When training the new obedience dog, I divide all the exercises into 5 skill sets. Your dog must learn heeling skills, stationary skills, recall skills, jumping skills, and retrieving skills.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you must work through the classes in order – Novice, Open, and Utility. Instead, you can practice an exercise (or two) from each of the five skill sets to build a solid foundation for your dog.
Ready to start jumping? Teach Directed Jumping first! This exercise teaches your dog how to jump, to follow handler direction and move in the direction of the jump. Teaching Directed Jumping early prepares dogs for the other jumping exercises.
Here is an article (downloadable pdf) explaining the steps I take to teach this exercise. I'm sure you and your dog will have fun with this exercise!
Don't hesitate to reach out to me with questions!
P.S. - did you find this article helpful? My membership...
Techniques Change, Goals Don't!
Teaching a dog to sit straight in front of you requires that your dog know how to maneuver his body from side to side.
Techniques for teaching your dog to front straight in front of you are as plentiful as recipes for Apple Pie!
You may have tried having your dog stand on a bucket and maneuver his rear end, using a guide on the ground for your dog to sit on, pointing to front, dropping treats from your mouth, backing up, using your feet as a guide. All those techniques, or a combination of them, may prove helpful.
At this point, the easiest solution may seem to be to give up...after all, a crooked front is only a half point deduction..."
Before you do that, change your technique! Here's an idea that might help your dog understand that his head is in the correct position, but his rear end needs to move.
Warming up, before your performance, can be difficult due to limited space and Covid restrictions.
If you use a Reward Marker (clicker or word), and your dog has a powerful response to that marker, you can use that tool to create a focused and enthusiastic attitude prior to entering the ring.
This warm-up can be done is a small space and can generate lots of enthusiasm. It may offer the perfect solution to getting your dog engaged before entering the ring.
If you've spent much time with me, you know that I believe dogs make two kinds of errors; effort errors and lack of effort errors. Forging and Sidewinding are typically effort errors and they are closely related. A dog that is forging is far enough ahead that his head is wrapped around your leg and his rear end is flaring out, more commonly called sidewinding. These mistakes are typical of dogs that enjoy their work and are trying hard to pay attention and anticipate what you might want next.
There are numerous techniques available to communicate to a dog that he is out of position. Typically, the first technique I try is to pull up on the leash to guide the dog into the correct location. This can feel like a constant battle as you repeatedly move your dog into heel position and he tries to race ahead.
This video demonstrates some additional techniques to try. Keep in mind, that you are most often dealing with an effort error so a correction is not appropriate. You...
Even if your dog is paying attention while trotting along next to you, you may be fighting his tendency to drift wide or lag. If this describes your situation, try using “opposition reflex” to improve your performance.
Opposition reflex is the term used to describe a dog’s natural tendency to oppose a force. For example, if you try to push a dog into a down position by applying pressure straight down on his shoulders, he will lock up his elbows and oppose the pressure. You can often use a dog’s opposition reflex to your advantage. When you stack a conformation dog, and then pull back on his tail, he will lean forward or appear to be pushing his chest out. When you put a dog in a sit stay, and pull gently but steadily on the leash, the dog can learn to resist the pressure on the leash and work harder at maintaining his sit (Photo 1).
The following drill has long been helpful with small dogs that stop during a heeling pattern or heel wide in an...
As I travel and teach around the country, it is clear that teaching a dog to pay attention during the heeling exercise remains the most frustrating aspect of dog obedience. A dog that doesn’t pay attention is unable to maintain an accurate heel position and achieve the heeling scores of his attention-paying counterparts. How do you get your dog’s attention, and more importantly, how do you maintain it?
Shaping the Behavior
Most trainers begin the heeling exercise by bribing the dog to pay attention. This is an important first step. However, there are lots of acceptable heeling “styles” as some dogs make eye contact with their trainer and some look sideways, keeping an eye on their handler’s body.
Having your dog walk next to you and look at you at the same time seems easy enough. However, it’s not easy for every dog. The following video has several dogs that are just learning to walk and look up at...
This is Part III in a series of videos that I’ve produced for you about proofing. So let's do a quick review.
I believe there are three stages of development when you are teaching a dog an exercise,
In this video, I want to explain to you how all the obedience exercises are related.
The three most important exercises are the sit stay, the recall, and the retrieve.
If I can get you to lay a foundation in those three exercises, to proof your dog so that he understands how to perform them as well as what you will not allow, then you will lay a foundation that enables you to successfully teach your dog every exercise.
The word, proofing, is bandied about, and there are even “proofing classes” being taught. This makes me nervous, as extreme distractions can easily make a dog unnecessarily nervous and worried. The distractions we use should be intentional and purposeful.
Remember, this conversation began with the idea that proofing helps teach your dog what you will not allow. Proofing is the third, and final stage of developing a consistent obedience performer.
I want you to start by proofing the sit stay, recall and retrieve. Each exercise has a finite number of failing mistakes that your dog can make. Use proofing to create a confident and consistent performance on those three exercises. Then, you will have the tools you need to teach your dog what you expect on every obedience exercise.
The video concludes with an assignment. Take some time to think about your answer to the questions, and watch for Part III in this series.
I hope you can take a few...
Years ago, I had a dog that was very inconsistent. He would go from hero to zero overnight. I remember saying to him one day, as I was leaving an event, “You know, you can’t win if you don’t qualify.”
There can be several reasons for inconsistent performances, but the one I want to talk about first is the crazy mistakes your dogs make that cause you to come out of the ring and say, “He’s never done that before.”
What if you could figure out how to prepare so well that simply didn’t happen to you anymore?
What if you were so confident you would pass, that all you had to worry about was how to make your performance first-rate?
I want to take a minute today to talk to you about the subject of Proofing. What in the world is “proofing?” I have developed a video to explain this subject for you. I hope you...
Starting April 1, the AKC instituted a new Fix ‘n Go program in obedience competition. This may be the single most important rule change that I have witnessed in my 50 years of participating in this sport. Fix ‘n Go will allow competitors to communicate to their dogs when they make a mistake and show them how to perform the exercise correctly!
“The Fix ‘n Go concept is intended to allow the handler to reattempt the exercise to help their dog while performing in the obedience ring. Historically, any attempt to help the dog was considered ‘training in the ring’ and has not been permitted. Such training was penalized; however, these penalties sometimes have been inconsistently applied by judges and misunderstood by handlers. The AKC’s stated goal is to bring clarity to what a handler may and may not do, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, to help their dog be successful...
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