Seminars, Trials, Group Classes, Run Thrus, Online Courses, Private Lessons… How Much is Too Much?

1070_711773423213_9845_nSometimes once we get passionate and borderline obsessive about a certain dog sport, we can easily overdo it. Especially in a world where more technological resources are available to us as dog owners, we could easily be hearing the opinion of a half a dozen or more instructors within a week’s time. Does it benefit us from a training perspective to actually process so much information? Does it become overwhelming? Do we recognize early signs of burn out and take a step back or keep plugging along because now it is simply a habit to do so?

We are blessed in this country to have so many truly talented dog trainers easily accessible to us and with the recent surge of online classes, many of us are lucky enough to regularly be instructed by many international greats as well. But does all of this access allow us to get carried away too easily? How is it affecting our dog(s)? How is it affecting our relationship with our dog(s)? How is it affecting us? How is it affecting our wallets?

I don’t intend to be putting a negative spin on accessing this wide array of information. Many people are able to take away bits and pieces from each instructor and apply those lessons to their training in a very healthy way. However, I feel it is nearly impossible to try to implement more than one training methodology to your overall belief system. And if you’re trying six different methods for your running dog walk, how do you know which one really is working best if at all if you do not give any of the six an adequate amount of trial time within your training sessions?

Be cautious as we enter 2013 about finding balance within your training. For some, it might be advantageous to make goals within each of your current dog sports and commit to not delving into something completely new until you have accomplished those goals. Maybe make a list of the top 5 instructors who you personally would want to work with and choose to only stick to those names. It might be advisable to set a monthly training budget not necessarily for financial reasons but in order to limit your accessibility to too much training. Yes, knowledge is power, but also remember that great beauty lies within great clarity.

And if you don’t change any of your training habits this year, if nothing else, make sure you are taking your dogs to the beach or out on the trails at least once per week. No matter what happens in competition, I feel we will always be most fulfilled in our relationship with our dogs while they are our companions.

Happy training to all for this upcoming year, and I wish each of you many successful and special moments on and off the field!

Learn More About CGC Testing

Many people shy away from getting a Canine Good Citizen title on their dog for some reason or another; however, it really isn’t as scary as it may seem. There are 10 components of the test, and yes, your dog does have to successfully complete all 10 components to pass, but in my opinion, AKC has set you and your dog up for success!

The ten components of a CGC test are as follows:

  • Accepting a Friendly Stranger
  • Sitting Politely for Petting
  • Appearance and Grooming
  • Out For a Walk
  • Walking Through A Crowd
  • Sit and Down on Command/Staying in Place
  • Coming When Called
  • Reaction to Another Dog
  • Reaction to Distractions
  • Supervised Separation

And while you may automatically discount your dog when reading one or two of these bullets, please realize that some items are simpler than they may read on the surface. For instance, when doing your sits and downs on command, your dog only has to stay in place for one of the positions rather than demonstrate both a sit and down stay. Furthermore, in regards to reaction with another dog, handlers will both have their dogs in a heel position and approach each other person to person with their dogs on the outside, so the dogs never truly have the opportunity to interact.

Feel free to watch the following video provided to you by AKC to get a better idea of what a sample CGC test may look like.

If you are interested in trying to get your dog’s CGC title, we are holding a test at our facility in Lowell, MA on Sunday, October 28th. We also will be hosting a couple of practice days beforehand if you would like to do a mock run through of the test prior to the actual test day. Please e-mail me, Jess Ritchie, your local CGC evaluator, at for more details or feel free to call us at 866-957-DOGS(3647).

Important Stats About Summer Heat and Your Dog!

Leaving dogs alone in a car with extreme summer heat is not a light issue. Please review the chart below to see how quickly a car that feels somewhat comfortable when you leave it can become incredibly dangerous to your dog.

The statistics below were discovered by Jan Null, CCM who works in the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University. These numbers are a reflection of the temperature inside of a car with the windows cracked and the total elapsed time that the vehicle was left unattended. Please by extremely cautious of the safety of your dogs this summer. Overheating can lead to very severe problems, including death.

 70°  75°  80°  85° 90°  95°
 0 mins. 70  75 80  85  90 95
 10 mins.  89  94  99  104  109  114
 20 mins.  99  104 109  114  119 124
 30 mins. 104  109  114  119  124  129
 40 mins.  108  113  118  123  128  133
 50 mins.  111  116  121  126  131 136
 60 mins.  113  118  123  128  133  138
 1 hour +  115  120  125  130  135  140

“Bitch, Where’s My Money?”

We were fortunate enough to have Randy Hare up in Mass towards the beginning of this month for a 3-day seminar at our facility. What a truly wonderful presenter he is. Randy was informative, gracious, and lighthearted all in one. We all were able to walk away from our long weekend with him with a much greater depth of knowledge of the On Target system.

