Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Get Close

On Sunday, Reagan and I attended a small, local seminar with Kathryn Willis. Kathryn has been training and competing in Dog Obedience for 15 years. Her Golden Retrievers have been nationally ranked for the last five years and have qualified for five National Obedience Invitationals. Kathryn has earned 3 Obedience Trial Championships, a perfect score of 200, over 50 High in Trials, and over 50 High Combined awards..... and best of all, Kathryn uses clicker training.

The seminar focused mostly on teaching the dog that he/she has a rear end, how to move the rear end, and where the rear end should be (something Riley, pictured above, needs a lot of help with). The difference between a nice obedience performance and a great obedience performance often comes down to straight fronts and finishes and a good heel position. With 4 legs, its easy to forget where the rear is and to let it drift off to the side. Kathryn taught us several "doodles" to help explain the rear end to the dog.

The first "doodle" (shown below) is teaching the dog to move into heel position or "get close" (dog is parallel to handler's left side). I have always been in a bad habit of asking my greyhound to sit and then positioning myself parallel to my dog (except with Katie, somehow I managed to explain to her how to move her rear end). With finishes (dog returns to heel position and sits next to the handler at the end of each exercise), it was always hit or miss. I would get credit for my dog's effort at finishing, but would lose points for the sit not being parallel or straight.

This is not the most interesting video clip, but I have to say I was quite thrilled to see how just twisting my hand with a treat and stepping back with my left foot encouraged my dog to move her rear into a more parallel position. You start by clicking and treating just a small side step, but eventually require a move into correct heel position.