November 03, 2007

The paw plunger

Like a giant coffee cup filled with bristles, the paw plunger lets you wash puppy's feet without a whole bath. Handy device or useless gadget?

Might be useful after Duz's side trips through the mangroves.

Wagging School

A little different from previous tv dog-training schools, Wagging Schools is a series of five minute programs each dedicated to teaching a basic skill like sit, lie down and leave it.

All the Wagging School videos are available to download onto your mobile device - in MP4, WMV and 3gpp format. Or you can download all 10 guides in one pdf (202KB).

Wagging School's Golden Rules

When you make a plan of action, stick to it and don't change your mind later. If you ask your dog to sit, make sure it does so immediately every time! And if you don't want your dog on your favourite chair, don't allow it to get up on any furniture ever!

Many people just pull their dogs around either without speaking or being annoyed. Very negative behaviour.

Don't just stand there waiting for your dog. Dogs need a leader, so tell it firmly and show it what you want. Then when it does it, praise it.

Learn to say training word first, then quickly get dog to respond, then quickly praise or reward with a treat. Say it, Do it (quickly) & Praise it a lot!

The second your dog has done what you asked it to do, praise it well - use positive reinforcement only.

Don't say anything if your dog doesn't obey you, just simply ask it again and make it happen. Then give it lots of praise, of course!

November 02, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Furry

There are quite a few of these books around - "Choosing the dog that's right for you". But Sam Stall tells it like it is, giving the most important information would-be owners might need to know about more than 100 varieties of dogs. Each entry addresses key factors, like size, coat type, temperament, exercise requirements, potential genetic issues, schedule demands (does the dog mind if you leave her alone all day?) and financial demands.

Helpful pet icons tell if a dog is aggressive, very smart, needs a lot of grooming, can make a lot of noise, etc.; while other icons pertain to owners, differentiating between couch potatoes and active folk, suburbanites and city dwellers, etc.

Whimsical sketches of each dog give an indication of personality. Stall's humor makes the book a little different from others available: describing a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's watchdog potential, he says "the only way it could harm a burglar is if the guy tripped over it." He warns that "Goldens like to carry things in their mouths. They may trot around for hours holding an interesting piece of underwear before presenting it to houseguests."


guarding?, originally uploaded by illona.

An interesting discussion taking place on Flickr around Illona's photo taken at a dog park. What is agression? What is inappropriate play? Should someone intervene? Who? And how?

What is the role of the dog park? Are they good places to take your dog? Should they be more strictly 'policed'?

September 18, 2007

Genetics and Behaviour

Nicholas Dodman is head of the animal behaviour clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Using brand new genetic 'chip' technology Dodman is exploring the genetics of common behavioural problems in dogs.

The correlation between particular breeds and specific behaviours has been obvious to observers; Dodman's experiments will uncover the genetic sources of these behaviours. He will initially look at flank sucking in Dobermans, tail chasing in Bull Terriers, and rage in Springer Spaniels.

With selective breeding and documented pedigrees, purebred dogs provide a powerful system for untangling genetic complexities.

While linking human and animal research is problematic, some commentators are hoping that Dodman's research will illuminate human psychiatric probelms such as aggression, self-harm, and obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

September 17, 2007

Positive or Negative?

Interviewed for Bark magazine, Dr Nicholas Dodman said.

"I think that the direct punishment-based techniques are outmoded, a thing of the past, and should be avoided. Nobel Prize winners Lorenz, Tinbergen and Von Frisch might have disagreed on some points, but the three of them were all in agreement that punishment teaches a dog nothing except how to avoid the punishment."

"I work on the theory that if you can train a killer whale to launch itself out of a swimming pool, roll on its side and urinate into a small plastic cup, given only a whistle and a bucket of fish, without a choke chain, then you don’t need those confrontational techniques with dogs."

September 16, 2007

Virtual Clicker Training

The US PBS network's program Pet Tech featured Duncan, a virtual sheep dog who looks after a virtual flock. Created by a team at MIT's Media Lab, Duncan has a mind of his own and can learn to respond to verbal commands. Like a real dog, however, Duncan's performance often depends on the skill of his human master.

