I came across the incredible website of Derek Sivers a few months ago, and have sort of been absorbing it a piece at a time.  Sivers.org

Derek calls himself (from his home page) Entrepeneur, programmer and avid student of life.

I love his book Anything You Want

I got it in audible form so I could listen to him read it himself. It came with a couple hundred free songs that he has gathered over the years as well. And then I got a PERSONAL response back from him after I responded to his “thanks for buying my book email”. WOW. This guy must be super busy and he took time to respond to my mail. The hook was set.

I listened to all his TED Talks, some are just a few minutes long. This is my favorite. Listen to this three minute talk if you have any big goals in your life.

“Keep your goals to yourself”

I especially love his article:

Ideas are just a multiplier of execution

I love his concepts about execution. For those (of us) dreamers that only execute half of the ideas we have every day, his words really hit home. You will need to read his article yourself first before you read my comparison to execution in our sport of dog agility. His article describes how even a brilliant idea is worth nothing without execution. My Comparison of Dog Agility Execution to Derek Sivers “Ideas are just a multiplier of execution” Sivers Execution vs Dog Agility

Our most brilliant agility dogs while not “worth nothing” as they are still our treasured companions after all, will never experience the glory of a National or International podium without the handler’s brilliant execution. I have known many brilliant as well as many so-so or good dogs. I’ve known dogs who could be the fastest on the planet, and dogs who run at a middle speed but have perfect turns and the handler has perfect timing. The brilliant dogs don’t always win and the so-so or just good dogs don’t always lose.

It is all about the execution not just of a trial course, but the day to day training and conditioning and attention and the downright zen of it all. Even “average” dogs have been on world teams, and I have stood beside both brilliant and just “good” dogs and their handlers as teammates and as a coach on the podium as they accepted their awards.

What makes an awful dog? Physical and emotional issues beyond what most handlers are capable of solving, without going into the nature/nurture theory! What makes a brilliant dog? It is one born with brains and a body to match and a handler who can bring out the best in them. Most of us have dogs in the middle of those comparisons and it is the execution that changes some of those dogs from awful to brilliant.

I hope you can relate to my comparison between Derek’s Execution theories and mine as it relates to dog agility.

Go out there and execute.

Nancy Gyes


what I know now and wish I knew then…

At 4- That my passion for dogs would turn into a career.

At 18- How I wish I had taken a path to an advanced degree in animal behavior, I would surely love to have that piece of paper now!

In my 20’s- To train every behavior long before you ever need to use it. It took me some time to discover that you don’t train door/gate behaviors when you want to go out the door with four dogs crowding you to go for a walk. That you don’t train stays when it is imperative that your dog do so. That you don’t teach recalls when you really need your dog to come to save his life. You don’t wait to train your dog to tolerate physical exams while you are at the vet during an emergency. Train it BEFORE you need it.

30’s- That training with compulsion will take you three times as long as training with rewards.

  • First you lose the time you took while trying to force your animal to do something
  • Next you lose the time it takes to rebuild your relationship and reestablish the trust you destroyed
  • And now it still takes the time to teach the behavior the right way using reinforcement, right after you extinguish all the bad behavior and start back at zero


  • That teaching my students to play with their dogs would be way more important than teaching them to weave
  • The importance of goal setting and record keeping. I wish I had a better paper trail of where I have been and what I have done to teach skills to my dogs and what I was thinking at any given day, month or year in my career. I’d have started keeping better training logs and diaries.
  • Don’t bother to teach the dog what you don’t want him to do, just teach him what you DO want him to do. It takes twice as long to teach while moving in two directions at the same time.
  • I wish I had been able to look into the future and see where one short trip to Europe with Scud in 1996 on the AKC World Team would change my entire life!

Mid forties- I would have jumped on the first plane to Arkansas to train with Bob Bailey, instead of waiting 10 years

Late forties- That foundation and groundwork is the most important part of agility training, obstacles are easy.


  • That standing still would be one of the most important lessons I would take away from my first week of training with Bob Bailey.
  • That Chicken Camp and Bob Bailey would be the most valuable of ALL my animal training lessons!
  • That training is a mechanical skill. (Bob Bailey)

Mid 50’s- That any dog can learn to retrieve if you understand how to use a clicker and some cookies.

Late Late fifties- How important massage is to my dogs’ and my own health

Last year – That my youngster Scoop would seem to be recovered from all his health issues and look as good as he did in training today.

