Posts Tagged ‘Dog Agility Training’

Short Sequencing (in the basement)

February 18, 2015

Our space in the basement isn’t really all that big. I’m antsy to get out in the training building and put together some of the skills we’ve been working on. But don’t you know we’re living through the Blizzard of 2015; so I’m content to continue in the basement until the world thaws out a bit.

Here’s a very short YouTube: http://youtu.be/dD-pDyxoBB0

I’m about ready to bring in another set of 2x weave poles. Cedar’s intro to weaves is about six months earlier than I did with Kory. But she’s like a learning machine and I thought… what the hell, why not?!

This has a bit of a Teacup flavor to it. And indeed we intend to show her in the TDAA. But I would like her to excel in other flavors of agility as well. The TDAA sharpens the handler’s timing and awareness in a way that none of the big dog venues can accomplish with a small dog.  An important mission of the TDAA is to give the small dog handler a taste of timing skills that handlers of big & fast dogs have to master for day-to-day survival in the big-dog flavors of agility.

I ran across this old video of me running a loaner dog in a jumpers course (out at Zona’s place in Arvada, Colorado!) http://youtu.be/WljrZe_sf9U

Play in the TDAA is not for the faint of heart.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

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Table “Down”

February 16, 2015

We continue to record Cedar’s ongoing foundation training. She has just turned 6 months old. I’m happy to report that she weighs 18 lbs and measures 15-1/2″. That’s a perfect small-dog size for play with any agility organization (including the TDAA).

Cedar is a dog who has never had a meal in this house without “working” for it. I’m sorry that we haven’t captured every grueling moment of the training. It’s hard for any person with novice dog training skills to understand the meticulous detail of training; which is a matter of vision, objective, and patience.

We’ve dragged the agility table into the basement and this morning began the foundation for Table Down. The objective is to be able to send her to a table where she will promptly assume a down position.

Here’s the YouTube: http://youtu.be/1jrWU1T9s0s

This is a method I documented some 15 years ago in the pages of The Just For Fun Agility Notebook (also in the book I co-authored with Ruth Van Keuren, The Jr. Handler’s Training Guide).

When working with a dog I rely quite a bit on free-shaping. This means I am not much of a fan of luring or targeting. And yet this exercise has a bit of a lure in it. Once the dog is on the table I’ll give the verbal command “Lie Down!” and drop my fist to the table. My fist will have a bit of kibble in it. And as all dogs have x-ray vision, she’ll be studying my hand, trying to figure out what it takes for me to open it, and give her the treat. Ultimately the dog will belly down to study the problem… whereupon she has met my criterion and will get the treat.

You’ll note in the recording that in several reps she figures out faster and faster what she needs to do to get me to open my hand and give up the reward.

I’ll share the progression of this training method as we go along.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Cedar’s Back Pass Training

January 16, 2015

I’d like to share with you a couple short recordings of Cedar’s early Back Pass training. Right now I’m teaching a clockwise Back Pass, and I use the verbal “Come By”. I reckon I’m ruining any herding career… but that’s no major loss.

This recording shows a very early introduction to the Back Pass:

http://youtu.be/ZUXL6rAFOpI

I teach this initially by luring around my body with a food treat, while giving the verbal command. This soon becomes a draw with my lead… maybe even a flick of the arm. Gradually I relax the physical cue until it turns to verbal only.

Here’s a recording of the Back Pass not quite a week into the training:

http://youtu.be/9fePPUNIqys

I would probably record more. But don’t you know this is meal-time training. Frankly, sometimes I’m in my robe and big fluffy slippers. And that doesn’t make very attractive video.

Marsha makes the point in one of the recordings that Cedar is a dog who has never had a meal just plopped down for her to eat. From the moment she came into our house she has worked for every bit of every meal. This is the essence of the Two-Minute Dog Trainer.

This protocol makes her keen to learn and anxious to offer performance to earn her meals. When she’s young she’ll learn skills that she’ll hold for life.

You might wonder why I’m teaching this skill. It is certainly not very common in the agility world. I maintain that in another ten years it will be a common skill. The agility world “at large” hasn’t much discovered it yet. Consider these qualities: When calling the dog to a Back Pass the dog drops completely out of obstacle focus and into handler focus; and, it allows the handler to perfectly set the corner of approach to the course.  I’ll leave you to mull over the consequences of these attributes.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Cedar’s Continued Teeter Training

January 5, 2015

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Click on the picture above for a very short video of Cedar working the teeter after four or five days of training. You can compare that to the intro video we published a few days ago: http://youtu.be/x-eQK-90pIs

The Tell?

