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Distraction Work in Dog Training: A Conversation Between Friends

Posted on 02/05/12 74 Comments

Recallers 3.0 is “officially” over in that the lessons and webinars have all been delivered. However the community is still wildly active inside. Many of the students are repeating the course all over again, as a group! Lynda O-H has

been running a series of “Crate Games” challenges for everyone. Another amazing group of students (and staff) and I once again feel blessed for all the people that keep my life so interesting and full.
Having reviewed a boat load of Crate Games video clips recently I have seen a common mechanical issue I would like to address. Crate Games is a fantastic way to introduce distractions into your training with your dog or young puppy. Your dog should stay and if he doesn’t you simply close the door of the crate. No need to verbally or physically interfere with the dog; he makes his choices, you provide consequences for those choices. However, for some reason people feel the need to stack these distractions one after another during their training, which I see as unbelievably deflating to the dog. Here 15 Week old Swagger demonstrates his understanding,

holding his “stay” while his favorite toy is thrown in front of him.

The way I look at it, every challenge or distraction we throw at a dog in Crate Games is like asking the dog a question, in the past I have referred to this as “Green Eggs and Ham” training (from the Dr. Seuss book of the same name). Working your distractions this way is like having a conversation between you and your dog, it should be a playful exchange. Picture this “conversation” between Swagger and I during a round of Crate Games:

Susan: “Swagger, do you know you are supposed to sit still in your crate even if I smack your favourite toy on the ground?
Swagger: An enthusiastic; “Yes, yes I know that!”

Although no words are spoken Swagger communicates his answer to me with clarity by his responses; his tail wagging, his nails turned out on all of his paws as he is showing great intensity, wanting his favourite toy but holding form to earn it. Swagger is a keen participate here, completely focused as he waits for me to evaluate the quality of his answer.

Susan: “SUPA-STAR!”

I praise wildly, and either release him immediately to play with that favorite toy or I run back to deliver a cookie directly into his mouth as he sits holding position in his crate. If I feel his answer is not a quality one, I may choose to re-set the session. I evaluate each answer Swagger gives me. If I don’t like his response I swiftly move in and close the door of the crate, if I do like his response, I reward the good choice.

It is simply a conversation between friends.

Imagine if you are having a conversation with your friend, they ask you a question and you give a brilliant answer, you are feeling kind of proud of yourself with your insightful answer! Immediately after you respond your friends says “Aaah, yeah but . . . “ and challenges you further on the subject. You are confused, because you thought your first answer was pretty darn good, so you re-formulate your words and give you friend a new answer. Once again they immediately come back at you, pushing you more “Okay, sure but . . .” Doesn’t this start to feel a little antagonistic? Don’t you feel a little deflated and frustrated by your friend?

Here is what such a conversation between a dog and his trainer would sound like:

Trainer: “Do you know you are not supposed to move when I throw your tennis ball?”
Dog’s: “YEP! I sure do know the answer to THAT question.”

The dog expresses his answer by making the correct choice, narrowing his eyes and enthusiastically wags his tail awaiting the results of his good choice.

Trainer: “Yeah, but do you know you are not supposed to move when I drop a cookie?”
Dog; Slightly less enthused, maybe now the nails on his front paws are now retracted but his tail still thumps a little slower as he says; “Yes, yes, I know that too!”
Trainer: “Yeah but do you know you shouldn’t move if I drop a whole handful of cookies, right in front of your crate?”
Dog: The tail is no longer moving, his eyes are starting to glaze over as he communicates to you a disinterested; “Sure, I guess so.”

Eventually this dog loses the joy of this game. It is no longer a game to him, it is a one sided conversation, more like an interrogation rather than a playful exchange. “Stays” become stressful, the dog worries.

Distraction training is meant to be a playful banter back and forth between friends, not a one sided cross-examination. It is meant to be fun for everyone. You ask a question, you evaluate the quality of the answer and you respond appropriately, laughing is recommended during this exchange because that is what friends do when they talk to each other.

Please consider this the next time you want to work control behaviours with your dog. Training this way works, it really does work and is is incredibly fun for all involved!

Today I am grateful for the pure joy my dogs show during any control responses. Regardless if it is an intense wait at the start line in agility or a relaxed out-of-sight stay in obedience; interactive communication starting with Crate Games has taught them the boundaries of the game and they are always happy to play along, abiding by the rules.


