On the clock for 15 years…

Copper, our busy senior Malinois, was not an easy puppy.  Few Malinois are.  If you’re a first-time puppy owner and for some reason think that it’s a good idea to get a Malinois, go and get yourself checked in.  Few people are qualified to take on this kind of level of responsibility.  I have LITERALLY been on the clock for over 15 years.  15 years of training, 15 years of preventing boredom and the inevitable destruction that follows the boredom.  Every Day.  Don’t get me wrong, he has an off switch and as he’s gotten older we’ve been able to relax our guard little by little, but still, at the age of 15 years old, he has the capacity to get bored and get ‘into stuff’.

At a little over a year and a half, we started competing.  He had shown that he was starting to understand complex concepts in locations that were unfamiliar to him – he had learned to generalize. 

At about three and a half years old, I was finally at a stage where I genuinely liked him.  Don’t get me wrong, I have loved him since the moment he fell asleep in my arms at the tender age of 4 weeks at the breeder’s house but liking him is a different matter.  At three and a half I was able to let my guard down a bit and really trust him to not make crap decisions constantly. 

Photo by Pupart

Somewhere at about eight years old he really wowed me.  This boy had come into his own and we seemed to have this near telepathic connection.  We seemed to know instinctively what we each needed.  It’s not that we didn’t have plenty of miscommunication in the ring, but the emotional support that we each required was crystal clear. I understood him and he understood me, and there was this connection that I can’t explain except that it was akin to finishing each other’s sentences.

At ten years old I sat him down and asked why he couldn’t have been this dog for the past ten years.  He explained to me: “I was cookie dough. I wasn’t not done baking. I wasn’t finished becoming whoever the hell it is I was gonna turn out to be.”.  I asked him why he was quoting Buffy?  He told me to throw the damn ball.

Photo by Caprise Adams Photography

At 12 years old, I could start to see the body was telling him he wasn’t four anymore.  His mind called BS on his body and he kept on pushing.  His mortality starting weighing on my mind as I had already seen some of his peers pass away.  He injured his iliopsoas and I was grateful that I’d already retired him from agility and obedience.  My planning for his future seemed almost prescient, as that injury is generally considered career ending.  I was just grateful that I’d started his nose work journey a couple of years earlier.

He’s 15 years old now and he’s probably the last man standing.  He is still completely capable of getting ‘into stuff’ and I am still ‘On the Clock’.  If you leave a plastic bottle at dog height, it had better be empty because he will steal it and use it as a toy. If you leave a bag on the couch, he will rummage around in it until he finds a suitable toy (aka something that is clearly NOT a toy). If his ball ends up under the entertainment center, he will annoy the crap out of you until you rescue it and then he will immediately punt it back under the entertainment center.  He will still chase a groundhog/rabbit/squirrel out of the yard.  He will still bark at cars/bikes/trucks and other offensive vehicles on his roadway.  However, he can still find the 8ft hide or the deep inaccessible one, or the hide that’s 4ft from another hide.  He can still jump on the bed, leap into the car and other crazy Malinois crap that his Vet and Chiropractor cringe over.

He’s 15 years old and I wouldn’t give up a single one of the grey hairs he caused for the world.

 

Social Distancing Continues

You might feel like I feel, we’re all just marking time until we’re released from our enforced ‘Social Distancing’.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in flattening the curve.  However, it’s tough as a small business, when I have rent to pay and no income. 

Here is something that you can believe in – Training dogs at Kudos for Canines has always included Social Distancing. Not because of the potential health hazards for the humans, but because of the dog’s need for space in order to learn. In our pet training classes, dogs (and humans as a byproduct) have been socially distancing since we first started offering puppy manners classes – long before COVID-19 hit the streets.

When the Governor’s orders came down and we temporarily shut our doors, it was a gift to hear that clients would have felt comfortable continuing classes at Kudos because our dog training stations were already a good 10+ft apart. Our pet training classes have a 5-dog limit and with 2,000sqft in our classroom, that makes for plenty of space for dog and human learning alike. 

Kudos has always been committed to fostering an environment where learning can happen.  We have been taking this down time to pursue online continuing education – participating in webinars on subjects from aggression to loose-leash walking to nose work.  Our passion for understanding behavior in dogs remains unchanged.  Our commitment to sharing that understanding continues. 

The moment we’re allowed to reopen our doors, we’ll be there, socially distancing with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

News for the New Year!

The holidays are approaching and 2017 will be here before we know it. Are you making plans for 2017? We are!

This Winter we are excited to be offering several more classes in our popular K9 Nose Work series!

Hop on over to our K9 Nose Work Class page to get the details and register for the classes starting in January!

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

October class schedule and ORT pics!

20160924_130620Hard to believe we’re almost into October! Our fall classes that start in the middle and late parts of October are now open for registration. Check out the updates to our website and the class registration page. We’re hoping the new format will help you find the specific classes that are best for your team with a little more ease!

Also, hop over to check out some of the photos from our ORT event that was held in Bloomington on September 24th. It was a fantastic event and thrilling to see so many Kudos teams testing and passing that day! We’ll continue to bring great events like these to the area as we’re able, if you have a specific event you’d like to see, feel welcome to send us a note to let us know via our contact page!

Gearing up for a busy Fall!

trick-672629_1920This last few months has been a whirlwind of time spent training, learning and teaching. Now, we’re staring right at our full lineup of Fall classes and they’ll be here before we know it!

Check out our Class Line up and get registered for one of our August sessions: Continuing K9 Nose Work (8/14), Competition K9 Nose Work ROAD TRIP (8/4), Competition K9 Nose Work (8/14) and Competition Containers in K9 Nose Work (8/14). These classes run for 6 weeks and cost $110. Please make special note of the registration deadlines for each of these classes! 

Attention ORT event participants! We’ve just added an ORT Refresher Course designed to help your team prepare for testing at our event on September 24th. This class is a mini format, running for 3 weeks at a cost of $60!

Registrations for the ORT testing event are filling up quickly but we will continue to accept registrations online and snail mail until 90 spots are filled or on September 9th at noon (whichever comes first)!

All classes will be held at Positive Training (with the exception of ROAD TRIP classes) located at 1103 Martin Luther King Dr, Bloomington, Illinois.

As always, if you have any questions about our class line ups, now, or in the future, please contact us!

The sky is falling!

If you’ve ever been a fan of All Creatures Great and Small, then you’re probably familiar with the very unscientific term ‘crackerdog’.  That’s the only term that seems appropriate to describe how my 10 year old, Copper, was behaving last night.  He would stand at the baby gate barking, we’d ask him to quiet down…He’d stop for 5 seconds and go back to barking.  We tried to sit down on the couch with him…No go.  Tried moving him to a different room…Barking continued.  My husband and I had a heated discussion on whether he’d fed the dogs (this was later confirmed by a Kong count in the freezer).  We let Copper out to potty multiple times and NOTHING seemed to stop the behavior. 

Then, by a stroke of luck, I was standing in an area of the house and heard this very quiet, high pitched whining.  We looked around the house, outside the house and finally determined that a smoke alarm battery was dying…A very slow and, according to Copper, a very painful death.  So, replace the battery and wait.  Finally, after several minutes, Copper was reassured that the sky wasn’t actually falling (Malinois’ are sure that the sky falls at least several times a day) and he settled down to eat the bully stick that we’d offered while attempting to calm down behavior that we had assumed was BMS (BMS =Bored Malinois Syndrome).

All became quiet in the house.  Both dogs were happy with their respective bully sticks and there was calm once more.  I should add that Penny hadn’t given two hoots about the dying smoke alarm, but those kinds of things have never bothered her.

And then I was an idiot.  I was on the couch, Facebooking, clicked on one of those ‘must watch’ videos and suddenly a smoke alarm beep starting issuing forth from my phone!  The Sky Was Now Most Definitely FALLING!!!  Copper was up like a jackrabbit, I’m pressing the back button faster than you’d believe, but the damage was already done.  He came up to me and starting crawling into my lap (no mean feat for a 65lb, 25in dog!), so I pulled him the rest of the way up and just held him until his body started relaxing.  And I held him, and he was happy that his Mommy was there to protect him from the evil, treacherous sky.  And then all was right again with the world.  He finished his bully stick and I stayed away from random links on Facebook.

