Teaching Obedience Classes and Helping One Another
In December of 2018, I completed 32-years instructing obedience classes. I love teaching, and for years taught 12-14 classes every week. I also teach 10-12 seminars each year. Over three decades I have become very intentional about my mission as an instructor, the goals I have for my classes, and the teaching techniques that best work in the classroom. I am blessed to be surrounded by other enthusiastic instructors. Together, we understand that our mission in three-fold.
I. Cast a Vision
Whether dealing with Beginners or Utility students, our first goal is to give the student a vision of what a trained dog will look like. Beginners may have never seen or experienced a well-trained dog. They are amazed that a dog can stay on a bed and even more amazed by a dog that will ignore a distraction and come when called. Likewise, a new Utility student may not understand why it’s important to teach the Signal Exercise without allowing the dog to move forward, or the importance of a tight turn and sit at the end of the go-out exercise. Giving a new student a vision is important to their success.
II. Teach Principles
Dog training principles are the truths I know about how dogs learn. The principles we teach at DTW are outlined in the article “How Dogs Learn”. Each class is structured to teach a principle, or point out the principle at work when teaching a new skill. Students who understand principles will not be slaves to the techniques we teach, but can adjust when difficulties are encountered.
III. Teach Techniques
Whatever the course curriculum, we choose techniques that will work for the majority of the students. Additionally, we must be flexible enough to change techniques for the students that are struggling. The techniques we use should address the most common problems that might arise on an exercise. For example, we know that the most common problems on the Broad Jump are cutting the corner and stepping in the middle of the jump. That is why we introduce the Broad Jump with a cone at the end, and only use two boards and a bar. From the beginning, we want to prevent the most common problems.
Understanding Learning Styles
The instructors at DTW are committed to casting a vision, introducing principles, and teaching techniques. However, we realize that the success of our classes also depends on being an intentional teacher and understanding learning styles.
Many of you are training together. As you try to help one another, consider these tips that we use when teaching.
All of us learn visually (by watching), auditorily (by hearing) and kinesthetically (by doing). However, many of us have a primary mode of learning.
Approximately 30% of the population is made up of auditory learners. That means if you only give verbal instructions to someone, you only have a 30% chance that they will fully absorb what you are teaching.
65% of the population are visual learners. A visual learner wants to see a demonstration. Don’t forget the kinesthetic learners. They learn by doing, trying it themselves, or even putting your hands on theirs and showing them exactly how you want them to proceed. Do you know what learning style appeals to you? Do you know the learning style of your training partner?
Problems start when we assume the person we are helping learns in the same way we do. For example, I am an auditory learner. I like to hear instruction, so the most natural way for me to teach is to tell my students what to do (after all, it works for me!) However, when instructing, I must be intentional to connect with all learning styles. I give verbal instructions for the auditory learners, demonstrate for the visual learners, and then help each student try the new skill. Practicing is essential for the kinesthetic learners.
The words we choose are also directed at specific learning styles. For example, when an instructor says, “Do you see what I mean?” the visual learners (65% of the people) do, in fact, visualize what they are being told. They “See what I mean.”
At the conclusion of every puppy and beginner class, we describe what a practice session will look like (auditory). As we describe it, we walk a dog through as many of the skills as possible (visual). We intentionally ask the question, “Can everyone picture where you will practice and what it is going to look like?” The words “picture,” and “look,” appeal to the visual learner. The statement, “Can everyone imagine yourself doing this at home?” gives the visual folks time to form a picture and helps the kinesthetic people imagine themselves practicing.
In addition to approaching everything we are teaching from a visual, auditory and kinesthetic point of view, we try to teach using the following guidelines. As you read through these, think about your own training partners. When you are helping one another, consider using these guidelines as well:
1. Always Assume that a Lack of Compliance is a Lack of Understanding
There are times when we feel as if the person we are trying to help is ignoring us or not following instructions. However, it is more likely that the student does not understand the instructions. We assume that a lack of compliance is due to our inability to communicate well and try to find an alternative way to explain a technique.
2. Avoid Repeating an Instruction Unless You Rephrase the Instruction
“Put more slack in your leash” can also be stated as, “Loosen your leash,” or “Lower your left hand so that there is a loop in the leash between you and your dog.”
