Category Archives: RALLY-FREE & FREESTYLE

Looking for some good Rally-FrEe instruction? My favorite Seattle trainer is Kathy Weaver (http://goodtimecanines.com/) and Julie Flanery started online classes if you’re farther away: http://www.rallyfree.com/calendar-2/

WCFO International Competition 2015

At the end of August, the World Canine Freestyle Organization held their International Competition in Federal Way, WA, which was close enough to commute to from home. What an opportunity! I’ve really fallen in love with the sport and was looking forward to meeting more like-minded individuals, and seeing their creativity at work.

So, in Spring of 2015, my new routine was under construction. Some people continue to amend the same routine as they progress up the levels. But, with so many great ideas waiting to take shape, my plan is to develop a new routine after giving each routine to a chance to get fleshed out and to successfully perform it a couple times. That probably gives each routine a run of at least a few showings. With only a little bit of freestyle experience, this would be my first attempt at putting together everything from start to finish completely on my own, with no outside input. Thankfully, between Rally-FrEe, agility, and trick training, my knowledge added up considerably, and it was a lot of fun to put everything I know to work. It’s quite a process and deserves its own blog post (coming soon).

The event was a combination of 2 different shows back to back, plus a conference and workshops. Our local freestyle club:

A hilarious costume of Carolyn, Secretary Treasurer of Emerald City Club and "her shadow".
A hilarious costume of Carolyn, Secretary Treasurer of Emerald City Club and “her shadow”.

Emerald City Canine Freestyle Dancers, did an outstanding job dressing the place up with the Wizard of Paws theme, including a yellow brick road of photos of everybody with their dog and lots of sparkly decorations (freestylers are a little addicted to the glitter;). Events like these demand that generous folks contribute inordinate amounts of time organizing, preparing, hosting, and handling everything from start to finish, and so many people contributed. This is not uncommon to most dog sports, but, as always, these people deserve lots of praise and enormous gratitude! Without them, quite literally, the show would not have gone on.

The event proved to be very challenging for most teams. I was sitting next to an old tracking instructor who kept reveling in how stressed many of the dogs were. I was partly embarrassed that she said it out loud, but, agreed. For me, it’s not a surprise. Seeing dogs unable to thrive under the pressures of competition is something that turns me off from attending more competitions (it can even sully enjoyment of group classes). There are a large percentage of people showing dogs that aren’t far enough along in their training to be easily performing what’s being asked. That said, anyone can have a really “off” day, and even the best of us have felt the burn of bombing. It’s an important lesson and we all have to learn how to recover from, while doing what you can to keep your disappointment from bumming out your dog. Some dogs are much more resilient, and some dogs are really difficult to work in strange environments, regardless of how well you train and prepare.

Since it is such a trial, I really think that video competition should be a mandatory first step for something as difficult as freestyle (it could be very helpful in many dog sports). I continue to learn so much from various attempts at capturing good video. It allows us to solidify a new routine from the comfort of our own home, with the luxury of being able to break things down and reward when necessary BEFORE adding all the extra pressure performing in public and in a strange environment. It lets a dog “tell you” what parts of the routine are too hard, and you can alter your routine to work with your dog, finding behaviors that are more rewarding, or better understood, or that flow together better in a sequence. It can be very enlightening, extremely humbling, but it definitely is not just an ordinary training session.

Because it’s so challenging, when a freestyle team succeeds, the crowd goes wild. Even just succeeding partially will earn compliments from the highly supportive crowd. If you get out there and do awful, people sympathize, and offer kind words. That’s one thing you can be absolutely certain of: people will support you! WCFO also goes a long way to support their junior handlers, of which, there were some exceptional competitors. And the whole community kicked in and donated all sorts of awards and prizes. Although, similar to other dog sports, it seemed that the meaning behind the prizes and this whole event were so heartfelt. It really was a wonderfully inclusive community.

My puppy and I actually did great. My youngest dog (3 years now) has years of experience working in strange environments, and we practice sections of our routine regularly, and all over the place. I’ve sought out various training opportunities, performed demos, train beyond just freestyle, and, of course, benefited greatly from our experiences capturing video. We took 2nd place in this International event each day, and, most importantly, succeeded in my biggest goal: performing with a dog that loved doing the work itself (and it showed)! It was great to meet and see people, too. Legendary performer, Michelle Pouliot was there. One of her routines moved me so much I cried, both times! That’s the thing about freestyle. There are lots of routines I can watch that are mildly entertaining, that I wouldn’t spend too much time watching online, however, there are some routines that are so special they literally move me to tears. Unfortunately, video at WCFO events if forbidden, which is a huge tragedy not only because I can’t share clips with you, but also because I find videoing the pre-run through to the post-exit interactions to be invaluable training feedback.

