Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Popping Up On Downs

I was very frustrated yesterday when Wyatt kept popping up on his downs. It seems to happen most when I when walking away from him initially. It also happened once when I was out of sight. I have no clue why this happening and it is a new behavior. I never saw this in novice. I did treat him a lot for just being in sit when I would gently touch him all over to increase stress a bit while rewarding him for being in a sit. I thought it might be related to cold but he is still doing it now in the Spring. I got mad and used a very stern voice to "make" him sit back down. I guess I need to back up and go for shorted periods, stay closer, and reward him when he is staying. I am also walking away, circling around, etc so he will hold his sit no matter what I am doing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Negative Training

I was surprised to talk to a few people here at the National that still use aversive training techniques. One lady, who has been in whippets forever, was trying to get her dog to do a down for the first time. She told him DOWN and when he did not, she violently pulled his leash down to force him into a down. I yelled a her to "Get some treats" but she kept this up for a while. When your dog has no idea what you want, how can you possibly punish him for not knowing what to do? It was hard to watch.

Another handler, who is actually very good and has fantastic heeling feels that ear pinches are necessary just to they know they have to retrieve. She also thumps her dog on the chest when she "makes a mistake." She wanted to demonstrate this to me so she put her dog into a sit, paid no attention to the dog, and thumped the dog on the chest after a few minutes when the dog went into a down. They are a very impressive team. I guess her dog is not 100% reliable on sits and down and she also uses rewards. So I guess a mixed system or even an all aversive system can work but I believe that an all positive training is the best way to train your dog.

In the first case, the trainer did not even know how to use aversives correctly (if there is such a thing). You must be absolutely sure your dog understands the behavior. I think that is very difficult. How many times have I thought Wyatt understood a behavior only to discover that he was cueing off an unintended body language, was confused by my inconsistent signals or, most commonly, too nervous to attend to me fully because I had not proofed him sufficiently?

I can just imagine how quickly I would ruin Wyatt, who is super sensitive to pain, and super aversive to pain, if I used some of the methods I saw this week. I remember when he would not tug with me for over a year when I accidently stepped on his foot one time when tugging.

I guess people do what they know and have been taught. Luckily, most new people are being trained in 100% positive systems these days and those are the super happy, super attentive teams I saw in obedience yesterday.

Monday, April 21, 2008

At the Nationals

I am at the American Whippet Club National Specialty for the performance part of the show. We had lure coursing yesterday, It was good to be outside and watching the dogs run. It is quite a sight when the whippets are on, it is a lovely sight. We have agility today and I am looking forward to that. It was fun to help out but I do miss competing. The flight out had two stops so I decided not to fly the dogs.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

First Agility Trial of the Year

We did our first agility trial of the year last weekend. I was generally pleased with the results. Wyatt got 3 Qs of 12. He places 2 or 3rd in each Q. Patriot and Dawn also ran well with 3 or 4 Q and some placements. I was hoping our Q rate would be higher but it was better than our last NADAC trial. On Saturday, Wyatt was not lame, but was a bit tentative from a cut he got last week. I was nervous all week before the trial and wondering if he could run or not. Our first run Saturday was terrible contacts. However, since it was NADAC, I could take him back. This seemed to result in better contacts the rest of the day. He missed a few Qs but just one little thing. We dropped one bar in Jumpers, one off course in regular, and got 2/3 challenges in Chances. Sunday was a bad contacts day but I did take him back when there was an issue. We did not Q in elite tunnelers but had an awesome run. I was working 20+ feet away from him. He is so fast in tunnelers that I can't work close to him but it is really cool to steer your dog from such a long distance with any crosses or RFPs.

We ended up with a Q in open weavers (first leg), a Q in elite tunnelers with a YPS of 6.28, and a Q in elite jumpers (NATCH leg).

The snow melted back home and I tried some contacts and it does seem that Wyatt understands an independent 2 on, 2 off. However, I have not been able to get this at trials. I plan a private lesson with some NADAC style contacts to see if I can finally figure this out. We will do only NADAC all this year so I can always fix a contact.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pretrial Routines

What is the best way to prepare your do for an obedience trial in the weeks and minutes before you go in?

I think it depends on the dog. Some need to be pumped up and some need
to be calmed down. For Wyatt, who needs the latter, I found the
following things seem to help.

Get there an hour before.
Cover the crate.
Keep him with another dog in the crate.
Walk him all around the rings and the place well before we go in.
Keep the warm up very short and sweet; take him out as late as possible.
Proof everywhere and as much as possible before entering.
Massage his face and ears when waiting to do in.
Do just few simple warm ups for attention. Don't panic if there is an issue! Just back up and keep it simple and fun.
Show him where the treat jackpot will be after he runs.

Being relaxed and confident is key as well. If you
aren't, fake it so the dog does not know! We tend to behave differently
in voice and body when stressed and dogs read our voice and body
language very well.

As the trial approaches, I gradually do more "run throughs" at home. I
will do the whole routine just like it happens at a trial including
taking leashes off, entering the ring, etc. At first, I treat between
every exercize and praise a lot like I would at the trial. Then I treat
every other exercize and build up to treating only at the beginning and
end. I fade out talking to Wyatt during the exercizes as well. If you
"cold turkey" stop treating and talking to you dog at a trial when they
are already stressed being in a new place, you will likely lose a lot.
They may be thinking they are doing something wrong because you are
acting so differently. As I mentioned before, I have Wyatt trained to
expect a nice jackpot at the end of routine. I show him the jackpot
before we go in and we go right to it after and he knows to expect it
and pulls on the leash to get the jackpot after we are done. I do the
same thing in agility.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I took the dogs for a run yesterday. It had been warm so I tried the woods but we were breaking through some icy snow in spots, especially me. Wyatt got a cut on his rear leg, a pretty good one so I worried that we will be able to run NADAC this weekend. He will probably heal up enough in time but I am not sure. Seems to never fail that something happens before an important trial. I just need to wait and see what happens but it is hard for me not worry about him and also worry about not being able to compete. Of course, it was totally my fault for taking them through that kind of snow. Next time, I will turn back if I see this type of conditions.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I have been a little frustrated with Wyatt's and Patriot's sit and downs, which we have been practising religiously every day. Feeling frustrated is always a good reminder (if I remember) to take a step back and try to see what is going on and to back up a little bit if needed. I am sure I forgetting to see progress as well.

We have NADAC trial this weekend and Aidan will be with my parents. Should be fun though there is a forecast of rain for both days.

Speaking of Aidan, he is obsessed with agility. He says "Wyatt, jump" and "Go, Wyatt" all the time as he looks outside at the jumps (still have covered with snow.) He also looks at issues of Clean Run with me for long stretches and says "Wyatt, jump" when he sees each picture. I have been going some jumps in the basement with all of us going over the jump. Aidan's idea of dog training is holding a treat and running around the house with the dogs in pursuit. He does not want to ever give the treat to the dogs but will eat himself when he wears himself out!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Some Wyatt and Aidan Photos

I have the training and blogging blahs so here are a couple of cute shots of Wyatt and Aidan.