Friday, December 22, 2006

Inadvertant Training

I had some big insights into some inadvertant agility training I have been doing. You know what I mean, I think. You train one things but end up with an inadvertant side effect. More later...

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


One has to be super careful before using negative punishment (timeouts). It is so easy to think the dog knows its job but find that you really have not training what you thought you trained.

Especially with contacts, I have found that I giving different body language at trials. A careful study of videotapes showed that instead of Wyatt knowing an independent 2 on, 2 off - which I thought he did - that he was relying on my body “jerking” forward as his release. Since I was running faster and much more “jerkily” at trials, I was pulling him off. Someone recommended timeouts which I tried but I ended up punishing him for doing what he thought his job was which just added to his (and my) trial stress.

I went back and also found that he was releasing on any command (and not just his release word) so I went back and proofed and retrained that. I also made jerky movements and made sure he stayed put as well as being in all kinds of different positions relative to him and the contact.

A lot times, we think the dog is doing X because of our Y cue, but in reality, they are doing X because of a cue Z that we are not aware of. And then we go and alter cue Z at a trial and wonder why they did not do what we said or even punish them.

The approach I have taken now has a couple of components. One was to do a lot of NADAC so I could redo the contact if need be without using punishment. Second was to really proof all aspects of the behavior including commands, position, and body movements. If not at NADAC and I have a contact issue, I may just pause long enough so I am at least not rewarded him for blowing a contact and then trying again at the next contact. A full timeout just seemed to bewilder and demotivate him. Plus, how sure I am that I was not the problem or part of the problem?

This has worked well for us. Now, I am having a different problem with not releasing but that is another story.

I think the biggest mistake we make is to trial too early. And unless you do NADAC, our very intelligent whippets (and other sighthounds) learn that the rules are different at a trial. I wish other venues allowed the limited training you can do in NADAC. It is SO good for trial issues. So we start seeing all our carefully trained behavior fall apart at trials.

Anyway, before you use timeouts, you have to be really sure the dog (and you) really knows the job under all kinds of conditions.

-- John Heffernan

Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RA, SC, NA, NAJ, OAC, EJC, OCC, TN-O, TG-N, WV-N, CL4, CL5-SF, CGC “Wyatt”
Whippet AWC Triathlon Winner Ch Seaspell’s Concord Point, CD, SC, OA, OAJ, CR, OTR, NJC, TG-N, CL4, CL5-HSF, CGC “Patriot”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Whippet Heeling

Someone asked my advice recently about whippet heeling and I thought I would also share it here...

Hi, I'm on the SHAgility list and have noticed your great achievements with your Whippets. I was wondering if you can give me any pointers on how to teach a Whippet to heel. My boy is so disinterested, unless I have food. He just wonders off or lags behind. Maybe all I need is more practice, but I'm also open for new ideas. Thanks!

Well, I would use the food initially to get his interest. You can fade it later. I definitely use food all the time to practice heeling. I would start with very short stretches in a quiet, comfortable place with your dog. One thing I learned (the hard way) was to really break it down. Start with one step! If you can really have your dog starting with you on the first step, that’s helps so much. So I would just lure that first step for a while and click if they keep up with you for one step. Then you can build up to 2, 3, 4 steps et cetera adding a sit at some point. The biggest thing I have learned recently with heeling is to make it a game. The game is to keep up with you! That is a fun game for a whippet. One I basically have my dog following me, I start trying to teach heel position. So I click when they are in heel position. Then they learn that that is what you want and that is game. Rally has helped our heeling a lot too because there are so many cool variations of heeling that you can add to make it interesting. So mix it up; make it unpredictable and keep it positive and fun!

From what you wrote, I would recommend 2 5 minute session a day. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pals Again

Wyatt and Patriot seem to be true pals again. You may recall that they had a little incident a few months ago when Wyatt stepped on Patriot by accident when he was under a blanket.

Wow! Go Outs With Cheese Wiz

What a difference in go outs using cheese wiz on the target. Wyatt no drives out very fast to the target and goes all the way without all the turning around to see if he has one far enough stuff. Now, how will it work when I start to fade the treat every time?

Friday, December 08, 2006


I am still having a stickiness issue with Wyatt where either he does not release and/or stays up very high on the contacts. I was thinking that it will be a good thing to work on this winter. I have a contact board I can bring inside and have him drive to he end, gradually fading out the target, so he really understands and does 2 on 2 off position on contacts. I will also, of course, vary my position so he is not dependant on me to know where 2 on, 2 off position is. I am not sure how this problem came about as he was driving to the end previously.

In a related issue, I am working on utility go outs. I have been using a target on a piece of ring gate but I have to keep cheer leading him to go all the way to the target/gate. I am going to start baiting the target with cheese wiz to really get him to drive to the target.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wyatt is Back

Wyatt seems to be almost back to his old self in terms of agility motivation especially at home where he fell off the dog walk some time ago. It is good to see him fast and motivated again. The weather has just turned cold so we will see how much we can do at home though.

He is still "sticking" to his contacts sometimes though (not releasing) and not going all the way to the bottom so we will continue to work on that.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Still One More RE Leg

Well, we had our first ever NQ in rally on Saturday. I was rushed to the start line - it moved faster than I thought - and I could not find Wyatt's collar for a while. It was another hard course with a backup 3 steps, a halt, pivot left, halt, and 3 semi-tricky stations right near the honor station. I did not keep enough contact with Wyatt and I lost him a few times. One of these was near the jump and he wanted to go over it. He also hit the jump after we finished which was cute. The jump was on the way back to the gate. But I was very happy with his performance. I beleive I had 3 retries which is an NQ but I did not get back in time ot check our scoresheet. He did an awesome halt, left privot, halt with a perfect "side" after pivot. Learning this station has really "forced" me to learn a really good left finish. Live and learn!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Patriot and Son

Here is a photo of Patriot and his son - Major.

Major looks to be very promising in the show ring. He got 4 reserver winner's dog in his first 4 outings and won a 5 point major today at a supported entry.

Friday, November 24, 2006

One More Leg

We did get one more Rally Excellent leg today with a score of 75. We lost 10 on back 3 steps and 10 on moving stand. I thought we may have gotten some of the back 3 steps (he went back 2 steps I thought) but it was just marked -10. Wyatt stopped beautifully for the moving stand but moved towards the end. I did not (but should have retried).

The course was very hard!!! She put in every single difficult station possible that we struggle with (offset figure 8, back 3 steps, left pivot) and a lot the harder ones (halt, stand, down, moving down). I was happy to qualify. I was sure glad we practised last month. I was very happy Wyatt went backwards at all - we have just started to get that.

He is still off. Even in rally, he would not sit at the start (I asked the judge if you had to and she said no so we just went from a stand but he stalled there. I had to go back and start with him again. Darned thing. He is also nto releasing on his agility contacts. Seems like some kind of stress but I have not been able to figure it out.

Another try tomorrow - the course can't be any harder!!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rally This Weekend and Mixing It Up

Wyatt and I are entered in rally excellent Friday and Saturday at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts. I have been enjoying really learning all the advanced and excellent stations. I have found some of the stations will really help our traditional obedience especially a left finish and back to help adjust Wyatt into heel position and generally increase his awareness of heel position. It is also fun to mix up so many different little "doodles". I have been really trying to keep him guessing. It is so easy to fall into the trap of doing the same thing all the time and then we wonder why they are bored or anticipate a command.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Sorry to have been lax about posting this past week...

Wyatt seems to be getting back to his old self in agility at home and seems to be recovering from his dog walk spill. He is more eager to come play agility, faster, and not sticking as much on contacts. Hopefully, he will be back to 100% soon.

I am having lots of fun training for Rally Excellent and we are making progress on heeling backwards (not easy!), and all the stations that require the dog to scoot in his butt (left pivot, side step right from a halt). We are also working on the offset figure 8 (another toughie). I believe these will help a lot in regular obedience - especially scotting in and moving backwards - in terms of adjusting into heel position.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Confidence Issue

I am fairly certain now that Wyatt is having a confidence issue after his dogwalk fall. He did pretty well in class but was slower and more tentative than usual. I am continuing our week off from agility at home. He checked out at the vet/chiropracter yesterday. I have had an ankle sprain too and Wyatt does better if I am moving faster (especially on contacts) so this week off shoudl help me get back to 100% also.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Week Off

I decided to take a week off from agility with Wyatt at home. He is still avoiding practice without a lot of bribes and is generally slow and stressed out. I see a lot of stuck contacts and a general lack of enthusiasm which is unusual for him. I am planning of still going to class since he still seems very motivated there. I believe this issue is due to his falling off the dog walk a few weeks ago. I am also taking him to the chiropractor/vet to make sure there is no problem there.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Practice Rally

I am actually practising Rally for a a change. Not that this is good but I usually go to the show, walk the course, and learn the stations I don't know right there. Wyatt and I have 2 more Excellent legs for our RE so I thought I would go through and really practice everything. We are enjoying it and I think I will be much more comfortable going down to compete.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I was starting to think that maybe Wyatt had injured himself when he fell off the dog walk a few weeks ago but he really rocked in class last night. I am still seeing a lot of sticky contacts and avoidance of agility (very new and rare for him at home). I think he is adverse to the place where the bad experience (fall) occured. I have seen this in the past. I told my wife we have to move because it takes him a long time to disassociate the emotion with the place!

