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Diana A

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Everything posted by Diana A

  1. Big red flag here - if the dog hates the mat, then it should not be paired with the contact yet. If the dog hates the mat, then something is wrong. I would never in a million years say that it's 'normal' for a dog being clicker trained to 'hate' the object he's being trained on. That flies in the face of the whole clicker concept that the dog thinks the whole thing was their idea and they're actively engaged in trying to figure out what to do to get the reward. Why does he hate the mat? How was it taught? I start my contact training (not 4OTF by the way) with a wide board on the ground and clicker train the dog to just get on it. They quickly learn to love it so much I can't keep them off of it. Then we shape the contact performance (I use 1RTO), then transfer to a narrower practice board, then back chain on the bottom of a contact, and finally to the full piece of equipment. Once the dog really 'gets it' about the position (to the point where the dog will eagerly run across the room and flip himself into his contact position without any help from me whatsoever and I can't pull him out of position no matter what enticements I offer) I've found all the rest of transitioning to equipment to be incredibly easy. Those beginning steps with a clicker and board (or in this case a mat) are so important, and yet that's the part that so many people want to rush over and skip to the next step. Then they leave a big hole in the foundation work that they'll be fighting for that dog's whole agility career.
  2. I have not seen anyone in my area using 4OTF. I only ever saw it once in an out of state trial, one person had several dogs doing a 4OTF stop in a down position after the contact. All of the dogs were leaping off and then lying on the ground. It didn't work to get the contact, because the dog could do the desired stop on the ground behavior and still miss the contact. To get it to work you'd need the dog to stride through the contact before the stop on the ground (not leap into it). If you're going to teach that, you might as well just teach a running contact. I'm a HUGE fan of one rear toe. The dog comes down lower with the back more level and their focus is on keeping their rear on the contact. I do a lot of training with trying to pull them off with a treat or a tug toy and they lean back into their rears and hang onto the contact, so the weight is more back on the rear. There are no props to fade, no targets (well, the contact itself is the target, but you get to have that in the ring with you). The dog's focus is 'keep the back feet in contact with the ramp', which is EXACTLY what you want. The dog isn't 'accidentally' getting the contact because they're thinking about stopping or touching a target or anything else - they have the exact same goal you do, come down as far as you can but hang onto that contact. This seems very clear to the dog. My first dog I trained this way is almost five and has never ever even come close to missing a contact, and she's FAST and very driven. My puppy isn't doing full height contacts yet, but already I can run past him, throw toys, hang back, run laterally, etc and he hangs onto the contact no matter what. So far I've gotten 100% with this method in competition. Not 99.9%, but 100%. I'd love to teach a running contact someday, but until I see someone demonstrate it can be done with 100% accuracy, I'll stick with what I've got. The nice thing about one-rear-toe is it doesn't rely on muscle memory or repetition. Once the dog gets the concept (which can be done with a practice board in your living room, not even on full height equipment) they seem to really get it and keep it without having to do lots of reps on full height equipment. Cutting back on the reps goes a long way towards reducing stress on the dog's body I think. Whatever method you do, doing a few days or even a week or two of quickie training with a prop and then throwing it into a sequence or a trial environment, just isn't going to work. You need to make sure the dog really understands, and that you're consistent in your expectations. A consistent release goes a long way towards maintaining a consistent contact. The best-taught method in the world will fall apart very quickly if you get sloppy with your releases. There is a DVD out "Bridging the Gap" that is excellent with explaning about the whole consistent release thing.
  3. A couple of mine were sensitive about nail trimming. They don't mind the fur on their feet trimmed, or their feet handled any other time, but they hated the trimmer. I think even if you don't get the quick, it squeezes the nail and that seems to bother them. I was replacing the blades fairly often to keep them sharp and that seemed to help. I did buy one of those pet dremel's advertized on TV and actually really like it. I had done a dremel before, but without the plastic guard on it, and was always worried about getting hair (mine or the dog's) caught in it. The guard on the new dremel is great, and the dremel head is wider so even hair that gets in past the guard is no where the hub of the part that turns so I've had NO problems with hair even when I get in a hurry and do nails on a dog that needs his foot hair trimmed (there is another TV brand with a smaller head inside the guard so I can't vouch for that one). Mine is the pedi-paws; I think the one with the narrower head is peti-cure or something like that. I have one who doesn't like the noise of a dremel, so for her we still use the trimmers. I just hold her down and she gets a treat after each nail. She's not thrilled about it but she tolerates it for the treats.
