Training

What Drug Would Your Dog Pick?

More great training ideas from Gemma Fisher

Before you teach your new agility puppy or dog something new, you need to find out what they love in life. Because whatever we’re using as a reward has an impact on how motivated our dogs will be to learn what we want.

After all, if you only got paid in stale bread for turning up to work each day, pretty soon you’d stop showing up wouldn’t you?! There has to be something worth doing it for – and the same is true for our dogs.

 

 

Food?

Let’s start with food rewards. Some people tell me their dog loves food, period. But even real food hounds have a preference between dry kibble or luscious liver cake! So get down to the supermarket and fill your basket with some different options to try out.

Click here for my top 10 ideas for you to try.

Games?

Now once you’ve figured out your dog’s favourite treats, let’s take a look at what games they like to play. If they have a bunch of toys available all the time, what toys would they choose to carry around or play with by themselves? Which toys do they annoy you or visitors with by dropping them in your lap?

Or do they prefer stolen treasure? Is their favourite thing sneaking something they shouldn’t have out of the bin and running off to hide with it with you in hot pursuit?

Try Them Out

Take note of these preferences and then grab a helper to take a video clip of a play session with your dog. Ask them to hold your mobile phone horizontally so you can move about and still be captured on screen.

  • What goes well in the session?
  • What needs improvement?
  • Does your dog rush back to you with the toy when they win it?
  • Or are they more likely to do keep-away laps around you when they’ve got hold of it?
  • Perhaps they don’t like to take hold of a toy at all and are very quiet and shy.

Don’t worry if it isn’t what you’d like it to be just yet. It’s just a question of working out where you are, and then where you’d like to be. Play makes progress! And understanding what your dog loves will have a HUGE influence on how quickly things improve.

Stuck for ideas about how to improve your play sessions? Click here to check out my Total Toy Fix, 2-disc DVD set on my website and get started working through the 30 bite-sized lessons which breakdown the different elements of playtime with your dog.

The ideal agility dog will work for both food and toy rewards, and will happily switch backwards and forward. So it makes sense to really invest time and energy working out what makes our dogs tick before rushing into training the equipment. Once we have the right motivators at our disposal, everything else becomes easy!

-oOo-

Gemma Fisher is an knowledgeable and inspiring agility instructor, dog trainer and behaviourist. Her experience comes from working with a variety of people and different breeds of dogs, both in person and online. Her goal is to make learning FUN because that’s how you engage best with people AND dogs! Check out her website for more help & advice: www.fisherfixdogs.com or follow her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gemmafisherfix/

 

 

 

 

Why doesn’t my dog want to tug?

 

Play is an important part of agility foundations for me and my dogs. I want to find a reward which inspires them to run fast! So they need to want whatever it is I have on offer, otherwise they’ll be slow and unmotivated to learn.

 

But people often struggle with this part of agility foundation. Here’s some reasons why:

 

Type of toy on offer

 

  • Hard plastic toys aren’t great for tugging with a dog who has a soft mouth, it puts them off
  • Something softer is much better to begin any dog off with to gauge interest before playing about with different types of toys.

 

Breed of dog

 

  • This will influence what sort of play they would naturally enjoy
  • For example – Border Collies like to chase things, Terriers like to chase & kill things, Spaniels & Labradors like to carry things in their mouth
  • Knowing these things means you can incorporate some of what they would naturally like to do into your games, whilst starting to introduce the idea that tug might be a fun game too!
  • But work with them not against them – you’re on the same team!

 

People aren’t good at it!

 

  • Some people do find tugging and playing with their dogs a bit alien
  • It can feel uncomfortable because they’re not really sure what they’re doing
  • Simple things like holding the toy low down on the floor, and wiggling it around like a little mouse
  • Not like a frantic, epileptic mouse I might add!
  • But moving it in a prey like way – still, then a little movement
  • And make it achievable & interesting for the dog you’re working with
  • Too much for a gentle dog will put them off trying, and too easy for a more playful dog will have them taking the toy off to play with by themselves!

 

Tug is a shared experience. It’s a team game, which you can learn lots about your partner from both from a life and sports perspective. Play makes progress possible in so many ways – when we are relaxed and having fun, we’re in a good position to learn and take on new information. It’s also an excellent way of building excitement into normal obedience type behaviours, so that they’re more enjoyable and, most importantly, more reliable in high-pressure situations. I have taken my Border Collies to sheepdog training and been stunned at their level of self-control in a VERY exciting environment. But it’s because they learned such a lot through the games we play and they’re clear that being excited doesn’t mean you can’t, or indeed, shouldn’t listen!

 

Gemma Fisher is an knowledgeable and inspiring agility instructor, dog trainer and behaviourist. Her experience comes from working with a variety of people and different breeds of dogs, both in person and online. Her goal is to make learning FUN because that’s how you engage best with people AND dogs! Check out her website for more help & advice: www.fisherfixdogs.com or follow her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gemmafisherfix/

 

 

 

Creating Confidence: Proprioception

 

Confidence breeds success. And an important part of building our dog’s self-confidence is preparation.

