What am I Teaching?

Several years ago I watched a person train a dog is a sport I'm very familiar with.  For the life of me, I could not figure out what the human wanted the dog to do - that's pretty bad when it's my own sport.  The dog was paying the price with every type of correction imaginable, from emotional abuse to very hard physical corrections.  Poor dog.

Since that time, I've given a lot of thought to communicating as clearly as possible with our dogs.

In the following video I'm working on several behaviors with Raika.  These behaviors come from the Ringsports, so it's very likely that most of you will have no idea what I'm looking for.

Here's a game for you to play.

Can you figure out what I'm teaching?  In fairness to me, this dog has had many many lessons in some of the base behaviors, so she has an advantage over you.

I entered the training yard with one main goal - can you see what it is?  (here's a hint; I focus on it for the first five minutes.  here's another hint; to succeed she must perform two behaviors at once).

I'm working to reinforce two skills she's already mastered - can you see which ones?  (Hint; there are two of them)

Can you see where I changed my training focus in the last minutes of the video?  Do you know why I did that?

Do you know what "transport" means?  If you don't, then I wouldn't expect the dog to know.

Do you know what the whistle means?

Do you know why I frequently put the whistle in my mouth even when I don't use it?

This is an extremely difficult challenge for several reasons, the primary one being that you haven't watched her training over the last few months where she has built her base behaviors.  For those of you who play in the ringsports, if you cannot identify my training interests, then I'm doing a poor job.

Have a ball.  I'll give the answers in a few days.


Ellen Clary

One question I have is sometimes the whistle means go out around the pole and return to heel and other times it means return to heel. I don’t see what the difference is.

I found it interesting that at 5:39 transport became more about keep an eye on the attacker when my back is turned and doggy was no longer in heel position.

Patty Sontag

OK, I’ll give it a try. I don’t do ring sports, but I’ve seen a little of them. I think ‘transport’ means ‘keep an eye on the tug until I release you to get it with a click.’ Dog has to remain/return to your left side, not necessarily in heel position, as evidenced by you walking away and she is facing in the opposite direction to your travel, but it almost seems like she has to maintain contact with you while focusing on the tug (hard to tell because of the shadows, so that could be wrong). Looking again, I’m not imagining it, for as she returns around to you, she does make contact based on the reaction of your body several times. Also, a couple of times, I noticed that she isn’t close enough to you and is focused on you, so you move away to your right until she gets into the correct position and focuses on the tug. As far as the skills you are looking to reinforce, it seems like (1) focused attention while maintaining contact and (2) running away to check the blind hide. Blowing the whistle seems to mean run away, but this action becomes confusing later, when she is sent away to get the toy upon the whistle blowing. And putting the whistle in and out of your mouth is just another action so as not to become the cue for the desired behavior.

Lynn Ungar

I’ll play. Looks to me like “transport” means what my mom used to say when we were little and went into stores with breakable items: “Look but don’t touch.” Specifically, it seems to mean watching the item (which I’m guessing based on earlier videos would actually be a person) while maintaining heel position. Whistle is a send away around the post (although I read your earlier blog and can consequently guess that the send around a post will turn into a call-off). I’m guessing the point of putting the whistle in your mouth without blowing it is so that Raika only responds to the sound of the whistle itself, rather than anticipating the whistle cue when she sees it move.

As I side comment I will say that one thing that seems to separate truly excellent trainers from merely competent (or truly lamentable) ones is that the best trainers have incredibly clear and precise criteria.


Okay here goes…I don’t know anything about ring sports but here’s my best guess

Transport means heel with you while always facing the toy i’m assuming it will be a decoy in the future which is primarily what you are working on.

The whistle means to leave the toy and circle back around to heel but if you are holding the toy she has to go around the upright first. And you put it in your mouth without the signal like a previous poster said to separate the movement from the noise.

I think you switched focus in the last few minutes to reinforce that she won’t always be called to heel she will sometimes be sent straight for the toy also she started to focus on you more, right about the five minute mark she falls into a head up heel instead of staring at the toy.

That’s my guesses :)

Ellen Clary

You did give us a hint with the title appearing.
I take it that the tug toy is standing in for an attacker.
Transport means stand by my side and move with my left leg, but keep an eye on the attacker.


I should teach Schutzhund to my sweet little Corgi for the cognitive dissonance. :)

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