Monday, December 28, 2009


Being able to grab your dog’s collar is one of the most important handling skills your dog should possess. When it comes to emergency situations the first thing that people go for is the collar. If your dog is not used to being grabbed this could turn into a very charged situation, even ending in a bite.

It is best to start this skill young and don’t just focus on the collar. Make sure that you can put pressure on the ears, paws, tail and body. All over body handling is key to child proofing a dog. Begin softly and do not hang on for any long period of time. Hang on just long enough to deliver the reward and let go. Duration comes later.

Let’s set this up, shall we. Stock up on small bits of kibble or treats. Touch or gently grab the dog’s collar. Say “gotcha!” and food reward. Let go. If you have a dog that does not like being touched or immediately jumps back when you go to grab you’ll have to go much slower. Try one of two things. Present the treat first in a closed fist. As the dog is focused on the treat slowly reach in to touch the collar. Open your hand the same time you touch the collar, letting the dog eat the treat. The second way is to put a lead on the dog. Grab the lead at the end, saying “gotcha!” and rewarding. As the dog becomes comfortable, slowing work your way up the lead. This is a big trust game. That means no collar punishment - including but not limited to collar shakes, collar pops, or general rough collar treatment. This is especially true if you have a dog that is at all skittish or shy of handling.

If you have a bouncy, outgoing dog that doesn’t mind the light stuff then begin to get sloppier in the grab or quicker in the grab. By sloppy I mean lightly grabbing some of the scruff with the collar or the fur around the collar if it’s a coated dog. Do not make the dog squeak in pain. Make sure to do this throughout the day and at random times. Don’t forget to reward!!!

When it comes to the body parts start slow and soft, almost like a massage. If at any time the dog lets you know that you’re going to fast or handling too hard back up a step. When applying pressure, do it within reason. Do not yank on the ears or tail. Place only enough pressure to restrain, not hurt. It’s good for dogs to get used to rough handling, but be sure to not cross the line.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A lesson learned

I learned a valuable lesson tonight about judging someone by the equipment they use with their dog. My cousin made a comment about the remote collar on Bailey and I was floored. I would never use a piece of equipment on my dog that would cause serious harm, pain, or otherwise damage our relationship. So before you think about judging someone based on their training collar choice, think twice. You don't know how or why they are using it.

*** If you have further questions about my use of the remote collar in my training, please feel free to ask. ***

Monday, November 9, 2009


Kayla's crate trick

Dude learning the Drop on Recall (this is a long one and was left with little editing)

Videos of past agility runs with Bailey and Kayla are still to come.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Follow Me!

A must have for control off leash!

What you Need:
med -> high level treats
20-50 ft long line unless in a fenced area
second or "ghost" handler if possible

To have the dog follow the handler and ignore the environment

*Note* The second handler is there to make sure that the dog remains safe, to tell the handler when to hide and when to reappear.

Begin with your pup by your side - position (sit, down, stand) is not important, the pup should be still. It is best if you wait for the pup to offer eye contact, but you may cue it. This provides the connection between you and your pup. Now you're ready to get going. Pick a point in front of you, cue your pup to "let's go" and begin walking. Here's the hard part! Don't beg, look at, or otherwise cue your pup. You may praise and treat him if he's by your side. Trust me you'll "feel" him next to you. Is he still with you? Yes! Great! Mark, reward, and change direction. Do this often to try to lose your pup.

Did you lose him? He not following you? Don't fret! Keep walking, fight the urge to beg, and find a place to hide. Your ghost handler will make sure puppy is safe. You may keep your head in sight, just keep quiet. Let your pup figure out that he lost you. Let him fret a bit. Did he finally notice you ditched him? Is he searching? Good! Now you may step out and call him. Praise that good puppy! He'd better keep an eye on you, you may just leave him! Sneaky human!

Begin the exercise again. As your dog becomes proficient you can make it harder by adding toys or strangers or other dogs.

*If you add dogs make sure the distraction dog does not reciprocate advances to play. This dog is for distraction only. Same goes for the humans.*

Take this show on road! The more places you practice the better.