  4. I've seen lots of border collies without white on their faces. One of mine is like that (picture below), and I know she's pure border collie (and if there was any doubt in my mind, just seeing her with sheep would clear that right up). I do get a lot of non-border collie people asking me what she is - but border collie people always know.
  5. I know of a couple other reasons, just looking at the people I know who do both. One, is the person started in AKC, then found their way to USBCHA, but it's hard letting go of old associations, especially if the person still has a lot of friends and acquaintances who do AKC. I do know of a few people who did both for a while and then phased out of AKC over time, but not quickly. Second, is the person has another breed of dog (sometimes a herding breed, sometimes not), and for most of those other breeds there is no other choice except AKC as far as registering the dog. So if one dog is AKC registered and goes to AKC events, then why not the border collies as well, might as well take them along too. Usually this is a person who also started in AKC. I can't think of anyone I know who started out with working border collies and then took up with AKC - it usually seems to go the other way.
  6. Have you looked to see if there's anything in there? One of my dogs was licking a paw a few years ago, and I couldn't see anything. I thought it was just allergies. Finally the whole paw swelled up, so we went to the vet, and it turned out she had a tiny little splinter embedded in one pad. I had another dog one time who stepped on something out in the field and ended up with a hole in the webbing between his toes. It was hard to see unless I stretched his toes out and looked at the right angle. Another of my dogs cracked a nail right up near where it comes out of the paw. In each case the vet was able to figure out the problem pretty quickly when I had had trouble seeing what was causing it. I think as far as keeping him from licking it, the sock is an excellent idea. Bitter apple would keep him from licking it too, but you have to keep reapplying it; the sock seems simpler.
  7. Judges aren't more lenient for Novice A - it should be judged exactly the same as Novice B and is the same course. The only difference is it gets it's own set of placements so there's more chance for a newbie to get a ribbon since they don't have to compete against the experienced handlers. Novice A is only until you get your first agility title. All classes except Exellent B have a passing score of 85. Allowed faults vary by class level. In Novice the weave poles aren't scored but must be completed (so can eat up lots of time if your dog can't weave). You can have a maxium of two refusals and a maximum of two off courses, and 1 table fault, and time faults (1 point per second). Each of these (except time faults) is 5 points off, so in total you can only have 15 points of errors before your score goes below 85 and you don't qualify. So even though 2 refusals and 2 off courses are allowed, you can't get 2 of each or your score is below 85. In Open you can only get one refusal and (I think) one off course (they changed something about how many off courses a little while back and I haven't kept track). Every second over time is 2pts off. In Exc A, time faults only (3 pts per second), and in Exc B you must be perfect. The biggest classes I've seen in my area is the 20" class has been up around 100 dogs or a little over. I heard overseas they don't split the walkthroughs even wtih so many in a class. It seems it would be very hard to see the course with so many people in your way. Over here most judges will split the walk throughs by height, and I've even seen 20" split into 2 groups when there 90 or more dogs (usually no more then around 40 or so in a walk through group).
  8. I've had this happen lots of time. It's usually from the dog running too hard, and having wet feet (whether from water or if their feet sweat). They usually heal up within a couple of days. The best way I've found to avoid it is be aware of when their feet may be wet, and if she's running hard, stop her every few minutes and check the feet. When they start to get little tears around the edges it's time to stop before the pad starts peeling.
