Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wax On, Wax Off

Did you ever watch the original "Karate Kid" movie, where Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel how to clean the fence while teaching him about life and defense tactics?  He demonstrates how to use the right hand in a clockwise fashion, sweeping from right to left and the left hand moving in an opposite manner.  While it can effectively be used to block strikes, this "wax on, wax off" movement is demonstrates how to move your hands when teaching your dog to do inside and outside spins.

Why teach spins? 
  • can serve to warm up the dog before vigorous exercise
  • creates flexibility
  • keeps the dog engaged as you move between exercises
Spins can be performed on the right side or the left side ultimately, and while moving.  If you execute a spin and then continue moving forward the dog learns to move fluidly into the heel position and move forward out of an active behavior.

So how to do it?  First, your dog must understand the concept of driving into the hand for food and also following the movement of the hand with food.  This is slightly different from teaching a "touch" and release, as we want the dog to stay in contact with our hand, and in pursuit of the food.  For your hand movement, you begin with the hands close to the body.  If you start by reaching out, your arms simply are not long enough unless you have a tiny puppy, to extend through the spin.  With your right hand you will sweep clockwise to the left, starting with the hand on the right side of your body.  This is the entice the dog to be in pursuit of the hand and food as it begins the spin.  Initially, do not expect a full spin.  Instead, mark and reward at the halfway mark and when the dog is performing this correctly, ask for more.  The food is released when the behavior is marked... the dog is pursuing the food but not eating as it moves through the spin.

With the left hand you begin with the hand at your left side, and sweep close to the body from left to right.  When the dog is learning, sweep that hand across the front of your body all the way from one side to the other before moving it away from your body to begin the spin.  The dog's behavior will tell you if your hand is too far away or if you are moving too quickly for the level it is at.  When you begin, if you move too quickly, the dog will likely follow only that first jerk of the hand and then be lost. Just slow down and try it again.

The nice thing about teaching spins is that it is all for fun.  No leash or collar necessary, no corrections and if you screw up, the worst thing that will happen is that the dog gets extra treats...

Once the dog understands the behavior, you can always put a name to it and turn it into an on-demand trick.  Any time you add a word to a behavior, the word comes first, delivered from a neutral position and THEN you add the physical cue.  If your dog begins to spin as a frustration or displacement behavior, you will want to introduce more stabilizing exercises such as teaching "positions". 


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Friday, January 29, 2010

Training today at Winnegamie

I drove into Appleton today to the local AKC club building for some training. The Winnegamie Dog Club allows its members to pay for floor time in its heated training building. The fee is extremely reasonable and all you have to do is vaccuum and clean up when you're done, which is a small price to pay for working in a clean, matted and heated building at this time of year. I have my own training building a convenient walk from the house, but it is none of those things. Unheated, dirt floor. Clean? nah. I love having that available to me, of course, but sometimes it is nice to work my dogs in a different environment and to travel to a location to train instead. Not only that, but as I continue to recuperate from my bout with bronchitis, breathing the chill air and dust isn't the best thing for my lungs. As if those things weren't incentive enough, basing my training operations for the day in Appleton also makes a trip to Barnes and Noble a requirement! Can it possibly get any better than that?

I had Ridley and Cooper with me today, and worked Cooper first. It is apparent that he is lacking in stamina and conditioning right now. He is in the house and crated much of the time, sprinting outside just to potty before crashing the door to come back inside, so he is way out of working shape. We worked on reinforcing the proper heel position, first refreshing it by working ala Knut Fuchs, between the legs and then transitioning. On the left side, he was in proper position, making nice, tight turns and fast halts. We did this all for food. I loosened him up with spins in both directions. When I do this work, I make it very dynamic and we continue to move from one exercise to the next without allowing him to fall out of focus. I worked some "here/front" positions from a standing position, and moved into backing and the change of positions. He understands to stand from a sit but not from a down position yet and his down is still abit sticky. It gets slower when he gets tired out. I also practiced the "finish", first by bringing in to my back and working him sideways, and then finishing completely, and moving sideways from that position, as well. Moving left isn't where it needs to, but moving sideways to the right at heel position was very happy and fast. We did a couple sit in motions. I bought a jute wrap for the dumbbells from Jim Hill when I was at the Nationals, and so I worked the "hold" and did some heeling and fronts with Cooper carrying the dumbbell and then ended that portion with a couple throws, with Cooper racing back between my legs with the dumbbell. Then we practiced the "revier" with me sitting in a chair and having Cooper come in and do a bark and hold from different angles. When he centered himself, it was marked and rewarded. The very last thing we did was a send away. Much to his chagrin, Cooper had to practice some restraint in being released. Initially, when I moved about half the distance, he got up and ran toward me, so before it reached that breaking point, with my back still to him as I walked away so as not to change the trial picture, I marked "goooood" and then returned to him to deliver a bite on the pillow. We did this several times at increasing distances, and rewarded him for staying. When he could do that, I added a little distraction by running and placed the pillow. His final send was very fast and straight. I was able to work many small pieces in a short amount of time, all while keeping Cooper actively engaged. It was a very good training session.

Ridley's session was also short and covered some of the foundation exercises. She is learning to move herself between the legs for heeling and we worked on shaping proper position there. She must have been quite hungry as she was punishing my thumb and she has her adult teeth now. Spins are both good to keep puppies engaged as you move. On the floor I could toss a piece of food and tell her to "get it" and them move away for recalls. Teaching sits and downs is on the "must do NOW" agenda. I lost a huge chunk of time following my shoulder surgery, which transitioned directly into bronchitis and she is behind on learning some of the things I ordinarily would have already addressed. She is very willing and motivated, however, so I have no fear that it will come. I did try to work some recalls to an informal front position (no command, shaping with food with hands position in center of body) with my friend handling the back line, but with Ridley we have to be careful not to apply so much pressure that she spins. That is a horrible, horrible habit that I try to avoid. Back line handling is actually a fine art, as you need to apply only enough pressure to allow the dog to feel that it can pull forward straight and without spinning, and then to poP!! release the pressure at the last foot or so to cause the dog to drive in fast and hard at the end. If you have pressure throughout, your entry will be slow. With Ridley, I ended with the pillow bites, making her work for the grip and hold it firmly. She has a full, calm grip naturally so what I need to work on is having her make her grip count the first time or she loses it. She had a victory lap that was quite hilarious, as she showed off her prize to the dog in the mirrors, not realizing it was HER! It isn't my preference to allow her to run free around a room with her toy, but 2 or 3 times I did that and she was figuring out that if she brought it back to me, the play would continue. Ideally, that should be done on a long line to encourage her return but I will confess I allowed her to have some self revelation since she couldn't really escape anywhere.

