Assigning Responsability in Vito's Obedience Training

I took the boys to an obedience lesson with Nancy last week.  This has been something I have been wanting to do for a long time but had never made a priority.  Usually I post about things really quickly after they happen but I have been doing a lot of thinking about the advice given to me for Vito.

I see Vito as having 2 issues that is keeping our obedience career on hiatus.  #1 is his anxiety over people watching, especially ring stewards.  #2 is getting him ready to really work/play instead of just going through the motions; this may or may not be related to #1.  I have been handling our 2nd issue by having Vito do some tricks and really trying to get him jazzed up with a toy or treats.  I skip formal set ups and do lots of walking backwards a few steps before turning into him to heel.  It allows an effortless transition into work and keeps enthusiasm high.  Once Vito is in that happy mode he does a fantastic job of working and has a lot of fun.

So at our lesson we talked about putting the responsibility to work on Vito.  Nancy observed that after a period of down time, such as being on a down stay while we talked, Vito had a hard time popping up to work and I fell into my routine of jazzing him up.  She urged me to work on duration sitting in heel position, being quiet, and creating a conditioned response to the two.  Basically I'm supposed to stop working so hard for him and start letting him step up.


I know I didn't fully digested Vito's lesson plan and this week that followed I had many conflicting thoughts.  Shortly after the lesson, Denise Fenzi posted about her long journey with her new OTCH dog Cisu.  Denise wrote about her need to be there for her dog, maintaining that connection through interaction and just supporting her every second.  Comparing those thoughts to our lesson and my want to have an enthusiastic and pushy dog I was confused.

So I've been thinking about how to balance the two ideas and have finally reached the conclusion that they really aren't opposing each other like I feared.  Vito may need that constant connection once we start training, but he needs to make that choice to connect in the first place.  While I've been trying to create more drive for working I've really been luring and pleading with him to start.  My efforts need to go into maintaining the connection that he chooses to seek out with his complete focus, not just attention.

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Champions of the Water

Oh no, Fiona has been taking swimming lessons from Vito!  

Is it possible that all my future dogs are doomed to swim, um specially?

Video of the near drownings:
(Video of Vito's typical swim style is here starting at 45sec, taken last week by Megan.  My little champion!)

We went again to the dog park we found last week, this time with Fiona too.  The plan is to drive out every free weekend this summer and just let them run!

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Chuck Update

Photo by Paul Dols
Chuck, the service dog I raised prior to Fiona, is doing well!  I didn't share it here, but there was a possibility he was going to be career changed from his  life as a mobility dog.  Since he was a puppy Chuck would sometimes leak when resting.  It worsened as he grew and he was put on Proin which seemed to manage it well.  We were up front about Chuck's daily medicine and because of the cheapness of it he was matched a mobility dog.  Things were going fabulous until a few months ago when Chuck's leakiness reappeared and increasing his Proin did not help.

Miraculously several donors chipped in and Chuck had a surgery that had a chance of fixing the problem.  Thankfully the surgery worked and Chuck is eagerly back hard at work!

A link to a nice article is here.

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We can go to a dog park again!

Thank you to Megan, Buzz, and Bailey for introducing us to the best dog park in the Twin Cities (Battle Creek)!  We haven't been to a dog park in ages due to Vito's ball obsession.  While I ended up with quite the collection of found tennis ball quickly shoved in my back pack, there were only a handful of times I had to collect Vito from finding a person tossing a ball to their dog.  The rest of the time was hiking and dips into many ponds while avoiding the open play areas.




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A Tribute to Obedience

I have been reading and hearing a lot of things lately that are poo pooing obedience.  Obedience is described as boring, too serious, snobby, and old fashioned.  Of course most of these things are said by people who have never even experienced the sport.  While obedience is not for every dog or for every person, I truly believe that most people just need to give it a try before criticizing.


The truth is that obedience is what you make of it.  Training for obedience can easily be a high energy sport that can leave you breathless!  Heeling is not marching around in a circle but is sprinting fasts, stalky slows, zig zag turns, and exclamations of true joy.  Boring does not fit anywhere in our training .  I love showing dogs that obedience is FUN!

The serious aspect is your own goals.  In the end, a title is a title whether made up of 170's or 200s; and they don't print the scores on the green ribbons!  Working towards perfect fronts and finishes doesn't have to be your goal even if it's mine.  I personally love obedience for that constant challenge of maintaining performance while still making it fun.   At the end of each run you will see team after team hug their dog and reward generously regardless of a Q.  Obedience people still love their dog above else. 

While obedience trials are quieter than agility or flyball trials, it doesn't mean people aren't cheering for their friends and competitors.  The newcomers are more stressed over their 5 minutes in the ring (compared to 30sec in agility) and the experienced ones are respectfully quiet as they cross their fingers while another person goes.  People are generally more focused on their dogs, but the applause and congratulations are heartfelt, and especially present towards the A crowd.  The number of people I've met who do not fit this image are few and equal in percentage to the other sports I participate in.

As for old fashioned, well obedience people are still loving dog owners.  The sport is slow to change but it is evolving and will only be led by example.  If you want more "positive" trainers in the ring than come join us!

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Reflections on Training

I still consider myself a newbie to the dog agility world, but I thought I'd jump into this blog action day on If I Knew Then What I Know Now.  Unfortunately, my thoughtful post disappeared somewhere into cyber space this morning instead of actually posting.  So visualize something profound here instead of these jumbled ramblings I whipped up over breakfast! 


1. Train the dog in front of you.  Not every dog has to tug to do well or needs a fabulous startline stay.  If it isn't important to you or doesn't seem to be working for your dog, then stop obsessing!  I'm currently rethinking a lot of my training and encouraging my dogs to be naughtier.  Bark, beg, jump, anarchy!  Agility should be about fun instead of trying to fit everything into little pegs.

2.  Develop a list of priorities so you don't let that most important criteria slide.  For me, attitude and its reflection in speed has risen to the top over accuracy.  I think I made a lot of mistakes in my training by focusing more on the outcome rather than the process.  Happy corgi didn't care, but I think I let the anxious Toller practice running slower when unsure instead of making sure to move slow enough where he could run full speed from the start.  I understand the opposite viewpoint of with confidence comes speed is just as true, but I think I like the opposite philosophy better!

And finally, here is something that I'm really glad I didn't know when I first started!
Running contacts are really hard, especially for a first time dog owner!  If I had known how much obsession is required I never would have jumped in and learned so much about stride length, timing, criteria, and making training fun for the dog!  Even though I gave it up with the corgi and still have lots to work on with the toller, I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

Email: lkwaudby (at) gmail.com

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