Two months ago- That a sure fire way to insure that he stays sound would be to get a new puppy that I really was not quite ready for!

Last month- That focusing a little too much on food training and tricks can set back your game of tug with your puppy.

A puppy?

Last week-That even though I didn’t give her 100% of my heart for the first month for a variety of reasons, that it would be inevitable if I brought a puppy into my life that she would be mine and I would not be able to give her back.

Yesterday- That I might as well introduce her to everyone since she’s here to stay!

Meet Pie.

Photos of Pie by Lali Miramon

This post was inspired by blog action day on the subject of “If I knew then what I know now”.


I hope your career with your dog mostly has you looking forward not back, but sometimes it is fun to dream……


cautious optimism

Scoop, 1.15.2012, Mia Grant Photo

That is what I am experiencing at the moment with Scoop’s health. For almost a month I have been actively training him, and we have not really had one bad day. YAHOO! Scoop’s final diagnosis it seems is another one of those health problems (like aspergillis) I never really wanted to learn about. Scoop has “bunchy muscles” I am told. The MRI and ultrasound and multiple x-rays all told a story of good structure and nothing to even consider that can be seen on a diagnostic machine. The ultrasound given by an incredible radiologist, Dr. Craig Long in Sacramento, showed no tears of any of the muscles in the rear, Ilio psoas just fine and all the rest as well.  So, since he really had no injury to rehab, we went back to training.

What in the world are bunchy muscles I ask? Apparently not the kind of long and soft kind I want. When I look at him it just does not sound right. He is lean and long and doesn’t look like he has some kind of chunky muscle builder muscles. Actually he does seem to be one big long muscle, but I thought that was supposed to be good. Scoop is moving better, jump freely, and not showing the obvious discomfort of the past 9 months. I think this is because he now gets weekly or semi-weekly deep tissue massages by my human therapist.

This is the same masseuse that cured the foot ailment that almost derailed MY career last year. Each week Scoop is found to have incredible tightness and knots in different areas and the therapist is slowly working his way through eliminating them. I don’t know if we will reach a point that maybe a monthly therapy will be enough to keep him moving well, but that is what I am dreaming about.

I know he is getting better because in the past Scoop had gigantic bar knocking issues, and seemed to never be able to hit a weave entry, for this past month he has rarely taken a bar, and maybe only missed a couple weave entries, and I can tell you that I am trying hard to find every tough one there is to train.

I know the weave issues have not been training ones, he simply could not bend his body around the first gate. Especially on 90 degree entries, on a left hand entry he would make the first gate and have to skip the second. On a right hand wrap he could not get wrapped around the first pole, he always entered the second gate. The difference now is totally remarkable. And his A-frame at the moment is the one I dreamed of when I started training. Scoop could just never seem to get the oomph over the top of the frame that would drive him deep into yellow. I am asking the universe to let me have this dog, this frame, these weaves and his nice jump style!

Scoop is wild right now in training. I am having to work as hard on all the foundation skills as the agility work. After all the months of hit and miss training his excitement to be back in the field really working has him almost “off his stick” as they say. Stays and lineups and self-control are all high on our training list.

I took some photos of Scoop at Precision Body Therapy with his therapist, Edward.  Scoop seems to really love the sessions and actively participates at times stretching into the work. Interesting to observe the interaction of dog and therapist. I am sure Scoop knows that Edward is helping him.

Hope your juvenile agility dog gets to experience this kind of great therapy at some point in his life. I for one can’t wait till I can go back to spending my massage money on ME:)


working dogs

Scoop and Ace and I were in Southern Oregon last weekend teaching at Lisa and Robert Michelon’s agility training center for three days. I parked my RV right next to the training yard and had a really great weekend hanging out with my dogs. Yeah I guess I worked for three days, but teaching friends and long time acquaintances in a beautiful environment does not really feel like work until you are done and tired to the bone. I got some nice photos afterwards, especially of Scoop and my new blue boots:) Thank you Dawn for the Blue Boots and Scoop photo, I love it!

The weather in Oregon in June is more likely to be 100 than it is to be cold and rainy, but we got lucky and hit the middle of the temperature range, a perfect 70 degrees most of the time, and since I am a weather wimp, it was totally absolutely perfect. Is there a place on the planet that has 70 degree weather all year round without humidity and still has sun much of the time? Do they need to have an agility instructor there? Exactly 7 minutes before the seminar was to end Sunday the sky opened and the rain came down in buckets. We all jumped in our cars and were out a there. Well since I am a driving wimp too I only made it three hours to a really nice RV park during daylight so the boys and I could go for a nice long walk along the river in Red Bluff before we hit the sack.

