Gurrrrr. Summer is here.

Don’t know about y’all during the summer months but it gets really HOT here in the south.

During this time of year, I need to plan my dog’s training sessions and conditioning so that we can get the most “bang for our bucks” yet not over heat our dogs.

I know you ask yourself “what is there to do to keep my dogs busy and keep them in shape during the long, hot, dry weather”?  YES, you want to have something up your sleeve to keep your four-legged friends busy, in condition, and out of trouble.

The first thing on my list to do during the hot summer months is to review foundations with my dogs. These are skills that are needed for the venue in which we are getting ready to or are currently showing.

For instance, if I am showing in agility, we will review our contact behavior on a board or the stairs. We can work on start-line stays or simple jump drill skills with one to three jumps.

If we are showing in obedience or rally, we will review pivots which are the foundation of all heeling turns. We can do “Get It” Games to improve any going out and coming back skills such as a dumbbell retrieve or the turn for go-outs.

We can review all the foundation skills that I have used to train my dog. Take a few minutes and remember where your dog’s training started. Write a list of all the foundation skills you used with your dog. If you are having issues when showing, NOW is a great time to brush up on those important skills.

I love to teach my dogs Tricks in the summertime!  Why?  Because Tricks are a great way to exercise my dog’s body and mind.

Tricks such as spin or twirl can help with my dog’s flexibility.  Sitting up and begging can improve my dog’s core strength.

Walking backwards can improve rear end awareness. Picking up toys or dog bowls will improve my retrieves. Whatever you decide to teach your dog will benefit you in some way. Get out your bag of ideas and tricks and train away. Besides, tricks are a super way to impress visitors, kids, any anyone who will watch. Furthermore, they are fun and your dog will enjoy them.
Another area I look at is ways to Exercise my dogs. Keeping fit during the off months is very important and will help prevent injuries in the future. Also, exercises improve balance, endurance, and body awareness. Get pods or foam pads for your dog to stand on for balance. A dog treadmill is great for staying cool while working on endurance and conditioning.

Ladder work teaches your dog how to use his feet. If so inclined, you can work on your balance too.

Let your dog have time off to just be a dog. This is important for your dog’s mental health as well as his physical health. Just like humans, it is good to take a vacation from training and work. Hahahaha. Just take time to let your “hair or ears” down. Activities such as swimming, hiking, going to the beach or just plain “ole” lying around with your feet up in the air make great breaks from training. Find activities that both you and your dog will enjoy and just “DO IT”!

Any of the above suggestions can be built upon and ideas added. Look on the Internet, or buy a book for more ideas. There are LOADS of ways to keep you dog busy and in condition through-out the HOT summer months!

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Why Teach Tricks?

trickTrick training does provide many benefits – to you and your dog:

  1. In the process of learning new tricks you establish a way to learn to communicate with your dog.
  2. Trick training helps to build confident dogs and teaches your dog to experiment and offer behavior  – which is important.
  3. Tricks are a great way for your dog to stay flexible and warm-up before showing.
  4. Trick training is a wonderful way to energize, build attention and focus on your dog.
  5. Tricks can be used to replace bad behavior. For example, if your dog is barking at the door, you could ask your dog to do the trick “get on your bed” to redirect his behavior.

Trick training is important and useful for many reasons.  Always keep in mind that every skill or exercise you teach to your dog is nothing more than a trick.

Teaching your dog to remain next to your side, heeling.  Learn to bring something to you, retrieves.  Getting on and remaining in position, a stay or 2o2o behavior for contacts.  Offering behaviors becomes drive, attention and focus.

So go out and have fun and train a trick TODAY!

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PLAY! Pt 2

How to Teach your dog how to play.
Here are a few simple guidelines to help
you on your way to a tugging fend!

Bending over your dog can intimidate and even squash his desire to play. For a small dog or puppy beginning by sitting on the floor. If needed, tie a string or light rope to the toy so you don’t have to bend over. Stay at your dog’s level when trying to get him to engage in play.