With advice from Gary Wilkes, they used a clicker to teach him a range of commands.

You can watch episodes of Pet Tech online.

September 08, 2007

Basic skills of clicker training

What: Criteria
Before you start a training session, decide exactly what you are going to reinforce. Unless you know what you want, you’re unlikely to get it! Remember to teach in tiny increments, rather than expecting the whole finished behaviour all at once. The smaller the increments the more successful your dog will be at working the behaviour out for himself – and that produces the best learning.

When: Timing
The click marks exactly the moment that the dog performs the desired behaviour. It tells the dog “That’s what I want. That’ll get you a reward” You will find that you have to anticipate the dog’s action so as to click on time. It is better to click too soon than too late.

Where: Placement
While the clicker is the primary marker, everything that happens between the click and the treat is being reinforced. If you click a sit then your dog gets up for the treat, getting up without a cue is being reinforced. So where possible, reward the dog in position, or use the delivery of the treat to reinforce the behaviour. Eg click backing up, and toss the treat under the dog’s belly so she has to back up to get it.

How Much: Rate of Reinforcement
Keep the rate of reinforcement high, particularly in the early stages of teaching a new behaviour. Your dog knows how to sit. What you are teaching him is that it is worth his while to sit when you give the cue – so make it worth his while! As you raise the criteria you will be demanding more of your dog for less frequent reinforcement.

Intro to clicker training

Notes for a workshop I gave at the ADAA Camp. They came from Bob Baily via Dani Weinberg and Helix Fairweather.

How to Teach a New Behaviour

1. Get yourself organized
Prepare small, soft, easily delivered treats or decide on another reward. Practice clicking and delivering the treat until you can do it smoothly and quickly.

2. Warmup
Start each training sessions with a few rounds of Clicking Attention. Just click and treat if your dog is new to clicker training, or ask for a few simple well known behaviours that you can click and treat.

3. Get the behaviour
Capture – Watch your dog and click and treat if your dog offers the behaviour.
Lure – Coax your dog into performing the behaviour with a strategically positioned treat. Only lure two or three times then let your dog figure it out.
Shape – Click and treat ever closer approximations to the behaviour. First step might be look at the target, then move towards it, touch with nose, press nose against it.

4. Change the picture
Start helping your dog generalize by changing your position, orientation, distance. Sit, stand, turn sideways …

5. Give it a name
When your dog is doing the behaviour intentionally and predictably, give the cue while the behaviour is happening. Then gradually give the cue earlier, until you can give it before the behaviour starts.

If your dog offers any behaviour other than the one you asked for, do nothing. Wait for your dog to figure it out, then click and treat when your dog gets it right.
Once you have built up an association between the cue and the behaviour, if your dog offers the behaviour when you haven’t cued it, ignore! Then immediately give the cue and click and treat the repeated behaviour.

6. Make it harder
Start delaying the click and treat, one second at a time, to build duration.
Raise your standards and only click and treat those instances of the behaviour that meet your new standard. You might ask for faster, further, longer, straighter … Work on one criterion at a time.

Go back a step if necessary to keep the dog’s success rate high.

7. Take it on the road
Ask for the behaviour in new parts of the house, garden, street, suburb … Practice in increasingly distracting locations, and introduce distractions to familiar locations.

September 06, 2007

Sapper Merlin killed on duty

Sapper Merlin watches as Sapper Peter Lawlis eats a biscuit.

An Australian Cattle Dog cross from Brisbane he was working as a bomb detection dog in Afghanistan, when he was run over while sleeping in the shade of a vehicle.

August 25, 2007

Which mixed breeds?

Reggies owner thinks he is part cattle dog and part fox terrier, however tests on the market in the US could let him know Reggies breed heritage for sure.

The Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Analysis requires a blood sample and is done in a veterinarian's office. The results come back in two to three weeks. The test is based on DNA samples from 3,200 dogs, covering 134 breeds and is expected to cost about $130.

