You won’t know until you try…

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It’s been a while since I’ve put anything up here, but that hasn’t meant that training hasn’t continued to progress.

This first video is a shortened version of basically having the dog hold a position despite a lot of distraction. The video doesn’t show 15-20 seconds of the decoy running by and around the dog and working the clatter stick through most of the time. Finally the recall through the tunnel and over the jump were still great. A lot of dogs would either want to engage the decoy or avoid the decoy (i.e. fight or flight).

The second video is a bit longer and has a lot of new stuff in it. To start, the dog is being sent from a distance into the guarding position. A lot of dogs might take the opportunity that far away from their handler to go ahead and get a bite in there. The next component is a down on recall. Right after that, the dog is sent back to a bite, and in this case you can see the dog trying to process for a split second that what he wants is behind him. Again, have to think of everything or the dog will get stuck on something out of context. After being sent back, the dog is then called-off, then finally rewarded with a long send to a bite. It’s a new sequence that was just thought up that day (not by me) and it took a couple tries, so my dog is moving a bit slow by the end (but I bet he would have done it again happily).

We’ve seen a lot of great progress recently with dogs in the club, which has kept it fun for the handlers as well. While I doubt I’ll get a trial in this season, there’s one scheduled very close by for next spring, so that’s on the calendar.

Too good to not pass on

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I just wanted to take a moment to pass on this article from the Coldwell Banker blog, courtesy of David Marine. I didn’t come across my own dog from a traditional rescue, but I did adopt him nonetheless, and have never looked back:

http://blog.coldwellbanker.com/finding-homes-for-homes-best-friend/

Finding Homes for Home’s Best Friend

A commitment to find homes for 20,000 adoptable dogs this year.

Nothing compares to the warmth and comfort of being at home. But for many dogs across America, this feeling is foreign.

According to The Humane Society, between six and eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year. Plus, almost three million healthy shelter pets are not adopted annually, and only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues.

These sobering facts are what served as the inspiration for the newest project from Coldwell Banker Real Estate. After more than 100 years of helping people find homes, the real estate company has extended its mission to man’s best friend with its “Homes for Dogs Project.” By partnering with Adopt-a-Pet.com, North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website, Coldwell Banker will help 20,000 adoptable dogs find loving homes this year.

To increase awareness of the effort, Coldwell Banker has focused its latest advertising campaign, which will make its television debut during The Academy Awards on February 22nd, on the feeling of arriving home and being greeted by your dog. The commercial is called “Home’s Best Friend” and it features real rescue dogs, such as Max, who was adopted in 2014 after being spotted on Adopt-a-Pet.com.

Before he was put up for adoption, Max was picked up as a stray and delivered to a “high kill” shelter in San Bernadino, CA. The shelter only keeps dogs for five days before it puts them down, and after Max had been at the shelter for four days, a worker reached out to The Dexter Foundation, a local non-profit dog rescue and adoption agency, which quickly rescued Max and found temporary foster care for him.

“I found him on Adopt-a-Pet.com as I was looking for a dog to rescue of that sort of breed and age,” said Kelly Saffrey, Max’s current parent. “As soon as I saw his picture, I just knew he was the pet for me.”

Adopt-a-Pet.com currently has more than 15,000 shelters and rescues in its network, and it is thrilled to be partnering with Coldwell Banker.

“We share Coldwell Banker’s view that nothing turns a house into a home more quickly than the addition of a loving pet,” said Abbie Moore, executive director of Adopt-a-Pet.com. “And we are so inspired by the desire of Coldwell Banker to launch this amazing program.”

For more information on the “Homes for Dogs Project,” head to coldwellbanker.com/dogs.

You WANT me on that wall…

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You NEED me on that wall.

Well winter showed up just a couple days shy of when spring is supposed to start. Between the occasional ice storm and other work, I haven’t gotten to do much dog training in the last month. I’m getting restless, I’m pretty sure K-Man is getting restless, and on top of all that, trial season is starting up. I’m hoping we find a trial nearby (1- gas is cheaper but still doesn’t grow on trees, 2- my dog occasionally still gets carsick, and while that’s not the end of anything, I have yet to come across vomit that smells like a prime rib), but we may get to see a different part of the country this spring or summer.

