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  • Monday, January 01, 2018 12:14 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Deborah Neufeld

    Hello trainers! It’s a new year, with new challenges, and we should be gearing up to meet them. Rally has two new classes (Intermediate and Master) and a new Championship available, and Obedience is evolving beyond group exercises in Open. Then there is nose work, trick dog, and many other activities meant to fascinate and stimulate us. It’s all about choices.

    With the menu of activities available, preference needs to be given to our main sport of choice. Other activities may offer fun distractions, but in the long run if we end up neglecting to focus on our primary interest, the repercussions can significantly set us back. Now is the time to create a plan for the coming year, set your goals, and build a strategy to meet them. Success doesn’t happen by accident.

    For Rally it’s mostly about the handler learning the exercises. You must know how to properly perform every exercise, not only how to train the dog to do them. Working a dog through a “busy” Rally course can be a challenge. The RACH (pronounced “Rock”) will appeal to many handlers. There are already a lot of handlers working on multiple RAE titles, and for just one more entry they can start collecting points toward a Championship title that goes in front of the dog’s name. Yes, it’s going to be tough to earn, but that’s why it’s worth the effort. My Cavalier has earned the Rally Master title, and I’m so proud of him. With any luck we’ll qualify for the Rally Nationals next year, and hopefully we will see many of you there.

    Let’s talk about the changes to Obedience. Times have changed, how we train has changed, and in general willingness to accept responsibility for the dog’s actions has changed. Although I was always a staunch supporter of keeping the group exercises, I understand the reasons for the changes and I am ready to progress into the next phase of Obedience training. The “stay” skill will still be important moving forward, as the new exercises do incorporate stays into the performance.


    In Novice, the group exercises will now be combined into one exercise for scoring, and the sit and down will only be one minute each. The dogs will be on a 6 foot leash held by the handler, and the dogs will each be about 6 feet from any other dog. There is potential for up to 12 dogs in the ring at a time, with two lines of 6 dogs back to back. However – the new rules state that if the dog has NQed on any individual exercise, they MUST be released from the group exercise, so I expect that groups will be smaller than anticipated. Although we will still have to train the dogs for back-to-back groups, I don’t think we will be seeing them as often as one might think.

    The next challenge in Novice is the “stay to get the leash”. While others have assumed that this will be a no-brainer exercise, I have a different point of view. This exercise comes at the end of the individual exercises, when the dog routinely is ready to rush back to his crate to get cookies for being such a good dog. Keeping the dog under control while the leash is retrieved and attached, and then keeping the dog under control as he leaves the ring, is going to be a bigger challenge than most handlers anticipate. It will need to be trained and proofed.


    In Open, the big controversy is the Command Discrimination exercise. For Open A it will be the same order every time, and it will be sandwiched in between the Heel Free and Figure 8 exercise and the Drop on Recall. Identical to the Utility Signals, the order of position changes will be stand your dog, down your dog, sit your dog, but at the end instead of a recall the handler returns to heel position. With the dog sitting in heel position, the handler will stand the dog on order from the Judge. On order from the Judge the handler will then leave the dog and go about 15 feet (which will be indicated in some way by the Judge), turn and face the dog. The Judge will give a signal to down the dog. The Judge will then order the handler to leave the dog again and move to the 30 foot distance, where the handler will again turn to face the dog. The Judge will then signal the handler to sit the dog, followed by the order to return to the dog, then exercise finished. Minor to substantial deductions will be made for a dog moving forward. This will likely be scored similarly to moving forward on the Signal exercise in Utility. The handler may give commands and/or signals for each part of this exercise, and may give a command and/or signal to stay when leaving the dog initially, when leaving the dog at 15 feet to move to the 30 foot mark, and again before returning to heel position from 30 feet away. So the handler’s commands and/or signals will be: Stand, Stay, Down, Stay, Sit, Stay. If your only goal is an Open and/or Utility title, that is the only order of the exercise you need to train. Since the Drop on Recall will now follow Command Discrimination, expect the dog to potentially have come confusion between the two as well.