My friend worked her adult male GSD last. The issue she wanted to work on was the front recall, as the dog was coming in crooked and too far away, but would then "fix" himself when a reward was not forthcoming. Addressing this ended up being challenging and fun, as we kept tweaking his performance until we had the ideal we wanted. In the first observation she held a ball on a rope in front of her and there was also excessive body movement to help him; she would then lower the ball and release him to grab it on "yes". I asked her next to hold the ball to the side and see what happened, but also to remember to give him a very specific physical area to be correct by spreading her feet at shoulders width apart. The correct position would be when his two front feet were straight and place between her feet. Initially, the dog was clearly looking for the ball and sat crooked. I opinioned that this might be because the marking and reward were coming from the side, so I next asked her to bring the ball in to her center before marking. It was clear the dog knew he needed to be closer as he would correct himself it the reward did not appear immediately and it seemed he was intially wanting to sit just a little too far out so that he was in position to take the ball as it had normally been presented to him. So the next change was to ask the handler to hold the ball under her chin and see what happened. Dog was straight but still making the secondary adjustments. I know it sounds crazy and silly, but part of problem solving is in identifying what the problem is exactly and making adjustments and not necessarily starting over with a new behavior. So far, I believed I was understanding why the mistake was happening, and that was that the dog was trying to be in the best position to receive the reward. I then asked the handler to step backwards on release and let the dog drive forward and up into the toy. Now we were making progress. Judges want to see the dog coming in quickly without a speed change as it approaches the handler until it slides to that last-minute sit. I added back-line pressure. At first the dog was unsure he could pull through it. Several times I instructed the handler to hold the toy in front of her and then as the dog pulled in strongly, to do the bull-fighter step-aside ( I liken the movement to a bullfighter, swirling his cape as he sidesteps the bull) and let the dog fly through and grab the toy. In this movement, the position of the toy does not change; it remains centered and the dog drives through, but the handler moves her body sideways. The dog believes they can drill right through without slowing. After several repetitions and rewards with this, with back-line pressure, we had the perfect final product that we ended on: I held back line pressure, letting it pop/release before he reached the handler, who initially held the toy in the same front center position and then slid it up and in front of her body just before the dog arrived, drawing him into the most perfectly centered and dynamic front sit position you would like to see! It was a thing of beauty!

Is it finished? No, it will require additional repetitions but we have identified what the problem was and are on our way to creating the correct habits for position and speed. I always like to take a step back and refresh at the next session, not begin from that last perfect action. The temptation is to train to "failure" rather than success and until a behavior has been taught, practiced and worked under distractions you cannot consider it has been ingrained. The next session will likely begin with several step-asides first, continuing with back line pressure. Once the dog is working with speed and correct position, the toy will not be visible until after successful performance. At the current stage, we also want to be aware that the toy is a reward and not a lure. When you call the dog, you should be standing in a trial-like position, not waving the toy around or moving. At any point as the dog approaches, you can mark it and release it and move, simply to reward the dog for good speed on the approach. Good training will not ask for a front sit each time.

The process was actually alot of fun and challenged me to think of methods that would be suitable for both the dog and handler. In training, we are always bound by the limitations of each half. A very good young trainer in our club is athletic and so very fast himself, he can do things that leave me panting just to think about!! So, with my own dogs I have to consider what I am able to do to bring the best out in my dogs. It may not be the same thing someone else would do, or could do, but until such time as my dogs get a vote on who their handler is, this is the way it will be!

I was pleased with the work done by all the dogs today! So what did YOU do?

Whose Life?

Allow me to digress a moment. I happened to be at Barnes and Noble today and thumbed through a new book, "My One Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk; LIVING OPRAH" by Robyn Okrant. This author watched the Oprah Show for a year and adopted her suggestions and contracts, blogged about it and utlimately wrote a book. I own the book "Julie and Julia" in which that author worked her way through Julia Child's cookbook in one year, while blogging about it... and ultimately writing a book. And that book was made into a movie!

It got me to thinking, what celebrity would I be willing to follow, emulate and write about for a year? Martha Stewart would certainly be the most fun, as she is savvy CEO, author. producer... you name it... and seems to have fun doing what she does. I would enjoy the crafts and the cooking, studies of cultures and histories that she does and most of all, the work she does with animals, both pet and livestock. But frankly, I think Martha would just plain wear me out! I would be a sad comparison in attempting to *be* Martha, and her own daughter has also claimed the satiric review of Martha. Not only that, but Martha doesn't preach. She doesn't pretend to influence National elections and she offers advice and examples, she does not make out contracts of subservance to her audience. Her books are written so that even a novice can follow the instructions and create the same beautiful crafts and meals, so working my way through one of her books would only add inches to my waistline or decorate my home nicely. Martha reviews books, but does not set herself up as Goddess of Book Clubs.

I do allow myself to be influenced by things I see on television talk shows. Because of Oprah, I own several of the "You..." books by Dr. Mehmet Oz and enjoy watching his show. Because of Oprah's feature of the creator of the Chipotle Grill, I visited there for the first time yesterday entirely as a result of hearing of their use of fresh foods and organics. It was delicious! I sometimes watch "The Doctor's", produced by Dr. Phil's son, Jay McGraw and learned that the best thing to do with an open wound is NOT to wash with soap and water, but to rinse with eye drops! They are sterile and have something in them that takes away the sting (hey, I'm not a doctor! If you want official medical names, look it up yourself!) And you do not cover an open wound with salves or ointments; they need to heal from the inside, out. I might add that this advice is particulary important should you suffer an accidental dog bite. Rinse the wound with eye drops, do not cover, ice and elevate for 12-24 hours. I have had success with this method of treatment, and avoided infection.

And just this afternoon I picked up the cookbook recommended on Martha Stewart today, David Chang's book, "Momofuko". You may even find me whipping up ramen noodles and fish cakes in the future!

But follow someone else's life and suggestions for a year? I don't think I could. Clearly, subscribing to Oprah's suggestion that I really must own a pair of leopard print flats will simply not work with the usual 6 pocket fatigues I wear, laden alternately with tug toys and dog treats! I refuse to vote on something so important as a Presidential election based on what a television celebrity says, no matter how wealthy they are.

Yes, I am a wee bit jealous of those who can adopt this chameleon lifestyle and turn it into a money making proposition. I just don't think I could do it and for the life of me, I can't think of anyone other than myself than I want to be this year. I guesss we're all stuck with that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Right Toy for Your Dog

Since I was writing about where to purchase toys, I wanted to quickly add some information about how to select and use them.

The toys we are talking about here are for training. They are reserved for time you spend directly interacting with your dog. They are not to be left with the dog to chew on or make free play with. For that, use a kong or kong type toy. If your dog enjoys the nylabone toys, you might try those; my dogs have never been a fan and leave those untouched. Do not use tennis balls for play, as the abrasive surface wears down the enamel and weakens the teeth.

There are several key rules to toy play:
1. the toy is YOURS. you begin the play, you control the play and you end the play. not the dog.

2. while in your hand the dog may not nip or grab at it. see Rule #1

3. Begin and end the play with a verbal cue so that the dog is clear on what to expect. Example: begin play by asking "wanna play?" I continue to use this as a prep cue for obedience. End play by having possession of the toy and saying "All done".

4. the dog is always given verbal permission to take the toy by giving a command to get it, or by releasing with the "yes". Movement alone does not give the dog permission to grab the toy.

5. The play is always interactive. You will never throw a toy and turn your back, talk or ignore the dog

6. Prey does not jump in the dog's mouth and never should your toy. Never wave the toy in the dog's face to entice it to play or smack it with the toy. The dog must chase and work for the toy to earn it.

7. Always end the game with the dog wanting more.

Your dog is an athlete. Treat him with the same care as someone preparing for any other sport would. Warm him up with flexibility exercises first. The "spins" and turns that we teach in the foundation of driving for food are perfect for this. Do some light trotting and movements, or stretching exercises before asking the dog to run full tilt. Do not risk a permanent injury because you are too lazy to warm up your dog.

Be very careful with the surface you are working on, and pivot turns. Ice or wet grass can cause a dog to slide a leg out and tear the anterior cruciate ligament. Bouncing toys that entice the dog to jump and twist can also cause injury. The best toys will be thrown and land flat, not bounce. Ask any orthopedic surgeon what they think about Frisbee play and you will learn how that little disk can keep surgeons in new cars.

