Classes start up again on Aug. 9th!

To register or for more info send email to Char: dogsontheball@gmail.com

Dates (all Saturdays) are: Aug. 9 and 23, Sept. 6 and 20, Oct. 4 and 18. There will be one make up class offered if anyone has a conflict with some of these dates.

Cost for each 6 week session is $90.00 for non-members, $75.00 for LOAL members. One make up class is allowed for a missed absence. After successful completion of 2 six week sessions you may elect to attend on a drop-in basis, pay per class.

Click here for Class Description and Content

Time: Beginner class will meet from 9:00-10:00AM and Intermediate/Advanced from 10:15-11:15AM. If the class size is small, we will combine all levels into one class and meet from 10:00-11:15.

Prerequisites: Completion of 6 weeks of advanced basic obedience OR CGC OR equivalent-recall, stay, sit, down, etc. are necessary. Most work is off leash. Initially, a long line will be acceptable as long as you have control around other dogs and people. I allow plenty of space and will also put up ring gate barriers when needed.

Trials and Titling info: Live trials are few and far between at the moment, but Treibball is alive and well worldwide via video and the Internet. While titling is certainly not required to enjoy this sport, there are a couple of video titling options at this time for those who wish to pursue it. Titling by video is now available through Wag-It Games Dog Ball and the World Treibball League– each with their own unique version of the sport, but the fundamentals are the same.  I will be happy to facilitate video titling events for anyone in the class that has interest, and we can prepare for these options in class.

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Treibball Hide and Seek, a fun training game!

This is a great game to add variety to your training and build drive for the ball!

It is simple: Hide the ball out of sight, send your dog to find it and drive it back to you. (If you are familiar with a “blind retrieve”, this is similar.) To play, you first must teach your dog how the game works:

Step 1) Train the “find” first: Put the ball out of sight but let your dog see where you are putting it. (Behind a bush, or around the corner in a doorway in your house, etc.)
From close range, send your dog to find the ball. As soon as they get to the ball have a big party for finding it, run in and +R at the ball. Then ask for a short drive to you, and +R again.
NOTE: For the entire chain of “go find the ball and push it back to me”, you will probably need a different cue or a combined cue. (Mine is “Go, PUSH!” This is same cue I use for any difficult ball retrieve and push back to me, in sight or not. See the “Runaway Ball” post.)

Step 2) Once your dog understands “go find the ball”, increase the distance. Distance is up to you, but raise criteria appropriately so that your dog can be challenged but still be sucesssful.

Step 3) Once your dog understands “finding the ball from a distance”, start using using different “blinds” to hide it in. Use your imagination! Play at short range with each new blind the first time, then increase the distance. A few times with different blinds and your dog will begin to generalize the “hide and seek” behavior.

This is a great game for in the house too-put the ball in different rooms and send your dog to find it, pushing through halls and doorways! Outside you might use trees, shrubs, or set up your own blinds with trash cans, agility equipment, your car, garden shed, or anything else you might have. The whole idea is that the ball becomes the focus amidst other distractions and the reinforcement should be great for finding and returning it to you! This game helps build drive, as some dogs need more reinforcement for finding the ball than others. Lots of +R for just finding the ball helps to build that drive for all dogs.

“Clicker”, what it means to me

As I prepare to head to the Clicker Expo in Norfolk VA this weekend for some the best training education on the planet, I think about the term that has always sort of bothered me-“CLICKER TRAINING”. So what does it really mean?

I guess what has always bothered me about the term “clicker training” is the over simplification of it. Appreciating the science behind it and the decades of evolution that have followed, it just hardly seems descriptive or adequate for such an elegant, sophisticated methodology of teaching and communication with another species. And unfortunately there are many traditional trainers out there that still believe “clicker training” is simply using a marker and reward in training. Case in point: Just the other day I had a very experienced competition trainer declare to me that “shaping isn’t clicker training”. Little does she know that shaping is one of the corner stones of clicker training! This trainer sometimes uses a clicker as a marker, and that is what she believes to be “clicker training”.