Scoop has ‘snurfled” less every day since his procedure so he got to help out by being a demo dog some of the time. He is so much better that I am totally optimistic that we are on the downside of this disease. His doctor is optimistic and thinks we must have a good combination of drugs for him to be doing so well. I am relieved and happy yet still anxious about the outcome.

Scoop is a really great demo dog. All my dogs have to work for a living, I teach agility and so do they. Some of my dogs have been or are better than others. My first border collie Scud was a great working dog until the demo ended and I started to talk, then he grabbed his toy and dumped it in the nearest handlers lap and of course unless I threatened their expulsion if they played with him, they would happily toss the toy and I would yell for him to come back and lie down and he would till the next moment my back was turned and then the toy/lap/toss/yell thing started all over again. Oh my!

Riot was the best demo dog I ever had and a great helper too. She never interfered with any handler or dog but she loved to watch. She would demo a drill, lie down with her toy, then when a handler went to the line with their dog she would sneak up behind and after the handler dropped the leash she would pick it up and watch the dog run and then deliver it to the finish line where the handler would have to ask Riot for the leash. She would always oblige then silently creep over behind the next dog to run and repeat the scenario. No dog ever gave her the evil eye, or cared that she was watching and taking their leash. She has dog instinct and manners and never took a dogs leash until they left the line. She was my all time perfect working assistant while I taught, and of course great entertainment for all.

Wicked was too silly to demo. She is the sweetest dog there ever was but unless you were actually running her in agility (which she would do with anyone) she could not focus on the job of demoing a little exercise. She was just too silly and would jump around playing with the toy and maybe do what I asked her to do, maybe not. Stage fright? I dunno. Panic was a darn good demo dog, he loved to work but would also chill on the sidelines while he waited for another turn. He was a bit too fast and frantic at times, but he tried as hard as any dog ever could when the reward was to get to do agility.

Ace is not a really happy demo dog. I cannot speak to anyone or talk at all while he is working. He can do anything in agility if he is thinks he is on a course, or he and I are doing a drill on our own, but he is suspicious when I talk to people after or during his working times. It is like he is saying “if we are working why are you looking at them and saying things I don’t understand? Am I doing something wrong, what are you saying? Why are you talking about something we did, while you are playing with me? This is too weird, I can’t work if you are talking to ghosts”.

Scoop worked at a foundation seminar when he was just a few months old. He coped with the audience, the distractions, and the job of doing one thing and being rewarded then sent to a crate to hang out til the next opportunity to work. Somewhere around 5 months old demoing in a class situation became pretty difficult, and not because of the difficulty of the foundation exercise, but that he was too excited after the drill to settle quietly. He would scream when watching other dogs work. When he was older self control started to kick in and he learned to wait quietly for a turn.

Scoop will lie at my feet for the most part, or in his open crate and is not at all naughty unless I am helping a handler perk up their dog with a restrained recall. Scoop will occasionally without invitation join me to “help”. That’s ok, I don’t mind the occasional naughtiness, I am not perfect and neither is he:)

I hope you have a dog that can be by your side while you teach, or accompany you to your workplace and hang out politely. If you have to go to work, always best to do so with a dog by your side.


Show report

Scoop and I had a great time at the Portland AKC trial. I have been to that show almost every year since 1996, and this was one of the best ever. It is indoors on good matting, the same as the AKC Nationals. The courses were fun, the Time to Beat demo on Saturday night was perfect, allowing the handlers to run as often as they liked for $5. a run for charity. Some of the 2010 World Team Members (and coach:)) were at the event and we offered to run other handlers dog for a further $20. donation to the World Team. Those dogs that were willing to go round the ring with us had a great time as did we!

The weekend ended with ISC jumpers which I obviously do not enter with my dogs because as the World Team Coach I believe it would be inappropriate. However fate stepped in this year. My 7 year old BC Ace tied with a team for first in Excellent JWW and the course was torn down before we could have a run off. The ISC jumpers was offered as an alternative for the runoff and we gladly accepted. We ran at our 20 inch height at the end of the class, and thankfully had a fast and clean run on the challenging ISC course as the very last run of the entire show weekend. The grandstands cheered, and Ace and I had a blast.

