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.