What’s the Secret to Getting a Close Front?

My answer — chin rests! Incorporating chin rests into your fronts causes the dog to shift his weight to his front end and encourages a very tight tuck sit. This process can take a little work at the beginning, but will pay off in the long run!

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How to Get Perfect Position Changes

Position changes are super important in both obedience and rally! Your dog needs to do position changes both in heel position (without going wide) and in front of you (without creeping in). Platforms can help teach your dog both of those concepts!

The position changes are sit, down, and stand. Your dog should be able to do these in any order — in other words a sit to down, down to sit, stand to down, stand to sit, sit to stand, and down to stand.

You'll need a platform large enough for your dog to stand and lay down on. It doesn't need to be as narrow as a sit platform, since some dogs like to stand with their rear legs a bit wider than the front legs. It can even be something like an agility table, as long as your dog can lay down on it.

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1220 Hits

Improving Your Heeling the Easy Way!!

Does your dog heel wide? Does he forge or sit crooked? Is she wrapping around your body? It's likely that your reward placement has contributed to these problems!

Heeling is such a complicated behavior. Pair that with the fact that dogs want to go where the rewards come from, and you can have a mess on your hands pretty quickly!

When I help my students with heeling troubleshooting, so often the fix, or at least part of it, is changing the reward placement. It's pretty incredible what a change this can make!

Many people hold treats in their right hands, and they reward by reaching across the front of their bodies and treating the dog, either from the right hand or by passing it to the left. Generally when I see people give the dog the treat, it's being delivered with the dog's head wrapped in front of the handler's left leg. Reward this way a few dozen times, and you'll see your dog wrapping and forging in order to get closer to where those treats are coming from!

Another common way to reward the dog for heeling is by spitting food. Sounds like a great way to teach the dog attention, right? Here's the problem - in order for the dog to see your face, he has to forge and wrap.

You can see how rewarding this way can set up the dog for some issues, yet most people aren't even aware that they are doing it! Thankfully, it's a simple fix that can make a big difference!

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1699 Hits

Building a Breathtaking Back Up!

Whenever the Back Up 3 Steps appears on the course map at rally trials, collective groans echo through the Excellent crowd. Against a wall, the back up is great, but take away that wall or gate and everything goes south.

The good news is, you can have a beautiful back up! This process is how I teach the back. If you break this skill down, you will build a breathtaking back up in just a short amount of time!

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2636 Hits

What to expect at an Obedience Trial

Starting a new sport is exciting. Entering your first trial can be a little frightening. Everything is new and you don't know what to expect. The more information you have ahead of time the better you will feel. Here is a little guide on how to prepare for your first obedience trial and how things run once you get there.

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1503 Hits

Get in the Rally Ring - How to Enter a Rally Trial and What to Expect When You Get There

If you've never entered a rally trial before, it can be a bit overwhelming! In this blog I'll lay out the steps for entering a trial and knowing what to expect when you walk in the door.

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1206 Hits

Delightful Downs for Rally and Obedience

The down seems like such a simple behavior, but your dog's ability to be able to swiftly and smoothly down will save you points in the rally or obedience ring. You'll want to make sure your dog knows how to down from a sit and from a stand on a verbal cue only.

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Discover the Fun of the Master Rally Class!

Are you a little intimidated by the master signs, with all those spins and sends?

There's no reason to be! Although some of the signs seem intimidating, most of the master signs are just building off skills that you already know from advanced and excellent. Many signs are simply chaining multiple advanced or excellent signs together, or adding some distance or speed. 

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733 Hits

Want To Do Better in Rally? 5 Tips to Improve Your Score!

Everyone would like to get better scores in the ring! It might be surprising to learn that many points are lost to preventable things, like completing the sign incorrectly. Handler errors are by far the most common reason for deductions in rally. Read on to learn five of the most common handler errors that I see in AKC Rally.

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2926 Hits

Are You Really Ready? Three Boxes to Check Before You Step in the Ring!

Thinking about stepping into the ring can be overwhelming and scary, but knowing that you and your dog are prepared will ease your nerves. Read on to find out if you are really ready to get in the ring!

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1298 Hits

Want Straighter Fronts? Here’s How!

If you compete in obedience or rally (or both), you've probably spent a fair amount of time training fronts. As you progress through the levels, the number of fronts increases, and with it the potential for lost points. If your fronts could use some straightening, or if you're training a young dog, keep reading to get some tips for perfecting those...
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3631 Hits

Want a Relaxed Down Stay? Stop Rewarding It!

My young golden Excel was super quick to learn stay. He'd lay down on his station or on the ground at my feet and stay there – all while staring at me intensely. 

If I ignored him, he'd sigh loudly or flip onto his hip or put his chin on the ground. I remember how he would purposely look away from me, with his eyes rolled toward me to see if I was going to give him a treat. Or he'd look away and snap his head back toward me in anticipation of the reward. He was offering all the relaxation behaviors I spent months rewarding him for in an attempt to train a relaxed down stay. 

