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Saturday, May 7 2016

Good Dog Training Newsletter - May 2016

Its all about behaviour!

So here we are again another month in 2016 May and it has to be one of the warmest autumns on records. Great for night Dog Training.

Over this last six months I have been doing lectures at the SPCA in Rotorua with their permanent paid workers and permanent volunteers. This has been a most enlightening experience for me and hopefully a new way of looking at dogs for the receivers of the information as well.

I started the lecture season with a chat about Interaction. You see to me 'Training' an animal is not really what I want. I want a two way conversation with that animal by way of Interaction. I don't really want to have to beat an animal over the head and tell it 'I am boss' listen to me. I want the animal to love and respect me while knowing that I will love and respect them in return. I like to get an understanding with the animal that it is not the lesser being but we need to get our behaviors meshed in some way so that we can do things together for the benefit of each other.

Now the more I thought about this, the more it became a wacky way of looking at our life sharing with other creatures. For example I own a pet Cow. Her name is Wave. We have been living together and sharing for 13 years. It’s a long time to know an animal. She is just lovely and we understand each other. There is nothing nicer than the cold winter mornings in the shed with her. Leaning against her surprisingly warm body and releasing her steaming creamy milk while she munches on whatever I have prepared from the garden or from the bakery in town for her. She has a wide and varied milking diet and absolutely loves molasses but you can't beat a good strawberry lamington. I can groom her and hug her and she trusts me to do a lot of stuff even to holding her while the vet does procedures. In a word it is 'Trust' that she has in me. This is not unique of course, millions of people experience a great two way relationship with a large number of creatures outside of the human race. That is what having a pet animal is about. Sharing your life with another creature. Many people will vouch for their relationships with pet mice or parrots. And many people have tamed wild things to interact with them. Like hand feeding sparrows until a particular one becomes your best friend.

So having qualified that maybe I am not a Dog Trainer, but perhaps I am someone who enjoys interacting with other species by way of body language, smooth voice sounds and providing a safe haven and food for that particular creature.

I notice when I start to have people coming to training with their dogs that they totally do not understand what their dog is about. what it's fears are, how much it trusts it's handler, why it is behaving in a particular way given particular stimulation and how after two or three sets of that particular stimulation the behavior (for better or worse) becomes ingrained as a part of the interaction under those given circumstances.

Let's take the pet sparrow for example. Every day I take a piece of bread outside to a table on the deck and I feed the birds. I sit quietly in a chair by the table and eventually one cocky fellow comes up and takes the food from my hand. Next day same time same place that sparrow does it again, so I start talking to the sparrow while it is eating. Next day I start talking to the sparrow as I come out the door of the house onto the deck. That sparrow knows my voice already and he is down there sitting on the table as I sit down at the chair. .Then he hops on my hand to take the bread. Next day I call him he flies down from the roof, lands on my hand, I carry him to the table, feed and talk with him and then he flies away, etc. There is a growing sense of trust. Food is the catalyst for that trust. Providing food for its young is something all mammals and birds do. So in order to win the trust of any creature it is important to hand feed that thing, then it is important that the creature hears your voice in conjunction with that food. By supplying food to that creature we are offering to be a parent to the creature to give it a safe food supply and to give it willingly.

With this in mind it is only natural to me that if I want to win over a dog, I am going to use food. If I want best behavior outcomes and good interaction and good response to voice or clicker or whistle, I am going to use food. Food is not forever, as once you have the dog's trust you can get rid of the feeding by hand constantly while teaching new things, although I still really like to reassure my dogs by feeding by hand and later on throwing them their food to catch. I like their food smelling of my DNA. It is part of my interaction with my pet. The donkey loves hand feeding, the goats love hand feeding, and it is a very special sharing, in the same way as dining with your family is a very special thing to do. If you want the best warm fuzzies, sit down and hand feed your dog and let him lick your fingers for the gooey bits. The time you take to share food with your dog will be well rewarded by your finding it easier to get him on side to do extra things for you. Especially to get him following you around like you are 'the goddess' or 'god' himself. My Chip is a devoted fan of mine. He hates it when I go without him, but we have an agreement. I tell him to 'Stay, I will be back soon' and he lies quietly in the porch without muttering a word until I get back. Then I don't make a fuss, just a nice low 'good boy' and he wags his skinny tail and lies down again. About ten minutes later I will take him for a wander to do his toilet and then we will be together while I do stuff around the house. Just boring old dog and human interaction. Nothing profound or genius, just a nice comfortable trusting relationship. There are a few things we are still working on but at 21 months he has pretty much nailed it that if I tell him to 'leave it' then that's the rule. I say leave it once and I walk away and he just has to come with me. I am more important to him than fresh cow poo. Now that's a reassuring thought isn't it?