The toy you select needs to be what is best for your dog at that time, and for that purpose. This will change over time. A puppy needs to have a soft biting surface that feels good in the mouth and allows it to be successful; the size of the toy is also dictated by the size of the dog. Too small a toy is unsatisfying; too large and the puppy will learn an improper grip. I prefer the french linen toys for a soft, durable surface. If you take a dog that is just beginning tug play and make the play difficult and unrewarding, such as using firehose type material where the dog's grip slips off, the young dog will soon quit trying.

The same surface would be appropriate for an older, more experienced dog who needs to be challenged to grip down despite a slippery surface. Narrow leather strap toys and other small toys are good for that level. I always have multiple bite pillows, however, ranging from very soft to firm because there are times when a dog at every level can be rewarded by going back to something very simple that fills the mouth and makes huge play!

Balls present their own challenge and are generally not for the novice at learning how to play with your dog. The gripper jute tug with its stiff handle makes this a little easier, but when you use a ball for play you must first teach the dog how to properly target. Never let the dog grab the handle. This takes a little more skill than you might think. You want to calmly release the dog's mouth from the toy and show them how to regrip, but do not correct them and cause them to stop trying. A key thing to remember is that there can be no "No' until there is a "yes"; in other words, you cannot correct for a behavior your dog does not know. Properly used, a ball can be a very motivating toy.

Food will be your primary choice in teaching aids; use toys to amp up the game once the dog shows you that he understands the behavior. Teaching a behavior using a toy can create problems because the dog is so stimulated it is not thinking from a calm place, and once you deliver any biting tug toy, you now have to worry about proper grip and proper return/release. Not as simple as it sounds!

The best toy play keeps the game with you. The dog grips, tugs, releases and is completely focused on staying with you and interacting with you. Thrown toys change that picture and tell the dog that the best fun is made away from you UNLESS you reinforce it by using a long line to bring dog directly back to play with you. In the beginning, the most fun should be in playing with you, not chasing a toy away from you. Who knew that playing with your dog required you to THINK?! Evidence shows that there are quite a few owners who prefer to mindlessly chuck a ball away and consider that play, but it isn't the type that we need to build a cooperative partnership. When your dog comes out to work and is looking at you in anticipation, not being distracted by other people or dogs, you know you have accomplished this goal. Make it short and sweet, leave 'em wanting more!

Training Resources

Okay, since I am still recovering from bronchitis and restricted to doing training from my living room at the moment (don't worry-- I am self-releasing myself as of tomorrow!!) I am going to devote this post to listing a few of the resources for training and supplies.

Until I broke down and purchased an aircard several months ago, I suffered through dial-up and was never able to watch the videos on line that everyone else raved about. Now that I have the ability, I still don't have the time to do much about it but there are a couple sites you might wish to check out.


If you google "Knut Fuchs video" you will be taken to the link on YouTube for a basic obedience video. This shows him working the dog between the legs as we instruct. Having the visual might help you with your method.


This is my favorite site for equipment. Jim has always been very prompt in his delivery and easy to deal with, and I like the quality of his equipment. (more to follow about selecting the right toy for your dog)


This is just one of the sites that sells the Gripper Jute Ball, which is the one Sam is using that he received as an award at our annual meeting. Many sites sell them, so shop around.


This company is located near Rice Lake, Wisconsin and can deliver quickly. I have purchased SAR vests and other equipment from them and they are a small company with really nice people running it, who are involved in schutzhund. If you are like me, you will end up buying new toys to try out and you just need to find what works best for you.


Ivan Balabanov is one of the most well known trainers in the dog sport world, and he has been highly successful in schutzhund competition. The "train per view" site was his answer to the fact that his training methods are constantly evolving. He has several training DVDs that are excellent and which I recommend. The train per view site is not inexpensive, $20.99 I believe, per video which you can watch until the expiration period. This allows Ivan to change and improve and not have people stuck doing the same thing they saw at a seminar five years ago, or viewed on the DVD BUT not everyone can afford it. If you are one of the lucky ones who can, consider hosting a viewing party for your friends!!

Obedience Without Conflict: Clear Communication and The Game


The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog
The Power of Training Dogs with Food
The Power of Training Dogs with Markers

Our club was the first in the midwest to begin bringing Michael Ellis in for seminars. This occurred on the recommendation of Ivan Balabanov, who at that time had taken a sabbatical from seminars. I asked who he would recommend, who would be consistent with the training methods we were using, and he suggested Mike Ellis. We hosted many seminars with Mike and enjoyed his training methods and easy teaching style. His heart, however, is not in schutzhund and he not only convinced a number of our members to leave the club in favor of ringsports, but began an exclusive relationship with them so we have since turned to schutzhund specific trainers such as Greg Doud. Still, I highly recommend his foundation training. He is a master at the use of verbal markers and explains things in an easy to understand manner. He is just a really nice guy!! Anyone beginning in the sport of schutzhund can benefit from attending a seminar with Michael because those foundation pieces are consistent through the various dog sports.

He has since forged a business relationship with Ed Frawley of Leerburg, located near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and created a series of DVDs listed above. I have not purchased or viewed them yet myself so cannot vouch for them. I prefer the professional quality of the DVDs produced by Canine Training Systems for Ivan Balabanov over those of Leerburg, as a rule, which have more of a home video flavor, with Ed narrating. However, I have seen Michael teaching these concepts and if the focus is more on that, with Michael doing the speaking, they could be good. And since Michael has opened a school for dog training in California and is traveling less, this may be your best opportunity to partake of his training expertise.

I would also like to note that Michael and Ivan have probably produced the most-winning Belgian Malinois in dog sports. The Loups du Soleil dogs bred by Mike Ellis are best known in ringsport circles but have also made a name for themselves in schutzhund, search and rescue, dockdogs, etc... they are extremely versatile and athletic. My own Jinx du Loups du Soleil is one of those fantastic dogs.

Check out
to learn more about their accomplishments.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Playing Fetch

It seems that everyone plays fetch with their dog at one time or another. The home/play fetch often involves the dog bringing a toy and nudging or slamming it into you to signal it is time to play. Then the owner throws the toy, adding a "fetch" command, and encouraging the dog to bring it back. Sometimes this evolves into a game of keep-away, and at other times the dog will spit the toy a foot or two in front of owner, back away and bark or jump anxiously waiting the owner to fetch the toy himself and throw it again! In a home with children, the "drop it" becomes a favorite so that the dog spits the toy out rather than having kids try to pry it out of the dog's mouth.

Even if you have a pet dog, there are things you might consider changing in the above scenarios. If you have a working dog, your world is about to be rocked.

First, let's examine who is training whom? If your dog brings you a toy and insists that you play NOW and you do, he is a smart pooch and a darned good human-trainer! It truly is not a bad thing to have a dog who desires to interact with you. Don't get me wrong. We just want to tip the scales in favor of the handler on this one. You might consider keeping the favorite fetch toy in a place out of reach so that when the dog comes to you, you can add the cue "wanna play?" and go get the toy. If he has a toy in his mouth already, you might want to cue it and then ask for an obedience command, such as a sit. Now you have put the play on your terms. Once he complies with the sit, you can mark "yes" and reward with toy play.

What word to use? If you have a working dog, do not use your formal retrieve command for home play. Once we set about teaching the dog how to properly hold and retrieve toys or dumbbells, it has specific perameters. If we use the same word but allow the dog to take a victory lap, we are telling the dog this is the behavior we desire. Remember that behavior rewarded is more likely to be repeated. And this means, even if it is not our intention to create this connection... if taking a victory lap means the dog gets to play again or the handler makes a fun chase game, it is rewarded and will be repeated. And it will then be rather unfair when we ultimately correct the dog for doing exactly that later on.

