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Saturday, September 17 2016

Good Dog Training Newsletter - September 2016

Staying insired to train people for agility

I have been running classes and organising Agility continuously for 17 years now. It is a long time. I have to look for inspiration sometimes to motivate me to continue doing what I do. I find behavior training a lot less demanding and ideally it is what I want to do long term now with my retirement looming in about five months.

It is about that long ago that there was a big stir up happening at the Kennel Club Agility Committee. There was an unwritten rule that Agility was for adults only. I believe there were children running their parent's dogs in novelty events but they definitely weren't competing in the real thing. Then there was this little eight nine year old girl called Chelsea who wanted to run in the real competition. Her dog Brodie was a couple of years younger than her but was still aged five when she started being trained for Agility. However Chelsea had been doing all sorts of tricks with the dog since they were babies together and the dog knew every word that her young master uttered. I was one of the few who supported that there was no reason why a young person couldn't run in a real competition and compete against adults. Now standards back then were very patchy. There were a lot of very ordinary performances. The inevitable happened, the little girl beat all the adults. Wow how inspirational is that. Chelsea single handedly lifted the standards of Agility in New Zealand because nobody wanted to continuously be beaten by a child and she put young people firmly into the competition arena as equals to the adult competitors.

Alex and Chelsea Marriner and I started a Junior Agility Group to train young people up to compete. I had them first to teach them some control and how to do the equipment, then when they got good enough they went into Alex and Chelsea's class. We had quite a large herd of variously talented young people but two of them were standout and both for different reasons. They were sisters and the elder sister had a beautiful Border Collie. She quickly graduated into Alex and Chelsea's class. The little sister grizzled and complained so much to her mother that she wanted to do Agility too and she wanted a dog as well that her Mother let her get a puppy from the SPCA. About the only thing that resembled a border collie about this dog was that it was white with black. Could have had some Labrador, could have had some heading dog, anyway little sister Katherine turned up with her ten week old puppy at my beginner class. At that time the age for training a pup for Agility was 18 months old and in hindsight I believe this probably is the right age, given that the dog needs to grow and mature its body in order to have the strength to learn agility.

I let Katherine do tunnels with her pup and feed him on the equipment. I picked her and her sister up from time to time and brought them to class when their Mummy was working and generally encouraged both the girls. The Club Committee at that time warned me that I was allowing training on equipment by a dog under the age of 18 months. I just laughed at them. However it got fairly nasty. In my opinion the kid and her dog weren't doing anything that would endanger the puppy or the child. Anyway it got even more serious and I had to resort to subterfuge to allow Katherine and her Pup to continue. I managed to get a key out of the Club which was almost unheard of, but as they would not allocate time for Flygility Training I offered to train on Sunday mornings and to organise the Nala Fly for that time as well. As no committee members were available to open the club, I was able to have a key. This enabled those who wanted to do extra training an opportunity without the Committee of the Club being aware of it. That they didn't realise I was bending the rules and allowing early training was quite amazing. However, Katherine got her pup up to a standard where she was ready to compete.

There were a lot of sacrifices made by the girls' Mother to keep them involved in Agility. It is an expensive sport and to have two children and two dogs competing on a very small family income was a great challenge. Other Club Members including Alex and Chelsea helped to get the sisters and their dogs to shows and on occasions paid entry fees and supplied lunches and accommodation so that they got the opportunity to compete as widely as possible. As a few years passed Katherine was the sister who continued to want to do Agility and who worked hard with her dogs to bring them up to the standard that she wanted them to be at. Katherine always had determination, passion and flair with her dogs.

Last Sunday in Taupo there was a dead heat in the Jumpers A. Chelsea Marriner and Katherine Martin. There was a run off. Katherine up first. The course wasn't at the top end of A difficult but had a couple of tricky little loopy bits and some nasty little call offs. Katherine's run was passionate and exciting and she smiled at her dog. Her body language was lovely and her dog never missed a beat. The run was clear. Then it was Chelsea's turn. Her run was calculated and scientific, all the corners were cut at just the right time. The experience and maturity that she has, showed through the whole run. Her run was clear and was the winning run deservedly.

Both those young women were inspirational and I saw those little children now leaders in their chosen sport. Those are the moments that make it possible for me to continue to help people get started in the sport.