Forget Training - Interact with your chosen 'other creature’ the rewards are constant.

Club Captains report

Another good productive month for Dog Sports Rotorua. We now have 32 (+ a few pending) paid up members. But the best news is that 10 people signed up for the $180 per annum subscription which includes as much use as they wish to make of the Club and the option of a set of shed keys. The Committee took a bit of a punt on the idea in order to avoid what happened last year when for about three months through winter we didn't take enough $2 ground fees to pay the rent to the Stockcars. The money collected in advance will be put aside in a savings account to fill the gaps in the rent should it occur again. Club member numbers are up but Club usage falls due to the cold nights. For example for two nights this week we would normally have had 37 members use the Club. Instead we had 22 and the really cold times haven't hit yet. That is a difference of $30 over two nights. It makes a difference to paying the rent in the long term. Remember that the Ground fees are not checked or demanded, we rely on honesty of our members to put the money in the box. You can put in $10 for five uses and keep note of it in the sign in book so you can remember. Or you can be generous and give us $3 instead of $2.

We have the Club AGM coming up on June 10th which is a Friday night. Please note your diaries and make an effort to come and enjoy a bit of snack food and a cup of tea or coffee plus our Trophy and Certificate presentation for the year and the AGM which shouldn't take longer than half an hour. Most of our Executive are happy to stay on, however if you have a passion to work with us in the Executive all of our current elected members are happy to have someone step up and work with them. All positive input to our group is welcomed. Our meetings through the year are open to all members and we usually have a shared dinner before them and share all the club information openly.

The Club Executive gets very little feedback from the members as to whether they like the program as the Club runs it, or whether they feel good about their dog work or not. If we know that there are things working well or not then we can tweak the system to make sure everyone is comfortable with their training.

The Club is responsible for Club Competition once a month. A lot of members don't attend even though we advertise it widely. The points earned add up throughout the year and result in trophies and certificates at the end of the year. If you keep winning in your class you go up to a higher level. It gives focus to your training and really is a great day. It is also an opportunity to do our Sprint Competition. What is really amazing is that two new people did their first sprint and won out of B team and into A team on their first outing, so congratulations to Linda and Minnie and Carol and Jade. I finally won out with my Sophie to A Team as well but it has taken twelve months to get there as it has for Pam and KC but we got there in the end. Our Sprint Champ never let us down Nicole and Sophie (2) did three obstacles in A in 11.45 secs.

It is very competitive and great fun. You don't need to train for it and in terms of dog fitness and enthusiasm Sprints are very worthwhile. If you haven't tried Club Competition the next one is on the 14th of May, so come along and be part of the fun. There is no pressure and it is so nice to see all the levels of Club Members working alongside each other. Come and join us as often as you can, that is what Dog Sports is about.

Please send me your photos, adverts, stories, poems etc to be added to our newsletter.

Check out our nationwide placings for some of our NALA dogs in results—awesome !

Happy training
Debbie Trimbach
Club Captain.

Wednesday, April 15 2015

Good Dog Training Newsletter - April 2015

Lets join the club!

A long time ago I joined a Dog Club and started doing Agility and Obedience and Flygility, in fact I would have done any sport that involved dogs having already done a bit of duck and pheasant shooting and some field trial work.

I quite enjoyed the Sport of Agility but I didn't find the Agility Community at that time particularly helpful and caring about the dogs of others. It seemed very hard to say 'what a good run', or ' better luck next time but still a great run'.

If I did express to others that they were magic or amazing I received back a look that said in so many words, 'what would you know anyway'. I slowly started not to enjoy the sport. I moved on to Flygility where sometimes it seemed people and dogs were having a good time, and then again sometimes not. The thing that got me was how disappointed they were about not 'winning' not getting a ribbon. Achievement seemed to be a narrow band of behavior related suppressed emotion. I thought it was weird. If I won a ribbon I was stoked and smiley.

So over a period of time the sports have morphed into the thing where clear round certs count toward getting out of one Jumpers and into another, points can be scored towards titles etc. This spread the feel good thing a bit more generously. Sometimes ribbons to 7th or heaven help me 10th mean that a wider participant achievement is recognised. Now of course we have splits where minis and micros are their own class and Medium and Maxi are a separate class. When I won Novice fifteen years ago with my mini dog, I beat out all the border collies. So the chances of some sort of success have improved over the years.

