Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Cane" takes 1st Place in Competition!

On Saturday, September 26th 2009, I put my dog Cane into my RV and drove up to Wells, Maine for the first Mondio Ring Trial that "Maine-ly Ring Club" has hosted in eight years. They have an excellent field and a nice group of low key dog enthusiasts that love both the sport and their dogs. This group has also managed to avoid the politics that seem to go hand in hand with these types of activities. To briefly summarize the sport I would say it is a blend of off-leash obedience, agility (jumps) and protection-based biting exercises all mixed together with a theme. The purpose of the "theme" is to create new and unusual scenarios limited only by the imagination of the hosting club and the judge. The end result is a physical and mental challenge of each dog's character and training. Mondio Ring is quite unique. Saturday's theme was "Vacation in Maine". There were lobster pots and buoys on the field. One of the challenges was the dogs' ability (ie self control) to ignore plastic lobsters being tossed around them while remaining in the down position with their handler out of sight. The retrieve object was a stuffed toy that resembled a whale. A life-sized styrofoam deer stood in the field along with a fairly tall lighthouse. It was really well done without being totally over the top.
I arrived at the trial location at 9am, just in time for the rounding up of competitors and the review of the days activities. Numbers were drawn from a hat to decide the order that the dogs would be competing in. In my catagory "Mondio Ring 1" there were seven competitors. I drew number 4. Anyone that has competed with animals knows that your're not going to "fix" anything right before a trial so what you have is what you're going to get. Cane's obedience is good. His retrieve is not perfect but solid and his bite work is also not perfect but solid. This is the result of beginning training at seven weeks old and working with him almost everyday from the day I got him until his first birthday. After that I gave him almost a full year off just to be a dog.
The trial began around 9:30am. The first three competitors did not pass. Before I entered the field I was instructed to remove my dogs leash and collar and hand it to the "Deputy Judge". This is the person that basically walks you from one exercise to another. They remind you where to stand and usually it's a big help to have a knowledgeable Deputy Judge at a trial. I handed off my gear and heeled my dog to the predetermined spot before the Judge, placed him in a down stay and introduced myself. While I was doing this another one of the Judges helpers was tossing a big piece of raw Chicken in front of my dog. Food refusal was the first exercise. Cane ignored the tossed food and was good about all of the exercises. The only one that he blew completely was the "Send Away". This exercise is when you tell your dog to "Go Out" and the dog takes off straight into the field before you. I had started that with him but never finished it and had he done it I would have been extremely surprised. It was a twelve point exercise so it's a big one to loose.
In the end my dog scored 183.5 out of 200 possible points. He lost a point here and there and the 12 big ones for no send away. On that day Cane was the best of seven dogs. It's really nice to win a trial. Even if it's a small local trial. It confirms to me that my training is on the right track. It tells me about my dogs character and it tells me a lot about myself when I do these things. I must keep my nerves in check and be a good sport win or loose. Friendly competition in any venue should only bring out the best in us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Canine Detection with Randy Hare

I recently had the honor of being one of the only civilians invited to participate in an intensive Canine Detection Training course sponsored by the Vermont Police Academy. The instructor was Randy Hare of Alpha K9. In the world of Law Enforcement Randy is recognized as a leader in the business of Canine Detection. His ground breaking techniques have not only advanced the quality of the training but the speed that dogs are capable of learning. It is not often that one can do things faster AND enhance the quality of the end result. More importantly, Randy is able to teach others how to implement his techniques quickly and effectively.
It does however take a high-drive dog to utilize Randy's techniques. It takes a dog with high "fight-drive". I guess it's easiest to describe this as the strong desire to play tug with you. There are many dogs that are "high-drive" but the drive may be stronger to retrieve than fight or play tug. It takes a very specific dog to take advantage of this methodology. But when starting with the right dog for the job, progress moves at lightning speed.
Fortunately for me, my dog Cane falls into the category of having (at least moderate) fight-drive. I am enjoying K9 Nosework with Cane and this course really helped to give me a deeper understanding of the canine mind. Good training seams to always be simple-not easy. Channeling a dogs natural drive into a productive task is both rewarding for the dog and the handler. It takes the genius of simplicity and the patience of a Saint to stand back and let the dogs learn on their own. It goes against 100 years of traditional dog training and catapults both man and dog into the New Age.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week 4 of Intro to Nosework