  1. Brooke says:
    Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 6:33am

    Pure gold Susan. I can totally relate with both humans and with my three dogs. Doing my best to cultivate respect


  2. converse sverige online says:
    Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 1:50pm

    Hmm it appears like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any tips and hints for first-time blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 2:02pm

      Write from a place of service, share what you know that may help, even just one person. If you blog this way it will never be work to you.


  3. Mariah Hinds says:
    Monday, October 8, 2012 at 10:33pm

    When is recallers and inner circle coming back? Will it be in December again? I don’t want to miss it!


  4. Pensieve says:
    Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 8:08am

    I am wondering if people don’t get the idea of larding on distractions from Crate Games itself. Isn’t there a part in the intro to Crate Games where first one ball goes by, and then another ball, and then 50 balls? Come to think of it, the dog’s tail isn’t moving at that point, though as I recall, he still seems interested. Maybe scenes like these are just supposed to be fun illustrations, but could it be that the students mistake what they see for the real deal; that is, they get the idea they’re supposed to emulate them when they train.


  5. Isabel says:
    Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:51pm

    That reminds me of a college interview I had nearly 50 years ago. I answered the interviewers question, speaking slowly, thoughtfully, and thought I was good. her response was pure silence – perhaps that was 10 to 15 seconds long. Then a 2nd question and her same response to my answer. By the time I left, I just KNEW that I had flunked.

    That was the college interview I have NEVER forgotten. I actually did go to that school and had a great education there. But the interview was my first lesson in what to never do to anyone else.


    • Pensieve says:
      Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 8:01am

      I’m just looking at this weeks later, and let me tell you, that is an old journalist’s trick. (I am an old journalist.) When the person you’re interviewing finishes, you stay silent. Often now, after a little pause, the most interesting stuff starts coming out. Maybe she heard about this technique. Obviously, in your situation, it wasn’t the right technique to use!


  6. Debbie says:
    Friday, March 9, 2012 at 9:40am

    Perfect timing. I just read Green Eggs and Ham with one of my preschool classes!I will use this reference with my canine classes this week. Fun to use playful voices training kids, dogs, and adults….


  7. Isabelle says:
    Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 8:53pm

    this was so thought provoking for me as I have been striking with a dog that is so stimulated by distractions that I have only a alert window before she disconnects and leaves to explore the environment…. even if I think I am funthe take-off happens…. it is hard to know where to go when she turns off working with me…. this generally happens with environments that are common vs. a new environment….backwards from what I expected. 🙁


  8. Ruth says:
    Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 4:10pm

    Merry & I used to play all sorts of silly things at home & front up at training to a strict regime that had no reference to joy at all. She loved me and would do anything for me, despite this. We’ve won more than our share in Obedience, got our Endurance down (LOOOOOVES the bike rides!) and are testing our next level of incompetence in agility. I really like the idea of a “conversation” between us as friends & will bless the friend that introduced me to Susan’s blog etc for as long as I have dogs. It has made our playtime blend with our worktime so well – we often run a course with a tug or ball as I wait for my husband to back the car out the gate, or when we get home from a night out. That minute or two is always fun, always valuable and the highlight of our day.


  9. Pam Coblyn says:
    Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 4:09pm

    I recently changed the whole dynamic between myself and my dog. We’d been doing training for competition obedience (we also do agility) and it was boring beyond tears. Add in my frustration that we weren’t improving as a team and my dog’s frequency of checking out. I changed this around with a new training attitude for myself. I hadn’t tapped into my border collie’s joy of learning and trying hard to be “right”. We had a complete turnaround and I only trained when I was joyful. We now have an ongoing conversation and my dog’s communicating his happiness with huge smiles, total attention and eagerness to do his heeling patterns. We have gotten into the GROOVE! And my biggest breakthrough was to bring the obedience exercises with us as we enter the ring and set up for a down stay so that I can lead out. Just like in the obedience ring, I heel him in (total attention from him with 100% eyeballs), ask him to swing around and Come To Front and then Finish by my side with a Down/Stay. With every command, I give a “What a GOOD boy” feedback. Not only does this work for both of us, it has a very calming effect because we do it hundreds of times. I’d suggest this for anyone who has yet to solve start line stays.


