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Saturday, February 6 2016

Good Dog Training Newsletter - February 2016


Here we are into another year. January gone already. This is the year that I start my retirement plan. From now on I will not be doing any dog training on Mondays. It is my day to do home things on my tiny farm and try to catch up on all the things that have been neglected for the last ten years while I worked to help Dog Sports Rotorua (Inc.) become a strong dog training institution. To me the best work the Club can do is helping people to understand their dogs and what makes them tick. How to get best results for a pet dog with a Good Citizen type program that I call Good Dog Training. This program has never been extended because the club got sidetracked into being an Agility Coaching Group, which is fine for the minority of people who have the time, money and ability to get somewhere in the sport, but for the most of the people it is just an entertainment for their dogs on the side.

The areas of agility I set out to broaden and improve have not been achieved to date, but maybe as the next four years roll by and I slowly stop doing all the conventional coaching for Fly and Agility, I might get the opportunity to go back to my original aim which was to build a sport using some Agility equipment that suited big dogs, Huntaway’s at the top end of big and Great Danes and Mastiffs and of course suitable for German Shepherds and Labradors as well. Traditional Agility is totally unsuitable for large boned dogs as their bodies would collapse trying to keep up with the kind of course work and speed of the collies and heading dogs. There is also way too much impact on the dogs bodies in traditional Agility even for the middle sized dogs and even if good coaching is about making sure the dogs are fit enough to do the sport and that they have all their techniques in place for takeoff and landing from constant jumping and their contacts are trained to the stand on the contact standard.

So I foresee that a much lower much more spread out sport for big boned dogs with equipment other than hurdles and tunnels that replace the contacts but still make it fun. A lot more of passing through interesting spaces perhaps hung with curtains to brush through. Teaching the dogs the age old circus trick of jumping through a hoop covered in tissue paper. All sorts of interesting stuff can be built into the game that is perfectly harmless.

The other end of that scale is to build specialist courses and equipment for the tiny dogs in a smaller ring with the gear closer together and still with some contacts like specially designed dog walks that are longer, lower and can change direction.

In my opinion this kind of game would attract a lot more dogs from ‘pet’ homes than the Sports of Agility and Flygility do currently. The rules and the protocols of Kennel Club Sports are so strict and unforgiving that the average person just doesn't want to cope. I think the time limit game is the best of all. You have forty seconds to do a specific course and every obstacle you do on the second round reduces the score. So if by the time you get to forty seconds you have completed the 18 original obstacles and gone into a second round then every obstacle reduces the forty seconds by 5 secs or 10 secs, depending on the difficulty of the obstacle concerned. Then you might end up with a bunch of people with the same scores, so let’s say the top ten then run off on the same course for a time. Then you have your winners. But every clear round within 40 seconds is worth something? Points maybe? Which enable you to progress to harder games. Everybody then has the opportunity to improve themselves without being stuck in Starters and Jumpers C for simply years until the dog finally falls to bits.

So that is what I set out to do but instead I have been coaching regular Agility for the last five years anyway. So that's fine and I am very proud of the members of Dog Sports who have gone on to Champs level Agility and followed Fly Tournaments around the top half of NZ and are becoming well qualified in the sports of their choices.

The Tuesday night class at 5.30 to 6.30 is Beginners Agility and we are in the first round of a set of five classes featuring:
1. Just Tunnels
2. Just Hurdles
3. Tunnels and Hurdles
4. Miscellaneous things like hoop and long jump A frame and dog walk, blind jump, wing jumps and chute tunnel
5. Weaves

Then we go back to the beginning of the round again and compare the progress we are making. Every step along the way will be tested out at our Club Competition which is held once a month. The exercises the new team are learning will be their test on the day.

I am also keen to make sure Sprints stay on the agenda at Club Competition. It is a great game for the dogs and it is very good warmup for the Agility courses. Warming the dog up for Agility is a sadly and badly neglected part of the sport. No wonder we have so many pulled muscles and ligament injuries and that is just the dogs. With the people running not being the fittest they can be, then the injury list grows there as well. Whenever I suggest a bit of a warmup run with the dogs everyone groans. But I am sure that if general fitness and fit for purpose strengthening work for both dogs and handlers was properly followed through then the opportunity for a long and fruitful career in dog sports would be enhanced. I will always feel that there is a lot more work to do to make sure that people really esteem the ownership of dogs. That it is seen as a desirable thing to participate in by the public generally and that really well trained and well behaved dogs can change the public perception that dogs are a menace.