3. Delete “Don’t” from All Instructions
Change “Don’t hold your leash so tight,” to “Put more slack in your leash.” It’s much easier for a student to do what he hears than to figure out what to do because you said “Don’t do what you are doing.”
4. Techniques Change, Goals Don’t!
If someone is struggling with a technique, or simply does not like the technique we have selected, it will not get practiced. it is our job to suggest an alternative technique.
5. Praise Loudly and Correct Softly
We all love to be told we are doing something well. Shouting encouragement and praise is well received. However, if we have any correction or criticism, stand close by and share that information quietly.
6. Listen! Respond to the Most Immediate Concern First
It is extremely frustrating to be teaching one subject, and find that someone wants to talk about a different issue. Stop and respond to the immediate concern. When the student is not distracted by that pressing issue, he will hear how you want him to proceed on other issues.
7. Ask Them “How it feels,”
Ever tried to get someone to stop looking back at their dog while practicing heeling? If you say, “You’re looking back,” you will rarely change their body position. However, if you ask “How does your back feel?” the response will be “Twisted.” A student can easily fix what he feels is awkward. He will rarely change in response to your description of what he looks like.
If you have found this information helpful, mark your calendar!
On August 7, 2019, at 7 pm, I will be conducting a webinar to discuss Teaching Obedience Classes. I will discuss;
- How to organize Beginner & Puppy Classes
- Teaching Advanced Classes: Dividing into Small Groups
- Aggression: a demonstration to show you how I teach owners to gain control of aggressive behavior
If you cannot attend the webinar live, you will receive a recording of the event.
You can register for the webinar here.
Connie Cleveland has been teaching obedience classes for over 30 years.
She teaches every level, from puppies to competitors preparing for Open and Utility competition.
Join her for this hour as she discusses...
- How to organize Beginner & Puppy Classes
- Teaching Advanced Classes: Dividing into Small Groups
- Aggression: She will do a demonstration to show you how she teaches owners to gain control of aggressive behavior
August 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm ESTIf you cannot attend the webinar live, you will receive a recording of the webinar to watch at your convenience.
Click here for more information.
Electric Collars: A Forthright Discussion
It’s time for forthright discussion about the use and misuse of electric collars (e-collars). The general public has accepted and embraced their use with underground fence systems, and pet owners are picking them up at pet supply stores to attempt to eliminate a variety of unwanted behaviors. The use of e-collars is commonplace in some venues, for example, retriever trainers doing field work. Yet in other venues the attitude toward the e-collar is one of complete disdain.
I am not advocating for or against the use of an e-collar. However, some of you are using it, wishing you understood it better. Some are using it secretly, as if ashamed. Others are rallying against it, convinced it’s cruel and abusive. Everyone benefits from the knowledge available when discussions are open and honest.
My own experiences with e-collars goes back 40 years to a time when they were starting to be used in the retriever field trial game. The rudimentary design was not nearly as sophisticated as the tools we have available today. I purchased my first field trial dog in 1995. Since then I have trained and earned Field and/or Amateur Field Championships on five retrievers that have also earned Obedience Championships. I have never advocated that an e-collar is necessary to train a competitive obedience dog. However, I would not attempt to train a Field Champion without one.
My husband, Pat Nolan, trained competitive field trial retrievers for 30 years. Now he uses those skills as well as his knowledge of e-collars, to do research and consulting, primarily for the Department of Defense. The dogs working with our military must have impeccable off-leash control in highly distracting situations.
What is an Electric Collar?
Electric collar is a term used to describe a training collar that delivers electrical stimulation of varying intensity and duration to the dog via a radio-controlled electronic device. This article is about e-collars that are operated by the trainer, using a transmitter. The trainer controls when the dog feels the electric stimulation by pushing a button on the transmitter.
Why would you use an E-Collar?
If your goal is to have a well-mannered pet, or a good obedience or agility dog, you may never have a reason to use an e-collar. However, if your lifestyle demands completely reliable off-leash control, or if you have a dog that is frequently unreliable off-leash, the e-collar may be the right tool for you.
Should you use the E-collar to enforce known commands or stop unwanted behavior?
I had been helping someone in obedience classes for 4-months when she shyly approached me with her problem. Her 9-month-old Labrador was eating his own feces. He would do so immediately, as soon as he finished defecating. Hoping to break the habit, she had been walking him on leash for seven months. She had tried all the food additives her veterinarian recommended. The behavior appeared to be compulsive and she was ready to re-home the dog.