The Canine Heritage Breed Test is a do-it-yourself kit from MMI Genomics. Owners swab the inside of their dog's cheek, and then mail it to the company. This test covers 38 breeds, costs $71.95 and takes four to six weeks.

These services join the American Kennel Club's DNA testing to confirm parentage using a cheek swab. The AKC maintains a DNA library of over 450,000 individual dogs which is used to protect and investigate pedigree claims.

August 18, 2007

Reggie says hi!

Reggie says hi!, originally uploaded by marj k.

August 13, 2007

ACD Pedigree Database

Pedigree of Ikenheel Diamonds N Dust (Dusty) Her lines can be traced back to Little Logic through Wooleston Blue Jack

"Sydney exhibitors saw Little Logic offspring, for the first time, among entrants at the Sydney Royal of 1947. These exhibits, and their sires' show record, created immediate demand for Little Logic's lineage. By the end of the 1950s, there were few Australian Cattle Dogs whelped that were not Little Logic descendants. The convergence on Little Logic continued into the next generation when Little Logic's best known son, Logic Return, also attained prominence in the show ring and popularity at stud.

The prominence of Little Logic and Logic Return in the pedigrees of modern Australian Cattle Dogs was perpetuated by Wooleston Kennels. Whelped in 1965, Wooleston Blue Jack was line bred to Little Logic and Logic Return, and Wooleston Kennels subsequently line bred to Wooleston Blue Jack, himself. For some twenty years, Wooleston supplied foundation and supplementary breeding stock to breeders in Australia, North America and Continental Europe. As a result, Wooleston Blue Jack is ancestral to most, if not all, Australian Cattle Dogs whelped since 1990 in any country." ACD Breed History Noreen Clark

August 04, 2007

Dog Diet

Thommo has put on some weight - a combination of the sore feet, winter, and my being away. So he's going back onto Chris Zink's pumpkin diet.

"Take 1/3 of your dog's regular dinner away and replace it with 2/3 canned pumpkin. It only has 40 calories per cup so you can really increase it quiet a bit and still not be adding much. If after a week or two of weighing your dog on the same day at the same time, you don't begin to see a weight loss....increase the pumpkin and the lower the kibble until you start to see a steady loss at 1-2 pounds a week. Just like people, any more per week is unhealthy. Keep the dog on this level until the desired weight is reached then slowly decrease the pumpkin until you are left with the regular dinner. At this point you may need to increase your kibble some, but by weighing every's readily apparent if you dog is still losing or starting to creep up again."

Princess takes a nap

Princess takes a nap, originally uploaded by marj k.

July 30, 2007

Agilily - for all breeds

ADAA Wallerawang Trial

The action was fast and furious, keeping spectators riveted.

Dusty BAAD

We had a wonderful weekend at the ADAA Wallerawang trial. The weather was brisk but fine, and Nicola's brazier and large quantities of mulled wine kept the frost at bay.

Many thanks to judges Wayne and Jody who were marvellous, particularly with green dogs and nervous handlers.

The cold made Thommo rather stiff, so he had only one run. But he enjoyed the gamblers course, deciding to do an A-frame a third time instead of starting the gamble.

Dusty got several quallies and a first place against some stiff competition. She earned her BAAD title at just her second ADAA trial, and is 3/4 of the way to her AAD.

  • Beginner Australian Agility Dog (BAAD) - Dogs that have gained four Clear Round certificates in Combined-Elementary Agility/Jumping Tests with at least two being gained in Agility Tests.
  • Australian Agility Dog (AAD) - Dogs that have gained four Clear Round certificates in Combined-Starters, Intermediate and/or Open Agility/Jumping Tests with at least two being gained in Agility Tests.

Though BAAD does suit her!