Let me describe the game of fetch I played with my puppy, Ridley, today. She had a kong toy and wanted me to play, so I cued "wanna play" and held out my hand. If she dropped the toy I did not pick it up. She had to push the toy into my open hand as I sat on the couch. I then said "aus". Ridley does not know this as a command but quickly grasped that if she let go of the toy, I would mark it "yes" and throw it for her. Within only a few repetitions she got the idea. I did not tell her to fetch or bring(the formal command); instead, I said "get it, get it, get it!" ... the path it was thrown left her only an alley to run out to the door, get the toy and return. Running back, I am simply saying "good girl!!" Try not to do this in an area where the dog can go zipping around in endless circles. But you know, if they do, settle in and read the newspaper. No play with you until they bring it back to your hand.

The most important part of this is that while Ridley was still supercharged and ready to play, I took the toy from her and said "All Done" and led her to her crate with a biscuit. When I am done with my training sessions, I like to let the dog know clearly that we are finished. The toy is removed and the game is over. And she gets some quiet crate time to relax. It separates the activity with me, from her free play.

For fun house fetch, don't use a dumbbell or toy similar to what you will be fetching in competition. Don't use a tug toy that you need to worry about working the grip and the out with, either. A rubber kong bone is nice. Kongs bounce unpredicatably and you do need to be careful about the dog twisting or running into things to catch it, so I am not a fan of throwing kongs outside. Something that lands flat is best.

If you throw a toy outside for fun, keep in mind that you want the dog to learn to come directly back to you so you a long line will be helpful and just as soon as the dog picks up the toy, you call the dog back to you with enthusiasm while moving back and away. Don't lean forward or reach out to take the toy from the dog. In competition the dog will need to come in close to the front position, so try not to create the habit of bending over and reaching out to take anything from the dog. This is somehwat more advanced than house-fetch, but something good to keep in mind. What we want to build at the point will likely transfer to throwing a tug toy and having the dog bring it back to us for tug play, but your puppy isn't there yet. You just need to keep the image of the finished product in front of you as you build the blocks of the foundation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the Beginning

Today was the first day at training for several new dogs. Whether puppies or older dogs, there are a few things that apply across the board.

One is that you need to bring a hungry dog to training; if you expect to use food reward in training, food must have high value to the dog. That means fixed mealtimes, so that you can use meals to your training advantage. A dog that eats when it feels like it can elect not to listen to you now, knowing it can have a hearty serving later at his convenience. Or make goo-goo eyes at "mom" and get more treats because "bad daddy" starved him/her! Since some of our handlers are women, and many men are easy touches to sweet brown eyes as well, you can exchange the genders as you wish and it applies equally.

Bring training treats that can be easily swallowed without stopping to chew. Many of us use "Natural Balance", cut into small pieces. Don't use a bait pouch or obvious container that signals to your dog "this is training". Yes, you will now be living with pockets that smell of meat by-products and perhaps have strange dogs following you from the market, but your dog will not see a different picture than in trial. Most of the time I will keep all my reward systems in my left pocket/left side but often in the beginning I will load up both pockets so that I can feed consistently using both hands. Feed while reloading the other hand.

Even before you begin, make a list of the commands that you use with your dog and what they mean. If your dog is a free-roaming house dog you will probably want to have words that you use around the house that are different from your training words. For example, when we ask our dogs to lay down in trial (platz) we expect it to be in a sphinx position, at the ready and watching for our return. Not laying on his side or licking daisies. At home, however, you may tell the dog to lay down and then leave the room or forget for a few minutes and the dog is now lounging on his side. If you use your training/performance word, you will have undermined it for that purpose. Instead, tell the dog to "lay" or "rest" or anything that tells it to lay down but rest comfortably. Most puppies or young dogs who come to us do not understand proper heel position or attention, so if you are telling them to heel (fuss) you are rewarding them for an improper behavior.

Foundation is a slow process. I think that sometimes new handlers want to march down the field and emulate what they see the big dogs doing. And in some clubs, that is exactly what happens. Throw on a prong collar and yank that dog up and down the field. Feel good yet? We don't subscribe to that theory. Building a foundation in dog training is the same as a foundation of a house. Brick by brick. If the foundation is not solid, the building will crumble under stress. The process may seem slow, but good workmanship is.

The very first stage of that foundation is one of trust. Teaching your dog to trust you, using the verbal markers of "yes, uh-uh or nope, and good." When you mark a behavior with "yes" you are telling the dog that at this exact moment this is the behavior you wanted, terminating the behavior and promising reward. If you promise reward and withhold it, you undermine the reward system and the dog will not trust you to deliver in the future. So the very first thing you do is much like clicker afficianados do, called "charging" the clicker. You teach the dog to drive into your hand for the treat by moving backwards slowing, hands at the center of your body and alternating in the delivery. Each time the dog pushes in for a treat, mark it verbally with "yes!" and release a treat. Continue moving backwards so that the dog does not think it must stop to take or eat a treat. Also remember to think of the marker as a photograph in time, not a movie. In other words, at the EXACT moment of the behavior you desire (or wish to mark negatively) you mark it. Five seconds later, the dog may be performing an entirely different behavior that you do not wish to reward (or correct). I will also mention here that the reason I prefer the softer "nope or uh-uh" rather than NO to mark a behavior I do not desire is that people have a tendency to say "NO" too often during the course of a day to a dog in the house and they intend it to shut down the dog. Stop that! What we want is to communicate that while this was not the behavior we wanted, we do not want the dog to stop trying to learn, to find the desired behavior.

While it seems like a long way to the image of the finished dogs that you see working, each baby step brings you closer to that. But it begins with the dog pushing into your hand and wanting more.


We are tough, hardy people. I must keep reminding myself of that, as I trudge up the wet, sloppy path to the training building, shuffling across the ice. The building is unheated and has a dirt and sawdust footing, that leaves you blowing brown snot at the end of the day. The parking lot, after several days of thaw and rain, is a muddy mess so that when the dogs jump against you it leaves instant tattoos of pawprints on a previously clean jacket.

So why in the heck do we put ourselves through this? All for the sake of the sport of schuthzund, which is more reliable than the modern post office in it's "neither rain, nor sleet, or dead of night" attitude. Schutzhund must go on no matter the weather, and it is a sport of the outdoors. So the petty inconveniences we suffer to train indoors in January in Wisconsin fall by the wayside.

I would love to be able to park on a concrete pad and walk into a heated building with professional mats. But neither I nor my club members are independently wealthy and this is what we have available to us. Many clubs in Wisconsin stop training for the winter months, but in my opinion that leaves the dogs far behind in things they could be working on, or forces members to seek out other training which could be in conflict with what they need to know here.