Whenever I have Nick Chester as a Judge I remember the young man from a Rotorua College who came to training in his school uniform that I also used to pick up and bring to training when he needed it. Contrary to the young women who came to training Nick was fairly hopelessly laid back for the first couple of years and his dogs ran all over the top of him. I used to despair of his lack of concentration. I am amazed by his lovely courses and his judging style and his still laid back capability. It is great to see a young guy go forward in the sport dominated as it is by female competitors. Nick Chester also inspires me greatly to carry on introducing people to the Sport. Even those who may seem to take a bit of time to get a handle on their dogs may just go forward and end up doing some incredible things.

Inspiration also comes from those I train who have huge life issues which stop them from full time training or just make training very difficult. Those older people who are training for the first time with their first dog. That they persevere and meet the physical challenges of the sport and enjoy the moment of competition.

But I must confess that the future of the sport rests with the younger generation and unless there are young people coming into the sport all the time it will come to a point where it struggles to continue to improve the standards and meet the needs of the mid 21st Century competitors.

So I was quite shocked to receive this text recently.

“Raewyn in the dog world ribbons are for achievement and it takes a long time to get to a level to gain one. That is completely different to encouragement and in my opinion should never be used for this reason”.

It has become a laughing matter and this is not the first time this has happened. I think the club needs to clarify this before all the high achievers are gone elsewhere don't you think?'

This txt refers to my awarding the ribbon at Club Day to a little girl called Charlotte and her little mixed breed mini dog. The person writing the text was not at the Competition on the day Charlotte won.

This is what I saw in Charlotte. A small child with a fantastic bond with her dog. The dog noticed the Child's commands. The dog was obedient to the child achieving an A frame, collapsible tunnel bendy tunnel and several hurdles including a wing jump. The child rewarded the dog and smiled and the dog responded. At the sprints run, Debbie Trimbach taught her how to get her dog to run away to the bucket and come back and she and the dog achieved it, I was inspired.

One day that little girl is going to remember that ribbon experience and she may go ahead and do some sort of animal work. She has the x factor. I have seen it before read top four paragraphs. There is another child in our club who has the same x factor, but she doesn't have a dog that she can call her own yet. I am watching her very closely, at some point she will probably also win a Club Ribbon.

So I apologise to those Club Members who feel that I am undermining the integrity of the Club. I hope you will forgive me for indulging in rewarding Inspirational performance against all odds. It is the one thing that has always kept me going.


Saturday, October 10 2015

Good Dog Training Newsletter - October 2015



Rob and Sue's 'Girl' is pregnant The Sire is Eunice Brother's 'Ranger' Ranger is a son of Chelsea' Marriners 'Shift' She is due to birth around the 22rd November. Pups will be ready for homing about 20th January.

If you want a real working dog for Agility Obedience and Fly. These are the pups for you. There will only be one opportunity. Christine Longton has already booked a pup

All funds after expenses from the puppy sales have been gifted to Dog Sports Rotorua.


The heading for this article came from Katie Douthet (Meg and Tyson). She has given me a lovely vinyl sticker for my car which says the above, which was very timely because I already had the planning to write about team work for this month's newsletter.

About a month ago Pam Sharp said to me that she was sure that if I ran KC, KC would be just great. You will have noticed that if Deb is physically unable I will run Sophie and of course Chris Hutchings frequently has enough of Boston and so I run him to get him back on the straight and narrow. This is all very well on the odd occasion but none of these dogs are 'MY' dog. I am not in the business of training dogs to run with me. I am in the business of building new teams. All of you are brand new to the world of dog handling. Some of you want to go on and do a specific sport with your dog. Some of you want to sit CGC tests. Today I got asked to help prepare a dog to do Gun Dog Trialing and a dear older man by the name of Allan comes with his lovely little Corgi girl so that they can be better prepared in the Breed Show ring. Team building is what it takes. Your personality and handling traits, your dog and your success story for your Team.

To me I don't care if you consider yourself absolutely useless at giving your dog directions and teaching it what you want. That is the bit I can teach you to do. I try really hard not to wipe out anybody's personality by superimposing 'my way' on everyone. Alex Jones and Shadroc have their own way of doing things; all I do is make the corrections to the bigger picture for her like enforcing the contacts in agility. Ann and Gemma are unique in their approach to their Agility work and that is great because it tells me that the handler has or is building a working relationship with their dog.