July 25, 2007

Weave action

Canine Chiropractic

The August issue of Clean Run magazine has an article entitled,"Is It a Training Problem or Is It Physical?" by Tracy Sklenar. The first paragraph reads, "When agility dogs slow down, act stressed, avoid obstacles or leave the ring, we often look for answers in our training program. Perhaps there has been a low rate of reinforcement, or the dog does not understandwhat we are asking him to do in competition. Maybe the distractions are overwhelming,or the dog lacks motivation for the game. Sometimes, though, the answer is not to be found in training - it is only uncovered after a systematic and thorough medical workup. Many medical problems can affect our dogs' performance that are first seen (or only seen) on the agility field."

Australia now offers the highest level of Veterinary Chiropractic training in the world, through RMIT university in Victoria. The 2 year post-grad diploma, and 3 year Masters degree are available to qualified Chiropractors, Osteopaths and Veterinarians only.

The Chirovet website has some interesting articles on The Role of Chiropractic Therapy in Small Animal Medicine and Chiropractic and Acupuncture for Dogs & Cats plus a detailed FAQ and a guide to locating members of the Australian Veterinary Chiropractic Association.

July 22, 2007

Ag Ch Brenilly Wynona Ryder

Le and Rabbit earned the last 1st place ribbon needed to gain them their Agility Champion title on the weekend at the Coffs Harbour trial. Once a dog has Masters titles in both Agility and Jumping they require 20 additional qualifying certificates in both Masters Agility and Jumping classes (40 qualifying certificates in all) with 10 qualifying certificates in each class being a 1st place.

July 18, 2007

Pre-emptive cues

When I have finished sweeping, I tap the broom on the floor a couple of times. I've probably done this for thirty years, but I didn't know I did it until Dusty told me.

Duz wants to chase the broom. So I place her in a down stay, sweep a section and then tell her "Get it." She casts around and grabs the broom for a tug. This worked well for a while, then she began to consistently race for the broom, before my "Get it." She was predicting that the broom taps would be immediately followed by "Get it" so that became her cue.

This has sent be back to start line 'routines'. If I'm to have a set routine then I need to proof it so that she waits for the final cue - not one of the actions that precede it and therefore predict it. If I'm not going to go this route, then I need to vary what I do at the start line so that she is not picking her own cue from the chain.

July 14, 2007

I think I distracted him :-)

I think I distracted him :-), originally uploaded by marj k.

At training today we were doing a number of exercises involving a send to the table.

July 12, 2007


Thommo, originally uploaded by marj k.

My Thommo - he's such a sook at the vet, everyone there loves him.


Thommo has had sore front feet for a while - he'd seem fine for days then be three-leg lame on one front foot or the other. A fatty lump on his right foot confused diagnosis but radiographs today confirmed that he as osteoarthritis in both feet. Other joints seem clear for the moment.

Arthritis results from destruction of the cartilage that protects the ends of the bones that make up the joint. Cartilage destruction can be the result of normal stress on abnormal joints or abnormal stress on normal joints.

Thommo does subject his toes to quite a bit of stress through a pouncing action as he stalks sticks and toys. He uses the same pounce to come to a stop on the contact obstacles.

There has been lively 'debate' in Australia over the ANKC's decision to remove slats from the A-frame and DogWalk last year. However, though some say dogs can no longer tell the difference between the Dog Walk and the Teeter, the absence of slats will allow Thommo to continue with agilty for a while longer.

I'll limit him to one or two runs a day and watch him carefully. I know from my own arthritic hands that it's usually a day or two after exertion that I feel the pain so I'll certainly start off with a "less is more" approach.

Cartrophen Vet - a series of weekly injections for four weeks, in conjunction with
Sasha's Blend - a combination of marine concentrates with high natural anti inflammatory and joint protective properties, it contains the full range of GAGS (glycosaminoglycans) including Keratin, Dermatin, Heparin sulphates and the commonly known Glucosamine & Chondroitin sulphates which provide the necessary nutrients required to stimulate healthy joint function.
Rimadyl (carprofen) - for occasional use to manage severe pain.

We've cut back on swimming with the cold weather - but I'll get the wetsuit out and alternate swimming and walking. They both need to lose the couple of kilos they put on while I was away, also.

