Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fun game and handy for agility!

Learning go around, one of my favorite games and a trick that comes in handy for agility!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New tricks!

It's agility season and Xsara and I have been super busy - competing and training. Apologies for not posting regularly.

But we've got a good one for ya! Silvia Trkman got a new pup recently, a BC named Bi. And what a cutie she is. Silvia recently posted this vid of a puppy class she taught and we wanted to share it with you. Also check out Silvia's website, and don't miss the new page she added recently documenting her play and training with Bi - it includes great puppy foundation work.

Thank you Silvia for sharing all your experience and knowledge! Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

A few tricks for a rainy day!

Hi there, Johann here! It's been raining a lot here in Indiana the past week, so Mum, Gracie and I had some fun with a few tricks.

One of the new ones is playing with a box. Gracie had some fun, but I had a lot of fun with the box. And Gracie's new trick is saying, bye, bye! It's become her favorite. Hope you enjoy and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Get on the Fun Dog Tricks train!

I thought it was about time for another fun link project! And we'd love for lots of dog bloggers to participate. It's fun!

I absolutely love learning new tricks. And there are so many tricks us pups can do, all we need is to learn them. I've learned a lot of tricks, but I know there are many more I can have fun doing. And I know all of us pups would love a cool list of fun tricks we can learn and do with our humans. So, I put together this Fun Dog Tricks Train, for us to all have a great list of tricks!

If you participated in my other Link Projects, you know what to do! If not, read on.

-------Copy and paste starting with this line and everything below----------

There are all kinds of fun tricks for us dogs, right? Well, let's make a list! And share it with the dog world!

Here's how it works:

1.) Copy and paste this post beginning with the "copy and paste" line at the top of the post to the "copy and paste" line at the end of the post, courtesy of Johann The Dog!

2.) Substitute the Host Tag (see below) and one of the vacant “Tricks” spots with the name of your dog trick and the URL of your blog, just like I did.

3.) When you find out that someone has added this link post to their blog and their trick isn't listed on your post, practice good paw and add their link in one of your “Tricks” slots, by copying his/her 'Host Tag’ and paste it over one of your “Tricks” slots below, and republish. This makes the list the same on everyone's blog!

5.) Encourage and invite your readers to do the same and soon this can grow fast. And if your not a dog, but you blog about dogs, or own a dog, you are also welcome to participate!

Host Tag: Danger! - JohannTheDog

1. Danger! (run and sit between your 2-leggers legs) - JohannTheDog
2. Rollover - Rescue Me
3. Beg - Raise a Green Dog
4. Bang! (play dead) - Fun Dog Tricks
5. Jump over 2-leggers' Back - Pacco de Mongrel
6. Cover Your Eyes - Tummy Scratch!
7. Push the door closed - Jake's Progress
8. Super chase dogs - Gus and Louie
9. Trick
10. Trick
11. Trick
12. Trick
13. Trick
14. Trick
15. Trick
16. Trick
17. Trick
18. Trick
19. Trick
20. Trick

There it is! It's as easy as that! I hope to make lots new friends with this project and learn about all kinds of new tricks I can learn! Please leave a comment here if you have added this project to your blog, so that I can add you to the list!

---------------Copy and paste this line and above------------------

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Foundation skills for agility and life!

Hi all, Johann here! Xsara and I are pretty excited about our new blog. We hope to post about all kinds of tricks - from the basics to intermediate to advanced!

Today I thought I'd share some info onbasic foundation skills that I learned for my favorite sport - Agility!

A lot of pups and their humans have asked me about the foundation work Mum and I do for agility. These are my ramblings - I'm sure I haven't included everything, but it's a good start and I'm know it will be fun to read in a year or so from now and write again about what we've learned going forward.

First let's start with what foundation for agility is. There are many folks with many opinions about what foundation skills are. According to the dictionary...

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This

foun·da·tion [foun-dey-shuhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1.the basis or groundwork of anything.
2.the natural or prepared ground or base on which some structure rests.

With that in mind, Mum and I have a definition. It's anything - behaviors, movements, actions, stimulation, reactions and responses (we'll call them collectively, skills) - that is and will be the building blocks for agility.

