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Posts Tagged ‘obedience’

Fell Off the Face of the Earth?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

All two of you that had been reading my Blog must have thought I had been blown away by a random sniper, or thrown in jail, or incapacitated by a horrible car wreck. Actually, no.

I’ve recently become involved with a new business venture called Dog City Training Center. It was opened by a couple of friends of mine, and I’ve been quite “involved”. (For any of you in the area, it’s in Carrollton, TX). You can check out the website at: dogcitytrainingcenter.com

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Dog City is the first (that I know of) totally positive training center in my area, and I am absolutely thrilled with it. We are cutting edge dog training, and are teaching our students the value of creating a “thinking” dog. Some of you might think that is a bad thing, but I assure you, it’s not. :-) We have agility, manners classes, flyball, levels obedience and much more.

I went to a Rally-O trial today (a combination of agility and obedience) and was once again reminded of why I do what I do – train positively. I saw quite a few dogs in the ring walking around with their heads and tails down, pensively prodding along, obviously not enjoying themselves. Obviously afraid of making a mistake. Once again - a wonderful reminder that with positive training, the dog doesn’t have to be afraid of making a mistake. They are not punished, they just aren’t rewarded.

Dog City Training Center in many ways, is a dream come true for me, even if I’m not the owner. It stands for everything I believe in (as far as dog training goes). I hope that any of you in the area have a chance to check it out. It’s training at it’s best!!! And I am SO grateful for that!!

Happy Training!!!

Great News!

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

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The American Kennel Club (AKC) has always been a promoter of purebred dogs. That’s what they’re all about. All of the events that they hold (and there are MANY) are for purebred dogs only. They hold more agility, and obedience trials than any other dog organization that I’m aware of.

For those of us with mixed breed dogs, there are not that many options for performance sports. I’m pretty sure that USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) would be the largest organization offering agility to ALL dogs, regardless of breed status, but I think AKC far outnumbers them in trials. As far as obedience goes, UKC (United Kennel Club) does allow mixed breeds, but they have very few trials (at least in my area).

I participated in a survey a couple of years ago, asking what exhibitors thought about letting mixed breed dogs compete in performance sports (obedience, agility and rally). I thought it was a dead issue by now, but then I was informed by a friend that they have indeed decided to allow them to compete in AKC events. Wow – that is HUGE! I’m pretty sure they’re doing it for the extra money they will make from the mixed breed exhibitors (and not out of any good will), but hey – I’ll take it.

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They made the decision in April and the mixed breed competition will commence on October 1, 2010. They will compete in a “separate but equal” class, but again, I’ll take it. It DOES make me curious though, why they can’t just compete with the rest of the dogs. Are they worried that the “mixes” might show up the “pures”? I’m not prejudiced – most of my dogs ARE purebreds. I just find it odd that they will compete separately and their titles will be slightly different. But again, really, who cares?

So the quest to seriously start working Micah in obedience has begun. I’m really looking forward to being able to be in a trial setting with him (on leash) so that he can get used to that. If he can get used to working in that atmosphere ON leash, we might eventually have a chance of making it OFF leash to do agility.

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Chalk up one big “atta-boy” for the good old boys of AKC. You Rock!


What Kind of Trainer Are You?

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

There is a saying, that whenever you and your dog are both awake, either you are training him, or he is training you. Even if you don’t think you are technically a “dog trainer”, your dog is constantly learning from you. The method you use to teach him will have a huge impact on how your dog learns, and on the relationship between the two of you.

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It amazes me how much controversy there still is in the world of training. There are the “operant” people (using positive methods) and the “compulsion” people. One of the definitions of compulsion in the dictionary is: A psychological and usually irrational force that makes somebody do something, often unwillingly.

As many of you know, I started out as a compulsion trainer, since it was pretty much the only method being taught back then. I finally ended up quitting obedience altogether for a long time, because I wouldn’t “ear pinch” my dog to get her to retrieve.

I’ve done my share of going back and forth between methods. Sometimes the line is rather fine, between what is acceptable and what is not. Many years ago I tried using an electronic collar. I thought it could be used humanely on a low setting, as a signal to the dog. I was wrong. I soon concluded that it wasn’t a method I was interested in or could feel good about (no matter what the level) and isn’t something I would ever use again.

So where is YOUR line? Is it ok to shove your dog with your foot to correct a crooked sit? How about stepping on his toes to get him to back up? Or kneeing him in the chest when he jumps up? How about squirting him with a water bottle for barking? Is giving him a no reward marker (telling him NO when he is wrong) ok? How about a leash pop? Or stringing him up off the ground for a more serious offense?

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Obviously some of these methods are pretty extreme, and some are not. Where is YOUR line?

Is occasionally hitting your dog ok? How about grabbing him by the sides of the face and shaking him? Is it ok to rub your puppy’s nose in an “accident”? Or holding his mouth shut for puppy nipping? Where IS your line?

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Despite the enormous amount of evidence (scientific data) out there regarding the benefits of operant conditioning, many obedience folks still cling to the old ways. I’ve observed several obedience classes recently, and am surprised and saddened by the number of people still using this antiquated method. I see many dogs being “corrected” for things that they clearly don’t understand. Why would you punish your dog for something he hasn’t yet really learned? That just doesn’t make sense to me, and I think it’s unfair to the dog.

Compulsion training CAN and DOES work for many dogs, but here is my question to you. Why would you want to use that method if there was a better one out there? Next time you’re watching this type of obedience class, look at the dogs. How many look like they’re having a good time. AND, how far are you willing to go to get a straight sit? How much is it really worth to you?

Is it honestly too much to ask for an obedience class to be fun for us AND our dogs? I think not.

So where is MY Line?

Personally, this is a question that I have given a LOT of thought to throughout my training career. I have spent the past several years learning more and more about the benefits of positive dog training, and that has finally made my line crystal clear. What I do with my client’s dogs is the same as my own dogs - no rough stuff. It means learning what motivates your dog, and using that as reinforcer in your training. It means using your brain instead of your brawn. It also means ending up with a dog that works happily for you, and not one that obeys out of fear.

What I am trying to get to, in my very roundabout way, is that there is a HUGE difference in dog training techniques out there. And the unsuspecting owner may unintentionally enroll in a class that uses very punitive methods, and not even think about it. I want all of you out there to THINK ABOUT IT!! Think about what is and is not acceptable to YOU. We each have to make our own decisions on how to BE in this world, and how to BE with our dogs.

It’s your choice. Choose responsibly. Your dog is depending on you.

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