Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dog's Can Read Facial Expressions???

Have you ever has someone tell you that the dog 'knows' they've done something wrong before they 'said' anything?  Hum....this just might be why?????

Some very interesting stuff, that everyone that owns a dog should be aware of. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Endings In Agility

Have you ever noticed how we seem to put a lot of time into our 'Start Lines', or 'Set up'?  We also put a great deal of time into our overall obstacle performance. Why is it that we never seem to put any thought or time into how we'll finish our run?

Over the last two weekends running USDAA, I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in the ring, not only as a competitor, but also as a worker.  I do enjoy working at trials, there's rarely a better seat in the house.  My focus while working over the last couple weekends was on 'start lines', contact performance and how teams ended a run.  This post is on the endings.

First off, why are the endings important?  Most people might think they are important so you can praise and reward your dog for a job well done, okay, I can agree with that.  Endings are also an important time to be sure you are still connected and in control of your dog.  The majority of dogs I saw these past two weekends were in a high state of arousal, or drive, at the end of there runs, a time where bad things can, and occasionally do happen.  This could involve an altercation with another dog, or more commonly, an arousal aggression, 'biting, nipping' their handler, or even resource guarding their leash. 

Several years ago, AKC implemented a rule that required dogs be on a leash and 'under control' when exiting the ring.  I will admit, I thought it was a stupid rule.  The more I watch the ends of the agility runs, the more I agree with it.  Handlers are just too disconnected at the end of the agility run, whether they are just happy they survived, thinking about what went wrong, or just trying to breathe.  They assume the dog will be with them, that's when bad things happen.

I started thinking about 'endings' when I was about to enter Seeker in his first trial a few years ago.  He does get highly aroused when watching other dogs work, and I knew I didn't want to have any issues with other dogs in the ring.  I decided for him, running the leash and having a quick sit was the answer.  This allowed me to put slip his leash over his head and release to a game of tug.  It was quick, and got us out of the ring under control.

For a couple of our other dogs, jumping into my arms was a good option.  Again, I knew where my dog was at all times, and was able to slip a leash on and get out quickly.

Other options that work well are having the dog come to you and you take their collar, then go to your leash.  This isn't an option in USDAA, as you aren't allowed to wear collars.

I personally don't like sending a dog to a leash at the end for a reward.  I've seen a couple handlers scream at leash runners (not the last two weekends BTW) to drop the leash as the dog will grab it out of their hands.  Potential for a dog bite just isn't worth it.  Also, dogs that 'resource guard' might not like someone else handling their leash.

If you have a dog that jumps up and nips you, seriously consider a sit or down at the end of your run.  The more often they get to rehearse that behavior, the more serious it could become.  I've seen some pretty nasty bruises and bites from agility endings.  OUCH!! 

With the 2013 Agility Season just under way, I challenge you to add 'happy endings' into your training.  You and your dog will both be happier for it!

Happy Training!!