That's a lot, we know. But we believe that no matter your level and experience in training and competing - from beginner to expert - foundation skills can always and should be a large part of your ongoing agility training program. Mum, Gracie and I work on our skills every day, throughout the day.

Believe me, Mum and I are by no means experts in agility. We've only been competing for two years and training for two and a half years. We have been incredibly fortunate - we chose something to do together that fits us like glue. And that's a key thing in doing any kind of activity with your pup - do something that you both like and really enjoy.

When you are new to agility, understanding what foundation skills you need for for the sport is really beyond comprehension. We know, we've been there. That's when you rely on trainers, classes, books, magazines and DVD's. But there is nothing more important than knowing you, your pup and your relationship. Knowing and being keenly aware of this at all times will most certainly get you much more further in accomplishing your goals, whatever they may be.

We'd like to share with you what we have done and learned in the way of foundation skills, in hopes that it can help you and others be more successful and have more fun in agility and other activities in life. So here goes...

On the first day after Mum adopted me at 12 weeks, I learned my first foundation skill. I didn't know it then, because agility wasn't even a twinkle in my eye. But that foundation skill has been very important in every run and every class and every practice we have done in agility in the past three years.

What was the skill? It was 'sit'. And how do I use it in agility? Mum has me sit and wait while she walks the course for training, and she has me sit at the start line before I run, and I sit on the table sometimes during an AKC run. Who would have known that learning such a simple behavior would be so important in agility?


And there are all kinds of behaviors - like down, stay and more that are incredibly important during, before and after my agility runs and practices. What other foundation skills behaviors do we practice and how do we use them in agility? There are many, but here are many of them:

On the course:
  • Sit - sit at start line, on table in AKC.
  • Stay, wait - at the start line for a lead out and on the table.
  • Lie Down - on table in AKC and USDAA.
  • Turn - turn out from Mum, based on the direction of her body/shoulder to take next obstacle cued.
  • Right and Left (turn) - then taking next obstacle cued.
  • Come - for me it means come in veering toward Mum to the next obstacle in front of me.
  • Here - means turn/come in tight toward Mum, like jumping tight around a jump.
  • JoJo (YoYo)/look - means look directly at Mum for specific direction to next obstacle - good for discriminations.
  • Around - for two jumps next to and in line with each other, Mum gives me an around command, take the first jump going out and the second coming in.
  • Obstacles - Mum has taught me all the names of the obstacles, so that if she says walk - I know exactly which obstacle to take, and so on.
  • Go - for me it means go on to the next obstacle in front of me on my own - see this post on how Mum taught me go!
  • Go (obstacle name) - for me it means go out or get out to a specific obstacle that Mum names, used in Gambles in USDAA or when Mum can't get there with me (sometimes she's slow, BOL).
  • Danger - I run and sit between Mum's legs - good for lining me up at the start line; sometimes if our start is delayed with timer issues and so on, and I'm getting bored or a little nervous, Mum will have me go around her leg and do Danger again; keeps me occupied and in total sync with her, gets me wound up too!
  • Easy - Mum doesn't use this much because she likes to keep my speed up and I'm pretty good with my contacts and staying on the table, but for those days that I'm incredibly wound up, she'll use them for both obstacles.
Off the course:
  • Look - look directly at Mum, good for when we need to focus on each other before a run or when there is another dog/person nearby that Mum wants me to ignore.
  • Touch - touch Mum's hand; this was great when I had classes and would become manic watching the other dogs run; kind of like a 'give me a job to do' activity and to get my focus.
  • Target - we use this a lot for fun games at home and at times in training contacts (Mum trained me with running contacts, so Mum puts the target out about 4-5 feet from the contact yellow); many use it for targeting closer to the end of the contact for waiting contacts.
Movement and Handling

Body movement in agility is everything. Us pups take all of our cues from the movement (or non-movement, BOL) of our handlers. A shoulder drop to the right, we'll move right, same with the left - a bend over by the handler and we'll go forward; feet pointed toward the tunnel, we'll take the tunnel. So understanding, practicing and syncing your body movements is really important to running a smooth, easily understood course. Most all call this 'handling'.

