Biscuits & Bones

by Bob Self

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  • Thursday, May 31, 2018 1:00 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Good dog trainers are faced with a variety of situations requiring them to utilize their insight and creativity to solve training problems.  Here's a small test to see whether you have the perseverance and detective skills that good dog trainers use in resolving their training issues.  Don't feel bad if you need a piece of paper.  Good dog trainers write down their thoughts all the time. Good luck!  Coming soon... the answer for the rest of us!

    The Dog Bone Problem

    Rover, Fido, and Spot were three dogs sitting in a circle on the grass.  Each dog had his own treats.  Rover passed three biscuits to the dog with brown hair.  Which dog was which color?

    Spot passed three bones to the dog who passed his treats to the dog with white hair.   Which dog was which color?

    Each dog passed three treats to the dog on his left.   Which dog was which color?

    Rover, Fido, and Spot were dogs with brown, white, and yellow hair.  Which dog was which color?

    The dog that was brown did not get a biscuit. Which dog was which color?

    The dog that had yellow hair passed along three cookies.  Which dog was which color?

    Spoiler Alert!  Answer Below!  Spoiler Alert!  Answer Below!

    Rover had white hair, Fido was yellow, and Spot was brown.

    How do you know this?  Just follow the logic...

    #1 We know that Rover passed his biscuits to the dog with brown hair so Rover couldn't be brown.  You also know that Rover had biscuits.

    #2 We know that Spot passed his bones to the dog that passed his treats to the dog with white hair.  So Spot couldn't be white.  You also know that Spot had bones.

    #3 If Rover had biscuits, and Spot had bones, you know that Fido must have had the cookies.  The dog with yellow hair passed away cookies so you know Fido is yellow.

    #4 Now... If you know that Rover isn't brown, and also couldn't be yellow (since Fido is), he must be white.

    #5 If you know that Fido is yellow, and Rover is white, then Spot must be brown (since that's the only color left).

    So... what about all the other information?  For example the details telling us the dogs each passed their cookies to the dog on the left, that one dog didn't get a bone, etc.  That's just extra info.  We didn't need it to solve the problem.

  • Monday, February 26, 2018 10:24 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Here's a unique approach to getting the job done...

  • Tuesday, February 13, 2018 8:50 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Okay... this doesn't have a dam thing to do about dogs, but it was sent to me by a judge.  Thanks Tom!  Here's hoping you don't mind...  Just too dam funny...

    Click Here To See Video!

  • Friday, February 02, 2018 1:26 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    By Bob Self

    Note:  This post is dedicated to my good friend Nancy Speed!

  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:08 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no one's around to hear him, is he still a bad dog?

    Group Exercises

    There continues to be discussion regarding the safety of group exercises.  Most agree that this is a important skill for dogs to learn and good trainers who have developed voice control over their dogs can train the exercise well.  However concerns continue to impart that we see an ever-increasing number of dogs breaking during the stay exercises and this causes danger to other dogs in the group.  Whether there is actually a increasing number of dog-on-dog attacks is in question because few of us have access to the data tracking these situations.  Nevertheless it makes sense that if there are a greater number of dogs breaking the stays, there would be a greater probability of attacks.  The “face validity” that these exercises are dangerous is not good for the sport.  Whether experienced or novice, a good trainer or bad, we all share the same concerns over our dogs getting involved in a fight.  It is not a positive situation and I have changed my opinion.

    Like most I continue to believe the stays an important skill for dogs to learn but given the sensitivities of exhibitors nowadays it appears that something must be done.  If for no other reason than the perception of danger is not healthy for the sport.  Suggestions have been offered to make group exercises safer while still demonstrating that dogs can perform the skill.  Personally I find these remediation's less than adequate substitutes.

