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Monday, February 3 2014

Good Dog Training Newsletter -February 2014


Towards the end of last year it became apparent to me that I was failing some of the dogs, and people who come along to Dog Sports. My feelings of failure really came to a head with the three Bella’s.

Bella #1 came to me three and a half years ago with her owner Mo. Bella is a Labrador/ Sharpei. She is a hyperactive, full on, fun loving, barking dog. Mo despaired of her, she would take her for a run at the local dog park and Bella just disappeared. This left Mo with many hours of worry until she finally turned up again. Smiling all over her face and telling Mo what a lovely time she had had, she then proceeded to drag Mo by the leash back to car or back home via the walk to the park. We started training her to do Control, and then Obedience and then Flygility. She loved it all, when she concentrated she was fantastic, for about twenty seconds and then she ran off to do whatever, jump in the trough, chase a bird. She really loves playing tennis ball. Nothing really calms her down. However, she is a great animal.

Bella #2 is a Greyhound cross pig dog. She also loves to chase things, coursing really as Greyhounds do. She is also a fun loving dog, no malice. She belongs to Leonie and her husband and children whom she loves dearly. We have been working on Bella's Flygility for a couple of years now, and sometimes she is just terrific and other times she goes zoomies around and around the training grounds just burning off energy and trying to rark up all the other dogs. She loves to take a playmate or two with her on the zoomies and generally winds up half the Flygility class. Bella road runs with Leonie for exercise and should be getting enough to burn off her frustrations.


Bella #3 is a White Swiss Shepherd, a fabulous looking dog, almost full grown. She belongs to Rebekkah and her family with Mum Debbie taking equal responsibility for her training. Bella is quite shy, especially worried that other dogs are going to 'get' her. She is due to be spayed, so some of her nervousness could be her starting to mature, however, in my opinion she is a typical Shepherd who really needs confident handling

Obedience Class, but it is slow progress, and as soon as a new dog comes into class she wants to run back to her car (which we encourage her to do) and to bark and fuss and pretend she is aggressive to the new thing. There are a bunch of other dogs who come to classes, who are still lacking confidence, are over protective of their owner/handlers and are slow to learn to concentrate, in spite of the best and most sincere endeavors of their han-dlers. Bear, George, Gus, Mac, Tippy, Sabre, Jezz, Petra, Harry, Sophie, and others…

On top of that, one of the things I have noticed at Obedience/ Agility Shows, is the number of dogs who are working beautifully in the ring, but who have muzzles taken off before they go in to compete and put on again when they come out. They are unable to stand quietly close to other dogs without lashing out and there are a number of dogs who are incredibly nervous, which ruins their performance opportunity. Then there are some who just leave the ring in panic, particularly junior dogs.

I have puzzled over this for a long time. I have owned two dogs who were slow to settle in new places and when faced with new dogs, but it never took two years or more to settle them down. Twelve months and they are over it. So what is going on?

Dogs are pack animals. Rolls off the tongue easily, but do we actually understand what it means. It means that whenever a dog steps outside its own territory it has to find its place in a new pack. Every time a new dog comes into the pack territory the home dogs need to show the new dog its place in life. Mostly at the bottom of the ladder. All of the above behaviors of dogs at our club are born out of stress. That stress is created by us, the owner handlers, because we interfere with the natural integration program that the dogs want to follow, so that everyone fits in with everyone else. How does that work you might well ask. Well there you go, you have no idea, and I probably only have an inkling of an idea after all these years of observation. This is what I know.

