Whats coming up!

I thought i’d write a quick blog about what we’ve been up to and what we’ve got coming up.

Two weekends ago we ran our first Sniffer Dog Day – it was a total success and we’ve had lots of interest about hosting future ones 🙂 so this is something we will definitely be doing in the future. The course was taught by Hannah Thompson who honestly, is brilliant. Hannah runs her own training business (Woof!) in Lincoln and has both the theoretical and practical background to ensure courses she delivers are the very best. We had great feedback from everyone on the course too – that’s one of the main things for me. Its really important for us to get feedback – it’s our way of knowing whether we are delivering the type of courses you want to attend, if you enjoyed them and if there is anything we can improve upon. You can see photos from the day on our Facebook Page here.

Then on the Sunday we held a fun dog show, alongside a ‘have-a-go’ agility ring at the Open Farm event. This was a great day and we hope you all enjoyed yourself. However, I have NO idea how ‘judges’ pick winners out of fun dog show categories – It was so hard!!! One of our Student Helpers, Michael had to listen to me change my mind about who the winner was about 50 times for each category! The egg and spoon race and the musical sit classes were more objective making it easier to see the winners! I hope those of you who had a go at some agility enjoyed it… We always start off really simply and make it easy for the dogs to understand what we are wanting them to do. That way we get to reward them lots for doing a jump or a tunnel for example and suddenly, they’re hooked! You can look at the photos from the Open Farm Sunday here.

We also said Good Bye to our Good Citizen Bronze Class – and we are still working at a 100% pass rate… No pressure those of you in the new class 😉 It’s always sad when puppies and dogs leave our courses but we usually keep in touch and see them on future seminars, workshops or courses so that makes it a bit easier. However, I do LOVE seeing the progress each individual has made and how the partnerships have developed 🙂

This last weekend we had our second Recall Workshop and – despite the heat – the dogs did brilliantly. We had to adapt some of the training sessions to utilise the cooler indoor areas but we still got to practice what we’d learnt over the course of the day out in the ‘real world’. The dogs made brilliant progress – as they always do 🙂 On Tuesday we also welcomed a new puppy and good citizen group as well as catching up some faces from the past (I will take photos this week to show you all) in our new ‘Follow On’ class.

So that’s what we have been up to the last coupe of weeks – now for future events. The planning for the activity trail is well under way – I will be giving out a lot more information on that nearer completion but I thought i’d mention that there is lots of work going on behind the scenes 🙂

Our next block of agility classes starts a week today – i’m planning to take some pictures of them this evening as they’ve come on leaps and bounds (literally!) since they started at the end of January.

I have also set up a second puppy class on a Tuesday evening as I hate turning anyone away. These will be from 5pm – 6pm on a Tuesday evening and run for 6 weeks. The link to book a space on the most recent Polite Puppies in take is here.

We also have a Clicker Training Workshop on the 1st of July. This workshop is run by Alex and teaches you everything from the very beginning. Clicker Training is an awesome way to teach our dogs – if you want to find out more of book a space you can do so here.

With regards activities without dogs – albeit still all about dogs – we have two evening seminars coming up. These are available for everyone, cost £10 and run for 2 hours (although don’t quote us on that as we usually over run!). We have a Canine First Aid evening on Wednesday 2nd of August and a talk on Separation Related Behaviour Problems on the 16th of August both of which are taught by Alex, who has a degree in Veterinary Science and an MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour. These can be booked here.

I try and make sure our Facebook Pages has all of our courses and seminars as Events as well as them being on the website – do have a look and see what takes your fancy.

So, I think that’s all for now – hope you’re enjoying the sunny weather – albeit taking it a bit easier in the heat!

Motivation – because we all need it!

