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What am I Teaching?

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Several years ago I watched a person train a dog is a sport I’m very familiar with.  For the life of me, I could not figure out what the human wanted the dog to do – that’s pretty bad when it’s my own sport.  The dog was paying the price with every type of correction imaginable, from emotional abuse to very hard physical corrections.  Poor dog.

Since that time, I’ve given a lot of thought to communicating as clearly as possible with our dogs.

In the following video I’m working on several behaviors with Raika.  These behaviors come from the Ringsports, so it’s very likely that most of you will have no idea what I’m looking for.

Here’s a game for you to play.

Can you figure out what I’m teaching?  In fairness to me, this dog has had many many lessons in some of the base behaviors, so she has an advantage over you.

I entered the training yard with one main goal – can you see what it is?  (here’s a hint; I focus on it for the first five minutes.  here’s another hint; to succeed she must perform two behaviors at once).

I’m working to reinforce two skills she’s already mastered – can you see which ones?  (Hint; there are two of them)

Can you see where I changed my training focus in the last minutes of the video?  Do you know why I did that?

Do you know what “transport” means?  If you don’t, then I wouldn’t expect the dog to know.

Do you know what the whistle means?

Do you know why I frequently put the whistle in my mouth even when I don’t use it?

This is an extremely difficult challenge for several reasons, the primary one being that you haven’t watched her training over the last few months where she has built her base behaviors.  For those of you who play in the ringsports, if you cannot identify my training interests, then I’m doing a poor job.

Have a ball.  I’ll give the answers in a few days.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

13 responses »

  1. I’ll be the first to stick my neck out. I know zip about ringsport; have never seen it, nor read much. I’m guessing that ””’transport” means move with your handler in the presence of something the dog REALLY wants, & that the tuggy is standing in for someone inside a bite suit. The whistle is probably a cue to disengage & return to handler, with a right-hand finish. The post is standing in for the trainer, who needs to be closer to the dog at this stage of training, & is used to build distance into the equation. You put the whistle into your mouth without always blowing it so that the act of putting it in does not itself become the cue. The focus seemed to change when tthe dog dashed off to the left of the screen on the whistle instead of circling the post. I don’t quite get the “out & down” that followed, but I resisted the temptation to rewatch the video, since I wanted to see if I could get it in one, & the two behaviors I thought you were working were moving with handler, & recalling on the whistle.

  2. I’m not 100% certain, and I don’t do ring sports, but here are my thoughts.

    1. I believe that the skill(s) that you are reinforcing in the beginning are impulse control while maintaining eye contact with the toy and enthusiasm (drive). Raika is to wait until released to go for the toy.

    2. I believe that transport is like a modified heel. Raika is to return immediately to your left side, curled slightly in front of you, and maintain direct eye contact on the toy (I suspect that this is likely prep for when there is a decoy there). She is to reorient her body towards the toy as you move.

    3. The whistle appears to mean two things in this video. In the earlier part, it seemed to mean to run around the small section of ring gates and then return to you. In the later part, it appears to mean to return to your left side. Clearly Raika understood the difference, I however did not see what differentiated the two. I wonder if running around the ring gate is simply a way to create distance so that she can race back into that left side position? If she were far away from you and you blew the whistle, I wonder if she would simply return to the left side as she already has the distance.

    4. I suspect that you put the whistle in your mouth without using it frequently so that the cue to execute that behavior remains the *sound* of the whistle, and not the visual of it going into your mouth. As dogs tend to be much more attuned to visual cues, this seems that it would be a real consideration.

  3. Okay, you were training the dog to stay in position relative to the person being transported for a couple of steps. The whistle tells him to drop what he’s doing and check the nearest ‘blind’ and then return to the reward?

  4. I’ll play. Looks to me like “transport” means what my mom used to say when we were little and went into stores with breakable items: “Look but don’t touch.” Specifically, it seems to mean watching the item (which I’m guessing based on earlier videos would actually be a person) while maintaining heel position. Whistle is a send away around the post (although I read your earlier blog and can consequently guess that the send around a post will turn into a call-off). I’m guessing the point of putting the whistle in your mouth without blowing it is so that Raika only responds to the sound of the whistle itself, rather than anticipating the whistle cue when she sees it move.

    As I side comment I will say that one thing that seems to separate truly excellent trainers from merely competent (or truly lamentable) ones is that the best trainers have incredibly clear and precise criteria.

  5. Okay here goes…I don’t know anything about ring sports but here’s my best guess

    Transport means heel with you while always facing the toy i’m assuming it will be a decoy in the future which is primarily what you are working on.

    The whistle means to leave the toy and circle back around to heel but if you are holding the toy she has to go around the upright first. And you put it in your mouth without the signal like a previous poster said to separate the movement from the noise.

