Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hana shows off

Oh, Hana-Banana (Questa vom Gildaf) is so awesome!  If her owner ever decides not to keep her, she has a home here!  Little Missy was my demo dog... errr.. puppy today.  A new client visited with his puppy and the easiest thing to do was to use Hana to show him what I meant in the various behaviors.  I had done multiple series of scent circles previously and it was time to move forward, so I put in two scent circles and a third, from which her first track continued.  My visitor intends to do Search and Rescue with his puppy, but since the pup wasn't terribly interested in working for food today we couldn't track with it, so I showed him using Hana.  She happily cooperated with searching out her kibble in each footstep of the track.

Part of the problem with visitor-puppy was that the owner was luring it with the food and the puppy did not desire the food enough to push into his hand and work for it. Work ethic isn't something a puppy is born with; it is created.  Being a dog, a puppy would be perfectly happy to be cajoled and begged to try different treats and not work too hard, letting the silly human do all the work! So Hana got to demonstrate how driving for food looks, showing off her spins and heel position, moving off the hand and backing. We had worked with a board last night, tossing food and having her pause on the board.  Today I introduced the perch.  I had concerns about tossing food on the field and whether it would result in hunting for food instead of the pursuit thereof, but by using highly visible treats for that (string cheese/spam) none of that occurred.  I was able to toss the treats, have her run to them and run right back to me.

Lucky girl! She even took a turn showing what prey drive for the chamois looks like, and how to work the grip. Tug toys only come out as interaction with me.  Back at home, she only has "boring" chew toys.  The most fun stuff is held by me, the Goddess of All Good Things. 

Hana came out for 4 or 5 short sessions during the day.  Part of her education is simply the act of being crated and riding along for the day, in and out to potty and train.  I bag up her meal at the beginning of the day, and what hasn't been finished in training (she gets her own kibble on the track and in some obedience exercises), is finished with a send away.

And that was a day in the life of Hana.  She slept very soundly.... for about 3 hours.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Think outside the Catalog! Cheap-o training tools that do more

I took a photo of these training tools--  a rubber feed pan, a traffic cone and a bath mat--- to demonstrate that you do not need to break the bank on gimmicky training aids to get the job done.  It seems at each seminar, an instructor hawks items that you must have if you ever hope to reach the pinnacle of success he/she has achieved.  Or they have a crew building stanchions and boards and all manner of wood work. 

So what can you really accomplish with this random trip to Fleet Farm? Lets begin our cheap-o tour of tools with the rubber feed dish.  They come in varying sizes, depending on how big your dog is.  It needs to be large enough that the dog can comfortably place his/her front feet on the dish (notwithstanding that I did start to teach Chica to place her rear feet on perch as well).  Some people call this a "perch".  The dog learns hind-end awareness and movement on the perch. You can teach movement to heel position, and centering to front.  Placed on either side of the jump, it can be used to create muscle memory in the distance and work on the technical skill of jumping before adding the retrieve.  It can be used as a target on the send-away.  The dog can be taught to "hit the mark" as you toss food behind it and it returns to the perch and stabilizes.

The bath mat is just a simple thing to teach a dog to go to a "place."  I use it often with pet dog training.  Giving the dog a place to be instead of mugging the door, or dinner table, is helpful. When I flew with my Search and Rescue dog, I would always carry a rolled up mat or bed with my pack.  While waiting at airports, I would unroll the bed and Jinx knew that was her place to rest.  On the plane, I placed it at my feet.  The mat can help make boundaries clear for the dog.  Visually, if they stray from that place it is very clear, and different from the grass or floor.  If I need to make it more clear by elevating, I can place the mat on a board or even a folded crate. In practicing a long down it can be helpful to make it clear to the dog that no creeping is allowed.

And the cone?  Some years ago I noticed that a well known competitor carried with him a small, collapsible traffic cone.  He used it as a send-away target in practice and said it was something he could carry with him to any new field. That is a good idea, having something that the dog is familiar with from place to place.  I recently saw the traffic cone (a taller one) used to teach the dog to run blinds.  It started as the dog being rewarded to touch the cone, and then to move around it, teaching a tight search.  I have used the cones to mark a lane between the blind and the distance I will allow the dog from it, to teach them to run tightly, and idea that was adopted by another trainer.  None of these ideas are secrets.

Actually, you will find that Fleet Farm is an incredible resource. Need a tab? Spend $5 on a thin, puppy leash and cut it to the length you need.  Yes, they come in pink! Although they don't sell fur-saver collars, you will find other training collars about 1/3- 1/2 price in comparison.  Puppy carriers... only $25.  If are a 1970's holdover and still know how to macramé, buy para-cord there and make your own leashes and collars. Need a flirt pole to attach a piece of leather, for working puppies?  Try a lunge whip in the equestrian department.

 I know there are people who prefer to talk about how much money they spent building or buying the latest gadget-- and Lord knows, I own many of them myself!-- but there are enough things to spend money on in this sport, so if you can save a little here and there and use these common items to make good training, it might be worth trying.  Think outside the catalog box.