I suggested we use the e-collar to enforce two commands that the puppy was learning; “Come” and “Sit.” My thought was that if we could enforce the command “Come,” we could call the dog away from the feces, even when off-leash.
We took the time needed to teach the dog to respond to “Come” and “Sit” with e-collar stimulation. With those skills in place, we took the dog out in the yard to exercise. As soon as he defecated and turned around to eat his feces, we called him and used the e-collar to enforce his slow, distracted response.
Within a few days, the dog would anticipate a “Come” command as soon as he had relieved himself. The next step was to put the dog out in the yard by himself. As expected, when alone, the dog turned around to eat his feces and his owner, watching through the window would call “Come” as she used the e-collar to enforce the command. She adopted the attitude “You were done, so you should be ready to come in the house!” She used praise, treats and toys to positively reward him when he came to her. The problem was quickly under control and soon solved.
There was another benefit to our training. Because we had used the e-collar to enforce “Sit,” the owner could now stop her rambunctious puppy from jumping on guests with a quiet “Sit” command. She could also get him off counters with a quiet “Sit.” Her enthusiasm for training grew, and ultimately she not only kept the dog, but went on to get her CDX degree.
The Labrador’s owner was willing to use the e-collar to enforce commands, not just eliminate unwanted behavior. Sadly, uneducated owners only consider the tool as a way stop unwanted behavior. Had the Labrador’s owner simply put the collar on the dog and corrected him for eating his feces, a lot of strange behaviors could have been created. For example, the dog may have become afraid of being in the yard. Likewise, he may have assumed that picking anything up was bad, and stopped retrieving.
Instead, teaching the puppy to come not only stopped his unwanted behavior, it proved incredibly useful in a multitude of situations. The owner was soon able to turn her puppy loose at her parent’s farm and call him when he chased the barn cats or the horses. She was soon enjoying hiking and trail riding, activities she had only dreamed she would be able to do with him some day- when he was much older.
Should you use the E-collar to enforce more than one command?
If you only use the e-collar to enforce one command, it is not uncommon for your dog to stop performing the opposite command. In the previous example, if the owner had used the e-collar to enforce “Come,” she may have found that her dog started to fail to sit and stay.
We know two things about reinforcement -
Science shows that reinforcement history will determine where the dog will put his effort. Her dog had now been repeatedly and consistently reinforced. The e-collar is negative reinforcement, and the praise, treats and toys she was using when he came to her are positive reinforcement. Therefore, “Come” had been heavily reinforced and has become very important!
When an owner has previously struggled to get a dog to come on command, my observation is that the dog has grown accustomed to seeing the owner perform work to make him come. The owner calls, runs to the end of the long line, picks it up, and then makes the dog obey. When “Come” is enforced with an e-collar, the dog believes that the owner’s ability to enforce come is rather magical, so “Come” becomes the most important command he knows. Therefore, no amount of returning him to a sit and rewarding him for sitting will convince him that sitting is as important as coming when called.
If you hit this snag the solution will probably involve enforcing the opposite behavior with the e-collar. In the case of the aforementioned Labrador, both “Sit” and “Come” now have the same importance.
The E-Collar must become part of your training program, it is not a “quick fix.”
During the training period, the Labrador’s owner was willing to use the e-collar every time she took him outside. Likewise, she would put it on him any time she went hiking or trail riding. She also put it on him when she was expecting a visitor. The surest way to be unsuccessful with an e-collar is to put it on the dog, correct him in a particular circumstance, and then take it off and not use it regularly. This is guaranteed to teach your dog to be “collar wise,” that is, to only perform when wearing the collar.
Several years ago an exhibitor came to me for help with her obedience dog. In the ring, this dog would go out on the flat retrieve, grab the dumbbell, play bow, and then run around while the crowd laughed and the exasperated handler tried to catch him. After a few training sessions, I had a reason to go over to her training bag to get something for her. When I opened her bag I saw an electric collar. Bewildered, I asked her when she used it. She said she enforced “Come” when her dog ran away on the agility field but thought I would not approve.
Sadly, her technique had taught her dog to become situational (See How Dogs Learn). This dog now believed he had to come on the agility field, but not in any other situation.