The other day I had a remarkable session with Cedar in which I gave her a series of 9 Left and Right commands, and she spun the correct direction each time. Then I handed over the job (and the treats) to Marsha, who conducted the same experiment. Cedar’s success rate plunged to around 50%.

What do you think that was about?

I have this idea that maybe I have a subtle “tell”. Cedar has become expert at reading my tell and promptly follows this reading to tell which direction to turn. For many years I studied what I call “phantom” movements; that is, the dog follows a cue that the handler isn’t aware that he’s given. There’s a phantom Blind Cross and a phantom Front Cross… even a phantom Tandem Turn.

Most physical cues that we give actually have a complicated chain of physical events which lead eventually to the substantial cue. The dog becomes expert at reading that chain and begins working backwards, down the chain, to take the cue on a precursor event.

Of course, I’m actually engaged in teaching Cedar verbal cues rather than physical cues. It makes me believe that no matter how much I’m endeavoring to put the performance on a verbal-only cue my body can’t help but give a helpful twitch that betrays my intent.

Fascinating study!

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Cedar’s Intro to the Teeter

December 29, 2014

I brought our teacup teeter into the basement this morning because it’s time for Cedar to get her introduction the obstacle. You’ll note that I don’t spend a lot of time on a tippy board or a Buja board. I want to see right off the bat how she deals with the movement and noise. If I go to a tippy board it will be for remediation.

Here’s the video: http://youtu.be/x-eQK-90pIs

In the back of my mind

An experienced agility trainer will be well aware of the difficulties associated with the Teeter. Here’s a web log entry I wrote maybe five years ago: Review of Teeter Fear

I’m a little surprised, looking back at it, how much I had to say on the topic. With any luck, all of that is in my mind as we bring a new dog along in her training.

I note that there’s a picture of my old girl Hazard (when she was young) in the blog post. She’s getting an introduction to movement under her feet with a foot pedestal that rocks back and forth. Marsha, armed with a clicker and food treats, has had Cedar in the living room on that very same pedestal in the last couple of days. So my protestations about disdaining intro/training devices should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

The Tandem Turn ~ Continuing Discussion

December 26, 2014

I started a discussion a couple days ago on the Tandem Turn. I propose that dogs understand natural movement and a clever handler will use that movement to communicate direction and speed to the dog.

The Tandem is a tricky bit in some ways. A dog is disposed to turn most naturally towards the handler. The Tandem, being a form of the Rear Cross does just the opposite. The handler is asking the dog to turn away.

Some dogs don’t immediately “get it” and will towards the handler rather than away. Sometimes this is due to an error in the handler’s movement.  More often it’s simply counter-intuitive to the dog.

For a dog like this you should take exceptional training measures. You’re in luck if the dog is toy or ball motivated. The handler can shape the turn away by throwing the toy or ball at the corner of the turn. Practice this with the dog with a lot of repetition until the dog is taking the movement and arm as a cue to turn.

To test the method, handler will approach the turn and pretend to throw the toy. When the dog makes the turn the handler will throw the toy as a reward. The handler has made a transition from “lure” to “reward,” a very important step in training the dog.

Just because a dog understands the turn in one direction, that doesn’t mean he understands it in the opposite direction. Both directions should be taught to the dog.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Cedar’s “Go-On” Training

December 24, 2014

When teaching a “Go On” directional I will continue to advance the exercise, always keen to take it to the next step. Young Cedar is showing plenty of willingness and aptitude for the training. We shot this video this evening: http://youtu.be/o_hKS3qd8vo

It’s about time for me to take the exercise into the back yard to give me a bit more room for the send.

Notes on the Tandem Turn

A Tandem Turn is a cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle, or on the flat. Contrast this with the Back Cross, which is a cross behind the dog on the approach to an obstacle.

An experienced handler will try to be positioned on the side of the turn because the dog turns most naturally towards the handler. The clever and evil judge may design a course that intentionally traps the handler on the wrong side away from the turn. The handler needs an answer to that riddle.

We rely on the premise that our dogs already understand how we move. So in the Tandem we turn towards the dog, distinctly and boldly. The dog, understanding our movement should make the turn in this new direction although the turn is toward his side.

