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  • Saturday, September 01, 2018 7:00 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    by Catherine Zinsky

    Remember when you were a child and you would count to '3' before sprinting off in hopes of outracing your peers? The wait and the count helped build your anxiety, your intensity.  It encouraged you to take off with gusto.  It also forced you to wait and not take off before the allowed time.  Well, incorporating this drive and impulse control is exactly why I love to use the 1-2-3 game in my everyday training.  It encourages my dog, makes him want to do whatever we're doing even more so--and it forces him to wait until released.  It's a fantastic game that I use over and over, even integrating it with other games I use with my dogs.  It's my favorite game, bar none.  And it's so simple.  

    The game goes like this:

    Set your dog up for whatever skill or exercise you wish to work on.  Before giving a command, build intensity by slowly counting with a tantalizing voice first '1', then '2', then '3'.  Pause in-between counts. Entice with your pace and your tone.  After the count of 3, release your dog with the command for the skill you're working on--and watch your dog's enthusiasm grow!  

    It's important to remember that should your dog break BEFORE you give the release command, you start all over again!  Do not resume from wherever your dog broke.  START ALL OVER AGAIN FROM THE COUNT OF '1'.  

    (My Cattle Dog, Derby, used to get so frustrated with me at times when I played this game with her.  If she would start before I gave a command and I let her know that she had cheated, she would bark and bark at me, letting me know that I had to get on with it!  Loved that dog.  And she dearly loved this game!)

    And remember: this is a game.  When playing this game the only correction my dog gets is when my dog breaks the stay before I send him, and then I only let him know that he's screwed up. I want him to know he's made a mistake, but that it's not the end of the world. No big deal. I want my dog to grow through success, not be beaten into submission.  That's the true purpose of these games: to help a dog succeed and grow and enjoy the process!   

     This video explains how the game is played and also demonstrates a few of the ways in which I use the 1-2-3 game. 


    Got Treats?


  • Saturday, September 01, 2018 6:30 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    by Michael Pumilia

    Length in a track is not important at this time. That’s because these tracks only have one leg – one very straight leg and directly into the wind. I can not stress this enough. You are being trained at the same time as the dog. First you develop a Plan for the next training session. What do you want to accomplish? How far do you want the dog to go? Are you focusing on the glove or a treat as the reward? How has the dog reacted to the training? Check your field notebook to refresh your mind on all the key points. You should have noted the dog’s responses to putting on the harness, the scent path, and finding the object. Remember to write down these details after each track once the dog gets beyond ten feet. For your plan you should start with the details of each of the six tracks for the day. Also include where the field is because the terrain is unique to each site.  You should use a name to identify each place. Each type of ground cover smells different as does the environment where the site is. The field could be downwind from a hamburger shop that’s half a mile away or it could be a manufacturing building three miles away or a water treatment plant five miles away. Check the locale via the internet and pay attention to wind direction. Here where I live the primary wind is South, the secondary direction is Northerly, and the tertiary is Westerly. All the major airports in this metroplex have North-South runways. Each training site should be flat and relatively level, i.e. not sloping. Gravity does affect the tracklayer’s scent path. A site that is noticeably down or uphill and especially side hill to the wind will be poor for this phase of training. Once you have your Plan for the next session you know what the dog has done and what you want it to do next. 


    At the training field your task will be to Plot the track to be used. In the first lessons it is not necessary to draw the path. Let’s keep this simple. Identify the wind direction and where you want the Start. This will be based on having a target to walk toward.  It could be a tree or bush, a window of a building, a pole, a parked vehicle, etc. The easiest way to have a straight track is to walk head-up directly to the target. Keep your eyes on that point, stopping only to place the flags. In figure 9-1 I have measured a 10 feet span between each flag. The point of this is to know how the dog is reacting to smelling at each desired distance and as an example for you. Tracking people talk about yards, legs, and reading the dog all the time. Of these, reading the dog is the most important. Reading the dog means learning the particulars of each dog when it is tracking and not tracking. In the very first training sessions, you should Focus Near to the dog’s body and learn how various parts of the dog’s body respond to what it is doing. When the dog is actively following a scent its ears, tail, head, etc are positioned in a particular way that is unique for that dog. As soon as the dog stops smelling the tracklayer, you will see a change in some of its parts. Now the dog may smell something other than the tracklayer, but there will be changes in the dog’s body. For all we know, it might be another animal or person, organic material like deer dung, or some chemical dumped in the field like oil or paint. By studying your dog’s behavior you will be able to read what is going on. Every dog is unique so learn what your dog is thinking.


