Tuesday, February 28, 2006


We competed at a new place this weekend and Wyatt seemed nervous especially the first run. The place was very crowded with lots of dogs on the way to the start line. I managed him better as the day went on and he improved but had trouble with the A-Frame all day. The last run of the day was a game where I could go back and redo obstacles so I basically went out to train. On day two, there was no A-Frame (dog-walk in full house, no contacts in Snooker, and 1 jumpers). We Q'ed in all 3 with a 2 firsts and a second. Feast or famine!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Generalizing Different Broad Jumps

Wyatt has trouble with the broad jumps used in class. They are large, wooden broad jumps. At home, I use plastic, lightweight broad jumps. When we go to class, he frequently goes around the jumps or walks on them. In the interests of science, I brought my plastic broad jumps to class to see if he still had a problem (indicating place related stress) or did fine (indicating a lack of generalization to different types of broad jumps).

He did fine with the plastic broad jumps in class. I have to conclude that he has not generalized the broad jump exercise to the large, wooden broad jumps. Unlike the dumbbells and scent articles, you can't bring your own so I guess I need to train him on the kind they use in trials!

Though I probably could train him in class, I think I will make some wooden broad at home since they are easy to make.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Metal Articles (Again)

I have slowly been getting Wyatt used to metal dumbbells but I am thinking I may switch to the mason jar rings which he will retrieve (still with some teeth chattering). Why try and get him to do something he does not like? I guess I had an idea it was "more professional" but that seems silly...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Generalizing for Dogs and Humans

While leadership is an issue for many teams, I think people are quick to overgeneralize it as the cause of all dog issues. Cesar Milan is the worst offender.

Stress is a big cause of lack of attention. So frequently people don't proof enough (or at all) and then expect their dog to perform just like home. If they don't, they are considered to be blowing off the handler. Often, the handler gets angry and uses harsh corrections or a harsh tone with their already stressed dog.

Imagine how that might be in terms of the dog's experience.

Also, half the time the handler is acting different because he or she is stressed out and that can confuse the dog too! Yet again, many assume the dog is at fault.

Humans tend to overgeneralize and dogs undergeneralize. So we need to help them transfer their skills to different settings and not assume (overgeneralize) they are blowing us off.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Broad Jump Problem

Wyatt is doing great in our open class. He is getting much more confident at retrieving and healing in the class atmosphere.

One interesting issue that came up involves the broad jump. At home, we have plastic broad jumps. The tops have little holes in them. In class, they are solid and made of wood. Wyatt is either going around or walking on the top or through the jumps in class if I am facing the jumps. If I act like they are agility jumps and face forward, he is fine.

Is it the jumps or just stress? Does he just need to generalize the jumps in class?

I may bring my jumps in next week to see if it is the equipment. If it is, I may build some wooden jumps.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Tracking Wild Animals

I had a sore ankle last week so I decided to take the dogs bushwhacking instead of running the snowmobile trails. I have many years of experiences tracking wild animals. I do this to learn about the lives these animals lead and not for hunting purposes.
My favorite animals to track are black bears, coyotes, fishers, coyotes, deer, and moose. We have all of these in the state forest behind our house.

I did some tracking with Wyatt last winter but stopped it because I was doing too many dog sports at once. I hope to get back to it when (and if) we get our obedience Companion Dog title. There is a special AKC Versatile Companion Dog title that only 2 or 3 whippets have attained. The dog needs a Novice Agility (NA), a CD, and a Tracking Dog (TD) title to get the VCD.

I was curious how they would do tracking wild animals. I do see them checking out scat, urine, and tracks when we run but I don't let them follow the tracks when I am running.

They were very interested in tracking coyote, deer, and fisher. They pulled strongly on their leashes. That is one of the main things you are supposed to train them to do for a TD. Makes me wonder if I could use their natural instincts to track wild animals for TD training. They did seem to get off the track at times and I asked them to find it or pointed out the track to them. They did not seem to use visual clues but only olfactory information.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shaping Success

I recently finished Susan Garret's Shaping Success.

Lots of chew on and a good read. Here a few things that popped out right away for me.

Susan says not to add a cue until the behavior is really proficient. That was interesting for me. Most of us start using the cue once they start understanding the behavior.

Overstimulation. Buzzy and Wyatt have this in common. I wish she talked more about how she helping Buzz with this. I think I am finally getting a handle of what gets Wyatt overstimulated now after living with him for 3 years.

She really breaks down contacts. Oh, how I wish I could go back in time on this one.

She uses timeouts quite a bit. I still tend to ignore what I don't want and reward what I do want. She does devote an appendix to timeouts and when to use them.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Scent Discrimination

I have started training Wyatt to scent discriminate. In this utility exercise, the dog finds the one dumbbell that you have just scented in a pile of leather and metal objects. The dogs does this twice, once with a metal and once with a leather object.