Resist the urge to push the toy at your dog. Having to chase and work to get the toy is MUCH more exciting than offering and hoping your dog will take the toy. After all, how many times have you seen a squirrel run across the yard and jump into your dog’s mouth?

When playing, make the toy act like it was a live. Enough motion to tease your dog yet not so much the dog can’t successfully grab it. Once tugging, move the toy back and forth to engage the dog instead of up and down. This is more natural for your dog and less stress on their necks.

Be light hearten and have fun, enjoy the journey. Be persistent, don’t give up too early in the early stages, it can take quite some time to get some dogs to engage. Always keep sessions very short and remain patient.

Keep your tug work and your training separate from each other initially. The dog must see the VALUE in playing BEFORE it will become a reward. Do not integrate tugging into your training too early.

With some time, patience, and persistence you CAN have a TUGGING fend.


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PLAY! Pt 1

So your dog won’t tug and you want to teach him?

Having a dog that loves to play with toys is a huge benefit when training your dog.  The tug game is a great way to reward behaviors, is an interactive experience with your dog that burns energy and builds rapport, and while tugging your dog’s main focus is on you!

Teaching your dog how to play ~

*MAKE YOURSELF THE BEST GAME IN TOWN: Limit your dog’s access to reinforcement and fun, pick up all toys at home. Limit your dog’s playing with other dogs and keep the fun only playing with you.

*PLAY WHEN YOUR DOG IS FRISKY: Watch for the times of the day when your dog is the most the excited and engaged. Use these times to work on playing. Get your dog engaged, awake, and excited before you start a play session.

*YOU CAN’T HAVE IT: Hide a toy around the house like on top of the counter or refrigerator and tease the dog with it every time you pass by the toy. Play with the toy by yourself, get the dog crazy over it but don’t let him have it. Put your dog in a crate, tie your dog to a fence and let your dog watch as you play tug with another dog or even by yourself. Until your dog is CRAZY your dog does not get to play the game. Tease your dog and make him crazy for the toy.

*A TOY CAN BE ANYTHING YOUR DOG WANTS TO PUT IN HIS MOUTH: Experiment with different types of toys. Take some time and really study your dog. What does he like to put into his mouth? (Size, shape, texture, flavor, paper, plastic, round, leather, etc.) Does he like squeaky toys or crunchy toys like water bottles? Put a pile in the middle of the floor and let him check out and pick a few toys. Let your dog show you the best way to get him interested in play.

Stay tuned – Part 2 coming soon!


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My Dogs – How Lucky I Have Been

the boysI have been fortunate over the past XX years :>) to have some really awesome dogs to share my life.

They have all been pets first and teammates second and they have taught me very valuable lessons and added to my life.

The first thing my dogs have taught me is that you can’t predict the details of your life. You just can’t foresee the future. Life often turns out to be not quite what we were planning and sometimes this can be a good thing.

Who would know that an out of control Siberian Husky, Rasha, would set me on the path of dog training. She would run out the front door and it would take me hours to catch her. One day she actually ran into the side of a moving car. She didn’t hurt herself but did manage to dent the side of the car. It was at that point that I was lucky to run into a person that trained dogs. I would have never dreamed that I’d fall in love with this dog and that she would become my best friend, teacher, and a gateway to a new future.

Another important lesson that my dogs have taught me is to live in the present and enjoy the time I have to spend with them and with others.

My Shetland Sheepdog, Nessie, taught me to enjoy each minute of life. She was 4 years young when I lost her to the big “C.” Nessie and I had so much fun together training and showing. She would sit on my lap so that I could hold her chew bone and she munched on it for hours. Even though my time with her was too short, Nessie guided me on the path of dog training. Through her I met new people and wonderful mentors.

My dogs seem to have the ability for a natural gift for compassion and understanding. They were deeply affected by my emotions.