As for the workshops, I was interested in becoming a judge for WCFO, and took the judging workshop. Anna Schloff, President and head of the judges, tried her best to not only provide important information in the workshop, but also invited us to ask her for help. This workshop was only about an hour, and I’d been expecting at least a few hours, judging by the schedule on the entry form. This hardly scratched the surface.

The organization leading up to the timing of this day was a disaster. There were changes less than a week before, which were then not honored, unnecessarily costing me money for daycare, wasting half a day. Also communicating “move ups” is surprisingly a major difficulty for this organization, which normally is as simple as communicating to the trial secretary the night before or morning of the next run, resulting in an update in the computer and writing in your new placement in the day’s running order. This is rumored to be pretty typical for WCFO, and a number of people have extra legs in levels they should have graduated from. Understandably, some of the challenge comes from video entries. They format all runs (coming in worldwide on different formats) onto a single video disc to distribute to the judges. Then, it has to be looked through (for free) by 3 separate judges, with scores then sent back (all snail mail, if you can believe it), so it will be months upon months before you hear back from such an entry. If a live show falls in between, you will not be able to move up.  Supposedly, you can let them know if there’s overlap, and they can make an adjustment. But, my personal experience trying to do so resulted in, and I’m not exaggerating, literally HOURS of talking with people to try to get it to happen. I felt like such a pest, and I am not in it for the titles. However, in this day and age, I just don’t have the time, money, effort to spare putting so much time into an entry to have it turn out to be a practice run.

Although I’d like to support this community further, there are other venues out there that provide clearer judging criteria, quicker feedback, and don’t prevent competitors from videoing at events or posting videos of your runs, so, I’ll be taking my future investments of time and energy elsewhere. If you are just looking for a great community and want to support a venue that needs more fans, get out there and help the sport grow with the association that got it all started and compete with people all over the world!

Freestyle is hard!

About our 1st routine: Shrek

Dog dancing, or freestyle, is a sport so packed that it is claimed by many (myself included) to be the hardest dog endeavor there is. The goal is to have the tricks cued by verbals so that you can choreograph and do alternate (and sometimes counter) movements yourself. I’ve videoed this routine a number of times, and each one has some point(s) where something goes other than planned. It’s a fascinating study of behavior and learning.

One of the first little chains I wanted to use was backing away from me and then sitting up at a distance. I chose it because it was solid, and a hard skill (that I wanted to showcase). It was so solid, in fact, that I can back away from her the opposite direction, for a long distance. And sitting up is a trick she’s done since puppyhood. We also practiced the chain regularly and it was pretty fluent. It’s inherently difficult because of the distance, the counter motion, and then the anticipation of the sit up cue, followed by the anticipation of running forward once released from the sit up (which is really a “fancy stay”).

Throughout the evolution of the routine, though, this little sequence of behaviors went through a number of stages. It got so bad it had to be pulled out of the routine and trained on its own, slicing the chain down to its component parts, totally away from where we practice our routine. After trying unsuccessfully to “repair it”, my strategy was to just give it a break. Let latent learning do its thing and remove the pressure. In the routine, we skipped it entirely for a while.

What I learned is: this is common. Now, there are plenty of people pursuing the sport with untrained behaviors. Those will, of course, fall apart. But, at the risk of sounding too full of myself, I don’t think that was our problem. I know how to train, I know when things are incomplete/untrained, I have a good perception of how my position and movement effect a dog’s understanding/perspective (agility remains a huge training focus, and those qualities are inherent to the sport), and how those things can contribute to failures and successes. But she knew these behaviors. Could perform them under pressure, in multiple environments, in different positions relative to me, on verbal cues alone…although anticipating the sit up might waver. Was that enough of a crack to cause it all to topple?

When trying to repair a situation like this, you’ve got to be careful. Push too hard and your dog starts hating it. Some dogs come to hate the song you’re using, might develop an unwanted emotional/biological reaction to hearing the cue, or shut down in some other way. If need be, you might be better off to just permanently remove something and alter the routine. You’ve got to be willing to let things go. That is not a bad idea. But, for me, this was a fascinating degradation of behavior, and experimenting with it was worth more than the routine. I care more about understanding how animals work and learn, and this was ripe for a study.