When you arrive at a new place, or where there will be other dogs that your dog might or might not know, leave your dog in your truck, or if you have walked there, tie your dog up to a post or tree and put a piece of your gear down beside it. Now go for a walk on your own and suss out what might be around that you think might cause your dog grief. Why, well because it will be your surprised scared behavior that sets off a negative chain of events that can have terrible consequences. In order to move your dog on, you need to let it know that this is a safe place and the dogs here are safe. HOW will you know if it is a safe place from your dog's point of view - a dog will only accept food if it is comfortable, it will only play with its toy or ball if it is relaxed. SO. Get out that treat pot and feed your dog a small amount while it is confined, tied or in the truck with the door open. Pat your dog, tell him he is a good boy, feed him a bit more. With a leash attached to his collar but not held by you, drop it on the ground, do a little bit of off lead heel work. Do some go look / come look stuff. Tell your dog this is a 'new place'. Play tug with his toy. If a dog/cycle/child on skateboard comes around a corner towards where you are working calm him, tell him 'new dog/cycle/child'. When another dog runs up to your confined dog, tell him 'Good Boy'. Remember your dog is confined or has a leash attached, the other dog/cycle/child is the aggressor. Back your dog, don't touch him, step away from him, keep telling him good dog in a calm voice. When the other dog, cycle, or whatever has come close to him, has moved on, go back in there and tell him good boy and give him another treat. If you are working out of your vehicle, encourage him to get back in and let him come out at his own pace. Don't rush him.

Two things now. If your dog's tail is up, his ears are normal, he is looking at you 'What's next boss', then you can move on with your continued introduction to new place, if not - the dog is fearful, lying on the ground tail tucked up, ears flat, or growling, lunging barking at the aggressor, then take your dog home do not continue with your new place walk or introduction. Your dog will not get any enjoyment from this walk and will have a negative experience.

So what to do with dogs who, for one reason or another, have worked up a stress related behavior over a period of time, which overpowers them and makes them behave either crazy or aggressive or a bit of both. Free run class is for them... Free run class teaches people to trust their dog, to back their dog and to take action to manipulate their dog into a calmer emotional space. Free run also allows the dogs to make contact with each other in a doggy way, without us interfering too much. I will interfere if it looks like the aggression is getting a bit over the top, but I don't want the owner/handlers interfering because someone will get bitten. There is a massive emotional THING going on about our dogs, in our heads. One of them is - 'what if my dog gets killed' and the other is 'what if my dog kills someone else's dog'.

Natural things that dogs do: Chase other moving things, jump on and push down other dogs, growl at other dogs and people they do not know, run away in fear, run up to other dogs they perceive are in their territory, protect their boundary fences, protect their owner (if he/she allows it). Bark incessantly when their territory is breached. Chase children or other animals making noises that sound like screaming. Grab hold of things they think are moving to attack them. Bite hard when they feel very threatened. Lose the ability to stop attacking once they reach a certain level of hysteria. Are all these things avoidable - yes but good solid control training is absolutely essential.

Be aware that the beautiful fluffy border collie pup is not a wind-up toy. It is capable of doing all of the above, and so are most dogs. Sensible things, if you own a large dog, be aware that even if your dog is playing he may kill a small dog. If you own a very small dog, keep it safe, it does not belong at a public park where huge dogs are running, there might be an accident.

Free run class is:

 designed to teach people who are dog handlers and owners, how to introduce their dogs off lead in a busy space with lots of other dogs (such as when you go to dog shows)

 designed to let the dogs burn off a bit of energy both physi-cal and emotional; and

 designed to allow the dogs to find their place in 'that pack' without interference from nitwits who have no idea what language their dog or any others are speaking.

To achieve this I have set aside an hour from 3p.m. till 4p.m. on Saturday to Free Run. We have had three sessions and they have all been just magic. Come and watch if you are doubtful. Your dog needs to weigh at least twelve kilos to participate, (Gus is the exception).

My hoped for outcome is:

 dogs that learn how to fit into new stressful situations with-out going over the top.

 dogs that start to follow good body language emitted by their handler.

 dogs that can concentrate on the game at hand without losing the plot.

Val said it all when she said. 'I don't have to worry about them any-more, I don't feel stressed when they rush off to other dogs, I know nothing is going to happen and I know what to do'. What a great start to the year!