Duz doesn't want to pose

Duz doesn't want to pose, originally uploaded by marj k.

A fairly typical scenario - Thommo doing what I request and Dusty asking "Why do you want me to? Can I do it later? Can I do it differently? How about just Thommo does it?"

July 11, 2007

Nicknacks and prizes.

At the weekend's trial I was happy to choose photo frames from the selection of great things on offer, but was fascinated by the magents available at Canine Shenanigans.
"Agility Trial Qualifier" is pretty straight forward, but who decides whether non-qualifiers would get "Agility Just For The Fun Of It", or "Train Don't Complain".

July 10, 2007

Return to Agility

After four months with no agility - no training, no trials - Dusty, Thommo and I went back to training at Canine Fun Sports last Friday and to an ADAA trial on Sunday.

In the training session we worked on discriminations, layering and distance work with a semicircle of jumps behind a tunnel, and then on control on contacts and table. My footwork and hand signals were a little rusty, but the dogs seemed to pick up where they left off.

Thommo has sore front feet - x-rays on thursday this week - so I only entered him in one event. It was a good quick run, with perfect weaves but he had a refusal and a knocked bar at the end of the course so his feet may have started to hurt. A couple of tight pull offs eliminated most of the competition so he ended up with a non-Q first place.

In Dusty's agility runs I continued what we had been practicing in class and asked for a full 'down' on the contacts and a wait for an 'OK' which added seconds to our time, but she had clear rounds in both Starters and Elementary and third-place ribbons. In Starters jumping she had a great, focused run to get a Q and a first-place ribbon. However by Elementary jumping we had had some heavy rain and she was reluctant to 'down' at the start, I started too close to her, behind the wing, and then pulled her off jump 2 as I ducked around. After that it was another good run, but no Q and no ribbon.

June 15, 2007

Dog domesticates man

Australian Museum scientist Paul Tacon and Adelaide colleague Colin Pardoe believe that man first developed a relationship with dogs almost 130,000 years ago – 10 times longer than previous estimates. "Evidence suggests domestication of dogs was a two-way street," according to their paper. "That led to profound changes in the biological and behavioral evolution of both species."

Domestication apparently started when wolves introduced themselves to humans by scavenging around campsites. They then moved in and started acting as an early warning system for humans. Later they were used in hunting.

This would have improved the chances of survival for early human groups and may explain why Neanderthals became extinct and homo sapiens did not. Big game hunting became part of human culture after the arrival of dogs – an instinctive wolf behavioral trait which humans picked up. "What we are saying is the two main models of human evolution are too simple," said Dr Tacon. "The real story is far more complex.”

It also suggests that the arguments for raw food based on a 'natural wolf diet' are too simplistic too. If dogs have been eating human cast-offs and left-overs for 130,000 years they are probably well adapted too it. Myself - I think raw food is healthier for both humans and dogs if standards on chemical and bacterial contamination are met.

March 12, 2007

Dusty gets a qually

Dusty's second trial at Newcastle this past weekend. She had two runs - one in Standard Agility and one in Jumpers under ANKC rules.
We were second in the ring for Agility. I didn't really have Duz's attention and when she saw our instructor running in the next ring, she did the whole course looking over her shoulder. I thought it was a fairly difficult novice course with 90 degree turns away from discrimination obstacles - and it wasn't one we could do without her full attention.
By Jumpers, I had settled down and had taken the time to go through her pre-comp routine with stretches, focus tricks and settling obedience commands, and a game of tug. She had a great run, a couple of wide turns when I forgot that she needed much earlier cues than Thommo, but finished clear in 2/3 of the standard course time for a qualification and a third place medal.

January 30, 2007

Summer Camp Two

Our second Summer Camp with Canine Fun Sports dealt with skills to succeed in the Games that were introduced in ANKC Agility in 2006.

Summarised, we covered:
  1. Distance
  2. Discrimination
  3. Distractions
  4. Directions

January 24, 2007

Silvia Trkman

Negotiations are underway to bring Silvia Trkman to Australia. Often the promoters of agility seminars here ask you to sign up for a visiting instructor, without knowing more about them than what they have won.

