Make your own free website on
Home | Sully and Chace, the Sonoran Airedales | My Avocation - Training Dogs | Thoughts on Training Airedales | More Thoughts on Training | More of Sully and Chace | Chace Pics | Tracking Pics | Sully's BH | My Vocation | Fran's Curriculum Vitae | Favorite Links | Contact Me
Sonoran Aire
More Thoughts on Training

These represent messages I have posted on various dog training lists

These thoughts represent posts I have placed on various dog training lists. In many cases, the thread of the posts are apparent.

Dog that was possessive of the ball and wouldn't give it up then after working starting dropping the ball to soon on the way back to the handler:

I think what has happened is, with the 2 ball routine, you have him actually doing what you want, i.e., dropping ball 1 - just too soon! Don't correct him for the behavior or he will really get confused!

What I would try is throw your first ball and just as he gets it in his mouth start backing up FAST and clap your hands using whatever "command" you use, "bring it here", or whatever. That should stimulate him to get back to you quickly and hopefully he will be so excited that he won't think to drop the ball. Then just as he gets back to you, pull out and throw ball 2.

If he drops the ball, run to the ball and pick it up and throw it again - a shorter distance and run backwards just as he gets the ball in his mouth. You are working toward him bringing back ball 1 to get ball 2.

I would only do this once or twice in a session. Don't overdo it. Get a success or even half a success and quit. Go on to something else NOT related to retrieving. Slowly you can add whatever other things you had intended, e.g., bringing it back into a sit for the other ball, or a "tag" for the second ball, etc.

The other thing I would offer on this is that sometimes we get so wrapped up in needing a success we work on something too much. Sometimes just throw a ball and let him go get it and run backwards to bring him toward you and then release him to play. Not everything must be absolutely perfect or controlled. Or use other things for him "retrieve" and play with. Like does he like a frisbee? Just something different.

Lagging and leaving the handler when off leash:

Dogs lag for a couple of reasons, but all of them come down to they find reward in NOT being in the proper heel position. So here's what I would do:
Put her on a buckle collar. Use whatever her ABSOLUTE FAVORITE thing is - toy, tug, food (her absolute favorite food - liver, chicken, whatever). Put her on leash and with your left hand on the leash tell
her to heel and with your right hand put the fav item right in front of her and where getting it will put her in the proper heel position, BUT don't let her get it right away. Pull her back. Make her strain for it and hold her back. When she is really pulling to get it, let her get it, BUT ONLY IN THE PROPER HEEL POSITION.

Do this only once more in this session. Then go off and play. Work on nothing else in this session. No stress. Next day, same thing. Do this for at least a week. You can increase it to three or four times
at a time if it looks like it is taking her up in drive.

Then after it is obvious that she is really struggling to get it, drop the leash as you take a couple of steps and release her to get the item. Gradually build up on this too, so that you are taking a few steps after dropping the leash. Then just keep building on this.

What you essentially doing is retraining her to realize that the reward comes ONLY if she gets in the proper heel position. The faster she does this, the faster she gets the item. Don't push it. Don't go off leash to proof" too fast. When you do go off leash, I wouldn't go completely "off leash". Use a thin cord and if she starts the lagging thing. Right back to the above immediately. "You want it, honey, too bad. You have to be up here to get it."

Teaching Attention:

I start attention initially in a stationary position, rewarding as soon as the dog looks at me. Then I move to attention while moving, but not using the command to "heel". That way I am not working on position as much as just on attention. I do this by changing direction as much as is necessary to keep the dog with me. As soon as I change direction and I have the dog right there looking at me, I reward.

It isn't until I start teaching the "heel" command and I am rewarding for proper position that I incorporate the attention WITH the heel and then I only reward for BOTH attention and proper position. To me, heel is not the movement, but rather the position (head & shoulders parallel to the left leg). To me, "heeling" is the act of walking "at heel" or walking in the "heel" position. This is reinforced when I teach "quarter turns".