    Keep leashes on dogs during the stays.  This suggestion appears to be an inadequate solution to me.  I doubt that having a leash on will deter all dogs from breaking and/or engaging in battle.  Especially those dogs who are now causing the problems.  Furthermore I'm not confident that trainers who can't train reliable stays now will suddenly have the ability to do so if a lead is attached.  Even if handlers can grab/hold the leashes, it would still be difficult to pull fighting dogs apart.  Anyone witnessing a dog attack is aware that once dogs latch on to each other, many don’t release easily.  Beyond that, it is still an alarming spectacle for anyone to witness.  Unless we require 8' leads with dogs spaced10' apart this appears to be a poor solution.  And... one that wouldn't really demonstrate the intent of the exercise anyhow.

    Taking the dog to a separate location to perform stays.  Some suggest doing these exercises in separate rings independently or grouped farther apart.  While this idea might improve the situation it will only take one incident to reinstate the alarming concern.  As well, obedience already appears idle enough as it is and I'm not sure this idea will make it more effective.

    Stay and walk.  Various versions of the exercise where handlers leave their dogs on a stay and then walk around the ring have been suggested.  In my eyes this doesn’t appear to be a valuable substitute for the groups.  If we were going to do that, why not leave the dog on a recall exercise, have the judge pause with the handler at the opposite end of the ring, and then order the handler to call the dog.  Optionally you could have the handler walk around the ring to a point where the dog could be called.  Combining recalls with the stay would be a more efficient solution while performing them separately makes little sense and only duplicates the idea that the dog must stay until the handler performs the next act (calling the dog or going to the dog).  This idea will make obedience appear more lethargic.

    Discussions about creating a substitute exercise for the stays indicates that exhibitors feel they are an important skill for dogs to demonstrate.  For what it appears to matter in today’s obedience, dogs are already demonstrating that they must stay during recalls, examinations, retrieves, go-outs, broad jumps, and signals.  If we want to make stays safer I recommend that we eliminate group exercises entirely and replace them with a more-in-depth exercise performed while the dog is initially in the ring. 

    As mentioned, one of my thoughts would include a longer pause within one of the aforementioned exercises (retrieves, recalls, jumps, signals, exams, etc.).  Perhaps this could pause could be implemented at the judges discretion?  Optionally having handlers walk a longer, indirect path, on the recalls could demonstrate a dog's capability to stay.  Again, this path could be implemented at a judge's discretion.

    My personal preference would be to include a more complex examination exercise.  This type of exercise would demonstrate what most handlers appear to believe.... "that a dog should be able to stay in place while another human approaches and touches it."  According to the regulations as they are today, no dog is required to be examined or touched at all during the open exercises.  Unless a judge measures a dog's jump height, no one examines them after novice until (AND unless), they get to utility.  Sometimes that's a looong time!  Why not create an exercise that continues to build on a skill the dog learned in novice?   Why not create an exercise that continues to demonstrate a dog's ability (AND stability) to stay and be touched by another human?

    Everybody appears to want a safer obedience.  Everybody appears to want a friendlier sport.  Society has changed and the sport must change to keep in stride.  Perhaps it’s time to eliminate the groups and remove this monkey from the back of obedience.

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy St. Pat's Day!

    Sometimes I wonder about owners who impart human characteristics onto their dogs but I gotta concede this picture's a hoot.

    New Subscription Option

    I received several questions about the planned lower cost subscription option mentioned in my last column.  We are still working on it but don't want to unveil it until we've posted enough content on for subscribers to get started.  It shouldn't be much long now and we'll notify all F&F friends when it is available.  As indicated in the last issue, the new option will be much more affordable while giving subscribers access to the same content we publish in the magazine.  And YES... the ratings will be included as well!  We sincerely feel that most will like it because it will be easier to navigate and read, especially on smartphones!


    I am delighted to bring the fancy our first report in this issue.  This year we are starting with the Open A Ratings which you'll find later in this issue.