Two of my dogs, Du, a Golden Retriever, and Easy, a Border Collie, helped me though a very tough break up and divorce. They could tell when I was upset and stressed and found ways to help and support me through tough times. Du was a real clown and always made me laugh even during the toughest of times. Easy was the thinker and seemed to know just when I needed a head to pet and would come and nuzzle up to me. No matter how upset I would be, they shared their patient loving nature with me.

One of the greatest joys of having a dog is that they are always thrilled to see me regardless of how rotten my day was. When I wake in the morning they greet me with excited expecting eyes and when I come home they greet me at the door and say “Hi, How are you doing? Welcome home.

It is always such a great feeling to come home to dogs that are excited to see me. When people come over or we are out and about, my dogs LOVE to meet and greet people. They have never met a person they have not liked. They just always bring a smile to people’s faces. Once, while walking through a parking lot with Du and Solo, both Golden Retrievers, a lady stopped me. She commented “boy you can tell your dog’s just LOVE life”. My comment back was “yes ma’am, they really do.” Du and Solo put a smile on her face as well as mine. Wow what an impact that one encounter and comment had. I am so glad that my dogs shared their joy with a stranger.

My dogs also remind me that we all are meant to play and have fun! Working 24/7 is wasting a big part of your life.

About a year ago I lost a very special dog, Rip, a Border Collie. Rip was such a special dog! He had a wicked sense of humor and was always game for anything as long as he was with me. His loss reminded me that there was so much we wanted to do together but “work” or “life” always seemed to get in the way. While Rip loved everything, he didn’t care about titles or winning BUT he did love showing and the special attention he always received from me and the crowd. He would work for the crowd. The more applause or laughter the more fun he had and the more he enjoyed showing. I still miss him terribly.

I have learned so much from all my dogs. It is so easy to lose sight of the important things. Life, at times can be full of negative people, comments and situations. When feeling like the walls are closing in on you, look to your dogs for help.

Whenever I’m feeling out of sorts or just need to be more centered, I look at my dogs, now Sly, Riker and Karrde, all Border Collies, and say “let’s go do something.” It can be a walk around the property or a game of ball in the field or a short training session. I just exhale and enjoy my time with them.

No matter what I’m feeling whether I am busy, stressed, anxious, or angry, just putting my hands on Sly, Riker, or Karrde’s head and cuddling up to them takes all my troubles away and helps me feel better. Petting a dog can be one of the most mindful, peaceful, and calming moments you can experience.

Enjoy your dog and the time you have with him. Never forget the bond you share, the gift each dog gives you, and the time you have together!

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Is there a difference between a skill and an exercise?

You bet there is!

What is the difference between a skill and an exercise????

An “exercise” is something I am required to do in the ring. It is a sequence of skills.  The Drop on Recall, Heeling, courses in Rally or Agility etc.   All of these are exercises.  They are the “Things” we are required to do at shows.

Skills, on the other hand, are individual tricks that we teach our dog.  As your dog learns more tricks, you can start combining tricks that will be combined together to complete an exercise at a show.

Think of all “exercises” as nothing more than a bunch of tricks chained together! 

So…. Tricks include things like going around me for the short finish, jumping to my either my right or left hand for the beginning of the long and short finish, successful completion of weave poles or contacts, etc.

When training, teach the skills first and separately.  Break down any exercise you might need for a show and teach all the skills in that exercise separately. Once your dog is proficient with all the skills, start to mix and match what you may need for a ring performance but also mix and match the skills just to be random and test your dog’s knowledge and understanding of all the skills.

My point is for you to start thinking out of the “exercise box”.   Don’t just train exercises.   Start training skills/tricks.   Proof and perfect each trick/skill to meet your criteria (which you should set high).   Mix and match tricks/skills, to test your dogs knowledge and have fun!!!

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LET GO! OUT that toy!!!

Let GO of that TOY!

or OUT that toy  – Guest appearance with Riker showing a new way to get a dog to learn to “OUT” when he doesn’t want to let go.

Riker can be sticky with a toy. That is does not want to let go. Here is a new way to train it.

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Sit/Down ~ Must Have Emergency! Free Webinar

emer sit

Anyone that has a dog should have an emergency Sit and/or Down.

