Category Archives: Skills

Black & White Sunday – 10

Now that Kona’s rehab is done we are back to training. I took Kona down to Lundbreck Alberta to meet with an Obedience trainer (Judy) to work on teaching him to retrieve a dumbbell.

She’s helping me shape the behavior and already I saw much more progress with this than the other methods I tried earlier this year. I guess when it comes to dog training its not all Black and White.

Its truly a lovely drive on Highway 22 and we stopped at Chain Lakes on the way home. I was hoping there would be nice walk there but there isn’t a lake shore around the reservoir. Great place for kayakers, rafters etc. but not so much for more than just stretching your legs.


B&W 10

Thanks for stopping by.

This post is part of the Black & White Sunday blog hop. To see who else has been busy or to join the linky, visit the blog hop hosts  My Life In Blog Years or Dachshund Nola.

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More Winter Tracking

Just about two weeks ago CB and I had our second winter tracking seminar with Donna Brinkworth. The goal of this session was to observe our dogs body language as they tracked on each of three L tracks, one of which was a blind track to us.

The first two tracks which I set, were a struggle for CB. It was windy and tracking was challenging for him that day. He had his head up a lot and I noticed when he’s not sure where to go he shows a classic stress signal – he shakes his whole body from head to toe. Even when he got back onto the scent at the corner he didn’t seem to believe it was the right way. I also noticed that he checks in with me when he’s not sure of the track and he will also walk back to me.


Then we did our blind track and it was CB’s first time following someone else’s scent. The tracklayer followed us just like what we would experience in a real test. When CB is confident of the track he keeps his head down, you can hear him sniffing and he doesn’t look at me at all, and that is exactly what he did. He nailed the corner and ignored the bait on the track so maybe I should start to use less. I’m pretty impressed with him and if there was any doubt in my mind that he is really tracking it is now gone.


It’s hard to tell from the photo below because I’m in the way, but CB’s head was down taking the corner just like it is in the photo above. It was so windy the cone marking the location of the turn (but not the direction of the turn) had blown away so this was really blind to me.


What we really do need to work on it article indication. We currently don’t have one and CB could care less about the article. Here he is going in for the bait, the article just happens to be in the way.


Donna had a great idea for me to build up some interest in the article. Instead of bait I will be putting one of CB’s favorite chewys inside the glove, that should be a little more exciting for him when we get to the article. I’ll be giving that a try and see how it goes.

*All the photos in this post were taken by Donna Brinkworth. Check out Your Tracking Coach on Facebook for more tracking info*

Our experience with Dog-Dog Greetings

I meant to do this post on our experience with Dog-Dog Greetings a few months ago. This was a smaller seminar that was part of the 10 week lifestyles training class we did with Kona last fall. It was good to do this with Kona as we had confined him for several months while recovering from the plate being removed from his leg, and he’s been really hesitant around unfamiliar dogs regardless of size. Since we do go to dog shows where there are lots of other dogs we have been working on his confidence.


First off I would like to mention that I am sharing a part of our experience with dog-dog greetings. Please note that we had a trainer available to guide us through this, to observe and ensure that we had positive greetings. If you are reading this post and your dog is reactive please contact a trainer/behaviorist for help with your dog. Kona does lack confidence around unfamiliar dogs and we feel that it is important to build that confidence but in an appropriate way. I am not a behaviorist and there is not enough information in this post to guide someone through a proper greeting. Inappropriately matched or executed greetings can go sideways and result in hurt dogs or people.

We had learned at a prior canine communication seminar that a proper dog greeting should go from the muzzle, to the neck and then to the rear. To be able to execute this we needed to make sure we kept the dog’s leashes nice and loose and to keep the greetings as short as they needed to be so that they were positive experiences.

Not all the dogs were appropriate for Kona to greet. We looked for lower energy dogs and we had two types of positive greetings. Ones where Kona was relaxed and in neutral body position near the other dog, generally in cases where the other dog was considerably larger than him.


And with smaller dogs we had some great greetings with good progression from the muzzle onward. The photos were good to look at afterward in that we were able to see that we had the leash too tight on more greetings that we realized. Something that we need to keep in mind for future greetings to be successful.

Even though you can’t see either dog’s faces in the photo below, both dogs have a nice curved body position and this was a really nice calm greeting that we let go on for a couple of minutes.


CB and Kona do greet larger dogs on occasion as we don’t want them barking or reacting to larger dogs when we are on walks or at shows. We do not let them play with dogs that are inappropriately sized to them. As friendly and nice as a bigger dog may be, a larger dog even stepping on a dog CB and Kona’s size can cause an injury.

Winter Tracking Season


photo credit – Donna Brinkworth

CB’s most favorite reward is to go Tracking and it’s been far too long since we’ve had a chance to get out. When Donna emailed that she was going to be running a winter tracking series of lessons here in Calgary I jumped at the chance to get CB out for a little more work.

