The Education of Kory

The addition of a new young dog to our household has been interesting. The rhythms of my life are now set to the food and exercise schedule of this young pup. Mostly his movement and activities are closely monitored and controlled. He has the crate, his x-pen, the dog yard, occasional free exploration of the house, and walks with me about the property. The rest of my pack has accepted him without much of a ripple at all. They accept him and understand that he is just a puppy and will, in turn, teach him manners in terms of acceptable conduct.

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He moves everywhere at the gallyoomp pace. This is an awkward puppy run that aspires to be a gallop but surely is more of a canter in which coordination and ambition don’t really have equal merit. When he has to say “hi” to a person or another dog he’ll run at them just a little too full of enthusiasm.

Hazard has been leery of the rambunctious pup. Yesterday she knocked him on his back and stood over him for a moment having a discussion of manners. She is half his weight even now. I’m glad she’s sticking up for herself because it mightn’t be possible after a few more months. This will give them a chance to establish a harmonious working relationship.

I find Kory to be a steady, intelligent, and sensitive boy. We’ve spent the first few days powering the clicker and establishing some foundation behaviors. He will already lie down on command; albeit he knows it will be appreciably rewarded. We’re also working at teaching him to settle in his x-pen, out of which he has climbed several times. The reward for escaping is to be put immediately into his crate just so he knows the consequences.

I’m out of town for the weekend, heading down to Tyler, Texas to judge a USDAA trial. Marsha promises me that by the time I get back he’ll be a momma’s boy; though so far he’s been completely a daddy’s boy, which I would prefer. I’ll return on Monday for the start of a four-day private camp on Tuesday. I intend to have him out in the building and in the field with me most of the week even while I teach and conduct the camp just so I can reinstall his fascination and attachment to me as his person.

I do need to take pictures. He’s growing in front of my eyes.

Going Down Amongst the English

I’m frankly contemplating a very relaxed first year of training for Kory. I was thinking about this driving to the airport this morning (that’s where I am as I begin this writing). Driving into town off I-70 one must be immediately conscious of having entering a very busy beehive of hurried activity. For many years I would refer to going into town as “going down amongst the English” for all of their haste and anger as they move between their points A and points B.

I recognized this interesting thing as I drove into town this morning. When a highway has four lanes everyone in a hurry will occupy the two on the left, playing a game of dare to finesse and trump other players in a dance with death simply to make the finer point of who is in the greater hurry. The two lanes on the right, however, are occupied by more sanguine creatures moving with patient unhurried resolve.

Because I was not in a hurry, I oozed over into the polite traffic of the rightmost two lanes and managed to be barely aware of the buzzing traffic just to my left. I had this thought… I have ever sought the contest of the leftmost two lanes. And so in very real terms going down amongst the English surely proves that on some level I am one of them.

The elaborate metaphor I’ve drawn here returns us to the discussion of the education of my young boy Kory. These days in the sport of dog agility everyone is in a hurry. We’ll jump our dogs at full height as soon as the bone in their legs shows any length. We’ll chase them over stride regulators. We’ll do two-by-two weave poles with puppies not even fully grown. We’ll establish all our “who’s-the-boss” criterion. We do lots of wicked pushy things.

It makes me ask the question. What is the journey like if I travel in the rightmost two lanes? Can I be unhurried? We will see.

I fairly intend that this dog will not be doing any jumping until he’s about a year old. I’ll probably be making cavaletti. And I’m hoping that this isn’t a left-lane mode of thinking. http://www.sscgb.org/Misc/Cavaletti.html. There’s an interesting link. Though it strikes me that I’ll have an ample supply of 2” by 2” wood from which I can make some pretty sturdy stuff without polluting the world with more PVC. I want to teach him a solid 2on 2off; and I want to teach him to race the length of a wooden plank. Ultimately those two things will be combined.