The other thing I try to be really careful of is not to push the attention work too fast and throw in distractions when the dog isn't ready. Early attention work in my opinion needs to be started away
from heavy distraction and gradually increased with the age and training level of the dog. For example,I do not expect the same level of attention from the puppy that I do from Sully.

I also keep attention sessions very short - an hour long obedience class is WAY too long to keep a dog's attention, in my opinion. To get and keep a dog's attention, you have to be much more interesting
than anything else around. Hard to do in an hour long obedience class. The dog needs lots of short work and breaks to reinforce the attention work.

Regarding your 2 yr old female and her lunging at other dogs. I have a couple of thoughts on this from your post. She has had obedience training - excellent, this is where it really starts to come into play.

That she is doing this at her first agility class indicates to me that she is probably doing this because she is stressed and/or perceives your stress at a new class with new dogs. You also say that she doesn't do this when your husband has her probably because she knows or perceives that he won't tolerate it.

It is also possible that she thinks she is protecting you though I generally see this behavior more in males
for female handlers than in females (but she is spayed and if it was done while she was really young, she
could be more "doggy" - male-like).

Regardless of why she does it, the agility class won't tolerate it, so here is what I would recommend. First,
I would use the choke and or a flat sturdy buckle collar and I would have the other members of the agility group help me with this. Walk her past the other dogs and when she starts to lunge, quickly jerk toward your right and take off into a right turn saying "leave it" or "no" or whatever you want to use to indicate to her that lunging is not going to be tolerated. As soon as she looks at you, lavish praise. Only do this a couple of times at each session or you will increase her stress and she will start to shut down on you.

For dogs, especially little dogs, that approach you, I have taught my male to sit and look at me automatically. Train this as an auto sit stay with you in the heel position. I use a sit because it is easier
to correct if the dog gets out of position and especially for little dogs it puts your dogs mouth up away from them.

Also once a true aggressor (usually) always an aggressor. You can control the behavior but it will probably not ever go away completely. Knowing this means that you will just have to watch her with new dogs in new situations. My male generally starts this with each new dog and field we work on, but settles in pretty
quickly now compared to when we first started 3 yrs ago. After a few agility classes and she gets to know
the dogs and it becomes comfortable to her, she should get it together.

One final thought before I close, I don't use a pinch/prong collar for aggression problems. They seem
to generally take the Airedales higher in drive and make aggression problems worse. I reserve the prong
collar for fine tuning obedience only.

How we discourage retrieving in raising puppies and why this is NOT a good thing:

I came in on the retrieving and swimming thread a little late, but wanted to throw this out for chewing.

We actually take dogs with really good retrieving drives and teach them not to retrieve as puppies and then can't understand why we have such a hard time teaching the retrieve (and then need to force retrieve, ear pinch, etc). How many here at some point in their early training had the trainer teach them how to correct the dog for chewing by putting the item in the dog's mouth and sitting there holding it in there until the dog started fighting and spit it out (MY first obedience class 25 yrs ago)? Or when the dog runs into the bedroom and carries back a shoe, corrects the dog?

The natural instinct for a young puppy is to explore with its mouth, yet we discourage any type of "mouth" play. There are books and trainers advocating NO tug of war. It will make the dog dominant, aggressive, encourage mouthing, yada, yada, yada. Then we get through Novice and want to go on to Open and the all of a sudden we change the rules on the dog. NOW its ok to take things in your mouth. If you don't take this dumbbell, I WILL correct you. Or they show up on the SchH field with the young dog - almost always over 6 months or a year after MONTHS of discouraging mouth work, and the handlers have just "discovered" competition wor - and the dog looks at the helper flipping a burlap or a tug like, "man, you're just trying to set me up to get into trouble".

If one wants a retriever, one has to nurture that behavior and not squelch it. Controlled of course, but you can't have it both ways. You can't encourage the puppy's retrieving and correct him for using his mouth at the same time.

