Wednesday, December 18, 2013

WinsDay #2! (seminar review)

Join us for WinsDay and show off your dog showing/trialing/training pictures and stories.  Show off your ribbons, tell us about your latest training triumph or ask a burning dog show question you're dying to hear others' opinions on.

WinsDay is not just the place to show off ribbons.  Maybe you learned something new about a breed or dog sport that you'd like to share or maybe you have a doggy giveaway going on at your blog and would like to give us all a chance to win!  Maybe your dog earned its CGC or you started working on a new level of obedience or agility.  Maybe you mastered doorway manners or housebroke your new puppy.  These are all wins, celebrate them with us!

A win recently for me was attending a seminar by Bridget Carlsen a few weeks ago and I wanted to post some of my take-aways. I was reminded by Laura (The Dogs Are Really In Charge), who posted her thoughts on a seminar she recently attended, that it can be greatly beneficial to hear thoughts from actual attendees because you find out what not just what was presented but what actually got through to people. It's also great to write out and re-digest what you learned while attending.

The seminar was called Motivational Techniques & Heeling with Enthusiasm!   The motivational section included ways to get a good working attitude and enthusiasm from your dog, things that ruin a dog's attitude and create slow, laggy, unenthusiastic performance, use of the correct rewards (toy, chase, tug, great food, etc.) as a motivator and correct timing and placement of that reward. I've started giving my rewards to the dogs while they are in movement, and never while they are stationary. In 10 training sessions I have seen this create an eager, engaged Dot who is working just below her boiling point. Sometimes when she is in a sit or down she looks like she is vibrating just a tiny bit, ready for whatever is next, be it another command or a release to a reward. Taco is slower to catch on, he does not have the history to know the potential outcomes yet, and he is fresh from learning positions (sit, down, stand) with static rewards so he is used to being handed food without having to move. :)

Another thing I realized was that my rate of reinforcement was WAY too high for a dog that knows what is expected and wasn't giving any extra effort. Dot knows how to do the exercises, and when she did them I was rewarding. What is that teaching her? And how is that going to help us improve? It wasn't! Rewards are for training the exercises and once they are trained they are a motivator for going above and beyond. It took Dot a couple of really pissy sessions before she figured out the new plan. She was incensed that I would tell her to do something, she would do it and no food was delivered straight to her waiting mouth!

The heeling portion included lots of little tricks to throw into your training to break up the heeling pattern and give opportunities to reward that are NOT part of any exercise you do in the ring. These include lots of circles, weaving your legs, hand touches, heeling between your legs, and little games like chasing and push-away/resistance recalls. These tricks are used to get the dog in an engaged and highly excited state before you start off heeling so that you get the attitude you want and can reward for THAT instead of yanking and punishing for lagging/sniffing/etc. (One thing Bridget is not cool with is dogs sniffing. Dot is kind of sniffer. We train some exercises by throwing food (2x2 weaves and rapid recalls with intermittent drops, for example) so she gets some rewards from the floor and in down-time will floor-surf. I understand that, I won't say I'm cool with it, but I know why she does it and it's not huge for me. When she is giving me attention, she is not sniffing so it works for us.)

She also introduced target training.  Dot and I use for go-outs so she knows her little blue target. Bridget used them for recalls and as distractions for heeling and I have found that heeling with Dot around loaded targets adds a LOT of pressure for her, which is good for her to work through. She knows she can't go to them so she REALLY tries to avoid them, and that creates a sort of odd anti-gravity force around them and she angles her head away from the target. So getting good, bouncy, engaged heeling around the targets and then releasing her to one of them is an awesome addition to our bag of tricks!

Bridget also teaches a sit-back, down-back and stand-back for much the same reason, an opportunity to treat for something that is not the completion of an exercises done in the ring. These are all just the dog moving back in each position and stopping after a few steps. After our 10 training sessions, I am convinced Dot is not physically capable of the down-back. Her terrible, wonky hips are not able to scoot her backward without tipping outward, causing her to roll onto one side or the other. Taco has got it so I successfully trained it on one dog, but gave up with Dot. And this brings me to a BIG take-away from this seminar: All dogs are not created equal and it's up to us to recognize their strengths and weaknesses without comparing them to all the other dogs in the room. There are not a lot of dogs like Bridget's dogs. They are bred for that off-the-wall energy, enthusiasm and never-stop attitude. Yes, you can increase enthusiasm in any dog, but not every dog is capable of that high level of pushy, snappy, never-ending bouncy work ethic. It made me wish she had a variety of dogs to show the techniques with so that we weren't always seeing the end product achieved of her style of training on that specific model of dog.

What about you?  Have you been to any great seminars recently?  I am just finishing up watching a DVD recording of an Ian Dunbar seminar and will be posting my review of that soon.  His ideas are vastly different from Bridget, but he also has vastly different goals.



  1. Thanks for the summary of your seminar! I am just now getting into some obedience work with my young corgi. We are taking some online foundation stuff through Denise Fenzi's website.
    I always find it helpful to type up all my notes into a blog post too, even if I'm the only one who really reads it! :)

    1. It was a great day, she has some great techniques! I'm in a Fenzi class right now too! Obedience Skillbuilding 1, look for a review of it later in next year! What class are you taking?