Focus Fun July Week 2

Many problems or a combination of issues contribute to dog feeling stressed and worse leaving their handlers.
Problems such as stress in the ring, lack of confidence, inconsistent handling, etc. can cause a dog to leave its handler when showing.

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Identifying PROBLEMS and finding SOLUTIONS.

Many problems or a combination of issues contribute to dog feeling stressed and worse leaving their handlers.  Problems such as stress in the ring, lack of confidence, inconsistent handling, etc. can cause a dog to leave its handler when showing.

First, the Stress of the Show Ring can cause a dog to become un-confident, fearful, and to leave their handler. One way to help reduce show ring stress is to train your dog in “new” locations on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean other training facilities. This means going to new places to train. The new locations do not need ring gates nor jumps to be effective. Examples of new locations include store fronts (Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, etc.), outside dog park fences, business centers, schools on the weekends, etc. It is the “new” that gets the dog. Every show you attend is a “new” location. This even applies to a training facility in which you train frequently because the environment of the show is new and different. Why? Different dogs, different people, a new atmosphere, etc. all add to a heightened level of excitement and stress, and “newness” to your dog.

  • Solution – Train in new locations on a regular basis. In fact train in new locations more than you train at home or in your training facility. Go to new locations and play with your dog before ever starting to train.

Second, the Stress of inconsistency. What does your criteria of a skill really mean? Are you consistent in asking your dog for skills to be performed the same way? Anytime or anywhere? Always the same???? For example, is your dog’s “sit” always performed the same? Does your dog sit with the same speed, the same attention, the same focus on you, every time regardless of if you are in the ring, out running and playing with other dogs or chasing a squirrel? If the sit is expected to occur in 3 seconds then the sit should always be 3 seconds, regardless of where you are.

  • Solution – In order for your dog to perform a command/skill in the ring and under stress, that skill/command should be performed to the same criteria every time no matter where or when.

Third, the Stress of YOUR emotions. When going into the ring, are you nervous? Your dog picks up on your nervousness and feels that the ring must be a bad place. Make sure that the ring is “fun” for you and your dog so that he can perform in a confident, relaxed manner. How? You, the trainer, have to be able to control your emotions when in the ring.

  • Solution – 2 ways – First, you, the handler, should practice mental toughness training. It is a MUST for anyone that shows. Second, be confident in what you have taught your dog. My question to students is “will you bet me $100 that your dog will perform all the skills needed for the ring if you enter?” If not, then your dog might need more training and proofing before he is ready to show.

Fourth, is the Stress of the lack of the reinforcement. Have you gone to the next step in training by randomizing your reinforcement? It is important to wean off giving your dog a reward every time he does a skill properly. Once your dog knows a skill, pick your dog’s best efforts and reinforce only those worth the reward. For example, if you ask your dog to sit five times, pick the best 2-3 sits to reward. Too often trainers get in the “habit” of rewarding their dog for every repetition. The result then becomes your dog will not work if not rewarded. In the ring your dog must be able to chain a number of skills together to create the performance. The reward only comes at the end of that chain of skills.

  • Solution – Randomizing your rewards will help accomplish this goal. Once your dog understands a skill, pick the best efforts to reward.

Finally, there is the Stress of poor rapport. The one thing you take into the ring with you, besides your dog, is the relationship that you two have. Good rapport and steady, consistent leadership will be clear whether you win or qualify. You and your dog will look like a team. This includes your everyday life with your dog. Does he work for affection? Treats? To go outside or to play ball? How many times during your daily walks have you trained your dog? It is easy to incorporate training into everyday life. Ask your dog to do a skill or two before getting his meal. YES, change the skills on a regular basis. When out for a walk, ask your dog to do a trick or come to front or walk with you without sniffing. When playing ball, ask him for a drop or a sit while he is running to pick up the ball or coming back to you.

  • Solution – It is easy and once you have established the habit of training 24/7, your dog will find the time with you reinforcing and fun.

The issues above are easy ones to fix. Take your time and consider how you can add and or adjust your training and everyday life with your dog to benefit your showing.

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

This Month’s Challenge is ALL about staying OUT of the Exercise BOX!

How do we develop the ability to look at things differently??

Thinking outside the box should start well before we are “boxed in”.  That is, before we confront a unique situation or problem and start forcing it into the familiar “exercise box”.

