Here is part one of “How to do a Handstand”. There are a few good YouTube videos out there already, but I found them a lot more difficult than I anticipated. There was a lot of work that went into using the back legs before we even got to the strength portion. This first video covers some of my struggles and solutions, compete with cat cameos in almost every scene. Enjoy!
I made a quick video for how to send your dog to a mat, bed or crate. The principles are the same as for any send-away. I’ve broken it down into easy steps, and you can see how my “dog” works through the problem. Of course, you’ll need to refine the behavior to have a word and duration if you so please. I wasn’t too worried about duration with this one, but I think the shaping aspect is fairly clear.
We had a lovely Easter holiday up in Whitianga, and we even snuck the dogs down to Cathedral Cove (aka Narnia). Sadie thoroughly enjoyed the surf, and we had a good time doing Recallers games on the beach. Overall it was a good dog-training trip, which tested me on many levels.
On Tuesday I was asked to do a demonstration of dog tricks at club, which thoroughly got me nervous as I haven’t taught anything new or exciting for awhile. Atlas’s handstand is coming along, but my main trick dog, Sadie, is pretty rusty. We also struggled with some basic commands while attending class–mostly due to disuse. So with that in mind I plan to start actually producing instructional videos and articles for others to read, rather than blogging about the mundane.
So with that in mind I am going to go off and start editing some video!
Tugging is something I have always struggled with, especially with my older dog Sadie. Sadie will happily work for food and goes nuts for a ball being thrown. When she was a puppy I believed, and was told from numerous sources, that tugging is bad. Tugging makes a dog become aggressive or possessive, tugging is bad for their teeth, and so on. Many domestic dog owners still believe this and don’t think that tugging is an appropriate game to play–yet it is one of the major reinforcers used by sport-dog owners.
Tugging can be shaped such that a dog who isn’t much into tugging will tug. I followed Susan Garrett’s instructions on how to make a motivating toy and other trainer’s advice for building that tug drive with Sadie. Eventually I created a weak behavior which isn’t very rewarding, reliable or useful for training. Sadie was always looking for the ball, the treat, or dropping the toy and hoping I’d throw it. My next dog I was sure to make tug early in life. Atlas loves to tug, he loves to tug and bark and scream and go insane such that he can no longer focus on anything. Tugging went from useful to something to avoid if I wanted to keep working him.
Thus I ended up with two dogs on either end of the spectrum: doesn’t like to tug and likes to tug too much. Yet both would happily be rewarded with food or something else. Tugging itself was not as rewarding to them as many other things. Now that I am part of Recallers I am revisting the tug to see if I can create a rewarding training behavior.
Stay tuned to see what happens…
I think it is so important for dog trainers to be able to step back and ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing. Sometimes things don’t go the way you plan… it’s how we recover and keep moving forward which is more important! Planning lessons is also an essential part of dog training, especially if you’ve never trained the behavior before. If you are unsure of the mechanics, your exact criteria, or you are just a novice, then you need to practice and plan before your dog even starts the exercise!
As we move into week two of Recallers I found myself floundering, lost and confused. While I have been following someone else’s lessons, they haven’t been working as I excepted. I am doing so many different exercises with my dogs that I find myself overwhelmed, and I know I am being ineffectual. So it’s time to regroup!
In regards to Recallers I need to really step up my game and train three times a day for five minutes. On average I am only managing 1.5 sessions per day. Additionally, I have been trying to do everything with both dogs, which I think is only doubling my inefficiency. From here on out I will only be working with Sadie through Recallers. For the next eight week I will be following the program to the T, and doing my best to really get my moneys worth.
This means that Sadie will go on walks on a long line every day, twice a day, by herself (not with Atlas!) so that we can practice. We will also work on Crate Games extensively to try and fix her naughty crate behavior. I will also tug with her 3 times a day. Of course, my goal remains the same for Sadie: to make her enjoy training. This Recallers experience really is to teach me how to make her life less stressful and more fun. A nicer recall would be a plus, but that is not my objective.