    • Isabelle says:
      Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 8:45pm

      awesome! I struggle with my pups disconnect when the environment is distracting and/or I am stressed or ‘not fun’. I am teying to fix this. How did you start this? and then maintain it?


      • Pam Coblyn says:
        Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 9:01pm

        Hi Isabelle,
        First, if I am stressed and can’t have fun, I don’t train. If I can’t give my dog 100% for a solid minute of training, I don’t train.
        I decided to start very slow and ask for the simplest thing such as a sit. I gave my dog the BIGGEST smile and told him in a delighted voice that he was “absolutely wonderful” and “so special”. He absolutely responded to this praise. Little by little, I’d add in time and some heeling. Even if it was for 5 feet with attention, he got lavish praise. While heeling, I’d tell him how absolutely brilliant he was and use “yessssss!!!” (sort of like clicker training) to let him know he was doing exactly what I wanted him to do.
        Learning what speed to walk was also a big key to success and I found out a nice peppy gait really motivated my dog to heel and prance with me. I started listening to music via an iPod to get a good beat and now we “dance”—which really looks like good heeling. It’s our language and we have a sort of conversation to use Susan’s term: gait, focus, me giving him great feedback and him smiling and responding with enthusiasm.

  10. Sabina says:
    Friday, February 17, 2012 at 3:09pm

    My German Shepherd (20 month ) has had such a hard time with holding position!! I actually started retraining everything because I couldn’t figure out WHY he became stressed while training any type of position.

    I am so quilty of stacking the distractions on my dog. Reading this artical I can totallt see why he breaks position.

    Thank you!


  11. Ronna says:
    Friday, February 10, 2012 at 10:17am

    Thanks for the reminders!!! I think I hsve probably guilty of over-testing without rewarding…thinks SO much for this!


  12. dog training florida says:
    Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 3:07am

    Thanks.Nice posting.


  13. Mary M says:
    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 10:40pm

    Love this post, thanks! Good reminder I need to bring the soft sided crate to class for a while. Tala is improving on her “stress” behaviors since you provided me feedback at the last SY camp, but I think this technique would blow it all out of the water for her….I had done this when she was a puppy, and never brought it back…..silly me 😉 Thanks again!!!


  14. Anne says:
    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 11:40am

    @Susan I had written this as a reply, I meant to comment on the bottom, so sorry for the duplicate. Do you believe that these self control games i.e. Crate games, staying while doors open etc… help with a “barky” dog? I would more call it “sassing” I don’t so mind if she barks when she is running, but if we have an oops she turns and starts barking (sassing) AT me. I think she is having a conversation with me, but I am not understanding what she is saying. Would you suggest more self control games? Her crate games are good, but I could take it up a notch on distractions. I like the idea of making her stay while I clean the yard. Thanks!


    • Casey O says:
      Friday, February 17, 2012 at 4:42pm

      @Anne, I have seen some dogs do that when the handler doesn’t give timely cues, or when given the wrong cue. Something to consider.


  15. amy lovekin says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 6:58pm

    Thank you, Sydney!


  16. Sydney says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 6:48pm

    As always, Susan, you explain things so well! Not to mention that what you say is usually very logical – if we take the time to think about it. 😉

    The vision of how I was first taught to proof “stays” came into my head as I was reading the blog. I can remember people coming closer and closer to the dogs that were successful in order to get them to fail. I can’t even remember whether we even rewarded success. That was many years ago but I think some of the methods have become such a habit with many of us that we just do them without thinking. Recallers and especially Puppy Peaks has helped bring many of them to my attention – especially keeping sessions to 5 Minutes or Less 😉 My dogs and I thank you.


  17. Gary says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 5:23pm

    Thanks for this great post, Susan! We’re three weeks into a systematic recall program (based on your blog posts) and a week into ruff love. Regardless, it’s obvious that Crate Games is a must for my dog. He’s SUPER motivated to work (agility, ball, whatever), but also a bit hyper and easily distracted by the site of obstacles and other dogs, particularly in public places. Appreciate all your advice and training materials!