For those of you who are not familiar with Randy or his system, Hare is an internationally renowned detection trainer based in Jackson, Mississippi. He wanted to have his dogs be as precise as possible with their detection work in law enforcement so that the dog’s response to the presence of drugs would hold up as best as it possibly could in court. Randy’s system uses carefully constructed boxes that allow the dogs to play tug of war at source, work through distractions very early on in training, and teach the dogs to be obedient to odor and only odor within the context of their detection work.

While this seminar appealed to mostly working dogs, any breed with high toy drive could potentially thrive with Randy’s system. One continuous thought I had throughout the weekend was how important timing is in the context of detection work. Yes, timing is crucial in all aspects of good dog training, and if you reward the dog for poor positioning in the heel or consistently reinforce the dog off of a piece of contact equipment, you will get less than optimum results. The only difference I see with detection training, however, is the dog consistently losing value for the odor whenever timing is not as close to perfect as possible on the handler’s end, especially in the early stages of training.

In most other dog sports, the dog will never have to work in an environment with packages of hot dogs lying around or your dog’s favorite toy scattered on the floor. Clearly a thorough trainer will train their dog through these types of distractions regardless if the dog will ever see this in the real world or not, but the likelihood of the distraction being present in the context of evaluating the dog in an actual performance is very low. Whereas if a narcotics dog is searching a car for drugs, there could likely be a couple of Big Macs in a McDonald’s bag on the floor. Or if a search and rescue dog is running through a forest to find a missing child, the dog could potentially see a frisbee that dropped out of someone’s backpack. There is just absolutely no room for a dog to choose a hamburger over finding potential drugs or a favorite toy over the missing child hence the importance of obedience to odor.

Randy was kind enough to allow us all the opportunity to work his 9 year old Malinois Chona. This dog has had extensive training in Randy’s system and is incredibly obedient to odor. You can see in the photo below one of our seminar attendees is practicing her timing with Chona; the dog’s nose could not possibly be any closer to source. And the key component that yields these extraordinary results is accurate and precise timing in the foundational training.

Chona will lift her head up from this point and look at the person rewarding her as if to say, “Bitch, where’s my money?” (phrase coined by Randy Hare) as you can see illustrated in the second picture. Nonetheless, those of you who have some general knowledge of detection training know to always wait to reward the dog once she goes back to source rather than reward her with her head up and her nose off the odor. Notice this week if you are seeing “Bitch, where’s my money?” moments in your training. Does your dog continue to do his or her job if you don’t move in with the reward right away and does your dog work through the frustration of waiting for reinforcement? If not, what may be the cause of that missing link?

All in all, it was a very successful weekend. We could not have chosen a better person to kick off our seminar series at K9ProFit and look forward to hopefully brining Randy back in the future. If you are interested in working through Randy’s system with your dog, feel free to contact Scott Williams of Beyond The Leash at (866)957-DOGS who has been through Randy’s trainers school and has successfully worked numerous dogs through Randy’s system on various odors. Scott also has worked with thousands of dogs on recreational odor between his clients in Los Angeles, CA and New England. We look forward to hosting more seminars soon and truly appreciate all of those who helped to make our first seminar a success. To stay up to date with all of the latest information going on at K9ProFit, located in Lowell, MA, follow Cookie That! on facebook.

A Recap of Spring

So many exciting things have gone on so far in 2012. First and foremost, I have joined together with Scott Williams of Beyond The Leash Dog Training to open a new 3,500 sq. ft. training facility called K9ProFit. The space is located in Lowell, MA in the same building as the famous Ramalho’s West End Gym, which is location where the movie The Fighter was filmed.

We are very excited about our space and are offering basic obedience, agility, tricks, frisbee, scentwork, fitness classes, puppy preschool and much more! We are looking forward to our upcoming summer session as well as our canine detection seminar with the famous Randy Hare, which will be held at our facility this July 6-8.

Blondy demonstrating some nice self control techniques in the context of tricks!

At the end of March, I was honored to be able to present a seminar for the ARFF Agility Club. This is a very active agility club in New England made up of a wide array of talented members that had a beautiful featured page in the April issue of Clean Run. The seminar focused on Tricks for Agility Dogs, specifically in regards to building speed and arousal as well as maintaining self control. We had a great time and were lucky to use Riverside Canine Center’s space this for great event (we were still laying floors at K9ProFit at this time = P).

A group picture of some of the ARFF members at the end of our awesome day of seminar fun!

It has been a long few months of painting, cleaning, moving, and training, but we are so excited about what’s to come. If you haven’t been able to check out my new website, be sure to visit Cookie That! and share the link with all of your friends and family. I am looking forward to officially planting myself and my business in New England am happy to announce we are off to a great start! = )

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