As the song goes, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative”. This is my mantra for training. I try to tell people that “clicker training” is not just a methodology but a philosophy, a mindset, an overall approach and attitude based on prioritizing a cooperative and positive learning experience throughout the entire process. Efforts are marked, rewarded, and appropriately challenged to incrementally improve at a pace that ensures success of the animal. The teacher/trainer is focused on acknowledging only the desired action and rewarding the animal at every opportunity. The animal gains confidence and becomes an active participant in the process by learning to offer desired behaviors for a reward. There is never any discouraging word or action for an error, errors are simply ignored and not rewarded. No fear of making a mistake, no harm in trying, keep going until sooner or later there is a “click” and bingo, you get your reward for getting it right! Confidence and trust is built and a learning partnership is born…

So it does sound relatively simple and it is…to a point. The beauty of it is that simplicity and the fact that mistakes cause no harm. But the art is in the correct application, and that is not always easy. It takes time, patience, consistency and clarity along with education and practice. There are many methods and techniques within the “clicker” process-where you can combine art and science for loads of learning fun! But the true reward is that the learning partnership with another species is nothing short of a magical and miraculous experience. I count myself as one of the many fortunate humans to have had this in my life. Events like the Clicker Expo help educate and raise awareness that truly humane teaching and learning is the most effective across species. Maybe most important of all is that it teaches us that none of this is about an egotistical human display of  control or personal accomplishment, but rather a miraculous demonstration of communication, learning and cooperative relationship between species. It never ceases to amaze me!

Happy training!

Char

New class starting April 26

 Dogs on the Ball, Level 1

 Foundations for Creative Training and Sports with Treibball, Tricks and More!

  Learn an innovative new sport, have fun discovering your “inner circus dog” and sharpen your training skills in the process!  This class is for you…

  • If you want to build skills and relationship with your dog in a relaxed, non-competitive setting. Appropriate for dogs of all ages, including retired dogs-modify old skills and learn some new! All activities are low impact.
  • If you want to build a foundation for training any dog sport for fun or competition. All of these activities can be applied to any dog activity in your future.
  • If you want to learn the fun and versatile sport of Treibball, which combines elements of obedience, distance work, directionals, and the unique skill of ball pushing to a goal.
  • If you want to train Tricks for fun, skill building, body awareness and versatility.
  • If you are committed to spending some time on a regular basis to work with your dog.
  • If you are committed to using correction-free, positive reinforcement training. This is essential for participation in this course, without exception. You will learn how to use shaping, targeting and efficient use of luring in a variety of applications.

Prerequisites-must have one of the following to be eligible for this class:

  • Love on a Leash classes: Completion of 2 x 7 week Basic Obedience sessions OR Puppy Preschool followed up with one 7 week Basic Obedience. (Some participation in the Advanced Obedience class is beneficial, but not required)  OR
  • CGC, Canine Good Citizen training and/or certification, or equivalent  OR
  • Basic training for other sports or activities such as therapy dog, etc., with instructor permission.

PLEASE NOTE:  All dogs must be able to work under control around other dogs in a normal class environment. Only plain buckle collars or properly fitted martingales are allowed, no exceptions.

Schedule and Fees:

  • Location and time: Love on a Leash in Harrisonburg VA. Saturdays, scheduled dates are usually twice a month and/or alternating Saturdays. Level 1 class meets 11:30-12:30.
  • The next 6 week session dates are: 4/26, 5/3, 5/17, 5/31, 6/14, 6/28.
  • Fee for 6 classes is $90.00. Discount for LOAL members, 15%.
  • Make up policy for absences: Make up is by attendance at the level 2 class and is limited to one absence only.

To register or for more info, contact Char:  dogsontheball@gmail.com     

 

 

Deconstructing the Click

Clicker science explained- a great read!

The Science Dog

I am a clicker trainer. All of my own dogs are clicker trained and many of the classes that we teach at my training school, AutumnGold are “clicker-centric”. Clicker training is not only a scientifically sound approach to teaching dogs new things, but is also a kind, enjoyable, and bond-strengthening method of training – something that benefits both dogs and their people.

Mary and Simon Sit Stay Fall 20137-MONTH-OLD SIMON LEARNS EYE CONTACT AND SIT/STAY

For the uninitiated, clicker training is a relatively simple technique that involves pairing the click sound made by a small, handheld cricket with the delivery of a food treat. After several repetitions of this pairing (Click-Treat; hereafter CT), in which the click sound reliably predicts the treat, the sound comes to possess the same properties as the presentation of the treat itself – a pleasurable emotional response. Clicker training packs an enormously powerful positive punch for both the dog and the trainer because it allows the trainer to precisely target tiny bits of behavior at the exact moment they are…

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Treibball skills-how to handle those “Runaway Balls”

Treibball is a very unpredictable game. Balls can roll anywhere, anytime, depending on the terrain or floor, the wind direction, if the dog bumps the wrong one, etc. Of course these challenges are what make the game so much fun-but you do have to anticipate and train accordingly. As a new sport, many of us are still experiencing the unexpected and then it’s “Uh-oh…I better train for that!”.