Scoop was a pretty good boy. We made our debut in Novice standard and got 2 out of 4 legs. The wheel sort of fell off the last two standard runs. A ticked broad jump, refusal on the teeter, a tunnel off course when I was trying to reset to take the teeter, and a couple more bumbles in there as well.  We did get our third Novice JWW leg and got to move to Open JWW the last day. We had a pretty nice run but pulled a bar. You can watch our run here.

It took Scoop a couple runs to get used to the mats and the indoor trial setting as he has never trained in that environment. My bad, I should have made some trips to work in that kind of setting, but we got lucky anyway and he adjusted to the different footing just fine. He didn’t show as much speed or turning ability as he does on grass, and he added some extra strides I wish he would have left out, but fine for his first experience on mats. The first two days they held the FAST class as well and we qualified both times. So the weekend results were fairly nice for my green green boy. 2 Fast legs, 2 standard legs and a finished title in jumpers over the 4 day event.

Today is a training day. Scoop’s 2o2o behavior on the DW and teeter were pretty funky at the event. He stopped short on both contacts and reached back between his legs and nose touched the board. Two things going on there. First, I think the surface change from wood to rubber was something he thought was odd and he just doesn’t have any reinforcement history on that surface change. And maybe a bigger reason is that last week when running the contacts he was stopping with his feet barely off the board in 2o2o, and when he reached between his legs to nose touch, his nose came back almost to the board and I inadvertently marked that exaggerated behavior. Whoops!!

I am going to do a refresher course this week on 2o2o to remind him how far off the board his feet should be and that he needs to touch straight to the ground not reach back for the board. We already had one session this morning and it went well, but I have the plexi target out and we are just working on proofing on a flat board. I need to get the target away again, and proof on lots of different surfaces. This morning we worked wood to cement. I will drag out a long rubber mat to work on later, and I am going to skip wood to grass training for a couple days.

I am thinking about which alphabet drill to work on today….maybe letter “J”.

Thank you Mia for sending the nice photos of Jerry Ross from Santa Barbara a couple weeks ago. Can one ever have enough dog photos? Nah!

If you got to run your baby dog at a show on the weekend I hope you had as much fun as I did and that your dog did perfect start lines like Scoop did, and played every time you asked as well. If you accomplished that then the weekend was a successful one.


quality not quantity

I’ve kept my twenty ten resolution to train Scoop daily on 2o2o & nose targeting. Just when I thought we were really making progress, Scoop has decided he wants to be an anorexic. Hormones up=appetite down. I assumed this is the case with my 11 month old boy, but to be safe his vet give him a thorough exam which he passed. I was hoping for some small little disease that a round of antibiotics would cure. I do know the cure for hormones, but it requires a sharp surgical knife!

A week ago Scoop started eating his meals slowly but still trained with great enthusiasm for food. Over the week’s time he decided that he could easily skip a meal or two. His weight was perfect and I don’t want him to lose even a pound. The dilemma is not just getting him to eat enough to stay strong and not lose weight, but to be able to use food for training.

Over the last two days he is just as likely now to eat his treats slowly as well as his meals, and  at times even spitting them back out after he accepts the goodie. He is most likely to swallow a treat after he gets a click. He is programmed to do so after so many thousands of c/t’s in his life.

My normal training procedure is to use high quality meat or dog food as a reinforcement for nose touches. We do touches and clicks and vary the number of nose touches, and while we play a lot, I really depend on being able to do many touches for a food reward. It is quick. Nose touch/click/treat and repeat. After a few we break for play, or intersperse a tug game instead of/or directly following, a treat for the touch.

He is also more likely to take the treat if it is thrown to him. But if the food doesn’t have “click value“, or is moving like a toy, he just might not bother to eat it. So, the training process is changing. I need more behavior for less food reward, and I need higher quality responses for one great game of tug or a retrieve. That means I really need to be careful that I get a great touch before the release and instead of doing 100 nose touches, I might do 10. After a great strong touch, I say break-get-it, and I toy toss or tug with him.  Sometimes I ask for multiple nose touches, and then use the toy. This takes a lot longer than just handing a tidbit, and he is getting more rewards off of the target than on it.  If I throw the toy, he needs to return to me and either tug or go out for another retrieve reward. If we tug, even a very short session is at least 5 seconds long before I feel that it is fair to ask him to release the toy and do another behavior.