When a problem arises, take some time to contemplate different solutions to the problem. Make a list of those solutions, other options and ideas. Consider possible effects and outcomes of the various solutions. Never be afraid to try something that appears “off the wall”.  After all, you never know until you try!

Make an effort to push your thinking up to and beyond its limits. The talents you develop now will come in handy the next time you face a situation that “nobody knows” how to solve.

TRY TO STAY OUT OF THE EXERCISE BOX and have fun teaching skills/tricks, mixing things up, and keeping your dog constantly thinking about what will happen next.

Your Challenge this week is to list ways to stay OUT of the BOX.  

  • What can you do differently to keep training fun and your dog thinking? 
  • Is there a way to stay out of the box and still train a sequence/exercise?
  • Have you trained different tricks that you can blend into training?  Maybe ones that can actually help skills?  I.e. teaching an independent back can be blended into skills where your dog should not move forward or toward you.
  • Post your list on the Facebook group.

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

Slow Hands in a down can be either a sphinx or hip rolled position or both.  This week we are starting to add different distances as well as angles of delivery.

Your Task for July Week 2

Slow Hand – Down – Distance and Angles

    • Grab some treats and your dog.

  • Ask your dog to down (sphinx or rolled hip) and move 6 or more feet from your dog.
  • Start to slowly deliver a treat from different angles.
  • Each repetition, use a new distance and or angle. I.e. once form the right of your dog and the treat high up, once for his left side with the treat low, etc.
  • As you bring the treat slowly to your dog, give him verbal feedback to tell him if he is right or wrong.
  • Release your dog from the down position after delivering a treat, use your release word and play or engage with your dog.  This is his time for a mental break.
  • Occasionally release with a Jump to Hand to keep your dog in an “active” state.

Remember this is where your dog learns that movement makes the treat go away!

  • After your dog is able to hold a down 90% of the time and in various environments and situations, while the treat is slowly delivered, continue vary the distance and angle of the delivery of the food.
  • IF at any time your dog starts to move or lean forward, QUICKLY withdraw your treat hand.
  • When working on the down, vary where your dog is in relationship to your body.  Sometimes have your dog down at your side or sometimes have your dog down in front of you.   All of these changes help your dog to understand the skill in all situations.

Video Notes: Poe and I have bumped up his Slow Hand work and we are adding distance and angles during this session. Poe does a nice job and when he was released to a Jump to Hand, he responded immediately! That “active” state is what I was looking for. Wat to go Poe!


Slow Hand – Down Distance and Different Angles

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

The THUMB TOUCH (TT) can be used when you want your dog to focus on you.  It is easily incorporated into heeling/flatwork or moving around while training.  Also, the TT can be used in the Obedience, Rally, Agility show rings.

Your Task for July Week 2

Adding motion.

Until now, we have been training in a stationary position.  For this step, we will keep the treat in our hand and to simplify, we will add slow pace motion.

  • Review the thumb touch stationary steps before adding to motion.

  • Have a treat in your TT hand closest to your dog.
  • With your dog at your right or left side, begin slowly walking forward.
  • As you move forward with your dog, present your thumb low, and quietly say your cue word.
  • Praise and reward your dog for the touch.
  • Only increase the height of your thumb touch as your dog becomes confident and is consistently touching your thumb.

COMMON ERRORS – Handlers Make

  • Your dog shows no interest and will not touch the back of your hand.  Put a dab of peanut butter (PB) on the back of your hand.  Lower your hand so your dog can easily lick the PB off.  Test to see if your dog will touch your hand.  If so, continue with fundamentals above.  If not spend more time with the PB.  :>)
  • Your dog seems confused when you are training this game.  Make sure you are putting your signal hand behind your back or at your side BEFORE presenting the cue.  Wait a moment, and then present your thumb to your dog again, and say your “cue word” as bumps your thumb.
  • Your dog will not touch as you are moving. Keep your motion very slow to start and build on success and reward history.   Keep your hand lower to start training only raising it when you dog is confident.

VIDEO NOTES: Poe is progressing well with the Thumb Touch progressions. This session, we are adding motion. Poe does a good job and my right and left side.  There is still a treat in my hand and I feel Poe is ready for the next step.  Up and on. :>)


Transitions-Thumb Touch Adding Motion

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

DIG – Distractions are the perfect time to turn what could be a “negative” experience into a “positive” one.  This skill will help your dog become more confident, plus learn to “keep trying” and focus more intensely on you no matter what the situation is or where you are.