One of these situations is when the ball rolls away from the dog as they are going out after it. Some dogs will go crazy and charge after it-maybe even pushing it further away as in “chasing it”, opposite of where you want it to go. Some dogs see a rolling ball as a lost cause and they just give up. In either case, the dog needs to learn to run past the rolling ball to a position on the opposite side and push it back to you.

I have a cue that I use for this which is “GO,PUSH!”. This is different from my regular clock and counter clock sends which mean “go out on the perimeter of the balls and I will give you direction from there”. And that directive might be “wait”, “walk up”, “flip” “back” or a change of direction. On the other hand, “GO, PUSH!” means “run out there, head it off , and push it in”. No further directives-just go out and push the ball back to goal. So when do I use this? I use it in situations where I need a fast run out to catch up with a runaway ball. Or in the middle of the game when I just need to keep things moving, random balls with no directed ball selection. It simply means “go out fast and get the ball however you can”. This is an intermediate to advanced level skill. You will need to already have a fluent send out with directionals, orientation and “PUSH” behavior, all with some distance. It is essential that you have this control before learning to deal runaway balls or consecutive ball pushes at a fast pace.

So first we need to practice running out and past a stationary ball. For this exercise we want to isolate just the running past the ball, no stopping to orient, etc. So to do this you will need to be quick on your mark and +R just passing the ball. Do this a few times until your dog propels forward to get past the ball on your cue, “GO”.

Now you are ready to get that ball rolling. Use a partially deflated ball here so that it does not roll too fast or out of control-that can be too arousing for some dogs and demotivating for others. The end result will be a “GO, PUSH!”, and your dog runs out and heads off the rolling ball, quickly orients and pushes it back to the goal (you). Here then is the step by step for training the retrieve of a runaway ball, and this assumes that your dog will have the prerequisite skills mentioned above:

  1. With your dog at your side in a “wait” and the ball in front of you, gently kick the (partly deflated) ball away from you just enough to get it rolling slowly. As the ball rolls, simultaneously cue your dog to “GO”.
  2. The second your dog takes off from your side, click and +R, tossing the +R just past the moving ball. Repeat this a few times until your dog is eagerly anticipating your cue to “GO”. No pushing just yet, we are working on just the fast send to get past the moving ball. (Up until now it was just running past the stationary ball.)
  3. Now raise your criteria from just leaving your side to actually going past the moving ball. Toss +R on the far side of the ball where you will want your dog to go. Do this until your dog is anticipating the +R past the ball and charging forward on cue. Keep this at short distance only until your dog is comfortable running past the ball as it rolls slowly.
  4. Add “PUSH”: Once you have at least a 10 foot send on your “GO” cue with the moving ball, add your “PUSH” cue just as your dog catches up with the ball. As soon as your dog stops, turns and attempts to orient/push, immediately mark and +R. You may need to isolate and +R the ‘stopping to orient” a few times-doing this with a moving ball is still new. High drive dogs will need control, less motivated dogs need the +R and reassurance at each step.
    • Fluent, oriented pushing skill is necessary here. This is where your foundation work comes into play. As soon as you cue “PUSH” your dog should take a position behind the ball and push it back to you. You may you need to go back and work on that separately if your dog is faltering here.
  5. This end result is a combined cue, “GO PUSH”.
  6. Gradually build distance and speed of the runaway ball. Add distance by rolling or pushing the ball away harder. Inflate the ball to make it roll easier and faster, but don’t make it too challenging too soon for your dog.
  7. The final product is a “kick and send” game. Have your dog “wait” at your side, kick the ball out, then send your dog after it with a “GO PUSH!” cue. That will come to mean “run after it and do whatever it takes to push that ball back to me”!

Once your dog is proficient, you can kick hard and far and watch them fly! This game is also very motivating for less driven dogs. It seems to bring out the prey drive and gets them excited once they realize that they can chase down the rolling ball and “catch” it to push it back.

Have fun!  Char