This is a variation of a Suzanne Clothier leadership exercise game.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Upholding your end of the deal

When we train our dogs it's a partnership. You do the teaching and they do the learning, or vise versa. We are the good dog owners and go to class each week, practice our homework in the house when we have time, and magically expect our dogs to be letter perfect in the outside world. This is the biggest complaint I receive as an instructor, their dog won't listen in public. To which I usually respond have you practiced in public? We all know the answer to that 90% of the time is no. I was reminded of this very same thing this weekend.

Kayla and I have been trying for our CDX (Open Obedience title) for a better part of a year now. We finally got our title yesterday by the grace of God. I went into the ring expecting a mid 190 score, but walked out with 189. Needless to say a few things fell apart and other bits looked down right sloppy - so not our style. As I was driving home I began to think over why we showed like we did and realized I had not upheld my end of the deal. I had not been putting my time into training, nor had I put the routine together in about a month. I should be so lucky to have a dog that saved my ass. The one thing that looked good was the long sit - now we have been practicing that!! The voice of my instructor rings in my head - you get what you train for! Ain't that the truth!!!

The moral of this story: before you blame the dog, ask yourself if you've put in the work!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When it's not fun

I got to start a new Charm class tonight - a class for not so nice dogs - and looking at these owners brought me back to when I was going through this with my own dog. Sand is a not so nice dog. I was the hated person in the neighborhood. Seemingly the only person in the world with an aggressive Lab. I turned to techniques that killed my relationship. My dog was a puddle at my feet and I was heartbroken. After this I committed myself to turning our training and relationship around. I got to see this tonight in one student. I got to see someone take the first step toward crossing over from force and pain. Training should be fun for both parties. Training should open doors to a fulling relationship. Next time you feel like resorting to force, look into your dog's eyes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tricks for dogs

Trick training may seem a bit dumb and insignificant, but in fact they can be vital to developing a well rounded dog. Tricks promote problem solving for both dog and handler. You are also broadening your dog's vocabulary. When thinking of tricks to teach, start easy and pick something that your dog does naturally. For example if your dog likes to paw at things, begin with High 5, Wave, or Shake. Some tricks build naturally build on each other, such as a retrieve can be turned into putting toys away or closing a door. Here's an example of Kayla showing off her hold.

What can your dog do?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

They are up!

After months of waiting I have converted and posted my agility videos. The runs were taped in Indiana at a fun run. Enjoy!!

Bailey Jumpers

You can also find Kayla's jumpers run up there as well!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kay's trip to the chiro

Well, those who know me know I take my dogs to the chiropractic vet at least once a year to get a tune up. This month was Dude's follow up and Kayla's turn. The vet found reduced flexion in her left elbow and some thickening. While it won't halt her from playing agility, it will put a kink in it. She's slim, active and going to be starting joint supplements very soon which will help. My little squirrel's funky foot out of whack! We'll have to reduce her training times per week and sorry guys, limit her trips to class as a demo pup.

This does explain why she is not wanting to stay in the weave poles at speed and cannot turn as tightly. I still love her! It just might take us longer to get that MACH.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day One: Ian Dunbar

For those out there that don't who this man is, shame! He is, to me, the father of positive training and you have him to thank for puppy classes. Way back when puppy class was considered a no no and formal training did not happen until the dog was six months old. Yikes! I know!

Not only does Ian make you think about things, he challenges you think outside the box and he's just plain funny! I can't wait to go back tomorrow!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Good bye my friend

Today Kayla and I say good bye to our friend Mr Dummy. We were working our retrieve over high today in class and our dumbbell snapped in two. I stood there shocked!!! We have a show next weekend and I'm lucky that this happened in training than at the show. I have a temp dummy until I can get a new one(s).

I've never had this happen, but Margaret says it happens often. It doesn't help that Kay likes to mouth her dummy hard - especially in the ring because she's so excited. So we'll invest in a plastic and a wood.