    Open B is a different matter. Previously the only thing “randomized” in Open B was the order of the exercises, but each exercise was still performed in the same manner. Now, the Command Discrimination exercise itself will be in random order in the Open B class. So, if your goal is for titles higher than Utility it will be important to train for those orders from the start. Otherwise the dogs will become pattern trained in Open A, and it will be that much harder to retrain them for the randomized order of the exercise when it comes to Open B. The four orders needed for Open B are 1. Stand, Down Sit (same as Open A); 2. Down, Sit, Stand; 3. & 5. Stand, Sit, Down; 4. & 6. Down, Stand, Sit. While many handlers teach their dogs to stand from a sit (even though it is not required for the Novice Stand for Exam), few handlers teach the dog to stand from a down. My plan is to begin the exercise on a platform, step or curb, or with the dog tethered to prevent forward movement. I also plan to stay close as long as it takes to ensure understanding of the exercise. We all tend to rush to increase distance before the dog is truly ready. In the end we end up going back to square one to fix it. I am finding that using a two part command adds emphasis and aids the dog’s response. I don’t like using the dog’s name for an exercise where he has to stay, because my dogs equate their names with movement (like heeling or coming). I am finding that “lay down”, “sit back” and “stand back” are working nicely so far, as my dogs generally understand that “back” also means don’t move forward. And again, keep in mind that the Drop on Recall either precedes or follows Command Discrimination in 3 of the orders in Open B, so take that into account when training the exercise.

    The Open A – “Stay, Get Your Leash” exercise, is two parts. First the handler will leave the dog in a sit-stay and go at least 30 feet to a place designated by the Judge. After one minute, the handler returns to the dog by walking around behind him and the Judge will call “exercise finished”. Next the handler will down the dog, and on order from Judge go to collect the leash from either the Judge’s table or a chair outside of the ring, stop at the gate, and wait for the Judge’s order to return to the dog. The leash must be clipped to the dog’s collar, and the dog must leave the ring under control. This means the Judge will have to watch you until you are out of the gate. Judges should have always been doing that anyway, but now it’s part of an exercise, so it is mandated.

    For Open B everything is the same, except that on 3 of the orders the dog will do a one minute down stay, then a sit stay to get the leash.

    For all the folks who thought training stays was “boring”, and keeping in mind that you will still need to train your dog to stay, the new exercises will certainly not bore you! We have a whole new slate of challenges, and hopefully a new interest in our traditional sport!

    Good training, everyone!

  • Wednesday, August 02, 2017 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Amy Novak

    The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.  ~  David Russell

    I believe that one of the hardest parts of being a Novice not just in Obedience, but in any dog sport - is that you have to make a very definitive decision about how you want to go about training. For Agility, you have to decide which handling system you want to use, what kind of contacts you want to teach and how you’ll teach the weave poles. For Tracking, you have to decide the method of teaching food drops, scent circles, scent in a bottle, etc. For Obedience, the biggest decision is whether or not you want to use corrections in your training.

    The issue itself wouldn’t normally be so big, but the fact that the opinions are so completely opposite of each other is what causes the anxiety. For people who believe in a purely 100% positive approach to training, where you can’t even give a negative verbal response and can’t even say “No”, any amount of correcting a dog could be perceived as brutality and ignorance. Their argument is that corrections can cause fear or avoidance, and any mistakes the dogs make are the handler’s fault for not being clear enough on training. Also, since training is supposed to be a happy occasion, why pollute it with anything negative?

    It seems like most people are in the middle. Very few people are willing to train their dogs with extremely harsh corrections all of the time. The majority of people believe in positive training, but also that giving corrections (ranging from a mild verbal “no” to collar pops to throw chains and beyond) shows the dog that whatever behavior he just did is wrong. Most people are willing to try to find a balance of positive and negative to show their dog what they’re trying to teach them.

    Most novices by default will use the training methods of their trainer, because they don’t necessarily know that other options are available. For example, Layla uses a two on / two off approach for Agility contacts, where her front two feet are on the ground and her back two feet remain in the contact zone of the obstacle. I didn’t even know that some people use a running contact. Where the dog runs thoroughly through the obstacle and runs through the contact zone. Or that some people teach a modified version of that where the dog runs through the entire obstacle and contact zone but stops with all four feet on the ground. I had no idea that there were other ways to train that. It doesn’t really matter, because even knowing other methods, I’d still stick with the current choice. Maybe when I have more experience in handling I’ll try something new, but I’m happy with it for now. 