Silvia Trkman has won plenty, but her website also tells us a lot about her training philosophy.

She says:

Many people ask why I don’t write a book… Here is your answer: because I can tell everything that I think is important for success in agility in 10 paragraphs:

  1. Develop a firm and trusting relationships with your dog .
  2. Properly condition your dog.
  3. Teach your dog tricks.
  4. Teach your dog obedience, obedience in high-drive of course.
  5. Boost your dog’s confidence.
  6. Don’t be afraid to do things your way.
  7. If something goes wrong, always remember it’s your fault, caused either by your training or your handling. That’s good to know since it gives you a power to fix it yourself too.
  8. Never forget that results don’t count.
  9. Dogs’ work best when they work for themselves.
  10. You want agility training tips? If you follow the advice from above, agility gets so easy that you don’t need those. Just go out and have fun with your dog!

The points are expanded on her website.

January 22, 2007

January 21, 2007

Calling all Pets

Calling All Pets on Wisconsin Public Radio features Patricia McConnell and co-host Larry Meiller providing "down-to-earth advice about pet problems, big and small, and fascinating information about wildlife, too."

Check the archives for a series of shows on "For The Love Of A Dog" discussing whether animals experience emotions just as we do, how to read a dog's facial expressions, and why we love our dogs so much.

January 20, 2007

Canine Campus Podcast

Canine Campus offers excellent audio 'lessons' from Deven Gaston, on dog training and behaviour modification. The most recent are reports from the US 2006 APDT conference, and include a geat summary of Patricia McConnell's biology of emotion in you and your dog.

Something to make productive use of those hours driving to your next trial?

For the Love of a Dog

For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend
Patricia B. McConnell Ph.D

McConnell presents a compelling combination of stories, science and practical advice to show how understanding emotions in both people and dogs can improve owners' relationships with their pets. This is more than a simple dog-training book: much of what McConnell discusses concerns how dog owners can learn 'the language' of dog by recognizing important signals and reading them correctly. She provides numerous helpful examples of how owners can observe dog behaviour, especially differences in posture and facial expressions, in order to help dogs be better behaved and help dog owners to be better handlers.

Dusty greets people she knows with bared teeth. Given that she is an Australian Cattle Dog, a breed given to biting first and asking questions later, this can be a bit disconcerting. My visitors anxiously asked “Is she going to bite me?” and all I could say in reassurance is “I don’t think so.”

McConnell describes her expression exactly in the section Smile for the Camera. Smiling dogs raise their upper lip vertically, wrinkling the skin of the muzzle and exposing the teeth. But the shiny, sharp teeth are accompanied by a relaxed body, a lowered head, friendly squinty eyes and a tail wag that starts at the shoulders.

She says that this is most likely the expression of a nervous dog anxious to please, and compares it to the grin of a teenager picking up his date for the first time.


I must admit to being caught out a number of times during Summer Camp by being asked to say, and then demonstrate, my cue for a particular behaviour. So:

Startline Procedure:
  • Position - lead Thommo with a hand touch as he doesn't like being man-handled, lift Dusty into place.
  • Stance - put Thommo in a stand, Dusty in a down. The cue means stand/down stay until released so no need for a wait.
  • Walkout - without looking back or repeating a command.
  • Take up position and look back.
  • Raise hand.
  • Say "Go!"
So now I actually have a procedure I can begin to train it. Better late than never I guess.

Release cue on contacts and table "OK"

Attention - "Tom" and "Duz"

Directionals - "left" "right" "out" "close"

Obstacles - "over" "through" "walkup" "teeter" though not routinely used.

Cues as Reinforcers

At Summer Camp we did some work on the timing of cues, which reminded me of the Karen Pryor article on the use of well timed cues as reinforcers in agility.