The moral is that I am being VERY careful to mark only the hardest nose touches, as the cost of the behavior for me is time and both Scoop’s and my energy.  Whether we are training nose touches or tricks, the reinforcement procedure is similar. He is having lots of fun though at my expense, and maybe the results of more toy training will be stronger and better behavior.

If so, then why not do more of this training whether he is eating voraciously or not.  He is training excitedly as the percentage of play greatly exceeds the length of time doing actual behaviors. I am also going to experiment with different foods, and larger quantities of food for each click. I am pretty sure Scoop is in hormone city right now, and I sure hope he get’s out of there soon. I’m an inpatient sort of person, the testicles will be gone soon if I decide the source of the anorexia is indeed from between his legs:)

I hope your puppy is still happily training for treats, and I hope mine is back on the chow wagon soon.


one thing leads to another

It started with 5 border collies and a potential short walk round the field. How it ended was not how it was planned. It took lots longer than planned to get to the field because everyone has to wait for a release through all the gates, and we had a couple anxious dogs who did not want to wait for releases, so we trained gate behavior for a while. Finally into the field, and as long as we were there anyway, why not  head down to the pond.

An hour later, 5 tired wet and muddy dogs needed to get dried off. Why not put them in the dog tub first, and get the mud off their legs, and as long as they were there, might as well, give em a full bath, and while they were getting dried on the grooming table why not do their nails. It is now time to feed dinner, so we might as well stay in the dog room and feed, then clean all the bowls, and fill up the weeks’ pill container for Panic and Riot’s pills and of course noticing we were low on a prescription it was into the office and call for a script refill.

This mornings training with Scoop felt the same way. How about a few minutes of target training in 2o2o on the little contact training box thingy in the living room. We started with nose touches to a target while he was in 2o2o on the box. Lots of cookie rewards and then a game of tug in between nose touches. Then on to nose touches with a release and toy throw, then a little bit of sloppiness on the target before  the release to the toy and we are back to multiple nose touching for cookies in place on the box. I tried some tugging in 2o2o position as a reward for the touch and his back feet came off the box. A short session of reinforcing keep your back feet on the board while we tug, and then we went back to try to put it together.

All systems go til Scoop wouldn’t drop the tug  toy on cue when I asked, so we had a session of tug/leave/click/treat/tug/leave/click/tug etc. If Scoop doesn’t relinquish the toy happily and quickly, using it as a reinforcer for the targeting isn’t going to be fun for either of us. Invariably training sessions go where they need to go. I have a starting plan, know what I am going to reinforce and how, but where the training leads me at times is not necessarily where I saw it going when we started. That’s ok. I don’t mind filling in the blanks, and taking a detour when something needs to be reinforced. At the end of  training this morning my disc targeting behaviors were improved. So was Scoop’s understanding that he can keep his back feet on the board and still be able to tug, and the toy release got some needed reinforcement. I usually do that a few times a week anyway, I just didn’t plan on doing it this morning.

Now we had a fun training session that ended with Scoop asking for more and we can head to the field for a walk, and some gate training, or maybe to the swimming pool and maybe a quick brushing….

Thinking of swimming…. 55 degree water???

just a quick dip……


poisoned cues

It’s been raining for the past 6 days  and I am tired of training in the house and sitting at my desk. Thank goodness we have a rain break today and we can get outside.  I couldn’t think of any excuses for not getting all my office work done that I have been putting off, so that is what I have been doing all week. Scoop has had to make do with one wet walk in the rain each day, and playing at games here in the house. Jim and I have also watched a few movies; District 9 (interesting) and something else that must not have been too relevant as I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

I also re-read Steven Pressman’s The War of Art, and I watched Dr. Jose Rosales-Ruiz’s dvd The Poisoned Cue.  As yet the after effects from “war..” haven’t much been felt, since I still have unfinished writing projects this week, but I have a start since I am sitting here updating Scooby’s blog. If you have not read The War of Art, you should. My friend Sandy Rogers gave it to me, and I find if I read it once a year (should be two or three times) then my resistance to finishing projects diminishes greatly! It is such an easy read, and a joy to find the inspiration in his pages.  Resistance to writing, or painting or saving the universe is futile for weeks after you finish this easy read.  