    For those who don't realize, quite a bit of work goes into the publication of our rating system data.  A few individuals who work behind the scenes to make our reports possible don't get the recognition they deserve.  Their efforts are deeply appreciated!

    Rob Garrett works for the AKC's technology department and has been our go to guy to provide the raw data we need to tabulate the rating results.  Rob has always been extremely prompt and responsive in meeting our requests for this information.  Many years ago volunteers maintained these records manually and it required untold hours of work to tabulate the findings.  Later we hired secretaries to manually enter the data into a computer system to tabulate the results.    Rob's efforts in providing this material has saved us much of the manual work that was so time consuming and error prone.  Rob recognizes how important this information is to the fancy and he has always been highly attentive in providing accurate data for us to tabulate.  Thank you Rob!

    Dave Pluth is another marvel supporting our rating reports.  Dave provides the tabulated results out of the goodness of his heart.  I envy his adept skills in designing the data system that calculates and sorts the data for us to publish.  With Dave's "techie talents" I'd expect him to be kind of a geeky character.  Working with him the past two years had made me realize what a kind hearted "normal" fellow he is.  Always responsive to help and enjoyable to communicate with, we owe Dave a heartfelt "Thank You"!

    Nancy Speed will probably kill me for including her here but she's a deserving lady entitled to recognition!  The data we receive doesn't provide complete owner or contact information so it can be difficult to know exactly who the handlers are, or how to get ahold of them.  Nancy has led the pack in extending a helping hand anytime we've asked for help.  In genuine kindness to support the sport, and with concern helping handlers receive the recognition they deserve, I know Nancy has spent considerable time hunting these individuals down.  I suspect she has FBI connections somewhere because she has yet to fail!  Asking nothing in return Nancy does this to help all of us.  What a gem!  

    By the way... 
    Nancy & I have had a hoot watching April's delivery on the Internet.  Thanks for being my video pal!

  • Wednesday, February 01, 2017 12:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dogs & Cats
    Do you know what the difference is between dogs & cats?   A dog thinks, “Wow, the humans are bringing me food every day, they let me live in a nice house away from the cold, they take care of my every need… They must be gods!”
    The cat thinks, “Wow, the humans bring me food every day, they have me live in a nice house away from the cold, they take care of my every need… I must be God!”

    Velma Janek
    The sport of dogs has lost one of the greatest dog trainers, competitors, and judges of all time.  In early January Velma Janek passed away peacefully.  Velma enjoyed a number of hobbies but you could always count on a dog being close by.  In our circles she was always known as a keen supporter of obedience and countless exhibitors benefited from her experience which she conveyed through personal assistance and seminars.  We are deeply saddened to lose this fine lady of our  sport.

    New Subscription Service
    We have been working behind the scenes on an additional subscription service to offer subscribers at a much lower cost.  We are happy to announce that this additional subscription option will become available this February.  We will send email notices and include posts on our social media Facebook & Twitter accounts when everything is ready.

    To the point, the new “Website Subscriptions” will give exhibitors access to the same content we publish through our magazine “Issue Subscriptions”.  But instead of accessing PDF issue files, website subscribers will receive their articles directly on our website.  Subscribers will be able to view material by author as well as search by topic of interest.  Searches will run across all content on the website so you’ll be able to find needed info much easier than hunting issue-by-issue (as is needed now).
    A second advantage to the website format is that we will be able to post current material much faster than we can with monthly issue releases.  Some of this information will be available to website subscribers before it appears in our regular issues.

    There are advantages to both types of accounts so we will be piloting the new format for a year to see how everyone likes it.  For now we’re taking it step-by-step but other ergonomic benefits will be forthcoming in future months.  We understand the new format won’t satisfy everybody’s taste but we hope everyone will give it a look.  While we are getting up to speed on this we’re offering an introductory price for Website Subscribers at only $12.75 a year.  That’s about a buck a month and over twenty-two dollars less than our digital issue cost!  Those wishing to opt for Issue Subscriptions, and all current subscribers will receive the Website Subscription service at no extra charge.