Because the leaders in our community are always looking for votes and if wiping dogs out of huge swathes of the City is vote catching then I can guarantee it will happen. What a huge pity this will be. All because the people in power will not insist on a WOF for owners of dogs including a Canine Good Citizenship course to be passed over one year that ensures the dog is as safe as it can be. It would immediately reduce the number of people with dogs and it would make dog ownership a pride issue. Those who had dogs would be seen as good citizens too. It takes a year to train a dog to be a trustworthy loving house pet. It is much quicker to train a dog to do Flygility or Agility and the result is a highly skilled competitive dog wearing a muzzle outside the ring because nobody taught him any manners yet.

I do hope all of you who are part of Dog Sports Rotorua will attempt to enhance the Club this year by giving time and adding value. Without those who clean the clubrooms and mow the lawns and turn up to put up the Nala courses and are happy to sit and do timing and scribing and repair the gear and paint it and help with shed maintenance, there would be no club. There are never enough helpers at Fly Tournaments. Dog Sports could specialise in running Fly Tournaments and run six or seven a year which would give an income in the thousands. It is not that difficult to run a Tournament and there are virtually no tournaments listed for this year around New Zealand. If a committee of five got together and promoted the sport Dog Sports could be 'the place to go' for Flygility. I am unhappy to continue to do most of the work on my own. I have had about four good helpers over the years, but they come and they go. Right now it is down to two of us to carry the organisation and get the final results to the NZ Secretary.

Give it some thought and let Debbie or I know what information you need to participate more fully in management of Tournaments.

Mr. Sam Chan FDX 1.9.08 - 27.1.16


It was with a heavy heart that I had to let my Black Velvet Boy go to sleep forever. I tried so hard to keep him fit and going and he tried so hard to be the best but in the end his brain tumor won and he really didn't know what day it was or where he was and his confusion was driving him crazy.

The diagnosis happened in July 2014 and the prognosis was not good with the expectation that he might not see Christmas 2014. But he did and he saw Christmas 2015. He was almost blind and had lost some hearing and finally he was trying to drag the skin off his head to get at the source of his pain. In the last months of his life he achieved his first Agility AD Cert and Won First Place in Jumpers C Champs. If only I had had the opportunity to run him more in the last three years he would have been a very well qualified Pitbull/Whippet x Sharpei. His greatest love was Flygility and it wasn't possible to enter him anymore because once he got any distance from me he didn't know what to do. He was a dog I taught to work at great distances even with agility and to see him so lost and alone and unable on course work was heartbreaking

I believe he had spent quite a long time in pain and it may account for his short fuse with other people and dogs. There is no doubt that my Dog Management Skills had to match my training ability to keep Chan safe throughout his life. He never had issues within his own pack and welcomed every dog that came to live at our house. He loved to Mentor 'his' dogs and has loved having a harem in Boo, Fae and Sophie. I was concerned as to how he would get along with my boy pup Chip but he just accepted him as a big brother and taught Chip everything he knew including how to terrorise people at the gate.

He was separated from his Mother at 3weeks of age and brought up in Fordland’s by a family with two young boys who just adored him. He slept in their bed and they fed him goodness knows what. It wasn't an ideal start in life. I had an outreach program taking agility gear to a park in Fordland’s so that people could bring their dogs and get free Eukanuba food as it was sponsored by MasterPet. They came in their droves with their cats and dogs and did the tunnels and dog walk and hurdles and I talked to them about their Pets' Health. A lot of Pitbull crosses turned up and most weren't registered with the District Council. They seemed relatively benign. I fell in love with the Black Velvet Pitty Sharpei X five week old pup even though he looked very unusual and almost like a fetus. I encouraged the Children and made a special effort with the family as the puppy had some amazing traits. His sense of balance was incredible and he was very fast even at six and seven weeks. He reminded me more of a monkey than a dog. I was fascinated. I saw him for about two months and then they disappeared off my radar.