This was our first training session of the 2010 season. Two new members joined us, along with only five regulars. Sometimes I wonder if new people are inspired or whether they are intimidated by what they see, and how far they have to go. Foundation is everything, and it takes a patient hand to accomplish, Without that, the house will fall when it is under pressure. The good news is that the two new members put up with the cold and the dirt and the ice. That is a good sign that they are made of the tough stuff this sport takes.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Detector dog prospect for sale

Chica vom Foxtal
Female Dutch Shepherd, gold brindle
DOB: 7/30/2007
sire: Nico van Neerland, KNPV CH
dam: Roya vom Foxtal, SchHA
UKC registered
Hip and elbow Xrays taken 1/21/10-- visual evaluation by vet is "better than good" ; results submitted to OFA
UTD on vaccinations
Weight 44 lbs
not spayed
Chica, a female dutch shepherd dog that I bred, is for sale. She has passed evaluation as a detector dog prospect. She is a very athletic dog, sociable and energetic. She is friendly with the other dogs, male and female, that she has been introduced to and sociable with people and our house cats. She is crate trained. She is food motivated, but prefers tug play.
contact me at if interested

Vet Clinic Peave

I dropped off a dog today for Xrays and was reminded of my Vet Clinic Peave. As I walked out, a Stupid Woman was approaching on the walk with what looked to be a terrier puppy who was barking at everyone, hackles raised. And the dolt was praising him as she dragged him along! Good dog? Are you kidding me??

Oh, but that isn't where it ends. The pup tries to drag her to a chocolate lab puppy that is now hiding behind his owner's legs and the moron says "can you say hi to the puppy?" Fortunately the lab was smarter than that and made itself inaccessible, and the Stupid Woman dragged her puppy into the clinic. I commented to the lab's owner how stupid that was and she shook her head, but was clearly not blessed with the lack of verbal filter that I have or Stupid Woman would have been leaving with a boatload of new advice.

C'mon, People!! This is a VET CLINIC!! It is not a dog park!! Do you imagine that the dogs are there because they are all healthy? You could be exposing your puppy to illness and disease. Many diseases are spread through nose to nose contact. Heck, I avoid taking healthy dogs there at all, as much as I can! Would you take your child into the doctor's office and bring them up to everyone waiting there to make physical contact? Of course not! Not to mention that fact that every dog does not welcome the attention of strange dogs. Just because you have a flexi-lead does not give you permission to allow your dog to wander at will around the waiting room.

I only hope the terrier was escorting Stupid Woman in for her spay!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You are so boo ti ful...........

This is the song I that I sing to Jinx in our cuddle time: You are so boo ti ful (my massacre of beautiful, but she seems to enjoy it!) to meeeee, you are so boo ti ful to meeee, can't you see? You're everything I hoped for, you're everything I need, you are so boo ti ful TO MEEEE.

We had a bicocom treatment today and came home loaded with new drugs. A giant bottle of Neoplasene, since that was cheaper than multiple small bottles. Let's face it, Neoplasene isn't cheap no matter what the container. But we discussed when to know if it was working and what to do, and my plan is to continue with the 2.5 ml dose 2x per day, since she tolerates it with no problem, to the 7 1/2 month mark. The significance of that is that research showed the median return date for the cancer with amputation was 7 1/2 months. If Jinxy is still going strong at that point I will decide whether we need to continue at that dosage or not.

She runs into the exam room. A contrast from what I am told of owners having to drag their resistant dogs in. I make the visits special. For Jinx, this is the place where she gets fed Solid Gold "Tiny Tots" and no where else. She does her repertoire of tricks as we wait and then patiently practices the "lay" command which has her on her side with her head, for the treatment. When I took Ali, that was where he got to play with his monkey fist ball, which he loves, and he would hold it in his mouth for the entire treatment.

The prognosis today was that Jinx is doing very well, energy levels are fine and she feels good. The Chinese herbs I give her change with whatever the "magic wand" says she needs. We first used Blood's Palace, Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, from Kan Essentials. Next as a product from Natural Path Herb company called Xiao Chai Hu Tang and today a new one replaced that: Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang.

And now my boo ti ful puppy dog is happily chewing on her bone at home! And she is, indeed, everything I hoped for.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Facebook | Deb Krsnich check out the beautiful jewelry that my friend, Christine, makes!! I have this one.#/dkrsnich?v=feed&story_fbid=450209715312

Facebook Deb Krsnich check out the beautiful jewelry that my friend, Christine, makes!! I have this one.#/dkrsnich?v=feed&story_fbid=450209715312: "Animal Handsome German Shepherd necklace by ChristineGruen
This necklace is great for any dog lover; especially German Shepherd lovers! The German Shepherd charm and little bones are pewter. The long"

Kennel Call

Today was a kennel call day! Instead of making multiple trips to the office, my vet fits in a kennel call between his farm visits nearby. It is so much easier for me, and less stressful for the dogs. I just grab them from their kennels, ply them with treats and they are back in a flash not even knowing they just received a poke in the butt! Really so much more efficient and even safer for the dogs, since they don't have to hang out in a waiting room and be exposed to sick animals. Or oblivious owners who think a flexi lead entitles their dog to make contact with everyone else within reach.

I am so lucky to have two wonderful vets to count on. Dr Jay Peters at Countryside has been a wonderful partner in my dog endeavors here. I often contact him to bounce off questions about vet treatments and new discoveries, and as a vet he treats me with respect and as a partner in treatment, as well. I trust him to listen, and to explain to me his choices and decisions and he allows me to weigh the options without being condescending. He is just a great guy, and has an absolute love of the animals he treats. I highly recommend him to anyone in this area.

The other vet that I use is Dr. Strickfaden in DePere, for holistic treatment. She helped with Ali when he was naked, and Jinx with her cancer. She has worked with a number of dog owners that I know. Her talents and interest are unique in that area and I am fortunate that I have those options available to me. Sometimes it helps to think outside the box.

Today was a kennel call day. The thing about fitting in amongst farm visits is that you must be flexible. Things come up on farms! So, even though we aimed for 1-2 pm, the visit actually took place after 4 pm. The dogs were the lucky ones with this arrangment, since I spent the afternoon at the kennel building, grooming and playing with dogs. They were oblivious to any appointment schedule and thought it was all about them! Ali spent his time playing with his monkey fist balls, tugging and swapping one for the other. Ridley had a turn at working for treats and we started shaping her head position walking between my legs. Recalls and spins in both directions and a couple attempts at the down position. She did move into it with a slight assist of pressure on her rump. We ended with the bite pillow play and she was quite frustrated because everytime she put her mouth on it but did not bite down, I snatched it away from her. Finally, she got the picture and gripped hard, for which she was rewarded with more tug play. Next time I will put Muffi's new sleeve leash on it so I can get my dog back!! Cooper practiced his obedience work, as well. A few dogs received dremel pedicures and grooming. Ridley thought she needed to protect me from Dr. Jay upon his arrival and woof woofed at him in quite a serious manner for a puppy, but decided he wasn't so bad after all when I gave him treats. Jinx rode up in the van and also took her turn in the building, doing a little heeling, positions and some tug play. Needless to say, she thought she was very special! And, of course, she is!