    Figure 9-1. A Beginning Track with 10 feet Between Flags  

     Legs refer to each path along a track which is differentiated by the start flag, changes in direction marked by flags, and ending with the drop of the object, such as a glove or wallet. Each leg is measured in yards. At this point in your training the yardage is not important. The first goal is to have the dog follow the path to the object first by sight and then by sniffing the scent particles. The Aha Moment arrives when the dog transitions from sight to scent. When this happens you will see my First Rule of Tracking: The Dog Knows What It is Doing. The magical thing about tracking is watching your dog react to its inherent ability to track amazing distances. Also dogs can follow tracks that may be days old. This is why choosing a good tracking field is so important. When you go to a site you don’t know, there may have been various animals or people that moved across the field recently. You won’t know this until your dog gets distracted from its track by other scent(s). I have seen incidences where a field had deer tracks. At a test, the glove on one track disappeared all by itself. The dog followed a different scent to a spot where we found what looked like raccoon dung. 

    I had the opportunity to see my own dogs perform an amazing feat in Florida. It showed the ability of dogs to follow a days-old track and over different terrain. A woman lost her two dogs while at a beach. She called on a Wednesday and asked me to bring my two tracking titled Dalmatians to search for them. When we arrived she told us that her dogs were lost on Sunday. So we tried any ways since we were there. The woman had her dogs’ blankets used for sleeping. Starting where she and the dogs were on the beach, my Dals picked up a scent. They followed it for about two miles, crossing dunes, a road, and lawns. They ignored people along their path. At a grouping of houses they stopped tracking. We were done for the day. The following day the woman called us again. She had gone back to the homes that day and knocked on doors. At the fourth house she found her dogs. They had been taken in by the people on Sunday night. So the Dals had been right. The moral of this story is scents last a long time and dogs can distinguish them if trained. You determine what they follow.

    Once you have plotted your track it might look similar to figure 9-1. My flags are 10 feet apart. You’ll work further and further distances with your dog once it is following its nose and finding the dropped object. You now get to Plod along the path and Plop the drop. Then turn and retrace your path. Let’s say you have four red flags like my figure and the glove is two feet past the last flag. As you walk back to the start, try to make a pace of one-yard steps.  You might get the first two at the right distance but most beginners tend to shorten their steps over the longer distance. Okay, so how many steps did you actually take? The complete distance from glove to start flag is 14 yards, which is 42 feet. Do we really care at this point? No. It is more important to have the dog following its nose and making a positive reaction to the object. The dog can sit or stand or lie down at the glove. That’s good for a treat reward. And if your dog aggressively grabs the glove or wallet, then it has created its own reward. From 14 yards you can progress to further distances in subsequent training sessions. The marking, red flagsare placed further apart. Their purpose is to ensure you go out and come back on the same path. This is why having the track as straight as possible is beneficial. If anyone flag is grossly out of line, just move it back to alignment. 

    It would be good to progress out to 50 yards eventually before moving on to the next phase of training. Remember to vary the distance from any flag to the drop. Dogs can quickly learn a pattern if you keep using the same distance. Also vary the training location if at all possible so the dog gets a difference of terrain, cover, and background smells. At any point in training when problems occur, go back to shorter tracks. Start with shorter tracks also when changing sites. All of this is part of the Ponder portion before and after each period in the field. Your thoughts written in a notebook say what happened, where it happened, and under what conditions. They are the basis of what you want to do for the next field work.