I am using the "around the clock" method. In this method you put one dumbbell down first. The dumbbell is scented with your scent and some cheese wiz. Then you put down one scented and one unscented dumbbell in certain pattern continuing until you have one scented and 10 or so unscented dumbbells.

It seems to be working. Wyatt gets the scented and cheese covered dumbbell every time. Now I will gradually decrease the amount of cheese until he is getting the one that I have scented with my hands (at least I hope so!)

I changed the method a bit and I am working with him off leash and not using any ear pinches as the video recommends.

See her web site for more info. Janice DeMello Obedience Videos

Friday, February 10, 2006


No big news, insights, triumphs, or disasters today...

We had a good obedience class last night and a good workout today. I got a few A-Frames in before the snow returns. We will be going to some run-throughs in Vermont tomorrow. It has been very fortunate lately to have trials and/or run throughs for last 6 weeks or so.

Have a great weekend!

John and Wyatt

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Flashes of Brilliance

Isn't this exciting when it happens?

We have been working on driving to the end of contacts especially the A-Frame and the dogwalk. I have been using a target with food on it to speed Wyatt up. But I still have not really seen "driving", maybe "cruising". When he is pumped up, he will run very fast on the dogwalk but typically will forget about the target part.

Last night, we had a good fast run going and I sent him to the dog walk at a distance. He really ran fast and stopped at the end. It reminded me of what you see with a really good Border Collie. I really savor these moments when you get a preview of what it can and will be.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hold It

Sometimes, dogs can really surprise you.

I was thinking that I really should work on mouthing dumbbells. Wyatt tends to mouth dumbbells and gloves, especially the leather and metal dumbbells and the gloves. I tried what my teacher recommended in class, which is to gently hold his mouth shut saying hold. As soon as I try and manipulate Wyatt's muzzle, he backs up and starts to bark at me. This gradually deteriorates into me chasing after him trying to get him to take the dumbbell.

So I tried it tonight after a long break from working on mouthing with the same results.

Occasionally an idea comes penetrates through the fog of past experience, all the books I have read, and all the advice I have been given.

I have a 1 finger signal which mean stay or don't move. So I thought I would try and shape a hold by clicking him when he does not mouth. Well, I combined that with the click for the hold and he seemed to really get it! He started to hold the dumbbell perfectly still and waited for me to take it.

This is not the first time that I have neglected to use a command he already knows in a new context to get what I am looking for.

The last time it was trying to get a sit in front with the dumbbell. I kept trying a sit command and he would drop the dumbbell. Well, one day I thought to use the front command which means to come straight in front of me and sit. Sure enough, that was the ticket.

Don't forget to use the commands your dog already knows in a new context!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Some logistics...

I am going to try and write daily Monday through Friday. Since we compete on most weekends, I will not normally get a chance to write on weekends.

You will see on the right a link that says specify to Good Whippet. If you click on it and have an RSS friendly browser, you can tell when the blog has been updated. Your bookmark will have a number next to it indicating the number of new articles.

I am considering using Google AdSense to help support my writing. This would means there were would be ads on the blog. But I will have to see what it looks like. I don't want to have a commercial look and feel. That is not what this blog is about. On the other hand, if it helps support my writing everyday, that is a good thing.

Thanks to all faithful readers of this blog and best wishes for your own dog training.

Any don't forget to comment on blog entries! Click where it says "0 Comments".


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Latest Agility Trial

We had a good weekend at the AKC trial in West Springfield. Wyatt earned his NA and one Open Jumpers leg. We had a great jumpers run today. We got 2 refusals at the weaves before he smoked them but the rest of the run was fabulous and included a tricky serpentine into a pinwheel.

They had run throughs Friday night. I did 4 runs even though my ankle was killing me. It seems to be fine now.

Some things I learned this weekend.

1) Don't lean down and try and baby sit contacts. Keep my shoulders forward. Do keep verbal and eye contact turning head but not shoulders (just like obedience).

2) Really watch what he is exposed to before the run. Keep stimulation to a minimum. On the first run of the weekend, I did not watch the surrounding well enough and had him in a high stimulation area and he blew 2 contacts.

3) Give him room before weaves sending him ahead with a go ahead command quickly catching up once he gets the entrance.

Dawn and Patriot had a super weekend earning 3 of 3 Q's and a fourth place with some really nice, clean runs.

Here are the boys resting up this morning.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

10 Best Dog Training Habits

As an elementary school teacher, I am required by law to always state things positively. Hence, as a balance to my 10 Worst Dog Training Habits, here are my 10 Best Dog Training Habits.

1) I work Wyatt at least twice a day.
2) I study different methods and try and find the best one for Wyatt and me.
3) I help out at trials, class, and help my various dog clubs.
4) I back up or quit if things are not going well.
5) I take the long view and don't just go for a Q (anymore).
6) I use only positive training methods.
7) I proof whenever I can.
8) I focus intently on solving hard training problems patiently over a long period of time.
9) I enjoy training.
10) I try to suggest or share my experiences rather than lecturing others.