Puppy CuddlesI should have written this blog on Monday so that I could give it a good alliterative title (Monday Motivation) but alas, it was a bank holiday so instead I enjoyed the day off. See, without the motivation to do a particular thing, it can be hard to actually do it! Had someone offered me puppy cuddles, lemon cake or an afternoon in a pub garden for writing it then, I probably would have been far more inclined. However, these motivators are personal and vary between individuals. I very good friend of mine would probably run a marathon for the promise of gin, but for me, it doesn’t float my boat. In other words, Gin wouldn’t motivate me.

londonFinding out what you inherently find motivating is really important – you then know what you can reward yourself with and motivate yourself to do a task that you may not initially like to do. These things can then become motivating in their own right. For example, I used to HATE running, but I got a place in London Marathon so I had to actually run quite a lot! The motivation initially was not wanting to collapse in a heap in front of a lot of people, but over time, as I got fitter and healthier and met running friends I began to really enjoy the running. Suddenly going for a run was motivating in its own right.

So, I’m not actually writing a blog here about motivating people… Indeed I know very little on this subject really, but I do know a little bit about motivating dogs, thus I wanted to write a blog about that.

Have a think now – what does your dog find motivating? I want you to write it down and then re-examine the list at the end of this blog and see if anything has changed.

Juno TuggingTypically when we think about what dogs find motivating we think of food, toys and praise. Generally, all of these will motivate our dogs to do things, BUT (and here’s the big but) its not actually us who choose what motivates our dogs. Like us, hence I gave the gin example earlier, dogs are individuals and what they find motivating is their choice. We can make things more or less motivating with training, but generally what your dog does in it’s own time, it finds motivating. (I sit here writing this blog with Juno lying behind me, honking of lake water! She finds water VERY motivating indeed!) Juno Water

So here are things that my dogs find motivating (with the most motivating ones being higher up). I will comment next to them whether I like that this is motivating or whether I find it a bit frustrating.

  • Toys (Like)
  • Water (Sometimes like, sometimes don’t like)
  • Staring (This one is more Juno than the others, but I find this really hard to work with – I shall explain later)
  • Racing each other (Sit on the fence with this one, it can be great when training bits and bobs when in a field, however this can also be a tricky one!)
  • Sheep (Like. I should mention here I have my own sheep and both the collies are trained sheepdogs!)
  • Jumping (like – this is in relation to agility. Zipper finds jumping hugely motivating)
  • Food (Like)
  • Things that ‘click’ or ‘pop’ (I have no idea where this developed from, Zipper taught it to Juno, but they both love any click type sound – it means bubble wrap is very high motivator!)

PeggyThis list isn’t exhaustive obviously, however it gives you an idea of things that my dogs love doing. The common ones like playing with toys and food are easy – you can manipulate them in ways the mean you can use them easily as training tools. Others that are harder including staring and racing. This is because, in the simplest form, I can’t control when or how it happens. Thus, they can effectively be rewards very heavily for doing something that I may not want them being rewarded for.

Running on turf fieldsHere’s an example; I recall the dogs who start coming back as normal, in the process of returning they start to stare at each other – and boy does it feel good to them – they start to slow and the motivation has changed to being much lower for returning to me and much higher for racing. This gives them internal feedback that says ‘this feels really good’ and thus, they have reinforced themselves for not coming back fast. This is something I really have to work around. I know its there, thus I need to make sure coming back to me is more motivating than staring and stalking. Indeed, this can often be used as a reward – do a hand touch, or let me grab your collar, then you get to race. (I should put a disclaimer in here that I have brilliant recall with both of mine as this is something that for me, is paramount)

A simple way to find out if your dog finds something motivating or not is 1) does your dog do it in their ‘spare time’ i.e. playing with toys, jumping in water, running fast on a walk. 2) If you use it to reward them does the behaviour increase in the likelihood of it happening again, or does it decrease.

