Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Look For Hidden Training Opportunity.

We do not live in a perfect world. No matter how hard we try to control the variables within our training environment there are no guarantees. If your thrower tosses an inaccurate mark, the wind changes, or if the dog chooses to do a task in a way you’ve never seen him do before, a hidden opportunity to teach your dog can arise. Our dogs are not always going to have a clear crisp visual on a mark, the perfect wind, or a direct path to a bird and it can be valuable to expose your dog to these imperfect situations. Keep in mind the hazards or failures that could occur. Approach these opportunities with a teaching frame of mind: simplify where need be or help your dog complete the retrieve. Inopportune situations can also help your training be thorough by revealing holes or weaknesses in your dog. Teaching your dog how to feel good about making choices in the field can be the difference between getting a ribbon or not. Keep your overall goal in mind, be flexible, and utilize an unexpected moment to teach your dog.

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Advance In Baby Steps.

Casal's Remember The Titans, Boone Youngblood learning how to HOLD.
Casal’s Remember The Titans, Boone Youngblood learning how to HOLD.

Progress your dog in small increments. What seems to be a simple task or step in advancement to us humans may not be so simple for our dogs. Our dogs do not possess the ability to reason such as the human mind. They learn through repetition and proper conditioning.

Here are some good rules to follow:
1. Whenever the distance between the dog and the bumper/bird is increased, the task is in an advancement state.
2. Whenever the distance between the Handler and dog is increased, the task is in an advancement state.
These rules will help you not to advance your lessons on multiple tasks in one session or advance too quickly. The rules will also help you know when or how to simplify the task or lesson if your dog is experiencing too many failures. Keep your training simple, isolate lessons, teach through a “Yes”, and always try to end on a positive note.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Consistency Is Key.

Hope Cheika caught in the act of chewing on a shoe.
Hope Cheika caught in the act of chewing on a shoe.

Consistency is a key component to any successfully trained dog. Once an individual determines the training program, philosophy, and goals for their dog the ground rules must be set. In setting the ground rules for any program it is imperative to use consistent repetitions.  “Practice makes perfect,” as long as it is consistent throughout the dog’s life. For instance, if your puppy is allowed to chew on your shoe for weeks with no consequence and then while innocently chewing on your shoe like many times before, receives a correction it becomes unclear to your puppy as to what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior. This type of inconsistency breeds apprehension, lack of effort, and poor attitudes. The puppy’s unacceptable behavior should have been corrected the first or second time the chewing took place and treated proactively by replacing the shoe with an acceptable chew toy.

From the moment your dog wakes up, to the moment he falls asleep, you can positively or negatively influence the habits and behaviors your dog will have for its entire life, simply by your consistencies or lack thereof. Most dogs thrive on a routine, when life is scheduled out for them they learn when it’s time to eat, when it’s time to rest, and when it’s time to go to work. The dog also learns what behaviors are normal, what behaviors elicit praise, and what behaviors are followed by a correction.  It is this routine that establishes your standards in black and white for your dog. These standards help your dog understand where their place is in their world as your dog.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Strive For Balance.

L to R Jeremy Aul, Libby Russell, Doc Aul, & Leif Heise
L to R Jeremy Aul, Libby Russell, Doc Aul, & Leif Heise

When training your dog, be sure to provide a variety of activities. Teach a lesson such as “Sit” then throw the dog some “Marks” in your next lesson. Don’t go through a weeks worth of “Sit” lessons several times a day without a change of scenery or additional activity. Your dog will become bored and not look forward to working.

Your dog is full of energy, in need of exercise, and possesses an intelligent mind in need of a challenge. Dogs are also very social animals that thrive on your interaction and enthusiasm with them. While training, be consistent in your goals, build your lessons, and most of all seek balance within your training routine or program. When your dog is balanced, he/she will look forward to training and rise to the occasion when faced with a challenge.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Point Straight.

Quin Knaack running a blind retrieve.
Quin Knaack running a blind retrieve.

There are several philosophies on where and how to point your dog when running marks and blinds. Many competitive dogs are trained to go where they are pointed. An advantage when the Handler is accurate, a disadvantage when the Handler is inaccurate. Yet, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

The consistency of pointing a dog straight on marks and blinds can help your dog gain trust in their Owner/Handler/Trainer. Trust from your dog is an invaluable asset when competing and training. If a dog trusts where he/she is pointed and will go in that direction with gallant effort many lessons and success’ can be achieved.

For example, if your dog’s memory is a little fuzzy when they return from the second mark in a triple and the dog allows the Handler to point them in a direction of the third retired mark essentially, helping or talking the dog into remembering the mark then the probability of the dog finding the mark will be great. Even if the dog does not initially remember the third retired mark but, will start off in a direction the Handler points them. Once the dog travels halfway out to the mark his/her memory maybe refreshed and the mark pinned. Leaving the “BLUE” ribbon yours for the taking!

Many variables play into a dog team’s success during competition. If a Handler has a variety of tools to choose from then it should be easier for the dog team to adapt to these variations. Lighting, scenting conditions, wind direction, or consistent timing etc. can not be guaranteed on the weekend. However, if you have a dog that will trust the Handler the possibilities become infinite. In conclusion, point straight, don’t make it a habit to false line your dog and earn your dog’s trust.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day:  Take A Positive Approach To Exposure.