Your Task for July Week 2

New distractions – starting to generalize a behavior – using objects in and around ringschair, table, trash can, people, dogs, cones, jump, etc.

  • What was your dog’s threshold form last week?
  • Begin to walk toward  a object or barrier and reward at the threshold marker.
  • Reward and release your dog BEFORE your dog looks at the barrier/object.  In this case, further away is always better.
  • If your dog looks at the barrier/object, he is telling you that you are too close.   Make a mental note of how far away from the barrier you were when your dog acknowledged it.  Were you 5 feet away? 10 feet?
  • NOTE: Things to look for include:  your dog dropping his head and looking at the barrier, your dog changing his gait, your dog’s ears went back, or he closed mouth, etc.  Basically any sign that he knew you are approaching something.
  • Repeat this sequence toward the same barrier/object until your dog is confident.  This may mean practicing repetitions during many training sessions. You are much better off spending too much time at a distance from an object than trying to move too fast in your training. Choose and test different objects and barriers. The more variations the more your dog will “generalize” the behavior.
  • Do not advertise that you have food or toys.  Make the reward quick and a SURPRISE! 

Only when your dog is confident should you heel closer to an object or barrier. As your dog becomes confident with heeling towards barriers of all types, start practicing different heeling paces towards the objects.  Continue to build your dog’s confidence by building on success!

HOW do you know when your dog is confident? Your dog will exhibit an increase in focus. In other words, he will increase his intensity or look harder at you. If you are having a hard time seeing this, ask a friend to watch or better yet video yourself and see the difference in your dog’s posture and focus. ONLY when you see this increase in intensity should you move to the next step and move closer to the barrier.

Use a consequence, like the “U-Missed It” Game, when your dog is not giving 100% effort or loses attention. Tell your dog to “get it” when he is not looking or has gotten distracted. The second he looks back or focuses on you, start to tease him and say something like “ha ha you missed it.” Be theatrical with the toy or treat but DO NOT let him have it. Pretend to eat the treat or play by yourself with the toy. Repeat the skill where he lost focus. Reward him when he offers you more effort and focus.

Video Notes: Poe is working on moving toward a barrier with focus, or DIG. He shows his threshold and then we spend time moving toward and rewarding BEFORE that key spot. Building confidence and reward history is the number 1 goal in this skill.

Video Notes: In the video, Sly is being introduced to the DIG concept. At first we heel in slow pace toward a gate to judge his threshold distance. At marker 1:02 freeze frame, Sly looks away. His consequence is that he doesn’t get the toy/game. The U Missed It game. In the next repetition, Sly was reinforced slightly before the spot where he was previously distracted. Watch carefully and you will see his intensity increase.

Next in the video, Rip and I are working on DIG. Rip is an expert at this game and shows a great example of the final product. He easily moves toward any barrier and never flinches or looks away.

At the end of the video, Sly and I approach the chairs at different angles. He even touches and moves a chair during the turn. HUGE reward and praise for that! That is what we are looking for BUT it takes a lot of training and building a history of rewarding. I do not care about “perfect” heel position, I am looking for intensity of focus, desire, and effort!


DIG – New Distractions

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

Your dog is tugging.  Now what?  Tug RULES

Once you have built desire in a tug toy, it’s important to start implementing a few Toy Rules:

  1. Your dog can’t grab the tug toy/treat before you give him permission.  He must wait for you to invite him to play or get the treat.   When you want your dog to grab the toy use a command such as “Get it!”
  2. Your dog must let go of the toy whenever you ask.   Teach your dog that when you say “OUT” or “Give,” he should release the toy.  I’ll explain more below.
  3. Your dog can’t put his mouth on human skin or clothing while playing tug – even if he does so accidentally.  “Missing” and grabbing anything except the tug toy should immediately result in a consequence such as stopping the game briefly.   Examples could be, I lay my dog down, OR the game ends, OR mark with a negative, OR a combination.
  4. Your dog may not re-adjust the toy when tugging.   This one is not needed for all dogs, but I do find that many dogs that re-adjust or re-grip the toy in their mouth tend to get over stimulated and end up getting too close to human hands.

NEVER put rules on the tug game UNTIL desire has been built!

Video Notes: This video was taken when Poe was young, desire in the tug built, and now it it time to add rules to the tugging game.

Questions? Ask DebbyQ