With Atlas, who already has a great recall and good understanding of most of the exercises we are doing through Recallers, I will be focusing on manners. His anxiety and whining has been managed for this whole life. I keep saying “I’ll train that… later”. Well later is now. For the next eight weeks we will be focusing on being silent when excited, even in fun situations. Additionally, we will be focusing on his handstand with daily strengthening drills. I will walk him once a day by himself, and bike once a day for more exercise (he’s getting chubby). I’ll also be working on his tugs once per day.
The follow up to my distraction post has to be the reinforcement article. What makes your dog tick? What is really reinforcing for them? Once you have made a list then it will be easier to strategically implement these rewards in your training. It’s a good exercise to do every once in awhile, even if you think you know what your dog likes their preferences may have changed over time. Below are the lists for my dogs, and you can check out more ideas from Susan Garrett’s List of Reinforcements. Each reward has been graded A to E to determine which one the dog prefers.
Check out this picture of my dogs. Atlas is ready to chow down on that food, while Sadie will probably go for the ball. Sadie looks a bit stressed by the whole situation–so that’s another thing we can work on.
Kibble – D
Dog roll – B
Cheese – A
Cat biscuits – C
Bread – B
Potato chips – B
Pizza crust – B
Mince – A
Chicken (cooked) – A
Tennis balls – A
Other ball-toys – B
Soft rope tugs – C
Hard rope tugs – D
Plush squeaky toys – C
Sticks – D
Plastic bottles – B
Squeaky frizbee – C
Leashes – B
Shoes – C
Socks – C
Fetch – A
Chasing dogs – B
Tugging with me – C
Playing by themselves – B
Being chased by other dogs – A
Petting – D
Swimming – B
Wrestling with humans – C
Jumps – C
Weave polls – B
Tunnels – C
Kibble – C
Dog roll – A
Cheese – A
Cat biscuits – B
Bread – A
Potato chips – B
Pizza crust – A
Mince – A
Chicken (cooked) -A
Tennis balls – B
Other ball-toys – C
Soft rope tugs – B
Hard rope tugs – C
Plush squeaky toys – C
Sticks – D
Plastic bottles – D
Squeaky frizbee – A
Leashes – D
Shoes – E
Socks – E
Fetch – B
Chasing dogs – A
Tugging with me – B
Playing by themselves – C
Chasing the cat – B
Being chased by other dogs – B
Petting – C
Swimming – E
Wrestling with humans – B
Retrieving dumbbell – A
Jumps – A
Tunnels – B
You can easily see the differences in each dog, as I have high-lighted their favorite rewards. It takes a lot more to motivate Sadie, tennis balls aside, where Atlas will take most rewards gladly.
I cannot believe I have never seen this video before! You will need to view it on YouTube, as ABC has prevented embedding. Sad it only got a million views on YouTube, as it is some clever advertising. I hope you enjoy a bit of silliness on this Monday morning.
When I first saw The Yellow Dog Facebook page a year ago. I was thrilled with the idea… a way for dog owners to communicate to other dog owners that some dogs need space. Here’s a summary from their website:
The Yellow Dog Project is a global movement for parents of dogs that need space (aka DINOS, Dogs In Need Of Space)… The Yellow Dog Project was created to bring awareness to the general public about dogs who need space while training, recovering from surgery, or being rehabilitated.
At the time I was ready to jump on board… but were only 5,000 likes to the page. Though the Yellow Dog Project was a fantastic idea, it had yet to go viral. I liked it anyway, and hoped that one day it would become a REAL phenomenon. Today was a good first step, as an article was published in USA Today.
The Facebook page still only has 15,000 likes. My personal hypothesis is that you need 50,000+ to make a video go viral, but who knows about real life “memes”. I fully back the Yellow Dog project, and encourage everyone to check out their page.
Today we went to a meeting just teeming with dogs. At least 30+ dogs were running around off leash, children playing, and tons of people! It was a great opportunity for me to practice focus with my dogs. There were some stellar moments in our performance, and some other… less stellar moments. The two dogs responded differently to recalls, and both were challenged by the various situations.