Anyway for the last 10 years I have concentrated on helping people who owned dogs with apparent behavior problems. Generally proving to me that the dogs were fine but the people who owned them had many issues unresolved not the least of which was that dogs need food and exercise appropriate to their size and location. Dogs all do much the same thing when they receive certain stimulation. Many people do not like that this is the case. For example, the neighbors complain when we are out that the dogs bark all day. What are they barking at? Nobody knows. Half an hour in the back yard and it becomes obvious that as the sparrows land on the roof and the fence and sometimes swoop down onto the lawn, they are winding up the dogs. Of course the dogs shouldn't be wound up by sparrows, but if you are a 50kg guard breed dog in a fenced back yard then that’s what you do to ease the pain of boredom and loneliness. So I have continued to find solutions to the problems people have when they own dogs, and I enjoy that a lot.

However over this period the small club called Dog Sports Rotorua started to lean more and more towards Agility Training. It wasn't planned but after all the behavior aversion (for the owners) and obedience lessons and control lessons for the dogs, we needed to have a focus for the long term club members. Nala was a starting point and from there I have organised four training sessions per week which involve dogs and handlers learning the basics of Agility. Along the way over the last four years some of these people have committed to both the Club and to Dog Training in a way that is extraordinary. Most of these people have not done any form of Dog Handling before, so they have to start by learning which end of the dog to point at the equipment.

It started with Chris Hutchings and Bootz a wee micro that Chris fancied learning to do agility. Now Bootz really did his best and he has competed and won ribbons and gongs but I had to tell her if she was gonna be the manic trainer she would wear this little guy out. Get another dog and she found one free to a good home a Cattle/Collie/Lab who apparently at 4 years old, was not a good stock dog. We did discover as we went along that he can be a wee bit excitable when wound up. However he has gone on to get FD in Flygility and just yesterday got his first AD certificate. You can't fake these qualifications, it isn't just good luck, it is very hard work when you are 70 plus and staying fit requires overlooking the pain of growing older. It is very encouraging when someone such as Chris achieves so much.

The next person to come along and tell me she wanted to do Agility was Debbie Trimbach with Sophie the Border Collie / Heading Dog who was shy and fearful. A beautiful dog and a doting owner. It has taken a couple of years now to really get Sophie going and while she runs very well at Nala and at Club Comp, she doesn't like new places. Today she went to her first Agility Champs and completed all three courses without being spooked by the judge, the equipment or the dogs and people outside the ring. Clear rounds are just around the corner. All this and her handler Debbie has a severe disability. Wow these people are immortal.

I just have to mention Katie who for some years has trundled along to Club with a tiny terrier called Tyson from the Pound. Much though everybody loved Tyson he dawdled around the courses. We tried all manner of motivation but nothing seemed to work to move him. He hated the hurdles, the tunnels the seesaw the dog walk, you name it he hated it. Katie really feels that Agility is her sport for life. At present she works full time, is Partner and mother, has a small acres lifestyle block and time is very precious. Then one day a nice lady from Taupo pitched up at the Club with a Kelpie Border Collie cross going spare, partially trained to do Agility. Hey Katie, I said, here's your dream dog. Not ready to compete yet but what a wonderful mover. Katie is learning all sorts of new handling skills. Yesterday Katie and Meg completed 12 straight weaves. The good news is that having Meg has put a rocket up Tyson’s bum and not to be outdone he is fair barreling around the courses and his weaves are on the up as well.

What do you do when a lovely person tells you she wants to do Agility with a dog who is actually totally unsuitable? You don't tell them and you carry on training them and they get better and better and shock the whole agility world. This is Alex Jones and Shadrock. Shadrock is a Neopolitan Mastiff, American Staff cross, in other words a Pitbull Mastiff. Shaddy has a lovely nature there is no doubt about that but most people think he is going to take them 'out' when they look at him. Nobody has worked harder to bombproof and Agility train a dog than Alex. Today at his first Champs he had a lovely clear round in Jumpers C and Starters 2. Alex is still kicking herself for messing on Shaddy in the Novice ring. This is heroic, believe me there are times when Shadrock looks around and goes Nah not doing this today, this young woman's dedication to motivation has been mind blowing.

Twelve or thirteen months ago a woman turned up at control class with a Poodle, Spaniel, Labradoodle cross. Such a pretty dog as she reminded me today, I always called him 'she' Jesse is now very much a young man. They came to class because he would not come back to her when she called. Apart from the frustration for her as Handler it was also difficult to keep him safe when he ran the other way. I said to her immediately, do you want to do Agility this dog is just perfect. No she said I want him to be a good obedient dog. Today at Champs Show she got her first Champs Ribbon. Third place in Jumpers C. The judge complimented her on the dog's run and another competitor came by to say that she thought she did a lovely run. This partnership will go far. Christine Longton and Jesse definitely haven’t even touched their potential yet.