  18. sarschips says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 4:57pm

    Great ideas. (as always)
    I just went to a show this weekend. Rally. But used my “Crate Games” every time he went in or out and tugged with him. He was so full of confidence. Crate games helped. I don’t use as many distraction with him. He is to focused on me. “HI I’m COOKIE, Glad to meet you” LOL

    He took a second on Sat and a first on Sunday in rally excellent. The RZ and Crate games have made SUCH a difference. He never took his eyes off of me. Distraction?? What distractions?
    Thank You Susan for the ideas we got to build a positive training program through Recallers. And for all the follow up ideas like this blog.


  19. Charlotte says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 2:44pm

    awesome blog Susan 🙂


  20. amy lovekin says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 2:18pm

    Where can I get “Crate Games”? Is it a book, an e-book, a webinar…? In one of the comments it mentioned that it’s a good activity for fearful or reactive dogs, and that’s what I’m working on with my dog. We also need something fun to do to work on our friendship.

    This is a really big issue for me right now, so I’d appreciate knowing how I could review the materials and see if they’re right for me.

    Thank you,



    • sarschips says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 5:11pm

      Hi Amy
      Its a DVD and you can find it in the Say Yes store at the top of this blog. Worth the money!
      Good Luck with your training.


      • amy lovekin says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 5:18pm

        Thank you very much Sarschips! Funny question for you; is there more than just the “wait inside of the crate until I let you out to play tug” game? Any way I could see a clip of the video that you know of? Cash tight, you see, but I’m desperate for some help and would be willing to pay for it if I know there’s a lot of fun stuff on it.


      • Sydney says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 6:55pm

        @Amy, do a search above for Crate Games – several pages of blog posts come up. Yes, there is much more than just wait inside the crate. Well worth the investment!

  21. Barb says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:49pm

    What a great blog post. Heard much the same from Ken Ramirez at a seminar. Thanks for the reinforcement!


  22. sue-w says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:28pm

    Great article! Thanks for all the important reminders!!


  23. alicia cyr says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:00pm

    Hi Bluedogs 707! I have so many of the same issues with my aussie. I could practice with her in front of a jump at the facility where we train. She’ll hear the others leading out and running the course, and will pretty much not move. Occas. she might move one paw a little. But she has also starting this scootching the butt! The advice from various instructors has not always been consistent. I’ve even had those who’ve been trialing for yrs. tell me, “it’s a lost cause” that they’re dog got worse. I’m staying positive and hopeful, I really want that start-line stay, otherwise she’ll be way ahead of me, Misty is fast! I need some really concrete steps to take. I do practice alot in various situations. But there are times that if I don’t have a treat/reward she will blow me off.


  24. Diane says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 12:39pm

    Thank you for always giving us food for thought. Love your crate games, and after reading today’s blog realize that some of my stay issues can be helped immensely by
    playing crate games. Thanks for all your great insight into dog training. Love the friend to friend concept.


  25. Chris Marcuse says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 12:08pm

    I read crate games and watched the video when I brought my 3 year old German Shepherd home 2 years ago.
    I tried to apply it to this very dominant police trained dog. I had to stop training because of intestinal distress. More than one or two treats per day caused massive diarrhea that lasted for days.
    Now two years later she is much calmer and cqn eat more treats than before but not many.
    I have struggled to control her reactive responses. I have always been able to train my past dogs with positive methods and felt that we were two friends. I miss that relationship with my dog.
    I love what you do and apply as much of what you suggest as she is physically able to handle.
    I have been employed only part time for the last year, but hope to join one of your seminars when finances improve.
    I will raise my next dog with your methods from day one.
    Thanks for all you do for us handlers and our dogs.


    • laurie says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 2:20pm

      You could use his meals, if you feed kibble, as the treat reward instead of something that upsets his tummy or a toy that he can bite and play with up close if he is toy motivated.


  26. Kate says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 10:56am

    Love the “tail wagging…nails turned out” description. My dog’s tail is always wagging, unless she’s really concentrating or…uncertain. A great barometer for me.


  27. Carol Renton says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 9:53am

    What a great thought provoking blog today. Thanks for this. I am afraid we can get a bit over the top sometimes on “proofing” our dogs rahter than teaching.


  28. denise says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 9:44am

    I”m curious if you still have a link to the article you mention in the newsletter you just sent out? The one about “early training”….. I would love to read the article.



