Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I have an agenda for positive training.

To me, it is important that my training reflects the best of what R+ has to offer without leaning on emotional arguments. I want people to incorporate more reinforcement into their training because it will make their dog's performance faster, stronger, flashier, better, not because it makes the trainer feel good (although the feelings I get from clicker training are a big reinforcer for me) because most of the traditional trainers I encounter and have heard from don't feel bad about what they're doing to their dogs.

My win condition is not everyone uses R+ exclusively. My win condition is that most people use R+ heavily and as a first resort. Because it is objectively better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Being the clicker dog in the traditional class is frustrating and exhausting.

I'm starting to think they aren't worth my time any more, which is awful because I can't afford private lessons and I don't know who I'd want to train with any way (that lives within 60 miles, if we had teleporters by now like we should this would be a non-issue) and I think I've reached the limit of how good a trainer I can be on my own.

But I've been in about seven different basic obedience classes in three years with just about many instructors at four different facilities, and I don't think a single one of them has been all that good. None of them teach mechanics.

I have accepted that putting a dog on a choke chain and popping them one every once in a while is probably not going to reduce the dog to a pissing puddle on the floor.

But if you're going to use one, you can't have the damn dog strung up the whole damn class. All you're teaching him is that working with you is uncomfortable and not a lot of fun but has no real consequences.

I can't stand it. 

I can't stand it when someone has a two inch flat collar on their dog, three feet of an 1" wide 6ft long leash wrapped around their wrist and pull pull pulls the dog around with it with constant leash, social, and physical pressure and the dog has zero chance of being right.

I need to do all of the training, because everyone else is doing it wrong. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Lusty Month of May

    [I had a whole opening to this all written out, but accidentally deleted it. In summary:

    Gatsby is focusing on scent this month. Nose work, tracking, and scent discrimination games are all things we will be doing this month. We went to a tracking seminar in April and he was an utter natural. I've never been so proud of him, it was so exciting to be able to hand the leash over to him and not have to discuss every little thing I want him to do.

    This post from Reactive Champion is the inspiration for Marsh's training plan.]

    This is my outline for Marsh's obedience (and rally) foundation. I will be posting an agility foundation outline as well, but I don't have my Agility Right From the Start book handy. It really is superb, I highly recommend it.

    Also forthcoming will be a field foundations outline, but obedience has to be in place first. Also, I don't know what I'm doing in that arena.

    Marsh's Pre-training Assessment
    • Focus 
      • dog in front
      • during backwards heeling
      • dog in heel position
      • with distractions
    Marsh can find and hold eye contact while playing the T-Game. He can play it in a variety of new surroundings including the middle of campus with light foot traffic, training class during warm ups, during a kennel club meeting with talking and lots of people.

    He need to practice it in more places, with more distractions, and in heel position.
    • Targeting
      • nose target to hand
      • nose target to remote target (plastic lid)
      • paw target to hand
      • paw target to remote target
      • all with duration.
    Marsh has a nose target to hand (two finger boy scout salute) with a two second duration. He has always responded on cue. He has had two sessions of remote nose targeting to a plastic tupperware lid and understood the basic concept.

    He needs to build duration and learn a paw target, as well as build duration to a remote target.
    • Sit
      • from a stand
      • while walking
      • at a distance.
    Sit is very strong. He can sit from a stand and while walking and from about ten feet away. He will also sit on whistle, although this is not very reliable yet.

    He needs to strengthen response to sit whistle and increase distance. He also needs a clearer understanding of sitting straight in heel while still pivoting to face me at a distance.
    • Down
      • from a stand
      • while walking
      • at a distance
    Marsh's down is also very strong. He downs on a hand signal of the palm of my hand and on verbal cue.

    The hand signal needs to change. Too many signals involve showing Marsh the palm of my hand and it is confusing him, especially on stays.
    • Rear end control
      • backing up away from trainer in a straight line
      • perch work
      • agility contact trainer
    Marsh has had a little bit of work on rear end awareness. This is something that needs a lot more work but is not very high priority right now.
    • Finish
      • from the front
      • from behind 
      • left finish
      • right finish
    Marsh does not have any formal understanding of a finish, although with guidance he will throw himself into heel position in something that resembles an enthusiastic flip finish. It is very sloppy and usually includes ricocheting off of my.
    • Recall 
      • fast
      • immediate
      • direct
    Recall is crud and needs lots and lots of work. He recalls very well as the second half of a retrieve, but recall from liberty is basically nonexistent.
    • *Backwards Heeling
      • Focus
      • Attitude
      • Position 
      • Duration
    Focus is coming a long very well and he is understanding the game. We need more work on choosing to play instead of being distracted by the environment.
    • Stand
      • Cecilie teaches this while walking backwards away from the dog. The dog will simply stop walking and stay put. She also uses “reverse luring”- teaching the dog not to follow a food distraction.
    When Marsh is in a stand, he is relatively steady (thank you, conformation training!) However I have no reliable way of getting him into a stand and he is very fidgety during an exam.
    • Stay 
      • sit
      • down
      • stand
    Sit and down stay are very strong. We will be fading out praise and increasing duration, distance, and distraction
    • Zen
      • The dog should not chase or eat food he has not been told to take.
    A nightmare. Marsh has no problem launching himself at humans if he wants something in their hands. This needs to end.
    • Hold Object
      • at heel
      • sitting at front
      • while you lean over him
      • while you touch the object.
    Marsh will gladly chase and pickup nearly any object I toss for him. Everything is a toy. He is very ball and bumper motivated and these are our most common rewards.

    He needs a formalizing of hold.
    • Let go
      • Dog moves head away from object in trainer's hand
    Not a problem. Marsh will happily release anything in his mouth to the lightest of human touch. He is getting better at actively pushing an object into my hand.
    • Jump
      • away from the handler
      • towards the handler
      • curving away (ie, a directed jump)
      • parallel to the handler
      • both sides
    Marsh has had no introduction to jumps while he has been with me (possibly before I got him). This is also low urgency and will be handled more under agility foundation.
    • Scent discrimination
      • Cecilie recommended using duration targeting while teaching this so that the dog doesn't learn to depend on “tasting” the scents.
    No work has been done with Marsh. Gatsby is the Scent Test Dog and my training plan for Marsh will depend heavily on what I learn from training Gatsby.
    • Tracking
      • This may not be needed, depending on your venue
    See Scent discrimination.

    *From Fanny Gott, not Celeste

    Order of Operations

    Mission Critical:
    Backwards Heeling
    Hold Object

    Continuing Education:
    Let Go

    Low Priority:
    Scent Discrimination
    Rear End Control