Out of the blue months later I got a call from a woman who reminded me she was the Mother of the two boys and the owner of the little black pup. She simply said ' Can you come and take this pup we can't keep him anymore’ I tried to tell her the boys would be heartbroken but she insisted. I thought that they were probably in trouble for non-registration etc. so I called by the house. The Father of the house was at home and he gave me the pup to take away. No matter what I said he insisted I take him. I asked him why. 'I have to give him the bash' he said ' he won't let my missus or I into the boy’s room'. At seven months he had mated the dog across the road and was literally terrorising the neighborhood taking on all-comers people and dogs. So I took him away.

The boys had called him Sam. I already had a Sam Donkey. He looked much like a Sharpei, with quite a bit of spare skin at aged 7 months ish so I decided that a Chinese name was appropriate. I asked some Chinese Friends about the name 'Chan', they told me it was a name for a' Good Man’ and showed me the Chinese Symbol for Chan. When I introduced him to a friend with a pup I was helping her to train she instantly labelled him Mr. Sam Chan, so we decided that was his proper name and Chan was the shortened version.

When Chan won his first Flygility Beginners Ribbon I took it to the boys who brought him up and took him with me. He knew where he was and knew the boys. They were happy to have the ribbon but they had another dog now, a pitbull jack russell cross, so I got out of there before I ended up with the ugliest looking dog in the world. Tied to a kennel in the yard surrounded by dust and faeces.

It took me two years to get Chan's behavior in a place where he was capable of being in a public place or attending events where there were large numbers of other dogs. Training him to do Flygility was no trouble at all, so then I started on Agility and he learnt that really quickly too. He was always a work in progress but he trusted me with all his heart. He was obedient to me to the letter of the law. My voice could stop him in mid-flight towards another dog when he had a wrangle in mind. He had a beautiful soul. There will never be another dog quite like him. I am proud to have owned him and shown him off at Agility Events. Even if there were times when he totally exhausted me the good times we had in the end were worth every bit of it.


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.

Sunday, June 14 2015

Good Dog Training Newsletter - June 2015


The newsletter editorial for this month is a piece I did to read at the AGM. The AGM was enormously successful and celebrated the success of Dog Sports Rotorua with a presentation of certificates and trophies.

Dog Sports now have a number of people waiting to join Agility Classes which are currently at complete capacity. There will be a new class starting in the spring on Saturday afternoon as an introduction to both Flygility and Agility. It will concentrate on teaching the equipment at speed. It will be run at three levels. Introduction to sendaway and recall, sprinting on the flat, and equipment in a 50 meter sendaway recall. People will move through the system when they are totally able at each level. I am looking for two people to help run this class starting September. This will be a Club class rather than my class. I will oversee it completely.

I think the Motto for this Club should be 'Commitment + Integrity = Excellence' and we have this committee lead by Debbie Trimbach to thank for the last 12 months of prosperity. My life as Club Trainer is inevitably easier when the nuts and bolts of the Club are all working as they should.

My personal thanks and gratitude for the positive attitude and the can do ability of all those who assisted the Committee this year. The people who baked the cakes (don't know who this is do you?) and worked in the kitchen and cleaned the building and mowed the lawns and gave us a lawnmower and built renovated and restored our Agility equipment, painted the sheds, worked as judges and box loaders at tournaments. All of the jobs that clubs need to do to survive and that have to be shared to make it possible to be a Club with a future. This Club is going places and believe me after twelve years of input by me I was beginning to wonder. Now this club truly isn't 'me' it is all of you and that is so so good.

Trainers Report 2015

This time next year we will hopefully be looking at dates to celebrate the 10th birthday of the Club. I think we should celebrate because this is the club that everyone said could not exist.

I believe now as I did right at the beginning that the most a club training people and dogs can do is to at least get its members understanding that their dogs must behave themselves. We have had mixed results over the last ten years. But at least this time has confirmed to me that it is not the dog's fault that he is edgy and jumps at people and other dogs and animals. The answer lies in the management of the dog by its handler.