We completed week 4 today. First we started off with an expanded box drill with twice as many boxes as usual, blind hide and timed each participant. All students did excellent. Times ranged from 4 seconds to 1 minute forty seconds. It was great to see how well the handlers read their dogs.
After that quick warm up, the boxes were moved to the perimeter of the room to start working on interior room entries. That first corner was hard for all of the dogs! It's amazing how all living things want to cut corners! But of course they all got it after a few searches and the handlers learned to be more patient before giving that "Search" command. It was very clear to all that participated that giving the command just a second off from when the dog was actually in work mode lead to less than optimum results.
I will try to be more diligent about posting pics and keeping this blog updated as to our progress. Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding nosework or other dog related questions. If I don't have the answer, chances are pretty good that I know someone that does!
Scott 866-957-3647

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Meet Dorothy & Raven
Dorothy called Beyond The Leash last month because she was having a little trouble with Raven. Raven is a wonderful one hundred and fifty pound, two year old Newfoundland that still acts like a six month old puppy.
Dorothy needed a trainer to come to her home for training sessions. Raven is a very strong and enthusiastic dog that had already knocked Dorothy down with her jumping and playfulness. Keep in mind that although these two are a bit of a mismatch, this is Dorothy's fourth Newfoundland. This is her favorite breed and I fully understand a person's devotion to one breed or another. The problem was that if Raven decided to run down the street or even pull on the leash for that matter, Dorothy does not have the physical strength to hold her back. Raven had been through puppy classes and actually was involved in a board & train program at one time, so most of the basics were in place. We just needed more reliability and less reactivity to the environment. I knew I could get Raven to that point and then Dorothy could safely manage her dog. After that, the two of them could really start enjoying life more by getting out into the world together.
We started off with just creating a simple routine of putting a leash on Raven and making her sit at the door before going out and sitting outside the door after passing through. This level of control was needed to keep Raven focused on Dorothy and to break the old habit of just charging out into the yard and going into crazy play mode (I did the same stuff with my young dog Cane). Next we worked on heeling around the backyard. From there we worked on sitting at the gate that goes to the street and sitting outside the gate. At this point after about four weeks of training Dorothy is able to put the leash on Raven and take her out for a walk in the neighborhood. Our next hurdle is teaching Raven to control herself before getting in the car. She LOVES going in the car for a ride through Peabody, MA so this is very stimulating for her. We are making progress in leaps and bounds. Every time I arrive for a training session I see Dorothy's confidence and competence getting better.
It really makes me feel good to help someone like Dorothy. She had already spent considerable time and money with other trainers in the area. It was simply a case of finding the right training approach for this team. Dorothy's strong commitment to seeing this training through has made working with her a real pleasure. I look forward to video taping the two of them in the future and posting that video to this blog.
Stay Tuned and Enjoy Happy & Safe Training!

K9 Nosework Classes in Boxford Massachusetts are big success!

We had twelve new handlers start K9 Nosework Classes with their dogs this session. We are approaching week four and have seen huge progress in a very short time. We will be starting new Intro to nosework classes at a new location in South Hamilton Massachusetts as well as at our existing location in Boxford, Massachusetts. The South Hamilton classes will be held at "The Community House" on Monday nights starting Oct.19th at 7pm. The next session of classes in Boxford will start Sunday Oct.18th at 1pm. Boxford classes will be held at "Lincoln Hall" in Boxford, Massachusetts. For more info on this exciting and addictive new dog sport, please visit: http//www.K9-Nosework.com
Happy & Safe Training!
Scott Williams CNWI