What’s Missing In Our Foundation Dog Training ?
The laws of science have taught us all how to use reinforcement to shape our dogs’ responses. As we train a dog we are actually building behaviour, like a little girl with her glue gun making crafts or . . . if you were a little girl with seven brothers that would be you building a model car with airplane glue:).
While you train your dog, you are fitting pieces together to create the desired behaviour. However, for those of us competing with our dogs just “getting behaviour” is rarely good enough, we need to have that behaviour with enthusiasm!
So if our dog’s responses are the pieces that fit together to give us behaviour . . . then our dog’s emotional state prior to and during the work is the glue that helps all the pieces come together. Lack of glue or the wrong glue and everything falls to pieces.
Your goal prior to any work session is to create the perfect glue for your own dog. By doing that you are putting your dog into a state of arousal that will produce his “peak performance” every time you train. This has nothing to do with competing (although it is excellent advise for those of you that do trial your dogs) it is about bringing an alert, focused, keen dog into each and every training session with you.
If your dog is under-aroused he is going to be distracted by otherwise insignificant things in your environment. Here is where people lament to me “my dog doesn’t like to work in the heat,” or “he doesn’t like wet grass” or “tall people scare him” or “barking dogs make him run away . . .” or my dog “just loves to go sniffing,” or “chases birds” or “eat horse poop.”
Have you ever considered why your dog even notices the heat, wet grass, birds, poop, other dogs or smells while other dogs working in the same environment don’t seem to notice anything except their trainer and the work?
Think About THIS . . .
Would your dog notice any of these “big” distractions if you were in the act of lowering a heaping plate of roast beef down to him? Or bouncing around his favorite tennis ball to chase, or if a squirrel ran by? Of course he wouldn’t because his favorite food, toys or rodents running by will put him into a higher state of arousal. One where the environment no longer matters to him, he has unbelievable focus and drive for something else so can ignore any kind of condition or distraction to get at what you have for him.
The Question To Consider
The question now is how do you get THAT focus and desire in your training? The answer lies within your glue. Each dog will have a unique mix of glue to suit his unique drives and desires. So, what is the glue that is going to bond all of the behaviours together for YOUR dog?
This is a critical question for everyone trying to train a dog and one I am currently writing about for a series in my newsletter. I sent out an announcement earlier this week to all of my newsletter subscribers. You see I plan on rolling out my biggest on-line dog training project to date at the end of this month. This one has been in the works for two years. It is pretty well an all inclusive course for training your dog’s contacts for agility. “The 5 Minute Formula To Contact Success” will cover: foundation games, body awareness exercises, up contact training, a “quick fix” formulation to overhaul your current contacts f-a-s-t, plus a detailed step-by-step instruction of how I train my stopped contact training and yes . . . I will even spill the beans on the foundation training for my new running contact training.
I Have Some Ideas For You
While planning out this upcoming mega-course, I had to think what would be the biggest stumbling block to my students’ success? Well assuming everyone follows through with the work, I think the biggest obstacle in the way of success would be starting out with a dog that has little interest in engaging in the work or with his handler. It is that “D” word. Twenty years or more ago I came up with an acronym for my students “D.A.S.H” (desire, accuracy, speed & habitat). The DASH acronym is as relevant today as it ever was; you have to get the dog’s “D” or desire up prior to trying to teach the dog any part of the “A” or accuracy of a behaviour. Training a dog that lacks “D” is going to be a battle of frustration and futility for anyone.
When I say “a dog that lacks D” most people immediately think of a low drive, frightened, lethargic dog that has little drive for training. But the lack of “D” can also go the other way. You may have a high drive, super keen dog that has tons of “D” but rather than it being directed at you or your work his focus is directed at the first shiny thing that catches his eye; other dogs, birds, people, smells, you name it!
Either way, trying to train a dog that lacks “D” is a bit like herding cats and I wouldn’t wish that job on anyone, let alone students I want to help with their contacts! So before I roll out my new course I really want to help people to create desire and focus in the correct direction; towards you and the work you are attempting.
All of this starts tomorrow as I send out the first foundation newsletter for improving your dog’s “D” to work with you. If you are not one of my newsletter subscribers you can join by filling in the form on this blog, you will find it on the right hand side or below. Please note, you may have to tell your internet provide to “allow” emails from customerhappiness AT clickerdogs DOT com (written like a true email address “[email protected]). If you have specific struggles you would like us to consider in our series, please let me know about them here. ** We did have an issue with the newsletter that went out earlier this week, so if you didn’t get yours, just try to sign up once again — that is the best way to know if you are on our list or not.