I had a hard time giving up on the behavior and putting it “on a shelf”, even for a little while. But she was so mixed up, and I simultaneously had a competition coming up where I needed her to perform a single paw lift that I wanted to tidy up to be purely verbal, so I finally shelved it. However, I’d kept pulling it out every now and then to see where it was at. We focused on different things for a while, and then started to ease back into just the backing up part.

Backing up morphed into a behavior that had a limit of about 4 steps. Incidentally, this is generally how an average person trains the skill: dog backs 4 steps, stops, persons marks and rewards. That dog believes the skill is back up AND STOP after __ number of steps, not back up until you hear a mark, when you throw the reward to the dog who’s ideally still in motion. We didn’t begin training the routine with this limit, but it was sure cropping up during our “repair training”. A huge challenge with the predictable number of steps is that if you wait for more steps, and your dog doesn’t ever offer them, they get frustrated and usually stop (maybe run forward/offer other behaviors you’ve been working on), and you have only so much frustration to play with before you have to fabricate or settle on a success. In this situation, some would say ask for an alternate behavior that the dog knows well and reward that. That’s something to try, and probably the only option when things are this far gone. I believe that the problem with that strategy is that you don’t get the understanding about the failing behavior to develop, so it’s not my first response, I employ it rarely. But if your dog is dying for some sort of success, by all means.

Eventually we built her duration of backing back up. But it wasn’t easy. Timing is really critical and can screw things up if you don’t get close enough, often enough. And, ideally, the verbal cue should initiate a non-stop reversing, on a single command. But I leaned on repeating the cue to help get over the hump; uttering it right before she’d usually stop, and then looking for times where she continued on her own and making a huge deal about it (jack-potting). Also, I believe praising in motion helps. It might initially confuse your dog, thinking she got marked and can stop, but hopefully delivers the information about what the right choices are—to keep backing up.

Separately, we needed to address sitting up. Keep it sharp and keep her listening for the cue, not just defaulting and offering it because we were practicing it recently and she’s been rewarded for it a lot. And dare I mention that the sitting up behavior I taught involved the criteria of sticking her front paws in the air? I totally forgave that criteria for a while. That was one battle I didn’t pick, though when you sit down and analyze, you see that there are a lot of options about which battles to pick, and who knows what every best choice is.

Beyond that, sitting up needed to be snapped back into the chain of behaviors. And I’m a stickler for not letting a dog guess what the next piece of a chain is. It wouldn’t be useful for her to insert the sitting up whenever she felt like it. You can let a dog get patterned, but with my agility background, I rather have responses to cues than a patterned dog. So, drills included backing up and asking for alternate behaviors occasionally, not just sitting up. Whew, that’s a lot of work already…and that’s just a few tricks being trained outside of a whole routine! Can you see and appreciate how hard freestyle can be? Even more so if little to none of the routine is patterned, and each behavior is a response to your unpredictable cues!

When the problematic chain started to look strong enough, tested away from the routine, it was time to start working it back in. By the way, in case you don’t know, trainers are rarely supposed to practice a complete routine. The protocol is to train segments thoughtfully. My plan was to reward a really nice backing away, placing the reward BEHIND her. Because it’s already difficult to back up while I move the opposite direction, the last thing she needed was the idea that next she runs forward for reinforcement.

I’d occasionally practice the routine with the reverse into sit up with duration (there’s an expected “Stay”). Then, I’d release her but instead of continuing with my routine, I’d release and send her to a toy behind her hanging on a fence or toss the toy (or hunk(s) of meatball) to her right in position.

In the finished product, the routine involves her being released from that “fancy stay” to come forward, circle around me, then comes a send forward to circle around a prop. Dogs naturally find it much more rewarding to run forward and race around something (especially this dog), and being in closer proximity to the handler makes a dog feel more secure. That was why I picked this super difficult maneuver—I wanted to show off. But, that anticipation of running forward to be close to me, and race around me and then an obstacle was too much to not tear apart that backing away to nowhere skill. It would have been easier if she backed up to a target/mark. But I never ended up experimenting with that for the repair. I have this thing I probably picked up from agility training where I want the dog to be able to follow commands midst changing contexts. I hope I didn’t make it harder than it needed to be. Sorry puppy! I guess I can always go back and add some sort of prop that will be a “landing pad”…it’s not like we’re going to forget our routine. I think that practicing it less will probably keep it from getting sour and might end up in us capturing our best execution yet.