I am going to ramp up his treats and see what happens. He went (annoyingly) wild for cheese in class tonight so I will try that.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sticky Contacts

We had a pretty good weekend at a CPE trial even though we only qualified twice out of 8 attempts. Lots of almost Q's. We did get first in colors Saturday for a level 5 Q and first in jackpot Sunday with a first and a great run where lots of people came up to me afterwards and said that was the way to do it. Biggest problem Sunday was sticky contacts. We did his "2 on 2 off" right at the edge of the yellow zone and I had a hard time getting him to move down the contact. I obviously did not want to release him but time really got chewed up trying to get him to release. I believe that he really does not understand to go to the bottom of the contact and I have not been consistent in trials about "making" him go to the bottom. One of my instructors says to go back to using targets so we will try that.

The barn was small and I needed to adjust my style more than I did. I did have some back jumps which were unusual. One of these was right on the #5 snooker obstacle that I need to get enough points. It was a 2 jump combo and he went around the second jump! We had one off course on a very, very difficult standard course Saturday so I was pretty happy even though our Q rate was low. I think the small barn and the fact that the judge has dachshunds contributed to courses that were not that great for long striding dogs.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Place (Again)

Wyatt is balking at going out to play agility. I believe this is because we fell off the dog walk last week. I have noticed this in the past too. He is reluctant to go to a place where an injury has occured. I have been bribing him by throwing treats out and having him "find it", a popular game. Once he gets there, he plays agility as usual. But it does, once again, show how dogs are very specific to place...


Monday, October 23, 2006

Good Equiment

Our teeter collapses recently as Patriot was going over it. It was an inexpensive PVC based teeter. I have found out - the hard way - that it does not pay to go cheap and I have gradually replaced a lot of our cheap or home made agility equipment with MAX200 stuff.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Proofing Place

Since running Wyatt on our "home court" last weekend (where he did very well), I have concluded that Wyatt's proofing issues are probably not dog related but place related. How does one work on this? Take him to a lot of different places;do run throughs as much as possible; trial at familiar places. I think this is slowly improving over time as he becomes a more confident dog. Though I felt calm and comfortable myself last weekend, I also chaired the trial and have a new baby so I tend to think my state is not such a big factor (though bad handling will cause problems certainly). I think my experience does disprove my original theory that Wyatt's nerves were related to other dogs. Since there tons of new dogs last weekend, I don't think that is a factor.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stalling on Contacts

Wyatt did a stall last night on his first contact just like the first class last weekend. My teacher suggested going back to using contacts for now (at least sometimes). So that is what I am going to do. Better than jumping off but still not ideal. I think he is afraid of making a mistake.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wyatt and the 190.5

This article, first appearing here, was picked up by Front and Finish magazine. Wyatt's photo even appeared on the table of contents page. Thanks to Brenna Fender for picking up the article and using it for her excellent Sighthounds Sound Off column.

[This article and photo appeared in the November 2006 issue of Front and Finish magazine.]

The Story of Whippet Wyatt and the 190.5
John Heffernan

We rescued Whippet Wyatt when he was one year old. My wife insisted we get a dog even though I did not want one. Wyatt had many problems including separation anxiety. He is a very sensitive and anxious dog and has fear issues with other dogs. I am 47 years old and he is my first dog. I knew zero about dogs, Whippets, or dog training when we got him.

We went to a dog B&B when he was a year-and-half-old and had our first agility lesson. We took agility up when he was two. When he was two-and-a-half we started formal obedience training. He has come a long way since our first local obedience lesson when he would nervously and continuously jump up on
us or hide between our legs.

By using positive methods I read about and a lot of trial and error, we entered our first obedience match and managed to squeak by with a 173. We trained twice a day for about 15 minutes per session and went to an hour long class once a week.

At our next few attempts he started to go down during the long sit. He generally needed more proofing. I did not want going down on the sit to become a habit so I stopped competing and retrained it using cones. I was not sure I would ever be able to get past this problem and resigned myself that we might never get a CD. We kept working on Novice and I also discovered that he really enjoyed Utility and Open work, especially retrieving, jumping, and scent discrimination, so we added that for fun.

We started to compete again and we missed just one thing for a few trials. But I knew we would do pretty well if we put it all together because we would have been scoring in the 180s if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice obedience-only trial in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area. We were the first dog in the first class and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that Wyatt was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had qualified so far. Wyatt had stayed with me well with minimal lagging. We got 0 points off on the stand for exam and the recall. I started to think we might even place if we could only make it through the group sits and downs.

He made it through the sit in what was the longest minute of my life. The three minute down seemed like an hour but he stayed down even though he looked around nervously and kept changing his head position. I knew we had Qed, but had we placed? I saw a couple of other really good Novice A dogs. The judge announced fourth place, and then, with a score of 190.5, Wyatt of Dodge City for our second CD leg and third place!

The high from the Q and the score lasted for quite some time. I was so proud of him and happy that he had done so well. Wyatt loves to work hard and play hard. He is the kind of dog who diverts his path going out to pee in order to go over an agility jump. He whines to start scent discrimination exercises.

Wyatt now has 16 different titles in obedience, rally, lure coursing, and agility. I still tell my wife I am just making the best of a bad situation, but she knows better.

Agony to Ecstasy

After a disasterous outing at our last trial (0 for 5) and a crash into a jump, I was unsure what would happen this weekend. However, we were on our home court. Hilltown Hounds hosted our first ever (CPE) agility trial in the horse barn where we practice.

On our first fullhouse run, Wyatt got all his contacts but stalled on the A Frame and we did not get enough points. Standard was next with a very challenging course with lots of off course potential. Wyatt smoked it with a clean run and a first. This also completed our level 4 standard and was the last Q needed for level 4.

Wildcard was next and Wyatt again ran the course fast and perfect taking second place and picked up a needed level 5 Q. Snooker was next which is one of our best games. Wyatt again ran perfecting picking up first and a level C Q. It sure is a nice feeling to run fast and perfect on almost ever run. I could get used to it!

Sunday was similar where we picked up our first level 5 standard Q (2nd place), a needed level 5 colors Q (first place), and our final level 5 jackpot Q (third place). We had a good jumpers run but one off course. I think I was tired at this point being trial chair and having the baby with us all weekend. It seemed to really help Wyatt to be on his home court. The only difference I noticed was that he was not coming all the way down to the end on his contacts (which he usually does at home and at practice so I have to work on that).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Less Is More

My wife and I are both finding that less training has been better in both agility and obedience. The baby has forced us to cut back a bit but it actually seems to be helping. The have been more enthusiastic and motivated...


Monday, October 09, 2006


I got some good tips last week at our very good open obedience class. One was to always treat your dog from heel position (or front position) when working obedience. So simple but how often do I pull him out of heel position to treat him?

Group sits will be the death of me in open and, again, my teacher gave me some ideas (and hope). Wyatt has been shifting around a lot at home (but does not go down - in class and at trials, he will often go down pretty quickly). Anyway, my new technique is going to first, help him into a really good sit (we will have to work on him doing that himself later), stay close to him and reposition his front (or rear) legs when he shifts. The idea is that this will help him know what his job is. So I have moved up much closer and doing this. I used to let the shifts go and figure at least he wasn't going down but then he would often go down in class and about 50% of the time at trials.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ecstasy to Agony

We took the baby and 2 dogs to a local CPE trial last weekend. The day before, the baby had a stroller accident which scared us but he is fine. But I have been sick and Dawn has been doing night duty so we were both pretty tired and stressed going into the weekend.

On Saturday, Wyatt got a standard level 4 Q with a real nice run on a very challenging course. He knocked a bar but still got first place in a class of 15-20 dogs since he was the only 20" dog to qualify. I thought we got out of level 4 with that Q but since it was not clean, we still need one more level 4 standard Q to finish level 4. We also qualified in level 5 wildcard with a real nice run and another first place. In snookers, he broke the start line and went off course for an NQ. On the second standard run, we had some contact issues. I have been finding the last run of the day can be hard for us. All in all, I was pretty with Saturday.

Sunday was another story. I guess you and your dog can just have bad days. This was one of them.

I did baby duty so I was pretty exhausted. I think that Wyatt is so sensitve to me that when I am off I must send him the wrong (of at least different cues). I think dogs can also just have bad days too. But we had contact issues all day - even teeter flyoffs - which I rarely see. After 3 bad runs, I thought we might rally for our 2 strongest games - snooker and jumper. We had a good snooker run going but I gave him a strong and early wrap signal and he totally crashed into the jump and landed on his back. He limped off the course.

For jumpers Wyatt seemed fine so I ran him. He actually had a great run but I did not signal him strongly enough for a tunnel right near the end the of course and I just kept running instead of correcting.

We ended up going 0 for 5! I wonder how much my stress and exhaustion affect him and how much is his own stuff. Well, in any case, I realized that I need to be at my best (or at least half decent) to run him. We ended up with 2 firsts and 7 NQ's for the weekend!

Friday, September 29, 2006

NADAC Results

I have been remiss in reporting our NADAC trial last weekend. Wyatt and I attending a NADAC trial on Saturday only.

First up was elite jumpers where Wyatt had an off course. A beginning jump sequence turned in a semi-circle. Instead of turning Wyatt went way out to another jump in a straight line. I needed to turn him sooner I think. It was also our first run and he seemed to really want that jump but I need to really see these possible off courses during the walk throughs.

In our first elite regular (standard) run, Wyatt jumped off the end of the dogwalk. I took him back and he did it again so I took him back for the third time and he did a nice 2 on, 2 off so we left the course with a lot of praise. The course had a distance weave pole challenge (which we never got to) so I did not have a lot of confidence we would qualify. We have been working on weaves at a distance but it looked like it would be hard for us.

