Ike, John, and I are out in Northampton staying with friends. The man and dog stay with the friends and I go to Clean Run during the day today and tomorrow for the Control Unleashed seminar.
Leslie McDevitt started the seminar by saying that while she is REALLY big on structure she wants to start the seminar with no structure to see how all of the dogs and handlers handle it. Crating for the working dogs is set up about 20' away from a square ring in a half-circle (auditors are beyond that). Leslie had each handler walk their dog to the gate-ring with no prep or verbal cues. Walk into the enclosed area, close the gate and drop the leash. See what the dog does. Do they ask the handler for information or seek it on their own? Leslie reminded everyone that information seeking is neutral - it is not a reflection on you as the handler.
The first dog was a six-year old Golden named Snitch who really reminds me of my friend Marlene's dog Kody. He has a very similar level of intensity to Kody. Snitch went into the gate area and started zooming around, almost frantically.
Leslie asked what we all saw, he did some stress scratching and then started the zooming. Someone from the auditors commented that he "took over" inside the enclosed area. Leslie's response was awesome, she said "does he have an agenda?" :-)
Leslie referred to Snitch as a "rollercoaster dog." She said, on a rollercoaster you might be having a lot of fun, but it is also anxiety inducing and at a certain point arousal and stress intersect.
She talked about how difficult it is for a dog when they are that aroused to think clearly; then imagine if they do not have a default behavior they are comfortable with. She suggested thinking about how we'd react if someone asked us to complete an algebra problem on a roller coaster - it wouldn't be that easy!
The next dog that went into the ring was a 10 mos. old Belgian Terv who was attacked at 5 mos and now thinks most things are creepy. Leslie went off on an interesting and pertinent tangent. She said that most people, when they encounter a dog who is hesitant about people will try to entice the dog with a treat and think about it as counter-conditioning. She said if the dog has not been desensitized to people then it can not be considered counter conditioning because all you are really doing is increasing the "social pressure" on the dog. Leslie suggested sending the dog to go sniff the person but the reward is that she gets to leave the creepy person and get a treat from mum. In this way, it is okay for the dog to go explore and become more comfortable and there is no pressure to perform.
Some other points:
NO cue can be an actual cue for a default behavior.
Always compromise, what feels good to your dog? What makes then feel better? Incorporate that into your cued behavior chain.
Offered versus Default: Offered is when your dog starts frantically going through tricks trying to figure out what is right and what is going to get a response from you. Default is your dog selecting a certain behavior and being committed to it until they receive more information from you.
We had a short break and Leslie talked about what she refers to as the Whiplash game, which is the dog hears their name and turns to look at you. Click and treat the neck movement.
One of the games Leslie recommends is the Re-orient Game. For example, open your dogs crate door - they should not come out until you release them. First thing they should do is re-orient to you. In order to practice this stand to the side of the crate, release your dog and the second you see any movement to turn/arc toward you c/t. Very quickly we saw dogs who had never played this game spinning around to check in with mum. Then bring this game on the road. You are about to enter the agility ring. Let your dog move ahead of you, stop and do not move until they re-orient to you. This is a fun game and all of the dogs picked it up super quick.
The next game we went over was something Leslie referred to as the Recall-Release game. Best played with two people, but you can play it alone too. One person has treats, one person has leash and clicker. Dog is alerted to the fact that person # 1 has treats but she isn't allowed to eat them. Person # 2 calls the dog. The second the dog turns their head and checks in with person # 2 - they then send them to person # 1 for the treat. Essentially this game teaches the dog that if they pay attention and respond they get what they want. For dogs that too quickly decided they could just sit and watch the person with the treats Leslie suggested running backwards a few steps, asking them for an intermediary position and then sending them back for their reward.
While working with a 14 mos old PWD Leslie noticed that he was panting and taught us a quick game that she call Take a Breath. If your dog is over-excited and panting, ask them to sit and hold a treat near their nose and let them sniff. Typically dogs close their mouth when sniffing - using this technique causes the dog to mimic how they would breathing if they weren't over-excited.
There is more, but I wanted to get the main thoughts down for today. I will post about the whole weekend tomorrow or Monday!
4 days ago