With all handling skills Mum and I started close in - meaning I was close to her. As we progressed, Mum taught me the same skills further away from her, little by little - laterally. What are the foundation skills I was taught for handling?
  • Front and rear crosses on the flat.
  • Turn - turn away from Mum.
  • Right/Left - directional turns.
  • Mum turns left, I turn left - no matter how far laterally I am from her.
  • Mum turns right, I turn right - no matter how far laterally I am from her.
  • Back up - Mum backs up, I come more in toward her, no matter how far laterally I am from her.
  • Stride shorten - Mum shortens her stride, so do I.
  • RFP (Reverse Flow Pivot) - this is sometimes called a fake out, Mum acts like she is turning right, or backing up, to get me to pull into her (or the opposite), then continues on in the opposite direction. This works well for us with obstacle discriminations.
Reactions, Actions, Stimulation and Responses

There are all kinds of reactions and responses that can occur at practice and at trials because of all the stimulations and actions going on. Other dogs, smells, missed, slow or conflicting cues, noise, you name it it's there!

All kinds of undesired reactions and responses can occur from these stimulations and actions; lack of speed, attention and enthusiasm; spinning, sniffing, lack of accuracy, running off in the ring, zooming, barking and more.

Over my short agility career, I've had a few undesired reactions. Of course I'm sure Mum and I will have other issues crop up throughout our years in agility, but what we have found so far is that many of the sniffing, and lack of speed and enthusiasm I have experienced in agility, was all because of lack of confidence and being a newbie. Lack of confidence in my Mum's ability to direct me appropriately, my lack of confidence in new situations, places and around other dogs, obstacle confidence, and my Mum's confidence in me and my abilities.

To help me (and her) build confidence, Mum now works really hard to be sure I know exactly what I'm supposed to do on and off the course so I don't have to think, just do - no wishy/washy cues, no jerky cues, no indecisive cues. She tries hard to be deliberate which makes me deliberate. Confidence comes with experience, practice, and time. And she makes sure that I'm totally focused on her at practice, walking to run the course at a trial, all the time, every time. It's just me and her - no one else.

And we did a few extra things mostly focus and energy related to help the process along:

Sniffing - when I'm at trials and training, I love to sniff - mostly to find all the treats left behind by the previous teams. Mum makes sure that she always has treats for me (I'm incredibly food motivated, which is why I probably sniff in the first place). She works with me constantly during training and before and after runs to keep my attention with her, and she uses the treats she has as a reward. This is one of the most fun times for me - it's just me and Mum.

Lake of speed and enthusiasm - yes I've had my share. I went through about four months of the summer of 2006 pretty darn slow; many times not making course time. Within the past 12 months, though, it has been rare. When I do have some slowness, it's usually because I've ran a lot that day, we've traveled too much or I'm tired or sore.

Like many newbies, Mum felt newbie stress in the beginning. But, since my major injury, Mum's attitude toward agility has changed a lot. There was about four or five months at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007, when Mum and I didn't know if I would be able to do agility anymore. But after my recovery, we both felt like 'we're just happy to be doing our favorite thing'! And that's how we now look at each trial, each practice. It's helped both of us a lot - giving us more confidence, energy, excitement, and desire - and it's shown in my speed, consistency and energy.

Many pups will have a wide variety of reactions and responses from a wide variety of stimulations and actions going on around them. Gracie has much different ones than I. What Mum and I think is that by watching your dog, paying close attention to what you are doing and how your dog is reacting - tuning in to your dog, having fun with your dog, you will be able to understand why the undesired responses and reactions are occurring. Get advice from a trusted source if you need to, but always remember no one knows your dog better than you. Be patient and work through your issues - sometimes it takes time, experience and maturity.

Other Thoughts

Other words of advice that we've learned and picked up along the way that we'd love to share:
  • Be positive, all the time, every time. This is a fun time to spend with your pup, value and embrace it.
  • Use a clicker - we think it's one of the best ways to teach your pup.
  • Make training sessions short, don't overdue.
  • Never slow your dog down (Mum wishes she would have been taught this in the beginning).
  • Set your standards and make a plan to achieve your goal, no matter how small or large.
  • Never stop learning, 'cause learning is fun!
  • Never stop listening to your pup - they have a lot to say if you pay lots of attention.
  • Always pay attention and practice the basics, and learn new ones too - they are your foundation for which you build upon.
  • Mistakes are a part of learning, and most all of the time they are the fault of the two-legger. Mum even says I never make a mistake, only she does. That's right Mum!
  • Be consistent, be deliberate, be sure about all your directions and commands.
  • Be kind and respectful to your fellow competitors, dog politics just ends up hurting the pups.
  • Play with your pup, learn tricks, build a bond, get close and get to know your pup and have a wonderful relationship.
  • Have lots and lots and lots of fun!
I'm sure that not everyone will agree with what we've said here. And I'm sure that we've forgotten to mention some important stuff. Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, successes and lessons learned.