Last weekends lesson was on starts. We did scent pads with a short straight track. Part of the lesson was working on how we were going to begin the track if we were in a test situation. One thing I’m working on with CB is to track on the command “Find It” and not letting him track until we are at the scent pad. To be able to do that we are approaching the scent pad from the side.


photo credit – Donna Brinkworth

It warmed up nicely on Sunday but it was quite cold in the morning while we had our lesson. A couple things that Donna mentioned was with newer tracking dogs you don’t want to be out when it’s too cold as the snow doesn’t hold the scent as well and not to age tracks too long. You can find more information for tracking in the winter on her old blog – you can check it out here.

Well you wouldn’t have known from how keen CB was that it was any harder for him than in warmer weather and on grass. We even crossed a rabbit track and he was so focused on following my track he didn’t even notice. The neat thing about tracking in snow is that you can see your track and CB put his nose in every footprint. Even when we reached the article he still kept on going and followed my path out.  The next lesson is early next month, until then we have a bit of homework to work on.


photo credit – Donna Brinkworth


photo credit – Donna Brinkworth

Weekend Recap

Wow – what a weekend.

Saturday we were at the wrap up to Kona’s 10 week training class. The “canine olympics” were so much fun. We competed in a team relay (skills centered) event, team trivia and then the fun really started. A musical chairs sit-stay. I’d explain it but I think it would be easier to just show a picture.

The event ended with a stay (sit or down) competition. Kona broke his stay when his neighbor was recalled in – taken out by another black and tan no less.

It was fun nonetheless, and the 1st place team ribbon was the icing on the cake.

Here is his class photo – we happened to be in the “pom” class. Unbelievable that that many dogs can sit still in such close proximity.

On Sunday I had CB entered in the Calgary Agility Association (AAC) trial. I had CB entered in a Standard, Gamblers and Jumpers run just like the last trial. Not like the last trial CB ran. He ran the fastest he has in a trial in a while.

The standard run was first and the first obstacle was the hoop. We definitely need to work on starts because that is where we lost time. He went up to the electronic eye, put his nose past the plane enough to start the timer and then went under the hoop. The rest of the run was fast and he was motivated and was quick thru the chute. We lost time on the weave poles though. This is the second Starters run that we’ve encountered with 12 weave poles and I see that I need to be working 12 as much as I work him with 6.  We didn’t Q but I was so thrilled with how he ran.

Our Gamblers run was a bit of  a mess. Our run was slow and a little chaotic. But our Jumpers run was amazing! CB was really fast, the run was clean and I thought he was quick enough to Q. When I saw the time I was surprised to see we were 8.5 seconds over as he ran so much quicker than the time he was 2 seconds over. But when I thought about it I know exactly where he lost time.

The start – first obstacle was also the hoop and he put his nose in the plane of the electronic timer, started the clock and just stood there, maybe for about 4 – 6 seconds. He was also slow going thru the last tunnel and we lost about 5 seconds in the chute. It was a really great run and I’m thrilled with how fast he was – we are definitely getting there. We’ve managed to build up speed over more than the last half of the course, now I just need to figure out how to get him moving quicker off the start.

An update on Kona’s Obedience training

I haven’t written a lot about Kona’s current training regimen because we’ve been so busy in training classes there really hasn’t been a lot of time to write about everything that we’ve been doing. He’s been a busy little dog.

Kona is currently in a weekly competitive obedience class and we also have him enrolled in a 10 week lifestyle training course that we go to 3 times a week. We are doing the 10 week course to complement his competitive obedience training. The 10 week course is outside in mostly busy areas, involves a larger number of dogs of varying sizes and energy levels and it has given us a lot of opportunity to work around many types of distractions. Kona was so unfocused/distracted at the AKC summer show I thought this course would be really helpful as we did it last year with CB and it helped him gain more confidence around other dogs.

With the months of confinement we went thru after Kona’s leg surgery he’s unsure of dogs that are higher energy and can sometimes react to them. And in competitive obedience the dogs that are often competing are higher drive and energy so keeping him calm and focused during the group stays is very important.

A couple of the more beneficial aspects of this course has been the seminars that were included. There was a canine communication seminar, canine health, nutrition and first aid seminars, a handling other dogs session, a dog-dog greeting session as well as a choice of reactive dog or dog play session. This course is pretty well rounded and we enrolled more to have Kona around as many dogs as possible than to focus on skills. But the improvement on his skills has been a wonderful occurrence.

The communications seminar focused on the types of different canine postures and signals and set the stage for the dog-dog greetings as well as the reactive dog or play session. The handling other dogs had your pup with 5 other handlers over a two hour period and the pups were put through the paces of skills work with someone other than their owner.

The course is coming to an end this weekend with a Canine Olympics. I don’t expect we’ll be tops for the sit and down stay competitions but I think we’re already winners since Kona won’t react to other dogs breaking their stay around him.

Since this post is already long I’ll follow-up on the communication and dog-dog greetings seminars next week. We had some varied results with that and it’s a post all it’s own.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Geometry

CB and Kona helped out with this weeks topic. We headed into downtown Calgary for some sit stays showcasing some of the city’s geometry. A bonus is that I find using different obstacles and objects for stays really works at reinforcing them and being in the busy part of the city adds a few distractions as well.