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Equipment as Cues

In Nose Work (www.nacsw.net) the only equipment that you are not allowed to use during a search is aversion based equipment (i.e. shock/prong/choke collars). This means that there is a whole HOST of equipment that you ARE allowed to use.  In furtherance of this understanding, it also means that you can dedicate one or more pieces of equipment that your dog will wear while they doing Nose Work and only wear while they are doing nose work.  My choice is a specific type of harness, unlike their walking, tracking or agility harness.

Why do I choose a specific piece of equipment for the dog to wear while doing searches?

Well, here’s my theory.  Anything we can do create a clearer picture for the dog (specific to the task we are about to assign it) will help with the outcome.  We, and our dogs, are creatures of habit and ritual.

Here’s an example: At what point in the morning does your dog know that you are leaving?  Is it when you shower, put your shoes on or grab your keys?  Your dog knows that you are leaving because of a complex set of cues (rituals) that are provided in the environment.

Let’s look at the Nose Work ritual:

  1. Dog in crate travels to location
  1. Human has treats on person
  1. Human puts task specific equipment on dog
  1. Human takes dog to specific location
  1. Dog sees familiar boxes in location (practice boxes are available for use prior to running your dog)
  1. Human presents verbal/visual cue

If we have strong rituals, then it stands to reason that our dogs will be more proficient in their understanding when we generalize the environment more and more.  Nose Work is ALL about generalization.  If you do not take time to first build a VERY strong foundation and then take this training on the road, your dog will not be successful.  When you’re on the road generalizing the behavior you have very little control over your environment.  The only thing that you have control over IS your rituals.

Are these rituals necessary for every dog?

In one word: No.  I am reasonably confident that my dogs will do the search (at this stage of their training, with a VERY thorough foundation) without the rituals, but when I’m on the road these rituals will help the search behavior be more robust.  It will shore up weaknesses that occur and help the dog (and myself!) when a curve ball is thrown our way.

Cueing for Nose Work

NACSWdogs2

My husband and I recently had a discussion on cueing for Nose Work (check out NACSW for more information).

The setup:
Copper’s cue is “Nose Work”, at which point he flies into the pile/area and starts searching.  If it’s an exterior he may be a bit more tentative, but on containers, interiors and vehicles he seems to understand it pretty well.  Copper arrives on the scene motivated, more often than not with a tight leash, raring to go and cross the start line. The cue “Nose Work” sparks an instant release from a stationary stand behavior.

Penny’s cue is “Go”…Or is it?

If I stand still and say “Go” or “Penny Go” she may or may not leave my side.  If I say either of those words AND move forward she will proceed to work the pile.  When Penny normally arrives at the start line she’s pretty sedate, intent and curious, but controlled.

What is her “Go to work” cue?  Is it the verbal, the visual or the combination of both?  If it is the combination, should we be working towards something similar to Copper’s behavior where the cue sparks an instance release from the stand stay?  They are different dogs, with different work ethics and styles. Is it wrong to expect her to move forward, out, away from me with the verbal cue alone?

I find myself thinking about a discussion I had with my mentor on what the cue for “Heel” was.  Is it the verbal cue that spurs forward motion? Is it the physical cue of me taking off with my left foot, specifically? Or could it be the use of a specific hand gesture? Could it be a combination of these? Should we be working towards independence of one from the other?

Yes, I realize, I have a lot of questions. But, I ask these questions to make us think and consider how clear or unclear our cues may be to our dogs. Nose work requires a dog to work independently of the handler. Truly, the handler is just the ‘dope at the end of the rope.’ Therefore, a dog must be ready to think independently at the very moment the cue is uttered. It should not depend on my forward motion for the dog to realize that the game is afoot.

I’d love your feedback, thoughts and ideas to add to the discussion.

Watch our Class page for upcoming offerings!

In just a few days we will be starting our Scent Games classes. The sign up has ended and we are completely full for this session. Did you miss your chance to sign up? Don’t worry we’ll definitely be putting together more classes soon so keep an eye on our class page as details become available.

We are currently working on the next class series, a vehicles specialty nose work class. As soon as the details are finalized we’ll post a class announcement!

Don’t forget, I am also available to work one-on-one with your family and pet. Have a specific question or need? Use our contact form to send me some detail and we’ll set up a time to talk further!

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