Thursday, March 7 2013

The end of Summer Flyball tonight.

Since daylight savings kicked in at the beginning of October and with the exception of two weeks over Christmas New Year, we have had Summer Flyball on Thursday nights from 6p.m till 8p.m. We started with a raw bunch of 16 dogs and retained 12 for the whole season. Those who had done Flygility formed the Senior division and all the rest were Juniors.

We set out to teach the dogs to race against each other. The gear is minimal four fly hurdles in each lane, one box at the appropriate end. No catch nets not centre cloth. Why did I choose to do this. Well I watch dogs being unable to regroup back to the flyhurdle when they muff the ball at Flygility and I figured that if a dog knocks the ball all over town they need a good opportunity to get back on track. This has worked well with all the dogs orientating back over the first fly hurdle very well. Without a centre cloth the dogs had to learn that there was a dog running just over there and get on with it. Most of them have got that idea going as well. We started out running the lanes 20 meters apart and now we are back to about 8or 9 meters.

Flyball is actually faster than Flygility even when you put the bends it so it has given our good competitive dogs fitness and speed by keeping it simple. We can put the weaves in and sometimes the tunnel and make it complex, but no Agility hurdles are in Flyball. We can run teams with Flyball and we can do single lane work when the numbers are low because it rained or it is just one of those weeks where everybody is very busy.

One of the great upshots of this regular eventing is how good everyone gets at box loading, timing runs, starting and judging and keeping the results board up to date. At the start of the season everyone was shy but now everyone just pitches in which is just terrific.

But what actually made the nights was the sausage sizzle. The whole flyball night is a fundraiser for the Club and succeeds in raising about $800 per summer season (this is our third). We light up the barbie at about 5.30, cook the sausages and onions and put them in a casserole dish on the back burner and everyone comes along and helps themselves to bread sauce onions and sausage. It helps us to get through that 6 till 8 p.m. bracket where everyone is a little bit peckish. Sometimes someone brings biscuits. Like tonight, chocky ones as a treat.

The outstanding dogs, who win or score well take home another one of those purple ribbons. Purple ribbon rewards will be handed out at the AGM in early April. We have all won a few over the season for one reason or another. It is a great fun night and the dogs have progressed hugely from the start of the season. We are very lucky to have dogs of a high calibre in this group as it makes the juniors push for higher standards of training. Judy Casey and Tui are a joy to have at the top of the class as they are also ranked 2nd in NZ for Nala Flygility. But Chris Hutchings Boston and my Chan don't let Tui get away with much. One of the challenges is the 100% catch rate from the ball box. 10 out of 10 balls gives you a nice reduction in your overall times for the night, so everyone tries to get 100% Judy and Chris have risen to the challenge and the some of the juniors such as Maddy and Bella are knocking on the door with regular 70 and 80%. Janina's J and Poppy are both capable of 95 to 100%. My point is that the ball catch is the difference between winning a round and losing a round.

All in all it has been an outstanding season and we will now concentrate on bringing all these happy Flyballers up to NALA Flygility standard over the winter. They are all up for the challenge.

My heart felt thanks to Chris Hutchings for taking over the barbecue and buying the goodies. It is extremely hard to do this kind of fund raising on one's own. It has been a team effort this year and I am truly grateful for that. Bring on the next summer flyball, I have dreamt up some new challenges for the next season. Thank you to all who participated..


Wednesday, February 20 2013

Moving the Dog Club

For the last four years we have had a dog training club running from the Rail Park in Ngongotaha. For many and various reasons the Rail Trust and the District Council did not like us being there. When we first moved there we had 19 dogs and about 14 handlers. Now we have close to 40 handlers and about 50 dogs in various stages of development and playing various games. This growth caused huge anst to the Rotorua District Council because we did not have Resource Consent to train dogs in the middle of the Ngongotaha Township. Either in panic or out of some form of pique the Rail Trust decided to rip up the Memorandum of Understanding they had with us, while claiming we owned back 'rent' and did not pay for 'events' that they thought we were holding. Basically I think they were worried about us being there without Resource Consent. There was nothing in the Rail Trust Consent to allow Dog Training so it may not have been in their best interests that we were there.