Lately, when we actually get out to train, we’ve been having a lot of fun, trying some new things that are fun for the dogs but still teaching them new things and reinforcing the good habits at the same time. An earlier post included a video of King going over a jump to a bite. That day we also did his first call-off from a bite (dog is sent to bite and has to recall to the handler before actually biting). This is a very functional exercise- think of a police K-9 handler calling his dog off from a bite once a suspect stops running- and is included in PSA as well as several other ringsports. There’s a minimum distance the dog must cover, and then most sports you can get some “style points” by calling the dog off very close to the decoy.

If you look closely in the last video I posted, you can see a harness on K-Man. That was his Christmas present: the GoPro dog harness, which has both a chest mount and a back mount. I don’t know whether I’ll get much use out the chest mount on that harness, but it’s nice to have options. This video, as promised so long ago, is from the dog’s perspective. It’s fairly raw, and a little shaky, so if you get motion sickness easily (like K-Man) then go take a dramamine before firing this up.

In one of the bites, you’ll see Greg actually move and pivot right before the bite- this is known as an “esquive” (ess-KEEV), and while PSA doesn’t include esquives in its bite scenarios, other ringsports do. The idea behind doing it for this particular dog is to hopefully get him to keep driving into the bite instead of gathering his speed the last few steps and slowing down. In essence, that first miss should build frustration and get him to work harder for the bite. As I’ve said before, my dog isn’t a hard biter, and is relatively new to bitework, and while he likes the act of biting, I still need to keep working him subtly on bite development when I can. This was Greg’s idea, and a good one, and with a dog that bites clean and a decoy aware of how to do it correctly it is a good exercise. A new decoy, or a dog that’t not a clean biter, and you may get some flesh re-arranged.

Seeing as we did just get nearly 10″ of snow, I also have a lot of people asking me if my dog likes the snow. The following should answer the question.

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A Quick Shout-out

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For the few that check this, and are interested in the dog world, please be sure to check out the new Metropolitan K-9 website at http://www.metropolitank9.com/home.html.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, Greg Williams, the Training Director at Metropolitan K-9, is who I train with, and it’s been a great experience. While I’ve been involved in the dog sport side of it, Greg also does a lot of work with pet dogs, and his training methods are up to date and, most importantly, fun for the dog as opposed to many of the compulsion-based methods used in the past. You can tell based on the behavior of Greg’s own dogs and those he trains that they enjoy being around him.

It’s been a fun trip so far working with Greg, and I look forward to continuing to work with and learn from him.

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High value rewards

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An actual hierarchy of reward values would be different for any dog. However, among biting dogs, you can count on a few generalities: a food reward (in an adult) is going to be lower value than a bite reward; a small tug is probably going to be lower value than a bite wedge; a bite wedge lower value than a sleeve; and a decoy suited up or at least very active in a sleeve is going to VERY high value. Again, not true for every single dog in every single case, but I’ll let that set the framework for the following.

King Man’s competition-style obedience continues to improve at a good clip, and lately he’s gotten a better understanding of the jumps. In one PSA level 1 scenario, the dog is recalled through a tunnel and over a jump to heel, or possibly over the jump first and then through an obstacle such as a tunnel. I keep forgetting to bring my tunnel out, but hopefully we can add that soon. Anyway, we’ve recently begun layering in some basic obedience, i.e. attention heeling, into the bitework since he doesn’t need to be told to bite and you have to have obedience in your bitework in competition. Earlier this week we added another layer, heeling with attention, then sent to jump and then to a bite.

King Man is pretty smart at finding the path of least resistance, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had blown right around the jump to get to the bite. I may have been able to call him off that, but at a close distance he could have rewarded himself with a bite for a short while before I could have corrected it. However, he took to it very quickly and very well, and fortunately I have some footage linked below. He also got the GoPro dog harness for Christmas, which you’ll see him wearing in the footage. I’m still editing the footage off of that camera but wanted to include something to send you into the new year with.