Another inspiration this week was in watching Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz Poisoned Cue video. Apparently Karen Pryor first coined the term, and I located her technical description of the poisoned cue on her website, but Jesus’s video was a lot more explanatory. Of course it is 2 hours and 44 minutes long, hers is just one page:) The poisoned cue is pretty much a description of what the term means. You take a perfectly well trained cue, and poison it using not very nice training methods like coercion or intentional or unintentional punishment, instead of positive reinforcement.  You can poison a cue, like your dog’s name, or your recall command using punishment, and voila, your cue creates stress and displacement behaviors  instead of a  joyful responses to your cue. One newish negative buzz word Jesus discusses is command. I think that Karen and henceforth others, are saying that a command now has the connotation of a behavior which was taught not using positive reinforcement. I might argue that I can teach a command using  positive  reinforcement without poisoning the word command🙂 but anyway, we all know that cue is the new command, just like brown became the new black in clothing choice a few years ago. Whatever the terminology, mixing up the use of positive  reinforcement  with corrections in training can get you into big trouble.  

It is possible to poison your cue, poison your training aids like leashes, or poison an environment. In our sport it is probably possibly to poison the entire competition agility ring. I know I have seen the start line, the bottom of the contact obstacles or weave poles poisoned many times. All you have to do is punish the dog for not staying in a 2o2o position at the same time you are trying to clicker train him to nose touch in the same spot, and voila! you can unknowingly poison the cue touch. Just saying the word touch could make  your dog slow down, leap off the end, lick his lips, or head out to sniff the nearest bush. Correct your dog for coming out at the 10th pole, and in short order you can have a big weave problem getting your dog to go beyond pole 10. Punish the entry and your dog will stay as far away from weave entries as he possibly can. You have all seen the ‘exhaust circle” that some dogs do to avoid making an entry error. Poisoning can happen after just one correction, and poisoning can happen by accident. The dog who injures himself or gets frightened on a piece of equipement, can effectively poison the obstacle, and subsequently the training or show environment. You don’t need to beat your dog while training to get stuck in a poisoned quagmire, but the effects are the same.  

Jesus’ video had some great demonstration of how cues are poisoned, and good ideas for getting out of some of the situations, like reshaping the behavior and totally changing your cue . What I really liked in the video is the method they used to train some simple behaviors using cues which were taught using positive reinforcement, to reinforce and teach other behaviors. The example was done to show the difference between a positively reinforced and a poisoned cue. One of his students demonstrated using a recall command cue to teach a new behavior. The principle being that any cue you have taught using r+ you could use entirely to teach another behavior.   So I did my own little experiment with Scoop.

I decided to use his “break” (release from position) behavior to teach him to walk over to a chair and lie his head on the chair.  The behavior  and cue of Break would be used instead of a click.  Scoop is normally rewarded for almost every  response to break, so that fits the criteria that you can use a positively trained behavior, and henceforth the cue for that behavior, to reinforce another behavior. Scoop’s criteria for break is that when he hears the word he stops any behavior he is doing (like sitting) and comes to me and is rewarded with a game of tug or a treat. 

This is how my Scoop experiment went.  I have cookies and a clicker in my hand and am standing a few feet from a chair. Cookies and clicker  in hand and me standing still are Scoop’s prompt for “game on let’s shape something”. He immediately offered to step towards the chair, I said break and when he turned to me I clicked and he got his cookie when he got to me. I was able to shape him going all the way to the chair one step at a time, and lying his head on the seat, in one short session. The skill of going to the chair was not difficult, but I really was surprised that rewarding him for break given at the same time that I would have clicked while shaping the behavior, would work that easy. Yeah, I saw it on the video, but till you do it yourself, it does not count:) The next day I tried using his name, another behavior which was taught with reward in a positive fashion, and I was able to quickly shape him to go to a wooden tub and put his head inside it. Again, it took just one session of a few minutes. I used his name at the same point that I would have clicked and it worked the same way. After I said his name as the replacement click, he came to me and I said yes and gave him a treat.  

In the video they show a dog’s reponse to shaping behaviors using approximately the same methods as I described in my extremely shortened version, but at the same time they also showed how the dog  responded to shaping behaviors with a recall cue which was taught with some coercion.  The dog  was recalled to the handler and if the response was not perfect, it was gently forced to come to the handler by pulling on it’s harness until the dog reached the handlers front, then the dog still received a click and treat after the punishment. This essentially “poisoned” that recall cue (turning it into a command). A totally different word was used for the cue for this forced recall to make it different from the positively trained recall cue, and make it obvious during the test when the command was used for shaping as opposed to the positively trained recall.  Using the same methods described above using the cue to reinforce another behavior, they tried the same shaping experiment using the “poisoned cue behavior”. (no coercion was used while they shaped the new behavior) The results were obvious. Stress, some displacement behaviors while working, slow performance and an unhappy attitude were all easy to see in the dogs performance in the video.   The dog did learn the skill through shaping using the negatively reinforced cue, but the difference in the performance of the  behaviors was very evident.

