Making Great Strides In Just One Day

Friday, March 27, 2009

Good day yesterday in Vancouver. Again a really keen group working in masters handling and luckily for me I had a large number of observers at the workshop as well (I think there was about 20 or so of them). Being day two of the two day workshop I started out as normal, answering questions that may have come up overnight. Then I made a plea to the group to help me with Feature and Encore’s “seminar crap.” I had many people keen to help, so it worked out great. My idea was to move the table the girls had being perched upon and expand it. I moved it closer to where I was teaching plus added another table to go side by side. That way when Feature decided to “kill” her frisbee shaking it like crazy, she wouldn’t bump Encore off of the table. Also there was plenty of room on the two tables for both dogs to sleep (they actually did that at one point during the day). I looked at my problem and realized these poor dogs had been watching other dogs work for two of the last three weeks. Rarely did they get to do a “demo” or get a turn to work and even rarer yet was me giving them a cookie for staying put for an entire day. So a few people donate  to a heaping bowl of various types of yummy dog treats and I placed the bowl nearby. Each time  a dog ran there was at least one volunteer standing near the girls to feed them for acting appropriately. At first they just got fed when any dog ran. Then I put Feature on a leash. If  she jumped off the table while a dog was running, whoever was on patrol at the time would take her leash and hold her off of the table. This meant she could no longer watch as she had a row of chairs with bodies in them in front of her. Within a few repetitions she was no longer jumping off the table with every dog. By the end of the day my dogs (who were likely stuffed full of treats) where much, much quieter and actually relaxed on the table. At the end of the workshop I ran each dog on the final sequence while the other waiting and didn’t make a peep. This reinforcement crap really does work eh? 

Today I am grateful to the slew of people at the workshop that spent time with my dogs in order to help me alter their behaviour. Great people here in the west!


  1. Well, having just got home late last night from the Double Box with my baby and the Masters Handling I gotta say I was thrilled with the hard work and fun that we had! My dogs got to work alot and I was reminded of all the foundation holes that I have and am even more determined to fix them!

    We had a ton of laughs. Encore and Feature were a source of entertainment, proving that positive reinforcement creates a thinking, HAPPY dog! It was fun assisting with their reinforcement and nice to see that we all can change things before they get to be a big problem if we just stay alert to criteria.

    The Kelpies had a great time Susan… I am thrilled with the challenges you set up and determined to go back and really work all the little stuff again.

    Thanks SO much!! We are so grateful that you came West!!

    Kathy Smith

  2. I love the reminder that behaviors can actually be fixed or strengthened in such a short period of time with excellent use of reinforcement – now I feel energized to really move my nose touch along this weekend.

    We miss you in Ontario!!! Phoenix and Peso are crossing out the days on the calendar until their next workshops. By the way if you’re planning future seminar dates – Phoenix says she thinks she’s ready to put on the big girl pants and go to Graduate Skills 😉


  3. I’ve been wondering recently about handling distance/gamblers sequences. I’m getting better now at seeing the traps in normal courses and avoiding handling situations that are inconsistent with what I’m trying to do (i.e. flicking for example), but I’m stuck on those sequences that have distance handling lines. What happens when there’s an obstacle discrimination (like a tunnel under an A frame) and getting the dog into the tunnel means a push out off their line (? isn’t that flicking). If there was no handler restriction, it would be easy with a rear cross for example, but with a distance line how do you avoid teaching the dog it’s OK to turn off their straight line away from you?

  4. I have a question, I have an 18mth Beardie who I have done lots of foundation games on the dogwalk (including running along a low dogwalk to a tug game along the middle and taught his end behaviour seperately. Last week I decided to put it all together to see what I had on a full size dogwalk. Each time he jumped up onto the dogwalk (and straight over the contact zone). Should I raise it slowly to show him he can make it to the top without jumping, or something else? I don’t want to do anymore rehearsals of this behaviour.

  5. Thank you so much for email Tip #31, dealing with kids and puppies! I have a just-turned 2 year old two-legged kid and a new four-legged kid will be joining the household mid-May after us being dogless since October. I know I will have many, many challenges ahead of me because of this combination of toddler and puppy, and am trying to anticipate the issues we’ll have. It’s bad enough having a husband who inadvertently ‘sabotages’ your training efforts, now my daughter will be able to get in on the act as well! 😉 Your tip was a wonderful yet simple solution to a problem I had not yet anticipated! 🙂

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