For the next elite standard run, I thought it was very doable. We have not yet got our first elite standard Q after 5 tries, so I thought this might be the one. Sure enough, we have great 12 weaves at the start and got all 3 contacts but, again, I assumed that he would go up the dog walk (there was a tunnel on the far side of the dogwalk), and he needed more cuing. It was still a great run though and I was very happy.

We qualified in open tunnellers finishing that title with a really nice, fast run. I tried to give him more distance but still need to trust him more to work far away from me in tunnelers. He had one wide turn that cost us sometime.

We also qualified in open chances with another dogwalk tunnel discrimination challenge, this time going for the outside tunnel. There were 2 points in this course that I knew would be hard. The cool part was that at both points, he looked back at me for more information where there was a choice to make and I was able to signal him to the correct obstacle.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I have been having trouble with a very common obstacle discrimination problem - a dog walk and tunnel right beside it. I was using an opposite arm signal which tends to turn my body out. But it did not always work. I tried some experiments at home. If I use our already existing out command AND the opposite arm, that seems to work every time. If I say "walk it" and run parallel to the dogwalk without any special OUT command or arm movement, he goes right up the A-Frame. Adding the "out" really seemed to make it clear for Wyatt what I wanted. Sometimes it is so obvious but takes us so long to figure it out.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Heeling Improvements

I have not been to obedience class in a while. Since the last class, I have been working a lot on attitude and crispness. I have kept thing short and fun. I have rewarded Wyatt for being in heel position. I have been trying to make it a game - Keep Up With Me If You Can.

He did great in class. Usually I see a degradation in performance in class. I used lots of treats and voice. I used to expect all the work at home to carry over and I would see a degradation when I went to class and used less treats, and less voice, AND there were all the other dogs around. So now I am trying to get him to the same level I see at home before facing voice and treats. I may try to fade voice and treats at home. I tend to treat once for every performance and need to get on a variable schedule.

I did notice degradations when the teacher was close when heeling and also very clearly with the dumbbell when other dogs were close by. There is one dog in particular that is aggressive that he if afraid up. So I tried to really keep the dumbbell fun at class even though not as much is needed at home. To do this, I use a lot of voice, skip the finish and start from heel position frequently and throw it low to the ground after revving him up.

The teacher taught us a good exercise for drop on recall. (I have been having trouble with creeping). You start the dog coming to you. When you say "Down" run to the dog as fast as you can to stop then cold and make sure they can't fail in their down. This teacher always says, "Make it so your dog has to be right."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Steeper Better?

Wyatt has some great A-Frames last night - the best the teacher had ever seen. That was after we raised the A-Frame to USDAA height (or close to it). I am wondering if steeper is better. I will try it at home. Getting rid of our "slider" A-frame with a slippery surface could also be helping....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New A Frame

I set up our new A Frame from MAX 200 and I love it. Wyatt does too. He goes much faster without sliding down. Our old one is too slick. He loves it so much though, that I have to overdrive him if I want him to take a different obstacle. He tends to want to take contacts if there is a choice. I was getting really frustrated with that the other - call offs were doing nothing - but when I shut up and overdirected him with my shoulders he took the series of serpentine jumps in the middle of the course rather than the dog walk and A frame on the outsides.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Babies and Agility

My wife was on a businness trip Saturday but I decided to drive about an hour to catch some agility run thrus. I was a little hesitant because I was not sure I would be able to have someone watch Aidan when I ran. Aidan has a lot of agility aunties but I was not sure if any of his regular aunties would be there. I threw caution to the wind, packed up all the baby and dog stuff (yes, we have a new minivan) and headed on down.

Luckily, there is, believe it or not, another baby named Aidan, who was there with his mom and dad. Sue watched Aidan when I ran and got a portable crib out of her car for us to use. What luck! Actually, there are 2 other couples that do CPE agility that also have new babies. We got to visit and compare notes and also run our dogs. What a great day.

Wyatt ran well besides the usual first A-frame missed contacts. There were snooker, standard, steeplechase, and jumpers courses with some nice challenges. The trick now seems to be running great the first time (just like a trial). There typically will be some challenge I did not anticipate that results in an off course or some other issue. So now I need to be able to get it right the first time. And this is an issue for me and not Wyatt...

Hope you had a great weekend too...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Steeple Chase

We tried our first ever agility steeplechase last night at class. Steeplechase is a USDAA special tournament class. It has jumps, tunnels, weaves, and an A frame and is designed for speed! The course was one designed by our instructor who used it in a at a trial she was judging the week before.

What a blast! You had to do the weaves twice and they were 12 weave poles. There were 2 pinwheels, a tricky lead out, a tunnel A-frame discrimination challenge, and a triple jump at the end. There were also a number of places where you pretty much had to layer jumps. Lots of off course potential near the A-frame and some of the layered jumps.

Wyatt seemed very happy to get back to agility. He still has his sutures but he seems completely heeled and he is no longer trying to scratch them. We had a few problems on our first run. I did not continue forward enough after my lead out pivot and has an awkward tunnel entrance. There was a tunnel (under an A-frame) into a pinwheel and I was stopped dead waiting for him at the pinwheel entrance. But all in all, we had a good, fast run with 1 off-course on one of the layered jumps.

The second run was awesome. No faults and a really fast time! It was exciting to do so well after our injury break. He, by far, has the best run out there including a really good BC with a 15 year veteran handler.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wyatt the Conehead

Have you seen these e-collars dogs have to wear on their heads so they can't scratch or lick wounds and sutures? It is a clear cone that tapers towards the base, which goes on the dog's neck.

It has been interesting to see Wyatt learn how to cope with his e-collar. At first, he was a real spaz, knocking his head into everything. Stairs were especially difficult. But he quickly learned to slow down and lift his head going up stairs and to also lift his head before jumping on the couch.

Wyatt is getting his stitches off Saturday. I can't wait and neither can he!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Wyatt Seems Off

Wyatt seems off when I try to do a little obedience with him. I think his sutures are itchy. I am going to give him some time off or just quit right away when I see he is not 100% into it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Little Training

We mananged to do a little obedience training tonight. Wyatt tried to scratch his stiches when I took his e-collar off so I hjad to put him on leash for a little heeling. We did some dumbbell retrives off leash because they are so high interest I did not have to worry. He really does well after a little time off - very happy, tail wagging, etc...

Can't wait to get the stiches out. I am skipping the agility trial and not even going. I don't know if Wyatt or I would have the bigger problem sitting there watching and not competing! My wife will run our other dog Patriot and I will stay home and watch the baby.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dog Fight!

Wyatt and Patriot got into and inadvertent dog fight last night. My wife accidentally dropped a book on Wyatt. [They sleep on separate dog beds next to our bed.] He yelped, stood up, and got tangled in his blanket. My wife tried to untangle him and he ended up stepping on Patriot. One or both them must have thought they were under attack and they went after each other. Wyatt got the worst of it (all of it, actually) and sustained a bad cut under his right eye. The vet said he would heal faster and better with stitches so she stitched him up using an injectable anesthetic. One always worried with sighthound and anesthetics but he came out fine. Those e-collars are terrible but we either watch him or have him wear it when we can't watch him. He was very fearful and freaked out yesterday. I just hope he bounces back quickly emotionally and makes up with his "brother". They seem pretty OK with each other but Wyatt is more reserved than usual with Patriot. What a terrible thing to see your beloved pet suffering.

I cancelled him for agility this weekend - a trial I really wanted to do but it is for the best.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Run Thrus

We went to some agility run thrus yesterday. It was tough because we had a busy weekend and had the baby on top on that we went and had a good time. It IS harder to run when you are tired.

Wyatt missed dogwalk and teeter contacts on the first 2 run thrus. The dogwalk and teeter were very low and I think that was the problem. In the third run through, I gave him more verbal and body language support and he was fine. In class and at home, I don't say "Spot and Tip It" anymore and don't give him the finger up (hold it) command. But I think he needs it at trials and in a new setting. That was a good lesson! Another explanation is that he was wired for the first 2 run. But I think it was the former especially since it is very rare that he flies off teeters anymore.

He did great A-frames all day with perfect 2 on, 2 offs. We had some problem with a sharp onside weave entry all day - something to work on. Off side is always much better.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Flip Into Tunnel

I have been working on a "flip" into a tunnel from a contact with Wyatt. His tendancy is to go back up the contact unless I really move towards the tunnel. I was making some progress but getting a lot of "errors" still. One idea I had was to move the tunnel away from the contact until it is more solid. Eventually I want to have a command for this. Right now, I am using body language and the "tunnel" command. To be honest, it seems like "tunnel" does not mean a lot to him at this time.


I have been thinking about balance in relatonship to our dogs. It is very easy to start trialing every weekend especially, if, like us, you do multiple dog sports. But I have found it is easy to get out of balance - tired, broke, and burned out. I also tend to not pay attention to other areas of my life if I do too much - family, house, money, spiritual, and other non-dog interests.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

After Vacation

I was curious how Wyatt would be after taking a week off from obedience. I thought perhaps that he would not be much different since he is pretty enthusiastic overall. Well, he was really super charged and enthused for obedience. So sometime off really did seem to be a good thing. I am going to try and keep him really up by keeping things short and fun and varied.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I am on vacation this week but will resume writing next week. We are taking a break from training and just having fun in the Adirondacks...

See you next week...