    One key point to remember at all times in the field is You can’t guide the dog or correct it. That’s because Rule 1: The Dog Knows What It’s Doing applies at all times. Humans have no idea what a dog is actually smells at any given time. We are making an assumption based on what we see from the dog’s body. That’s it. Any verbal or tugging-on-the-lead correction is out of line. Once the dog starts its track at the start flag, it is in charge. You offer encouragement to find the object. You carry the end of the lead. And once the dog indicates the object, you get to triumphantly hoist the object in the air. Those are your tasks. So when the dog is working the track, you should try to perfect your part of the team. Tracking is a Team Sport.

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    Back To Table of Contents

  • Saturday, September 01, 2018 6:00 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    by Connie Cleveland-Nolan

     I often ask the participants at my seminars: “If you were by yourself in this facility, with time to train, what would you work on?” Participants that have the most trouble answering this question are the ones who are starting new obedience dogs. There is so much to work on, the trouble is knowing where to start. 

    I was training with some friends the other day and one of them commented: "Connie, you always have a plan." She's right, I do, and you can too. If are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, I have a plan that will simplify it for you. 

    Over the next few months, I will show you how to teach your dog the skills that every new obedience prospect needs to learn. If you have a new dog or one that you’ve already started, follow along to ensure that you haven't missed an opportunity to lay a solid foundation. 

    Let’s get started by teaching your dog the following four skills. 

    1. Tricks for Treats 

    How many behaviors can you get your dog to perform in the hopes you will give him a treat? Get started by teaching your dog the following “tricks.” 

    • Sit 
    • Down 
    • Spin (both directions) 
    • Shake (both feet) 
    • Front 
    • Finish 
    • Heel 

    It is important for you to fade the lure when your dog demonstrates that he can perform the tricks. Luring a dog is simply getting him to chase food. As soon as possible, you want to use your treat as a reward instead of a lure. Watch the following video and note the difference between using the treat as a lure and then as a reward.

    Introducing Luring & Rewarding

    2.  Moving Away From a Treat to Get a Treat

    Every bit as important as using your treat as a lure and then a reward, is teaching your dog to move away from a treat to earn a treat. Can you send your young dog to his crate in anticipation that you will deliver his dinner? Great! How about sending him to his bed? Introduce your dog to the concept that by moving away from what he wants, he can earn what he wants. 

    Using Conditioned Reinforcers

    3. Coming When Called 

    Use every opportunity to teach your dog to come as soon as you bring him home. Start by attaching a long line to his collar every time you take him out to play or relieve himself. Practice “Come” three times every time you take him outside. If you take your dog out seven times a day, and call him three times, he’s going to practice “Come” 21 times every day. With that amount of practice, he will quickly learn to come when called! 

    Introducing Come

    4. Encouraging the Retrieve 

    Do everything possible to get your young dog interested in retrieving. Not only are there several obedience exercises that involve retrieving, but it is also good exercise. Learning to retrieve is easier once your dog has learned 1) to come when called; and 2) go to a place.

    If you dog is reluctant to run out and return with a thrown ball or toy, you can build a foundation for the retrieve by tossing a treat and calling him back to a place. Watch the following video to see how this young dog is learning to retrieve. 


    Encouraging the Retrieve

    Begin by teaching these four skills regardless of your dog’s age. These skills will lay the foundation your dog needs to participate in any sport you wish to pursue. 

    If you have a puppy or a young dog that you are ready to start training, or you know someone with a puppy or young dog, please share this with them. It’s time to get started! 

    Back To Table of Contents

    Back To Table of Contents



  • Saturday, September 01, 2018 5:30 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    by Janice Gunn

    I found my fronts were what I wanted in training, but when in the ring my dogs would sometimes sit a bit further back then where I would like them to be. What to do? So I decided to play this game and get them not only comfortable coming really close, but that it was a reinforcing exercise for them to do so. At first they did not want to come so close, but with encouragement and rewards they got good at it. And yes, it did improve my fronts in the ring. We still play this game occasionally just for maintenance and fun.



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    Back To Table of Contents


  • Monday, February 26, 2018 12:00 PM | 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!

