Ru and JuneSo, with the list you made, are there any more you could now add? Do you like or are they a bit frustrating? When you use them as a reward (if indeed you can) does the behaviour get faster, stronger, better understood, more reliable etc. One thing that I strongly suspect decreases a behaviour is petting and stroking our dogs. We are humans and we like to show our appreciation by hugging and touching. However, for dogs this isn’t the case (usually). If your dog is doing something you like, or has responded to a cue correctly, please don’t stroke on the head or give them a pat to show how grateful you are. Chances are the behaviour is less likely to happen in the future because you’ve done something they haven’t liked. That’s not to say dogs don’t like physical touch – indeed one of mine loves cuddling up on the sofa. However, its very context specific and when you’re sleepy and relaxed, having a nice stroke can be lovely. But when you’re ‘working’ this is a whole different ball game.462843_10150982520346468_312571060_o

I see so many dogs doing awesome recalls, only to have their very grateful, lovely, kind owner shower them with love and physical affection. Said pooch doesn’t find this very rewarding at all (and ultimately in the future it is much less likely to return). So instead of hugging and stroking, toss them a treat or play a game of tug or say ‘go’ and let them splash about in the water.

In short, reward your dogs with things that they find motivating 🙂

All four

 

Children and Dogs

Zipper and LivvieI was merrily scrolling through Facebook recently when I saw an old school friend asking for some advice about her children and new puppy. I mentioned a couple of the brilliant online resources that are freely available (I will include links for them all within this blog) and also what to look for in a trainer, should they want to attend. The concerning problem was the amount of advice given to use pretty dangerous methods (i.e. fear based, dominance theory). Sadly, these resources are also freely available -albeit in the form of YouTube videos only- but I was made aware once again how knowing what to look for when being given advice is so important.

The main things I try and get across when talking about this is;

  1. Don’t ever use a trainer who asks you to do things that you don’t feel comfortable doing. This isn’t to say they are bad but actually, I think our gut instinct is pretty spot on and we should listen to it more. If a trainer asks you to do something and your response is one of unease, then you really don’t have to do it and instead just make a mental note not to go back. I refer back to the incident I saw with a puppy at ‘puppy classes’ once whose owner was being taught how to correctly yank the puppies slip lead!
  2. Ask locals if they’ve heard of them (again this isn’t a good or a bad thing) but other dog owners can offer you very insightful information about what type of trainer they are.
  3. Do they have the educational background for what they are teaching? You really want people to have an excellent level of knowledge about learning theory and indeed behaviour. It should mean that they teach you how to train your dog using ethical and humane training methods.

So with regards to children and dogs  here are some things that could really help. The Kennel Club has a Safe and Sound Scheme which has lots of resources for both parents and teachers. There is also The Blue Dog project which again has plenty of free information. There is a book called ‘Babies, Kids and Dogs’ which you can get on amazon.

It is also really worthwhile as a parent learning about canine body language. Our dogs are experts at giving us signals of when they are uncomfortable, we are just not that good at reading these signals sometimes. We have an evening talk that discusses canine body language and how to recognise the subtle signals. A very wise lady once told me (and its been my mantra ever since) ‘If you listen to the whispers, they don’t need to shout’. And its so very true! To find out more about talks click here.

Zipper and Alex

Zipper instigated this situation (I always monitor for any whispers!)

There is no reason why having dogs and children can’t be an amazing experience for all parties involved but it does take a bit of a proactive approach on our behalf. Both to teach our dogs that children are ok and that we listen to them and help them when they aren’t feeling quite so confident. And to teach our children how to behave around dogs. I have recently become and Aunty (twice) and all of our family dogs have reacted differently to babies in the family. Evie, 15 and elderly, couldn’t care less (in fact I don’t think she has notice!). Peggy, 11 and a bit bonkers, is relaxed and totally not interested in them. Zipper, 5, loves them but in a very gentle way. He is usually pretty near and totally relaxed. Juno, 3, is unsure. She can’t totally work them out but that’s ok. She is under no pressure at all to greet them. Over the past few months she has now become a lot more relaxed around the older one (but again, there is still no pressure at all on her to interact). My dogs always have their own spaces and they have a very strong history of being able to leave any situation that may make them feel uncomfortable.