John and Wyatt

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Trust Your Dog (But Not With Dead Mice)

My goal for a recent NADAC trial was to trust my whippet Wyatt to work away from me more. At a trial, when anxiety is higher (for both of us) and when I am looking to qualify, I tend to run him closer to me than I would at home or in our weekly class. As I drove to the trial I wondered what would happen if I have him more space. Would be ran around jumps and tires? Would be break his stay at the start line? Would he blow his contacts?

NADAC has a lot of distance challenges built into their regular (standard) and chances classes. Wyatt did great on his first run of the weekend, which was chances and got the distance challenge fine. In the regular runs Saturday, he got the first distance challenge (a jump and teeter combination) but missed a weave pole distance challenge. We have not, up to now, practiced this much. I seemed to pull him out of the weaves with my verbal admonition to “go weaves”. Looks like I should trust him to do the weaves on his own.

Now I noticed that dogs had been distracted by something in this ring at day. After we missed the weaves and were running the rest of the course, Wyatt suddenly veered away from me and became obsessed with something on the ground. I could not get him to “leave it” and also could not catch him since I did not have his leash. I finally ran back to the finish line to get his leash. As I headed back to him, I saw him urinating in the ring, something he never does. I saw something furry on the ground when I returned and called for the cleanup crew to get the dead mouse off the course. You have to admire his determination on claiming that mouse; sometimes dogs are just dogs. Quite a few people thanked me for finding the distraction.

On Sunday, there was a great opportunity to test my ability to give him space in the tunnelers class, which is a course made up of all tunnels. Many people send a dog through one tunnel and stay at that end as their dog comes out and they direct them to an adjacent tunnel. I wondered if Wyatt would enter the second tunnel if I was way down the other end. This course happened to be a double shot, which means you can do the course a second time, right after you do it the first time, for (hopefully) a second qualifying run.

On the first go around, I gave him some distance, but not as much as I could have. On the second run, feeling confident, I gave him much more space. He did fine without me being close. Even though it was second run he was over a second faster the second time. That definitely showed that I will get faster run if I trust him to work farther way from me.

The last run of the weekend was jumpers, one of our best classes. We needed one more qualifying run to get our elite jumpers title. NADAC has really tightened up the times especially at the elite level. I knew that in jumpers he was really ready to work more at a distance. Sure enough, he did great, and he got his EJC title. So I really learned an important lesson this weekend: trust your dog (but not with dead mice!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Directed Retrieve (Finally Got It)

It took me a long time to figure out how to signal the correct one of three gloves to retrieve. In this exercise, three gloves are places across the ring in the left corner, middle, and right corner of the back of the ring. You heel your dog to the face the glove the judge specifies (verbally), and send your dog to get the glove. The dog has to retrieve the glove and return to the front of the handler, sit while the glove is taken, and then finish to the handler's side. Anyway, I just could not figure out the best way to tell Wyatt which glove to get. I finally figured out that, for him, I need to put my hand next to the side of his head, and move my hand straight out in the direction of the glove. Sounds simple but it took at least 6 months to get the exact position and movement right.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Lots to write about from last weekend but for now just a teaser. The title will be Trusting Your Dog but Not With a Dead Mouse.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Distance Challenge

I realized last night that I am still not taking advantage of Wyatt's ability to work at a distance. I can definately have more options working farther away from him. I need to trust that we can do it especially at trials. I have NADAC this weekend and hope to work on it together. I am also planning on doing some good obedience proofing at the trial.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More on Proofing

The other thing I am thinking is that working on attention and motivaton will be a direct benefit to proofing. But I don't think it is enough. Still have to proof.

Practizing heeling today, I must say it is difficult to remove treats and voice at the same time...

The Third Aspect of Proofing

The other aspect of proofing (for traditional obedience) is (not) talking to your dog and being limited by voice and body commands and cues. So, we have three things to proof for:

1) No treats
2) No voice or body extra commands
3) Other dogs/new environment

What I am struggling with is which to do first? Also, if I don't use treats, should I use my voice more? That is my tendency but I think it may not work well.

My plan if to do short stretches with no voice and no treats and slowly increase the times without these reinforcing. Also, during trials, I really need to reinforce between exercises as allowed.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I decided to really proof for no food at home and for other dogs at obedience class. Seems like that is more important that exercises right now since he knows most of the them up to and including utility (some, like directed jumping still need work) but has trouble performinh what he knows at trials.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Saturday Rally Excellent

We got our first Rally Excellent leg Saturday but it was not our best permformance. Wyatt seemed really nervous and preoccupied and was doing the world's slowest sits after multiple commands! We also missed the halt, pivot left, halt which has always been a hard one for us. But he did it and besides the one 10 pointer, he did everything. I scratched him in novice B because it seemed like it would be less than fun for both of us. This was our first time in Rally Excellent. I had to remember not to tap my leg which is not allowed in Rally Excellent. I do use that a lot to encourage Wyatt to stay in heel position. The experience reinforces that I have to proof him much more for no treats and for the trial atmosphere. I thought his might be a good location because the obedience and rally was off from the breed show but there was still a lot going on. I can tell Wyatt is stressed when he does the slow (or no) sits and starts looking around. You can just tell that his brain is only 50% available for obedience. Dawn and I also are wondering if Wyatt and Patriot would do better together. I just took Wyatt Saturday for rally and Patriot came later.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


We compete in Novice B obedience today and also in our first Rally Excellent class. I hope the judge does not do backup 3 steps! I will have to remember not to pat my leg or clap my hands. You can't do that in Rally Excellent. The trial is small and quiet away from the breed show but is outside. Should be interesting.

I say practicing yesterday that I really needed to cheerlead and act very up between exercises if there were no treats. Even then I saw a degradation in performance (mostly in lagging). Definitely need to work on that.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Treats & Other Dogs

I have been realizing what a bad job I have been doing proofing Wyatt. At class, he gets nervous with the other dogs. Recently, I found I need to lure him with food as we start heeling to really start without a lag. So, without food, our performance suffers. Around other dogs and lots of noise, our performance suffers. I can use food to help with the enviroment but not at a trial. For some reason, the excitement and movement of agility obviates the need for food at trials.

I am going to really work on not using food at home (at least sometimes). For example, when prepping for novice trials, I need to try and get the same performance without food. I do try and wean off before trials somewhat but I have not focused on this enough. And at class, I really need to work on getting his full attention even around other dogs. I need to start with food but try and wean off that over time. It is that or only enter very small, quiet, one ring obedience only trials...

Monday, July 31, 2006

190.5 (Version 2)

This article will be appearing in Front and Finish magazine (I hope).

The Story of Whippet Wyatt and the 190.5

We rescued whippet Wyatt when he was one year old. My wife insisted we get a dog even though I did not want a dog. He had many issues including separation anxiety. He is a very sensitive and anxious dog and has fear issues with other dogs. I am 47 years old and he is my first dog. I knew zero about dogs, whippets, or dog training when we got him.

We went to dog B&B when he was a year and half and had our first agility lesson and took that up when he was two. At two and a half, we started formal obedience training. He has come a long way since our first local obedience lesson when he would nervously and continuously jump up on us or hide between our legs.

By using positive methods I read about and a lot of trial and error, we entered our first obedience match and managed to squeak by with a 173. We trained twice a day for about 15 minutes per session and went to an hour-long class once a week.

At our next few attempts, he started to go down during the long sit and generally needing more proofing. I did not want going down on the sit to become a habit so I stopped competing and retrained it using cones. I was not sure I would ever be able to get past this problem and resigned myself that we might never get a CD. We kept working on novice and I also discovered that he REALLY enjoyed utility and open work especially retrieving, jumping, and scent discrimination so we added that for fun.

We started to compete again and we missed just one thing for a few trials. But I knew we would do pretty well if we put it all together because we were scoring in the 180's if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice obedience only trial in the Worcester, Massachusetts area. We were in the first class, first dog and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that he was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had Q'ed so far. He had stayed with me well with minimal lagging. We got 0 points off on the stand for exam and the recall. I started to think we might even place if we could only make it through the group sits and downs.

He made it through the sit in what was the longest minute of my life. The three-minute down seemed like an hour but he stayed down even though he looked around nervously and kept changing his head position. I knew we had Q'ed but had we placed? I saw a couple of other REALLY good novice A dogs. The judge announced 4th place, then with a score of 190.5, Wyatt of Dodge City for our second CD leg and third place.

The high from the Q and the score lasted for quite some time. I was so proud of him and happy that he had done so well. Wyatt loves to work hard and play hard. He is the kind of dog who diverts his path going out to pee in order to go over an agility jump. He whines to start scent discrimination exercises.

Wyatt now has 16 different titles in obedience, lure coursing, and agility. Not too bad for the rescue dog I did not want. I still tell my wife I am just making the best of a bad situation but she knows better. I love my “190.5” as we call him now.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Exciting, Breakthrough Weekend

We had a breakthrough weekend at a CPE agility trial in Vermont this weekend. Wyatt did not miss a single contact and received 7 out of 8 Q's, placing in each run. On Saturday, we stopped and waited to be released on every contact except one dog walk (he released early from my body motion but was in the yellow zone). Our one NQ was an off course. There were 2 side by side tunnels and he got too far ahead of me to direct him to the correct one. Saturday's snooker had an A-Frame for the number 7 (most valuable obstacle). As I usual do, I tried to avoid the A-Frame but the #6 tire did not have good flow. Since we have finished getting Q's for our championship in Snooker, I decided to go for it and do 3 A-Frames in the opening for the max points and get the final A-Frame on the closing sequence. Wyatt did all 4 A-Frames perfectly (stopping and waiting to be released). One thing he could have done better was drive all the way to the end of the contact so I vowed to work on that Sunday.

