The Ultimate Goal: A Happy Joyful Dog in Competition (And Why That's Hard to Achieve)

My ultimate goal when trialing is to have the same dog in the ring that I have in training. A dog that is happy and joyful and having a blast. 

I think we all want that. And we train really, really hard for a very, very long time to get that. 

And then we compete and don't get it. And we are very disappointed and frustrated. And to be honest, a little confused. I mean, what the heck happened?? We worked soooo hard!! We made everything sooo much fun!! And when we train at home, the dog is sooo happy!! We start to question whether our dog is cut out for this. Whether the dog can handle the "stress" of the ring. Maybe this just isn't our sport. 

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1197 Hits

FREE Webinar with Petra Ford - In the House: Training in Small Spaces

Training in small spaces is an incredibly valuable training tool and my dogs think it's a blast! Having trouble with an exercise? Have a piece(s) that could use more confidence or animation? Have behaviors that require precision, but you don't want to lose enthusiasm? I'll show you how to turn them into behaviors your dog loves and finds self-reinforcing. Small spaces are perfect for building engagement, working with reinforcers off your body, laying the foundation for distraction work, strengthening ring entrances, transitions, and more! Time for a change of scenery. Join me to learn how to optimize training in small spaces.

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2168 Hits

Precise Position Changes: Foundations

Position changes are a skill needed in both rally and obedience. Taking the time to teach a good foundation will make the more advanced position changes much easier. In this blog, I'm working with Excel, who wasn't quite two when I videoed these sessions.

Excel is a dog who finds movement very reinforcing, and therefore, stillness is difficult. For this reason, I spend a lot of time reinforcing him for doing nothing. This helps with anticipation and also helps him keep his body quiet and still. If your dog is like Excel, reinforce for waiting for the next cue and stillness even more than you reward the movement behaviors.

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1249 Hits

Mastering Lateral Movement in Front: Beginning Steps

Teaching your dog advanced commands can be a rewarding experience, and one valuable skill for rally is lateral movement in front of you. This blog post will explore a training approach involving mats or props to guide your dog through this challenging but achievable behavior.

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1126 Hits

Unleash Your Memory: Tips and Tricks to Remember Rally Courses

Rally is a fun and captivating dog sport that requires not only obedience skills but also excellent memory recall abilities. Not only do you as a handler need to remember how to properly execute the signs, but remembering the rally course is essential for seamless performance and achieving top scores. In this blog post, we will explore practical strategies to help you improve your memory and successfully remember rally courses. Let's dive in and unleash your memory power!

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1818 Hits

Mastering Side Steps in Rally: A Step-by-Step Guide to Precision Lateral Movement

Mastering side steps in rally can be a source of immense joy for both the participant and the audience. While teaching a proficient side step may pose some challenges, the effort invested is worthwhile.

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3129 Hits

Attitude and Precision - You Can Have Both!!

Is precision important to you in rally or obedience? It's true, most of us would like our dogs to be precise and accurate! Sometimes, however, the way we go about achieving that goal of precise behaviors can affect the dog's attitude. So how can we get both precise behaviors and happy dogs?

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Heel! Location Specific Reinforcement Cues For Improving Position

Location specific reinforcement cues are extremely helpful for improving position while heeling. Because where you deliver the treats affects where the dog wants to be, you can use that to your advantage for whatever tendencies your dog might have.

Reinforcement cues tell the dog that he or she is right. Location-specific reinforcement cues take that a step farther by delivering the reward in a specific way or area, therefore affecting how the dog might perform the behavior in future repetitions. Because dogs are very efficient creatures, they will quickly figure out how to most effectively get the treat. Therefore, they tend to gravitate towards where the treat comes from. If we can be strategic about reward placement, we can affect the tendencies of the dog over time.

Let's look at some common location-specific reward markers in heeling.

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2435 Hits

How to Handle Mistakes in the Rally Ring

You're in the middle of a rally run, and something goes wrong. Your dog makes an unexpected mistake, and you're left frantically wondering what to do! Making those split decisions in the moment can be hard, but those decisions can make the difference between a qualifying and non-qualifying run! Let's talk about the best way to handle some of the more common mistakes that happen in the rally ring! 

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2458 Hits

Props for Precise Fronts!

Why would you want to use props to teach front? Because, used PROPerly, they can make your life a lot easier! Keep reading to find out why I love using props to teach fronts!

In my opinion, it's easier to fade a prop than it is to fade extraneous body movements and cues. Trying to show your dog where "front" is with treats and your hands isn't easy!

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1927 Hits

The 3 D's and Why They Matter in Dog Training

Have you heard of the 3 D's of dog training? It's a pretty popular term that many trainers use. The 3 D's refer to Distraction, Duration, and Distance. These are one way to categorize the difficulties or challenges in dog training.