    I think you switched focus in the last few minutes to reinforce that she won’t always be called to heel she will sometimes be sent straight for the toy also she started to focus on you more, right about the five minute mark she falls into a head up heel instead of staring at the toy.

    That’s my guesses 🙂

  6. You did give us a hint with the title appearing.
    I take it that the tug toy is standing in for an attacker.
    Transport means stand by my side and move with my left leg, but keep an eye on the attacker.

    I should teach Schutzhund to my sweet little Corgi for the cognitive dissonance. 🙂

  7. I LOVE it! Will you post a video so we can see how these exercises transfer when you throw an appetizing decoy into the mix? What a great example of how much you can do on your own!!

  8. One question I have is sometimes the whistle means go out around the pole and return to heel and other times it means return to heel. I don’t see what the difference is.

    I found it interesting that at 5:39 transport became more about keep an eye on the attacker when my back is turned and doggy was no longer in heel position.

  9. OK, I’ll give it a try. I don’t do ring sports, but I’ve seen a little of them. I think ‘transport’ means ‘keep an eye on the tug until I release you to get it with a click.’ Dog has to remain/return to your left side, not necessarily in heel position, as evidenced by you walking away and she is facing in the opposite direction to your travel, but it almost seems like she has to maintain contact with you while focusing on the tug (hard to tell because of the shadows, so that could be wrong). Looking again, I’m not imagining it, for as she returns around to you, she does make contact based on the reaction of your body several times. Also, a couple of times, I noticed that she isn’t close enough to you and is focused on you, so you move away to your right until she gets into the correct position and focuses on the tug. As far as the skills you are looking to reinforce, it seems like (1) focused attention while maintaining contact and (2) running away to check the blind hide. Blowing the whistle seems to mean run away, but this action becomes confusing later, when she is sent away to get the toy upon the whistle blowing. And putting the whistle in and out of your mouth is just another action so as not to become the cue for the desired behavior.

  10. Main goal—she guards you until it’s appropriate to get the decoy.
    two skills she’s already mastered – can you see which ones?Guarding you, she must touch your side, watching the decoy, she must keep her eye on the ball.
    changed focus in the last minutes of the video? why? You began releasing her to the ball without the transport. You did that so she will know it is appropriate to get the decoy when the proper cue presents itself.
    “transport” means? Transport means we’re moving, you (the dog) are guarding me from the evil decoy so you, my dog, must keep your eye on him while touching me.
    Do you know what the whistle means?
    The whistle means return immediately to my side—do not engage the decoy, go around him.
    Do you know why I frequently put the whistle in my mouth even when I don’t use it?
    I think because you will have it in your mouth in a trial, she needs to see that picture, and you will need to use it upon cue from the judge?
    Now I can read everyone elses answers. I am doing exactly the same thing in back transport with Kaleb for IPO, he has to touch and keep eye on decoy. Haven’t done it backwards though. 🙂 Very fun Denise. I can go from watching Lyra do Nosework to Raika doing Ringsport and just may dig up some Cisu heeling before the night is over!

  11. Writing this without reading the other comments first.

    Looks like your main goal is teaching her to always face the toy. I do know that part of ringsport is watching the “bad guy” and being ready to run out and bite him, so I’m assuming that this will transfer to that exercise. The first five minutes focus on teaching Raika to stare at and face the toy while staying in contact with your body, even if that means leaving heel position. It took about 4-5 reps for me to recognize that when you were going past the toy and slowing down, you were waiting for her to shift forward across your body and rewarding for that. I already knew that dogs are trained to heel in direct contact with the handler, but I wouldn’t have been able to see that detail on the video just because it’s small.

    The whistle means two things, based on context. If she’s at your side, it means to run out and around the white thing, counter-clockwise, and then do a right finish around you, ending in the down which you are currently cuing but will become automatic. If she’s in a down facing her toy, it means to come to heel without turning away from the toy/decoy. You raise the whistle without blowing it to proof the cue/prevent anticipatory action from the dog.

    I don’t know why you changed from working on one skill to another, other than to not be drilling the same behaviors for too long. She was doing well on learning to face the toy while staying in contact with you, so might as well move on to another skill.

    • I remember your earlier post about teaching Raika to circle the post to stand in for running to you and doing a finish, when you were having trouble getting her to disengage from the decoy. I find it odd that you taught her to circle it in a counter-clockwise direction when the right finish goes in a clockwise direction…?

      Also realized that the reason you are putting her in a down and then whistling her back to your side is that it’s another part of teaching her to disengage from the decoy. You release her to get the toy more often to keep up her focus on watching the “decoy”, and more closely mimic the issue you were having (having too much fun biting the decoy to come back to you).

  12. I agree with most of what Kathy said.. but most importantly (to me) is that you showed me where the huge gaping hole is in my training of the transport, so thanks!


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