 

 

 

Why Dog Training?

All fourAs I went on my lunch time walk with the dogs I did a lot of thinking (walking is usually where I do my thinking). Last night we completed our first Good Citizen course and I couldn’t be prouder of all the dogs and puppies. And I realised it is for this feeling (that warm fuzzy one of pride) that I got into dog training (and indeed teaching). When a group of owners and their dogs turn up on week one, its  totally new (usually) for everyone (both two legged and four legged alike). For the dogs, they get brought into a classroom with new smells, new sounds and new dogs which can be quite exciting indeed. So that’s why week one is mainly about asking very little of our dogs. They get to explore the room and we give them yummy Kongs to help them relax in their new setting. By week six, they are working around their classmates, passing tests and being rewarded lots for getting things right. Everything is dictated by the individual dog, progress is more important that the end goal. We’ve had one dog recently who, at the start of the course, could barely enter the building and by the end was able to take food from unknown hands and partake in the exercises. The progress he made in that time, through the brilliant work of his owner, was enormous – that’s what counts. I hasten to add he is a rescue with an unknown past, but I strongly suspect it was not kind past.

BRONZE CLASSBut actually, the dogs are just one small part of dog training the much bigger part is training the dog’s two legged counterparts! All of our dogs are capable of learning, indeed if we gave our dogs to trainers competing at the highest levels they would soon be working at that level too no doubt. But that’s not the point – as I mentioned in an earlier blog its about the journey with out dogs.

pexels-photo-111783I will never forget being on a walk and seeing a training lesson taking place. Lots of lovely owners, with young puppies, out training on a Saturday morning. It was lovely to see… but then as I watched I saw some of the saddest things unfold. The owners, these lovely owners, who were possibly at the very beginning of their training journey, were being taught how to correctly yank their puppies leads to make them pay attention. I watched in horror – all of the owners were not wanting to do this, so weren’t really participating, only for them to be berated by the trainer and told how to yank correctly (using the owners puppies to demonstrate with!). What hit me about this was how this is potentially the next generation being taught these outdated, bullying tactics to train their dogs. There is a whole wealth of research out there that says we obey people who we see as a person of authority and if you are an owner, looking for a dog trainer and attending classes, chances are by default the trainer becomes the authority figure. Thus, you accept ‘they know better’ and carry out what they are telling you (even though it may not sit easy).
Otis2What we need with training in a paradigm shift – I harp on about it all the time but this is why education is so important. Within the training classes here, I explain why we teach dogs the way we do and I love how, over the training course, people have fun training. Its not a serious ‘do as you’re told, bad dog’ scenario but a fun one (with many comical moments!). We really should be having fun when we train our dogs. I swear they love it when we laugh (although that’s anecdotal).

So I suppose that is why I train – I literally love seeing the relationships and the confidence develop between owners and their dogs. Setting them off in the right direction for one of the most amazing and rewarding journeys you can have.

 

 

 

The agility season begins!

It is usually around this time of year that agility competitions really start to kick off again…I like to give my dogs a total break from agility for 3 months over winter… This is a personal decision but for me, I feel they work incredibly hard for the entire summer, competing and training and thus they both mentally and physically deserve some time to just ‘be dogs’. Then, around Easter time each year, the sun starts shining, the clocks change (although that means an hour less in bed!) and we all start coming out of our winter hibernation to compete once more. Juno and Rumer win

So this weekend Emily Crookes (our agility trainer) and I headed off to our first competition of 2017! The dogs worked brilliantly all day, with all of them putting in some lovely bits in each of their runs. However, the ‘puppies’ (still called the puppies despite being nearly 4!) both managed clear rounds and indeed won their classes! Rumer won two Grade 5 runs and Juno won a Grade 3 jumping… Clever girls!

