Friday, April 22, 2011

What Is Training

The best time to learn about dog behavior is before you're in the thick of things and your dog is jumping all over your guests or redecorating the house with the contents of your trash can. There are several ways of "training" your dog. It's important to understand that when deciding what you need to do with your dog.

First, there is "behavior training." This is the kind of training in which a dog is taught to be a "good citizen." Typically this includes housetraining, good behavior around other people and dogs, reasonable leash manners and other small things that make a dog a much more pleasant companion. A well behaved dog attracts no special notice from the public (aside from amazing some with their good manners).

Then there is "obedience training," which is generally teaching the dog how to perform specific activities on cue. This can include traditional "obedience" exercises such as sit, stay, come, down and heeling. The emphasis here is on prompt and precise performance. While there can be many overall benefits to such training, the training is usually for the training's sake and not necessarily to improve the dog's behavior. Dogs that have been obedience trained will perform specific tasks when their owners ask them to do so. (And as a matter of fact, some obedience trained dogs may behave poorly otherwise.

"Activity training" refers to training for specific activities -- this includes hunting, herding, Search and Rescue, lure coursing -- any of a myriad number of activities designed to showcase the abilities of the dog and his handler, particularly in activities a the dog has been bred to do. These days, such activity also includes "sports" such as frisbee, flyball, agility and so on. Sports type of training is basically obedience training on steroids as the dog is still being asked to do un-dog like things.

Of course the lines tend to blur between all of these distinctions. A certain amount of obedience training will help with behaviors and a behaviorist will teach certain obedience commands to assist with getting a dog under control. For example a dog that is heeling will not pull on the leash. Still you want to keep this in mind when selecting a training class so that it best matches your needs. For many pet owners, the behavior oriented classes are the best way to learn how to understand and control your dog. For those of you who want to enjoy a sport or compete in an activity with your dog you will need to start with obedience and move along to more complex training.

The basis for each type of training is who is learning who's language. With behavior training, it's mostly the human learning dog, and with obedience training it's mostly the dog learning human words and what to do when he hears them. At either end of the scale, the human has the biggest job. All the dog has to do is listen and do what the human asks for. It's the human's job to figure out how to communicate her wishes to the dog.

There really is no right or wrong way to train your dog and you can mix and match to serve your purposes. Things to take into consideration when choosing the most effective method for you and your dog include: your personality, your dog's personality, your goals, your abilities as a trainer, and your experience as a trainer. For example, if you are not happy with a particular method of training, for whatever reason, then it is unlikely you and your dog will do well with this method. Your dog will pick up on your reluctance and either share your dismay or take advantage of the situation to do as he pleases.

You need to be aware of whether your dog needs behavior modification or obedience training. Certainly, the two may be related: a dog that digs because it is bored may become less bored with obedience training and stop digging. It is important, however, to understand that the dog stopped digging because it was no longer bored than because it now knows how to sit.

If your dog is the strong, take charge type, a method that does not deal with this trait will result in his walking away with the training sessions, getting very little done. Conversely, if your dog is very sensitive, there may be a variety of methods you can use so long as you are very careful about how you correct him. Or, a very timid dog may need a particular method that emphasizes learning something new very thoroughly so that they may be as confident as possible when doing it. You have to know your dog and what his strengths and weakenesses are.

Your own abilities as a trainer come into play, as well. Some people have a natural sense of timing and an almost instinctive understanding of what their dog is thinking and how to react to it. Most people do not have this ability but can learn it to some degree over time. Others just do not. Recognizing your particular strengths and weaknesses will let you use each more effectively. Another ability some people seem to just have, others can develop, etc. is the ability to "read" a dog; that is correctly guess what the dog is thinking or feeling during training. This ability is valuable as it allows you to make appropriate adjustments on the fly to increase the effectiveness of your training.

Obviously, therefore, a good trainer is one who helps YOU figure out how to train your dog. A good trainer helps you learn to observe your dog for important clues to his behaviors and actions. A good trainer watches you and your dog work together and helps you learn where you are letting your dog down. A trainer's job, in short, is to teach you to become a trainer of your own dog. It is not a trainer's job to teach your dog.