An agility run involves a long series of cues about where to go and what to do next. Some are physical cues—turns and moves by the handler— and some are verbal cues: “Tunnel!” “Weave!” “Left!” You have an opportunity to make each of those cues work in your favor by presenting it during (not after) some other behavior that you want to maintain or increase.

Of course if the dog doesn't know or understand the cue, it has no reinforcing ability. Cues have to be built carefully, consistently, and preferably off-course, so you as handler don't get fooled into assuming the dog knows what you mean.

The message is that you need to know what your cues are. Are you using moves? Fine, just use them consistently and also with appropriate timing, so you make use of their powers as reinforcers. Are you using both moves and verbals? Great, again as long as you know what the dog is really responding to and what is just superstitious behavior on your part.

Precision Steering

From Summer Camp with Canine Fun Sports

  • Use your arm to establish and maintain distance - arm out to the side, dog at a distance; arm beside the body, dog in close.
  • Use your finger to trace the dog's path, pointing at the specific point where you want your dog to be,
  • Keep your eye on your dog, maintain a connection between the two of you.
  • Use front and rear crosses strategically. Front crosses can tighten up turns, and speed up the dog. Your dog must be taught to allow you to cross behind.
  • Position yourself on the course to provide information about the direction of travel. eg Use the 'handling line' to do a front cross.

January 19, 2007


From Summer Camp with Canine Fun Sports:
Contact obstacle performance involves three separate activities: running across the obstacle, taking up the contact position, and releasing from the contact position.

Running the obstacle
When practising running the obstacle, the criteria are speed and confidence. Reinforce these with rewards.

Practice on planks, walls, and ramps away from the dog walk, scramble and seesaw to build confidence and speed.

Do not reward slow performance, even if the contact behaviour is correct. Start again and rev the dog up for faster performance.

Contact Position

Decide on a contact behaviour and train it well away from the obstacles. Start on the flat then use planks, ramps etc.

Reward the dog in position. But ask it to maintain position until released – the click/treat does not end the behaviour. Initially give the release immediately after the reward then build duration and add distractions.

After rewarding move behind the dog (before the end of the dog walk) so that as you release, you move forward past/with the dog.

Train independent performance from the beginning. Taking up the contact position should not be dependent on your position or on hand signals or body language.

The Release

Decide on a release word and use it consistently. Be careful not to combine it with a physical cue.

Practice the release with a target on the flat, and then on planks and ramps well away from the agility obstacles.

Release the dog with you moving in the direction of the next obstacle. Don’t release the dog with you standing still beside the contact zone.

Practice the release under a variety of conditions:

  • Release before you reach the dog.
  • Run past the dog and release.
  • Run past, stop and release.
  • Run past the next obstacle and release.

Thommo's collar

I now think the kids' new collars are the best thing since sliced bread.

I was downloading some photos from my camera, when Thommo starts nosing around in the waste paper basket tucked behind a cabinet. I called him out, but before he obeyed he got his collar caught on a door pull. He backs up fast, taking the cabinet with him, and leaving suspended in mid-air the processor, scanner, and camera. I throw my body in front of the cabinet, grabbing up the computer gear, and wedging the wheels with my bare toes - yelling "stand" with little effect.

Just before disaster struck, his quick release collar quick released.

Total damage - a broken lens filter, and a torn toe-nail.

January 07, 2007

Christmas Outfit -- Dusty

Dusty's new Rogz for Dogz outfit.

January 02, 2007

Christmas Outfit - Thommo

Thommo's new collar and lead are from Rogz for Dogz - from the Beach Bum range for large dogs, his pattern is Surf Saint Patch. The guys behind Rogz have a background in extreme sports and it shows in their great range of patterns and fun online catalogue. I found mine in the local PetBarn but they are available from a number on online stores in Aus.
Features I like include contoured plastic components for a comfortable fit, a breakaway clip for when the dogs are home alone is lockable for when you don't want it to suddenly come undone, a leash clip ring that is mounted in a way that limits strain on the clasp, and a reflective thread woven into the webbing.
Besides, as it says on the site, these outfits have some serious mojo.