We recently participated in a demo where we practiced the routine with breaks for reinforcement. Demos are great because you can break things up and reward, so take advantage! Anyway, the first time I asked for the backing up, it wasn’t great. After a little “ice breaker” where we played for a sec, I held the toy and went back to that segment, and she shot across the floor backwards with isolated footsteps like a pro. It’s funny how bad it was before and how phenomenal it was next try.

I’ve decided to give it my best but not be too attached. That’s why I’m finally uploading an imperfect video of my routine. You can see her struggle with the sequence we’re talking about. Sometimes that part goes great but we flub something else. In the ending of this shoot, where the arm weaves happen, there are debarked dogs off camera that are clamoring at the front of their x-pen and worrying her. I was upset to lose a few otherwise good video attempts to those annoyances. But, that’s the kind of thing that can happen.

Moving forward, I want to attempt a different style of routine and focus more on dancing. In the very last bit of this routine, I’m so busy cuing circle around, leg weaves, circle around the opposite direction, that my upper body is just dead. Still, not bad for a beginning routine.

I’m really excited about my next routine, but you’ll have to be patient. A trained routine takes a lot of time…especially when things fall apart along the way ;)!

Click on over to where that video is stored.

Create a tiny routine

To be honest, I didn’t want to make my first routine. There are so many behaviors I enjoy working on, and some are still mid-process, so I was busy enough already. I asked, “Do I have to?”, and was given a non-negotiable “Yes!”. Kathy made it as painless as possible by drafting a routine, written on a chart with the words and music broken into sequences (along with the edited music). Class involved working through some of the segments. Her brilliant plan ended up with all of us rewriting everything and making it our own.  Not everybody made it through to completion, but that’s to typical. Many a training endeavor is not seen through to the end.

The students from my Tricks 1 Class just got the assignment to create a tiny routine for our last week. This is my 1st time experimenting with such a task for an introduction level class. The process of completing a routine has been called by some THE MOST DIFFICULT dog training endeavor there is…and I agree. So, getting into the details about this training will be well beyond the scope of this class. But, still, I have a suspicion that it is a smart challenge to throw at them. It should prove very educational.

If you’d like to play along at home, pick behaviors your dog knows well. You don’t want to lump your criteria when you have more splitting to do! For most of you, one of the behaviors probably ought to be Sit. Judging by what I see in average pet dog owners, “Sit” might be one of the only things your dog knows how to do fluently (“Down” often is a bit of a disaster, and I think “Stand” is plain scary to most).

If you let your dog practice the sequence, you will have an easier time with the chain. However, letting your dog pattern and predict rather than having behavior on stimulus control can threaten success if you want to use those tricks in other chains of behavior, particularly if those sequences will regularly be rearranged. So, for someone who wants to put together freestyle routines, training strong stimulus control and proofing that the dog is listening and not guessing or predicting takes a lot of training attention. If you just want to casually have a sequence of parlor tricks, you can lean on the dog anticipating the pattern to make them stronger (and might subsequently be able to train in extra difficulties like doing it at a distance or more independently of your direction).

Having a little mini-routine has benefits beyond its entertainment value. It is a great way to allow your dog to be included socially without having to be handled (which some dogs don’t care for). It can help disarm those who fear dogs. A familiar routine can help a dog feel more sure when the setting makes them feel less confident. And the praise goes to both ends of the leash. Make a video and show off your talents…goodness knows I don’t do that half as much as I should. Speaking of, there are plans to…now if I can just find some extra time 😉

Rally-FrEe & the validity of video competition

Rally-FrEe is a fantastic sport that takes the format of Rally-O with it’s numbered course with signs, adds multiple heel positions (left, right, front, back), fun behaviors, and mandatory creativity with extra points awarded for verbal only execution and, again, creativity;) Every course has 4 free choice signs where you can do whatever tricks your dog is good at. You can use props that help cue the dog (like a skateboard), but you will need stimulus control (your dog can’t just run over to the skateboard without being cued). And because it’s a small community, and people are spread out around the world, most competitions are entered via video. But don’t for one second kid yourself that video competition is easy. Yes, it is a lower criterion to perform somewhere known to the dog. But, I’ll tell you, my first entries I blew a bunch of attempts getting nervous, my dog also feeling the pressure, before capturing a video I’m willing to submit for judging. In fact, it’s a toss up whether any attempt at the whole course will be completely awesome, or have significant “wobbles” that cause you to either try again (and there’s a limit to how many times you can fairly ask your dog to do the full course) or just accept it, flaws and all and be happy with your dog’s efforts.