    • Susan says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 10:00am

      Hey Denise, LOH and I looked for that article on line last night, but alas we could not find it. I will let you know if I do, it was a very recent one at the time as I recall.


      • Grace Hathaway says:
        Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 10:50am

        I would also be interested in that as well is that a member only article? im not yet a member, we cannot financially afford to consider it at this point with moving and im def. interested. Im trying to learn as much as possible with not being yet a member as my smooth collie is now 4 months old and i feel like we’ve wasted time!

  29. TorachiKatashi says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 8:35am

    What would be your suggestion for a dog who never has that enthusiastic response to Crate Games? Bear has been pretty “meh” about distractions in Crate Games right from the beginning. No matter how much of a point I make of not overloading him with distractions, rewarding tons for the right choices and breaking it up with other stuff, he always has that bored, eyes glazed over look like he’s off in his own little world and doesn’t even see the distraction. Even for things that are super high distractions for him outside the crate, virtually anything I throw at him IN the crate either has him break his stay, or that bored “meh” response, and never anything in between. He even has that “meh” response to being released from the crate, like he couldn’t possibly care less. Every session for the last year I’ve been trying to balance the value by giving him the good cookies outside and the boring cookies inside, and he’d still rather just sit in the crate and look bored. I’m at a loss. I could spend an hour giving him his release word, closing the door when he doesn’t move, walking away, coming back and repeating, and at the very most he’ll stand up inside the crate, but that’s it. The only way to get him out of the crate is to physically TAKE him out of the crate.


    • laurie says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 2:16pm

      I think you need to do the opposite training for this dog in the crate. Do tug games with him outside having him sit, then entice with your voice, “ready, ready, set, go! and let him jump at the tug toy and play. Then put him in the crate and do the same enticing voice to get him excited to be released to tug.


  30. Evelyn says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 6:23am

    I love, love, love Crate Games.
    My dogs love, love, love Crate Games.

    The only sad thing about it is, that silly me did not understand the power of Crate Games until a few months ago. Better late than never. My puppy Gem is such a superstar doing crate games, and we have so much fun with all the games. Especially now that I am no longer worried about doing everything right!

    Susan, I love reading your blog, your words are so clear and of course, me being the visual type I saw you and Swagger having that conversation reading it. Awesome!!!


  31. heather says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 3:56am

    I would also like to comment on the recent discussion regarding the running contact training. Although I would love to be one of the select 5 that gets to learn it, I’m also content w/the hope that eventually it will evolve into a format similar to Recallers or PuppyPeaks. I’d rather wait til all the bugs are worked out anyway. To anyone complaining about the $, have you noticed all the free info Susan sends out? All the blogs, webinars, and articles, I can’t even keep up with all the info! So keep it coming Susan and good luck to the RC group.


  32. Vin says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 3:34am

    I’m really enjoying this post and the replies regarding the start lines. An E course or E book sounds like a great idea. a title could be “Crate Games and Beyond” – venturing to the start line. Cheers Debbie


  33. bluedogs707 says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:37am

    @Susan: thanks for the suggestion using crate in class. But my dog stays just fine in class–not as stressful/exciting as a trial (& I am more relaxed too). . It would be nice if using a crate at a fun match were allowed. Sometimes she will break at a fun match.

    Sometimes I think she is simply responding to my increased heart rate/etc at trials!!

    Would you take your dog out of the ring if he/she broke her line stay in competition? Do you think they understand this “correction”? Some trainers swear by it to “fix” the stay problem at trials.


    • Susan says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:41am

      @Bluedogs well I certainly would never allow a dog to go on once they broke a start line at a trial. First I would have them sit between obstacles 1 & 2 yes I know that is “training in the ring” so depending upon the venue you might not be allowed. And then I would retire. However I don’t like leaving the ring as a practice — it is punishment and the answer to the problem lies in reinforcement.

      You need to be creative with your stays. Do you ask the dog to lie down while you pick up poop in the yard, or do durations stays while you work out or get dressed. work in “sits” and “permissions to move” into your everyday life. That is start.


      • bluedogs707 says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 3:13am

        I have done similar in trials, but had her lie down between obstacles 1 & 2. I will ask for sit next time, since that is the behavior that was lost and that does make more sense.