What is team work between animal and human about? The first thing that you notice is that the human part of the team is the motivator. It is the human being that decides how a dog will spend its life for better or worse. The dog is the slave if you like. Dog has no choice about how it spends its life. The owner will decide. If the owner decides it can't be bothered exercising, feeding, giving shelter, training, playing, or making sure the dog has water, then that is the lot of the dog. If on the other hand the handler decides that they want a well trained dog that they can......... take running in the forest...............take to visit hospitals and rest homes............... do agility with.............................enjoy in the house and be proud to walk in the neighbourhood then dog is stuck with that as well.

The Master lets the dog know what it wants and the dog needs to obey. If dog doesn't obey then the Master is likely to be grumpy in one form or another and the dog has to put up with being wacked, kicked or growled at even if dog is completely unsure what it is about. He quickly learns that if he cringes and blinks when being growled at, most Masters will feel sorry and the issue will be over.

We all like to think that we will be able to get our dogs to do simple tricks and everyone sets out with their baby puppy to get a 'Sit' It happens quite quickly either by accident or design and the handler gets a kick out of this bit of behavior he can ask for from the dog and dog gives it.

Let's face it that is just the tip of the iceberg. We know that a New Zealander has taught dogs to drive cars, and throughout history dogs have done some incredible and amazing acts and behaviors, so we know that dog is intelligent enough to want to do things FOR us.

In order to be a team though it is just a bit different. We want our dog to do things WITH us. In order to be a team member our dog needs to be able to make decisions on his own and follow our instructions as well.

How do we get the dog into a pattern of work that gives it independent work ability along with the ability to listen to the handler even when the distraction level is huge? The dog needs to learn to work no matter what. Think Guide Dogs for the vision impaired. They must never be distracted from their work.

It starts with kindness. It is my view that the less you growl at a puppy the more you give good dog rewards the more attentive and able the puppy becomes. It is more than that of course, it is making sure that every time you are with the puppy it is quality training time. In between puppy doesn't just wander willy nilly chewing up the whole house. Puppy is in his crate with his things when you are unable to attend to him or while you leave him alone. I am a total believer in hand feeding. I am ever amazed by the number of people who allow the dog to just about take their fingers off when they hand feed it. I see it in class all the time. This is a non-mastered dog. This is a dog who thinks the food in your hand is his right. It isn't and until he can take it nicely he is off my list for food rewards. The other important thing is that the handler is every keen to slap a pup on a lead and then proceed to pull it around, jerk its neck and head off and totally mess on any idea of loose lead walking. Think 'J' lead. From your hand to puppy's collar is a 'J' shape at all times. Practice it, coerce the dog into giving you a loose lead, and after a while all your walking on lead will be loose lead work. Nothing else will do.

When your young dog is showing interest in things around him you show interest too. Things that come to mind. Autumn leaves blowing in the park. Go with your Dog and investigate this new thing. A new thing in a place that it wasn't yesterday. Young dog's hackles go up and he needs to go and see why it is there. Take him on his loose lead and let him sniff at it. The minute you jerk your dog away from something that is interesting him is the minute you have a dog going crazy because there is something dangerous happening he thinks and he doesn't know what to do about it. Get inside your young Dog's head; watch him all the time so that you can see what he can see. If you want put your head down level with him and look in the direction he is looking and see what he can see.

Everyone who knows my Fae the Fat Fairy knows that she is vertically challenged. We were walking by the golf course at Hamurana one morning and she started nutting off at about six golfers walking along towards the green. I am not sure that we have ever passed golfers in that place before; they were obviously off to an early start. Fae was enraged and hackled up. So I got down beside her and looked at her eye level and what do you think I could see. Disembodied heads bobbing along above the foliage. That was all that was visible to her. Even I thought it was a weird sight. So I picked her up and got her up to my height and she calmed down straight away. Whew after all those heads did have bodies.

In order to train your dog to work over distractions and trust you to get it right, you absolutely have to be aware of what your dog is responding to whether that is positive or negative. If you can get this sense of understanding with your dog then your dog will start to believe in you. They will start to refer to you and ask for eye contact before they make decisions.

This is the point we get to in Control and Obedience Class and Good Dog Training lessons. If you are struggling to get to that point, don't rush on thinking you can still teach you dog to do - Agility- or - Obedience - or Gun Dog work or whatever, because you probably can layer on the required behavior to achieve something in the field you want to work in, but you will not have the bomb proof, reliable, trusting working relationship that makes the Team one of a kind, unique and exciting.

What am I saying? Take your time Get the basics and the rest of your Team work will follow for the two of you no trouble at all. Every dog is different, every person who is handling is different and every team will be very special.