This illustration shows the “off-arm” Tandem. As the dog comes up over the jump the handler brings up his opposite arm, pointing out in the direction of the turn.

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Of course, the turn is more than just an arm signal. At the same time the handler is rotating his body, turning, and moving in the direction of the turn. It’s also a good idea to develop a verbal command to coincide with all of these other cues.

The handler’s position should be only slightly forward of the dog for the dog to see the cues for the turn. At the same time the handler should not be so far ahead that he can’t step behind the dog (it is a form of the Rear Cross, after all).

Which arm should be used to signal the turn is a bit controversial. It’s reported that Susan Garret calls the counter-arm Tandem the “evil-Ohio-arm,” and advocates using only the inside arm (the arm nearer to the dog).

The inside-arm Tandem was originally shown to me by a lady from Los Angeles (Barbara Mah.) I thought it looked so silly that for a long time I called in the “La La” turn.

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However, I discovered that one of my dogs, who I’d been struggling for over a year to teach the off-arm Tandem, understood the “inside” arm immediately. He got it the first time he saw it, and made the turn perfectly. So, I no longer call it the La La turn. This is now the Inside-Arm Tandem.

All the other elements of the turn are the same. The handler should rotate his body, turn the corner, and move in the direction of the turn.

Oh, as to the controversy about which arm to use: we’ll use the arm that our dog implicitly understands. There are no “one size fits all” solutions in agility. The Tandem Turn should always be learned with practice.

Some dogs respond to both signals, but give a different response to each. This illustration shows a scenario in which the turn is still away from the handler’s position, but the true course is the gentler path up to jump #2.

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I would always use the inside-arm Tandem in this situation. I had a dog (Bogie) who always took the off-arm as a “hard and deep” instruction. He’d flip back to jump #3, giving jump #2 a pass. He’d interpret the inside-arm Tandem as a gentler turn, and would be, properly, directed to jump #2.

These aren’t hard and fast rules of the performance. The handler should experiment with both arms and understand the dog’s response to each. Know thy dog.

The Tandem Turn can be used on the dismount from technical obstacles, on the exit of a tunnel. The biggest danger is that the handler’s turn mightn’t have enough “push” to get the dog away before turning back. A Tandem is only successful when the dog believes in the turn. It must be convincing, and compelling.

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Oh, one final detail worth mentioning. The Tandem Turn “creates” distance. It’s a great movement to use to open up the real estate between dog and handler. In this illustration the handler is working parallel to the dog over the first two jumps with a bit of lateral distance. At the “corner” the handler surges into the turn showing the arm signal for the turn.

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To the dog’s point of view the handler is making the turn; and the dog frankly won’t know until after jump #3 that the handler did not attend. It doesn’t matter. The dog should work faithfully in a path parallel to the handler to get to jump #4, even at a substantial distance.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Fantasy Dog Agility

December 21, 2014

I have this really cool fantasy about a reality show for television. On this program several dog agility trainers will each work with a big Hollywood celebrity to teach them how to run an agility dog. And then we have an agility competition with the celebs and their borrowed dogs.

I’ve got first dibs on Mark Wahlberg! He can run my boy Kory (or even Marsha’s Phoenix). I’m comfortable taking on any smart aleck agility trainer in the business to train up a celeb to beat us! I believe Mark could be a hell of an agility handler. It’s just a hunch.

Go On Then

I’m sorry that we’re not capturing the full granularity of Cedar’s ongoing training. By rights we’d be filming twice a day. We are only filming about every other day. So you miss some of the incremental steps we take in the training.

Here: http://youtu.be/J4EoJXrAANs. We’ve progressed to three hoops. As she becomes comfortable with our performance expectations and begins to own the exercise, we’ll move them farther and farther apart. I fully expect that in about a month I’ll be sending Cedar straight away from me a good 40′. . The dead-away send is truly one of the most difficult distance challenges in agility.

The training methodology we’re using here is completely documented in The Joker’s Notebook, which is available on my web-store. The cool thing about distance training is that all skills that we own with our dogs are earned and deserved through training and practice. If you take the time to establish the foundation, you will have those special skills.