It sure felt good to be able to train dogs again like that! My dogs are happy and tired and so am I.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dennis Bilik at BannerDogs

Last weekend I attended a seminar with Dennis Bilik at Donna Matey's BannerDogs facility. My intention was to continue the training I had begun the previous weekend with Quinn. I am always cautious about working my dog on a decoy I am unfamiliar with, but since I had seen Dennis' work I decided to include Cooper this time.
Donna Matey and Aida Flick, who are both seasoned Mondioring competitors, were there and assisted me with the exercises. In fact, Aida is now a deputy judge! I was sad to learn that I had received misinformation the previous weekend and that the MR1 and FR1 legs are not interchangeable; that changes my plans for spring trials. One difference noted between their training is that they are less formal in beginning the exercises, using horns, etc. In MR the horn (like one of those silly clown horns, or bike horns!) marks the beginning and end of the exercises, halts, etc. It was mentioned to me that you need to add random horn honks so that the dog does not cue on the use of the horn. Thinking this through, I noted that if I NEVER use the horn to begin/end/signal exercises.... and instead have random horn honks throughout, the dog will never attribute it. Seems to me a far better idea than first teaching the dog that the horn has meaning and then trying to convince him through random application that you lied!!
Whether it was because Dennis was warm, or because he was more comfortable working with me now he was much more open and talkative. In Minnesota, I questioned whether he really wanted to be working my dog or not. Of course, I may have to accept some blame as I told him Quinn was a schutzhund dog and probably wouldn't bite hard, knowing full well that he would, and he bruised Dennis in his trial suit. Do decoys hold that sort of thing against you? It's not as if I meant to hurt him, but I have always subscribed to the theory that you underestimate your dog when working with a new decoy so that they don't try to prove something with your dog.
This past weekend, he was extremely helpful in explaining how he thought the exercises should go and what to work on next and I enjoyed working with him.
We worked on the defense of handler exercise. Dennis said that the other work is in order and that the "out" and "whistle recall" would be the most important for us to finish. In only one week's time, Quinn is showing he understands "contact" and is moving around me to follow the decoy. Quinn is recalling off the decoy to a pillow bite from me... I'll have to start asking him to come to a position to receive his bite next. Much of what I have to consider is how best to communicate what I want while not creating conflict in other behaviors. When I am going recall Quinn I use the whistle and when I am asking him to out and guard I use his name as a preface, saying "Quinn, out-platz." Dennis said that last weekend he wasn't sure my goals were possible, but after this weekend they are definately in reach.
I find it amusing that Quinn's foundation in schutzhund has helped to make this easier. He obeys commands, understands markers and reward and knows how to learn. The "triangle" work with Greg Doud prepares him for the decoy enticing him to be drawn off the line. "transport" gave him a headstart on understanding to move and keep watch on the decoy. I worried about whether I was doing the right thing in switching him over, "ruining" him..... but he oozed enthusiasm as we moved through the exercises. Even when corrected, he kept a calm head and it did not dampen his enthusiasm.
Having seen his work, I decided to bring Cooper along on this trip, as well. He has had some foundation in legs, but only a session or two. I recall Greg not being enthusiastic about my taking Cooper to work on Mike Ellis, but it did not seem to pose a problem with his grip work. I like to give my young dogs a foundation in how to work legs properly so that I can always return to it later if I desire. I worked Cooper on a harness and back line, and would let him drag me in and then "pop" it about 4 feet before the grip, so that he was driving in hard and accelerating. This was after we saw that he was turning his head properly while working both legs. First I wanted to work his grips for long periods, and I liked that he continued to drive in and take more and more. Cooper also knows to release on command and to down and wait, so this helps as well.
The one thing that I plan to utilize more as our training continues is the bridge "goooood" to signal the decoy to return and present a bite as reward. We do it in our schutzhund training and not only do I think it will be helpful, but also clear and consistent in the method. It helps to reward the correct behavior. Downside is that you may not be able to work the session so long as you give those extra grips.
Michael Ellis will be coming to BannerDogs in February. According to Donna, she does not know when he might return. I imagine with his new school in California he is very busy and no longer needs to travel so much. I am on the waiting list, since those seminars fill at the previous seminar.... there is the chance that I will not be able to get in, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. Cooper will be returning to his schutzhund career and plans to certify as a disaster dog, and Quinn will hopefully be adding the initials MR1 behind his name before summer's end.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Inspiration on a Tuesday

I was inspired after my weekend of training in Minnesota, though I did take yesterday off for physical therapy and recovery! Plus, I am coming down with a cold. ick. So, with those excuses behind me, I headed up to my training building to get to work this afternoon.

First, I worked with Cooper. He was so excited to go to work! Since we've had quite a lay-off since my surgery, I was cautious not to over-work him and to keep it dynamic and brief, leaving him wanting more. We worked on his heeling and head position, ala Knut Fuchs, between the legs and then moving into spins, into the front position... positions....I even had him climb on up an end table and practice his positions! He is such a good boy. I often call him a good LITTLE boy, but he is not that any longer.

Next came Ridley. Poor Ridley has not had much work in her formative months so far. It is evident that I need to feed her by hand and make her a little more hungry. She loves the food and actually does work well for it, but would then tear off, making her own play with the long line. If she has a toy in her mouth she prefers to possess it rather than driving back in to me, so that is another thing to work on. I started feeding her in the position between my legs and working on head position and she did pretty well at that. Spins are good but she falls out of my hand and wants to dart in instead of maintaining hand contact. We worked a little bit on the object guard, as well. For her, that means simply teaching her to be on the object. She does not currently have sustained attention to problem solve in that manner. She has an awesome search, but the guard wasn't clear to her and she doesn't know how to experiment yet so far as figuring out what I am asking, and would romp away with her line in her mouth instead. We ended with tug play, where I would make play chase with the tug toy and then work the grip. She holds it calmly and will adjust and fill her mouth if she isn't holding it properly and I ask her to "packen". She doesn't yet want to bring it back to me to play, but that will come. All in all, though, she had fun being with me which is good.

Last on the afternoon agenda was the Quinnster. He is just sooo enthusiastic to come out and work at any time, and his favorite thing is to race away, then turn and fly back at him and pummel me with both his front feet. And then do it again! I made sure to tell him what a good boy he was and keep things very positive as he practiced his skills. I put him on the same end table as I had done with Cooper, and practiced his positions. We practiced the whistle back. I would leave him on a sit or down and then move to different positions and whistle, at which time he would be released for a bite on the bite pillow. It isn't the same thing as whistling him off another grip, but since he had never even heard a whistle prior to this weekend I wanted to take a step backwards and make it a positive event. If he knows what is being asked of him, it will be less likely to have to use force to create the behavior. He likes to punch through between the legs and I wanted to practice him him go through and turn back into the transport position, but I wasn't able to do it properly by myself. What he picked up easily was the "contact" exercise, where he has to make contact with my leg as I move. This will come in handy in the protection exercises. I used a ball reward on that and he was moving and pressing himself against my leg without force, after I guided him there a couple times and rewarded him. It does make me wonder why decoys such as Dennis that we worked with this weekend, would use force to teach everything. As I wrote in an earlier post, the way he did some things would not have been my preference to introduce it but Quinn was so amped by the biting that it didn't diminish him. Still, I wanted to go back this week and reinforce things positively. Quinn is an enthusiastic learner so it isn't difficult to teach the behaviors. He loves food or toy and so I have many tools to reward him. I did a couple send aways, at an angle and also practiced having him hold and retrieve an empty soda bottle to work on his "munching". Since I can hear it when he crunches, I can mark it.

The afternoon's work left me very happy with my furry kidlets. They all did well and it was so much fun to get back to the business of training. What I have to do yet is to list the behaviors I need to teach so I can measure my progress. I am so looking forward to this season!

Open Training Day in Harris, MN

This past weekend, I traveled to Harris, MN where Lisa and Ron Geller opened their building to dog sport enthusiasts for open training. It was a good opportunity to jump start the training season, and I was fortunate to have two World MR Team members there to help walk me through the exercises. Lisa and Melissa were terrific about sharing their knowledge and helping me out.

It would have been nice to take Ridley with me, but the weather was bitterly cold and I just didn't think I would enjoy having to get a puppy in and out of a hotel once I was inside and warm!! Sam and I will work on her foundation before I take her out like that, anyway. I had offers to help post or hold my dog, but I had asked Brad, my physical therapist before I left and he said there was no damage that would be done to my shoulder by the work, only it would be sore. And it was. but I was able to do all the tug play myself. In the moment, you pretty much just do it and it isn't until later that you realize how much you ache!