    For Obedience though, whether or not you’re comfortable with the type of corrections your instructor is advocating is something you’ll know from the start. It’ll probably be pretty easy to figure out if you believe that any kind of collar corrections would ruin your dog forever, or if you’re okay with the concept of throwing something at your dog if they run away, or even pinching or twisting your dog’s ear. I personally think it’s kind of like parenting. There are some parents who believe in spanking their kids (or worse) and there are some parents who believe that any kind of punishment will cause the child lifelong problems. It depends a lot on your personal beliefs and morals. Regarding the physical abuse and discipline on children, the middle ground now is that spanking is wrong, but corrections are right much like dog trainers.

    Not that I’m comparing dogs and children. In general, dogs are much better behaved! But how you feel about dealing with behavior is likely something that remains constant, regardless of what you’re dealing with. For me, the choice was pretty simple finally, there was something that didn’t cause me hours of laying awake in bed, worrying about my decisions! I figured that since I give people corrections, dog training shouldn’t be different. I don’t have children yet but I do believe that people should be corrected, too. For example, my boyfriend Pat has the very annoying habit of leaving a sponge in the kitchen sink. It drives me crazy because it doesn’t dry out properly, and then can harbor bacteria, and then isn’t really very clean when you go to use it to clean a dish. I gave him some warnings about it but I guess he thought they were empty threats. Now, when he leaves a sponge in the sink, I put the dripping wet, smelly, bacteria-filled sponge right in the middle of his pillow. I have to say, after the first time, he hardly ever does it any more. It’s been many months. He’s forgotten here and there, but not constantly like before. Just ignoring it definitely would not have fixed the problem, and even though a shock collar does have possibilities, I think the sponge-on-the-pillow is a more appropriate correction.

    When it comes to how I train Layla, I am okay with using physical corrections. We used a throw chain in Agility when she would get the zoomies. They weren't stress zoomies, they were "I don't need you around, silly human, when I can do all these obstacles without you much faster" zoomies. We haven't needed to use that in a long time, and now she understands that we're supposed to be a team. I am okay with using collar corrections during Obedience. I'm okay with those physical corrections, but I'll never trim her whiskers for conformation. I think that's an absolutely senseless and painful experience just for the sake of fashion. I was curious about whether or not it really hurt the dogs, so I tried snipping one of my eyelashes. Trust me, it hurts! It was surprising since your eyelashes fall out all the time, but when they're still attached to your eyelid and you try to cut them, it's really painful. I don't care if her face doesn't look as clean and smooth as other dogs; I don't believe in invoking pain just for the sake of beauty. Having said that, I don't judge people who do trim whiskers (the huge majority of exhibitors), and I don't judge people on their preferred method of corrections, either. 

    I've been told that at some point, usually in adolescence, most dogs will challenge your authority. I'll never forget the day Layla growled at me. I'd gotten her a very special bone, and when my brother went to walk past her not with any intention of touching her at all, just to get into the next room she growled at him. I thought it was a coincidence, so I had him walk back past her and of course she growled again. Then I tried walking past her, and she growled at me, too. Well, that didn't last. I hear it's not considered appropriate anymore, but I alpha rolled her, and I'm very glad that I did. There was no anger in it; I didn't even have her by her throat. I pushed her side with one hand and took the bone away with the other. I did give it back to her after she showed me that she wouldn't growl anymore. She hasn't growled at anyone since.

    When I worked as a veterinary technician, there were a lotof owners who believed that their dogs were "just expressing themselves" when they would growl or snap at us. They would laugh at how "precocious" their little darlings were as they were dangling from our clothes. The owners would also have a fit if you gave any kind of negative response. They didn't even want you to say "No" to their dogs, because you'd be "ruining their creativity." The dogs weren't artists, so I don't know what creativity they needed. They were bad mannered terrors. I understand the theory behind purely positive training, but I think it doesn't work if the dog doesn't have the basic skills needed to be a good pet.