  • Wednesday, January 31, 2018 12:12 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Deborah Neufeld

    I like to puppy test. I have puppy-tested a number of litters for friends and other folks, and I always marvel at the responses. Some puppies have exhibited the best qualities one could look for in a competition dog, and others indicated a wonderful companion. Sometimes the responses are a bit odd, sparking the tester to wonder what happened to cause them. One puppy I remember had a hard time participating in the test as he kept going to a wall and leaning against it. Once we observed the litter together after the individual testing, it was clear why the pup had developed such a response. This puppy had become the one that several other pups in the litter bullied. His response was to go to a wall, lean against it and wait for them to beat him up. Once away from his littermates he was free to develop normally. Observing interactions within the litter can sometimes explain as much as the individual testing.


    Puppy testing isn’t the only criteria one should use in picking a puppy, but it certainly gives you insight into the inner workings of the pup at the time of the test. I worked with a Hearing Dog program for many years that used a version of the Volhard puppy test on dogs up to two years of age. The test was incredibly accurate, correctly assessing the dog’s potential to certify as a hearing dog. The main point of the puppy test, though, is that it only tells you about the pup at the time of the test – it cannot tell you how the pup will end up based on environment and training. I also never discount the natural attraction between the puppy and his human. If you really like the pup from the start you will be a lot more invested in working through training issues as they arise.

    When I tested a previous Boxer at 8 weeks of age, she had no social attraction to people at all. She wouldn’t come to me or anyone else, much less follow me. Something in my gut was telling me this wasn’t the personality I wanted. I decided to take her anyway, figuring we would bond once I got her home. A couple of weeks later and no closer to making a connection with this puppy, I realized that I would need more of a comprehensive plan to work with her. As she was quite independent and wanted nothing to do with me or my husband, choosing to stick with the other dogs instead, we adopted a plan of “nothing for free”. All things in her world came through people. Toys, walks, playing and freedom all came with a price – contact with the “undesirable” humans. Every bite of food was hand fed, and she resented it. At first Tia would come several feet away and bark at her dinner as if to say “hey food, come over here so I don’t have to go near that human”. She wouldn’t even look at me, and seemed offended at having to eat from my hand. Gradually she became more comfortable with my presence and we formed a bond, but it would be a couple of years before she would come to mildly enjoy petting. Initially she would shrink from being touched by anyone and would “shake it off” after being pet. Tia was quite a test of my knowledge and abilities. I hope I never have to tackle such a problem again, but she taught me volumes on how to build a strong relationship. Had I not puppy tested her, it might have taken me a lot longer to figure out the problem and to make a plan of how to deal with it. She certainly wasn’t the dog of my dreams, but now I can’t imagine my life without having had her in it.

    The real dog of my dreams came into my life as a matter of circumstance. I had my first litter of Boxer puppies (one of only two litters I bred in 30 years). I had planned to keep one for Conformation and Obedience. She was a lovely little girl I named Liza Jane – so sweet and pretty, but not too bright. Her sister I called Java because she was a dark brindle. Java got her sister’s brains and then some! She was problem solving at 6 weeks old. She could break out of most crates, open doors as soon as she was tall enough to reach them, and she could figure out a way to get whatever she wanted. I quickly determined that she would be too smart for the average pet owner and would probably end up at the shelter, so we made the decision to keep her.

    To say that she was a challenge would be an understatement. She tested me every day in every way on everything. Java was a nightmare dog, demanding my full attention just to keep her under control. Training her was practically a full-time job. As time passed and we came to know each other, we became pretty much inseparable. Not only did we do Obedience, she did tricks and pet therapy and she became a great ambassador for her breed. It wasn’t until the end of her life that I realized I had the dog of my dreams all along. I just didn’t know it until then.

    A puppy test can’t tell you if a puppy will end up being perfect for you, or a disaster waiting to happen – or sometimes a bit of both. What it can do is give you a snapshot of the puppy’s character at that instant. Most importantly, it can tell you the direction to take in order to mold that puppy into the very best partner you can have. And that partner might just end up being the dog of your dreams. After all, seldom do we know in the beginning where any relationship will take us. The destination is important only because of the journey that takes us there. For the most part, I believe a dog can become the dog of our dreams based on our investment in each other. They’re not born being “perfect” for us. We have to forge a path together, just like any good partnership.

