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...
It’s been ages since most of us have had a chance to compete, and it’s exciting to think about showing again . However, showing is not without its challenges. Some of us are crating outside, only allowed in for a few minutes of warm-up. Things are different, and there are bound to be setbacks and frustrations after so much time off.
Several years ago, Nick Saban, the revered coach of the University of Alabama football team, was asked how he felt about a loss to the Clemson Tigers. His reply was, “I never want to waste a failure." If we follow Coach Saban’s sage advice, we will glean information from...
If you are in the market for a new puppy, whether it be your next obedience, agility, scent work, tracking or field partner, a puppy’s education is far more likely to be limited by your imagination, than it is by your puppy's ability. Here we discuss when to start training, how to select your obedience puppy, and of course how to train your puppy.
My parents bought me a golden retriever puppy when I was 14-years-old. In preparation, I had selected a dog training book, and the instructions were that each day I was to set my puppy down in a quiet room, just the two of us, and as he explored, I was to say his name, only once. The instructions said that the day he looked at me, he was ready to start his training. Six-weeks later I was devastated. He had yet to respond to me, and I believed it was due to both my inability to follow instructions and his lack of talent.
After that experience, it is no wonder that my initial belief about puppyhood was...
On August 25, I had the pleasure of conducting a webinar with judges, Bob and Cathy Knight.
Bob and Cathy have been training dogs together for nearly 50 years. Together, they have earned 7 Obedience Championships, all Standard Schnauzers, most of whom were also conformation Champions. Additionally, they have owned and titled an Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzers, a St.Bernard, and Border Terriers.
Prior to retiring and becoming AKC obedience judges, they operated a large boarding, grooming, and training business. During that time they trained and showed dogs for clients including a Golden Retriever, Bouvier, Belgium Sheepdog, Standard Schnauzer, and Welsh Terriers.
They became approved to judge all AKC obedience classes in 2009 and told me, “We both enjoy judging and giving back to the sport we have enjoyed for so many years.”
Bob and Cathy shared their thoughts about judging and competing with the rule changes due to the pandemic....
When this pandemic ended life as we knew it, I was blessed to have recently created an online community of obedience enthusiasts at www.obedienceroad.com. What perfect timing to have started teaching and coaching online.
Providing content about training the obedience exercises, answering member’s questions and giving monthly webinars, has kept me busy. However, by the beginning of June, it was clear that we were all struggling with pandemic fatigue. The Obedience Road community was getting tired of staying home with no shows in sight.
So, June was dubbed Virtual Match Month. Afterall, with no training classes or matches to attend, we need a way to test our progress. Members were invited and encouraged to video a performance for my review.
I decided to go first and submit my video to the Obedience Road community. So, on a very windy May 31, I went to the elementary school parking lot that has served as my...
Part II: The Directed Signal Retrieve
The Directed Signal Retrieve epitomizes the importance of breaking down an exercise and teaching your dog the individual pieces before you try the complete exercise. You need to think about this exercise in three parts,
1. Your dog's ability to go where sent as taught in the Directed Marked Retrieve,
2. Your dog's ability to take a cast to a glove, and,
3. Teaching your dog that sometimes he will stop and sit in the middle of the ring and sometimes he will go all the way to glove 2.
You need to be sure that you keep these three skills separate and spend plenty of time practicing them separately.
Step 1: Learning to Cast to the Gloves: Teach the Back Cast First!
While you are teaching the Directed Marked Retrieve, there is no reason that you cannot introduce your dog to the casting necessary to perform the Directed Signal Retrieve. It is important to start with the "back" cast that will ultimately send your dog from the center of the...
The UKC Utility degree contains two glove exercises.
The first, the Directed Marked Retrieve, requires the dog go directly to one of three gloves. The handler stands in the middle of the short end of the ring with his dog in heel position and the gloves are placed in the middle of the remaining three sides of the ring. This exercise is done prior to the jumps being set up (Diagram 1).
The second exercise, the Directed Signal Retrieve, is similar to a baseball or casting drill that you might do with your retriever when field training. The dog is sent toward glove two and then stopped in the middle of the ring with a sit command. Then the judge tells the handler to retrieve glove 1, 2, or 3, and the handler casts the dog to one of the gloves.
There are two pre-requisites for these exercises. First, your dog must understand a correction for failing to retrieve and secondly, a good foundation of the Go-out exercise.
Part I: The Directed Marked Retrieve
A friend called the other night to tell me she'd gotten her third UD leg. "I'm going to start entering Open and Utility now, and I'd like to try for UDX legs." She told me.
"Hold on," I told her, "Your dog deserves to get an Obedience Trial Championship, why are you making your next goal a UDX?"
"Well, I'd like to get an OTCH, but I've never done it before, and I'm not sure we can, so I thought I'd get my UDX and then see how we are doing."
This is a very common attitude. There is some fear associated with making an Obedience Trial Championship the training goal. After all, it's generally a tough road and certainly takes a commitment to train, travel, and persevere. Many people don't want to admit that they would like an OTCH as it sounds rather elitist. After all, if they never claim it as a goal, then if they fail to reach it, no one will know!
Furthermore, there is a common perception is that a UDX is more attainable. Since it goes at the end of...
I have never known life without competition. My father was a tennis player and coached an NCAA Division I school for 32 years. My mother was an 11 time All-American in field hockey and lacrosse. Athletics ruled our household and for my parents, the line between parenting their children and coaching their children in a sport was blurry.
Competition could inspire any activity in our home. “Last one there is a rotten egg,” my mother would proclaim to get her dawdling children moving faster in the right direction.
“Toast up, I said it first” we’d yell, and grab for the toast that you didn’t really want, but then ate because you’d won the slice.
A simple plaque in the kitchen said all my parents believed about competition,
“To win the game is great,
to play the game is greater,
to love the game is greatest.”
Words Are Like Spells
I was fortunate growing up to have parents that were willing to expose me to all kinds of activities ranging from sports to music and drama. While in elementary school I spent time in community theater acting in several productions. However, my heart was broken in junior high when my school’s drama teacher told me I could not sing. My budding acting career was to be cut short, or end, because successful actresses were also singers.
Fortunately, I was starting to develop a strong game of tennis, and my father, a tennis coach himself, was willing to stand at the net for hours and hit balls to me. After every shot he would comment. “Good try,” “That’s the way,” “Great shot,” “Here comes another.” “Outstanding” and “Amazing” were two of his favorites. One day stands out in my memory as I was trying to learn a backhand drop shot, and I was showered with “Almost,”...
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