Saturday's performance gave me so much confidence that I was able to really work the contacts just like I do in class and at home on Sunday and he really did them just like at class. I am especially happy that he has now gotten 3 standard, level 4 Q's in a row. They have all been clean runs. We used to have a 25% Q rate in standard. The 2 standard courses this weekend were very tough and there were not many Q's. What a confidence boost to feel we can do any standard course! In wildcard (where you make obstacle choices 3 times, I choose the A-Frame and he delivered). I would never have chosen the A-Frame in the past if I could help it.

What a thrill to see those great contacts *finally* at a trial. I have worked on this problem for at least 2 years! I think many people would have given up and I did have moments when I thought of getting another dog. But I persisted, did a lot of NADAC and did a lot retraining. Wyatt is laying at my feet right and I am so proud of him my eyes are starting to water up.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Water Whippet

I never thought Wyatt liked swimming. I used to have to basically drag/throw him in and he did not like that. Yesterday, it was in the upper 90's and I jumped in the river and he came running in after me. I guess it just has to be hot enough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Driving Into Tunnels

There was an interesting Jackpot (Gamblers) course we did this weekend. There were 3 gambles, one was just a pin wheel and 2 were distance gambles. In both, you had to drive into a tunnel. The first was from a tire, the second straight from a teeter. Even though Wyatt is generally good at distance, we missed both. I think the reason is that he is good at more lateral distance work with jumps and tunnels. This was more going straight ahead, not parallel to the handler. So I set up some courses at home to work on this. We ended up with a Q anyway because there was a lot of time to get points but, in general, every NQ is an chance to work on something that needs work.

Monday, July 17, 2006

CPE Trial

We had a good CPE trial this weekend. Wyatt got 4 of 7 Q's including our first (clean) level 4 standard Q. As we get into level 5 with some level 4, it feels good to be closing in on our C-ATCH (championship). Wyatt finished up his level 5 Snooker so he has 3 games completed with 3 more games to finish and lots of standard Q's. I don't think he has a missed contact all weekend although he is still not performing them as well as he does at home and in class. I had some weave entry troubles with weekend as well as some handling error caused by sleep deprivation from our new baby boy. Aidan was a big hit at the trial. We were very grateful to all those who held him while we ran.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Weaves at a Distance

We recently hit a distance challenge in NADAC that involved weaves, which is something I had not trained. So I set up a little racetrack with jumps on the sides and weaves at each end. If you go one way, you get on side entries and if you go the other way, you get off side entries. Wyatt has always been better off site but he has been progressing on doing weaves on site with this setup. As he gets better, I stay closer and closer to the middle of the course. It was been neat to see the distance and correct entries progress. By the way, he tended to enter between poles 2 and 3 onside previously if I was too far away.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Training Blahs

I have trained Wyatt to open/utility and to the highest levels of agility. I am not sure what to train next. His biggest issue is proofing so I guess that is the answer. That is the hardest thing to train though. I am working on fine tuning a few things: weaves entries at a distance on-side, driving to the 2 on 2 off position. In obedience, I am still working on long sits and drop on recall. How do you keep motivated at home when you have pretty much covered everything?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wyatt in Rally and Obedience

We went down to the Big E today for rally and obedience. There were a lot of scrathes in OB (Novice B) so I kind of rushed in. Wyatt was pretty distracted. As usual, they put novice next to the aisle in the worst possible place. We did everything OK but was lagging quite a bit and missed some sits. He also anticipated the finish in the recall. We ended up with a 175 not counting the group exercises. He went down pretty quickly on the sit. I then had trouble getting to sit long enough for the down but the judge gave it to us. He seems to want to go down when he is nervous. Kind of funny too. He was on the end during the down and a little bit on the cement and scootched over enough during the long down to get onto the mat. Too bad there are no cuteness points. I felt discouraged but when I saw our score I felt better. We would have Q'ed if not for the sit. I don't think I should show there anymore though; it is just too hard of a place for him.

One ring over in Rally, he did much better. Being able to talk to him makes a huge difference. He got a 91 and his final Rally Advanced leg. I made one handler error that cost us 3 points so he only got 6 points off for some slow/crooked sits.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


We ended up having a very good weekend in NADAC. Wyatt completed all his NADAC novice titles as well as Open Regular with a total of 10 qualifying runs. He also received his first Elite Jumpers leg. He placed in every class that he qualified in and received 5 blue ribbons including 3 in regular. His contacts are still not as good as I see at home and in class and he pretty consistent would blow a contact on the first run of the day. That is way NADAC is very good for him right now. I can repeat the contact. Hopefully, he will not always need this first practice run at some point.

I am pretty proud of him. As a dog we rescued 3 years ago as my first dog I have ever trained who has his shares of "issues", he has done quite well...

Wyatt is now:

Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RN, SC, NA, NAJ, OAC, OJC, NGC, TN-N, TG-N, WV-N, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC “Wyatt”

Sunday, July 02, 2006


We had another good day picking up 3 Q's with a placement in each (2 firsts and a third). Wyatt earned his novice weavers title. He Q'ed twice in weavers and once in regular (standard). He missed a contact (A frame) in chances but got the gamble. He missed the a frame again in his first regular run and also the weaves, which were part of the gamble part of regular. We don't practice weaves at a distance much (I will now!) so I was pleased that he actually got through about 7 before pulling out. His last regular run was real good with 2 very good contacts. His A Frame is still not where I want it; he went for 2 on 2 off but still released a tad early. Tomorrow we have 2 touch and go's and 2 regulars so that will be 4 runs to practice our contacts.

Wyatt is now: Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RN, SC, NA, NAJ, NAC, NGC, OJC, TN-N, WV-N, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC

I bought a cool photo of him jumping but I can't scan it on the road but will post it later.

I hope everyone is having a great 4th of July.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Wyatt's Titles

Wyatt earned another title today - Novice NADAC Tunnelers. His titles are now:

Wyatt - Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, SC, NA, NAJ, NAC, OJC, NGC, TN-N, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I have worked hard with Wyatt on his release. He was releasing too early and releasing on all kinds of words and body movements. Now I am having the opposite problem. Sometimes he is not releasing at all. I usually have to repeat the release word (OK) and/or show him a treat to get him to release. I would say this happens about 10% or less of the time. It is interesting. Never a dull moment. I don't think there is much I can do but to keep practicing and rewarding for releasing the first time.

I am wondering if he is afraid to make a mistake. I do see this more often after he blows a contact and give my (very unharsh) oops word to mark the mistake. I do know for sure that he know what this means. I see this most clearly in a directed retreive when he goes to the other glove after I say oops. That is pretty cool that he has generalized the meaning of that.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Utility Relapse

I have been focusing mostly on open lately with Wyatt which is going well. I always include scent discrimination, though, in our daily practice. I decided to just do utility stuff the other day and found that he was confused on the directed retrieve. I guess I should not wait so long between practicing it. I am going to go back to one glove. He seems to have gotten rusty on the mark command and will sometimes head to the wrong glove. He does know the "oops" command very well though. When I say "oops" he switches to the correct glove. I have been noticing that he stresses when corrected though even though I am not harsh at all. I also see this on contact where he will stay high on the contact sometimes after being corrected.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Upcoming Schedule

We will race Patriot in Otis, MA this weekend.

We have NADAC agility July 1-3 in New York State for Wyatt only. I am hoping to get lots of good contact proofing over the 3 days and 5-6 runs per day.

We are entering in 2 CPE trials in July (NH and VT).

I entered Wyatt in Novice B obedience and Rally Advanced B in July for one day. We need one more Rally Advanced leg.

I hope to see some of you at one these events.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Treats on the Ground

Wyatt has been always been distracted by treats on the ground during agility class but has gotten worse lately. He will sometimes leave the run (especially at the start line) if he smells treats around. I wanted to work on this problem. Here's what I did:

1) Maintain eye contact when leading out.
2) Give him plenty of treats from me especially at the start line.
3) Don't allow him to get treats from the ground. This is difficult but I was able to do it by leashing him and keeping his head off the ground when it looks like he smells a treat. I also will grab it if I see it and give it to him from doing something. I also use his "leave it" command and reward him if he does "leave it."
4) If he chooses to go on a treat search, put him back on leash so that he loses his turn. Try again later.

It seemed to work pretty well last night...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

CPE Results

We did one day of a CPE trial in New York State. Wyatt and Patriot did well. Patriot was pretty pumped up and happy all day. Dawn has been dunking or hosing him before runs on hot days. Patriot finished his level 4 CPE title.

Wyatt got 2 Q's. One was in fullhouse (level C) and one in Colors (level 5). We almost Q'ed in Jackpot but came up short by one second. The gamble was to get any three and exactly three tunnels. I think there was a hesitation on one because he was flying. The first standard run I blew and misdirected him but he had 3 great contacts. I could kick myself. The second standard run was an NQ because of a missed A-frame, otherwise flawless.

I had trouble at the end of day with flies. Wyatt is obsessed with catching flies and they were coming out in numbers. They tended to land at the bottom of the weaves so I had trouble with the weaves in colors. He is a funny dog sometimes.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What a Thrill!