Hope Cheika
Hope Cheika at 16 weeks old enjoying her exposure to the Force Fetch table

Dogs naturally fear the unknown. Many dogs take a curiously cautious approach to a new environment or situation. Intelligent dogs notice change and differences in their environment immediately. Most dogs may notice the change or differences and not be effected by it. These dogs most likely experienced a variety of positive exposure to their world early in their social development. Where other less exposed dogs may struggle displaying a sensitivity and apprehension with change, new lessons or environments. For this reason, an owner/trainer must try to expose the puppy or dog to all kinds of situations, environments, people, and conditions they can think of in a positive reassuring manner. Proper socialization is critical in the development of a confident, well balanced working dog, with a positive working attitude.

Recently, a friend of mine called with a question about training the Force Fetch. He was having some difficulties reading his dog’s attitude. He wondered why the dog was showing apprehension in the lessons of the Force Fetch. He also mentioned that his dog performed the Force Fetch better on the ground and seemed to be more at ease then when his dog was on the Force Fetch table. When he made the statement I asked how and when he exposed his dog to the Force Fetch table. He replied he had placed his dog on the table and quickly began teaching the dog to hold and fetch. At that moment it became clear the Force Fetch table had never been properly exposed to the dog in a positive manner. The dog’s initial experience with the Force Fetch table involved a new lesson which included negative reinforcement. A recipe for a poor training attitude in this stage of the dog’s fundamental lessons. Never fear all is not lost, dogs are resilient creatures. The oversight was recognized and a new training approach was taken with the 6 month old pup resulting in a better training attitude with great effort and success.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Training Tip Of The Day: Use White Bumpers To Enhance Marking.

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L to R: Canvas 3 in., 2 in paint roller, 2 in puppy canvas, 3 in foam bumper

To teach a dog to mark one must first teach the dog to use their eyes before their nose. Puppies begin nursing by using their noses to find mamma’s chow wagon. By the time a puppy is old enough to begin marking they have had plenty of practice using their nose and need to learn how to use their eyes in conjunction with their nose. Using white bumpers will help accomplish this task. The white is very visible in the air, on the ground, and in cover. The puppy will learn from his/her success.

Start marking the puppy in short grass, at a short distance, where the bumper is visible to the puppy. As the puppy’s enthusiasm and accuracy increases then start challenging the puppy by adding factors. Factors include: hills, wind, ditches, variable cover, and lastly distance. Be cognizant, of the puppy’s ratio of success to failure on marks. If the puppy has to hunt out a mark or the thrower needs to help the puppy to find the mark then this would be considered a failure and should be repeated or simplified. If the puppy has to hunt out a mark too often then the use of the nose will become primary and the use of the eyes secondary. A good marker utilizes all their senses. However, dogs that rely on sight primarily, sound, and scent secondary have a higher percentage of accuracy in their marking.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Leave Your Hand In.

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Using a hand above the dog’s head to Que the dog before he/she is sent for a mark can optimize focus. The dogs at Bay Blue Kennels are trained to remain sitting until the hand is placed over their head and the dog’s name is called. This sequence is black and white for the dog. The dog can anticipate a send on the mark only when the hand comes in and not a moment before. The use of the hand helps with keeping a dog rock-steady.

As a practice, I use the hand above the head and leave it in until a mark hits the ground to indicate a single mark is being thrown. The dog will remain focused in the area of the field he/she is pointed and bear down honing in on the throw from the time it is released from the thrower’s hand until the bird hits the ground. This practice is very effective for a dog who is an habitual head-swinger. Head-swinging is a product of a dog that is rushed in training, lacks focus, or has had an unbalanced amount of multiple marks. A consistent use of the hand can benefit both handler and dog by establishing clear communication at the line.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: “The End Is The End”

Niki & T6Your dog’s training sessions should be short and sweet. A puppy has a fluttering attention span that can be easily distracted in seconds. Older dogs are a bit more simple to progress since they posses a broader memory and retention of their lessons. Even though retriever training drills may not become boring for all dogs, maintaining a happy focused student can be tough. Stay positive and upbeat to inspire a good training attitude. Remember to start with an enthusiastic student and end on a perfectly completed repetition or task. Let the dog enjoy his/her success in the lesson.

If you determine the lesson is over then let the lesson be over. Don’t put you and your dog in a situation where you might give another command. If the command given is not obeyed then a correction must ensue when the work was supposed to be over.This situation is a slippery slope of a contradiction in terms. Your dog was under the impression the time to work was complete and will not understand why he/she is now being commanded to work again. As an owner/trainer if you contradict your lessons and their ending terms then the student (dog) will become uneasy not knowing when they can relax or when they will be called to perform. The lines of time to work, time to play, or time to rest will become gray and result with a poor training attitude.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Observe Your Surroundings.

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Study your surroundings, take note of how you can utilize your environment to the fullest. At Bay Blue Kennels the front yard features towering Blue Spruce which provide generous shade for training basic obedience on hot, sunny, summer days in Au Gres, MI. The base of the Blue Spruce have circular rock beds that aid in guiding puppies into figure eight turns. On the west side of the kennel a new fence stands 4 ft. away from a chain-link fence that was on the property when we purchased it. The fences create a long lane, an ideal space to teach puppies a reliable return while retrieving or to run straight to a pile. Where ever you reside or spend time with your dog take the time to imagine the training possibilities.

Happy Training!