Because the course is a long chain of behaviors, when you train for it you must dice it down and practice sections (if you want to be kind and a good trainer), so executing the whole course is challenging and evidence of you and your dog’s abilities. Not only do I think videoing is a fair competition format, I’d go so far as recommending that people in every sport be required to demonstrate entry level skills on video before being allowed to bring their dog to a live competition because too many dogs at shows don’t have the training to have all the extra expectation thrown at them. It can be destructive to the team and a waste of everyone’s time. People arguing with untrained dogs in the agility ring is part of my aversion. Beyond the obvious, when I got into the ring at a live event, I already experienced a bunch of mistakes and knew where I needed to have a plan to help each dog (like keeping attention near the fence in the corners, not getting overly excited (we can have too much fun;)), and we did much better than we would have without such valuable experiences.

Here’s a link to our latest video entry. By no means perfect but I’m seeing a really nice progression and continuous improvement. That’s success!

 

Rally-FrEe live & the purpose of the sport

I normally don’t like going to shows at all. You have to get up early, pack for the whole day (or weekend), possibly rent a room, drive a distance, and in that time I can train many more dogs, go for a hike, and have time to do a whole lot more with my life than sit around at a trial. I do believe it’s good to get out to a competition to test yourself and your training under the extra pressures of strange environments, but I don’t have a surplus of time, energy, and money that I want to invest going any more often than necessary. There are lots of ways to test my dog without having to go all the way to a show (blogpost to come). However, I was really looking forward to my first live Rally-FrEe show that happened Jun 2014.

At this event in Arlington, WA, I appreciated the opportunity to talk to everyone involved in this young sport, including Julie Flanery, creator of the sport. I was really excited to go to the event because for me personally, Rally-FrEe is the one training activity that motivated me to become highly systematic and thoughtful about how I move through the expansive list of things I want to train. With the other sports I’ve been involved in, the training variables don’t necessarily have a linear progression (after your dog learns the basics, that is), and your always bouncing back and forth working on different variables (think about all the variables to training weave poles, for example). It doesn’t seem so hugely critical to teach certain things first (with a few exceptions), but in Rally-FrEe, it seems like there are so many contexts for a dog to discriminate, via verbals, and without the benefit of very different setups or the visual aid of seeing tangible equipment (like an A-frame, dumbbell, etc) that, in my opinion, this sport requires a lot more clarity and consideration in the training progression.

Because asking a dog to do a behavior in not just one position, but in any position relative to the handler is a training task on top of just training the behavior itself, I wondered if people pursuing this sport would have to be better trainers. Not that there aren’t difficulties to Competitive Obedience or Rally-O, but, it’s a whole different game if you’re only using left side heel position and a handful of behaviors: sit, down, stand, front, around, fetch, discriminate, over a jump, etc. Training in that scenario has some crutches to lean on, the dog can always default to heel position, or choose one of these behaviors they perform exhaustively. In Rally-FrEe, there’s are so many changes that your dog can’t guess, and you have to train more fluency, and there’s room to make it much more dynamic and fun utilizing movement and props.

I’d like to believe that because the training task is so enormous, that people are a little more humble and friendly, but maybe that’s my imagination?? Either way, it was a really great experience to go to this show and meet a lot of people who pursue both Rally-FrEe and/ Freestyle (there was a Musical Freestyle practice following the competition). During lunch Julie wanted to pick people’s brains and talk and ask for feedback and it was a discussion I appreciated partaking in. Julie started off by explaining how in just about every dog sport, in the last 15 years or so, the proficiency and training has elevated significantly, but, she wasn’t seeing the same true of Freestyle. The discussion went into the dilemma of the freestyle world having such a vast array of options—you can train any trick (and there are a whole lot of excellent tricks out there!!!—that ultimately could contribute to an unbalanced focus on the “shiny-fancy tricks” without hardly enough attention to the foundation: positions and transitions.

Julie pointed out and the light bulb illuminated, Rally-FrEe is just a collection of positions (heel left/right/front/behind/between) and transitions (leg weaves, 180 spins away, handler and dog swapping side while the other stands still). Well, that’s probably why I enjoy it so much. Training foundation skills is hugely appealing to me. Once you’ve established a good base to depart from, the fancy stuff is supported by solid behaviors that, incidentally, take up the majority of any freestyle routine. And we all are guilty of training the exciting stuff before we’ve done our elementary homework. Julie asked how many of us have trained backwards circle around before teaching your dog to circle around forwards both directions…and I think every one of us was guilty, including her.