Working on improving my recalls means reflecting on what distractions are most, and least, challenging. Here is my list of all the things which could affect my dogs’ recall:
|Other dogs nearby (on leash)
Other dogs nearby (off leash)
Being chased by another dog
Another dog trying to initiate play
Another dog playing nearby
Chasing another dog
Wrestling with another dog
Fighting with another dog
Another person nearby (stranger)
Another person nearby (familiar)
Other dogs training nearby (with treats)
Other dogs training nearby (with toys)
Chasing horses or livestock
Sniffing the ground
Being pet by a stranger
Rolling in something
Knock on door
Toys on floor
|Cat nearby (familiar)
Cat nearby (stranger)
Eating food off the ground
Eating faeces off the ground
Dinner being put on ground
Food being dropped nearby
Container of food on ground
Dead animals on ground
Someone walking by the front gate
|Chasing the ball
Playing with toys
Toys being thrown
Dinner being put on ground
Leashes being put on
Opening the front door
Opening the fridge
Children running by
Family member entering house
Another dog being recalled
Having toy in mouth
Another dog being fed dinner
I have ranked these distractions 0 to 10; 0 being not a distraction at all, and 10 being I don’t even try to recall because I know it will fail. I like to think of the rank as the “failure rate”, i.e. a distraction with a score of 9 will fail 90% of the time. Each dog has their own list of distractions… and it is interesting to look at their similarities as well as differences. Sadie’s top (level 10) distractions are chasing rabbits, eating poop or food off of the ground, being chase by another dog, and chasing the ball. Atlas’s top distractions are chasing rabbits, eating poop or food off of the ground, and chasing another dog.
To ensure success only low-level distractions will be used for recall training at first. The least interesting things for my dogs are children, joggers, bikers, and our cat. While working on retraining the “come”, I am conscious that I am using the word “come” and not the dog’s name. I am going to do my best to only say the word once… no matter what happens.
I finally did it–I am part of Susan Garrett’s Recallers 4.0! I am ready to make a positive change in my approach to dog training, to learn some new tools, and to improve the lives of my dogs–especially Sadie. The course officially starts on the Monday, so I filming lots of “pre-recallers” this week.
My goals for this course are:
1) Have my dogs be cheerful engaged when competing, rather than being over-excited and stressed.
2) Improve my ability to make training into fun, short, simple games.
3) Have the dogs tug and play with me, rather than by themselves.
4) See Sadie smile!
As you can see from the picture, Sadie is none-too happy about life. We’ve had a rough week and we are both at the end of our rope. Something has been lost in communication between us, as she has taken to simply lying down and giving up. I hope I am able to rethink my techniques and create a better future for all of us!
While the Harlem Shake meme is not my favourite–due to poorly made spin-offs–this particular one makes me smile. Most of that smile is coming from the fact that the SPCA of Wake County are clearly a group of people who care about low cost spay and neuter more than their dignity! Also, keep your eyes peeled at 0:26 seconds on the right hand side of the screen…
Pretty darn neat video compilation of dog tricks from Patrycja Kowalczyk’s dog Zoe. I really ought to teach my dogs some of these!
Saturday was our club ribbon trial. After setting up the kitchen I was able to run Atlas in elementary 1, and in elementary 2 as a training round. It was a fun, though very hot day. After weeks of training our sit-stay I was thrilled that Atlas was able to stay on his feet even in the heat. Heelwork was our weakest that day, and it really drove home some key points for me to keep in mind for future training:
- Practice without treats, i.e. not holding treats, and only reward after doing 5-10 turns. This will–hopefully–help him focus even without delicious scents.
- Go to more shows and follow a routine so that the dogs will be less stressed and less excited when they enter the ring.
- Devise a clever plan to help him stop sitting on those turns…
Our next show is in about five weeks– stay tuned for our training escapades and check out the video above to see us in action.
At practice today the other ladies from club and they said that we were ready for Special Beginners! There is a trial next week, so we need to work extra hard to try and get up to snuff. The main thing holding us up in the sit-stay, which is a minute long! For the next week we are going to practice daily and see if we can improve Atlas’s duration.
Adding duration to an exercise is not technically difficult, but takes patience and diligence. Adding a small amount of time (1-10 seconds) each day quickly adds up. You don’t need to practice ad nauseum, just do a few repetitions each day for a short duration (<5 minutes/session/day).
Here is our training log to give you an idea of how we went about achieving a 60 second sit-stay.
- 1 x 60 second sit-stay at novel park at 7pm; broken.
- 1 x 15 second sit-stay at novel park at 7pm.