Typically, you only see your trainer for one hour a week. Training requires short, daily sessions. YOU are the one training your dog. A good trainer has several methods under her belt and helps you figure out which ones work best with your dog.

Don't worry, there are some constants in dog training: Persistence, Consistency, Kindness and Fairness.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rally Obedience - Starts again on May 8th at 6pm

Rally-O is a sport in which the dog and handler complete a course that includes 10 to 20 stations where the dog and the human perform a behavior or activity. Each of these stations has a sign providing instructions regarding the behavior that is to be performed. Signs are numbered to indicate the course the handler and dog take during the performance.
Originally devised by Charles L. "Bud" Kramer, Rally Obedience is a form of dog obedience with a twist - a total focus on fun and excitement for the dog, handler and spectator.
There is a lot of variety with each rally course. And Rally is different than Obedience in that handlers may talk to their dogs, praise them, and give them needed verbal commands.
Handlers can even use hand signals, point and in Novice and Advanced, clap and snap their fingers at anytime and as often as the handler needs. And it's not only allowed, but encouraged - making it a really fun sport!

The world is an obstacle course - Urban Agility

Parkour = "Combining the core elements of running, jumping, and climbing with the discipline of the martial artist, the grace of the gymnast, and the virtuosity of the skateboarder, parkour—or freerunning—is more than simply an elegant noncompetitive sport. It's an art form, a philosophy promoting fitness, imagination, community spirit, and ethical, healthy living. " Canine Parkour is the same.

Starting Tuesday, May 3 · 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Here is a video of our early start at Canine Parkour

Monday, April 18, 2011

Urban Agility

Urban Agility (also know as Canine Parkour) is an outdoor sport using natures obstacles and park additions as a human and dog gym.

This class is agility with a twist. The agility is done over, under and through some of the most challenging and environmentally distracting objects we can muster up. This is a safe confidence builder for any dog.  This fun and exciting class is a practical alternative to conventional agility and a great way to prep your competitive agility dog.  You won’t believe what your dog is capable of until you try!  All breeds and all ages welcome!
Everyone and every dog deserves to be fit and healthy without risk of injury. You can achieve your agility and obedience training goals and increase the bond with your dog at the same time. Go beyond the hamster wheels of typical agility or obedience training. Train your dog to climb stairs, ladders, and ropes; go up and down slides, walls and tables; be fearless and confident in the face of any obstacle.
Urban Agility is a fun way to exercise your dog using everyday objects, structural components and park furniture for agility and sport. Mental stimulation is so important for every dog, so you will learn how to use items you come across every day to make walks more fun for both you and your dog. You don’t need access to expensive agility equipment for you and your dog to have fun!
Think of urban agility as a gym membership for you and your dog. Tons of fun and a great bunch of people. it is a non-competitive physical activity in which you and your dog are expected to overcome obstacles by adapting movements to the environment in the most efficient way possible.
Traffic, people, other dogs, loud noises, dog parks, these are every day occurrences in the life of urban canines and should be a source of confidence and positive stimulation. This class engages dogs and their owners in a positive manner and gives them the tools to tackle these challenges head on. Obedience training and urban agility exercises are combined to create a class that is as exciting as it is productive.
This is a lifestyle change for both you and your dog. Urban Agility will equip you with the tools you need to achieve your training goals with your dog.Whether you are working with your dog for your and his health, or training for a big challenge, Urban Agility will help motivate and inspire you to continue.
Are you up for the challenge?

How it works:

  • 20 Urban Agility sessions for $150
  • 10 Urban Agility sessions for $90
  • 1 drop-in Urban Agility session for $10
Sign up here

Places we will be visiting over the months:
Ft Lowell Park Ramadas 2 and 7
Jesse Owens Park
St Phillips Plaza
Armory Park
El Presidio Park
Lincoln Park
Purple Heart Skate Park
Lake area at Reid Park
El Paseo de los Arboles Commemorative Park
Strip mall at River and Craycroft NE corner

Friday, April 15, 2011


The weekend that Seize the Leash just had really started me thinking about training, relationships and responsibility in regards to ourselves, others in our lives and our pets. The turning point was an evaluation we did for a stray dog that a woman started feeding and gaining the trust of and eventually let live in her backyard. No one else in the household wanted this dog invading their lives and one member of the household is terrified of dogs in general. Now no one except the woman can go out in the backyard because the dog trusts no one and is willing to bite to make sure that he remains in possession of both the yard and the woman.