There were folks from a number of schutzhund clubs in the area, as well as ringsport aficionados. Many different breeds were represented, as well: rottweiler, german shepherd, malinois, renaissance bulldog AND a long coated one, laekenois, and boxer. The funny thing is that I recall in the past having to wait for all the ring folks to finish their lengthy routines and being impatient, but now "I is one!" It was handled well by alternating ring and schutzhund at this event, and in between, folks could go inside the observation room (heated!) and eat Ron's delicious chili!! yummo!

Quinn had fun. We worked a session on Saturday afternoon and could have worked again in the evening, but for the fact that I was freezing and sore by that time so I opted for a hot shower in my hotel! On Sunday we worked one session. The thing about ringsport sessions is that they are long, so it isn't like one session offered only a couple grips. You move from obedience into the protection work. Lisa and Melissa coached me on the prep and start and the basics of the exercises. I had competed with Jinx for her MR1 before, but much of it seems to have been lost from my memory banks when it came to the details. Quinn had never done a whistle recall before and in hindsight, I would have preferred to teach that at home first but we did work on it there, using a prong collar and long line for guidance. You could just see how amped up Quinn was in the exercises. He was under control but clearly so happy with himself. I now have a list of exercises to work on with a specific goal in mind. I learned that the MR and FR titles will cross over, and that if I pass a MR1 leg with him at Melissa's spring trial and pass a FR1 leg at Lisa's trial in June, Quinn will have both a French Ring1 and a Mondioring1 title. How cool is that??

Right up to the last moment, I questioned whether I was doing the right thing by switching to ringsport with Quinn instead of remaining in schutzhund. He is 12xSchH3, though, and will never be fast enough in the judge's opinion to win a Championship, so I might was well let him have some fun. Me, too. I have to note that it is his foundation that lets us make the switch this easily. He learned to work legs on a separate command when he was young. I taught him positions, as well, and played with his obedience and transport between the legs. So while there are finesse points we need to work on, he already has the overall picture of the work.

So now, by virtue of a drive to Minnesota, I have added two new goals for Quinn this year. In addition to being crazy enough to still intend to earn his FH!! I have to be nuts to do ringsport and still want to track.....

No pics for now, but soon.....

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Goals

In 2008 I had added 6 more SchH3/IPO3 titles to Quinn's repertoire, making him 8xSchH3. All of those were High SchH3 and all but one was High in Trial at club trials. He earned High obedience and protection at the Regional Championships. On my Goals and Accomplishments sheet I wrote that my goals for 2009 were: FH, HOT trial, not sure about other National Events, Regional Champion. Ultimate goal is 14x SchH3, DPO if I can find a trial."

At the end of the year, we had earned only three more SchH3 titles. As it turns out, the HOT trial was too early for us to be ready but we did compete in the AWDF Championship where we were proud to pass, as many dogs had difficulty. I, on the other hand, DID earn a trophy! I was awarded the "Sportsmanship Trophy", which to me is what the sport should be about. By choosing to compete in that trial, and helping out where I could, I met many new and wonderful people, had a great time and was rewarded in many ways. During the previous year, Quinn's "out" had gotten stickier and stickier and finally darned near missing. In my pursuit of titles, he became quite trial wise and so I elected not to enter as many trials and to prepare for the bigger Championships. We did compete at our club trial and again at the Regional Championship. Quinn had improved in many areas, but it wasn't enough to earn the SchH3 Championships. Since earning an FH was on my list, we also made one attempt at that. We made a good start but, an ugly middle, and a finish granted by the grace of the judge after we failed. I had hoped to make it to the AWMA Championships in Florida in December, but instead found myself undergoing rehab after a shoulder surgery. Plans change.

In 2010. I will earn an FH with Quinn. (notice that I am not saying that I "hope to" or "plan to". Be positive! Be affirmative!) I have earned FH's with two Dutch Shepherds and now it's Quinn's turn. I know he can do it. There is only one DPO judge in USA any longer, and I have yet to see a club offer a DPO trial under him, at least in our area; if it was possible, I sure would like to do that yet. However, we are going to take a slight turn and pursue Mondioring this year! Frankly, I became disappointed that Quinn was not as competitive as he needs to be to win trials. He will never be as fast as the judges want to see. He has improved and given me his 100% in many areas and many arenas. He is fun to work, and I love that dog! So now I am going to give him a gift and let him play Mondioring in 2009. He has a foundation in suit/leg work and after the Regionals I worked him on Fernando Dosta, who was there to begin a ring seminar the follow day, and he pronounced Quinn had the tools to pursue MR. In 2010, I will earn a MR1 with Quinn. The only funny part about this is that many ring folk leave or avoid schutzhund because they don't like tracking, so here I am pursuing ring but also an advanced tracking title!! Call me crazy!

Back at goal setting time for 2009, Jinx was rehabbing what was supposed to be a torn glenohumeral ligament. At that time she had earned one leg of her MR1, SchH2 and was one of only two dogs in Wisconsin with a Type 1/CE SUSAR disaster dog certification. My goal for 2009 was "rehab and recovery. Everything will depend on that. If she remains well enough, SchH3, second leg of her MR1 and the International Rescue Dog test." Now we know that the limp was actually the first manifestation of the brachial nerve sheath tumor, which likely weakened the ligament as well. Now, I am grateful for each day with Jinx. It is extremely unlikely that her atrophied front leg will regain use, or that she will ever finish schutzhund titles. Life, however, is more precious than any title in the world. My goal for Jinx for 2010 is to keep her happy and healthy and celebrate the coming of 2011. I don't know how much of that I can control, but this dream is as big as it gets.

My 2009 goal for Cooper was "CGC, BH, SchH1 and FSA". wow! What was I thinking? We did pass our Canine Good Citizen test. We worked hard to prepare for the FSA. Cooper really came into his own this past season. The little man grew up. He took direction and learned the elements so quickly it astounded me. We were prepared to take the FSA and even drove to CT this past fall but the test was canceled at the last minute, so we will have to seek one out in 2010. In 2010 Cooper will earn his BH, SchH1 and FSA. In order to accomplish the SchH1 I will need to get busy and finish his retrieve over the winter, and track once spring arrives. I joined a DVG club so that we will be able to compete in the DVG Regionals and enter the AWDF Championship. As a Dutch Shepherd and having no breed club, he can't participate in AWDF that way, but he can as a DVG member. hmmm.....

In 2010, I will sell the dogs that aren't actively being worked. That means Chica, Bart, Enno and Excel. It is important that they have their own special homes where they are the most important dogs, worked and loved.

I had hoped to breed Quinn to Ozzie Loups du Soleil in 2010 but unfortunately, the timing is not good for the owner and so that particular goal is out of my reach. I thought that pairing would produce some strong dogs, and I looked forward to keeping a pup for myself. Now it is entirely possible that circumstances are for the best, or at least I will tell myself that. It's not as if I really need another dog. (but who does??)

I do have my newest Dutch Shepherd puppy, Ridley, who promises to be quite a handful! In 2010 I will give Ridley a foundation in the schutzhund elements and also ringsports, and let her tell me what she wants to be when she grows up! No goals bigger than that with her for 2010. If I have the opportunity, I would like to show the Dutch Shepherds in conformation. Cooper is awesomely handsome. I would also like to compete with Quinn in AKC or UKC obedience. Who knows, maybe Cooper, too? Those are just "would like to" , not real goals, because I have to fit those things in where I can and they depend on whether trials are offered nearby that aren't in conflict with schutzhund events.

