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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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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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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My Dog Runs From Me (Teaching Your Dog to Allow You to Catch Him)

come obedience running away Jan 13, 2020

There is one thing worse than a dog that does not come when he is called. That is a dog that runs away.  

In Beginner and Puppy classes we teach "Come" using the following four steps:  

  1. Using a long line, we teach the students to call their dogs away from distractions. 
  2. The dog is dragging the long line. When he fails to come, the student goes to the end of the line, picks it up, and enforces the "Come" command. 
  3. The dog drags a leash which allows the owner to go to the dog, pick up the leash and enforce the "Come" command. 
  4. We remove the leash when the dog is coming consistently, or, if he sees the owner heading toward him, he moves toward the owner, allowing himself to be caught.

However, in every class there is a student that struggles with the "Come" command because the dog will run away if he perceives he is loose or when someone is trying to catch him.  

Occasionally a competitor will contact me and ask about a dog that has "the...

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The 70/30 Split

It certainly seems that after you teach your dog to perform the obedience exercises, you should be able to go to an obedience trial, and earn your title.  Unfortunately, simply learning the skills is not enough.  In fact, it’s probably only about 70% of your preparedness.  Preparing to enter the ring and then choreographing your performance play a large part toward your success.    

Skills (70%) + Warm-Up (10%) + Choreography (20%) = 100% Prepared!  

  1. Skills needed = 70%—Your obedience career begins as you teach your dog the necessary exercises to achieve a Companion Dog, Companion Dog Excellent, and Utility title.
  2. Warm-up = 10%– This constitutes how you prepare your dog to enter the ring.
  3. Choreography = 20%—this includes understanding the ring procedure, and your strategy for achieving the performance your dog is capable of while you are in the ring. 

Step 1: Developing Skills

Reams of material have been...

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