Our club had run throughs last night. Wyatt had one his best runs ever for his first standard run. On a difficult course, he just flew the whole way, running fast down to the contacts and just flying through the 12 weave poles. As usual, he jumped like a true maniac! It was such a thrill to run at that speed with such a responsive dog. I think he could have whipped any BC last night on that run.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New "Puppy"

Introducing Aidan Michael Heffernan. He was born on Wednesday, June 7, 2006, the same day as Patriot's fifth birthday. He is beautiful and has a great temperment. We are overjoyed to have our first child after a long journey through infertility and now adoption. He was worth the wait.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Correcting Long Sits

I received this advice from a friend on how to correct problems with the long sit... The only thing I wonder about is if I should use our "oops" command, which he already understands.

Here’s what our obedience trainer suggests: Put the dog in a sit, with the collar (I use a martingale) loop at the top of the dog’s neck. Stand close in front and notice the first signs of starting to go down. At the first sign, return to the dog, say nothing, gently and quietly straighten the dog up by the collar without saying anything, and return to standing in front of the dog. The point is to neither reward or punish but just reposition—no words, no pats, no nothing. To get longer sits, you can walk back and treat periodically for good sits.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I went to a NADAC trial Saturday with both dogs. I enjoyed running 2 dogs because it keeps you busier and if you mess up with one, you can still do well with the other one.

I was real happy with both dogs. Wyatt ran well and after his run, did pretty well with his contacts. That first run of the day seems hard. I think we are both nervous on the first run of the day. It was a double shot touch and go and he only missed one contact on the second go around. (You basically run 2 course back to back - the same course - if you want to.) He Q'd with a third in Weavers with a real nice run - no entry problems. He Q'ed in regular finishing his novice regular title. We had a very nice and fast elite jumpers run but had one off course - he really seemed determined for this one jump despite a lot of call offs on my part. He also had a nice chances run where you had to send to a far tunnel from other side of a near tunnel. The old other arm signal worked great. I believe it just helps point you in the right direction. There was a cool moment in the run where he cam off the jump and I could clearly see him looking at me for the cue was to which tunnel. He saw the arm and or body and zoom off he went. It was really exciting to see him respond that way.

Patriot ran really well too. It is nice to run with a dog that is so consistent though you have to cheerlead him a lot. He had a very nice standard and weavers run but missed each by 2 seconds. He loses a lot of time in the weaves. He ran great for me in jumpers and chances and finished his novice jumpers titles. I got him in a real playful mood before each run and he ran pretty fast.

All in all, a very satisfying weekend.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


This photo is one of the proudest moments I have had as a dog trainer.

We rescued Wyatt when he was one year old. He had quite a few issues including separation anxiety. He is generally a very sensitive and anxious dog and has fear issues with other dogs. I am 47 years old and he is my first dog. I knew zero about dogs, whippets, or dog training when we got him. We managed to work through the separation anxiety mostly through medication and getting a calm, older dog.

We went to dog B&B when he was a year and half and had our first agility lesson and took that up when he was two. At two and a half, we started formal obedience training. He had come a long way since our first household obedience lesson when he would nervously and continuously jump up on us or hide between our legs.

By using positive methods I read about and a lot of trial and error, we entered our first obedience match and managed to squeak by with a 173. We trained twice a day for about 15 minutes per session and went to an hour long class once a week.

At our next few attempts, he started to go down during the long sit and generally needing more proofing. II did not want going down on the site to become a habit so I stopped competing and retrained it using cones at class. He is a creature of habit so I was not sure I would ever be able to get past this problem. We kept working on the sit, heeling, and everything else. I also discovered that he REALLY enjoyed utility and open work especially retrieving, jumping, and scent discrimination so we added that for fun.

We started to compete again and we missed one thing for a few trials. First, he anticipated the recall which he had never done before. Then I sat him poorly and he went down on his sit. But I knew we would do pretty well if we put it all together because we were scoring in the 180's if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice trial in the Worcester area with a really nice judge. We were in the first class, first dog and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that he was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had Q'ed so far. He stayed with me well with minimal lagging. We got 0 points off on the stand for exam and the recall. I I started to think we would place if we made it through the group sits and downs.

He made it through the sit in what was the longest minute of my life. The three minute down seemed like an hour but he stayed down even though he looked around nervously and kept changing his head position. I knew we had Q'ed but had we placed? I saw a couple of other REALLY good novice A dogs. The judge announced 4th place, then with a score of 190.5, Wyatt of Dodge City for our second CD leg and third place. The second and first place dogs were 195 and 196 which was awesome. At another trial, the judge asked one of the owners if she had a utility dog from Canada competing in the US for the first time. The answer was no.

The high from the Q and the score lasted for quite some time. I was so proud of him and happy that he had done so well. I had worked a lot on heeling since then and think we can score even higher. The open and utility exercises seem fun and not too hard except for the out of sight sits and down which will be the hardest thing for us.

Wyatt loves to work and play hard. He is the kind of dog who diverts his path going out to pee in order to go over a jump. He whines to start scent discrimination exercises. In spite of his nervousness, he love to work for me and always give it 200%.

There is nothing like the feeling when you and your dog are clicking and in the groove. What a special thing to be a smoothly working team with a different species. Congratulations, Wyatt!

Sunday, June 04, 2006


I don't know if it because I am working on drop on recall and rewarding dropping so heavily but Wyatt is going down a lot on his group sits (never a strength anyway). I am backing up and staying in sight and using shorter times. I always wonder what the best thing to do is when this happens: start again from scratch, pull him up, use my up command to get him up, etc and then if I should reward since he went down during some part of the exercise...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Puppies at 4 Weeks

We went to visit Patriot's puppies last night. They are very cute and full of life and mischief. Our faves were the red brindle male and red and white male. The red and white male seems very solid, fearless, and athletic as well as a beautiful dog.

Puppy Photos

Friday, June 02, 2006

Patriot as a Therapy Dog?

I took Patriot lure coursing a few weekends ago and there were 2 indications that he may be a good therapy dog.

During a coursing run, the other dog, Mira, owned by Donna Lynch, got tangled up in the line, went down, and stayed dog. Instead of going to play with the bags, Patriot went over and stood by her until help arrived. It turned out that Mira was fine. I have never seen a dog do something like that.

On the way home, we stopped by my grandmother's nursing home. She is 94. She was very sleepy and would not wake up so I just sat with her and held her hand for a while. I invited Patriot to jump on her bed which he did. He snuggled right next to her and put his chin on her stomach and went right to sleep.

It makes me think he has potential as a therapy dog.

Monday, May 29, 2006

CPE Day 2

Wyatt got 2 Q's today and also got first place in each. We had a nice Snooker run with 48 points (3 6's which were a jump combo) and the whole finish sequence. There were no contacts on this particular course. I ran Patriot too but he is not as responsive and I sent him over an extra jump. We had our usual good jumpers run (one tunnel bobble where he pulled off) with a Championship level Q and a first. Dawn threw Patriot into a little pond before the run and they did great. I think it was his fastest run ever, ever faster than Wyatt, which is a first. Standard had 2 A-frames. Wyatt did great on the first one but missed his contact coming back when he got ahead of me. But the rest of the contacts were good and he again ran very calm and controlled. This ring is small so there were no spectators inside the arena and very few dogs, which I am sure is good for Wyatt.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

CPE Day One

We had a pretty good day today. The first 2 runs I was very happy with. Wyatt just released early on one contact - a dogwalk. It so happened that I got a little flustered and he went back up the dogwalk so I got to practice it again without being called for training in the ring! That was a wildcard run. Standard went very well except I lost contact for a split second and he took an extra jump. It was in a difficult 90 degree turn to a tunnel that was paired with the dogwalk. Our last jackpot run was not great. Again, he went off course when I lost contact for a split second as we had finished my plan and the gamble whistle had not blown yet. He went up the A-frame and missed his contact (I was way out of position but still...). He then took a gamble jump causing an NQ. He went back over the A-frame and stalled. I finally got him back and started on the gamble. The A-frame contact was bad once again. However, he did do the hardest part of the gamble which was to take an outer jump that was next to an inner jump. I used an opposite arm push and he went right over and onto the table. All in all, a pretty good day even though we did not get a Q. We felt very good as a team at least on the first 2 runs and most of the last run. He seemed to be calm and in control and getting most of the his contacts. Also, all the weaves were really good. I only had to briefly restart one weave.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Change of Behavior

I noticed an interesting change of behavior with Wyatt's scent discrimination this morning. When he found the metal scent article on the very first one tried, he picked it up, dropped it and then checked the other ones. He then came back to the first (correct) one and retrieved that. He did the same thing on the leather article. Not sure if it is better or worse. In the past, he would have immediately came back with the first one...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Increase Rewards

I am thinking that I should increase the rewards for the group sit and down and show the goods before I leave. I have noticed increased attention and focus when I have Wyatt sit for his dinner or a greenie. Maybe the greenie bits would be the best because they are high value but would not take a long time to eat...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Darn Groups

Wyatt is doing great on drop on recall so, once again, by far the hardest exercises are the group sit and down. When I worked at my toolbench instead of going completely out of sight, he started getting up or laying down. Well, I guess I know what I need to work on. Too bad it is the most boring thing to work on!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Drop on Recall

Wow. Wyatt did his first drop on recall without a barrier today. He only crept one step. I was using on thin piece of string but faded that out. I am finding that I have to do lots of recalls without the drop or he will slow down and start anticipating (especially with the string there.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Open Class

I went to our novice/open drop in class last night after a month long break and was really pleased with Wyatt. I could tell he was stressed a bit, perhaps because he had not been there in a while. However, his heeling was fantastic! No lagging at all. I have been working with him at home by clicking and treating (C/T )when he is in heel position. Now I guess I have to gradually fade out the C/T as we get ready for competition.