My own personal thought about the elevation of the caliber of this sport I only just started (not that I have the authority) is that the element of dancing on time is really hard to embody. And I can’t wait to explore what I can do with my West African and other dance background!!

Anyway, it was a lot of fun seeing how the different dogs handled the venue and what skills everybody taught their dogs. After the competition there were hours of freestyle practice, and, since everyone gets tired at the end of the day I usually end up helping out extra, and ended up watching everyone while playing dj. Some exciting performance are in the works…and a couple of people really need go back and do some more training. But overall I’d have to say it was an excellent turnout and did not disappoint. I’m grateful to ask the judges (there were multiple present) lots of questions (thanks for being so generous!) and have conversations with good trainers. Now I better understand the criteria I’m shooting for in competition (which, incidentally, is what I train for all the time, I just would lighten my demands on my dogs during a competition), with the biggest insight being that they like to see the dog return to a solid heel position before moving forward to the next sign. No problem, my dogs can hit moving into heel with me at a standstill in many different contexts. In fact, I appreciate getting points for that, so, moving forward, my competition entries will be much cleaner. We just got a 1st for our most recent video submission. And as for the live event, I was able to train my older dog, who has lots of concerns, giving him tons of reinforcement at the event for good work. Unfortunately, I worked him too long (poor guy) both in my practice run-through and a competition entry. I just got greedy thinking he’d be up for more. Shame on me.

My other little girl, well, she did stellar. Would have done even better if I knew to show tidier positions. We missed 1st place both times by a point or 2. And she titled moved up to the next level. My main focus for her was to set a precedent for the competition scene to be fun and for her to stay at a good enthusiasm level without going over the top. I’ll have to get out and put agility titles on her…or do I? 😉

 

 

 

Dog dancing, I’m hooked on Freestyle!

You couldn’t have told me when I began training Rally-FrEe that it would serve to get me hooked on Canine Freestyle—aka dancing with your dog. I was sure that was for old ladies, or housewives and their Golden Retrievers. Not that there’s anything wrong with old ladies or housewives or Goldens! I kid, but in all seriousness, watching video I never appreciated what a training undertaking it is to train such a massive chain of behaviors. Honestly, sometimes watching a routine can bore me. Yet, other times I can be moved to tears. You’ve got to watch some good routines (check out the links!). There are only a handful of favorites, I’ll grow that list as I get the time to pull my saves from disparate locations.

But let me first put the enormity of the training task in perspective. Imagine asking your dog to do 5 things before giving them a reward, and expecting her to do it with such zest that her pupils are dilated and she’s as keen as could be. Does your dog even know 5 behaviors? It’s actually easier if your dog knows less behaviors to ask them to discriminate between them (less wrong guesses to be had). Anyway, let’s say you ask your dog to run to you, then sit, roll over, back up, lie down, and wave “Hi”. On top of that, let’s ask your dog to do all that but without any visual cues, just by the words out of your mouth. That might be just a fraction of a complete routine…but that’s how you train it, in segments (that you will overlap and chunk in different segments, letting the chain become a little predictable to help, back-chaining and creating a lot of value and comprehension, to say the least). Once your dog is proficient at certain behaviors, then you assemble them and choreograph them with bizarre movements from you (what some call dancing;) so that you are dancing rather than demonstratively cueing your dog. Sound like a tall order? It is!

There’s a lot of people saying that this is the hardest thing you could train your dog. I believe it. And I’m hooked. I just completed my first routine. It started off as an obligation, and morphed into my own creation. To start off I selected behaviors that my dog already knew really well. It’s hard enough to add them all together, so adding new stuff would have been deadly. However, I did teach a simple, easy to discern “jump into my arms” trick…but that has a very different body language and is easy to both perform and discriminate, and comforting because she’s close (I notice dogs that might be struggling with tasks feel secure when they are asked to do this trick in a string of behaviors). I actually say I completed it, but I have a couple of eligible videos but haven’t entered any because I can’t decide if I should choose one of those, or perform it again. It’s never going to be perfect, that’s one thing you’ll need to let go of!

I can’t wait to get started on my next routine’s tricks…but I’ve become very responsible and won’t introduce or practice too many untrained/partially understood behaviors at once anymore. But I know I’m hooked because throughout the day my mind will wander to great ideas for routines. Since I just started nose-work (yes, 1 more totally different dog training endeavor!), I recently had the idea to do a routine about the tragedy of a dog that can’t smell. You can borrow that idea if you need one 😉 I’ve got tons! My only request is that you send me a video of the routine.