I am very proud of all of the teams we have working at Dog Sports. These are people of huge commitment in today's busy world. Keep going you may find that your achievements at Dog Sports helps with your achievements in the whacky world that human beings live in as well. If not then at least you have a hobby that moves you into a totally different view of life. Just you and your dog out for a day no matter what the weather, understanding and enjoying each other. It doesn't get any better than that.

tauranga.jpg Team Shadroc with Alex and Richard

Friday, September 11 2015

Good Dog Training Newsletter - September 2015


Every now and again someone comes through the Dog Training ranks who turns out to be extraordinary. The team of Sue Thomas and Girl are pretty extraordinary. I like to write about some of our wonderful Agiliteers because I think they are inspirational. I am continuously inspired by Alex Jones and Debbie Trimbach. As Club role models they take some beating.

Sue came to me 18 months ago with a little Eye dog bitch pup called Girl. Apparently she came from a bit of a strange background and she was quite a reserved pup with people. Loved other dogs though. Her head was all over the place, obviously wanted to know what was happening everywhere at once. Sue and Partner Rob are part of the Management Team for Sumner Farms which is next door to our training grounds for Dog Sports. Because she was part of a Farm team, Girl's career was already mapped out as a sheep and cattle dog.
Sue didn't know what she wanted the dog to do as a 'Dog Sport' but she wanted to be able to get the dog responding to her with the usual sits and stays and downs and stands and recall and of course in her farm job, sendaways. So we set about doing her puppy stuff and Girl spent a lot of time working other dogs and puppies that came into her eye. She spent a lot of time dropping her favorite tennis ball at someone's feet in the hope that they would biff it for her to retrieve and drop back at the same feet. With this going on there was no way that she would return to Sue when there were fun and games to be had all over the Dog Sports Park. Never mind said I it is just young dog stuff, yeah said Sue and shrugged her shoulders and let it all happen.

While we were waiting for Girl to decide to come back and try some more work with us, Sue and I chatted a fair bit. Sue had never trained a Dog before, she is a 60 something year old and she confided in me that she could never run an Agility course as her back was pretty shattered due to a most unusual childhood injury. I am sure she will share it with you if you ask nicely. Sue wanted to know if Girl would ever get to the point where she could concentrate long enough to do any jumping or running in the right direction, or at least in the direction we wanted her to run in rather than where she wanted to run. I asked what her plans were for Girl in terms of her maturity and the need to spay. Sue hadn't really thought about it. I suggested that early spay for this pup might not be the wisest thing. I often find that bitches that are a bit silly and lack concentration get stuck in that mode by early spay. They never mature. (I can hear all the people jumping up and down saying the world doesn't need more pups and all dogs not used for breeding need to be neutered ASAP). Yep absolutely but I still believe that one or two seasons and a bit of time to let the hormones do the work that they were designed to do, makes a heck of a difference to the demeanor of the dog especially a dog that is going to be a working dog on a farm and perhaps even a bit of an Agility worker. The brain needs to be somewhere useful. I frankly thought Girl was a lovable airhead.

I sort of decided that with her love of Tennis Balls and her sendaway capabilities Girl would make a good Flygility Dog. On top of that with Sue not able to run it was probably the safest thing to get her involved in. Sue had absolutely no idea what Flygility was but we persevered and within a short time Girl was hitting the box .

By now Sue had eyed up Agility and decided that she wanted to have a go. So she joined the Junior Agility group and learnt all the pieces of equipment and some of the sendaway moves and how the weaves work. Nothing could stop her. Sue was at the Club at every opportunity. In her own words,

“I have a full dog training system right next door to learn a sport I absolutely love. The cards are stacked great for me”.

Over the last six months Sue has competed in Flygility and won ribbons and points, Agility and won ribbons. She is the top learner dog at Dog Sports Club currently. Partner Rob is totally rapt that Sue and Girl have such a great working bond and how is her farm work? Absolutely amazing. She is fearless with the Hereford Bulls, gentle and caring with the sheep and lambs and would work till she dropped. Sometimes she gets to agility with just about all her energy used up but she puts on a happy face and turns out some beautiful course work. Her Obedience and CGC work is awesome as well.
So she has matured into a beautiful happy hard working dog, who still drops her tennis ball at anyone's feet that she thinks might be good for a ball throw. She loves children - they throw the ball a lot and has a good feel for other dogs, a bit bossy as she is an entire bitch, totally normal playful lovable reliable dog.