This skill can save your dog’s life in an dire situation! 

Join me for this FREE Live Webinar

Random SIT/DOWN are key parts of teaching and having useful tools that you can use to gain control in an emergency situation.   

Besides giving you a great emergency command, this skill teaches and gives you a solid foundation for:

  • a Drop On Recall
  • or turn for a go-out
  • or the Command Discrimination
  • or a fast sit/drop on a table
  • or a great way to stop your dog when needing to change direction,
  • improves both direct and indirect focus.
  • and so much more!

You never knew that this one skill could affect so many future skills in different venues AND give you a tool to save your dog’s life in an emergency situation.

This FREE webinar is coming soon.  Sign up below for a personal invite.

What you get with this Webinar:

*LIVE Zoom meeting. 

*Presentation with Q&A. 

*Get the best way to teach a reliable sit and down at a distance. 

*** and it’s FREE

Registration closed. Hope to see you in classes or future webinars.

Maintaining Focus

Attention and focus can make or break a performance.

It is hard for your dog to learn, perform a skill or exercise correctly, if you do not have his complete attention. When training, insist that your dog pay 100 percent attention to you, and be alert for any breaks in focus that may happen.

Once you begin a training session, be aware of any “down time” that may occur while you are working with your dog. Down time happens when you are getting more treats, setting up jumps, walking a course, etc. During this time, if your dog is allowed to wonder around, sniff or visit with others, he is rehearsing a behavior that you most certainly will frown upon later when competing.

Rehearse goDebby Quigley and Rip focusingod HABITS. Before ever getting your dog out of a crate, make a plan. With a plan in mind, you will be able to set out everything you need for your training session. Being prepared will enable you to move from one skill or exercise to the next without losing your dog’s focus. While you are working with your dog, insist that he give his undivided attention and stays engaged with you.

How do you do this? One way is to randomly reward your dog’s effort to pay attention to you by paying him with treats or a game of tug. WHAT? your dog won’t tug?  Play the “KrazyKookie” game with him.  This is a great game of having him chase the treat that stays in your hand until he catches the yummy.

Next, teach your dog it is in his best interest to watch you closely. While training, be unpredictable and spontaneous with your movements, or give unexpected commands to discourage him from taking even a single glance away from you. Your ability to praise and reward attention, and to discourage inattentiveness, will have a direct effect on your dog’s performance during training and also in a ring setting.

While training, maintain your dog’s focus in non-audible ways. Here are a few ideas:

Debby Quigley and her dogs

  • Push and run away, or push and play tug or KrazyKookie with your dog.
  • Drop a toy or treat pocket to your dog that is hidden underneath your arm.
  • When leaving on a sit or start-line, quickly turn and toss a reward to your dog.

Attention and focus can make or break a performance in any sport. Work to build and maintain your dog’s focus on you during all training sessions that will ensure your success when competing or showing.

Look for Debby’s “Games4Focus,”  class to learn more fun games, drills and techniques to getting and maintaining focus while training and competing.

Debby Quigley been showing and teaching for more than 30 years in many venues including obedience, rally, agility and nose work. She has earned multiple OTCHs, MACHs, PACHs and perfect scores of 200. Debby also owns Dogwood Dog Training in Houston, Texas; she teaches classes there and online at

Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

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Getting frustrated when training???

Some people grind their teeth or hold their breath while training while others clench their fists or rattle off a string of swearwords. When the frustration of training your dog comes to a boil, there are a countless number of ways to respond.

Keep in mind that our dogs can get very frustrated, too! Especially when we fail to give clear directions, are inconsistent with our criteria or when we put them in a stressful no win situation.

Dog training comes with many opportunities for us to become frustrated. You started training your dog to develop rapport, maybe show and to have a well-mannered companion. Who knew that there was so much involved in teaching and training a dog.

Training a dog, regardless of the method, is bound to bring you lots of joy as well as frustration. Addressing problems when training your dog can take time and patience.

