Full Moon

Kory is within a few days of a year old now. He’s a fine boy who has a dandy work ethic and gives me good attention even when there are competing distractions. I’m looking forward to having him out in the world. But don’t you know, that’ll be another six months still.

I’ll be introducing him to weave poles in the next week or so. I’m really haven’t been in a hurry to teach the weave poles. I’ve just been waiting for him to grow into his bones a little bit.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the pressure put on a young dog in agility, especially these days when egos are so fierce in the world and the dog tends to be a poker chip of validation. While I don’t think Kory will ever be a dog who will melt down if I am hard or if I am unhappy I’m pretty much committed to keeping the whole thing a game for him. I expect I can only do that by keeping it all a game for me as well.

One should practice what he preaches. I ran across this old bit that I wrote years ago. I don’t reckon I ever published it. My apparent mission in the piece was to help a novice student get his mind right for his dog’s first time in competition.

Motivation is Strategy #1

When you take a young dog into competition, you should have only one objective, to make playing this game a positive experience for your dog.

Clear your mind of the obsessive stuff. It’s not about qualifying. It’s not about looking good in front of your peers. It’s not about winning an ADCh or getting on the World Team. It’s about making this a positive experience for your dog.

You should develop specific strategies for making the experience positive for your dog. We can state the most obvious case first. Don’t scream at your dog. Get rid of the panic stricken voice. Don’t say “No!” In general, don’t blame the dog for anything that happens. It’s an observable phenomena that when a handler gets uptight or angry or upset, the chances of the dog “zoning out”, finding something more interesting to do, sniffing, or running out of the ring goes up in astronomical proportions as opposed to when the handler doesn’t.

The cycle of attention and positive treatment of the dog probably really starts before you even enter the ring. You’ll want to develop a regimen that works just right for you and you dog. The dog needs to be stretched, and warmed up on a practice jump. Practice rewarding the dog. Practice a happy and enthusiastic interaction with the dog. Do quick heeling exercises with dog working on either side of you with sudden playful changes of direction.

When you enter the ring with your dog, part of your plan should be to tell the dog what a wonderful job he’s doing at intervals through the course. Every two or three obstacles you can proclaim in a happy voice “Oh what a very good dog!” This practice of affirmation has a very interesting consequence. The dog will turn to you and be very proud of himself. He’ll find you engaging and will want to continue playing with you.

You should be very reluctant to force the dog into an obedience sit and stay at the start of the course. A Novice course almost never calls for a sit and stay. So, why would you drain your dog’s enthusiasm by imposing an obedience performance on him?

At the end of the course, no matter what really happened during the running of the course, you should praise the dog lavishly. When he gets out of the ring he should get a jackpot reward, food if he’s food motivated, and a toy if he’s toy motivated. Give him both if he is motivated by both. Tell him what a wonderful dog he is.

Don’t take him and slam him in the crate just as quick as you can. A great reward for a dog is a longer interaction with you after running the course. Go for a walk. Give him all of your attention.

These strategies for rewarding the dog aren’t gratuitous. You’re looking to the long term development of this agility dog. It doesn’t matter what happens today. What you really want is to allow the dog to develop into a keen competitor that trusts you not to get mental about performance issues. Rewarding the dog makes him keen to play the game. The routine of reward will teach the dog an eager anticipation for competition. This is far more desirable than teaching the dog to dread the day of competition, because his human partner turns into a demanding and angry partner.

The competitive person wants to get on with exciting stuff, the running, the winning, the strategy. So good on you if you are still with me at this point, and haven’t skipped over to the discussions of running strategies that follow.

At the end of the day, if you haven’t attended to the motivation of your animal, you risk a setback in simple playful desire in your training program. Take the long view and teach your dog to love this sport. He will develop into a terrific partner if you do your job.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

On the first night of a full moon where is the moon in the sky at the moment the sun goes down?

First correct answer posted as a reply to this blog post wins a free copy of the March Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – Feb 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/


6 Responses to “Full Moon”

  1. Nancy Hoffman Says:

    The moon will be on the opposite side of the sky as sun, since the sun will be setting in the west, the moon will be rising in the east.

  2. courtenay Says:

    approximately opposite the direction of the sun, at the horizon, but it depends on your latitude, since it will vary depending how far north you are.

  3. Adrienne Says:

    If I am recalling correctly what I have seen, it is just abouve the horizon. At about 20 degrees off a straight line. I live in Minnesota if it makes a difference.

  4. Adrienne Says:

    Ha ha. I’ll bet the answer is as simple as, it is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. Otherwise it would not be a full moon! lol

  5. courtenay Says:

    im rethinking this and im sure i’ve seen full or near-full moons quite high in the sky while the sun is still up. could be a canada thing though. im thinking its like 20* up, assuming the horizon to horizon angle is 180*

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