Work for it…

Because Kazee loves his raw grind mix (combination of beef, chicken, tripe, organ and bone), he is very rarely given a meal for free. Instead, I use meal time as a way to work small foundation behaviors. This also gives me a wonderful chance to work on our marker words (I will also sometimes use a clicker, but when using his raw food, I need another hand!).

My marker words:

  • “yes” – perfect, Kazee gets a cookie
  • “good” – good work, keep going and you will earn a “yes”
  • “oops” or “wrong” – kept very light, meant as an interrupter, try again

With my competition dogs, I want to be very clear. While I do not want them to be afraid to make a decision, I am also going to tell them if they did something incorrectly. At this stage, a negative marker is going to be very rarely used, but I will use it once and awhile. Normally, I will just wait the puppy out and see what he does because I love to see the little wheels in his head start churning. There is nothing better than having a competition dog (or any dog) who thinks and tries to figure something out!!

Kazee is starting to realize he has choices; but, only the correct choice will get him what he wants. While he may enjoy barking at me for his food, it is not going to earn him anything (unless I have asked him to “speak”, which was introduced in last night’s training session). He is also starting to try shortcuts. For example, he will barely touch my hand with the side of his head or target my arm, hoping for a cookie. My requirement is that he touch the palm of my hand with his nose. If I started to reward the less focused touches, it will make the criteria for the behavior very grey. I don’t like grey.

Below is a short clip of Kazee working for his breakfast this morning. I have just started to add some repetition to his hand touches (introducing the “good” marker word). While I am still often rewarding for just one hand touch, I will sometimes ask for 2-3 touches before he earns a “yes”. I also introduced “back” in the down position this morning, as well as continuing the “speak” command from last night. We are also working on Kazee not helping himself to the food in the bowl. When we are working, food comes from ME, not his bowl, even if his bowl if present. The sooner he understands this the better, but at this stage, I keep the food covered with one hand, to prevent any errors. If he gets too pushy, I just remind him to stay back and that the bowl is mine.

When teaching a behavior, I normally add my cue words right away. I do not believe  Kazee understands what “speak” or “back” means, but I still use the words. He will start to pair the cue with the behavior over time, so why wait? I just need to make sure my criteria stays consistent.

After finishing his breakfast, I decided to also do some tugging. Kazee is doing great with outing the toy and going right back to a game of tug. Because I do a lot of hands on work with my dogs, I am also shaping some collar grabs and collar bounces during tugging. Kazee does not like being restrained, so the fact that he is only stopped temporarily (sometimes not stopped at all) and he gets to go right back to his tug is patterning a positive association with his collar being grabbed.

Games like these are played several times throughout the day in short little bursts to keep his attention. If I noticed Kazee was not interested in what I had to offer, I would just stop and try again later. The goal is to keep all of these teaching sessions fun and full of energy. If he was giving me less effort than what I wanted, it would actually be counterproductive to my desired result. Remember, at this stage, we are simply shaping behaviors and teaching him that interacting with me is the best part of the game.

Train hard. Play harder.



Puppy love…

Seven years…that is how long I have been without a puppy in the house. While part of me did not really want to be the owner of FOUR dogs (all of whom live in the house), I also knew I wanted (and needed) a new puppy to start training. Gunner, my current competition dog, is seven years old; and, while he hopefully still has a couple of years of showing left, I wanted to have something else coming up the pipe.

Meet the new addition – VinEwood’s Make Mine a Double, call name Kazee (pronounced Kah-zee):


I have loved his sire for a long time (CH OTCH MACH8 Topguns Vinewood Makin’ A Splash UDX3 OM6 VER RAE2 MH MXB3 MJB3 XF T2B2) and knew I wanted a puppy from him. The first litter in 2015 did not work out for me, but luckily there was one special little boy in the second litter (along with six girls). So, I flew up to Minnesota on January 2nd and brought him home to Florida!

There is no rest for the wicked, so we started “training” right away. Training at this age (for me) involves a lot of little basics – crate training, getting acclimated to my other dogs from the opposite side of a baby gate, teaching him his name, socializing, and teaching him that learning and working with me is fun.

Lets talk about socializing for a second…for me, this does not involve meeting a whole bunch of strangers, but it does involve going to lots of new places to see and hear a lot of new things. I honestly don’t care if ANYONE pets him. If he showed me signs that he was worried about people, then maybe I would seek out some quiet people, but that isn’t the case for Kazee. I just want him to see and experience the world. In his first ten days at home, he has been to:

  • Vet’s office
  • Dog club twice (avoided the main potty area) – played in the rings and on the agility field
  • Ace Hardware (played outside on the sidewalk)
  • Soccer field where I train often
  • Pet Supermarket (rode around in the shopping cart)

He has met a few people on our trips out and, with one exception on our first trip to Ace Hardware, has been friendly and outgoing. Noise has not seemed to affect him at all, but I will continue to watch for this. He is also learning how to sit in his crate while I train my other dog at some of these places. Still pretty noisy in his crate, but getting better. 🙂

This puppy came with a love for tugging. Actually, he loves it so much that he can escalate pretty quickly. Because I want to use this to my advantage later in competition work, I have been encouraging the rough tugging. If I have an issue during tugging, I just deal with those issues, instead of stopping the tugging entirely. These issues may involve him going for my hand instead of the tug or redirecting on my leg or arm. I have also been teaching him a cue word (“Enough”) to stop tugging.

We have also started shaping heads up heeling, hand touches, pot work and some stationary positions. Here is a little bit of our training (over a couple short sessions) this morning.

While training this morning, I also took the opportunity to work on his crate behavior while working my other dog. While I want him to prefer to be out working with me, instead of sitting in his crate, I also don’t want him screaming and carrying on. I do not mind a little whining, but anything more will cause him to exert too much energy. Energy that I want OUTSIDE the crate, not inside the crate. Poor crate behavior is also irritating to other people around you. While a little distraction can be good, this is not the energy that I want my working dog continually experiencing, nor do I want my crated dog to work himself into a frenzy. I moved Kazee’s crate to the side of the work area and covered his crate with a towel. If he was somewhat quiet, he was allowed to watch. If he got loud, the front of the crate was covered.

I think the covering is something I will be continuing for a little while to see how it works for him. As Kazee is not a huge treat lover, it has not worked much to reward him with cookies when he’s being quiet. Most of the time, he just lets the cookies drop into the bottom of his crate and starts screaming again when you walk away.

Love, love, love these dogs and I am very excited to see what the future holds in store for the newest member of the family. Hard to believe that this is how Gunner started out seven years ago!