Instead, this dog needed to be wearing her electric collar while doing agility, obedience, in the yard, and on walks, so that every time he failed to come his owner could use it to enforce a “Come” command. In this way, the dog would believe he had to respond to “Come” in every situation, and coming when called would become his habit.
In the retriever field trial venue, puppies start wearing their e-collars at a very young age and are never trained unless wearing the e-collar. From the dog’s point of view, putting on the collar is simply part of a routine that leads to what he loves, retrieving birds. Why do these dogs perform at the field trials (and at national events that last 8 days) without any collar on at all? Because performing correctly has become their habit, separate from and unassociated with the equipment the dog is wearing.
In order for the collar to be effective as part of your training, you need to be comfortable with your dog wearing the e-collar everywhere and any time that you think there is a chance that disobedience might occur. Eventually, just like a good retriever trainer, you will not have reason to use your e-collar in the majority of your training sessions. However, if disobedience occurs, your dog will be wearing his collar and it will be available to you. It is only by consistently using the tool that you will create the habit of performing correctly.
Please, if you are considering using an e-collar, but you are not committed to using it consistently, don’t use it at all. Your results will be mixed, at best, and your temptation will be to blame the tool instead of your inconsistent use.
How do you teach a dog to respond to the stimulation from the E-collar?
A dog must be systematically taught how to respond to the stimulation that the e-collar delivers. Just as your dog can learn how to elicit positive reinforcement such as rewards and praise, he can learn how to stop and prevent the negative reinforcement delivered by the e-collar.
One of the ways dogs learn is by being shown what direction we want them to move. You can teach a dog to sit by pulling up on the leash and pushing down on his rear end. You can teach a dog to come by pulling him toward you with a long line. E-collars do not offer the dog any information about what direction you want him to move. Therefore, it is up to you to pair the e-collar stimulation with the direction he should move to make the stimulation stop.
Be intentional about learning how to use an e-collar. Find someone that has done it before, and become a thoughtful student. Step one is to guide your dog into the correct position or in the correct direction whenever the stimulation occurs. Soon, your dog will realize he can stop the stimulation by offering the correct behavior. Finally, you will see your dog become committed to performing in order to prevent the stimulation from happening at all.
My husband and I have recently put a guide together to help people understand the steps of guidance, decision, and commitment. More information is available about that guide here.
I have seen the lives saved of many dogs because of the owner’s willingness to use an e-collar. I know a St. Bernard that was so out of control that he dislocated his owner’s arm pulling on the leash. I know a Papillion that would slither out the door, and refuse to come as he ran down a busy street. I know a Basenji that jumped the fence. The stories are countless and certainly speak favorably for the e-collar’s use. However, for every dog that was saved, I can also recall dogs that were trained thoughtlessly and carelessly. The dog did not understand how to control the stimulation, and suffered because of it.
Our unwillingness to discuss the proper way to use an e-collar is the primary reason that dog’s suffer through incorrect use. It is certainly not the tool needed for every dog or by every trainer. However, let us not cringe at its mention or pretend it is not around, but learn what it’s strengths and weaknesses are and if and when it is needed, learn how to use it properly.
I have made my living solving problems. I have solved problems using an e-collar and I have solved problems caused by the e-collar. I believe that the best service I can offer is to disseminate as much logical information as possible. If you found this information helpful, please pass it on. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to send them to me.
Advanced Classes start Tuesday, Aug 6, 2019
The Advanced Classes will be conducted in 8 week terms
The class fee is $160 – Multi-dog discount $150.00/class
Tuesday @ 11:00 am
Tuesday @ 6:00 pm
For dogs that are learning the heeling, jumping and retrieving exercises. This class will practice the skills needed to compete in Novice and Open obedience classes.
Tuesday @ 12:00 pm
Tuesday @7:00 pm
This class is designed for dogs that are perfecting the Open exercises and learning the Utility exercises.
Utility and Beyond
Tuesday @ 1:00 pm
Tuesday @ 8:00 pm
This class is for dogs that are concentrating on perfecting their skills for the Utility class and/or dogs that are competing in both Open & Utility.
Upcoming Agility Classes
We are pleased to announce -
Starting August 8, Tim Tedrow will be teaching Agility Classes.
Tim will be teaching a series of 4 classes to prepare teams for Novice level agility.