I will definitely watch this video again, and I suspect I have not condensed and described it well enough to have you think you now know all there is to know about poisoned cues.  The hostess on the video is Alexandra Kurland, and her commentary about horses while unnecessary for us dog trainers, does not interfere in any way with the interesting lecture and information that Dr. Rosales-Ruiz is sharing.  You can find the video for sale on Kurland’s website, theclickercenter.com.

So you know this is not all I thought about or did today, here are some of the photos from our adventures on the ranch today. Every winter if we get enough rain (we did!) we get a big pond at the bottom of our property. The dogs love to play in the water. It is great exercise when they run through the 18 inch deep pond, I wish it would stay all year long.  My photos aren’t as great at Marcy Mantell’s that I usually share with you, but they are the best I could do.

I hope it isn’t raining or snowing  where you live but if it is, do some reading or watch the great Ruiz dvd to learn more about  animal training. 


 let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!
 the pond
cute Scoop!
Panic in the front, then Ace and Scoop all stacked up
Having a run



Jim pruning

Rammy and the ewes watching it all

Recalls to side

IMG_3214Figured I would shock everyone and write two days in a row! Scoop, Ace and I are home from the trial. We had fun, but yesterday Ace and I were perfect, and today I pulled him off a weave entry:(   Don’t you just hate it when your dog is obedient?

Scoop was a bit better today, we hung at ring side for at least an hour and he was quiet while dogs were running. I worked a class jump bar setting and was able to leave him in a down while tied to an immovable object while I went in and set jump bars. There was always someone with him, don’t worry….. I did not leave my puppy tied at ringside!   I was happy that he let me get up go in the ring and waited calmly with them while I was gone for a minute. And he didn’t  mob too many folks today, however we went through 4 sticks of string cheese making sure he happily sat when I asked. Scoop seems to love everybody which is good and bad news when I am trying to keep his feet on the ground and his attention on me. We did lots of heelwork and playing and overall had some nice training moments.

Back at home yesterday I practiced doing recalls to side from a sit stay. I trust now that Scoop will sit and stay without scooching around even if I am 30 or 40 feet from him. Granted, this is in home field without lots of distractions. I always used to return to his side to release him, I have not done that many recalls from a sit stay with a lot of distance. I have done lots of sit stay and release to tug with me while I am reasonably close by, maybe  no more than 10 feet. I have been building this slowly so that we don’t have errors, and still let him drive with enthusiasm to me. If ever he moves a foot after I leave him I return to release him, he will not get to move towards me at a distance after an error on the sit stay.

So yesterday I lined him up, dropped the toy at my side, stepped away, called him to my side, rewarded, then spun with him and said get it, to let him have his toy. No problem on multiple attempts from a short distance with treats as a reward, and a Riot stick as the toy. Then I got out the soccer ball and the results were a teensy bit different.  Like this…Scoop lines up nicley, he is staying, I drop soccer ball, I step away, I release him  and he goes direct to the soccer ball. Whoops. So we built this slowly. More recalls to side with cookies, low level toy again, then very casual placement of soccer ball at my side, and we had success.  I am going out to train and see if I can add another level of  progression to the game today. I will let you know how it goes and show you the next step, next time. I hope you have as much fun training this game with your pup as I had with mine!


The game went like this:Scoop toy1

Time Flies


Time flies! Can’t believe it has been 6 weeks since I wrote about Scoop. I was away from home 30 out of the last 50 days. On a handful of those days Scoop was with me at agility trials. The big adventure was the trip to Europe and the World Championships for two weeks, which was immediately followed by a trip to Colorado for a week and then Portland  for three days. I am glad to be home, and have been enjoying every training moment with Scoop.