Every month without fail we paid the Rail Trust the contents of our 'koha' box. We asked every person coming onto the grounds for training to make a gift to our money box and this was paid to the Rail Trust. We never paid 'rent' as such as we understood their lease to the crown specifically disallowed subletting by the Trust. So anyway we needed to find a new home. I came up with several ideas most of which fell short of reality. For example, the Rotorua District Council had no intention of letting a dog training outfit set up on any of their many rural and suburban reserves. So it was a matter of finding private land again, that the Club could afford.

The Stock Car Club at Paradise Valley was one of my suggestions. On first look this does not seem like a very exciting venue, however, they have allowed us to park our Shipping Container of gear in a prominent corner, we have water at a tap - right there. They are happy to help up get power back on to our container so we can make a cuppa and heat the soup in winter and turn the light on on dull days, but best of all they want to help us get a night flood light so that we can do evening training through the winter months. This is just awesome. What is good about the stock car grounds is that it is mostly a huge parking lot in grass and dirt. We couldn't hurt it if we tried. Everyone can drive right to the ringside to train their dogs. They can work their dogs out of their cars. The dogs are comfie, we are comfie as we can sit in our cars to take five and eat our lunch or whatever. Wonderful. The toilets are more than adequate. Tonight the 20th February 2013 we had our first training night for Agility at the new grounds. It was absolutely spectacular. The scenery is just gorgeous, the peace and quiet are superb, the space is just massive. Training was fantastic, what else can I say. It looks like we have a great future ahead of us at this venue. It isn't cheap for a small group. $250 per month, so we have to beef up our funding arrangements. We have made the Koha from the old venue into a compulsory $2 green fee payable once a week. If you train twice a week it is just $2. So far our calculations are holding up and we will make the grade with this. The big issue is wet days no training days, so we have to have a couple of fundraiser things every month just to help us feel secure. We will continue with Flyball which makes about $25 per week after expenses and we may hold a raffle or two each month. Just little things that make $50 here and $50 there.. When we needed money at the start of the Club 7 years ago, we used to cater brilliant morning teas and charge $2 for a cuppa and whatever yummy morning tea things were brought in by Club members. This was very popular so we might need to re-institute some of these things.

As the Club Trainer I am very relieved that we have found a home. The biggest thanks goes to Christine Hutchings who has moved and shaken this whole fiasco. She has applied herself to the limit. Her committment to the Club is just the greatest. She sets a brilliant example and if the new Committee get on board Chris' enthusiasm then we will truly have a Club that is going places. The Resource Consent from the District Council was not the easiest to obtain and it cost us something short of $900. Which truly is a lot of money for a small club to pay for the right to train dogs at a country venue where the land owners and the neighbours had agreed that we were suitable tenants. We did wonder what the District Council had on its mind, charging this kind of money to a community organisation, in particular an organisation that takes responsibility for training some of the district's difficult dogs and acts as a support group for all dog owners in the Rotorua District whether they are members or not. In particular we have had a number of 'hard to train' rehomes from the Rotorua District Council Pound. But to Chris for her perseverence in the face of a quite negative set of circumstances, I can but say thank you again from the bottom of my heart. If she had not done the hard yards to get us moved, I doubt the Club would have survived.

So here's to the future of Dog Sports Rotorua. A truly alternative style dog training organisation without ties to the NZ Kennel Club, with a place for every dog and assistance for all dog owners. It is Flyball night tomorrow night. The first one at the new venue. I just can't wait. It truly excites me to be the games organisor for Dog Sports. See you all there...


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