New classes start in August and September!
Beginner 101 – Sept 5: 7:00 pm
- Introduction to Weaves, Tunnel, Dog Walk, Table, Multiple Jumps and A-Frame.
- Develop skills for 2 on 2 off contacts, start line stays, coming to hand.
- Handlers will learn training techniques for practicing outside of class
Beginner 102 – August 8: 7:00 pm
- Introduction to Teeter, Double Jump, Triple Jump, Tire Jump.
- Continue developing skills for Weaves, Tunnel, Table, Dog walk, and A-Frame.
- Introduce Front Cross, Rear Cross and Blind Cross.
- Handlers will learn training techniques for practicing outside of class
Intermediate 201 – August 8: 8:15 pm
- Continued development of obstacles with emphasis on Weaves and Teeter.
- Increase the height of Jumps, Dog Walk, Table and A-Frame.
- Learn handling techniques for each team. Speed of team, Size of dog and Drive.
Intermediate 202 – August 8: 8:15 pm
- Teams should be able to perform all obstacles. Will work with each team on any individual issues
- Teams should be at full height of Jumps, Dog Walk, Table and A-Frame.
- Agility trial information: Entering, Classes, Walking the course, Doing the run, Evaluating the run.
- Run Novice level courses.
DROP IN TRAINING
In addition to classes: Tim Tedrow and Roxanne Bush will be offering “Drop in Training”
Drop in training will consist of courses for Novice, Open and Excellent levels, course maps, walk thru instruction, and run evaluations by the instructor. Runs will not be timed and retries will be allowed. Each team should get 2 or 3 runs. The cost for each team is $20.00
Tuesday mornings with Roxanne
Saturday mornings with Tim
Please call Tracy for starting times - and to register for the Drop In Training! 864-862-8626.
It is with sadness, but great appreciation that we bid farewell to Jill Leake, who tirelessly started an agility program at DTW. We offer our thanks for all her hard work and dedication. The Greenville agility community is better off because of her efforts here!
The following classes will meet for 6 weeks- class fee is $120.00
Wednesday Sept 4 @ 6:00 pm
The dog focus will be to work on heeling with attention, pace changes, halts, turns, sit, down, fronts, finishes, come and stay. The handler focus will include learning Novice and Advanced Rally signs and starting to develop off lead work.
Wednesday Sept 4@ 7:00 pm
The dog focus will be to work on heeling with attention, pivots, off leash control, stands, backing up, signal and cue discrimination. The handler focus will include the Excellent/Master Rally signs and more advanced skills.
Class sizes are limited so please let us know if you plan to join us!
For additional information contact:
Marty & Janine Fiorito
New Title Winners
New Title Winners: May-July 2019
Companion Dog Excellent
Novice Jumpers with Weaves
Open Jumpers with Weaves
Novice Jumpers with Weaves
|August 16-18 (7/31)|
Durham Kennel Club
|August 22-25 (8/7) |
Griffin Georgia Kennel Club
Conyers Kennel Club
|August 24 & 25 (8/7)|
Winston-Salem Dog Training Club
|Aug 31 – Sept 2 (8/14)|
Nashville Dog Training Club
|Sept 12-14 (8/28)|
N. Georgia Kennel Club
Chattanooga Kennel Club
|October 5 & 6 (9/18)|
Augusta Kennel Club
North Augusta, SC
|October 5 & 6 (9/18)|
Oak Ridge Kennel Club
|October 12 & 13 (9/25)|
Dog Obedience Club of Greenville
|October 18 -20 (10/2)|
Douglasville Kennel Club
Newman Kennel Club
|Oct 26-27 (10/9)|
three trials/2 days
Obedience Club of Chattanooga
Getting Started Videos
Starting Over with a New Obedience Dog?
The following web page has 14 videos to help get you started.
Luring & Rewarding
Introducing Conditioned Reinforcers
Encouraging the Retrieve
Using Targets (Part I & II)
Circling the Cone
Introducing Backing Up
Using a Toy as a Distraction and a Reward
Come Dragging a Long Line
Heeling Part I
Come without a Leash
Jumping Part I
Attention is Required
The following web page has three videos to help you continue your training.
Heeling Part II
Introducing the Dumbbell
Introducing Directed Jumping
The following web page has a video that demonstrates a practice training session