Distraction refers to both the environment and things in the environment that are distracting. Generalization (moving to a new environment to help your dog learn the behavior more thoroughly in all settings) is a form of distraction.

Duration is how long the dog is performing the behavior. It can also refer to the number of reps of a behavior, or even how many behaviors are chained together at one time.

Distance can mean a couple of different things. Distance between the dog and the handler is one part. The other is distance from a distraction(s). The farther the dog is away from a distraction, the easier it will be for the dog to perform behaviors.

If you think of Distraction, Duration, and Distance as challenges, it's easy to remember that you should only increase one at a time. However in practice, people often try to increase the challenges too quickly, or increase two or even all of them at the same time. In order for your dog to be successful, you want to be sure that two out of three are as close to baseline as possible.

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Got Stay? Walking Around Your Dog

Many dogs struggle with the handler walking around the dog during a stay exercise. The key to success for stays is to break it down! Stay training consists of slowly and carefully increasing difficulty to ensure success.

When you first start stays, you want to make sure you are really splitting, meaning you are breaking down the behavior into tiny little pieces. At first I don't move my feet at all. I make sure I get some duration on the behavior before I start moving. When I do start moving I just start with weight shifts, rocking back and forth on each foot.

Then I'll take a tiny step. 

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1549 Hits

Spins in Heel Position for Rally Masters

The more ways we can incorporate fun moves into heeling, the more enjoyment our dogs get out of it! I love teaching the dog to spin in heel! I use the left spin all the time. Admittedly, I'm not nearly as fond of the right spin and only teach that one for the rally master class.

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2115 Hits

Rally: Teach Yourself or Take a Class?

If you want to learn the sport of K9 Rally, there are so many great resources out there! I see this question all the time: "I want to learn rally, where can I start?" There are YouTube videos, phone apps, free blogs and articles, and so much more. So why consider taking a rally class or working with a coach? 

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1601 Hits

Master the Moving Down!

The moving down is incorporated into both obedience and rally exercises. Having a prompt response to the down cue, even in motion, is important but sometimes difficult to achieve.

Let's talk through some games that you can use to teach or improve your dog's moving downs!

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2067 Hits

Boring Fronts? Use These Games to Mix it Up!

Fronts are one of those behaviors that just need practice. There's no way around it. However, practicing fronts doesn't have to be boring! I play all sorts of front games with my dogs to keep fronts fresh and fun!

You can play these games with or without props, depending on what stage your dog is at. Play with several different props to increase generalization skills. Pick and choose which ones you like, or play them all, just have fun!

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2806 Hits

Competition Dog Sport Trial Prep: Does Generalization Really Matter?

I have been spending the last two years playing with and training my young Labrador Retriever, Dare. He just turned 2 in July and he is a lot of fun!

We are just getting started dipping our toes into the competition world and trial prep is at the front of my mind. The inability to get the same performance in the trial ring that we have in class or at home is a source of frustration for many a handler. That feeling of complete helplessness in a trial ring when you and your dog are disconnected, your dog is struggling, you feel eyes (real or imaginary) burning holes of judgement in your back, and you can't understand why your dog is behaving the way he is, is not a fun place to be. I have been there. If you don't believe me, here is proof. Me with my Novice A dog in the obedience ring.

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3011 Hits

Position Changes Out in Front: Exploring the Sit

Teaching your dog to sit seems so simple until you start thinking about the different ways a dog can sit. There is a stand to sit and a down to sit. In either of those position changes, the dog can either plant his front end or his rear end.

When I'm thinking about teaching my dog position changes, I try to think about the final behavior. If you do obedience or rally, you will need to teach your dog sit in front and in heel. Exercises that include a sit in front of you are the signal exercise, command discrimination, and several higher-level rally exercises. You'll see a sit in heel much more often, such as during heeling patterns and command discrimination.

Let's talk about how to teach the sit position!

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7121 Hits

Master the Moving Stand in Obedience and Rally!

There are several ways you can teach your dog a moving stand. One way that tends to work well is using a front foot target.

I start by warming up the dog on the front foot target. In order to use this training method, your dog will need to have value for going to and staying on the target.

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Know the Signs for Higher Rally Scores!

If I could give you one piece of advice that could earn you a higher rally score, it would be "know the signs!" By far, the biggest reason that points are lost is due to not knowing how to properly do the signs. It seems like such a simple task, but in reality many rally signs are very similar to others, especially as you move up through the levels. It's very easy to get them confused. If you perform a sign incorrectly, you will lose 10 points. Being distracted for a moment trying to figure out what you should do can also cause lost points.

You want to know the signs so well that you can recognize them quickly upon first glance. If you need to read the sign and study where the stop signs are or think about it much, your dog will feel that attention shift and may disconnect or falter.

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6364 Hits