We also couldn’t resist a photo of the Zipper and Lexie doing their best sad faces! Zipper and Lex Funny

Last summer The Kennel Club introduced two rule changes. One was to increase the minimum distance between obstacles to 5m as opposed to 3.6m as it was previously. You can read the research that was conducted on this here (for large dogs) and here (for small and medium dogs). The other was to introduce a Lower Height Option (LHO) meaning that owners could compete their dogs at the Full Height Option or the LHO.

As with anything when you get lots of competitors, these rule changes have been loved by some and hated by others. For me though it is simple – I LOVE THEM! The extended distance lets dogs really open up and the the LHO gives owners the freedom to choose what is best for their dog. For me, with a small, slightly worried ‘large’ dog it makes so much difference. Juno, the small collie, loves jumping at the LHO, she extends beautifully over jumps and is much more motivated to fly around a course. This option also means that owners with beginner dogs, short legged dogs, little dogs, slightly older dogs etc. can compete with their dogs.

Whilst some will argue that others use the LHO as an advantage to go faster and win the class (indeed the higher the hurdle the slower dogs jump – Read more on that here), I think we should be more simplistic with our thoughts. I mean really, does it matter that much?! Our dogs are doing agility, its meant to be a fun hobby!* So, if a rule change means that for some owners and dogs its the difference between competing and having a great time or not, then surely that’s a good thing? No one cries merry hell when a dog wins a small class compared to a big one (it can be the difference between competing against either 20 dogs or 250 dogs) but yet this LHO has really caused arguments. Its bizarre how incredibly emotive this subject is – sometimes I feel we aren’t seeing the wood for the trees….

* I put this in here as I think as agility competitors we really need to think about this… Is agility a sport? Or is agility a hobby? Now, I love running and do it a lot (actually I lie, I run so I can eat cake) but I am aware of my own limitations. I’m never going to be an elite marathon runner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t run a marathon. So with our dogs, should we be testing them more to select the elite from the masses or are we doing things perfectly… We never change jump height, yet this would be a great test of ability and indeed dogs are excellent jumpers (way better than horses!) and we never now ask dogs to do a bounce stride. Yet bounce strides are an excellent test of ability – Can the dog extend and collect their strides as needed? The only way we test our dogs is by course design. Then you could argue its more down to handler ability than the dogs ability. It is amazing how popular agility has become – and trust me, it is totally addictive and an awesome way to spend summer weekends but I do find myself wondering where it is heading… Dogs are getting faster and tighter as training gets better and better, but this is leading to a greater numbers of dogs being in Grade 7 with really, nowhere to go after that….

Crufts

Peggy in seaLast week some of the team from NTU Canine Centre spent the day at Crufts. If you’ve never been before you really must check it out – everything you have ever imagined for your dog is there! Be that diamond encrusted scissors, miniature leather sofas or brilliant dog toys/beds/ collars and so on. It isn’t just about shopping though… There are so many experts from the different canine fields that you can’t help but learn lots too. The KC do so much work to promote responsible dog ownership and to really make a difference to dogs. Indeed, this is what our Partnership with The KC is all about… How we can help make a difference to dogs and owners everywhere and promote kind, fair and ethical training.

Emily and Lex CruftsThis year was extra special as Emily Crookes (who teaches our agility classes here) was competing with her dog Lexie in the Obedience Ring. Emily came 2nd – seriously impressive when A) they only started competing this winter and B) Emily trains herself – and her team won the inter regional competition!

Ru and JuneAs an agility fan, the icing on the Crufts cake had to be the top level agility. It never fails to inspire me! The partnership between handlers and their dog is amazing – they make it look like poetry in motion (in my mind this is how I look when I am running my two at agility – in reality it was likened recently to a beginner rider buying a £20k horse and hoping for the best on a cross country course!). But what I love most about dog training is the journey. Its not about the winning really – its about the journey that gets you to where you want to be. Our journey with our dog is totally unique and for me it’s what keeps me wanting to learn more. Adapting what we do to help make things clearer for out dogs. One of the handlers in the Champ Final on Sunday evening started off only a few years ago in Grade One (indeed that is where we all start) but when you think of the journey he has gone on (in really what is such a short space of time) with his dogs it’s incredible.
Jimmy first birthdayWe don’t always have to be at the very top in our field, but we can always be the best we can be for our dogs. I think that is all our dogs would ever ask of us. When I think back to advise I was given when we got our first family dog, a delightfully naughty rescue, I realise just how much I have learnt over the years. Indeed, it was the advise of a stranger (and it wasn’t good advise) that made me want to find something different – a better way of training. I joined my first training club shortly after that and I never looked back!

