Archive for December, 2014

Holiday Friday Funny!

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Happy Holidays everyone! Hope you are in your pjs and enjoying wonderful company!


Friday Funny 12.12.14

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Happy Friday Funny! Is this the story at your house too?


The Importance of Gait

Thursday, December 4th, 2014


Years ago I was getting a mini poodle ready for the excellent level of Rally-Obedience. He
needed to learn to heel backward. He had a beautiful forward heel. I assumed that it would
be easy to teach the backward heel. I was wrong. My error — I plunged head long into
teaching a skill without first making sure the dog could physically do what I was asking.
Rodeo was missing both the core strength and body awareness required to move
backward. It took several frustrating training sessions before I realized my mistake. If a dog
cannot physically do what you are trying to train, then you are training something else. In
this case, I taught Rodeo to hop backward from the sit, he looked more like a drunken frog
than a dog.

Building core strength and body awareness isn’t just for dogs in competition. All dogs
benefit from this approach to training.

Now I have an exercise and training schedule for each of my dogs. I spend time building
core strength and body awareness before I start working on specific training goals. I keep a
careful watch to make sure the dog can physically do what I am training, and I’m always
ready to adjust if things aren’t going as planned.

This is Quill, he is an 18 month old rough collie. He is a love of a dog and is very easily
distracted. We are working on sustained focus, both stationary and when moving. He is
learning to look up at me while moving forward. With limited distraction he is getting pretty
good. This photograph was taken near the start of a training session last weekend. He is
off leash and can track straight for about 30 feet before I risk losing his attention.


The photograph below was taken about 15 minutes later. Do you see the difference?


I still have Quill’s attention. His head is exactly where I want it. He is carrying his head in
almost the exact same position as the photo before, but something has changed. Quill is
no longer trotting, he is pacing. His right front leg and right rear leg are moving forward at
the same time. Once his right side hits the ground he will push off and then his whole left
side will move forward in unison. The pace is not a desired gait in the dog, at least not the
collie. There are several breeds where a pacing gait is more common and in the show ring
not faulted.

Why is Quill pacing, why does it matter and what should I do about it?

Dogs pace for a number of reasons. Structure, fitness, fatigue, injury or disease can cause
a dog to pace. A handler’s step can also cause this gait.

What is the most likely cause for Quill’s incorrect gait? The most logical explanation — weak
core muscles and a slow handler. Quill is a growing dog. The schedule I have mapped out
for him must not be meeting his needs. I need to add more to each workout. I also need to
change how I am moving. I’m short and I really need to move forward to match Quill’s naturally long step. I may be moving too slowly, causing Quill to slow down and start pacing.

There are several reasons I need to address this. First, this gait can quickly become a fixed
motor pattern. If I continued to practice ‘head up — focus on me’ without addressing the
pacing gait, the two behaviors could quickly become linked together. I believe I’m teaching
sustained focus with head up. Quill believes the cue for ‘head up — focus on me’ also
means to pace. The second reason this must be addressed is for Quill’s physical well being.
When a dog is pacing, his center of gravity is shifting from side to side. This puts undue
stress on his spine.

So what’s the plan? How am I going to fix this problem? First I will figure out how much of
my motion is causing Quill to pace. Handler behavior has a huge influence on canine
behavior. Maybe I simply need to move faster. I will also increase Quill’s strengthening
workouts. Moving faster might solve the issue for a time, but eventually I’ll have to slow
down and Quill will need to have the muscle strength to move with my shorter step. I don’t
think this issue is very old, so addressing Quill’s core fitness and my speed might solve the