  9. Forgot to add, about the jumping up. Do you use a clicker? I think the pup is jumping up because of not being sure what to do, and you're moving, which is exciting, and there's nothing else to focus on, so the pup jumps on you. Try (1) moving slower, even doing a walk, (2) reward frequently but only when the pup's feet are on the ground, (3) if you use a clicker, click for feet on the ground, then reward, (4) if the pup starts jumping, stop moving, then reward and move again once feet are on the ground. And also as I said in my last post, it's difficult to get any kind of distance from the handler when there's nothing else for the pup to focus on. So when you aren't using obstacle, don't worry about distance so much, just focus on not jumping up or cutting across your path. It's a little bit almost like teaching obedience heeling, except your allowed correct position is a lot larger than the precise position required for heeling and of course you'll be working both sides.
  10. I use repetition, anticipation, and rewards away from me to help my dogs learn to work away in agility. Here is an example. I go with the dog and put the dog in the tunnel, then throw a toy or a small visible treat so the dog sees it flying away from them as they exit, and they get to run and get it. I repeat that a few times. The dog gets very confident about what I want and starts to anticipate that reward flying away when he exits. So he starts to not want to wait for me to go all the way to the tunnel with him- he starts pulling away from me and going ahead to get in because he wants to get there fast to get the excitement of the chase when he exits. So every time, I start just a little farther away from the tunnel entrance and his draw to get in there gets stronger and stronger. Pretty soon I can be pretty far from the tunnel entrance, start to move towards it, and the dog will leave my side and go into the tunnel as fast as he can. You just have make sure you use very consistent body language when you do this - don't just stand still and send. Standing still is a signal you'll need later to get your dog to collect and come closer to you. Moving forward, giving a forward signal, and a verbal commend for the tunnel, are all cues that it's okay to leave your side and go do the tunnel. Once the dog is getting this, I like to alternate calling the dog to stay close to me and sending the dog so they understand the difference. Otherwise all you get is a dog who wants to run off and do everything on their own before you tell them where to go, which is a nightmare in upper level classes when they get older. So I would have a good treat or toy in my hand, have a line on the pup, and start to move towards the tunnel but not give a command for it. Then, before the dog gets sucked into taking off for the tunnel, I use the pups name and turn away from the tunnel and run the other way and throw the toy or treat that way, away from the tunnel. The line is just to prevent the puppy from taking off for the tunnel before you're ready for the turn, NOT to correct, or else you'll just undo all the work you did with getting distance. Then I alternate. One time I move fast towards the tunnel, and signal to do the tunnel and reward. Then the next time I move slower, keep my hand at my side, use the dog's name, and turn away from the tunnel, and reward either at my side, or in the new direction. It's also a fun game to play when they figure this part out, to have multiple tunnels. You keep them with you and have them not do one tunnel, then the reward is you turn and send them for a different tunnel. So they learn the difference between 'pay attention to me because I'm going to give you information' vs 'yes, go ahead and take the tunnel' or whatever obstacle it is. I do the same thing with jump chutes (for a puppy maybe just running through standards or low jumps), and also weave poles (again, for a puppy I either wouldn't do the weaves or would have the channels open enough that they aren't bending). I also wouldn't worry too much with a four month old puppy. They are just naturally more clingy. If you over do the distance stuff now you may have off course problems later. Also I think flat work is hard for distance work because the whole way I get distance is using obstacle focus. If you're working with no obstacles, there's nothing to use a focus point for the dog to move away from you. There's never a time in agility when you'd want your dog moving away from into empty space with no obstacle to go to. So unless you're sending to an obstacle, the dog is correct to want to stay at your side. Don't undo that, you'll need it later.
  11. I think the trainer for this class was justified in her decision. In an ideal world dogs never run off and visit other dogs, but in the real world, it happens. It happens in class and it happens even at trials. It's perfectly normal for the dog being approached to get snarky or to warn the other dog off. But it is NOT acceptable to 'attack' or injure another dog. My club has a similar aggressions policy. When a dog just warns the other dogs or snarks a bit, it sounds ugly to some, but generally will work itself out as the class progresses without any real incident, and my club actually comes down harder on the dog doing the visiting than on the dog doing the snarking. That kind of thing is normal dog behavior appropriate to the situation. A dog who attacks is a whole other story. Then you're talking about possible vet bills, legal action, the possibility of a person getting bit if they try to intervene, insurance problems, etc. A club or a training business simply cannot knowingly take this risk.
