Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cadi's Success and More Thoughts on Training

Cadi had a great comeback yesterday -- 12 weeks after having her babies she finished her Novice Agility title, making her a BMDCA Working Dog. This award requires that a dog have titles in three working events, one of which must be draft; Cadi has her TD, NDD and now an NA.

You can watch her jumpers run on YouTube -- notice that she knocks a bar when she looks back at me so she did not qualify in that run but it is still a fun run and really shows what she is doing (and how bald she is!):

Marti is so right that training a performance dog creates a relationship that transcends the ordinary, and this bond is the best part of working so hard to do well with a dog. This is another reason not to rush a dog to the ring -- while titles are nice, the journey is the best part.

And so I want to offer another opinion that may not be popular -- I see rally as the enemy of the inexperienced dog. Rally is a sport in which the dog and owner move from exercise to exercise, and the exercises are written on signs. This means the owner is paying attention to what? Not the dog -- the signs. And when an owner stops paying attention to a dog, a dog stops paying attention to an owner -- and attention is the single most important foundation skill a dog needs to learn. And so rally introduces inattention in the ring -- a terrible, bad idea.

My older, experienced dogs do rally -- I enjoy it but not with a young dog. I took Cadi in for her Rally Novice title -- the first time she was brilliant with attentive heeling, but that did not last in the next two legs -- I was reading signs and not paying attention to her, so she decided she did not need to pay attention to me. Consider how we extinguish behavior -- we ignore it. And so when attention is ignored, it will stop. I have seen this over and over in green dogs doing rally, and so I strongly discouraged it if an owner has any interest in doing obedience with the dog.

Sometimes owners think rally is something to do with a young dog -- and it is -- but know you are likely to pay a price for rushing a dog in to the ring just for a title. Laying a solid, steady foundation takes time up front but is well worth it in the end. Tracking is such a better choice for a puppy, and it certainly can mean an early title.

I know we are all so enthusiastic but better to exercise patience now then to spend months or years later re-training a dog who was rushed and is now stressed and/or does things poorly. Again, the journey is important and racing to get there is likely to cause one to crash and burn, so to speak.

Just my opinion -- I accept that others can hold different ones :)

I hope you are having a lovely Sunday, and enjoy whatever journey you are on.


  1. Yes, today is a multiple journey day! Yesterday was our local Seedy Saturday, today we go to clean out the greenhouse so I can start my baby plants. I'm also going to pick up some more yarn so I can finish making my second-ever warp and start weaving, and I have to start spinning the Berner fur I've just carded to have yarn ready for the Naational Specialty. A good day! Oh, and Djinn and I will do a little local exploring.

    No awards, but a good day!

    Susan and Djinn

  2. What great FUN for you & Cadi! I didn't see a bar getting knocked down... I love Cadi's enthusiasm when jumping ~ she has to bark to reply to your encouragement!

    Thanks for the video!

  3. I don't know that Rally is such a bad idea for all novice handlers - it certainly worked to my advantage. My boy was almost ready for his CD, but I was really nervous about going in the ring. With Rally, I knew I could talk to him - and we could both work out our jitters (mine more than his!). We got our RN with 2 1st place finishes and a 2nd place finish and went on to our first Obedience leg at the Specialty in RI with a High in Class finish -came back to Canada and got our CD with 2 High in Trials and a high in class. We finished our Rally Advanced yesterday and we were tied for 1st place. So in our case, Rally worked to our advantage!