Today I am grateful for Lynda OH, who took a two month leave of absence from her job with the government so she could come to work full time for us here at Say Yes . . . next step in my plot is to somehow make this a permanent thing:)
My 2 year old bc still abandons me every time we hit the agility ring. As soon as the leash comes off, she takes on running, and playing keep away. She is so fast, and her recall… we are still working on that. After the recallers course, she got so much better, but there is still a long road ahead.
I have taken agility classes on and off because of this.
I went down from running simple courses with a few jumps and a tunnel, to just working on the ‘sit’, and then taking a jump, or coming to me.
I just got your Success w one jump and weaves DVDs, and I’m slowly working through the first one.
I’m exited about this series. I need all the info and help that I can get.
Yes! We have “D”…sometimes 😉 R3 has made me more aware of geting it all the time and in all “H”s. Fun!
One question occurs to me, if there is time it would be great if you talked about this in your newsletter:
I have a wonderful dog. He loves to work with me, he has lots of D, and if I want to I can get him really excited. But none of us can handle that. In my experience if he gets in that state he doesn´t know exactly what he is doing. Even if he wants to do what I want he makes errors because he doesn´t hear what I say, tries to do ten things at the same time, and makes a lot of small mistakes that he hasn´t done in years otherwise. So I usually try to calm him down when we work, but I wish I could channel his energy instead.
My 8 yo JRT and 3 yo Belgian Malinois and pretty much every dog I wind up with seems to end up focused on me to an unhealthy degree and slightly reactive to other dogs. I recently re-homed an ACD I adored because of aggression between she and the JRT. I get that I am creating this competitive thing between my dogs but I just don’t know how to not do it or what I am doing to cause it exactly.
I believe in the Say Yes system and have been using it completely since Recallers 1.0. I have seen remarkable improvement in my dogs and my clients’ dogs but something is making the competitive/re-activity worse not better 🙁
Since I have a new Lab pup this is just perfect.
I do have one request, the grey background and small fonts made me ignore your first newsletter on this subject. I did read it today but it was very difficult. It would be nice to have it bolder.
I love your explanation with the
D.A.S.H word and all; how you can tell
about what counts to your dog appeals to
I look forward to the follow up of the story.
The only training that is a bit difficult
for me and my dog is the retrieve just as fast as going out to fetch it.
I always stimulate her; outside is better than inside the house.
Focus and drive during training sessions are not a problem but when we get to a trial, it begins to fall apart after 4-5 obstacles especially if the judge raises a hand! Help!
My guy is super fast and prone to zoomies and demand barking… It often happens as soon as he is out of his collar. Sometimes, he holds a start line, but if I wait too long for his liking he takes off with our me. Usually he ignores me for zoomi crazy running, sometimes I can get him to focus for a jump or two, but he leaps off contacts and generally runs amuck! Sometimes, by the end of the day he is calmer and we run more together, but I feel like any second I will lose him.
I try to get him amped in practice, but I can’t seem to get him to that level…
In freestyle, he turns into crazy barker dog, but stays with me just constantly demand barking, performing on a very few cues…
Any advice would be great…
We need help with desire! My young, sensitive boy had little focus for a long time. I’ve worked so hard on his focus I think I may have taken the fun out of it. Now he just looks at me on the start line without moving and then lopes along behind me after plenty of encouragement… 🙁
Sounds exciting Susan. BTW, I also didn’t get your newsletter stuff that was sent out earlier in the week and I know I am a subscriber. What to do????
I have been wedging my way into that little sliver of Peak Performance State that, for us, exists between “distracted by environmental reinforcement” and “overwhelmed and needing a break”. I can now recognize what is driving similar behaviors (e.g., sniffing-distracted or stressed?) and adjust our activities accordingly. We are spending much more time in the “Woo Hoo! We’re on the same page!” zone (up from nothing, even thirty great seconds is huge to me). What I need to focus on now is H. Do it here, do it there, stay with me everywhere! Any little change in our environment gets her attention, and while she doesn’t leave me to investigate every time anymore, she does stop working and want to discuss “can I go see that? do you see it? should I be worried?” Because it’s getting better, and our relationship is so much deeper, I’m not discouraged. But I want her to be confident and happy and I feel like I’m not very efficient about helping her get this.
We are so looking forward to the newsletters!! and the upcoming course. We are having so much fun with all the recaller games, all the things we learn from PP … well, house would need some cleaning as well, but somehow I rather play games with my happy dogs !!
…and wonderful about Lynda taking time off work to work with you !! WTG !!
I never got the newsletter too!, but I got this one.. well, guess I better allow that new email address or whatever it is!
Thank you Susan, I am really looking forward to this series! My Lab is on and off with D. I’m at a loss…………Know it’s me so hoping I’ll get some inspirations to help her.
I think one of the keys to getting the “D” is to create very upbeat, short training sessions. I can see how un-glued my Airedale gets if I become repetitive, but if I work fast, she starts to come alive.
I’m ready to start re-training so that I get longer and longer durations of that connection.
Can’t wait to work with you Susan.
Can’t wait for the newsletter! I have a flattie that can be amazing, but looses that drive any time I make a mistake (as minor as a late cross or unclear cue). I also have another with huge drive that I’m starting off with and it’s like trying to hold on to a rodeo bull, can’t wait for insight on how to handle both extremes!
I have three dogs, all rescues and all of whom have some sort of emotional baggage. My border collie girl has great focus for her work while she is working. Her attention afterwards is not so hot but we are working on it and things are getting better!
My other two boys are doing great! Both have improved 10-fold on their ability to focus and have the bright eyed, bushy tailed response whenever we go out to play. Due to the 5 minute forumula.
Now the bad news, my oldest pup is actively going from zero to 90 miles an hour in his enthusiasm! I have never seen his little legs move so fast on the course. Unfortunately, he tore his iliopsoas muscle this past weekend but you would never have known it by the enthusiasm he now shows for agility. He posted some of his fastest times to boot!
My warm up routine definitely needs fine tuning now as I try to figure out how to prevent this thing from happening in the future. Since he does notice his environment I have enjoyed seeing him race enthusiastically to his frisbee or to me with such gusto. We’ll just have to tone it down a bit for a little while (which is not easy) but still keep that bright look in his eye. A new challenge for sure but one I never thought I would ever have with him 🙂
My just turned 2 Tervuren appears to be very focused on me and is quite high drive. I taught him touch before allowing him on contacts and his 2o 2o everywhere BUT at trials is perfect. I’ve had my instructor watch me and I appear to be doing everything exactly the same; however, my dog is launching above the yellow. He is a leg short of his AXJ but we can’t get through a Standard course for the life of us 🙁 Sounds like some help from SG is on the way…………
Hi Susan, I think you were talking about my dog when you said does not want to run in the heat, rain etc.. I have been looking for the answers on how to become that cookie and I am very hopeful that you will give us all some tools that we can use. My only goal is to have a happy dog that wants to work for me under all circumstances.
I have posted this on the school’s Facebook wall. I have several students who are having difficulties and this is absolutely perfect for them.
Personally I can’t wait to add new skills to my training. I have a young border collie. Blanche, one of your instructors, met him when he was a 1.5 years old and liked him. He is biddable and loves to work/play with me. So I can’t wait to see the new skills.
Looking forward to hearing more! A little story about drive, and discovering what really turns your dog on. My partners Toller was not all that interested in doing agility (it was also her first dog to train and run). He would easily be distracted, run out of the ring, run around the ring, got a big jackpot of cookies off a table outside the ring at one point. One day I was out in the field and he showed up with a very red beautiful apple in his mouth, and boy was he excited about his find. He put it right in my hand and then danced around. The weave poles were close by so I told him to go weave, and they were fast and furious. I threw the apple for him and his joy written all over him! From that day on he was thrown whole apples to chase whenever he went to agility practice, and at the end of a run in competition. Fast forward a few years and he made it to the 2011 AKC Finals! His nickname is Fruitboy 🙂
Hi Jayne! That’s an amazing story about your Toller! Just love it! For those of us struggling with dogs who like to go off and sniff the floor or visit with the ring crew at trials- There is Hope! thanks
I’m right there with you, Judy #1. My dog, who behaves as if I’m all that matters in his life when we’re inside at home, falls apart when we go to class. Plenty of desire – all directed toward other dogs, smells on the ground – it’s as if I’m not there. I’m really looking forward to this newsletter. Thank you Susan!
I am very excited to start this. I am relatively new to agility and have 2 rescues. An Aussie that usually has great focus and very motivated but if she sees food all bets are off and a lab/greyhound cross who although very athletic is often anxious and not food motivated at all.
Thanks for resending the email!
Looking back I can’t believe how far my young dog has come. We’ve been working on many pieces- CC of his fear of men and sudden noises, getting Tug whenever and wherever and more value building for me in general. We’ve recently started showing again and there are huge improvements, but we are stuck with performing certain obstacles (ie weave poles) if they are near the ring gating lined with people or if I make a mistake on course and I don’t recover quickly LOL, he is leaving me on occasion. Not nearly what it used to be. So I’m hoping to get some more ideas. I tug with him into the ring and he sets up with that focused look, but it still hasn’t been quite enough yet. A piece of the puzzle still to be found.
Thanks for sharing this info – I can’t wait for the rest. I have a young Springer with tons of desire that I need to control because I am NOT as fast as he is and need control to keep us together. I also have a young Golden in whom I need to create more desire. Since I got this email, I’m guessing I’m really on the list. YAY. 🙂
You have really picked a subject that can change how people train and the results they get. I’m looking forward to the newsletters as they can make a difference in my training!
I’m really excited about being able to follow this from day 1. I have two GSDs, a 6-month old hot rod who loves to go, go, go (don’t worry, we are only doing groundwork now) and an 18-month old who does the cues I give him, but at his own pace…I can’t wait to start receiving the updates!
I have a 4 month old Springer Spaniel “Noah” who I would like to have as a pet and do some obediance trials with. Currently he is very puppy, great for the first three to four minutes then the world becomes way more interesting than I am, I want to be his point of focus I want him to be the best and happiest dog that he can be I like what I have seen of your approach and look forward to this series of Emails
Susan,this is so Monumental ! Having taken PP and Recalls, I have only short bursts of intensity with my B/ C who would rather sit on the couch. Can’t wait to see how we can really get a driven dog to participant with me.
Hurray! Thanks for putting this together. I have googled forever trying to find tips on how to get my dog engaged with me on the agility field from the get go. Until he knows I have food in my hand, his only interest in agility is the fur or dust bunnies on the trial floor. He is so inconsistent with motivation, so I wonder if it isn’t the days I am not as motivated or engaged in the trial too…so many things to consider. Looking forward to read what you have to offer!
Got the email — with the copy of the missed email — Thank You!! That was FAST!
Will save it into my special “Garrett Newsletter” email folder. One day, I will have quite a collection — thanks to you, Susan!
My young boy has wonderful energy and enthusiasm but it’s not always directed at me and the game we are playing at the moment. He can be wonderful one moment and then off to check something out that caught his eye the next moment. I don’t always have the ability to see this disengagement occuring until he’s off like a shot to check out the “shiny thing”. I’m really looking forward to newsletters…recallers has given us an incredibly strong foundation…now to get my arms around that last little piece!
WOW, that was quick, newsletter in my inbox, cheers.
Yeh LOH!!!!!!!! You’ll find a way to keep her Susan!
NO newsletter for me either and I’m still LMAO thinking about whether my dog would notice the big plate of roast beef amidst the distractions!
THANK YOU SO MUCH for this topic! It has come at a perfect time for me. I am becoming very frustrated with my training sessions. I have a 2-1/2 yo male BC that in the past would shut down if he heard other dogs barking in their crates to the point of turning away and refusing food. With counter-conditioning, we are working through that and he is much better. Lately though in our last few training sessions, he will take a few jumps then trot off out of the ring to check other things out. He’s not shutting down, just blowing me off. At our last trial, he got up from the start line and started to walk out because he was focused on something outside the ring. He is the first agility dog I’ve ever trained, so I didn’t know about all the foundation work before we started. I am becoming more and more frustrated with trying to figure out how to build his desire to “play” agility with me. When we connect, we have great runs, but it is very inconsistent. He is not toy driven and won’t tug, so I use hand touches and other tricks to get him excited before we run, but they don’t always work.
I also have a 2yo rescue BC that we are currently working through all the crate games and foundation work. She is showing more drive and desire, although fast moving dogs are hard for her to resist.
I am looking forward to your upcoming newsletters!
Will you re-send the email you sent out earlier this week? I didn’t get the email, either. I save your newsletter emails out in a special email folder I set up — would love to get the one that I missed! 🙂
Sorry to those of you that didn’t get our earlier newsletter. I have just sent out another newsletter and copied the earlier one at the bottom. If you do not get this newsletter I would suggest you sign up with another email address (like a gmail or yahoo account).
Okay, I tried to sign up and it said I’m already signed up. So, looks like I’m good-to-go. Looking forward to your next email newsletter!!
Also did not get email this week.
So true! I’ve always thought it funny that Tamale has no desire to walk on wet grass – unless it involves training with me or doing agility because then she seems to forget all about it. Being only 9″ tall, she gets soaked from head to tail when she runs in wet grass, so its a good thing she has that D – thanks to you!!!
@Michelle; lovin’ that Tamale girl!
I just started up agility classes after a winter break here. I have been going to classes with my guy for about 3 years, my first agility dog. I have had a tough time getting his nose off the floor from day 1. Gets better as the year goes on and back to square one each spring. I have also worked through most issues slowly..slowing down my dog and using mostly food. This is the first year back he was totally focused on me, played and tugged and was squirrel chasing fast! I was as shocked as my instructor! I was also very relaxed, focused on the fun and we both had a great time. We’re getting some permanent glue happening! Thanks Susan for Recallers! Way to go on getting Lynda to join you! You guys have so much fun together who could resist a job like that?
My dogs herd the cats all the time!
PERFECT TIMING! I have been approached by my brother and sister-in-law to train their aussie/lab mix as they feel he has more energy to burn then they have to get rid of. SIL has told me she is very converned about how distracted Huck is with everything around him… he is only 18 months and has very little formal training but I have played around with its yer choice with him and he is super smart and very quick to “figure it out”. SIL’s main concern stems from the fact she sees Huck as “fear aggressive”… mostly with other dogs or strangers who encroach on his teritory. They (and I) are hoping that with me training him, this will diminish / disapear…
Given the fact that I have only ever trained my cockapoo, I am a bit lost as to where to start… BUT, I really, really look forward to your newsletter tomorrow… and to learn how to bring the D (desire) into Huck’s foundation training and the D (distraction) out of it! 🙂
My seven year-old standard poodle has had a lack of “d” desire to work with me almost her whole life. She has gotten better with the recallers games and loves to play them with me but I am still not the cookie. She still will pay attention to anything and everything but me when we are out and about. It is especially frustrating at shows when she tries to stick her head into everyone’s training bags and sniffs at all the crates. She needs so much proofing that she doesn’t get. Lately, I’ve been taking her to show n goes and small trials and working on attention. I am more motivated now because I have two young miniature poodles that also need training. House training them is a necessity so I see how badly I was using my time as far as my standard was concerned. However, training them also meant I had to train her and we are doing much better. Can’t wait for your newsletter series. I think it is just what the doctor ordered for us.
I did not get an email this week to newsletter members,and I have been a member for several years. Do I need to sign up again?
Hopefully someone with the ‘techy’ skills can help us out 🙂
Most of the people who should have received that email did not. So don’t worry that you didn’t receive it, and if you haven’t already, you can read the email on yesterday’s blog post.
Glad I checked out the blog today. For some reason, I did not get an email earlier this week and I am signed up on your newsletter on 2 different email accounts. 🙁
I look forward to your newsletter. I have one lacking the D. And you’re right, she’s not a timid, frightened dog. She’s over the top with energy and likes finding her own outlet. Her attention span is a nano second. Frustrating, yes. But she’s a delightful little dog. I just need to figure out how to “guide” her. Thanks.
Susan, please tell Lynda how happy I am she is working full time for you! I think that was the first step to permanent! Question, is this something I can do in the midst of a Total Knee Replacement? I’ve not begun contacts except shaping the nose targets on steps, stairs, balancing discs. I do not own contact equipment but I’m sure my agility instructor would allow me to use hers when needed! Or do think I’m in over my head at this time with surgery again coming up soon? I welcome your honesty; I consider you my guru in agility training and just plain positive dog training! Thank you…Debra/Snap
My Drivy Toller is great at class, but at competition losses focus & starts sniffing. He is wonferful in obe. Got high scores has CDX. Sigh, just want that glue in agility !!
IMHO. I had a total knee replacement spring of 2011 – and the other one is due. I would suggest you get the aid of a training buddy to reward or release when you just can’t get to the desired spot. It will get better, but during your rehab it might be better to use a buddy than do more movement than your doctor approves.
Wonderful subject Susan!! I for one cannot wait:):).. A HUGE piece of the training / relationship puzzle that is Key! Thanks for sharing yor knowledge with us…
I have a 4 yr old minidachs that hs been known to dash across an agility course to bark at a bird. Not to mention other dogs, people…has gotten much better, but still stinks to lose a nice run because of moment of ungluing. (especially for a BIRD !!)