At one point the teacher called for a sit from a down and he would not come up on the sit command. I guess I was a little rusty too because I forgot I have an up command instead!

He was a little reluctant at first to retrieve on flat especially when the dumbbell was close to other dogs. I will have to work on that but really warmed up when I started out with more informal, shorter retrieves. He did much better on retrieve over jump and even went over the jump when one of my throws went way to the side (I have been proofing this at home.)

He also did his scent articles perfectly even in the class setting. Unfortunately, I left them there so we won't be practicing until I can go back and "retrieve" them.

He has a problem on the out of site sit even though that is going well at home. I am going to back to using cones in class to prevent him from going down.

His broad jumps were awesome with perfect fronts and finishes. Drop on recall is a work in progress. I practiced a lot but had the usual problems with slowing down sometimes and creeping sometimes. I am using a string at home for my barrier at this point.

It was good to get back to class and I can see we need to start going again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Out of Site, Out of Mind?

I am working hard on the out of site sits and down and currently starting with one minute sits and downs out of sight. Before that, I worked up to a 3 minute (in sight) sit. I am trying to be systematic about this and really train and proof it. I was a bit lax in training for novice sits and downs and did not work on it and proof it enough. It is boring but I am hoping to really make this exercise much more reliable.

A friend of mine was describing how he proofs out of sight sits and down with his whippet. Her favorite things was to go for a ride so he gradually worked up to actually leaving the dog in a sit or down and driving away for 10 minutes and coming back and making sure she was still in position. Now, that is proofing!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Working Dog

It is great to have a dog that loves to work. Today, when I was moving some jumps around, Wyatt went and did 12 weaves all by himself when Dawn and Patriot were watching. I was nowhere near the jumps. He really seems to enjoy weaving now.

Also, today he was really pumped up for obedience and was absolutely whining to start the scent discrimination game. He is cute as heck on retrieves too. He does a little tail wag on the way back from every retrieve!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Drop On Recall

We are working hard on drop on recall. I am using barriers to try and avoid issues with creeping. My plan is to use multiple barriers and have already faded them from boards to leashes. Later I will switch to string. One thing I found this morning is that there is much more creep with a hard signal than a verbal signal. I also DO NOT drop him sometimes so he does not anticipate the drop.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


You may remember that Wyatt crashed into the triple jump at the AWC nationals twice. I did bring home a triple jump from our club this week and Wyatt did pretty good with it but did knock the top bar once in a while. I guess I will end up buying one. I also asked our teachers to put one in their courses for class, which they are going to do.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Black Dog Phobia

We went lure coursing this weekend. Wyatt fouled out of his first run for some really blatant fouls. I always had trouble with him racing and eventually gave up trying to train him to run clean. However, for some reasons, he seemed to be find with coursing. He must have run clean 10-15 times without incident. I thought perhaps the stress of being boxed and the close quarters of racing overstimulated him. So I was disappointed but not too surprised when he fouled out coursing. I thought that this day might come.

Thinking about it more, I noticed that one of the fouls (I could not see all of them) involved a black dog. Later that night, we had a black lab over the house and Wyatt was very reactive with this dog. He often is with black labs. I tried working with him and the lab by walking them together on leash through the woods. That worked well. He seemed to calm down and relax around the lab. I believe, from observation, that the reaction is about fear and protection. He is afraid of the black lab and also wants to warn/protect us from the dog as well. He would get reactive again the closer we got to the house and especially inside the house with the most reaction in our living space. Thinking back, I remember some other fouls in the past that involved black dogs.

This could be related to incidents I have had in the neighborhood with local black labs whose owners walk them off leash in violation of the local leash law. They also do not have voice control over their dogs and they have sometimes charged us aggressively. When we first got Wyatt, he slipped out of his leash and I lost him for a while when a black lab approached. Although things are better now, I wonder if some of these early experiences and my own reaction may have contributed to this phobia.

Although I have learned a great deal about training a dog for dog/human activities, I don't know much about how to address dog to dog issues. Certainly, walking on leash together worked well but I wonder what other techniques could be used. Wyatt is usually fine away from the house but I wonder if improving his dog issues would also help us in agility and obedience where I believe his dog stress is the main cause of his ring nerves (again, much better than it used to be but still could be better.)

I put Wyatt in singles on Sunday and he tied for first which was nice. I am happy to run him in singles and practice him at races but I think it would be good to work on these dog/dog issues. I just wish there was 1/10 the amount of info as there is for dog/human training.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Need a break?

Wyatt has not been as motivivated as usual in obedience and agility so I am wondering if he needs a break. I did borrow a triple jump from our agility club which he has been doing well with. He did knock one bar this morning but has not crashed into it.

We are going to a lure coursing meet this weekend so will not do any agility or obedience.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Wyatt CD Photo

Here is a photo of Wyatt receiving his new Companion Dog (CD) title.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Back to Work

We are back to work after enjoying some time off from training. Now that Wyatt has his CD, I am getting down to more focused training on open (with some continuing utility work). The only exercise I had not trained much was drop on recall so I am trying to figure out the best way to do that.

I am doing some quick down work almost like a game where we move and do quick downs. I have also been trying a board half way between us and giving him a down when he approaches the board. Then I continue the recall. I can tell he is finding it a little confusing.

I am also doing a 3 minute sit moving up from the 2 minute sit I was doing for novice practice. No out of site work yet. I am going for the time first.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Patriot Puppy Photos

Here are some photos of Patriot's puppies taken last week at just one week old...


Saturday, April 29, 2006

National Update

Not too much new to report. Wyatt is getting a break though I have been doing some obedience proofing when I have him in or near the ring. Patriot shows in breed today. We would be happy if he makes the cut; lucky and thrilled if he gets an award of merit.

It is probably good to give Wyatt some time off after his falls at the agility trial. I will be getting a triple jump as soon as I can.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Patriot Wins Triathlon

Our boy Patriot won the American Whippet Club National Specialty. The triathlon winner combines scores in lure coursing, agility or obedience, and conformation. My wife Dawn handles Patriot in agility and obedience. He also recieved his CD, OA, and OAJ titles.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

National Update

We are at the American Whippet Club National Specialty. Wyatt had a decent novice A run going but went down on his sit. The judge choose not to use the mats. He actually did a down instead of sit even setting him up and I struggled a bit to get him back up and sitting. I saw that his pads were slipping when he was in a sit even warming up and he tends to lie down on carpet.

We had a very nice rally advanced A run. I had trouble with the pivot left last week but practiced heavily before we went on and we fudged our way though it. I made 2 mistakes that cost some point. I forgot to pause on the Halt, Sit, Down before proceeding and I ran to the finish line at the end. She only took 1 off for that but that was 11 easy points. However, we ended up with an 85 and a first place.

We crashed and burned (literally) in agility yesterday as Wyatt had a lot of trouble gauging the triple jump. He landed on top of the third (highest bar) and we limped off. I rested him and he seems fine so we did jumpers but he crashed again, this time landing on his back. So he has been limping off and on. I think he will be OK. Definitely need to practice that triple jump. We don't have one at home or in class and we see them rarely, if ever, in CPE and NADAC. We had a great jumpers run going too and were about 75% through. Wyatt really runs his heart out for me. We get a lot of firsts and a lot of NQ's.

Patriot is really cleaning up. He got his CD, OA, and OAJ this weekend and is currently leading the triathlon competition by 1 point. We are very nervous! The judge is a real unknown. But Patriot's breeder is one of the best handlers in the country and is going to show him for us.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wyatt of Dodge City, CD

I am pleased to report that Wyatt finishing his companion dog title today! He was a little nervous and was lagging a bit but did everything else without a problem. He did hesitate quite a bit before coming during the recall but did come after about 5 seconds. They always put novice right next to the busy aisle for some reason in Springfield. No problems during the long sits and downs. He ended up with decent score of 183.5.

The judge was a very tall guy with a booming voice but he had a good feel for dogs and let the dog sniff him as they came in.

He also got his first rally advanced leg with a fourth place. We barely qualified (170) but it was good practice. I rushed in for the end of the walk though and was a bit discombobulated and made some handler errors. Wyatt was sitting at almost a 90 degree angle too for some left turns so I had so go back and get some better sits. Also, I paused, confused, at a 270 and lost 10 points there. But it was good to get some practice for Sunday. We are heading to the whippet national today for lure coursing, agility, obedience, rally, conformation, and Wyatt will also be in the parade of rescues.

Wyatt is now: Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, SC, NA, NAJ, CD, RN, OJC, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC “Wyatt”

He finished his CPE level 3 title last weekend.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Teeter Approach Speed

I noticed at class last night that we were having some problems with teeter flyoffs. I was really pushing my speed and he tends to leap off if I do not slow down at the teeter. So I am going to move the teeter where I can really get some speed up and work on it.

We gained permission from our neightbors to use a horse paddock for agility so that should help open up some room. I will post a picture when we get everything moved over there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ultra-Senstive, Ultra-Clear

People have asked me what I think has been successful in fixing a very stubborn trial only contact issues with Wyatt.

What I found was that I needed to go back to square 1 and retrain our 2 on, 2 off and then do a lot of show and go’s and NADAC where I could go back and redo obstacles.

I saw improvement but not as much as I had hoped. Then I really studied video of us worked and wondered if I was cueing a release inadvertently.

