WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins
WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins

INTRODUCTION TO DOG GAMES TRAINING

Dog Games training is working through 8 different Games at the pace of the dog, so that the Handler learns to watch their dog, learns more about their dog and allows their dog to teach the owner in a quiet force-free way. Each game has 4 or 5 different stages.

 

Each game is colour coded and each stage is colour coded allowing Handlers to collect 38 different rosettes and 8 trophies. .

 

The skills that the dog and Handler learn will be a good start if they want to continue with more canine games and activities such as agility, fly all, dog dancing etc. 

 

Let me explain -

 

The training of each Game is broken down in to 5 separate Stages -

Starters, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum.

They are non-competitive and have no restrictions on the speed of the dog OR the speed of learning of the dog. Every Stage has certificates, rosettes, and at Platinum level there is also a trophy, which are given in recognition of the achievements of both dog and handler.

 

Always begin training at Starters and progress from there. It is not compulsory for dogs to do all the Stages of each Game but these Stages are provided so that each dog can train to its own ability, at its speed and also at the Handler's speed of learning. Dogs must not be pushed into situations that they cannot cope with (eg running too close to other dogs in the Silver Stage) and Handlers and Trainers must respect the dog's limitations. Some dogs and handlers work steadily through most or all of the Stages of Recall before trying a new Game, while others reach Bronze or Silver Stage of this Game and then try another Game (returning to the higher Stages of Recall when the dog is more confident, experienced or older).

 

As you can see, Dog Games training took place in a very relaxed atmosphere. We were not in a rush; we worked at the pace of each dog under training. Meanwhile all the other dogs were in their respective cars (parked) resting having completed their training session or waiting patiently for their training session. The training was always doone outside being much more natural for the dogs. Therefore the Trainers/Owners/Handlers had to take account of the weather and ground conditions.

 

Below you will find: -

  • Initial meeting with Handler

  • First Special Training Session

  • Recall - the first Game

  • Recall - First Run

  • Recall - Second Run

  • Recall - Third Run

  • Everything is done for the benefit of the dog

  • The next and subsequent training sessions

  • Queueing

 

This was the initial layout of a training Lane. Slight editing is required to update this picture because of changes that we made since this drawing (ie 2005).

 

The initial meeting with the Handler

Naturally, before sending your child/children to a school, you would want to know more about it even before you visit. Therefore any prospective client wanting to join a dog training club of any sort SHOULD ALWAYS learn as much as they can about the club (via internet, word of mouth etc) before visiting at least one training session (and preferably more than one) to assess and understand what is on offer during normal training sessions. This should be done WITHOUT their dog, so that they can get a feel about the training, talk to other clients, ask questions and decide if this is the type of training that they want.

With Dog Games, if the propective client wanted to learn more about this training outside of our normal training times, we would set up an appointment time with them and give them a taster session.

First special training session

The first training session with a new client (new Handler and new dog) is always very important. It is always carried out with a Trainer, the Handler and their dog with NO ONE AND NO OTHER DOGS ARE AROUND, to cause the Handler or dog stress or distractions. With our layout, having parked in the farmyard, the Trainer and Handler with their dog on its lead walk into the training field, closing the field’s gate. (see Layout of training area)

 

While walking across the field to Lane A, the Trainer finds out more about the dog, previous training and the family environment (ie single dog, age, sex, neutered, small children in family, pet or more activities, etc). During this walk to Lane A, the Trainer instructs the Handler to watch the dog but allow the dog to behave as it wishes, allowing it to make its own decisions which can include sniffing the ground, sniffing the netting, sniffing the gate entrance and relieving itself as it requires.   

 

Walk up and down

Once the Trainer, Handler and dog are inside Lane A, the gate is closed and the Handler lets the dog off the lead. The Trainer and Handler walk up and down the Lane chatting with the Trainer learning more about the dog while keeping a discrete eye on what the dog is doing, how it is behaving and the Handler picking up/cleaning up after the dog. Because the huans are talking, all dogs “think” they are being ignored by their Handler and will wander off to investigate the Lane for safety and smells. (see Geography of Lane). It seems that they are checking to ensure that they (and the Owner) are safe from meeting another dog or other threats. They are also enjoying the smells and scents left by previous visitors to the Lane, human, canine and any other. The dog may even relieve himself to show how relaxed he feels in this situation. Some dogs do, others don’t but BE PATIENT and give them time as this is THEIR time and you, as the Handler, are here to learn.  

 

When it seems that the dog feels the area is safe and he is ready to work, the dog comes to the owner wondering what we are doing here.

Recall - the first game

The first game is always Recall and shows the relationship between the dog and its Handler. It is also the most important command to call the dog away from danger. We would like the Recall to be good and we have a way to encourage this (see Treat Box). If the Recall is slow or not good, then this is something that we will need to work on using this Treat Box. We always look positively on any excuse to do more training. When learning a new Game, there are only 3 runs and we are looking for 3 successful runs out of 3. We don't push the dog or the Handler as they are both learning the Game.

First Run

With the Trainer holding the dog at one end of a Lane, the Handler calmly walks away with his back to the Trainer and dog to about half way down the Lane. The Trainer is expecting the dog to pull against this restraint to get to their Handler, feeling for the mood of the dog through this pulling. With the Treat Box ready, the Handler turns, gives eye contact to the dog and calls him. Here, the Trainer gets a good feel of the relationship between Handler and dog by feeling the pull through the lead and also by watching the dog's reaction to the Handler and how the Handler is motivating the dog. Having successfully ran to the Handler (1 out of 3), the dog gets lots of praise and treats.  The Trainer calmly walks to the Handler and discusses the success or otherwise of this first part of the exercise. The Handler puts the dog back on the lead and all three calmly walk back to the end of the Lane to repeat this exercise.