Some of my goals depend on timing, and not being in conflict with other events or K9 classes, but if time permits, in 2010 I will compete in the AWDF Championship and the NC Regional Championship and the Malinois Championship.

Are there enough days in the year for all my goals? Most definately! Dream so big it's scarey. Dream of titles and travel, of fine tuning your relationship with your dog and meeting new people. Expand your experiences. Read, study, attend seminars. But above all, do it because you and your canine partner enjoy it. Your goals are yours. Remember that. Once you add another to the equation, whether it be human or four-legged, be mindful that they might not share your dreams. They may well have their own, and to drag an unwilling dog along on your ego trip is patently unfair. My goal is always to have my dog give his 100%. If your goal is to be on the podium but the dog does not have that to give, your choice is either to accept his 100% even if it translates to 80 points or find the dog a new home or career. Be fair. What if the dog could evaluate our handling skills and ask to be transferred if we didn't live up to his expectations? What if the dog could say" this girl is never going to get me to the podium. She is not committed to regular training, she can't focus on one task and I would like a new home, please." If you make goals you need to be committed to doing your part to make them happen, as well.

So, get with it! 2010 can be the best year yet! What are YOUR goals?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Schutzhund and Mary Kay

Did I get your attention with that? Good! I'll bet you are wondering what in the world could schutzhund possibly have in common with the Goddess of Women's Cosmetics? Well, let me tell you!

It was my intention to write a post about goals and dreams, as they relate to our upcoming year in dogsports, particularly schutzhund. As I put pen to paper, my mind immediately went to quotations I had read in Mary Kay Ash's book, "Miracles Happen." As anyone familiar with Mary Kay Ash knows, she took adversity and created a lasting tribute to her hard work and commitment. Why can't we apply the same principles? Every year I ask that our schutzhund club members dedicate a few minutes to writing down what they accomplished during the past year, and recognizing that as a group, and also writing down and sharing their goals for 2010. I considered that some people might shy away from making their goals too big for fear of embarrassment when they are read the following year.

Mary Kay Ash writes, "you wouldn't start (a trip) without a road map. The same should be true of your life. Without a plan-- a road map--- you will never get where you want to go. To accomplish anything significant, you must sit down and decide what you want from life." What is your schutzhund "road map?" Clearly, it must involve knowing the rules, for without that you do not know what it is you do not know! Everyone should own a current rule book.

Continuing, she wrote, "Often, when people list long term goals, they seem overwhelming. But as the old Chinese proverb relates, "The longest journey begins with a single step." At the same time, a good goal is like a strenuous exercise-- it makes you stretch. Goals should be slightly out of reach, to be of maximum value. Remember, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you will still be among the beautiful stars."

When you write your goals, make them stretch. Let it be something you are willing to work for but slightly scarey in how big it is. If you are thinking of a SchH1 why not say you are going to be the SchH1 Regional Champion? If you fall short, you still will have put the pieces together to go to the Regionals. You will have studied the rules and practiced and exposed yourself and your dog to things outside your comfort zone. If you miss, you're still among the beautiful stars of experience and support.

However, to reach those big goals you need to put them into a manageable size. Inch by inch, it's a cinch, but yard by yard, it's hard. Mary Kay told a young entrepreneur that
" she should set her sights on short-term, attainable goals. Otherwise, that great big lifetime dream would be overwhelming. It's great to think big-- but take care to break that big goal into smaller goals or plateaus that you can achieve by stretching yourself. You can eat an elephant, one bite at a time."
How will you plan those manageable steps? By consulting your road map, your rulebook. At times, I have literally broken down a goal into each behavior I needed to train, with plans on how I was going to approach it. Put in simplest terms you have a means of checking off the steps you take toward the goal, and measuring your progress.

Mary Kay writes, "The world is full of people who are very quick to dream and very slow to act. Often it's because they have failed to break big goals into manageable goals, but more often, it is a fear of failure. Many people are so afraid of failure, that they never try anything.... The death of fear is in doing what you fear to do. Yes, you're going to make mistakes along the way, but you'll also be learning. And as I said earlier, we fail forward to success. You will make mistakes, and sometimes you will be frustrated as you work toward your goals. But for every failure, there's an alternative course of action.... Have confidence in yourself, and you'll find another route. Remember that obstacles either "polish us up" or "wear us down." A diamond was once just a hunk of coal until it was put under pressure and polished to perfection."

Get out there and do it! You will never recognize the potential of yourself or your dog if you do not risk failure. I should add here as well that you must risk embarrassment. For some, the fear of being embarrassed is immobilizing. If you handle a dog for any period of time, one or the other of you is going to do something to cause embarrassment. Or perhaps it is just in learning--and admitting-- that you don't know everything. Or that what you did, or thought you knew, was incorrect. In the years I have been in the sport, so many things have changed. I've been willing to learn new methods and adapt. Had I clung to what I did twenty-odd years ago, not risking embarrassment by refusing to attend new seminars, well, I would be where I was twenty-odd years ago. Those are people we refer to as "having had the same experience for twenty years" rather than having twenty years of experience. I've been in National events, and I've both passed and failed there. Failure has inspired me to reevaluate, regroup and keep trying. And in those experiences, I have met some wonderful people. Nothing is lost in that. I think it is also humbling to know that there, by the Grace of God, go I. Dogs are not machines and despite training and expectations, sometimes they just do things that defy explanation.

Mary Kay Ash wrote of attending a convention that changed her life. "Among the things they told us that day was "Hitch your wagon to a star." .... Another principle they taught us was to "Get a railroad track to run on".... The final lesson I learned at that convention was "Tell somebody what you are going to do."

What does this mean to you? Those are probably the most important words I can share with you, from the pages of Mary Kay Ash. When she writes to "hitch your wagon to a star" that means to seek out the person who has reached the level you want to achieve and learn from them. Ask how they reached their goals and what advice they might give you . Watch and learn. If you want to improve, you don't take lessons or advice from a person who knows the same as you or who has not accomplished what you want. "Get a railroad track to run on" means to pull that rulebook out and study it. That is your railroad track. It provides a path to the place you want to be. Frankly, if you don't know the rules of the sport you want to participate in, you will never be among the stars.

Lastly, "tell someone what you are going to do" is reflected in many businesses and motivational seminars, and is something I like to follow for our schutzhund club. When you speak the words "I WILL.." outloud, you give those words validity. You are also advising your support network that this is your goal and that you will need their help and support to get their. Not only that, but you are asking them to hold you to those words, and remind you of them when you are tired or disappointed, and to tell you that you CAN do it. Say it out loud. Write it down and tape it to your mirror or refrigerator so that you see it every day. Visualize what it will look like when you are successful.

As I reviewed the goals I had set for myself last year, Mary Kay Ash's words rang true in my ears. In my next post I will commit my goals for next year to writing. Feel free to hold me accountable!
In the meantime, sit down and put your own goals for 2010 to paper. I found beautiful hinged ornaments at Stein's this year and filled them with chocolate and trinkets for my nieces and nephews. One thing I thought to do was to save one for myself and to place inside a note with 5 things that happened during the year, 5 things I want to accomplish in 2010 and 5 things I want for the future. Won't that be interesting to look at in another year? Or ten?

Go now and take the first step toward making your goals a reality. As Mary Kay said, "inch by inch, it's a cinch!"