    While each section of the puppy test provides valuable information, there are key features that I find particularly important. First and foremost is social attraction to people. If the pup is independent and does not desire the company of humans, training becomes a much more complicated and creative process to find ways of engaging the dog to work with us. Social attraction to people means our attention is something the dog finds reinforcing and will work to get. This is part of why certain breeds are considered “Obedience breeds”. A higher percentage of dogs in those breeds have a desire to please us, and to earn attention from us. This characteristic is number one on my preference list. Having owned a dog with NO social attraction to people, I can tell you that sociability to people is paramount for me.

    Second on my list would be lack of sensitivity to sounds or sights. If the pup startles easily, he may have difficulty working in a trial environment. Although such problems can be worked through, it is an exhausting process and one that I prefer to avoid.

    Third is willingness to accept a correction – or really anything the dog finds objectionable. There is a part of the test where the pup is rolled onto his back and held gently for 30 seconds. When he is allowed to get up, the part of the test immediately following it is to stroke the pup down his back from head to tail 3 times and see how he responds. Does he cuddle up and try to make friends after the harrowing experience of being upside down for half a minute? Or does he “head for the hills” and write you off along with his bad experience? I’ve seen pups get up from the roll over and try to leave the room, wanting nothing more to do with the tester. A pup who responds this way will have a very hard time dealing with anything unpleasant, whether it is a correction from his handler or something unfortunate that happens in his environment. Some pups with this kind of issue will even hold onto resentment against the handler for clipping his nails. Call it “forgiveness” if you will, but partnerships don’t thrive on such rigid attitudes.

    The final preference would be to have a natural retrieve. A natural retrieve is certainly not a prerequisite, but it is a nice perk. It’s true, almost any dog can be taught to retrieve, and even if the dog is a natural retriever I go through the same process of teaching the retrieve. The first Seeing Eye dog programs discovered a link between a natural retrieve, and the probability that the dog would certify as a service dog. Perhaps it has to do with a sense of cooperation, or an extension of sociability or biddability. Whatever the reason, it is a nice benefit.

    The reason puppy tests are given at 7 weeks is that it is presumed that training has had the least influence on the pup. The idea is to get an assessment of the pup’s “default programming” before training and environment affects his responses. However, by that time many good breeders have alredy worked on handling, socialization, and some training. And again, the Hearing Dog program I worked with found the test to be remarkably accurate on dogs of any age (although 2 years was the limit to enter their program), regardless of their background, training, or lack thereof.

    Bottom line is, do what works for you and enjoy the process. It’s a new adventure with every dog we train. Enjoy the journey!

    Good training, everyone!

  • Friday, January 05, 2018 11:59 AM | 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, January 01, 2018 12:16 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    This training video clip shows a number of different components I use to strengthen the directed retrieve exercise.  It shows ways to create focus, and how to turn the exercise into a game that your dog can truly enjoy.  

    I am using my armband which has treats tucked inside.  After the turn, I reinforce my dog from the armband with a treat for keeping her focus up during the turn.  Keeping focus up takes the risk out of the dog dropping his head on the turn.  For example when seeing a glove thru the turn, they can fixate on that and then when you send them for the glove you want, they go for the glove they saw on the turn instead.  

    I also want to encourage speed on the way back to me with the glove, so I show in the video how I release my dog to a target plate and how I play with the dog and the glove which helps to make the glove something they want to get.  

    I show specific criteria on how I expect my dog to deliver the glove after play.  I use "decoy" plates to distract my dog and in turn helps to teach them how to keep the focus on going to the glove you are sending them for.  IF your dog is looking at the plate, don't send him. Make sure you get the focus back onto the glove, by standing up and then putting your signal down again, perhaps moving your arm signal a bit more in the direction of the glove, you might have to move closer to the glove and even show the signal arm and walk out to the glove with your dog to ensure they get the right one.  

     Remember you are training and teaching, you don't need to correct, you need to teach and show your dog what you want and praise and reward your dog when they do it right!  

    Happy Training!

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