Different Approaches To Training

Monday, August 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

Written by Marilyn Miller

Training the Novice exercises are entirely different than I remember when I  trained Luckee Fella and Mandi Ming for their Companion Dog titles 16 years ago. Even more changes since Baby Ming Squeezicks, CDX  (my first obedience Lhasa) trained years before that. Our trainer Ms. Hill has us  break down all exercises into  small parts and eventually work up to the complete exercise. 

Every class begins with heeling. Short steps at first, then a halt. Hopefully the dog's attention will be on the handler  and not sniffing the  floor. Small dogs take more time keeping focused as they are so low to the ground and their noses pick up all the smells. When Blaze's nose starts to sniff the mat, I give a slight upward tug on her leash. When she looks up at me I praise her. Left and right turns are also done with just a few steps in between. Over time these steps are lengthened. Walking on tape on the floor that hold the mats together keeps me walking in a straight line. If I am walking straight  my dog should be also. We incorporate the slow, fast and normal in our class heeling exercises. Eventually an about turn is introduced. At home when we practice on the back deck I use a crack in the wood (between boards) for a straight line to  heel on.

Ms. Hill suggested I use a long wooden spoon on my about turns to lure Blaze. I put peanut butter on the spoon and stick a piece of cheese or chicken on it and hold it under her nose when making the turn. This saves on my bending over considerably. The spoon extends the length of my arm. I also use the spoon to lure Blaze on the outside turn around the cone on the figure 8. What a  simple yet ingenious idea !

We have worked on "set ups" in class for when we enter the ring and set up. We practice this by setting up around a cone. We have worked on heeling toward the cone and doing a left or right turn around the  cone and halt. At home I practice each direction around the cone three times. This is  also to "cue" Blaze in to which direction I will make the turn and to get her used to my footwork. This was our first step toward an off leash heel. We set up, walk a few feet to the  cone off leash, turn around the cone  and halt. Every time I have Blaze set up she gets a treat.

Our sits and downs are improving. This  week  I  am to bring a long line to class.  Ms. Hill thinks (because she is so young) Blaze needs me on the end of a  line for security. Blaze just turned 8 months old on  July 9th. Still a baby.  At home I  can  test how  far I  can go beyond the end of the line. Blaze is doing much better with the long sits and downs. We practice this  exercise every day, preferably  when she is  tired in  the  late afternoon. We also do a little heeling every  day. All the other exercises we practice on alternate days. This week instead of my  heeling "inside" the group in class, I will join the mayhem and  heel right along with  them. At shows there may be practice areas for dogs at  all levels of competition to warm up and Blaze should get used to being in the  middle of  chaos. In all  the years of shows I entered I remember extremely few warm up  areas. Maybe this is something new since I last  showed Mandi three years ago.

The last week Blaze and I have been working on  the "wait" command. In class we are taught to give the dog a treat and say " wait". Leave the dog (holding on to the leash). Walk a few feet, looking over your shoulder several times to  make sure she does  not move. Over time increase your distance away from the dog. Return to the dog  and treat. This exercise eventually leads up  to leaving the  dog for a recall . The dog might be able  do a great recall and front, but if she gets up when you leave her it will be a  NQ. I  will use  the long line on this  exercise in future  classes until Blaze does a reliable stay. In class we also  work on fronts. Both  straight fronts and fronts off to the  side. Blaze knows both the right and left finishes, however, only  the left finish is  practiced in class. With a left  finish  the dog does not go  around behind you facing distractions as with the right finish. We are not adding the  finish to any  fronts yet. They are being taught as separate exercises.

I have decided that the clicker is more of a hindrance than a help. I can get out  the words "good girl" faster than I can find the button  on the clicker. I don't have enough hands to hold the leash, clicker, treats etc.

Our second set of four classes begins tomorrow evening. We will build on what we have already learned. For example, people will replace the cones for the figure 8. The class will  take turns giving other dogs the stand  for exam. We will work more (with  longer distances) on off-leash heeling. Blaze likes the class, the trainer, and being around other dogs. She has two friends in particular in  the class:  a one year old Golden Retriever and a young King Charles Spaniel.  Blaze really  seems to enjoy learning which is  a  huge plus for both of us!

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