You’ll notice some changes in pace and direction with the heeling- this is to ensure the dog is still paying attention. As you can imagine, they get pretty amped up in bitework and depending on the dog and its learning, they sometimes figure out how to not pay attention and just head down the field.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

Gear review – Seynaeve Leg Sleeves

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As I mentioned a few months back, in an “experiment,” my trainer suggested we try my dog as a “leg dog.”  Not like a “leg hound” of many jokes; simply a dog that bites on the legs instead of the arms. Fast forward to the end of the year, and it’s worked out quite well. I don’t know the reason, but King is biting somewhat fuller and with more energy.

For some dogs, it just happens that way. I remember a segment in Mike Ritland’s book Trident K-9 Warriors mentioning that he taught dogs to bite legs because there’s less chance of the dog missing the man/decoy since it’s not flying through the air. There may have also been a mention of leverage, but I loaned the book out months ago so I can’t look it up. Either way, don’t hesitate to pick up the book and watch the episode of 60 Minutes from last year that featured him.

I had already had a very good experience dealing with Thad Petersen at Ringsuits.com in ordering my bite suit, so I gave Thad a call to see what he had in the way of leg sleeves. Thad already had up on Youtube a helpful video explaining the different types of leg sleeves that Seynaeve made and that he sold. Thad had a double-velcro ladder style leg sleeve in stock that I ordered a received a couple days later. New velcro is stiff. Two bands of velcro even more so, and as King started getting more and more accustomed to biting on the legs, he could also tell when the sleeve was going to be slipped by Greg and would start pulling and thrashing some since he knew the “slip” was coming up.

I then picked up a leg sleeve with a leather pull tab. As Thad explains in his video,  the pull tab is a MUCH faster slipping leg sleeve. As he also explains, it take a little longer to reset. My thinking was that the faster slip would prevent the dog from anticipating the slip as easily. While that was true, the reset process was even more difficult than expected. It’s a great sleeve, but we don’t use it very much anymore in bite work training. However, I can still use it as a target, and for some foundational training for things such as a guarding position (dog guarding the decoy), and leg sleeves are pretty easy to stand up on their own, so you can set it up as a target at a distance away.

In short, everything that Thad says in the video below is very accurate, and for my purposes, the velcro ladder works a LOT better. Just give your decoy the heads-up to pull hard to slip it.

Moving targets

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A long overdue update, but much to discuss. Over the last couple of months, one of the biggest changes is we’ve decided to see how my dog does biting legs instead of the bicep, a.k.a. a leg dog. So far, it seems to be going well. From a functional standpoint, a leg dog makes a lot of sense. To start, there’s less chance of a dog missing a target- it’s harder for a decoy to move a leg as quickly and far than an arm. In PSA, the decoys don’t “esquive,” or escape incoming dogs, but in other sports they do. In addition, the dog itself is obviously able to change direction more quickly since he has four feet on the floor instead of being up in the air. Lastly, certain dogs can generate more power from having all their feet on the ground, much like a boxer’s punch originates all the way down at the ground and carries all the way up to his/her fist. Since my dog’s probably not going to ever win a medal for being a hard biter, at least he can affect a decoy’s mobility.

The other big news is my bite suit arrived. It took about two months, which was faster than expected. The type of suit I ordered is made to measure overseas, so there’s the actual manufacturing process plus shipping, customs, etc., to the US. I went with a Seynaeve suit that I ordered through http://www.ringsuits.com, and couldn’t have been happier with the service and help that Thad Peterson provided. He had lots of good suggestions, and is able to order “hybrid” suits like mine, which has a competition (lightest weight) body with semi-training (mid-weight) arms, plus extra cuffs on the bicep which are geared toward PSA. That way, I get some extra padding on the highest wear area, and once the cuffs are worn through, they can be removed and replaced, theoretically giving extra life to the jacket. IMG_0685IMG_0696

It’s going to take a while to break in the suit- as you can see the pants can stand up on their own right now. I’ve gotten a couple days in it so far, so eventually we’ll get there. The other news is I don’t get knocked down every time on escape bites (where the decoy is running away), which I think means I’m figuring something out. I’m including some proof…

Get back up

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I’m now wearing the bite suit for at least a little bit on most training days. Do I still like it? You bet. Do I still feel the dogs when they’re gripping in? Absolutely. Maybe I wouldn’t feel it as much if there were dogs that didn’t bite very hard (like my own dog…). It’s now on to ordering my own bite suit here in the next couple of days, which takes a little more than I realized in many ways. I’ve settled on the brand, almost settled on the color, and just need to get all the correct measurements written down since each of these suits are both made to measure and made to order.