1. Do exactly what I do in practice – no extra cues or changes in the trial setting.

2. Do NADAC where I could establish that expectations were the same. Right now, he seems to need that initial correction to know the rules are the same. So he has tended to blow contacts on the first run of the day. I can go back in NADAC and in certain CPE games (fullhouse and Jackpot) which are usually first luckily.

3. I saw that he was jumping off early almost as if on cue. I think that I was inadvertently cueing him to release high up by using our spot command and/or having jerky body movements. I dropped the “spot” command since he may have thought it was a release word in the trial settings. I really made sure I was 100% consistent in using my release word EVERY TIME. (I tended to forget sometimes or use “good dog” or the name of the next obstacle.) I also proofing against body movement. I found that I could get him to release by moving my body so I went back and made sure there was no release until he hears “OK” and NOTHING ELSE. I had been so focused on getting him to 2 on, 2 off that I had neglected the release phase.

4. I do tons of obedience proofing at trials and other settings with lots of dogs to get him used to working even when he is nervous or distracted.

I believe #3 was the biggest issue once I retrained the basic 2 on, 2 off. He seems a lot calmer now at trials. I wonder how much of this was due to my confused contact signals to him in the trial setting.

Sighthounds - Think Different

This question of sighthound drive and motivation is being discussed on the sighthound agility list was well. Most of it is how you train your sighthound.  A lot of the typicaltraining patterns may not work.  Wyatt was a rescue that came to us at one year old with tons of drive and natural retrieve.  I wonder how natural it was though – his first owners must have played with him a lot and I know he did obedience classes.  He loves to work and learn.  The biggest challenges
working with Wyatt have been proofing:  he needs a lot  and consistency: he needs 100%.  

Our other dog was given at 2 years of age and had only done showing and spent lots of time in a crate and was from a huge dog household.  My wife has worked really hard to speed him up.  He actually does play and retrieve now and runs on course.  His next step in obstacles.  They can still  be slow.  Watching them work last weekend, I could see how any correction like redoing a missed jump really slowed him down and demotivated him so they are going to just keep going for now.  She also is working on making the obstacles a chase game just like she does running between the obstacles.

So I think we have to “think different” with sighthounds and watch for some of the things that tend to come more easily for other breeds. What is "play" for your dog and how can you get it into your training?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

CD Attempt

We have CD attempts this Friday in Springfield and Sunday at the Whippet National. I have been working on the long sit proofing up to 2 minutes and on anticipating the recall - the 2 things that got us last time.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

CPE Contacts

Just a quick note as we just got back from our CPE trial in Vermont.

Wyatt did great again on his contacts. Not perfect but I am very pleased. He does seem to have trouble on the first run of the day. Luckily, at this trial, there were games first that I could go back and do the same contact again. Though he was in the yellow zone, he did not wait to be released so I took him back.

Wyatt got 2 of his hardest Q's - standard level 3 ( first place) and wildcard (2nd place). He finished his CPE level 3 title and got a level 4 wildcard. He now needs only one more level 4 wildcard (and 4-5 standards) to finish level 4. I am very encouraged. I believe the work we have recently done on our releases has made the difference.

He got one other Q in snooker (2nd place). It was an easy course so I really went for it trying to get the absolute maximum number of points (27+25=52). The "7" was a tunnel jump combo that was close to the reds. We got all the 7's in our opening and started the closing sequence. Great contact on 4 (A-frame), I had to restart the weaves once, but we were really moving to 7. He did the tunnel and I thought we had it but the whistle blew about 1 foot before the final jump! So close but I was really glad we went for; it was a lot of fun and something to remember.

He had one big dogwalk jump off this morning but I believe it was because the judge blew the whistle really loud. He jumped off the middle of the dogwalk right when the whistle blew. Something I am going to proof for but I think it was abnormal. That is one thing I have learned with him; he is a sensitive dog and even more so at a trial so I have had to really proof against sudden noise and movement so he does not release early.

Our standard run today was exciting as he did great on all 3 contacts with 2 on, 2 offs and waiting for a release. I held the release a bit and gave him a clear release word. There were weaves at the end after a couple of jumps. I did not even cue him as we went screaming into the weaves and finishes them perfectly.

I hope everyone had a great weekend trialing or at home with your dogs. See you at the Whippet National Agility Trial!

Friday, April 14, 2006

CPE This Weekend

We have a CPE trial this weekend. I was wondering if I should go since we made such progress at last weekend's NADAC trial when I could do some training in the ring with contacts.

I decided to go. Each day starts with a game that I can repeat contacts (fullhouse and jackpot) since they are not num bered courses. So I figure I will repeat if I do not get a 2 on, 2 off for these games and then try the numbered courses for standard, wildcard, colors, and snooker. If we miss a contact in a numbered course, I figure I will mark it with the "oops" command, which he does clearly understand, pause, and say "try again" and go on. Not perfect but the best I can do within the CPE rules.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wyatt's Story

My wife Dawn rescued Wyatt at a hard time in our lives. I did not think it was the right time to get a dog but Dawn persisting despite, shall we say, strong opposition. I had always had cats and thought dogs were too needy.

He was one year old when Dawn rescued him. “He has not done one thing wrong while in foster care,” the rescuer said, as Dawn watched him counter surf the kitchen.

He paced around our house non-stop for about a month. We worked through one year of separation anxiety issues with him but the thing that helped him the most was getting his confident house brother Patriot.

Wyatt is full or character, life, and mischief! When going out to do his business, he will jump over jumps and gallop just because they are there. He loves to play Frisbee and tug and acts more like a border collar at times. He is also a watchdog and barker when on red alert. Clearly, Wyatt did not read the breed book sections on whippets.

We did some research online and found about whippet racing. We trained Wyatt for a year but he was never able to race. The stimulation of the box was too much for him to run cleanly. But he courses successfully, does obedience, rally, and agility. People are amazed at his drive and jumping ability. He is a top jumpers dog (even across all breeds) and is well on his way to a jumpers championship. Wyatt also loves obedience, especially, you guess it, jumping and retrieving. He recently received a score of 190.5 in novice obedience. He also loves scent discrimination and will whine to be let go to get the object. My goal is a UD (Utility Dog) , a CPE agility championship, and a TD (Tracking Dog) for Wyatt, which would make him one of the first group of whippets to get a VCD (Versatile Companion Dog Title). He is a very smart dog to excel so much despite all the mistakes I make as a novice handler.

Wyatt seems to have forgotten who rescued him and is now a real daddy’s boy now and loves to sleep on my lap, do agility and obedience, or go for runs in the woods with me and Patriot. He may not have the best conformation but he is full or heart and love for life!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

NADAC Trial Run Descriptions

I went into the NADAC trial really focused on my contact criterion. I pledged to forget totally about qualifying or placing. I also thought of the whole trial as a very long show and go. My only goal was to have a consistent criterion for 2 on, 2 off contacts. If I did not get a 2 on, 2 off, for whatever reason, I would go back and redo the contact.

Our first run was regular (which is a standard agility course), and he blew the dog walk and A Frame. I took him back both times and felt really good that I was able to keep to my goal. This is hard to do because sometimes your dog can get the contact (hit the yellow zone) but not give you the 2 on, 2 off that you are looking for. It’s hard to forget about qualifying. You have to remember, though, that what you are doing today will result in many more qualifying runs in the future, while if you let it go, you will have a lot of problems qualifying in the future.

The very next run was another standard run and Wyatt ran perfectly getting all his contacts. He even got second place and a really fast time. I held the contacts for a time that felt long to make sure I was really getting a good release. Our next two runs were touch and go’s (TNG). TNG has 4 contacts (one is repeated) and tunnels. Wyatt qualified in both runs. We had never qualified in TNG before. One the second run, I put him back briefly because he jumped a bit off the end, but the judge let it go, perhaps because we hit the yellow zone coming down.

We then had an awesome jumpers run getting first place. The Wildcard (similar to gamblers) had an A-Frame/Tunnel combo where you had to send the dog to the far tunnel from the A-Frame side and Wyatt took the A-Frame. However, I did make sure he got a great contact on the A-Frame. We had 4 Q’s out of 6, which is great for Wyatt and I.

On Sunday, he missed a teeter on his first regular (standard) run. His foot slipped a little off the teeter and he bailed in fear. He is pretty reliable on the teeter so I did not worry too much but I redid the teeter twice and he did fine. On our second regular run, he was in the yellow zone but jumped from the end before being released so, hard as it was (we would have finished our novice regular title), I had him redo the contact and we received an NQ for training. But I was happy with myself that I was again able to stick to my guns.

Our first weavers run was great. Wyatt got all 3 weaves with no problems and we ended up getting third place. For our second weavers run, Wyatt seemed a big stressed. He had been in his crate alone and was showing some signs of separation anxiety (he likes to pull down and rip the tarp on top of the crate to shreds). We had to restart the 12 weaves once and the 6 weaves a bunch but we finally got through it. On the final chances of the weekend, he went on the near dog walk and not the far tunnel as required and did a nice teeter.

Some of his contacts were a bit high with all four feet on the contact but he did generally wait to be released. It was a huge weekend for Wyatt; the best contacts ever in a trial. He did seem pretty calm all weekend. I am still trying to understand how much of this issue is stress, how much is training (such as the release improvements I have been writing about), and how much is about going back when the criterion is not met. I will write more about that tomorrow. But I am really happy about this major breakthrough (I hope it was not a fluke) because I have been trying to fix this problem for over a year.