 

Otherwise

If the dog is distracted and takes his time in going back to its Handler, the dog is NOT WRONG. The Trainer needs to look at the relationship between the Handler & dog, how the Handler is motivating the dog, the initial set up, any other factors that might have caused the dog to be distracted. Always finish on a good note and be prepared to go back a step to be successful.

 

On several occasions, we took a dog into the training Lane and just let him sniff, relax, walk around and relieve himself until he decided to returned to his Handler. By watching this behaviour, we could see how mentally tired the dog was and so there was no need to do anyting else because that would have been counter-productive. End of training session.

 

Often the dog would come back week after week (so it as quality time with the Handler) and slowly, the Handler would get to undertand more about what the dog wanted and needed. This proved very successful with a number of dogs that had been referred to us by local Vets who had decided that we were the last resort, before the dog would be pts.

Second Run

This time, the Handler calmly walks a little further away, three-quarters of the way down the Lane, prepares the Treat Box with one or two treats and, when ready, turns and calls the dog again. Again, the Trainer feels for the restraint and what this is telling the Trainer. Having successfully ran to the Handler again (2 out of 3), the dog gets lots of praise and treats. The Trainer calmly walks to the Handler and discusses the success or otherwise of this second part of the exercise. If successful, the Handler puts the dog back on the lead and all three calmly walk back to the end of the Lane to repeat this exercise one more time. Otherwise (see above)

Third Run

The Handler calmly walks away from the dog and Trainer to the far end of the Lane, prepares the Treat Box with more than one or two treats (a Jackpot) and, when ready, turns and calls the dog again. Again, the Trainer feels for the restraint and what this is telling the Trainer. Having successfully ran back to the Handler and received his Jackpot and praise, the Handler puts the dog back on the lead.

 

The Game is finished and all three calmly walk back to the car to put the dog away to rest and the Latent Learning process begins for the dog. The dog is happy, contented, having worked, been rewarded and will now rest, hopefully, sleep. Any further discussion between the Trainer and the Handler will now take place since the dog is satisfied, comfortable and safe.

 

 

Having completed this initial test, with 3 successful runs out of 3, the Handler is awarded a Recall Starters Rosette, on having completed this first stage (see Training Record). The colour code for Recall is Red outer, Yellow middle, White inner of rosette.

 

When learning a new Game, we always aim to start with 3 runs out of 3 (or whatever the dog can cope with) at the Starters level. Having achieved this level, the dog moves up to Bronze level and beyond by achieving 5 runs out of 5.

 

EVERYTHING IS DONE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE DOG – NOT THE HANDLER

Everything is done at the dog's pace. There are few time limits tus reducing the stress on the Handlers and on the dogs. All those waiting and watching have been in this situation before. As you progress through each Game you will see a lot of repetition because this is how most dogs (and Handlers) learn. The dogs enjoy the repetition because this builds up their own confidence knowing that they are doing it right and will therefore get a reward and praise.

 

We were always amazed at how mentally draining these exercises were for many of the dogs. It is learning all the time, focusing on its Handler who is also learning.  Humans will look at each of these exercises and think that they are easy but when you look at the dog's body language and into its eyes, you can see how mentally draining a dog can find it even some of the simpler exercises. But we are working on and building the dog's mental stamina.

 

The date of each training session is entered (whether successful or not) onto the dog’s individual record sheet so that when the dog comes for training again, the Trainer can look at the record and take the next step, always in consultation with the Handler.

The next and subsequent training sessions

Once the Handler has arrived and parked their car, they are reminded to ensure that the weather conditions are taken into account as the dog may be in the car for 10-15 minutes on their own. This is all part of ensuring that Handlers know how to look after their dogs with relevant information being exchanged. 

 

When Handler and the dog return for the next session, the Trainer will ask the Handler about any change in the dog’s behaviour, sleeping patterns etc. This is all part of building up a picture of this dog’s life and way forward always in consultation with the Handler.

Queueing

Having settled the dog in the car, the Handler then joins the other Handlers and also the queueing system. A card with the name of their dog is placed at the bottom of the queue/pile of name cards and the Handler decides to remain chatting to the other clients, watch the training in progress, have a cup of tea/coffee or return to their car and sit with their dog.

 

When this dog’s name reaches the top of the pile,

  • the dog’s name is called so all other Handlers know the name of the dog just about to undergo training. This can act as a means for “breaking the ice” in chatting after the dog’s training session

  • the Handler brings the dog from their car, walks across the training field and takes the dog into the Lane indicated, avoiding any dog that is going to or returning from training

  • Once inside the Lane, the gate is closed with the Trainer, Handler and dog inside. The same procedure (ie talking, walking up and down etc continues while the dog “sniffs around” the Lane as before. Again, the Trainer and Handler watch the dog discretely while chatting.

 

With our outdoor training, weather conditions should be taken into account by the clients and they should come prepared for the weather particularly under foot because the training will continue regardless of the weather provided that it is considered safe for the dogs, ie under foot, windy conditions (the barrier netting flapping in the wind, blowing down jumps etc.)

 

 

This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).

 

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