    Stone City Trial
    At the beginning of the year I was fortunate to be able to judge the Stone City Kennel Club Trial.  They had a neat idea that I seen a couple of time but wonder why more clubs don’t do this to make things a bit friendlier for exhibitors.  Stone City offered an “NQ Raffle”.  Those who ND’d were able to put their names in to win a prize.  What an easy idea to make our sport friendlier for those who had a bit of misfortune in the ring.  If you have other ideas please let me know and I’ll be sure to post your thoughts as well.

    Facebook Group Moderator
    A few subscribers have asked why we aren’t maintaining a FaceBook group for F&F anymore.  We did in the past but lost our moderator so it was discontinued.  We’d be happy to resurrect the F&F group again if one or two individuals would be willing to act as moderators.  The moderator would need to check in to the group on a regular basis to accept new members and help maintain order.  If interested just contact me at and we’ll work out any details to make the experience efficient and enjoyable for all.  If you’re willing to help out we’ll include a free subscription and advertising for any events/services you want to promote.

  • Sunday, January 01, 2017 12:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy New Year

    We would like to welcome all of our new subscribers who participated in our holiday subscription drive.  As well we want to wish all of our readers a happy and prosperous new year.  Several members took advantage of our discounted gift subscription offer and we would like to express an extra special appreciation for your kind and generous support.  Your thoughtfulness supports the entire sport of obedience.  Thank you!

    Kaitlyn & Poirot

    I was fortunate to be able to judge at the Crown Classic Show in Cleveland last month.  As a judge one never knows what they will encounter when  attending an event.  Most times these events turn out to be exceptional pleasures creating lifelong memories.  One of these incidents happened to me when I met Kaitlyn Johnson, a young exhibitor participating at these trials.

    To me Kaitlyn represents the exact kind of individual we need in this sport.  She demonstrated an enthusiastic interest in our sport and a strong desire to participate to her best ability.  Not only was this evident but I was so impressed to learn that she decided to bump up to a higher level class and give it a shot.  A lot of experienced exhibitors don’t display this kind of zealous attitude.

    Katilyn inspired me because it proves that there are people out there who find obedience attractive and worthwhile.  With all of the talk about depressing numbers in our sport, pointless changes to the regulations, meaningless classes attempting to boost entries, and a whole host of other problems; the potential for increase in obedience does exist.  They are out there folks!  The question is, can we inspire them to stay?  

    The focus of obedience should not be on changes to exercises, standardizing judging, and imitation classes.  There is really nothing wrong with traditional obedience and attempts to fix what wasn’t broke hasn’t and won’t provide increase to this sport!  Obedience needs a more progressive attitude in supporting the people that sustain this sport.  The emphasis should be on the exhibitors not the entries.

    Obedience can quickly become rigid and mechanical.  This doesn’t readily present a picture of attractiveness to many and adding more administrative overhead only increases the problem.  It’s about time we start to emphasize the attractiveness, kinship, and fun obedience offers.

    Recognition Field Editors Wanted

    I was recently asked why we no longer publish a correspondent’s section in F&F and I promised to report on this.  With advances in faster communication nowadays periodicals have had to make significant changes to the content they publish.  Today in obedience most trial announcements are online before the show is even over.  In short it would be impossible for us to publish trial news that wasn’t already outdated.  

    We do encourage submissions about worthy individuals and groups in our sport but perhaps we can do a better job?  Many supporters perform impressive feats and discharge hours of dedicated service yet these contributions go unrecognized.  Many enterprising clubs and schools that have earned accomplishments and promote ideas that we could all learn from.  Again, many of these stories go untold, and certainly so on a national level..

    We are currently looking for someone that would be interested in becoming a field editor for submissions of recognition.  In short the duties would be to help us locate individuals and clubs to highlight, request and schedule submissions, proof the results and submit them to us for publication.  If interested please email me at and we’ll work out the details.  We like simple and don’t want this to be a burden but we do need an individual who has the inclination to do it well.