This is why I feel so passionately about ensuring that everyone has the option to attend ethical, humane and indeed fun dog training classes. Sadly, a recent TV show, aired just before the Crufts final, used outdated, unethical techniques that only scare dogs. The worrying part is how much impact TV programmes can have on the dog owning public.

Me and ZipperI know I  harp on about it a lot but this is why humane education is so very important. We need to lead by example – its not about shaming those who do things differently but instead about encouraging everyone to use kind, fair and ethical dog training.  You and your dog will have so much fun on the journey and the results make every single moment worth it.

What began as a short blog about Crufts has turned into a longer more thoughtful one… So ask yourself, what is your reason for having a dog? All four

Puppy Training (2) NTU Canine Centre

Latest news

We are pleased to announce that we are now taking bookings for our Bronze GCDS classes! These can be booked through our website by clicking here. The course begins on the 7th of March at 7.30pm-8.30pm. The courses run for 6 weeks with the Bronze test being held at during the final class. We are very excited about starting these classes as we’ve had a lot of people interested 🙂

We also have lots of other courses and workshops running – Do check them out, we have something for everyone.

Last week saw Dr Jacqueline Boyd deliver an evening seminar on canine nutrition on Thursday evening and a Gundog Training Workshop on the Saturday. We’ve had great feedback from both of these 🙂 Jackie seems to have a real flair for inspiring individuals through her own passion and dedication (Not to mention she knows her stuff!).

We also had to say goodbye to our latest Polite Puppies last night – they really are a super little bunch. The featured image is one of Polite Puppies, Gertie. She is a rescue who has been blind from birth – she really is incredible, you would never guess she can not see. Her future really is bright with her fabulous owners and all the work they put in.

Happy training everyone 🙂

GCDS Classes

We are very pleased to announce that NTU Canine Centre is now offering The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme classes! We will be offering all levels from Puppy to Gold with the classes being held on a Wednesday evening.

gcds-certMore information on the GCDS can be found on The Kennel Club’s website here including details on what the tests include.
Classes will be starting over the next month or so – I will publish the dates as soon as they are finalised 🙂

It been a busy few weeks!

Well its been a busy couple of weeks here at NTU Canine Centre… We’ve just welcomed our latest group of Polite Puppies, who are all utterly delightful and suitably cute, as well as our agility classes gaining momentum.

emilyOur agility classes are being taught by Emily Crookes; an experienced agility trainer (and indeed competitor). Emily has a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and runs her own canine behaviour and training business. Emily is brilliant at deciphering what motivates your dog and working with that to create excellent agility partnerships. We currently are fully booked for our beginner classes however, we still have a couple of spaces in our intermediate course which can be booked here.

open-dayWe had our first NTU Canine Centre Open Day on Saturday which was great. We met lots of new faces and were able to show them what we have to offer here at NTU Canine Centre; from long rambling walks, to specific skills workshops.

We are also pleased to announce that many of the courses you’ve been waiting for are now available to book online. These can be booked via the ‘weekend workshops‘ and ‘evening courses‘ pages on our website. If you have any questions about the courses please do get in touch.

Polite Puppies

We have just completed the 7 week course with Emily and it has been so good. Alma ( 5 month old Labrador ) has learnt lots and we have too!
We liked the fact that it is very much based on kindness and rewards.
Thank you Emily and your student helpers x