Now the moment has arrived, when she comes into season next month she will be in the mood to be a mother. Sue Rob and I have decided that Girl should be a Mum. She has tons of lovely traits to pass on to her pups, she will mature even more and then she will be spayed and come back and complete her life in Agility, Fly and working on her beloved Farm chasing the farm bike up the hills.

We have a candidate for Fatherhood and there are others around if that doesn't go. She will be mated with another Farm dog /Collie cross/Eye / Heading dog type who is not related to her and we hope that people keen to improve their Agility opportunities will want to buy her pups, or they could well go to be working farm dogs. Girl is a Measured Medium sized dog by Agility Rules we are hoping to mate her with another Medium dog so that the pups are smaller. Sue and Girl have been a joy to train with to here. This is how Girl got so good at Dog Sports in such a short time.

1. Puppy Class, play to learn 2. 11a.m. Saturday Control and Obedience plus tunnel and hurdle work on Saturday 3. Monday night Junior Agility class 4. Tuesday night Obedience and Directions 5. Thursday night Club Flygility with Juniors at 4p.m. for Sendaway Recall 6. Friday night Canine Good Citizen. 7. Girl and Sue completed their Weaves Clinic and learned to weave 12 straight poles 8. Attended all Club Competitions since they started learning Agility. 9. Attended all the Competitions within easy driving distance to watch the rest of the Club competing in Kennel Club Events and NZFDA Flygility Tournaments and therefore getting both of them ready to compete. 10. Joined National Agility Link Association (NALA) to get more experience at course running.

Sue and Girl put in the time money and effort to make sure that they could reach the standard Dog Sports Club expects before they can compete in National Competition. It would be easy to say ANYONE CAN DO THIS. That isn't true, it takes a lot of grit and determination. A will to make it work and the ability to put pain to one side and do the best you can. An awful lot of people come to me wanting to ‘do Agility'. Very few actually go the distance. Sue and Girl can well be proud of their achievements to date and there will be many more.

Club Captains Report

Winter is starting to give up to nicer days and longer daylight which will mean better outdoor training from now on. This newsletter is a little late due to my being a bit 'Off' following my arm operation a few weeks ago. During my lead up to the operation and for the weeks following I was unable to attend much club and unable to be Club Captain, so over that period Alex Jones and Pam Sharp did all the necessary work and I thank them very much for letting me have that break. When the Team is as good as the Dog Sports Committee, the support is there for us all when we need it.

At the last Meeting Alex presented her Code of Behavior Protocol and it was passed with the status of Club Rules alongside our Constitution. It is attached to this newsletter for all to see. Just occasionally it is nice to have a reference point or a line in the sand that says 'this is not respectful Club behavior'. There have been a couple of mild instances where people find they don't like someone else in the Club and it has overflowed into the greater Club arena. This is not what we go to the Club to train our dogs for. The Committee now have the teeth to simply step in and solve the problem. Previously this was not the case. It is the growing pains thing. When you only have fifteen members it is a lot different to having 40 plus members. Please remember our Club Meetings are Open meetings. They are Club events everyone brings a plate of finger food and we all share before the meeting. Meeting last one hour and everyone who is a Club Member can participate in the business. The next Club meeting is 16th October, we would like to see you there.

Adding Value to the Club is the job for all Members. There is an upcoming Fund Raising Barbecue at Bunnings on Saturday 28th November which we desperately need helpers for as it clashes with a major Club Agility Ribbon Outing which used to be held on the Sunday, which would have been the 29th so we were confident even with class day on the Saturday that we could staff the Barbie. Now EBOP Dog Training Club have reversed their events holding the Ribbon Trial on the Saturday and the Jumpers Champ on the Sunday. If you can help please contact Jenny Williams, me or Raewyn or Pam Sharp. Thank you.

We are always looking for one off Fundraisers so if you have a particular talent and would like to share it with the Club then please feel free to let us know. Like what? Running a cooking class in the Club Kitchen and charging members for attending, doing a poetry reading or a standup comic thing, anything that we can charge people to attend and make a little profit from. If your thing has outgoings then the Club should be able to help with those, such as photocopying or ingredients.

We are still short of people to clean the Clubrooms and would like volunteers to roster on to small areas such as the entrance porch and washing the towels, every little helps.

Happy training

Debbie Trimbach -DSR Club Captain.

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