I’ll study the whole question of tugging. I would not like my boy to show predatory impulse in the world. I want him to continue to be a steady and sensible boy who appreciates his job. He really doesn’t have to be an impulse idiot.

Hazard’s and Blue’s Dailies

Reading the Susan Garrett note: “Your dog is a reflection of your abilities as a dog trainer.” Got me thinking of the possibility that I might be too readily accepting the difficulties I’ve had with my own dogs as environmental. Ultimately I have to take responsibility. With that in mind I’ve recommitted myself to the training floor. And I’m managing to have a bit of fun with it.

I am very interested in making sure that my dogs understands the name of the obstacles in the presentation of a discrimination puzzle. If you really think about it the term discrimination suggests that the dog might discriminate between options based on the name or the command that her handler puts to it. But what we find in real life is that very few dogs in our sport know the names of obstacles at all.

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With this in mind I am charging the name of the obstacle and treating it as a simple training objective. What you see in the illustration is that I’ve set my dog up with very little doubt to the object of my attention being the pipe tunnel. I’ll tell her tunnel and praise and reward when she commits to it, or even towards it.

The line that you see swinging out to the handler’s left in the illustration constitutes a path of progression as I give her the cue for the pipe tunnel. There comes a moment when she is pretty much set up facing the dogwalk. I will rely only on the command or cue for the pipe tunnel, and praise / reward when she makes the right choice.

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This is a bit more difficult. I begin with my dog on left and give the cue for the tunnel. This is a considerably more advanced proof of the performance as my dog must pass between me and the wrong-course dogwalk to get over to the pipe tunnel to get in and go through.

About the Dogwalk

Okay, I’m going to conduct precisely the same protocol with the dogwalk as I do with the pipe tunnel. My command or cue for the performance of the dogwalk (I say “walk up”) is clearly a different action verb. And I will reward my dog only when she indicates commitment to the dogwalk.

Proof

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The ultimate proof is giving the cue or command for the obstacle that I want at a full run and without giving handler cues to assist in the choice. Considerable care must be taken with this step so that my dog earns both by reward and correction. And in case you were wondering about it, my correction is a very neutral thing. I do not give praise and I do not give reward. And that’s just about the extent of it.

Overall this training is the perfect mission for the two minute dog trainer. It’s a thing that we might do as a meal time activity. This allows me to give my dog heaps of reward without actually making her a fat little muffin.

When I present these kinds of training methodologies I’m pretty sure I can never properly impress on the listener or reader the careful and small steps that I take with a dog. A dog should be rewarded far more than he is corrected – and that is ultimately the mark of an excellent dog trainer. And so we take small progressive incremental steps to ensure that the dog continues to learn and continues to succeed.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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2 Responses to “The Education of Kory”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I’m really listening to this training advice Bud. Elvis came to me at 5 months. He is now 20 months. We’ve spent most of the last 14 months gettng to know each other. He comes, sits, downs pretty well. He has started agility training about 3 months ago. We are going slowly, and I am going to work the contacts as you described with the table and down ramp. I also want him to have a firm understanding of the obstacle names so will be working round the clocks with each obstacle. I plan on using straignt weaves with wires although I used shannels with Presley and Mollie and they both have great weaves. Although I suspect Elvis might have to jump 12 inches in some venues I am jumping him at 8 ” now. He measures nearly 11″ at the withers as far as I can tell.
    Keep your notes on Kory coming, I am reading and learning.

    Michelle

  2. Nora Says:

    When I got my first non-rescue Agility dog, I was really worried, because a) I couldn’t blame any of our failures on his rescue “issues” and b) I had a breeder to be accountable to! As it turned out, the breeder is great, and proud of any and all accomplishments, and I DID end up with a giant hole in his training which is now stitched up such that we are qualifying consistently.

    Of course, in my attempt to avoid said hole with the NEXT dog (from the same breeder) I neglected some other tiny details 😉 and now have stuff to work on with him… but I have nobody to blame but myself any more.

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