- 4 x 20 second sit-stays at the river at 11am; 1 broken.
- 3 x 30 second sit-stays in the front yard at 12pm, facing into the sun.
- 3 x 40 second sit-stays at the river at 7pm.
- 2 x 50 second sit-stays in living room at 9am after walk.
- 1 x 5 minute down-stay from 20 metres away at 7pm, facing into setting sun, at the river.
- 3 x 60 second sit-stays in front yard and living room with distractions (watering grass, dancing, playing with other dog)
- Practice test (heelwork, sit-stay, and recall) at park at 7pm, successful 30 second sit-stay on-lead.
-1 x 30 second sit-stay on lead in the ring.
- 1 x 60 second sit-stay off lead in the ring.
You can see how at first Atlas broke easily, but quickly grasped an understanding of the exercise. Adjusting the difficulty to your dog, so that it is hard, but not too hard that they fail, is the key. Post your comments below–how do you teach duration for a sit or down stay?
Tonight was the first night of club, and we got to teach our new class. Several of the dogs were over-excited to the point of being uncontrollable–which is not the ideal way to learn new skills. I had a good long think about how I approach an over-excited dog and what to consider when trying to bring them back to earth. Here are my top tips for dealing with excitement:
- If your dog is over-excited and you have no control–STOP! Think about what you are doing and reassess. If the environment is too challenging then you need to stop training and stop setting your dog up for failure. If every time your dog goes into a down they break because other dogs are playing nearby then stop trying to train right then, in that spot. Don’t be afraid to stop and consider your options.
- If the difficulty is too great then reduce it by remembering the three D’s: distractions, distance, and duration. Reduce the difficulty by moving away/changing locations, removing distractions like other dogs, or reduce the duration of the exercise.
- A dog which is over-excited in a classroom setting is not learning anything. Yes we can push through it and teach the dog control, but only if the handler thinks about what they are doing! Ask your trainer if you can move outside the group area to re-focus your dog. Come to class without your dog and learn the exercises to practice at home where it is easier. Hire a private trainer for one-on-one time if necessary.
- Once your dog can focus their attention then increase the difficulty of the training scenario. Increase the challenge on your dog incrementally. Push them to the limit–then bring them back down. Don’t throw them in the deep end and hope they figure it out. They need you to guide them, let them test themselves, and help them grow!
EDIT: Sadly the video was taken down, again, due to legal complaints. If you follow the link to the Wake County SPCA they have a video which you can easily sync to the music provided. Enjoy!
Atlas here, Mum cried this morning after watching this. I don’t know why, it looks like fun! I’ve never been to an S-P-C-A, but it looks like a neat place, especially this one in Wake County, NC. Wherever that is. Mum says that she wants to adopt all the cats. I like cats. Maybe if we get more cats I can chew on them too? Mum loves her career and is so happy that she gets to help animals like the ones in this video.
Click here to read more about the SPCA of Wake County’s Video… and don’t support backyard breeders! Adopt the next love of your life!
Today we went for a long walk in the woods and had a swim in the creek. It was tons of fun, but wet dogs are never great companions. Sadie and Atlas hate being bathed, but love being dried off with towels and the hairdryer…
Another embarrassing run for Sadie and I. This was the last straw which made me step back and think “what am I doing”? Truth be told I am not sure what that is. We’ll be taking a good long break from trialing until I get my head in a better place and figure out where to go next.
We arrived late and rushed onto the starters course. Unfortunately we missed a jump, I forgot the course, and our weave entry was off–no surprises there. After the 10th obstacle Sadie stopped and stared at me, awaiting the ball/reward, which is a problem we need to work on with doing longer sequences at home.
In elementary B Sadie did a wonderful job, and ended up with 1st place! You can see my wonky handling on that last jump. While I had intended to do a front cross, I was too far back and quickly changed tact to a rear cross instead. While it wasn’t ideal it got the job done.
Atlas and Sadie’s third obedience and agility show. It was a blazing hot day which stretched on for hours. We ended up waiting six hours between events–which I think negatively impacted the dogs’. Atlas performed adequately, placing second in elementary 1, but was definitely not at his best. Sadie did poorly in elementary, losing interest quickly and plodding along at her own pace. We need to practice much longer sequences and figure out a better system for waiting at shows.