Top Secret

I’m fairly excited by developments with Top Dog. I’m sorry to say that it’s all secret and amazing. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Cedar’s Training 17th Week

November 26, 2014

I’m afraid that some of the directional training I’ve put directly on Facebook (Cedar has her own page: .) Consequently you can’t step back through my blog and put the pieces together nicely. I’ve resolved to make sure I publish each in the blog.

Here is a recording of Cedar’s “Right” directional training with only about 10 days of work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMJg5SUVq80

I’m well pleased with her willingness to work and learn. The Right command developed nicely into a full turn on nothing but a verbal command (little or no physical help or support).

Shortly after making the recording above, I introduced Cedar to a “Left” directional.  Of course this made her brain explode because she’d pretty much decided that offering a Right turn was the magic. She might as well get used to the idea that there’ll be a lot of new magic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akPPBuqqxxs

It feels a bit like I’ve skipped over the intro. Even in this recording Cedar has already figured out that if she just turns her head slightly to the left she’ll get my praise and a tasty treat reward. Making the intro requires a bit of patience. I believe in free-shaping. That means little more than waiting for a dog to offer a performance or behavior that I want to build on. So, after giving the “Left” command (in the intro)… I just wait for her to serendipitously look to the left. And when she does, I’ll praise and reward. After a bit she’ll be able to focus on what thing she has to do to earn the reward. It’s really quite as simple as that.

The next step will be to get her to make a full turn when I give a “Left” command. Initially I may lure at this step to enhance the performance that she’s already offering. Then gradually I will minimize and make smaller the physical cues until there is nothing left but the verbal.

Next week, hopefully, I’ll publish an update on the Left directional training.

Growing like a Shetland Weed

I had to take the week 17 measurement a couple days early. I’m going to be judging a USDAA trial in Milwaukee this weekend and I’ll be on the road on her official measuring day.

NobelWeek17

At any rate, I’m impressed that Cedar is growing like a Sheltie, the breed that the Nobel was intended to chart. Our measurements fit neatly on the top of the curve. So if her growth remains true, she should come in right at about 16″, which is top of the standard for a Shetland Sheepdog.

In case you missed the story, Cedar’s dam is a feral sheltie. A dog rescue angel over in West Virginia manages to scoop up the dam’s occasional litters, though the dog herself has managed to escape capture. We have no idea what is the sire. I’m thinking it must be something like a Rat Terrier. She does have a hard-headed “what’s in it for me” kind of mind-set, which is consistent with the nature of a terrier.

Cedar is now 4 months old, and weighs roughly 10 pounds.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Cedar Shakes the Woof!

November 7, 2014

This week we’ve introduced Cedar to the pipe tunnel. It’s kind of fun to have 16″ diameter teacup tunnels. They’re lightweight and so very portable. They are also of an appropriate size for a young puppy!

Here’s a video of the introduction:

http://youtu.be/dIOeyyb2MN8

We used the same methodology that we might use in mixed group classes. One person manages the dog’s leash, while the other makes the presentation of the tunnel… and goes to the other side calling the dog in excited fashion (maybe even making contact through the foreshortened tunnel!)

The leash manager will see to it that if the dog tries to go right or left around the entry to the tunnel, she’ll come to the end of her leash. If she volunteers to go through the tunnel, then the leash will slip through the trainer’s hand, rewarding the dog for her choice.

Over time, you add length to the tunnel, and gradually bend it, to the extent that the dog cannot see the exit from the entry.

This is a simple methodology and subscribes to a training philosophy that as much as possible the dog should choose every footstep. We don’t push or pull the dog through any performance.

By the third day, Cedar has a pretty impressive command of the pipe tunnel:

http://youtu.be/mFgm2iKRcwg

If there is a down-side to this introduction to the tunnel it is that the handler is considerably embedded in the context of the presentation. So our next step is to emphasize the verb or command for the performance of the tunnel, and begin working at greater and greater distance so that she has to go away to offer the performance without her handler hovering over, or flapping arms.

A Growing Dog

We’ve been carefully tracking Cedar’s growth on the Nobel Growth Chart:

NobelWeek14

Cedar appears to be following the growth pattern of a Sheltie and should come in very neatly just under 16″. Whether she remains true to the predictable growth pattern of a Shetland Sheepdog remains to be seen. We don’t know what kind of beast was her sire, after all.

At 7 weeks Cedar weighed 3-1/3 lbs. She was weighed yesterday at the vet’s office at 10 lbs. Clearly, she’s getting enough to eat.

Cedar’s FB page.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.