New Obedience Puppy? How Much Can You Really Teach Him?

basics obedience puppy Nov 24, 2020

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...

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Judges' Perspective: an evening with Bob & Cathy Knight


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....

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Improve Your Obedience Training & Battle Pandemic Fatigue with Video


Battling Pandemic Fatigue with A Virtual Match

When this pandemic ended life as we knew it, I was blessed to have recently created an online community of obedience enthusiasts at 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.

Virtual Match Month

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...

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UKC Glove Exercises: Directed Marked Retrieve & Directed Signal Retrieve: Part II

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...

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UKC Glove Exercises: Directed Marked Retrieve & Directed Signal Retrieve: Part I

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


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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...

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What Does It Mean to be a Good Sport?

inspirational Feb 19, 2020

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.” 

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Words are Like Spells

inspirational Jan 30, 2020

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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My List of Commands

commands obedience Jan 13, 2020

Early in my career, I became involved in training service dogs for the physically handicapped. I have trained dogs to pick up dropped items, pull wheelchairs, open and close doors, operate light switches, and a variety of tasks specific to the disability of an owner.

One of the organizations involved in our field boasts of teaching each dog over 90 commands. This sounds amazing, however on further investigation, the list of commands contains dozens of commands that are redundant or have little to no meaning. For example, a different command is used when the dog is opening the door and when he is closing the door. However, this is the same action for the dog. His job is to grab a string and pull the door. It doesn’t matter to the dog whether the door is opening or closing.

For example, I use the command “Kennel” to mean (a) get into your crate, (b) get into that kennel run, (c) get into the crate in the van, and (d) get into the kitchen. I do not need four commands...

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How Dogs Learn

how dogs learn principles Jan 13, 2020

Many years ago, in an attempt to better communicate with my students; I developed a flow chart of training principles that guide me. These principles apply to all venues of dog training. The complete flowchart is at the conclusion of this article. 

Dogs Have the Ability to Solve Problems

Have you ever had or seen a dog who could open the latch on his kennel run? How did he learn to do it? First, he believed he had a problem: he was locked in and could not get out. Second, he was determined to solve his problem.

Pretend that you have just rescued a 60-pound mix-breed. You brought him home and put him in a pen in your yard while you made the necessary adjustments to bring him into your home. Unhappy with his confinement, he begins to bark. There is no one around that his barking can bother, so you decide to ignore him. Sure enough, the barking stops, and on a trip by the window, you notice he is digging around the doghouse, and near the gate. “You are wasting your...

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