But fur sure, this has been really fun sharing what we've learned so far about foundation skills. Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Working With Low Motivated Dogs

People often ask me, how can I get such a good performance from a beagle. It seems like all over the world there are still instructors that will tell you that there are certain breeds you cannot work with. Naturally, I disagree.

Some breeds are easily motivated, you just show them a ball or a treat and they will work for hours. And with some breeds, like beagles, you need to work on their motivation and concentration. I think they are just too smart to work for nothing.

To work with a low motivated dog you must first motivate YOURSELF. You have to be really interesting and fun for the dog. There are some pieces of advice even I can give you to help you become more interesting for the dog, but, naturally, you will have to do all the actual work yourself. Because, to be honest, to get good performance from a dog you need to work regularily, no excuses.

I will add more tips when I think of them (there is so much to say about this topic), and you are welcome to post questions and your own solutions regarding this subject.

1.) Keep your lessons short and fun
I never work with Xsara so long that she would get bored. I finish when she is having the best time so she always wants more.

2.) Use multiple rewards
If your dog is food crazy, use very good treats for jackpot and plain dry food for regular work. If he is toy crazy, involve some play in the work. Let your dog know what was "OK" and what was "WOW" performance.

3.) Reward with your voice
Don't just tell him he's a good boy - get really excited when you praise your dog. They can tell if you're not giving it all, you know!? So if you're not - why should he?

4.) Always finish on a good note
End all your lessons with something your dog does really well. If you're teaching a new trick and somewhere in the middle of your training session he really gets it well, give him the jackpot reward and finish your lesson there. If the new trick isn't going so well, finish with something he always does well (sit, shake, kiss, etc). Make him feel smart and confident, dogs love that.

5.) Don't give a command if you know he's not listening
Before giving a command, get his attention. Every time you give a command and he doesn't do it, you're telling him it's OK to do it the third or the fourth time you say it. Make eye contact with him before giving the command and say it clearly. The same goes about recalling your dog when walking him off leash - don't call him if you know he's not comming on first call.

6.) Talk to your dog
May sound funny but I think our dogs love to learn about us. They are our personal little stalkers. If you talk to your dog, it will be easier for him to understand your tone of voice when you're frustrated or happy and so on. It helps to communicate better.

7.) Teach your dog tricks
I can't even begin to tell you how important tricks are. Apart from being fun, they help your dog remain fit, they occupy his brain and really improve your communication. They help you understand the way your dog thinks. And with every trick your dog learns, the next one will be easier.

8.) Search for new stimulations
If your dog is food driven, teach him to love to play, and vice versa. The work is so much easier if you can use different rewards and you will be able to keep his concentration longer.

9.) Make a plan
Before teaching a new command to your dog, think about how you are going to do it. Divide the work in little steps, easy enough for the dog to understand. Make him feel really smart when he gets it.

10.) Respect your dog
You know he's got teeth too and he doesn't use them to chew on you. So the same goes for you - NO HITTING!!!! There are other ways to tell him "no" - sometimes you really need to tell him "no" for his own safety. If the plain "no" doesn't do it, you can put him in a long "down" or even close him in his crate and leave him alone for a while. Just no cruelty, please!

11.) Be the source of all the fun
Don't leave the toys lying around. Toys are no fun if you're not playing with your dog, too. Play with your dog and then put the toy away. Feed him with the clicker, you can take an amount of his regular meal out on your walk and try working with distractions (just remember how much you have already fed him). Low motivated dogs don't work for you, they work because it's fun (some people say they only work if they want to). So you really need to make everything about you look like fun (or in other words - make them want to).

There is so much more, so I will add to this article regularily. Feel free to post a comment!