  12. Could you elaborate a bit more on the above? This is very interesting and I would like to learn more. Could you give some examples? This sounds like something that might be helpful to my dog and I, since I'm not by nature a person that dogs find very intimidating. And to stay on topic - I take my dog to the post off leash. We're just in novice so far, although she drives pretty well but we have some other issues to work out before we attempt pronovice, mainly a teamwork thing (the reason for my question above!). She looks for the sheep but won't go before I send her. She is not allowed to pull on the leash, but when we're setting up to send for sheep I want to give her the freedom to look for the sheep without worrying about where the end of the leash is, so I just take the leash off. She still stays close, just not necessarily a leash length close since I've already told her to look for sheep. I walk her off leash to the sheep when we go to train, and also when we go to do work (sometimes she has to wait a long time while I unstick gates or whatever, before she gets to do anything and I don't want to having to micromanage her that whole time), so I don't see why a trial should be any different.
  13. I've used both methods with my dogs at various times - using treats and also just using the leash. I use the treats for the very young pups (under four months). I do the down from a standing position, because realistically a down on stock will always be from a stand and not from a sitting position. It also lets me more quickly move on to a down while moving. To use the treats, I cup my hand over or around the treat and they can't get to it until the butt hits the ground. Sometimes I sit on the ground and prop one knee up in a V and put my hand with the treat under my leg, so the pup is encouraged to crawl under my leg and that will automatically put him into a down. I have a couple dogs where that's all they ever needed, although these were both dogs who started later on stock so they had a pretty long history of responding to a down command in situations where there was nothing nearly as distracting as stock around. For using the leash, I found this helpful with somewhat older dogs who needed the down reinforced a bit. The key is first don't pull the dog down, but just use downward pressure, then the key part is to release pressure at first as soon as they make a move in the right direction. If you wait until you get the whole thing, they often get frustrated and just start fighting. If you have steady pressure and the dog even drops his head a bit, release pressure for just a second, or at least reduce pressure to about a third of what you're using, then reapply. The dog is likely to repeat what worked the first time and lower his head again. After a couple of times, don't release pressure as much, but if he drops farther than the last time release it all the way for a second again. If the butt is staying up consistently, gently put your hand on the dog's hind legs at the joint between his butt and his hocks (where he needs to bend in to go down). Eventually the dog's whole body will drop and then you can completely release pressure, let the dog up, and move to another place and give the dog a bit of a break. It sounds like it would be long and drawn out, but in reality I've done this with a dog who was initially resisting and started getting consistent immediate drops in about five minutes time. The key is in the timing and letting the dog know when he's on the right track so he keeps trying until he figures it out. If they've learned with treats already they should get the idea pretty quickly - you may not even need this step at all, although it helps with dogs who are of the mentality to only take the command if they happen to want a treat at the moment. An alternative variation I've seen on this is you just jerk the dog all the way down so fast that he's too surprised to resist you. I've seen that method work quite well, but I always worry I would hurt the dog doing it that way and I've been happy with my results the other way. And then after all is said and done, the first time you get out on sheep and give a down command, chances are the pup will act as if he's never heard the word before anyway. The biggest help I've found there is once I ask I just keep blocking his access to stock until he at least gives me a stop, and then once his brain is thinking enough to give me that I can usually start getting a down pretty quickly. He has to give me a down before he gets to go back to work again - they catch on to that really fast. Regarding your comments on attention work - you may not have been using a formal 'watch me' command, but if you're rewarding focused attention on you and doing something to get attention back on you when the dog looks away, then you ARE teaching a watch even if you aren't putting a word to it. Doing it without a word can actually be more harmful than teaching it as a command, because then the dog learns it as a default behavior and something to do even when you haven't asked for it. Luckily dogs are situational learners and if you've only encouraged/rewarded him for watching you in dog class or in training in your house or front yard, chances are it won't translate over into him watching you when there are sheep around. Provided that he does see sheep at a fairly young age - no guarantees if you keep working on attention for five years before he sees his first sheep! Diana
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