  • Thursday, September 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Taking a look at the AKC's recent annual statistics is a good exercise for any obedience enthusiast.  It may not lead anyone into euphoria about the future of our sport, but it will provide a sense of reality, and in some cases feelings of anxiety.

    Noting that the AKC is forthcoming with their statistics they are to be congratulated for maintaining well-kept information.  In reviewing the statistical publications one will notice that the results for any given year is always compared with the year occurring immediately prior.  Reviewing longer spans of time one may observe that the numbers for a given year can change, but these differences appear insignificant.  For example, if you compared the 2014 Number of Dogs Competing across the 2014 and 2015 statistical issues, the difference is only off by one.  Given the thousands of records the AKC tracks, this is pretty amazing and they should receive a pat on the back for their accuracy.

    Sadly reviewing the data on behalf of obedience puts me in the anxiety camp.  One can readily see that the number of dogs competing continues to drop off at a considerable rate.  The difference between the 2012 and 2013 competition years reveals a loss of 2,266 dogs in All Breed Obedience Trials.  Specialty trials saw a loss of 247 dogs, and only Limited Breed Obedience Trials reported a gain of 44 dogs.  On these three measures the loss of dogs competing was 2,513, countered by only 44 additional dogs in limited trials.  The overall loss to the sport was 2,469!

    Since one comparison doesn't necessarily constitute a trend, let's look at 2013 and 2014.  Here one will observe that 3,471 fewer dogs competed in All Breed Obedience Trials, 105 fewer dogs competed in Limited Breed Obedience Trials, and 652 fewer dogs competed in Specialty Obedience Trials.  This accounts for a total loss to the sport of 4,228.  Close to twice the prior year's reported loss!

    As hope springs eternal, one can review the 2014-2015 results which unfortunately, again, tells the same depressing story.  In All Breed Obedience Trials there were 4,055 fewer dogs competing, 204 less dogs in Specialty Obedience Trials, and only 17 more competing in Limited Breed Obedience Trials.  This accounts for 4,242 fewer dogs participating in obedience competition.

    It has always been my belief that the AKC measures success through number of entries rather than the number of handlers.  I can see how this makes sense since entires are one important avenue of income.  Unfortunately looking at entries only tells part of the story.  It would give a fuller picture to know how many actual handlers are participating in AKC obedience.  But for now it is what it is, so we can look at entries to give us another perspective of our sport's well-being.

    The AKC Statistical Publications break obedience entries into two parts, "Trials Held With Shows" and "Separate Trials".  In reviewing this information I broke the aforementioned categories down into two additional parts.  First I looked at the numbers based only on the Novice, Open, and Utility classes because overall, these are the foundation of our sport.  Secondly I reviewed the numbers based on ALL reported obedience classes (such as the basic classes plus Beginner Novice, Graduate, Novice, Graduate Open, Versatility, etc.).  This may offer some insight into whether the additional titling classes are having any significant impact on the health of obedience.

    First looking at Trials Held With Shows, and considering only the basic classes (Novice, Open, and Utility) there were 1,027 fewer Novice entries in 2013 compared to 2012.  In the same time frame there were 1,146 fewer Open entries, and 797 fewer Utility entries.  Considering Separate Trials there were 625 fewer Novice, 51 fewer Open, and 79 more Utility entries.  Combined all of these entries indicate 3,920 fewer Novice, Open, and Utility entries in 2013 obedience competition compared to 2012.  If we look at all of the reported obedience classes combined, there were 3,920 fewer entries.  Not a favorable outcome!