Oh I was delighted to hear that a stanchion is being made for me. It's free standing and will allow us to work our go outs anywhere. I'm turing into an Obedience nut! Utility here I come!!!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A valuable lesson learned

Today I showed my young Lab, Kayla, in an AKC Agility show. I learned a very valuable lesson. I let a nasty judge get in my head and frazzle me. It came back to bite me and I let my dog down. Agility is not supposed to be about who wins or who has what titles. Agility is about you, your dog and the course. You go in there and do the best that you can and win that course. I didn't do that and let Kay down. She got stressed sensing my distress and began to guess at what obstacle was next. I was able to regroup a bit and we finished the course together. The true test came with our next run. Would I pick my head up and do right by my dog? Yes! We came back and finished with a clean Standard run. We finished strong. I did right by Kay. In the future we will avoid that judge. She's not a nice person.

Lesson of the day: Do right by your dog. Agility is supposed to be fun, Q or not!

Friday, May 29, 2009

When bored, train

So I was a bit bored one rainy day over the winter and trained the rope behavior - pull on the rope and you are clicked and treated (C/T). I've fussed with it on the front door for a separate chain, but I decided to put it together with her crate behavior and this is what I got.

Anything is possible with time and a clicker!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Build toy drive through chase

Got a dog that will chase after a toy or you, but won't tug? Try this! Get a new plush toy and an old leash - the longer the better. At first show and tease the dog with the new toy, don't let him have it though! You play with it and then put it away. Do this for a few days so that he's very curious and wants that toy. When his curiosity is at its peak tie the toy to the leash, throw in on the ground and run dragging the toy behind you. Praise, praise, praise for the dog chasing the toy. Let him catch it every so often. Let him shake it and pull on it as you give a little resistance, then begin again. You may even let him fully win the toy and run off with his "kill".

*if your dog will destroy the toy or guard it be ready to trade up for the toy*

Keep playing this game slowly adding more resistance on the tug. When the tug behavior becomes more solid you can fade the chase part of the game. Once the dog is nuts for the toy and the game you two play with it you many begin to use it as a reinforcer for training. Make very sure that this special toy goes away up high where the dog cannot get it in between play sessions.

Go play!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Target Training

A fun trick for pups is target training. Familiar with the Easy button trick? That's target training in action. Ever want to teach your dog to go to his bed? Again, target training in action.

What you'll need:

A Tupperware lid or Easy button

Present the lid and click the dog for any interaction. Keep the lid low enough to the ground that you pup can paw at it if he so chooses. Toss the foodies to the side of the lid so that pup has to go get the food and then come back to interact with the lid. Your goal is to get the dog to put his paw on the lid. This may take one session or a few, we move at the dog's pace. Put the lid away after each session.

When you have the dog pawing the lid each time it is presented change the picture a bit by placing the lid on the ground, changing your location, or distance. Choose only one piece to change at a time and keep sessions short. After a couple of sessions you should be able to name the behavior.

You can take you lid anywhere and transfer the target behavior to just about anything. Laying under your chair at an outdoor cafe, dog bed or mat, turning off the lights, the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The big move

This weekend I decided that we were moving upstairs into empty bedroom/training room. Kayla is going backwards as far as her allergies go. Her chin infection is back and spread, three out of four paws are yeasty, and she's scratching/chewing her fur off. All progress has halted for the time being. My thoughts are that if we move out of the damp basement and upstairs that we can regain ground. We will have to see what happens. Kay and I go to the vet on Wed to take care of that chin infection.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The shape of things to come

Shaping behaviors is a great way to create a thinking dog. It's also a great way to get some pretty cool new tricks!! Shaping is most associated with clicker training and rewards successive approximations until the final behavior is achieved. There is no need for neutral markers or verbal encouragement as this gets in the way. You, as the handler, sit quietly and click for the dog offering behaviors. Most dogs new to shaping or crossover dogs (dogs coming from lure training or from physical manipulation training) will with the handler clicking for any movement. As soon as the dog begins to understand that he can make you click by moving you can move on to forming a behavior.

The best known shaping game is "101 Things to Do With a Box" and it's just that! Put a box on the floor and click for all interactions with it. Eventually you will have an end behavior in mind, but to start out just focus on interaction and your timing. Make sure to vary your location around the box and the distance you are from it. Don't be surprised if you are back to square one when you change where you are. It will all come back.