        I do sit-stays all over the house, at doors, before meals, etc. I can do more.

        Thank you for so much great information and generosity in helping others.

      • Anne says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 7:13pm

        @Susan Do you believe that these self control games i.e. Crate games, staying while doors open etc… help with a “barky” dog? I would more call it “sassing” I don’t so mind if she barks when she is running, but if we have an oops she turns and starts barking (sassing) at me. Would you suggest more self control games? Her crate games are good, but I could take it up a notch on distractions. I like the idea of making her stay while I clean the yard. Thanks!

    • Maggie says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 3:55am

      Maybe you could transfer the value for the crate to a mat, with your lead at the edge and use that at agility – gradually reduce to a strip of mat and then a lead that must not be crossed – and you could take that to a trial. Good luck – I have the same problem!


  34. heather says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:34am

    I thought this was a great analogy. In my desperation to try to keep control of a very bouncy poodle I’ve gone back to lots of crate games. However, we haven’t been having fun at all, I’ve been setting her up in situations basically saying ‘you think you’re pretty smart sitting there while that lab is running but can you handle it while the chihuhua’s are out there squeaking?’. Instead of rewarding the good behavior I find I search for traps. Good reminder that all training is a game not an order.


    • Shannon says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 3:08pm

      “Instead of rewarding the good behavior I find I search for traps.”

      I love the wording of this, it’s such an easy, well, trap, to fall into! Great post about having a conversation and letting the dog succeed!


    • Yankee Pie says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 4:28pm

      Very well put, Heather. “Searching for traps is exactly what I do!” Shame on me! As a student, even of higher learning, that would really make me mad if an instructor did that!


  35. Gale says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:29am

    My puppy, now almost 2 years old, still loves crate games. All the dogs do. When I am working on one of the dogs, I just point to the rug I have near the back door, and all of them run there. I start walking and call one to heel, and all the others stay there. People watching cannot believe it.

    Crate games is an invaluable tool, especially for sensitive, fearful dogs and hyper ones.

    As a trainer, when people come to me, I always ask them what their dog already knows, and if they say the dog’s name and stay, I love to prove that the dog doesn’t really know either.

    I show them the call once game and we play it, and then try the name again, and they are amazed at the difference.

    Crate games are abfab for giving a rock solid stay, for obedience, agility or just at home.

    One local breeder wants me to come to her kennel and show all the new puppy owners how to do crate games with their new family members.

    The one problem with crate games, at least for me and my puppy, is that she is so enthusiastic to work and tends to jump up a little every time she sits on a halt.


  36. Heather says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:14am

    I get my new puppy in four weeks. I presume I can start with crate games immediately? She will be 8 weeks old. So much training, so little time 🙂


    • Susan says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:14am

      @Heather, absolutely!


  37. bluedogs707 says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 12:40am

    what about the dog who does crate games stays with high level distractions no problem, but in the excitement of an agility trial does not hold her line stay?

    At the trial, do you leave the ring & return the dog to her xpen/crate? Reset her and go on??

    At home/practice/training: another dog can even be playing frisbee in front of her and she will stay until released…


    • Blueridgeprairie says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:11am

      I would like an answer to this too. I have a 7 year old Aussie who can stay in crate games no problem, no matter what the distraction is. Put him in front of agility equipment (even at class) and it’s another story. And he does get stressed on the start line.


      • Susan says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:17am

        For those dogs that still struggle with the start lines it could be a lot of different things that are challenging you. You might want to bring your crate to agility class and for the next few weeks do all of your stays as Crate Games in front of the first obstacle. Then when that is brilliant, have the dog sit in front of the crate in front of the first obstacle. If you get any butt raise or paw movement you must stop and let someone else have a turn. Go back and do value building. There are tons of other games to help build start line performances but that will get you started . . . maybe another ebook or series in the newsletter!

      • Gale says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:33am

        Another thing you could look for is to join a club that does demos or play trials. I used to belong to the oldest agility club in Canada, and we did demos for the Children’s wish foundation, at Equestrian trials and fairs, as well as for Humane society events. I found it’s a great way, without spending $20 to get your dog used to lots of people and noises, and it’s also a great way to get more people into agility.

