Right now, if someone asked you “What are your current goals?” could you answer them?  You should be able to. It does not matter if the dog is an established competitor who already has his OTCH or if it is a younger dog in training. Are there people who go out weekend after weekend, blindly showing their dog without any goals? Of course there are. We all know these people. And I will be the first to say that your goal does not have to be a High in Trial or an OTCH. Your goal may simply to be better than you were at the last show. That can still be a good goal!!

I have dogs at both ends of the spectrum right now – a seasoned OTCH dog (Gunner) and a young dog in training (Kazee). Gunner’s goals right now are to improve our performance in the Utility ring. For some reason, he has been stressing and making unusual mistakes. Physically, he is fine, that was ruled out first. I do not buy the “new puppy in the house” excuse either. He knows his job and can focus on his work when needed. Plus, his Open runs have still been wonderful, so it is a Utility issue. Kazee, on the other hand, is still in the wonderful shaping world of puppy foundation. No pressure, just lots of rewards and short training sessions. I am not in a hurry to be doing full exercises, so we have been working on pieces, as well as building attitude and controlling drive.

A couple of weeks ago, I entered Kazee in a Novice match to support the club running the event. Was he ready? No, not really. But, I was not looking for perfection. I was mainly interested to see what he would do with someone calling us a heeling pattern in a ring. Since I train by myself the majority of the time, sometimes you just have to see what the little dog can do! He had never even seen real people for figure 8 posts! Honestly, I was thrilled. Had it not been a more formal match, I would have done a few things differently, but I was not going to screw anything up by taking him in the ring. What was the worst thing that could have happened? If he had been unable to do anything, I simply would have left the ring.

I’ve posted before about our challenges with the dumbbell. I have not pushed the issue with him and have slowed WAY down to his level of comfort. The lack of pressure has paid off and he is now starting to love his dumbbell, but I am still not asking for details. He is not required to sit before I send him and he jumps up on me on the return, at which point, he is presented with his tug. Mistakes are no big deal and the skill is simply repeated.

In the breed ring, Kazee has FAR surpassed my goals. At (almost) 11 months of age, he has 11 points and 3 majors. Not bad for a team that doesn’t know what they are doing! Fortunately for me, grooming is still pretty easy, since he does not have much coat to deal with. Guess we better finish before I have to really learn how to groom! 🙂


Do not let other people pressure you on your goals. You have the right to set whatever goals you want for you and your dog. This could be a qualifying score, High in Trial, Best of Breed, or simply to be better than you were the week before. The people who criticize your goals are probably the ones who do not even have one on their own dog. The most important thing is that you and your dog are enjoying training, in whatever venue you enjoy.

Train hard. But always, always, always PLAY HARDER!

Clicker stacking

While I did not get Kazee with the intention of showing breed, he is so nicely put together, it may be an option later. I believe dogs are smart enough to figure out the difference between doing breed and obedience, so I don’t worry about teaching both at the same time. And, really, is it the end of the world if your puppy happens to sit in the breed ring?

Funny story…when Gunner was a little over six months old, I had the opportunity to go to a George Alston handling seminar. Being new to the breed ring (I had never even taken a handling class, let alone shown a dog in the breed ring), I jumped at the chance to take a weekend seminar from someone who I had heard so much about. Yes, I’d been warned he yelled at people, made people cry, etc., but I was excited anyway. On day one, I made the mistake of stacking my puppy with my back to Mr. Alston. All of a sudden, I realized he was yelling at someone, “I’m not here to judge YOUR backside!” Unfortunately, I think he had already said it three or four times before I heard him…and then realized he was speaking to me. Oops! I muttered an apology and switched sides to stack my dog.

Anyway, off topic…If you have ever heard Mr. Alston speak, you know he does not want your dog watching you AT ALL while you gait. As it was easy to inadvertently teach your dog to look at you while moving when using food, he did not use it. We all then practiced our (non-food) gaiting several times while learning procedural things. Later, during a break, a friend asked me how Gunner’s obedience was coming along. Since we had some time, I switched his collar and lead out and showed them how well his attention heeling looked. Suddenly I realized that someone else was watching me…yes, across the room was Mr. Alston. He went back to speaking to whomever he was talking to, but approached me a few minutes later. “You heard me talking about not teaching your dog to watch you, correct?” Swallowing hard, I answered “yes”. He leaned in and whispered “That doesn’t apply to this dog.” Then he turned around and walked away. So much for being a tough guy. 😉 Actually, any dog can learn the difference, it just comes down to how well WE differentiate between the two requirements.

Back to Kazee…in case we decide to play in the breed ring later, I have started to teach him how to stand still (which he will need for obedience and breed). I’m not worried about formal stacking right now, I just want him to learn that standing still will earn him a click and treat. Standing still should be just as fun for him as wiggling backwards in a down or a scoot sit. This will help give me a great attitude while he struts around at the end of his lead or free stacks in the ring. I’m not holding his head still or forcing him to stay standing. If he sits, I just start over, I don’t lift him by his rear and force him into a stand position. I will be teaching him a formal “stand from a sit” later for obedience, but I am not going to ruin anything by some informal work now.

Lesson one –

Next thing I need to work on…teaching him to stick his head into his snood for dinner without having to be wrangled into it! But it is a pretty funny way to start mealtime. 🙂

Train hard. Play harder!!!!!