The Education of Lacy, Week Six

This is the final week of training that I will be posting on the web. Thank you for reading and sharing our training adventure.


In weeks to come I will be using a variety of resources to help me continue to progress with Lacy.

For guidance in competition obedience, I am using "Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act" by Judy Byron and Adele Yunck, and "Competitive Obedience for the Small Dog" by Gerianne Darnell and Barbara Cecil. The latter, despite its title, is excellent for dogs of all sizes. Lacy isn't the first GSD trained using this book!

For general advice and guidance on housetraining and puppy manners, I've gotten a lot of good advice from "Good Owners, Great Dogs," by Brian Kilcommons. Our club no longer recommends this book to puppy owners because it does use some negative methods, but overall I still think the book is a good resource.

Agility books I like are the Clean Run workbooks, which provide an excellent training plan from the basics to advanced skills. If you are serious about agility, I also recommend subscribing to Clean Run magazine. It is one of my favorite publications.

I also like "Jumping From A to Z" by Chris Zink and Julie Daniels.

And for the record, I don't receive any discounts, rebates or any other profit from recommending any of the above. These are simply my favorite resources.

Obedience Training

Balanced training. Judy Byron, who generously mentored me through Rocky's AKC utility title, reviewed these web pages and advised me that Lacy's training has thus far lacked balance. There is too much positive and not enough negative. The dog isn't getting the complete picture. It's like playing the old game of "hot" and "cold" by using just "hot."

Sure enough, I went back to the "red book" (Judy and Adele's "Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act") and realized that I had been leaving out a vital component of Lacy's education -- that there are consequences for failing to perform once a command is understood. I personally believe that it is imperative for a dog to understand that it must do what it's owner tells it to do. And it is my opinion that some corrections must be incorporated into training in order to have a well-trained dog.

Down. Lacy is happy and willing to sit on command. She is less interested in doing a "down" on command. I am sure she understands the command and signal. So this week, when I give her the down command and signal, if she fails to comply on the first command, I use the signal hand to tug her collar and bring her into a down.

Recall. Because I believe that coming when called is a vital, and potentially life-saving command, I also introduced corrections for failing to come when called. Lacy understands the "come" command and is happy to come in formal situations, or when she perceives there might be a treat involved. However, we had a couple of instances last week when I called her, she looked briefly at me, then chose to sniff grass or play with a toy. I used a correction I saw Diane Bauman use once at a seminar. When the dog failed to come, Diane walked to the dog, took hold of it, and then backed up to the spot where she'd been when she initially called the dog. The dog is praised when it arrives in that spot.

Since attending that seminar many years ago, I've since seen many other trainers use the same technique with success. It worked on Lacy. Last night, Lacy was off lead in the house, I called her, and fully expected to have to walk her down. She looked at me, then clearly made a conscious decision to come. She got a big jackpot -- a full slice of her favorite cheese. I think the best training combines both positives and negatives. And I appreciate Judy looking at my training plan and giving me her input. She has unselfishly helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people achieve success with their dogs.

Scent work. This is a hint I picked up from my training buddy, Jeanne Saddler. I think this is a great idea, and I've never heard of anyone else suggesting it. Jeanne takes one of her socks (very recently worn) and folds it into a ball. Then she takes two other socks from another person. She puts all three on the floor and rewards the puppy for finding her scent. I'm doing this with Lacy this week, to introduce her to scent discrimination. When Lacy is older and knows the retrieve, I'll use Janice DeMello's "Around the Clock" method to teach formal scent discrimination. But for now, I'll use Jeanne's sock method to get her started scenting. The reason I like DeMello's method, which uses canned cheese, is that it encourages the dog to really get her nose into the scent articles to find the handler's scent. Another advantage is that the dog learns to be comfortable with the handler coming to the article pile to help find the article. It is a positive, fun method that teaches the dog to enjoy scent discrimination.

Agility Training

Closed tunnel. Usually I introduce the closed tunnel to beginning dogs by having one person stand with the dog at the entrance, and another person stand at the end of the chute, with the chute held completely open. With each repetition, the top of the chute is allowed to drop a little lower until finally, the dog is pushing through a closed chute. This is the method I planned to use with Lacy. My dogs had other ideas. I set up the chute and the two shelties ran through. Lacy followed with glee. Her only problem is that when outside the chute, she would like to chew on the fabric. Not allowed!

To prepare Lacy for chute work, a couple of weeks ago I played "monster under the covers" with her. It was laundry day and I took a sheet off the bed and tossed it over her on the floor. Then I played the monster and grabbed her and played. I'll often toss a bath towel over each dog's head for the same reason. I do this because if my dogs ever get caught in the chute, I want them to think a fun game might be coming -- and not be freaked out because they are caught. Dogs taught to keep their heads down when running through the chute are far less likely to get caught up in the chute.

House Manners

House line. Because Lacy is a very independent dog, I am trying some strategies to increase her recognition of me as leader. This week I put her on a house line. Whenever she is in the house with me, she is attached to me via a leash tied around my waist.

I'm told that usually puppies show their independence at about 16 weeks. I am hoping that Lacy is just showing her independence early, and not that she will become even more independent three weeks from now!

Wait for dinner. Lacy is learning some self control by being required to wait for her dinner. The first few weeks, she was merely required to sit before eating. Now, I have her sit, then I place my hand on her collar, and place her dinner on the floor, telling her "wait." When I feel her relax (as opposed to pulling on the collar) I tell her "OK" and let her get her food. Soon I will be able to quit holding her collar.

back to Cheryl May's Dogsports page

back to The Education of Lacy

  • Week One - Dog walk plank, tunnel, table, sit, down, stand and more!

  • Week Two - TV downs, go-outs, walking on leash, teeter, jumps, sequences

  • Week Three - Kick-back stand, more go-outs, targeting, attention, agility quick downs

  • Week Four - Even more go-outs, heeling, finish, stay, teeter

  • Week Five - Go-outs again, "Choose to Heel" targeting, "come" and "get it," moving stand, go to table, putting "stretch" on command, leadership

  • Week Six - Resources, balanced training, recall, down, scent training, closed tunnel, house line, self control