The problem with frustration is that it often leads to an emotional outburst. Ever lash out with harsh words directed at your dog during a particularly challenging training session? We are only human. It happens! In dog training, these emotional outbursts often manifest in strong verbal reprimands or other unfair corrections.

Interacting with your dog in an angry way carries the risk of damaging your relationship with your dog. It can also create an anxious dog, or one who “shuts down” when uncertain of what to do or how to be correct.

So how do we get past being frustrated ? It’s much easier to teach a dog what you want as opposed to what you don’t want. That’s why positive reinforcement training is effective. Positive reinforcement is built on a solid foundation of recognizing and rewarding correct behavior.

It’s proactive, not reactive.

I admit to having moments of frustration while training. Despite the years of effort I have put into building strong, positive relationships with my dogs, I still sometimes find myself beating my head on a wall when sessions aren’t going as I’d expected. The trick lies in learning to manage the frustration in ways that are productive and that can even enhance your training sessions.

Try some of the following strategies:

Relax and remember to breathe. Sounds easy enough, but frustration and stress can inhibit your breathing, which affects your body language. Dogs by nature are very aware of our emotions. By concentrating on slow, deep breathing, you take in more oxygen, and your shoulders, neck, and upper chest muscles become more relaxed. Count slowly to 4 as you exhale and 4 as you inhale. It works miracles and a great tip for show nerves too!

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior. Dogs may respond to stress in a number of ways. These signs can include yawning, licking lips, sniffing the ground, etc. If you notice your dog engaging in any of these behaviors during training, stop and analyze what is happening in your session. These signs may be an indicator that your dog is attempting to de-stress the situation and you!

Just stop, no worries!!! It’s okay to stop training when things aren’t going well. Sometimes the best thing to do is call it quits for the day. Go have a drink or call a friend and think about what went wrong and possible ways of fixing the problem. When you’ve separated yourself from the “training gone wrong” situation, look at what you were doing and see what changes and improvements might be made. People often feel the need to end on a good note but sometimes you are much better off just stopping then digging a deeper hole. Always remember “the problem will still be there when you pick back up in your training.”

Take notes. Learn to recognize and appreciate the small improvements along the way to complete problem solving can be a valuable tool to reduce your frustration. Organized trainers keep training logs that document results of each training session. Analyzing sessions offer information about your dog’s rate of progress, and helps you fine-tune and improve your training plan.

There are many types of record-keeping. Some examples include apps on Smart phones, pre-printed training logs or just a small spiral notebook. Here are some ideas of what kind of notes to take.

1) Keep track of how many times you repeat or practice a skill

2) How often was your dog correct or incorrect?

3) How much or what type of reinforcement did you use or did you do something special to fix a problem.

In addition, make notes of any ideas you want to try during your next training session. The more notes you take the better. Sometimes writing down a problem gives you the correct direction to take to fix it!

Don’t take it personally. It is sometimes hard to not obsess over your dog’s issues and training problems. Factor in your personality type and it can be a real test in emotional self-control. Above all try to keep from feeling that your dog is purposely showing you “the paw” when things aren’t going as you planned.

Remember we’re only human. Do I still get frustrated? Yes of course. I’m far from perfect, but when I find myself getting frustrated, first I stop and think of ways to fix the problem. If my dog does something totally unexpected, I mark the behavior with a non-reward marker like “you’re fired” or “really” to let the dog know he is wrong. We then try the skill again. If he repeatedly makes the same mistakes, I step back and analyze if my dog truly understands the skill I am asking him to perform.

Logical we know that disobedience isn’t personal, but this can be tough to remember in heat of the moment. One of the greatest gifts I’ve learned in training dogs is the ability to accept my training errors, recover, and move on. It’s easy to blame the dog. It’s harder to look at how our own actions likely contributed to the dog’s inability to perform to your expectations or hopes.

When all else fails always remember that our dogs are never with us nearly long enough. Enjoy the time you have with your dog and always build the relationship that you will be able to look back with fond memories of all your dogs.

Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

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