Gloria and Bear and Macey, Sue and Molly, Sue and Girl, Leonie and Yoyo, Christina and Mia, Linda and Minnie, Renee with Coco and Zulu, Jenni and Bree, Angela and Eddie, Rayne and Gretel, Ann and Gemma are some of our club members working away at their chosen sport with an aim to get good enough to go out and compete in either Fly or Agility and they mean it.

But most of all I want to thank all our club members for their wonderful attitude to one another. They help each other when a dog needs to be held or if there is a problem. They complement each other for doing well and achieving. They take pride in their Club Dog Sports Rotorua and every time one of them adds to the total of placings and clear rounds there is a great yell of excitement. They remember how a particular dog was when he started and how far he has come to becoming a working friend or a competing sports dog. Non competing members come to shows to support their mates. For me this is a great thing to be part of and I really hope that it will continue forever.

Today I attended an Agility Champs Show for the first time in ten or eleven years. The only dog I have to compete with is Becki-boo who is 10 and although she has done a couple of ribbons has never done any Champs shows. She is slower than she used to be but managed three clear rounds from three starts 4th 5th and a 6th placing. Even better I had a bunch of mates with me who all shared lunch under the Club Gazebo and chatted and walked their dogs and competed and enjoyed. That was what was missing 10 years ago when I quit. The companionship of true dog lovers enjoying a day in the sun and the rain. Gives you the warm fuzzies doesn't it. Thank you all again.

Tuesday, February 10 2015


I have decided this year (2015) to start a daily blog about living with my four dogs. I suspect that not too many people live in a house with four cross bred dogs and share most of their property with their pets.

My oldest dog is Becki Boo who is a Foxi Huntaway cross. She only recently became the oldest dog as I had to put my 15 and a half year old Staffie cross to sleep with cancer, So Booey as she is fondly known, isn't that comfortable in her role as Matriarch. Midge the Staffie on the other hand was very comfortable in her leadership role and bossed everyone about, all the other animals and humans included. So we have Booey who of late has become a little rotund. She is ten years old and has decided that working for a living chasing bunnies and doing agility is really not for her and sleeping takes priority. This means that the food supply needs to be cut down accordingly. When she gets too hungry she jumps the fence into the farmyard and pigs out on chicken and duck food, the odd baby rabbit that is as yet too slow to get away and absolutely any revolting mess she can swallow. She has achieve FD with the Flygility Association, purely by longeivity of association I think. She has never liked Fly as it means she has to run alone. If ever people are bemoaning that their dog will never achieve a title, I use Booey as an example. After 10 years she has 48 points and is in grave danger of ending up in Advanced class and getting FDX as well. I enter her in competitions so that other people get a chance to win points. Sometimes her work in teams and pairs elevates her opportunities but it is almost a risk to put her in pairs anymore as she has taken to running half way and quitting and coming back. On the other hand over the years Boo has excelled in Agility. When she was remeasured and ended up being a mini not a medium dog it lifted her game. Then with the split of heights occurring at Ribbon Shows she managed to win herself through to Intermediate. She has had very little training. She has a left hand only weave, doesn't like to loop off and do things on her own and generally needs me to hold her paw and babysit her around a course. She seldom hits hurdles in fact I don't know that she ever has hit even one and stays on the contacts pretty well so she is a bit of a doddle to run.

Many years ago I used to belong to the Kennel Club and go to Agility Champ Shows, and I did modestly well with my mini Rosie a collie corgi mix from the SPCA, she achieved ADX, and Midge the abovementioned Staffie pig dog. With Rosie's demise and the Staffie doing a cruciate, I sort of put Champs on the back burner. But lately I have been training people to learn Agility and they all want to step up and compete at Champs level having experienced the Ribbon thing. So we have all joined up and they are eagerly awaiting their first Show, Probably Rerewhakaaitu as run inMay? March? can't remember by the Rotorua Dog Obedience Club. Now that they insist I join up I have to look at who I am going to run at these fancy Champs. Ten year old Booey comes to mind. So the weight has got to go. Over the last week she has become much more lively with a reduction in opportunity to stuff herself and a general cutback in the food available from the family fridge, so it might be possible to get her out there working. She has a good chance of getting around an AD course in the time allowed so thats a possibility. Becki Boo might be the oldest Starter Course dog in NZ but she is still fit and uninjured and very happy out of a course. A bit more urgency with the speed would help, maybe the waistline trimming will help with that as well. Her NALA work over the years has been steady and she has won top Agility Dog for Dog Sports Rotorua once or twice. So before she becomes too geriatric we will see how her year goes as a competitor - what a laugh.......

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