    A common reaction to any methods different than whatever is being used is that “Doing (fill in the blank) will ruin my dog.” The pure positive people think that corrections will ruin their dog, and the corrections people think that ignoring bad behavior will ruin their dog. With the exception of the people who use only very harsh corrections not the ones that balance positive and negative, but the purely negative trainers. I think that if you’re taking the time to train your dog, spending time with them and bonding with them, you won’t ruin anything. You can’t ruin something that you care so much about and love so much. But there’s a difference between not being willing to try a new training method and being morally opposed to something. If you really, truly object to what your instructor wants you to do, find another trainer. You might not ruin your dog, but he’ll pick up on your discomfort and unease and then won’t enjoy himself anyway. By then, what’s the point?              

    One good thing about dog training is that you can always try another technique to train something. Just because I’m okay with correcting Layla doesn’t mean that I think the same corrections would work on all dogs. If I ever get a dog that’s sensitive, I would have to change a lot about the way I train. The fact that there are so many different ways to teach all of these behaviors is proof that people have disagreed with certain methods and decided to use their own. The fact that there are so many dogs competing, and winning, that have been trained using different means is proof that there isn’t just one set way to train a dog. Some ways just work better with certain dogs and trainers. As long as you're open and willing to change, there are always new methods to try and new ideas to work with. The best training method is the one that makes you and your dog grow and evolve as partners and teammates.             

  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:07 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.

  • Thursday, February 02, 2017 12:08 PM | Front & Finish (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 dogs@frontandfinish.com 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.

  • Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:18 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Janice Gunn

    I came up with this exercise many years ago, when I first started field training.   In retriever field training we do something called a wagon wheel drill, altho it is different than this, it does have components to it where the dog really needs to focus on lining up correctly and focusing where they are to go and then following thru with going where sent. I choose not to use my gloves on this exercise but rather a treat on a white target plate. 

    This makes it not only more fun for your dog, but also more challenging! You can start by lining your dog up to the different plates and sending them prior to adding in the turn and  send which is much harder. You can also start with only loading the plate you want the dog to go to with a treat so that he is not rewarded for going to the wrong plate.  As I have done this exercise before with Mighty he makes it look easy, but it is challenging.  Start with your plates further apart and build them closer on success.  If your dog goes to the wrong plate in the beginning, there is no treat on it.  On your second send give the signal and walk with him past the teaser plate and then let him go to the plate you wanted.    I use target plates - or what I call cookie on a plate (which was Patty Ruzzo’s coined term whom introduced plates for obedience exercises 20 plus years ago) for almost every exercise I train in obedience.  It is one way to take the formal out of obedience and put the fun in! 

    Happy Training!

  • Sunday, January 01, 2017 12:09 PM | Front & Finish (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 dogs@frontandfinish.com 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, December 01, 2016 12:19 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

    Written by Janice Gunn

    This video is about Modeling Utility Signals.  Previously I did a video clip on the same but with Go-Outs.  Pounce was a very green dog on go outs and using this method really helped to give her confidence and excitement.  In this video she is new"ish" to doing signals, so I decided to incorporate Remi, a more experienced signal dog to work with her side by side.  On my first down signal Remi had a brief hope that I was releasing him to his treat bag, but then re-considered (good proofing!) and followed thru with the down.  

    You can see Pounce, looking at Remi doing the down and I believe that helped to convey to her that yes, that's what the signal means!   I did another down signal set up and they both did it  fluently.  Then I set up for the sit signal and Pounce couldn't follow thru so you will see in the video what I did for her non-compliance response.   Setting my dogs up to do signals side by side is not something they are familiar with so this in itself was new to them, but now they are familiar with it, this is a really fun exercise for them to do and a way to do signals that is "out of the box".   Also incorporating the treat bag behind them ensures they really need to concentrate on my cue, to get what they really want, the reward!  Classic Premack Principle!   If you like the treat bag idea they are available at our store at www.tntkennels.com.

  • Thursday, September 01, 2016 12:10 PM | 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 http://www.akc.org/events/statistics/to peruse the AKC Event Statistics yourself.  I’m always interested and open to your comments! 

  • Sunday, May 01, 2016 12:11 PM | Front & Finish (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 dogs@frontandfinish.com.  For other matters please write our general email address bark@frontandfinish.com .


    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 dogs@frontandfinish.com.

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