I really like shaping "go to place". It is an easy behavior chain to master and a great beginning. Toss a blanket of the floor and begin with clicking for interaction - sniffing, looking at, walking towards, touching. When the dog getting the hint that it's the blanket that's important move to the next level - walking on. From walking in you can move to staying on, to sitting, to down. Toss the food away from the blanket after each click so that the dog needs to reengage with the blanket. When you're done with your session fold up the blanket and put it away. You may put the behavior on cue when the dog is readily running to the blanket and lying down no matter where you are relative to it.

Shaping is endless in its possibilities. It's great for dogs that worry about different things in their environments because you break things into micro steps building confidence as you go. So now go try it!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


You are probably as guilty as I am off not whole heartedly playing with your dog. So often we half ass play. Absent mindedly tossing the ball or toy so that the dog is tired and we can sit in front of the computer or TV. When was the last time you got on the floor and wrestled? Really gave you dog a run for their money on tug? or Hunted for little bits of food you'd thrown around the floor. I've really been thinking about this as of late. I tend to not even look at my dog or pause in my conversation when playing fetch. How rude! I've begun to play like no one is watching me. Like there is no tomorrow. On all fours play bowing and chasing like a puppy. Play can be fundamental relationship builder and they know when you're not all there. So do your relationship a favor and really play with your dog. Chase that squirrel up that tree, lay in the grass, or tug as if you life depended on it. Your dog will thank you for it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Garden Beginnings

Trip has begun his garden. I, as usual, sat in a chair and watched it all. All the dogs were outside with us enjoying the sun. Toby is the most creative when it comes to finding shade. He, for whatever reason, will not lay in the shade of the tree, but will find other shady spots in which to lay. Kay, on the other hand, forgets that there is a large shade tree and lays in the sun panting. She lacks that little bit of common sense.

Back to the garden. Trip has all these big plans for a Blueberry tree - two raspberry trees and one blackberry tree died before this tree - and swears he will not kill it. He also has basil, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes. The bell peppers, spinach and some corn perished. I think that there is a little bit of corn left in the corner of the yard. He still doesn't believe that we need some fencing to keep the dogs out. He hasn't learned from the demise of the strawberry plant. Dude ripped it right out of the ground.

Bark in the Park 2009

Bark was yesterday and this year I helped Stacy with her agility demo and instruction. Anybody who wants to may come and play with the equipment. What a bunch of fun and what a diverse group of people!!!

There's Stacy at the half way point of the day. By now we're all tired of repeating ourselves so many times. I now know how tour guides feel at the end of the day. You get sick of hearing yourself talk.

The pups got to play for a bit in the morning, but had to hang out in their kennels for the rest of the day. Kayla was not very happy about it, but she lived. Dude surprised me and was very quiet. He only fussed when I went to get either Kay or Bailey out to play. He watched his siblings run in the morning without a peep. Very good for the little man!

Thursday, April 30, 2009


So Kayla and I are one leg away from our Companion Dog Excellent, CDX, title. Last weekend we went 0 for 2 on legs. Each time it was one little piece that fell out of place. The chick worked hard, it was a tough class and she has a novice handler. We were put into the B class with all of the OTCH handlers. It's very nerve racking!!! We did achieve our goal of not dropping the long sit. We worked out butts off at it too!!! Kay held those sits too.

Our training sessions are going to focus on cleaning up my handling, our right and about turns, and fronts. Those fronts and finishes are gimme points!!! We have to clean those up. The fronts are coming along. The right turns are going to take a bit of brain storming. Right now we are working against the wall to keep her butt in. She tends to swing out wide. Back to the drawing board.

The scent articles are progressing nicely!!! I can't wait for it to all come together. Scent articles is one of the coolest exercises ever!! I've always wanted to teach it to a dog and to be able to say that my dog can do it. We're getting close!!!

Happy training!!!

Best job ever? I think so!

Where else can you get away with playing ball outside with two cool dogs? No where!!! Meet Bill and Soph. Two rockin' pups that can't get enough of playing ball. Only dogs I know that can kill Tuff Balls in one session.

Bill is the one in brown and Soph is the one in black. Proud siblings to two new baby human sisters.

The mother of all sink holes

While walking two of my favoritest dogs around Hyde Park earlier this week I came across this.

Tell me that's not cool! You can even see the old sewer/storm drain construction. The hole ate a few caution thingies. Must have been hungry.