Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dixie Gets Her Groove Back

Dixie, a beautiful year-old GSD, lost her down/stay. The cue simply stopped working. Rather than being upset, her owner went back to basics. She revisited her "stay" homework from Dixie's original puppy class. In a week, Dixie was staying better than ever. What happened here?

A bit of history: Dixie has been training regularly since she was a young dog. She learned her basic behaviors early on. Once the basics were solid — duration, distance, and distraction were added. As time went on, Dixie learned increasingly more difficult behaviors. For example, Dixie has an awesome "dead dog" (dog lays on her side, head down, no movement) on cue.

My best guess about cause in this case is 1) Dixie and her owner got caught up in learning new and fun behaviors and forgot to practice the basics, or 2) circumstances (for example, a busy time in the owner's life) prevented regular practice of learned behaviors. Whatever the cause, Dixie didn't forget what down/stay meant. She got a little lazy. But because she has a devoted owner, Dixie got her groove back!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

As Good As It Gets

These are my top dogs. The youngest is six months. The oldest is five years. They train together every week. Bravo to them and their humans!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nike and the Soldiers

Note from Dee: Elena is an officer in the National Guard. It was her weekend to train with her soldiers, an hour from home, but she didn't want to miss a puppy training session. So, I went to Charlottesville and we worked with Nike. It was a great experience!

Week 4
Dee, this was such an awesome opportunity to work with Nike away from home in a different environment. It was wonderful of you to come up to the armory in Charlottesville to make this happen. Nike definitely has the "sit" and "down" very good now. We played hide and go seek so Nike could find me. We also practiced "leave it" with a treat and since I brought her home, she's been doing that very well. She is doing it for Donnie, too. Nike had a blast with all the soldiers and made many new friends. One soldier had his kids there. They couldn't get enough of the pup, so when our training session was done, I turned her lose with them! She had so much fun running and playing with them. She is so confident. It was literally like, I took her leash off her and told her to go play with the boys, and she just did. During the weekend, if I had a meeting or had to teach a class, Nike stayed with someone else or by herself in my office and did just great. We are very excited for Week 5 when Nike get's to train around other puppies. Oh yeah, she is so unbelievebly cute!

Jack's Emergency Recall Is Put to the Test

From Jack's Mom (remember, they live on 60 acres of doggy distractions):

I let Jack out with his long line attached, but I did not pick up the end and we headed down to where the agility area used to be. He was his usual silly self, running around chasing my feet. I looked back at the kennel because the Jack Russell was raising a ruckus about something. No more than a few seconds went by before I looked back around for Jack and he was high-tailing across the field towards the old burn pile. Now, as you know, you do not go running after a Border Collie. For one thing humans don't run that fast and the other thing is you have now started the "Chase Game." No winning that one. I looked down at my wrist, at the whistle hanging from it and thought "here goes nothing." I blew a short blast. Jack heard it, spun around and came back, flying low across the field. He was greeted with lots of whoops and cheering plus plenty of cheese.

So I can say it works!! Thanks so much for teaching us this great cue!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nike and the Rock Band

Note from Dee: Nike's mom will be a continuing presence on the blog. She is enthusiastic about training, crazy about her puppy, and wants to share her experiences. Here's what she has to say after the third week of training.

After training session #3, Nike was really on the ball. She kept that great eye contact, even during playtime. When it was play time, I could stop the puppy craziness by just working with her: focusing her and calming her down. The biggest breakthrough was when Ryan's rock band was playing in the garage with the garage doors open. I took Nike outside and worked with her for 10-15 minutes and even with the band as a distraction, she performed beautifully. I can't believe I had her attention despite all the kids and the loud music! Away from home, Nike met Goldie, a female beagle mix and Tobi, a male Yorkie. She had a blast running around and playing with them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jack Is Back

Jack, the Border Collie, is back and better than ever. Stephanie has worked hard to get those excellent obedience skills nailed back down! What does it take to convince a two-year-old herding dog it's time to listen? Remember, Jack started training as a young pup, graduated from advanced class at a year, and spent the next year learning agility. So even when his obedience skills started to slip, they weren't gone (Dog speak: my mom obviously loves this agility stuff. I wonder if she'll notice if I don't stay or come every single time ...). Some skills were dorment, yes. Gone, no. Stephanie identified the areas that needed work and focused on those. She incorporated the elements required for successful dog training: patience, consistency, and redundance. It worked with Jack. It will work with your dog. Congratulations, Stephanie!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Nike's Mom - Week 2

Below, Nike's Mom talks about training and her amazing bond with her puppy. Nike was 9 weeks old when we had our second training session. Dee

Our second training session was wonderful. Nike was attentive the entire time and, Dee, you are doing an exceptional job with us! I learned so much from you on the second session. I am so much more aware of my behaviors, posture, voice tone, and my hands. You are teaching me how to teach and work with my dog and to really be aware of myself when I'm with her. Even for instance, the no-slip mat at the vet office. She did terrific there because she could "sit" as you know she loves to do and wasn't sliding all over the place. She is doing great everywhere I take her and I think all those new experiences are making her so confident in herself. I really felt our bond growing stronger throughout the week. Your training style actually facilitates that strong committment and loving relationship between me and Nike. We enjoy each other more and more everyday. We do everything together! During the week before our third session, I noticed Nike paying attention to my face and eyes almost all the time. That's what I mean by bond and commitment. She makes great eye contact with me when we are playing or working. Her eyes are on mine - not on my feet or legs. I appreciate your commitment to us and we look so forward to our next session! Gosh, I love Nike so much!

Dee again: Visit Brown Dog Tales often to check on Nike's progress and to meet other fabulous dogs.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Games Dogs Play

Group training was both indoors and outdoors last Sunday. We worked on heeling, stay, and recall, played Tic Tac Toe with the dogs, traded dogs (this is to insure that in an emergency a dog won't freak out if he or she needs to stay with someone other than their human), and practiced short separations. Chelsea, our mature Chesapeake Bay Retriever, had spring fever. This normally calm dog with exceptional obedience skills was as goofy as a puppy. The same malady struck several other dogs. Hey, it was a beautiful spring-like day in the middle of winter. Can you blame them? Huntley, our almost six-month-old Bloodhound is growing like a weed. Her obedience skills are amazing for one so young. All my dogs - Chelsea, Huntley, Dixie, Humdinger, Ryley, Chloe, and Maisey worked hard, had fun, and made me proud to be their trainer.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Emergency Recalls

Jack, the Border Collie, lives on lots of land. On that land are many distractions. Not surprisingly, Jack's recall (come when called) is like a lot of dogs. In Jack's world "come" means "I'll be there in a minute". For his safety and his owner's peace of mind we need a recall that means "I'm coming as fast as I can". Toward that end, I recommended that Jack learn an emergency recall (one that works every single time). One option for an emergency recall is a training whistle. The emergency recall must be taught slowly and carefully, following very specific step-by-step instructions. Otherwise, it becomes just another cue for "I'll be there in a minute". When I spoke to Jack's mom after two weeks of working with the training whistle, she was very pleased with the results. Working short distances to start with, Jack has come every time when called with the whistle. That's the key to success: the dog must succeed 100% of the time. Jack is at 100%. Several students in my group class are also working with a training whistle for the first time. Across the board they have all reported success with the whistle recall.