Sunday, March 30, 2008

Clicker Training

I have been Clicker Training for quiet some time now. I started with my horse, but did not use a clicker. I had a marker word, "Good". It was amazing how well it worked. I did not use it a whole lot. Only when we were on a trail and Jack stepped over some tough obstacles. Note: Jack was blind and he would have to concentrate on my jiggles with the reigns and carefully feel for a secure step.
I would say good boy and he would stop, turn his head to the right and I would lean over and give him a piece of carrot. Way Cool!!

My first dog I clicker trained was Rylie. I did not start out with a clicker, however, the first time I tried it I was hooked. Raygen, Ryker and Ryddick are all clicker trained and I got better with each dog. There are several ways of training with a clicker: Shaping, Luring, Targeting, Capturing.
Depending on what I am trying to train I use all three.
Shaping is for dogs and handlers that are a bit more clicker savvy. It is also called the Thorndike Method. Wait for a behavior to happen, reward the behavior, add a cue while the behavior is happening.
Start by making a plan (in your head). Visualize how the end behavior looks like and break it down into many smaller steps. For example... End behavior is a nose touch to your hand... present the hand near the dogs nose and even the tiniest movement (ear, nose, eyes, muscle) gets a click and a treat (c/t). Sooner or later the dog will figure out that you want his nose to touch the hand.
Some trainers have been rushing Shaping and the steps in training are to big. Kay Laurence, master clicker trainer, started to give it a new name.... micro-shaping. That way nobody can say they didn't understand how small the steps were supposed to be.

Luring is another fun way to train with the clicker. A behavior that I teach using the lure method is "crawl". Dog is in a down. I then put a treat in between the dogs legs and slowly pull it away form the dog. As soon as the dog makes the slightest move forward while still on the down, c/t. If you wait to long to c/t, the dog may get up or give up. Add distance an inch at a time. It is important to fade the lure quickly or the dog will get treat dependent.

Targeting should not be mistaken with luring. I have trained Ryddick's heeling with a target stick.
First you train the dog to touch the target with his nose. When the nose touch is very nice, slowly add movement and have the dog follow the stick. Then have the stick in heel position and start moving forward and c/t as soon as dog keeps up with the stick and you. Then you stop suing the stick and start adding the cue for heeling when the dog is in a heel position. It is pretty simple and you can get some very nice heeling.

Capturing takes patience and sometimes can take a long time. Ryker will scratch himself on cue. Raygen will sneeze on cue. Rylie will kick her rear legs on cue. Ryddick will bow on cue. All behaviors that I have captured. The dog does the behavior on its own and you c/t. If you don't have a clicker handy use a marker word and treat. I pretty much don't use the clicker to long and add a verbal cue very early on.

Clicker training has been around for many years and is a very effective way to communicate with your dog. There are no corrections clicker training. All you do is c/t the behavior you want and ignore the behaviors that you don't. If clicker training did not work for you, then you did not do it right.

Puppysitting Chocolate

I have a little visitor in my house. His name is Chocolate and he is a 9 month old Yorkie/Shi-Tzu mix. Only 7 lbs and so cute. He has been a student of mine since September of last year and attends Puppy Play on a regular basis. He is very well behaved. Angela, the owner, has been one of my best students and put a lot of work into training him basic manners. He doesn't jump up, he is good in his crate or ex-pen, he has been housebroken since he was very little and stopped biting at feet and hands. I introduced him to all my dogs and let him run around in the yard with Rylie, Raygen, Ryddick and Ryker. He likes Ryddick best and even played with in in my doggy playroom. I will post some more pictures of him playing with my big dogs soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why Train Tricks?

I strongly believe that teaching tricks is important to having a good relationship with your dog (or other pets:Cat, Horse, Guinea Pig, Rabbit etc)

Everything we teach dogs is based on tricks: LLW, Recall, Retrieve, Sit, Down, Stand are the very basic "tricks" that your dog should know. But why stop there? I used to participate in a Freestyle group in Southern California and that was the most fun Rylie and I had. She quickly picked up new tricks and loved performing them. I then realised that because it was a "no pressure" training class she performed much better than in Obedience and Rally-Obedience. Sure, I always tried to keep our obedience training fun and used treats and toys, but would put on to much pressure and she is not a dog that could handle to much.
Reasons to train Tricks:
It is fun
You will learn how to train your dog better
Dog will quickly learn new behaviors
Keep the dogs mind busy
Entertain the crowd and maybe even enter an event and win a prize
Dogs that know tricks are more confident

Planned Rally and Agility Trials 2008

Here is a list of trials I have been to this year and upcoming planned trials.

January 12th and 13th, AKC Agility in Farmington, Utah
February 9th and 10th, ASCA Agility in Farmington, Utah
February 16th and 17th, AKC Agility in South Jordan, Utah
March 15th and 16th, DOCNA in Farmington, Utah
March 21/22/23, AKC Rally-Obedience, Farmington, Utah
April 26th and 27th, USDAA, Pleasant Grove, Utah
May 1/2/3/4, AKC Agility and Rally-Obedience, South Jordan, Utah
May 17th and 18th, ASCA Agility Pleasant Grove, Utah
May 24/25/26, AKC Agility, Sandy, Utah
June 6/7/8, AKC Rally and Agility, Farmington, Utah
June 12/13/14/15, AKC Agility, Blackfoot, Idaho
June 21/22/23, USDAA, Sandy, Utah

July 11/12, AKC Agility, Farmington, Utah
July 14/15/16/17/18 C Spot Win Camp, Laramie
August 1st and 2nd, ASCA Agility, Pleasant Grove, Utah
August 8/9/10, USDAA, Pleasant Grove, Utah
August 30/31 and Sept. 1st, AKC Agility, Sandy, Utah
September 12/13/14, AKC Agility and Rally Obedience, Farmington, Utah
September 26/27/28, AKC Agility, Pocatello, Idaho

October 4/5 Control Unleshed Seminar with Leslie McDevitt, Farmington
October 9/10/11/12, AKC Agility and Rally-Obedience, Boise, Idaho
October 24/25/26, AKC Agility, Rigby, Idaho
December 6th and 7th, USDAA, Farmington, Utah

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Seminars in 2008

I just got back from a seminar with two time World Agility Champion Silvia Trkman. It was great!! Didn't want for it to stop. She is an amazing trainer and really helped me out to do some very nice handling. Ryker enjoyed the experience and he was very well behaved in his crate when the other dogs were running.
I shared the ride to Colorado with my friend Julie and her dogs Rift and Cash. We shared a room at the Drury Inn. Rift was signed up to attend the puppy class. I was auditing it. Some of the exercises I already knew to do. But she had some other great ides, which I will incorporate into my classes as well.
Next Seminar is going to be a small one with Liz Blasio in April, with Ryker. Then I signed up for a working spot at C Spot Win Camp in July again with Ryker.
And in October I am signed up for a working spot at the CU seminar with Leslie McDevitt, with Ryddick.
I think that will do for this year unless something else pops up that I find interesting. I did attend the Clicker EXPO in L.A. in Febuary and that again was a great place to be.
Since I flew out there I did not bring any dogs. Wish I could take Raygen or Rylie to those. Next year I may work for Sandra and will get free pass to the EXPO. More money for the store ;-)