Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A quick word about pacing

Just a few thoughts about "pacing".  For those of you who don't know, pacing is when the dog's front and rear leg on the same side moves in the same direction rather than back and forth like a scissors. When a dog paces, it is usually because they are comfortable moving at that speed.  Sometimes it is due to their structure.  Some dogs are not built correctly and so the "normal" trotting gait for their breed is not comfortable for them, so instead they pace.  Sometimes, it's a habit, again, usually due to comfort.  Some dogs will pace as a way to preserve energy.  Occasionally, there is a structrual problem that is causing pain and so the dog is compensating for it.  Sometimes, and I see this often, dogs are trained to walk alongside their owners in "heel" position, or very close to the owners side. Many dogs are trained to do this and get in the habit of pacing to the point that if you then try to get them to trot they simply pace faster.  Some breeds are more likely to pace and some breeds are actually permitted to pace when gaiting in the show ring.

I work with a lot of dogs who have gotten into the habit of pacing and have successfully helped them all learn to trot correctly.  I have several exercises I use from cavaletti work to quick start strategies that help them to pop out quickly in a trot rather than lumber into a pace.  Never, ever do I use leash corrections to modify this movement.  It is not necessary, nor is it fair to punish a dog for moving comfortably.  We are asking them to perform, to look showy and flashy, to allow strangers to handle and touch them, to be physically manipulated and to calmly cope with being surrounded by large groups of unfamiliar dogs weekend after weekend.  It seems to me that we owe it to them to be understanding when they are simply trying to move their own bodies how they are comfortable doing so.  Pacing is not "misbehavior" and should not be treated as such.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Contemplating Competition

I have been training Betty Spaghetti in Beginner Novice OB and rally. Not sure if I am going to compete but I am thinking about it. It has had me thinking a lot about my other dogs. I put CDs on a few dogs and had just started doing matches in Open for working towards Boris' CDX and competing in Open with a friend's dog before stopping due to some life changes.

Slater, my late Dachshund was a great OB dog. I trained him traditionally with treats and corrections. He finished his CD easily with two placements at all breed shows. For those who don't know, back then at least, most OB dogs were Golden's, Shelties or Border Collies  who were just getting into the AKC or out of the miscellaneous group. Dachshunds were certainly not super common in the OB ring and considered a "non-traditional obedience breed".  So, placements at those shows were kind of big. We blew a 193 score once when he wasn't sure I called him so he stopped himself from getting up and coming on the recall and I ended up giving a second command which DQ'd him.  He was a really great dog.

When I got to open with him I started training and then dropped it. At the time the thought among my training friends was that you pretty much had to do a forced retrieve (ear pinch) with all dogs:(  I didn't want to, but followed the herd. I did an ear pinch and made him cry. I will never forget the look on his face. It was like, "What are you doing? How could you?" Truth is, I couldn't and never did again. I just looked at him that minute and said "Let's not do this anymore" and we didn't and that was fine. Slater was trained with treats and corrections and he coped with it, but this was not reasonable or fair or clear to him. He would have worked through it, but I couldn't do that to him. Sad because he could have done so much.

Fast forward to today, about 18 years later and I am training Betty, a dog who I think might be fun to do this with. I still have to be sure she likes it, but I never have to worry about hurting her which always bothered me before. More importantly, maybe, is that now I know how to do it without doing things that upset me and hurt my feelings and hurt my dog.

No pressure on us, but nice to know the option is there for us if we decide to go there. This is fun.