Instead of a calm dog I had a dog that was constantly working, offering behaviors, and seeking reinforcement. Not the picture I wanted.

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8142 Hits

The tiny change that can make all the difference: Strategic reward placement

Picture a training session. Your dog does the correct behavior, and you reward them. You did your job, right?

If your dog listened to your cue, and you gave the dog a treat, then all the important parts were taken care of... because marking and rewarding the behavior is the important part, right? Or is it? 

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Planning Ahead: Getting Reinforcers Off Your Body

The process of getting reinforcers (treats or toys) off your body in preparation for entering an obedience or rally ring is something it's easy to overlook and rush. Most dogs act very differently when their handler has treats versus when the handler does not have treats, yet many people go straight from training with treats in their pockets to leaving treats on their crate and going into the ring.

When the dog starts off doing well in the ring, but then his or her performance degrades as the dog realizes that s/he is not going to get a reward, it can be very frustrating.

As the dog's performance gets worse, the handler tends to get confused and upset, emotions the dog can feel, leading to a further decline in behavior. As you can imagine, this can become a vicious cycle, and leaves the handler wondering why his/her dog shuts down in the ring.

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3737 Hits

Two Left Feet: An Alternative Approach to Footwork When Heeling

I have been teaching handling to obedience students for a long time. Some students have no issue incorporating and even changing their handling to use specific footwork. But most students have a lot of trouble keeping their footwork consistent. 

It might be easier without the dog and without a judge calling the heeling pattern. But insert the dog or the judge into the picture and you can get a stressed and paralyzed handler that get tied up into foot placement thoughts when there is a lot more handling to think about. These handlers worked many days, weeks, months, and some had worked years perfecting the footwork without the dog. 

Why does this happen?

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2448 Hits

Have a Rally Dog that Disconnects in the Ring? Here are 5 Tips to Stay Connected!

It's not easy to navigate a rally course while staying connected to your dog. Many dogs need a lot of connection from their handlers, and if we don't give it to them they will often disconnect and their attention will wander. When there are a whole bunch of distractions nearby, we don't want our dogs disconnecting!

I've put together a few tips for saying connected to your dog while navigating a Rally course.

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Training Smart: Adding Fun To Your Obedience Training

This is an excerpt from one of Julie Symons' Obedience Games lectures along with a few other thoughts about dog training!

When it comes to dog training, everything we need to train and prepare for trialing can be overwhelming. Skills, precision, ring confidence, OUR confidence, weaning off primary and secondary reinforcers, etc. We all have goals and ambitions and want to do well.

We start that journey by building a strong emotional foundation when training our dogs. First and foremost we want a happy, motivated, secure, and engaged dog!! I don't worry about a lot of precision early on. The key is to prepare your dog by training smart and reinforce improvement on the way to perfection. The path to perfection or as close as we can get is the journey you take with your dog, not something you achieve all at once early in their career.

What does "training smart" mean?

It means being present when training and having a plan. It's not training when you don't feel well or in a bad mood. It means to make what training you can get to count and make a difference toward progressing.

If you don't have a lot of time to train, then make the most of the time you do have to make it productive and effective. Don't rush or get sloppy.

Make it your goal to rehearse correct behavior and be consistent with criteria as much as you can. And remember, no dog trainer trains perfectly. You constantly have to make quick decisions. To paraphrase Bob Bailey … you need to make a decision as the next one is right around the corner!

So you have to decide what/when to mark, when to release (ie., to avoid a crooked front), when to ask for more, etc. Don't fret over missed decisions, just get ready for the next one. Make it your goal to grow and expand as a trainer by experimenting and approaching it like an art form!

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Rally – A Great Intro to the Ring and to Obedience!

Are you looking for a nice gentle way to get in the competition ring? Or maybe you want to do some obedience, but would like to get your feet wet before jumping right in. Perhaps you've been playing around in TEAM and are ready to see what you can do with your newly learned skills. Do you have an older dog that wants to keep doing stuff, but maybe obedience is too much?

Rally can be the perfect answer for you!

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2601 Hits

Teaching Better Greetings: What to do if Your Dog is Jumping on People

Let's talk about jumping up on people.

First, let's consider the dog's point of view. If your dog does manage to keep four feet on the floor, they might not be noticed! They cannot express their excitement at your presence! In contrast, if they jump on you, they will get noticed, whether you appreciate that or not. Sometimes any attention is better than no attention at all, so let this be a generic piece of advice: train your eye (and your response) to notice what goes right with your dog rather than focusing on what goes wrong.

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Is Silence Disconnect? Introducing Silence to Obedience Work

 A student recently asked how to introduce silence into her obedience work without her dog feeling punished. As a long-time obedience competitor, I do not consider silence to be punishing, but it does appear that some people see it that way. Where is the confusion coming from?

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