This last one is like the “Where’s Waldo” of stays. Can you see Kona is this one?

Tracking Lesson #5

Lucky CB had two weekends in a row of tracking. Just over a week ago we were out and did Lesson 5 (1.5) from Sil Sander’s Enthusiastic Tracking book which we have been slowly working through. Hopefully it wasn’t the last nice weekend – the weather the last few days has been more like this.

A few weeks ago I kind of screwed up Tracking Lesson 4 and jumped ahead in the book by mistake. It was interesting going back to tracks with more bait and no aging.

CB with his nose to the ground following the track.

I set three tracks ranging in length from 30, 60 and 120m, tracks were to be straight and bait at 10m intervals. A couple of things that were interesting – CB  was casting across the track which he didn’t do with Lesson 4 and for several of the food drops he over shot them, came back and then kept going forward. I also took a chance and put in a corner on the third track. The corner was out of necessity as I ran out of park and decided to make a corner instead of cutting the track short. He nailed the turn so I really need to think about what we should be doing next.

Because we have a few agility trials in the next month CB will be on tracking hiatus until mid-November so I don’t confuse him on when he can and can’t track. Not tracking two weeks before a trial seems to be the right amount of time. He really loves doing this and it’s been a great reward for him.

Tracking Lesson 4

I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to find a place and some time to take CB for another tracking session. It’s been since Donna’s urban seminar that we last tracked and I wasn’t too sure how he would do. I should know better – this little guy loves his tracking.

Here’s a recap of what we did yesterday.

I laid three tracks at 20, 40 and 80 meters length, all three into the wind and aged them for 8 minutes before we started. The park we tracked in today was surrounded by trees on three sides and I think there was some scent pooling that caused CB to fringe a little. Overall he did great.

The three tracks I laid for CB. Tracks are 20, 40 and 80 m in length.

I should have done Session 1.4 from Sil Sanders’ Enthusiastic Tracking book but I goofed up when I jotted down my notes from the book and took down the track descriptions from Session 2.4. It should have been obvious that I read the wrong lesson as the tracks were to be aged 8 minutes, and we haven’t done any aged tracks yet. The track lengths between the two lessons are the same, but not only are the Lesson 2 tracks aged, there was only one food drop on the shorter tracks and 2 on the 80 m track. This should have been tougher for him considering we haven’t tracked in over a month.

Next Tracking lesson we’ll go back to the Session 1 series, but it did turn out to be a good mistake moving on to a more advance track. CB did great without the extra bait and he actually is following the track.

Distance Foundation Workshop

Looking back to where I was just 6 or 7 months ago with CB I feel we’ve come a long way. Both with my own confidence and handling skills and CB’s interest and motivation to do the obstacles. I think we’re in a good place for both of us being Novice and that I have a good plan to continue building on the pieces that we’ve already put into place. The one thing we haven’t worked on much is distance and aside for a little bit of a directed Tunnel exercise I did at the Kathy Keats seminar in March we’ve done very little as I really didn’t know what to start on and with some things I figure it’s better to wait than to have to undo something that I did just wrong. CB and I did get a successful closing gamble at the PNE trial in mid-July but the reason that was the case is because the closing gamble was nearly a straight line and I was able to work beside him at not too far a distance.


So I jumped at the chance to do a distance foundation class when the opportunity arouse last week. I’ve done nearly all of my agility training with Shannen at Dignified Dogs and this was another really good seminar.

Shannen set up exercises to work on the foundations of an “Around” command, side switches, and send-outs using “Go”. We worked on these skills using a combination of pressure and rewards. Where I really need to pay attention is with rewards. I generally reward from my hand because CB tends to start sniffing looking for food if I reward him on the floor – and I think he associates rewards on the ground with tracking right now. But to get him to work away from me I need to reward away from me, which means rewarding him on the floor, if my timing is at all off he starts tracking and then is looking for food instead of paying attention to me. Shannen suggested that I needed to introduce a “Take it” command for distance rewards so he’s not wandering the floor looking for that treat and I can differentiate it from the rewards we use in tracking with our “Find It” command at the scent pad.

For the “Around” command we worked on doing circles around different obstacles starting with one obstacle (e.g. a pylon) and moving up to three different obstacles. CB did quite well at this and I was able to get a bit of distance from him as the exercise progressed. Body pressure worked effectively with this one.

What was harder was the “Switch” command — instead of changing direction CB initially wanted to do an “Around”. We did manage to get a couple of good switches in but I can see this will take a bit more work to get some distance with. I also need to work on my positioning so I’m sending him the right signals.

The last thing we worked on was a send-out over a series of jumps (I think there were 5) using “Go”. This was also pretty good although I had to run up beside him the first couple of times and then didn’t have to go as far the last run through. I do see that I will need to be really consistent in my positioning and especially with my rewards as I don’t want to confuse him or end up with him tracking the course looking for treats. All in all a great seminar and I’ve got a few more things I can work on at home to keep things interesting for both of us.