How to keep from boring a working dog:

I generally work not more than 10 minutes at a time and may only do that once or twice a day depending upon what we are working on at any given time. And I seldom go through the entire "routine". On a walk,
we may only do one exercise in the course of that walk.

If a dog is bored with the work, it is because it is too repetitious, too long, and NOT fun. We tend to be struck with the "one more time" syndrome and bore the dog to death. Another downfall is the hour+
long obedience classes where the dogs heel, sit, stay, and come - over and over and over and over....

I just started the little fuzzy dude in his "puppy" obedience class last night with a trainer friend of mine for extra socialization. One of the things I discussed with her right up front is I don't want to bore this puppy. So when I get a really good execution of the exercise on the first or second attempt, we end it and I pull him out to do a quick little play session with his tug roll. Then maybe we'll do some other little thing and then if I think it won't be pushing it, we'll go back to the earlier exercise and do it again. If I think he'll destruct, we'll wait and work on something more fun.

I would shorten the amount of time I worked, make the exercises fun, and work on something else - teach something new. Airedales get bored with the same ol' same ol'.

A couple of things that you can do: change the reward, for example instead of his ball, use a jute roll tug or a squeaky. Instead of a toy use food, instead of food use a toy. When you are working on the sit and he won't sit straight, work it up next to a wall so he has no choice but to sit in the proper position or teach walking and running sits and downs out of motion (out of motion exercises). These tend to get the dogs to sit faster because the exercise is at a faster pace.

Keep the sessions really short. Just do one and then play or go on to something else. Throw in fun exercises in between the compulsive exercises. Work on hand signals. If you are using a flat collar or choke collar, put a pinch collar on him. If you are using a pinch, go to a flat or chain collar. Mix it up, keep him guessing. Challenge his mind.

Also, instead of your usual walk, go to the woods, on a hike, etc. Start him in tracking. Tracking is a good way to increase bonding with your dog. When you do that, back off on the obedience a little so he isn't

Finally, be patient with him. If you put alot of pressure on him to be precise, it isn't fun doing the work. If it isn't fun for him, it certainly won't be fun for you.

Tracking Mindset:

Regarding tracking, I am of the opinion that tracking, probably more than any other phase is NOT about the dog, but about the communication between the dog and handler. I do not even think that it is the track itself that is the motivator, but the dog's desire to work with the handler to follow a set of footprints to "heaven only knows where" to find "heaven only knows what" - a couple of articles in the case of SchH. If one thinks about the requirements in SchH tracking (especially in the SchH III and FH), that is, the track starts at 100 points and you lose points from there depending upon what the dog/handler team does on the track, the communication between the dog and handler is extremely important. While we can "trick" or motivate"
the dog to track using food or toys, in the end, on the day of the track in the trial, the dog must want to track because the handler wants to track.

Again, my opinion, but based upon, we are not training the dogs to track - the dogs already know how to use their nose. We are merely coaching/facilitating the dog to use his nose at a particular time for a particular purpose for US. We have to communicate that to the dog, so we start by laying tracks that the dog can do and we encourage the dog. When we lay a 20 feet track for the dog (BTW, I did the exact same thing for Sully when he lost confidence in his tracking) that he cant fail, the communication to the dog is, "I am right here with you, we are in this together, and we're going to succeed together." When you extend the length and difficulty on the track, you are doing the same thing. You are communicating to the dog, "we can do this together, I am right here and will help in whatever way I can". We "teach" the dogs to indicate track loss. Why? So we can help them, so we can "handle" them through the track loss in trial when we really don't know where the track is going. A good working tracking team is a thing of beauty to watch. The handler can read the dog's body language to a very fine degree and can tell when the dog is struggling or has just indicated the turn goes "this way and you better follow now". The confidence of the dog comes from the confidence of the handler.

