasn’t looking good for Senior Moment!!!

Meanwhile, down on my knees, literally, playing with Magic. He is so darn cute, how could you NOT like him!! He seemed to like me, or at least he like the treats I had in my hand! Earlier in the day he’d won his Rally class! He was on a roll! I might mention here that I didn’t handle him in that class. He was handled by his ‘second hand owner’, Paula. Does that make her a Rescue Owner?

Finally, time for the Nauti-Poms Team and our Team Managers, Rilda FISH and Meg SAILOR introduce us! Our line up was as follows; Tracy – Sydney (PWD), Paula – Petra (Pom), Michele “stand in handler” – Rouge (PWD) and Myself – Magic (Pom).

Magic was very distracted and I think he was confused by the name introduction. We were indeed announced as the Nauti-Poms, and when he didn’t see any water, I think he thought he was suppose to be Naughty!! (He really was a good little trooper)

Our heel on leash was ‘okay’. Some forging and stretching of the string, I’m sure glad I had it ON HIM!! Magic has ‘one speed’, very steady and not too fast. On Saturday, it was all about brisk! I think he thought he was in the conformation ring! His little legs were just a trucking along. I knew I was in trouble when he was out moving Rouge in the slow, gulp.

Figure 8, not too bad!! I actually managed to stay with the rest of the team! Good job Magic!! We did a nice job with the stand for exam, as soon as I got that tiny little clip off that tiny little (black skull/cross bones collar). He did sit on the way back to him, but I think he was getting a little bored with the whole thing. The off leash heeling could have been worse! I think was at least within a mat of me or so! Thank goodness that is over!

The drop on recall exercise is usually the ‘make or break’ exercise for Team. You’ll end up with a few no ‘comes’, some ‘no drops’ and a few ‘no finished’. Our team did pretty darn well. Everyone came when called and 3 of them dropped. It was that darn orange dog that headed for me about three quarters of the way and then veered left to his owner Paula. I gave him a down command anyway and he promptly sat. By this time everyone was laughing, he was too darn cute. So, what could the judge do but give the finish command? Magic finished, right with Petra! Thus, Paula now had TWO Poms and I was dogless. I don’t think it’s suppose to happen that way in Team?

Rilda took Kruz in for sits and down, the only problem she had was getting him to down. Luckily, Martha was right next down to offer assistance. Rilda told Kruz to ‘down’ several times, finally, Martha took pity on her and she took it upon herself to tell Kruz, “Lie Down”. Funny, I guess I never thought about telling Rilda how to ask him to lie down. Magic was a PRO! We got perfect marks in our stays! Insert cheering here!

The stays were a little like a Chinese Fire Drill. Team stays are just your normal 1 minute sit, and 3 minute down with the handler in the ring. There were a lot of points lost in this exercise, this turned out to be the ‘place’ breaker for some.

The Team Placements were as follows:

1st - Red Hat Society

2nd – Senior Moment

3rd – The Dumbelles

4th – Nauti – Poms

5th – Flower Power

The really nice thing about this class is EVERYONE (Dogs, Handlers, Judges and Spectators) seemed to have a great time! There were loads of laughs by all!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Meet my "NEW" and "Borrowed" Obedience Dog!


(His eyes don't normally look like this!)

That's why I get to show him!
Actually, I think all the other dogs were spoken for!

It could be "Magic", if he says with me for the whole 'class'.
Magic, is now owned by Tracy and Paula.
He was formerly owned, trained and loved by Kay Lowe,
who passed away last December.
Thus, I'm really honored to be showing this cute little guy.

We'll be doing a TEAM obedience at the Amana's on Saturday.
Kind of like Olympic synchronized swimming, without water or nose plugs.
It consists of 4 dogs and 4 handlers.
Yes, we are selling tickets!
Our Team consists of 2 Poms and 2 PWDs.
Thus - Nauti-Poms- is our name.
Tracy, Paula, Michele and myself will be controlled by the dogs.

The other 3 dogs are black with white bibs.
Magic is Orange and his hair is his bib!
I guess it'll be easy for the judges to know WHICH dog make the mistake!
It was the ORANGE ONE!!!
Have you ever tried to find a snap under all that hair!
I might never get out of the ring!

We've had 3 practices with this team.
The first one was our best, which probably means,
we should have just shown without practicing!

We're kind of cramming, since two of our practices were this weekend.
Probably NOT the best way to get STELLAR results.
Oh well, you get what you pay for.

Today Magic was a little distracted.
Michele thinks that Kay is probably talking to him.
Hello KAY!! Please avoid talking to him in the ring!
We're trying to remember when to give him treats.
Kay provided, Good Dog Treats, Bad Dog Treats,
Aren't you Cute Dog Treats, Potty Treats and of
course the ever popular Reward Chair!
I'll need to pack an extra for Magic.

Today he was so distracted that he was
heading to the recall line up without me!
I had to run to catch up with him.
RUN! This dog is all of 6.5 lbs.
I need to be CAREFUL!!
His dog treats are so small they
might as well be called MINCED!

On a more positive note,
Magic Qualified in Rally Novice today with Paula.
He got 4th place!
Paula said he would have done better,
but he was so distracted!
KAY!!!! Stop it! G

He was the only one of our 4 "Team Dogs" to Q!

That a boy Magic!

It's been a good 7 years since I've been in
the obedience ring. It should be interesting!!!