Back to the training. King Man’s obedience continues to go very well, and now I just have to find different variations of obedience patterns and add in further distractions. I’m still very comfortable with the PSA PDC obedience routine for him and we’ve done a lot of training work comparable to what he would see in a PSA 1 routine as well, such as one decoy on the field, a few items thrown in the dog’s general direction when he’s in a down, etc.

On bitework, we just recently transitioned back to the jacket. I do like his targeting into the upper arm area of the front of the jacket, but our initial thoughts that he may not ever be a full biter seem to be accurate. It will be interesting to see if any changes happen when he’s being driven, etc., but it may just be that he won’t have a full bite and I’ll have to work on getting points everywhere else.

This video is of one fast dog that seems to be getting good at knocking me down on escape bites. I’m trying to figure out why (and how), but in the meantime I have at least been able to get up a little (read: a lot) faster…

Training update- seeing things from the other side

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I haven’t put anything up in a while due to being out of town. The good news is my dog didn’t forget everything he learned while I was gone. We’ve had a couple training sessions since I got back, continuing with adding more distractions into the obedience routine- such as another dog being trained nearby and a passive decoy out on the field at times- and are still working bite development as well bicep targeting. King’s bites continue to get fuller, which is important since grip is scored in PSA and since he had little to no bitework for a portion of his life.

A couple significant things happened last week in regards to bitework. During King’s bitework, our decoy/trainer Greg accidentally tripped over him and he still managed to hang on to the sleeve (which was still on Greg’s arm).  That was significant in that it was unintentionally driving the dog pretty hard, and it didn’t faze him off the bite.

The other thing that happened is I got on the other side of things and put a bite suit on, finally starting to learn the basic mechanics of catching a dog and being a decoy.

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I worked one dog last week and two dogs this week, all just short distance sends and one escape bite which managed to knock me down as I expected it would. It was a lot of fun and something I’d been interested in for a while, and something I will continue to work on. As you might expect, having a heavy suit on is already changing how you move, even just when walking, and add a 70lb. animal onto your arm and it’s unlike anything else.

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Unfortunately we didn’t get any good video of my first day at this, but I will hopefully have some in the future.

 

Training update

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This week was the last formal training opportunity until the end of the month. Hopefully the dog doesn’t forget everything he’s learned.

In our obedience training, all of our foundational work seems very intact, and I feel really good about passing the PDC. In addition to different heeling patterns and recalls to heel while in motion, we’ve added some PSA 1-type work, including starting working the long down, where the dog must remain in a down for 3 minutes. That’s not a favorite for many dogs; we’re working in a 1 and 2 minute down so far and it seems to be going well. On top of that, when the handler returns to the dog, the dog can’t anticipate coming up into a sit and heeling away. We have also in the past done heeling around a non-agitating decoy, which for many of these dogs can be a huge distraction as their first reaction might be that it’s time for bitework (i.e. fun).

On bitework, we continue to work two foundational elements which will make everything else a lot better and easier. To start, we do a few bites on a hard Schutzhund-style sleeve which forces the dog to open its mouth for a fuller bite. The particular sleeve we used most recently had a point right in the middle that will compress a little bit when the dog’s mouth is on it- that target gets the dog biting in the correct place on the sleeve in addition to bringing in a fuller bite.  After a couple bites on that, we switch over to a Belgian-style sleeve to work on bicep targeting- the sleeve is rotated around to provide extra upper-arm protection to the decoy, and by tucking the hand behind the back there’s a clearer presentation of the bicep area to the dog. This video shows the transition between the two styles of sleeve- during the bite, you can see the dog “counter” in, meaning it is driving into the bite as opposed to trying to pull away. Driving into the bite as you would guess creates a fuller bite, and after a few counters you can see the decoy (Greg) slip the sleeve as a reward.

While I doubt I will get to see any canine competitions during my upcoming trip, I am hoping to come back with some well-made bitework equipment. In the meantime, I leave you with this (this hat did not stay on very long):

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