Where mindset comes into play in this is the communication between dog and handler is extremely sensitive in tracking and basically anything that disrupts or inhibits the "normal" communication between dog and handler can disrupt tracking (e.g., a death in the family, moving to a new home, a new baby, etc).

Musings on working Airedales and their relationship with their humans:

I have heard more than one Airedale trainer say that it is hard to find Airedales that like to work with humans even though they may have the right drives to do the work (whether it is Schutzhund, obedience, agility, etc). The subject came up again sparked by discussion on another list, and it started me thinking. In the particular context on the other list it was harder to find Airedales that like to work with humans compared to shepherds.

So, I would ask, "Why is that?" Is it really that difficult or is there comparatively the same percentage of Airedales that do not like to work with humans as Shepherds we just see more working shepherds and thus more good working Shepherds, and we see fewer Airedales, so those that do not like to work with humans may really stand out? Perhaps too, Shepherds are more forgiving than Airedales. They let corrections "roll off of the back" more than Airedales.

Is it a case that Airedales start out liking to work with humans, but at some critical stage in their development, they are "wronged" and are less forgiving? I am in kind of a unique position. I am coming
to Airedales from a Shepherd background. As I have stated on more than one occasion, I am impressed with the intelligence of the Airedale and with the devotion of Sully, almost to the point of being
too handler sensitive. Now I am raising a baby fuzzface and right now, he has really bonded to me. I have to wonder though, will there come a time, some critical developmental phase, when he throws up his
paws and says, "GEEZ, humans, how did they ever make it in the evolutionary chain?!"

I try to remember how it was when I raised my last competition dog (SchH III Shepherd). He was very bonded to me as well, but I really can't completely recall his puppyhood.

When I was evaluating the pups to select Chace, all of the pups were really good. A couple didn't warm up to me quite as rapidly as some of the others. Are those pups likely to become dogs that do not like to work with humans? Or is it just that they didn't want to work with THIS human? I selected Chace because we "clicked". He warmed up to me quickly, and when doing the couple of PAT scenarios where the pup is
stressed, he forgave very quickly.

In working him, which really isn't "work" in the real sense but instead, "play work", he looks me right in the eye. He gives kisses and nuzzles, yet will grab the canvas dummy and hang on for all he is worth. When we play ball, he brings it right back more often than trying to run away with it. When he wants to play, he "tags" me, then may take off at a dead run to the end of his leash before running back and tagging me again. After letting him lead out at the end of the lead for the last few weeks, I started working on some really
minor attention getting exercises with either his ball or treats. And he is there tail up, ears perked, looking me right in the face. He likes this! Figured out quickly to sit when we stop, etc. No pressure, just nice easy fun. (I explained to my stepson and his family a couple of weeks ago that learning is always going on with a puppy whether it is what you want him to learn or not!).

Is this desire to want to spend time and work for humans something that they are all born with, and we mess it up somewhere along the way? Or is it really a learned behavior that we nurture as we go along?

I am training with a woman who has an adult Rottie that she acquired from another SchH handler because the dog wouldn't work for him. The Rottie bonded with her almost immediately. After a little retraining,
the dog LOVES to work! So it would seem that it wasn't that the dog didn't like to work with a handler, he just didn't like THAT handler!

I don't have any answers. I am merely posing the questions! I guess I would wonder how many `dales are there out there that do not like to work with their handler. In doing a cursory review of German
Schutzhund scores, 'dales are scoring quite decently in all of the phases, which indicates to me that the dogs like to work with their humans. A dog that doesn't like to work can be spotted a mile away by
a judge and generally will not score well.

The other thing I would also question is: can we really say that a dog has all of the "drives" to do the work even though he doesn't like to work with humans? In almost all working from Schutzhund to SAR, a dog must work with a human. The three phases of SchH are designed to test the dog's ability to work with the handler. Every phase has some element of handler interaction and/or control. If the dog doesn't like to work with the handler, it is lacking something in its "pack" drive, it would seem to me.