How does this work? We used to say years ago, if you are in a bad mood don't train your dog. I think this also goes for; if you are feeling insecure and unhappy don't train your dog. If you are in a forgetful and distracted mood don't train your dog either. There are probably a lot more reasons why some of our moods should not be forced onto the poor dog of the household. If your personality is generally unhappy and insecure then your dog will know there is something wrong. Dogs are incredibly sensitive to mood. You can't just pretend that everything is alright - the dog will know you are telling fibs. It is a known fact that dogs can sense cancer in their handler's bodies; they know when their handler is going to have an epileptic seizure. One fascinating thing though is that if you are deeply sad for any reason and you are not usually deeply sad, your dog will do the best he can to cheer you up. So it looks like the best thing to do if you are 'not in the right mood' is to lie down in a quiet place with your dog and let him charm away the worries of the world. If however, you decide you are going to Agility Training or any other training that you do with him when you are in that mood, you will find that he doesn't do what you want, may respond negatively to other dogs and/or people, because you are 'odd' to him.

You need to be in a calm and receptive space to train your dog. You need to be able to keep your concentration on your dog and not let your head go to the place that says 'darn I would have hung the wash if I had known it was going to be this fine', or ‘Gee I hope this will be over soon because I want to take the kids to the lake for a barbie'. If you can train yourself to keep your mind working with your dog for an hour every day, then you may also find that some of your anxiety and stress fades a little bit. At least for the time that you are utterly concentrating on your dog.

When we are doing any training with the dogs I can see people get in tune with their dog for five/ ten seconds and then lose it and have to rekindle it again. That is what it is like when you start to learn to focus on just one thing. I always know when my dog and I are in the same place and both know exactly what we are doing and it takes a while to build it up. I reckon three good years. Some people might do it in less but I doubt it. It is normal to take a few years to build that bond of togetherness with your dog. When a dog dies and it's handler is grieving it is because the handler feels they have lost an integral part of their lives, not just a live cuddly toy or something that was a daily habit, but a living breathing thinking sharing caring part of their lives has gone. Truly that will never happen again in the same way because every dog is so different. But another dog will eventually do amazing things with your mind as well.

If you are standing next to your dog and yacking on to some other person, your dog knows you are not interested in them so you need to go to a place that says, sorry dog I have to yack at this person right now so you have to lie between my feet quietly and I will get back to you real soon. If your dog is just doing its own thing during this yack time, he will lurch on the lead jump at you bark at you or groan loudly because you have not given him a message that says I still love you most just wait and we will do things together again. So having a piece of learned activity such as lying between your feet is a comfort to him right now. When you are working with your dog, don't worry about mistakes, talk nicely to your dog get him moving exactly as you want him to. Look at him in the eye, drop little bits of special food in his mouth, be consistent in your voice and body commands and your dog will start to respond. If ten seconds concentration is all the two of you can cope with at the moment, see if you can get it up to 12 seconds by next week. When you are working with your dog work exclusively with you dog, don't cheat him, by doing it half pai.

Be excited with him when he gets stuff right and play ball and tug as much as you can even if it bores you to tears. Once your dog is focused on you and your commands alone, then there is no distraction. I was over the moon at training recently when Chip was standing beside me and he is only 10 months old, and a couple of dogs decided to have a wrangle, because they had got into each other's space. Chip never flinched or looked at the other dogs or wanted to go there. He was only five meters from the action. I told him good boy. He knew he had got it right. To me that was better than him knowing how to go through a tunnel or how to stand on a contact. He will do all the other stuff because I will ask him to and he will say yep if that's what mum wants that's what she gets.

That is bonding, that is Good Dog Training. The games we play do form a good distraction for some dogs to get their minds off other things. While they are hurdling they do not want to go and wolf someone else. Concentrating on hitting the fly box narrows their focus and helps them to be good, but by and large, you need to have your dog worshipping you before you go there, otherwise a whole raft of bad habits slip in and most times there is no undoing them.

I hope you will all stay with Dog Training and help me to turn around the perception of the public that dogs are a nuisance in society. They have been with us since the beginning of time; they are an important link in our human lives. Look your dog in the eye and tell him how much you need him in your life and he will be there for you.

Thank you for your hard year's training. The Awards handed out tonight show the excellence that can be achieved by those who put their minds to it.

Dogs forever - Raewyn

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