      • Yankee Pie says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 4:25pm

        Interesting! And my Yankee is just the opposite. At trials and class, he is all business and nothing distracts him. At home? Forget about it! He totally tunes me out some days! Go figure!

      • Gary says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 10:26pm

        Forgot to say earlier, thanks for blueridgeprarie’s question and Susan’s answer regarding agility start lines! My 14 month old Aussie has the same issue at class. He will hold a start line very well at home, but in class, he goes gaga!!

    • alicia cyr says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 12:45pm

      To bluedogs 707
      I have an aussie who is 2 yrs old with a high drive! Misty is such a great dog and most of the time obedient, but has this funny side of her that likes to be naughty. but I have same issues with start/line stays! She blew them at our first trials and also at our classes. Slowly getting them back at seminars. I think the seminars have about the same distractions and atmosphere, so I get to reward/correct. I’m sure I’m the one who somehow has messed things up. She is my first herding dog too.


    • Mary Cain says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 9:41pm

      i need help with this at class my dog doe well, start line stays great even at a trial, but when we get to the trial he will run away , sniff and sometimes leave the ring. I’m doing “Ruff Love” with him now. The distraction at the trials are 2 much. We are doing the Recallers again and he’s doing fine. I’m baffled.


      • Susan says:
        Monday, February 6, 2012 at 11:17pm

        @Mary, try to back off the amount of agility you are asking him to do. Bring your crate to the line, release, do a recaller game and run him back to his crate. Next time do the same then a few obstacles. Start building more value into working with your to work against the value he finds in his environment.

      • Mary Cain says:
        Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 4:05pm

        Susan, Thanks will do.

  38. Caragh says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 12:31am

    Great clarity to make sure the joy doesn’t go from the ‘conversations’ I have with my fur friends.


  39. Shelley says:
    Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 11:15pm

    Susan you are simply a great teacher, thank you for insights that are always so clear.

    I was training back up, his little lordship has taken to being rather crooked, I so needed this post! Thankyou Thankyou


  40. Angela says:
    Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 11:06pm

    “a conversation between friends!” I like that, really takes the stress out of it…I will share that with DH 🙂


  41. Nathalie Allaire says:
    Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 11:03pm

    Hey Susan,
    I love this article, very original way to help us understand training and relationship with our dog. I realize I overwhelm my dog a couple time with distractions! Thank you


  42. Michelle says:
    Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 11:03pm

    Good timing for me too as I am working on proofing and you have made it clearer to me to prepare and know what my criteria is rather than throw a pile of things at her. I was also reading about someone else’s training and all the distractions they were throwing at their dogs and wondering how much is too much. Funny enough today in the paper, a Dr was saying that children shouldnt go to kindergarten until they are 7 and play more because too much intensity in learning has the opposite effect. I would love to know how this transfers to dogs, I feel confident that too much on a young puppy would have the same effect of being overwhelmed.


    • Yankee Pie says:
      Monday, February 6, 2012 at 4:22pm

      What an astute comparison you have just made. I would have been a big advocate of children playing longer… until they are ready and willing to learn… rather than have it thrust on them at a random age. As a former elementary teacher and counselor, I have seen kids too young, pushed too hard… and become very frustrated. And it is getting worse.

      I have, however, seen kids ready and willing to learn at a young age, with no frustrations at all… no matter what was sent their way. I am wondering if this all comes down to the individual, rather than making a blanket decision for all.

      I, too, wonder if this can transfer to the learning in dogs. Are some ready earlier and do some have a higher frustration tolerance?


      • Alison says:
        Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 11:08am

        I think that there is great variability within a group puppies. Just observing them together has shown me how different each is how interested they are in engaging, how sensitive they are , how many times they will try something on their own before giving up, easily they become frustrated and how eager or tentative they are to try new things , their response to failure , and how vocal they are in their play, frustration level , etc. I think that we need to individualize our training like we should education with children

  43. Sandy Madaio says:
    Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 10:39pm

    wow, that came up with perfect timing – my corgi (20 months) is having a real hard time with ‘stays’ – I think I am overloading him or not rewarding enough – thanks!


    • Grace Hathaway says:
      Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 10:39am

      This was our corgi’s hardest subject as a pup, i wish i would have had this information when she was a pup! now shes 11, gray in the face, and far too overweight to break a stay 🙂


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