    Again, first looking at Trials With Shows across the 2013-2014 competition years there were 862 fewer novice entries, 1,652 fewer open entries, and 1,261 fewer utility entries.  Among trials held as separate events there were 237 fewer novice, 851 fewer open, and 315 fewer utility.  Combine the basic obedience classes and we end up with 5,178 fewer entries!  Scary!  So did we fare any better when considering all of the obedience classes?  Worse!  Taking into account all obedience classes we were down 7,018 in 2014 compared to 2013.  This picture appears dismal!

    From 2014 through 2015 the story reads pretty much the same.  In Trials Held With Shows there were 924 fewer Novice, 1,267 fewer Open, and 1,515 fewer Utility entries.  That's down a total of 3,706 entries for Trials Held With Shows.  Looking at Separate Trials there was a positive bump in Open entries with 631 more.  Unfortunately the 694 Novice entry drop and  the 207 Utility entry drop wiped out the Open gains.  End result, a negative balance of 270 entires.  So what's the score taking into account all obedience classes?  Not good.  Taking all obedience classes into account there were 4,985 fewer obedience entries in 2015 than 2014.  A very sad state of affairs indeed!

    Can’t remember all of the info above or find it confusing?  Here’s a quick summary.  Between 2012 and 2015 there were 10,939 fewer obedience dogs and 15,923 fewer obedience entires at AKC events. 

    One can look farther back into the history of AKC statistics and occasionally find instances where the popularity of obedience appears to improve.  Unfortunately these growth spurts can be explained in terms that don’t suggest growth, expansion, development, advancement, or proliferation.  For example, a few years back some of the entries appeared to grow but investigation revealed that the growth was only due to newly added optional classes and not an increase in exhibitors.  This isn’t growth, it’s just masked reduction, decline, decrease, decay.  Doc this dog appears to be very ill!

    For those who would prefer to look at tabulations of the information above please review the tables included following this article.  Better yet I strongly suggest that you point your web browser to peruse the AKC Event Statistics yourself.  I’m always interested and open to your comments! 

  • Sunday, May 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since the new regulations went in force last December I've heard nothing but complaints and bewilderment about the rule changes to the scent discrimination exercise in utility.  At a recent judging seminar several of the attendees tried to get some feedback as to why the procedures to this exercise was changed.  Unfortunately our requests for an explanation appeared to be deliberately obtuse.  I have to wonder whether my limited view of the obedience fancy is representative of the whole.  I'd be interested in any responses that favor of this rule change and why.  If you are interested and willing please email your thoughts to me at dogs@frontandfinish.comI will not publish anyone's response without contacting them for their express permission to do so.

    Dee Dee Anderson

    Dee Dee is one incredible human and an exceptional supporter of our sport.  Dee Dee recently contacted me of her own accord and offered to put together a couple of fantastic features for us.  In this issue please turn your attention to Dee Dee's special feature covering the 2016 AKC Rally National.  We're also excited to be able to publish Dee Dee's coverage of the 2016 NOC next month.

    Open A Ratings

    A high paw to all teams who placed in this year’s Open A Obedience Ratings.  This month we're privileged to be able to provide these breakdowns for the fancy.  The Open A Ratings cover the 2015 competition year and can be found at the end of this issue. Email Addresses

    If you didn't know we will soon consolidate our F&F email addresses to help fight junk mailers and make things easier for subscribers.  For those wishing to contact me personally or to submit copy for submission please email  For other matters please write our general email address .


    I have been fortunate to be able to judge the Car-Dun-Al obedience trial several times and have always enjoyed the camaraderie that occurs at these events.  A couple weeks ago I was able to return again but this time I was met by several new exhibitors who displayed the exact kind of attitude and passion obedience needs.  I haven't seen this kind of energetic enthusiasm about our sport in a long time and it was a splendid thing to experience.  Hopefully God will grant us more trainers like this to spark an increased interest in our sport!

    Email Addresses

    If you didn't know we will soon consolidate our F&F email addresses to help fight junk mailers and make things easier for subscribers.  For those wishing to contact me personally or to submit copy for submission please email

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