Luckily even though my blog has been suspended in time, Scoop’s training has not suffered the same fate. He looks and acts sort of grown up! He was 7 months old yesterday. He weighs 35 pounds and is over 20 inches tall. And really, really good news, no more tape and glue on his ears:)


Scoop seems quite mature now until I take him into a way too stimulating environment .  At home he is silly and playful, but will train attentively for a very long time. He has a lot of control… unless I am trying to demonstrate a specific agility move with someone else’s dog during a very serious dog agility lesson. Then he might be naughty enough to warrant being taken back to the house rather than get to hang with me in the field while I teach. At agility trials like one I went to today, as long as he is on his toy or I am actively reinforcing him with food for behaviors he is really great and attentive. His biggest distraction right now is greeting people. He wants to visit with everyone, and truthfully that also means jump on them. Short leashes, lots of rewards helps, but the issue is ongoing. I think I will ask for some help from friends tomorrow, to see if I can get in some reinforcements for sitting before he gets a chance to jump up to greet everyone.

We play and train as often as possible. That means we spend individual time together at minimum a few times a day when we are together. He hangs with me in my office when I am working indoors, and if I have a break that doesn’t include training him, he likes to cuddle on my lap. Well, sort of on my lap; those legs dangle off to the side cuz they are so long. I really like his willingness to settle down and cuddle. Mostly my dogs aren’t that fond of cuddling. Well Jack and Panic would sleep under the covers and crawl under my skin so to speak, but Wicked , Riot and Ace count the dog minutes on their toes, hoping I will let them off the couch, out of my arms, and onto their dog bed on the floor where they can act very non cuddly. Riot at 14 still wants to be right next to me all day, but cuddling is out of the question. She is too cool for that.


New stuff for Scoop

Scoop will drop his head flat to the ground and hold it there on the drop command. Since he also knows feet means to put your front feet in my hand, or up on a table or chair, I can now combine those two cues to make some fun tricks. Feet on the chair from the sit position, and then head down can be say your prayers. Feet in my hand, and head dropped low between his legs is sort of exaggerated praying while stretching. His body looks sort of weird on that one, so we don’t do it too much. He will also walk with me on his hind legs while his front feet are in my hand. That is another trick we do only once in a while since he is standing on his hind legs while doing it. I think the moral of the story is that anything that is much of an athletic feat is trained but practiced minimally while he is still all legs and growing like a weed.




Walk backwards.

Scoop now takes some steps backwards on cue. I use the command walk. I shaped it like this. I sat in a chair and waited for him to move one foot, then I clicked and gave him the treat. I watched his feet and waited for the movement again, then clicked. As soon as he started to understand that he was reinforced for taking a step backwards, I upped the ante and only clicked after he moved one foot and then the other, so I went from marking one step back, to marking two steps back. I decided to reinforce the beginning steps of walk by him returning to me for his reinforcement cookie. That way he was already reset to move away from me again. There are different ways to reinforce walking backwards and to pinpoint where the dog should move backwards to, like the dog walkign backwards and placing his rear feet on something like a rolled up carpet, towel, or a board. Sometimes I have used gates to help a dog walk backwards in a straight line, or I have trained while using a wall on one side to help in getting the dog straight while going back. At times I have reinforced all motion away from me and at the point of the last step I wanted to reinforce, I did not let the dog come forward, but moved quickly to the dog to hand him the treat. Anyway, this time I just decided to mark only straight steps back and reinforce from my hand with Scoop coming to me for the cookie. I counted steps before I clicked, continuing to build till I got up to 5 or 6 steps. At that point I switched to throwing my reinforcement toy or cookie to him. I had to be careful on delivering the reward to him or I got a head turn away from me when he caught the reward. Since I would really like him to go straight back and not curl or turn, I want to reward him while he is in straight line directly in front of me.

This is still a work in progress. Sometimes he sort of hops backwards on the first few steps. I want him to go quickly but take steps not jump backwards. I like to teach this behavior as it uses the dog’s rear end rather well and is a good athletic endeavor. I am not trying to strengthen his rear, or build muscle, I won’t do enough of it to do that yet. But as he grows older I will use it for strengthening, and it will probably be part of my warm up drill before I go into the ring.

I have lots more stuff to write about with Scoops’ training, and I hope I will have time to do it in a much more timely fashion rather than waiting 6 weeks to tell you how he’s doing. On my list: toy control games, recalls, using high value toys that put my dog over the top, and lots more.

I have three more days of agility coming up this weekend and Scoop will be with me . I hope my show report on Monday is that his greeting manners have made a remarkable improvement! I hope you have as great a weekend with your puppy as I am planning on having with mine.