 

Proprioception is a key part of this – it’s building our dog’s perception or awareness of their position and the movement of their body. Understanding how their body works will mean their able to use it to best effect when they come to run, jump and power their way around an agility course.

 

It’s also one of the easiest things to incorporate into daily life with your dog too. You don’t need any fancy kit, in fact just walking in your local woodlands is a fantastic place to start.

 

What we’re aiming to do is have our dogs move over different surfaces. We want their feet to experience different things to send a variety of information up to their brain. If they only ever walked over level surfaces, they wouldn’t develop the ability to balance and compensate when necessary over uneven ground.

 

You can build your own proprioception kit out of everyday household items such as..

 

  • Different textured door mats e.g. coir/ rubber/ material/ astro turf
  • Bubble wrap
  • Cardboard
  • Cardboard covered in tin foil
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Bath mats – non-slip for inside the bath, and ones for outside the bath

 

And if you want to add to your collection, you can add in things your dog has to clamber onto or step over too..

 

  • Gun dog platform (wooden platform covered in astro turf)
  • Fitness step
  • Wobble cushion
  • Fitpaws Fitbone
  • Cones & poles
  • Hula hoops

 

I’m looking for my dogs to move slowly through a proprioception path, and for them to be able to pause when I ask as well. Rushing through things quickly is easier for them, particularly if they’re not sure.

 

Quite often dogs who move really rapidly when faced with something new are really just saying “Let’s get through this as quickly as possible to get it over with!”. Real confidence is when they’re able to hold themselves together and move thoughtfully – amazing preparation for the agility equipment we want them to learn in the future!

 

Check out Tellington TTouch Training for more information and ideas on building your dogs confidence.

 

Gemma Fisher is an knowledgeable and inspiring agility instructor, dog trainer and behaviourist. Her experience comes from working with a variety of people and different breeds of dogs, both in person and online. Her goal is to make learning FUN because that’s how you engage best with people AND dogs! Check out her website for more help & advice: www.fisherfixdogs.com or follow her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gemmafisherfix/

 

 

 

 

Explore & Discover Through Shaping!

 

Shaping is an important skill for both you and your agility dog to learn. The idea is that we break down the overall behaviour we want to teach our dog into a series of small steps. So instead of asking a BIG question we ask a series of smaller questions which lead us to our desired outcome.

 

Let’s say we want to get our dog to put 4 feet into a box. This is a fun body awareness exercise and a great behaviour to teach using shaping.

 

Rather than lure our dogs into the box with a piece of food on the end of their nose, we sit by the box and mark (either verbally or with a clicker insert link: https://www.fisherfixdogs.com/clicker-training-where-to-start/) and reward the series of steps that lead them to what we want.

 

  1. Dog looks at the box
  2. Dog moves towards the box
  3. Dog sniffs at the box
  4. Dog dips their head into the box
  5. Dog puts one paw into the box
  6. Dog puts two paws into the box
  7. Dog puts three paws into the box
  8. Dog puts four paws into the box – success!

 

Sure, the process of shaping 4 feet into a box might be initially slower than luring them into it. But because they had to figure out each step, kind of like reading a map versus using a sat nav, they’re more likely to remember what earned them reward.

 

Think about places on an agility course where it would be helpful for a dog to understand what you wanted and to be able to perform independently of where you are. Such as…

 

  • Not having to run all the way to the end of a contact with them
  • Not needing to guide them into the weave poles and stay close throughout
  • Not needing to run really fast to send them down a long line of jumps

 

Shaping teaches our dogs to think independently from the beginning and it’s a helpful skill for them to have when we want to teach the agility obstacles. It’s easier to work through distractions with a dog that has been shaped to do something, because they truly understand what it is you wanted rather than only doing it because there was a food lure.

 

Here are some ideas for tricks that you could shape:

 

  • Picking up a toy
  • Get on, under or over: Wheelbarrow, picnic table, washing line with blanket, chair
  • Go around the bucket/ cone/ flower pot
  • Through open cardboard box with wellies
  • Climb up log piles in the wood
  • Knock over a pile of tin cans & food bowls/ buckets with plastic pots
  • Put a metal kitchen utensil into a metal saucepan

 

The only limit to shaping is your imagination! So go and have some fun learning with your dog.

 

Gemma Fisher is an knowledgeable and inspiring agility instructor, dog trainer and behaviourist. Her experience comes from working with a variety of people and different breeds of dogs, both in person and online. Her goal is to make learning FUN because that’s how you engage best with people AND dogs! Check out her website for more help & advice: www.fisherfixdogs.com or follow her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gemmafisherfix/

 

 

 

 

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