I have seen this type of scenario all too often. I have seen too much responsibility taken and not enough. I have seen and felt, blame, shame, and regret for having accepted a committment to another living creature. Sometimes I've wondered if the scenarios that I'm faced with were created for the sole purpose of having something to do to stave off boredom or for needing some kind of purpose in life. Occassionally, I have even seen a relationship that was created for the purpose of "being right" and others "being wrong".

Dogs have taught me many things over the years - committment and responsibility being the biggest for me because I have a tendency to procrastinate and take the easy road and the short cuts with my life rather.

What I have learned from dogs and their owners and am still learning:

Be a dog. Live as much in the present as it's possible to do. Do not regret what you've done in the past or worry about what the future will be. You create your future by your actions of today.

Choose to be in the moment with your dog. Let go of what happened in the past and create a better future by living now. You are always at a point of choice in your life. When making your choices in your day to day life you are affecting more than just you and most importantly you are affecting your dog.

Maintain your intergrity. Don't compromise yourself because of what others think or say. You must be a person of your word. Personal integrity will carry over to each and every part of your life. You can't have it in one area and not have it in another. Part of this is that you have to know what you want and who you are. Don't let others definte you or how you live your life or interact with your dog.

Take full responsibility for your relationships. Responsibility is not blame, it's the willingness to be the one in control of any situation or relationship and understand that control does not mean actually making others move.

Building a solid relationship with your dog is a must. If you have a good solid relationship with your dog, she will want to be where you are, doing what you do, constantly checking in with you to see what's new and exciting. She will not seek out other people, or other dogs to interact with. Your dog will be all about you, and what you get to do together.

Commit. Keep your commitments, re-examine the commitments that you didn’t really want to make and recommit to what is acceptable. Make sure that what you are doing is what you really want to do. Be happy with your decisions.

Be aware of your emotions. Be aware of your thoughts when interacting with your dog. Frustration is one of the worst emotions to bring to training. If you are feeling frustrated, it's a short hop to hanging your dog by the neck via it's leash and collar or heading to the pet store and buying a shock collar. Your thoughts can uplift you, yet they can also create sadness, fear, anger, etc. Learning to be aware of your thoughts and how they create your reality is a necessary tool when training your dog.

Express how you feel. User a variety of communicative methods to show others and your dog your real thoughts and feelings. Give yourself full permission to feel what you are feeling and be willing to share that. Love your dog through the way you teach him

Move. Dance, leap, fly, swim, do something. Don't stagnate, be fluid and creative. Movement is change and without change there is nothing. You have to have change and movement to be creative and to formulate ideas. A stiff body is much harder to create solutions from. Dogs rarely stop moving unless they are resting.

Learn how to communicate. Any method of training should be taken from a dogs point of view, and use the natural forms of communication that most dogs learn as puppies. It really doesn't matter what you want your dog to learn. If YOU learn to communicate to her in a language that she understands and if you learn how to set things up so she can figure things out for herself, teaching becomes very simple.

Be a true leader. Leadership is about trust and respect; it's not about overpowering or dominating a dog physically. It's about letting him be a dog and doing dog things, but shaping the context in which he does them. People and dogs want to be led and they want a leader who will keep them on track. If you ask me it is a sort of survival instinct. People may grumble because you may force them out of their comfort zone but they will follow you. Your personal integrity will show up in every aspect of your life.

Know your stories. It can be beneficial to know the stories that you have in your subconscious mind. Realize that they are the past and commit to being fully within yourself in the present moment. You are you and you are not your stories.

As I write more and more and I realize that I write what I am inspired to write. I realize that some people may not understand what this has to do with owning a business or with training your personal dog. I will keep it this answer simple.

The more authentic and present we are with ourselves, the more responsibility we assume in our relationships with ourselves, with other people, or with our dogs. The more committment we create in these relationships the closer we become and the easier our relationships become. As a dog trainer it is important for my clients to understand that training our dogs is small part of a bigger picture. If we practice the above exercises training is easy. It is no longer stressful or controlling.