Novice Notes

Dog Jobs, Dog Treats, Dog Games...

What do you mean my dog needs a job?
I truly did not understand the concept of herding breeds and working dogs needing a job to do until Gilda came into our lives. Here are some of the things that she gets intense about and enjoys:

~A game of fetch especially with a ball lobbed with a 'Chuckit' ball launcher:

~A jog alongside the bicycle using a 'WalkyDog' bike attachment and a comfort harness

~A long walk with her backpack on (work up gradually and do not add more than 10% of your dog's weight to the pack)

~A good swim

~A clicker training or obedience training session

~And of course... some Dog Agility!

Here is a great video from 3LostDogs with some other great ways to keep your dog entertained:

What kind of treats do I need for Agility Class?
Soft treats that can be cut or broken into tiny pieces generally work best. Usually by the time you start Agility Classes, you have a good idea of what your dog's favorite treats are and you definitely want to use a 'High-Value' reward especially when first starting classes. Gilda will do just about anything for peanut butter but we haven't had much success in finding a good delivery system for class. Other dogs love carrots. Use what works.

~Our favorite high-value reward is Natural Balance dog food which comes packaged in a roll (similar to breakfast sausage). It is easy to dice or crumble into small portions and comes in a variety of flavors. I have yet to meet a dog who doesn't love the stuff.

~Boiled diced chicken or fully cooked hot dogs are a good choice for many dogs and both are easy to portion.
~Soft dog treats like Bil Jac's Little Liver treats and Gooberlicious treats work well for home training sessions (I like to keep the High-Value rewards for class)

~There are also a lot of recipes online for homemade dog treats. Experiment to find what your dog will really work for.
Homemade Training Treat Ideas
Homemade Dog Treats Website
Here is brief video about training treats:

I thought I wasn't supposed to play tug-of-war with my dog?!
This is what I had always heard and/or read.
In Agility however, a good game of Tug it turns out, is a wonderful thing! Gilda truly had zero interest in Tugging in class until she witnessed her Border Collie classmates, Venus and Devo, tugging away! I guess she wanted a part of the action because she tugs like a pro now!

 As with all games, there are some simple rules when using a Tug toy:
1. The Tug game is always started by the handler and ended by the handler.
2. There are no dog teeth touching human skin during the Tug game! Teeth = Game Over.
3. The handler uses a "Drop" cue that the dog must obey.
4. To avoid injuries to the dog, the handler should never pull harder than the dog is pulling.

Tugging has become a great reward for Gilda as well as a beneficial training tool to send her in the correct direction or to transport her to a new location.

Tugging is a good reward because it keeps the dog excited and energized. To get a food reward, the dog has to stop what they're doing to take the treat and eat it. Even though it's only a second or two, sometimes you just don't want to lose momentum during training. A Tug reward keeps the dog in motion which is important in many areas of Agility.

Tugging is also used in Agility Training to send your dog in the correct direction. In training the Weave Pole Entrance using the 2 x 2 technique for example, a toy is tossed in front of the dog once they have passed the first pole as a way to keep them moving in the correct direction.

Similarly, a well-timed toss of the Tug toy can be used to train the dog to keep driving forward with good speed such as a tunnel or chute exit.

Another way to use a good Tug session in training is to transport your dog to a new start position. Using a Tug toy as a transport keeps your dog engaged with you while you move them to a new area. Gilda really doesn't like to be pulled by her collar and she gets stressed if she is being forced into position in any way (and stressed Agility is not Fun Agility!).

The follwing brief video gives good examples of Tug toy training applications. At the start, Jessica uses the Tug toy to transport Gilda to the start position. Then, once Gilda exits the Chute, Jessica tosses the Tug toy to keep Gilda driving forward with good speed: