December 28, 2009

Dog Agility - Venues

If you are interested in doing agility with your dog and competing, you'll need to find an organization, or venue. The most common ones are:

NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council)

USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association

UKC (United Kennel Club)

AKC (American Kennel Club, for purebreds only)

ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America, all breeds and mixes)

They each have slightly different obstacles and rules, so it's usually best to find a common one in your area and stick with it. Have fun!

Alex and Mya

December 27, 2009


I just wanted to post about a wonderful website for dogs, owners, trainers, breeders, and dog lovers:

There are wonderful forums and help from dog lovers! If you have any questions, sign up an account and ask away. It is free for most of the site, but to get access to special forums you must pay a membership. I don't have a membership, and enjoy it plenty. Don't have a dog? You can enjoy activities as a guest.

Mya's dog page is here at:

If you join, let us know! We'll be glad to be your first "pup pal!"

Hope to see you there!

Alex and Mya

December 26, 2009


When you train your dog, you need to find a reward that the dog will work for. For many dogs it is food. Some dogs work for squeaky toys or tennis balls. A very few even work for praise alone! When you are finding something for your dog's reward, try many different things. This list has a few ideas for you:

  • Throwing a tennis ball
  • Squeaky toys
  • Other toys
  • Cherrio's
  • Liver
  • Ham
  • Pet Store dog treats
  • Leftover dog-safe foods
  • Cheese cracker pieces
  • Petting and PRAISE in High Pitched voices

But don't pick just one. Choose a few varities of rewards and mix it up. Sometimes you can just praise and pet, other times throw a ball, and for really good performances you can JACKPOT with several treats or rewards and lots of excitment. This keeps the dog guessing at what comes next and wanting to work to earn something.

By definition, a REWARD comes after the fact. For example, I ask Mya to sit. Once she sits, the clicker clicks and a reward is produced from some hidden place (like a pocket or behind your back). A BRIBE would be holding a treat out to Mya, showing it to her, and asking for a sit because she has seen what I have. Mya will then choose whether or not to listen to the cue based on how good she deems the BRIBE, instead of the surprise of the REWARD. BRIBES seem easier to use when training (and I confess to using them myself without paying attention to what I am doing!) but in the long run, REWARDED cues hold together better and get better responses.

A LURE is similar to a bribe, but is used when the dog is learning a new cue. If I was training Mya to sit using LURES (there are many different ways to teach dogs; shaping, capturing, etc), I would hold the treat over her head to LURE her into position. Once she started to realize what I wanted, I would stop luring and only use words or signals. If I continued to use a LURE, it would have become a BRIBE and Mya would once again be choosy in responding to cues.

Let me know if you have any questions as I am sure that was a confusing post!

Happy Training and a late Merry Christmas 2009!

Alex and Mya

December 11, 2009

We passed our CGC and TDI tests!

Last night Mya and I passed out CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and TDI (Therapy Dogs International) tests! I've listed some of the things that we had to do below:

  • Let a stranger pet Mya, look at her ears, teeth, and feet and brush her without hesitation from her.
  • Have Mya sit and stay while I walked 20 feet away and have Mya wait until I called her to me from 20 feet away.
  • Walk Mya on a loose leash while we passed a treat twice and had her 'leave it.'
  • Walk through 5 people running around, in wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers and making loud noises and greet them if we choose to do so.
  • Walk nicely on a leash.
  • Walk nicely on a leash and stop to shake hands with someone who has another dog without Mya reacting.
  • Have Mya sit and stay while someone else dropped books behind her and a jogger ran by.
  • Leave Mya with someone else for 3 minutes.
  • Pretend I was on a walk in the park and stop to greet someone sitting on a park bench to see if they would like to pet Mya and have Mya behave herself while being petted.
  • Meet the 'crazy lady' who pretends she has a medical condition, and it could be anything such as arthritis or a medical handicap or both. Mya had to sit to be petted near the lady while she talked in funny ways and grabbed her collar, pulled at her ears, and stuck her finger in her mouth to show me Mya's, "Pretty teeth!!!"

It was a lot of fun! After I send in her registration forms Mya can start her visits!

Whoo HOOOOO! :o)

December 6, 2009

New tricks!

Mya's working on a new trick - hoop jump over my back! I'll keep updates on how it's going. Right now she can do it after 1 day over my back while I'm half - standing. It will be a gret new trick! We are also working on 'go hide,' which is standing/crouching behind an object without looking! They are coming along really well! Once we finish them I'll post instructions on how to train them.

December 5, 2009

When to train

When should you train your dog? When you train your dog, make sure you aren't hurried. You need to be in a good mood. If you are hurried or unhappy, your dog will sense your mood and not perform as well. If a new trick is frustrating you, take a break and play with your dog instead. Dogs are very good and reading your mood and if you are frustrated, angry, or not happy with training the training session won't go as well as it could. Any time you are free for even 5-10 minutes and in a good mood you can train your dog. And the most important rule is to HAVE FUN!!! :-)

December 4, 2009

What is Clicker Training?

Clicker training. What is it? It is a relatively new way of dog training that is revolutionizing the way dogs are trained. Normally when people train their dogs they say, "Good dog!" when the dog does the right thing. Good dog! marks the right behavior and lets the dog know that is did good and a reward is coming (such as a treat, toy, game, etc.). Clicker training uses a 'clicker' that makes a click instead of a word to mark the right behavior. Below are some pictures of clickers:

When the tab or button is pushed, the metal/plastic makes a clicking noise. By conditioning your dog to mean that the clicker=treats, your dog will come to know that 'click' means I did good and I get a treat!

The click is delivered DURING the trick the instant the dog does what's right, for example, when teaching 'sit' you would click as soon as the dog's rear end touched the floor. The click marks the desired behavior.

Clickers work better than voice as a marker. The clicker is always the same, whether you are happy, sad, frustrated, or ecstatic. Your tone of voice changes, though. If you are really excited about a new trick, your voice gets higher and faster and happier. If you a frustrated, your voice will be short and quick and deeper. So, the same words can sound different. Using a clicker eliminates your voice uppsetting the dog.

Check out and books by Karen Pryor to learn more! More on clickers coming soon!

December 3, 2009

Training a Backstall

A backstall is a trick most usually used in disc dog competitions. The dog jumps onto the handler's back and stands up. After this, you can also train your dog to jump onto your back and then vault off to catch the Frisbee.

The steps used in training one are as follows:

Step 1: Train the dog to jump onto a wide stable object, such as a couch or bed. Pair it with the command of Hop Up! until the dog will jump onto the object at the command. Pat the object to encourage the dog to jump on top of it. Click and treat for 1 or 2 paws at first, then require all paws on before a treat is given.

Step 2: Then have the dog jump onto a different, smaller object that isn't as stable but is still safe. You could use a stool, the top of the dog's crate, or anything like that. Put a bath mat or something similar on top of the object so that the dog doesn't slip off. Once the dog can do this regularly, move to step 3.

Step 3: This step is similar to step 2, except in this step you remove the bath mat so the dog learns to steady it's self when jumping. Make sure you stand in front of the dog at first so that the dog can't slip off and will instead brace on you until it learns to land better. Click and treat for jumping onto the object on command.

Step 4: Once you can get the dog to jump onto every safe object it is asked to on command, move onto this step. Go back to using the couch or bed. Once your dog has jumped onto the couch or bed, get on your hands and knees and using your farthest away hand, lure the dog onto your back with the treat. As soon as the dog puts any foot on to your back, click and treat. Continue to do this step until you get 2 feet on your back with the command Hop Up! from both the floor and the bed/couch.

Step 5: After you get 2 feet with the Hop Up! command onto your back, then keep encouraging your dog until you can get the dog to jump up with all four feet, even if the dog is sloppy and lays across your back instead of standing up. Keep your back straight and don't move! Click and treat for 4 paws on your back, even for just a second. Keep working with your dog to get all feet on your back, then gradually raise yourself higher and higher until your dog can jump onto your back from you standing straight with your back flat. Then make sure to keep your back flat and encourage the dog to stand up on your back (it is best to try this at a lower height first).

Ta-da! The Backstall! It is easier than it looks to train, even though it may take weeks/months to get it down well.

It is a good idea to wear a thick sweatshirt or vest during this trick to help keep scratches off your back from the dog jumping.

NOTE: Some owner/dog combinations may be unable to work out this trick due to the fact that you wouldn't want a large dog jumping on your back and that smaller/older/disabled dogs wouldn't be able to jump the full height up to your back. Some owners might also be too tall or have too small of a back for their dogs to jump onto. Make sure your dog is healthy and contact your vet if you have any questions about your dog's health before doing this trick. Always make sure the dog stays on your back until you have lowered yourself and released the dog with OK to avoid injuries.

Here are some pictures of Mya training for her backstall. She can jump onto my back with me standing up, we just need to work on her standing up more (and I need to keep my back flatter!). Holding my arm out is a signal for her to jump.

Have fun with training the Backstall!