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The Dave Kroyer Interview Series: Foundation Training for Success

Phone Interview with CTS President, Doug Calhoun, and Dave Kroyer.

Q: One of the notable characteristics of your training method or approach is in foundation work and training on the dog’s agenda.  Can you explain what that means and why it’s so important to your system?

A: Sure, it’s a common question and problematic for a lot of people.  There are some really basic things I believe are critical in the very beginning that set the stage and create a platform for life long learning.  Because the road to a competitive level of work is so long, it’s really important that the dog in invested in training and participates in learning.  It’s a real pet peeve to see people cheerleading a dog into showing interest in work and the dog eventually comes to rely on it as a part of the routine.

I like to begin working with dogs as young as 7 weeks on their agenda.  I control access to everything they need and develop a relationship surrounding play, feeding and social interaction.  I think it’s important to socialize dogs but I structure interactions around a consistent schedule to create predictability for the dog.  I want him to expect what’s coming at a certain time, to become conditioned to it.  I’m present during all of these times feeding, playing and structuring events so that outcomes will benefit our relationship and learning.

Q:  What type of predictability do you want to condition?

A: I want the dog to know that when I come to get him and place him in a “staging area” like a kennel or trailer, that the very next thing that will happen is full of positive experiences.  I try to condition this from the beginning around times that the dog will need to be interacted with- when feeding, playing or just going for a walk.  Over time, this very basic procedure will become powerful in the dog’s mind.  His drive and energy will peak and I use this to my advantage.  I use his energy and interest in this time with me to begin shaping behaviors with his rations of food and at separate times play as well.  

Q: Why is this approach so critical from a young age?

A: Dogs establish patterns of behavior and it’s easier to direct things in the direction you want from the beginning than it is to modify behaviors later.  I see a lot of dogs at seminars that know many behaviors in the hands of clever trainers.  I often see dogs that fall away from an interest in work when things get difficult.  I’ve seen some very well bred pups that show tremendous aptitude for sport work with great drives, character and stability.  Seeing them periodically over time, I’ve seen them become independent with less engagement than I’d like to reach their potential.  A few simple daily structural changes would make a huge difference.

It’s important to remember that when you’re the administrator of food, playtime and exercise, really anything the dog needs, you become very important.  Rewarding interactions directed toward you strengthens them and they’ll occur more often.  This is the basis of long-term training and really critical for any type of performance sport.

We’ll continue our talk with Dave here with a series of talks we’ve already had.  Coming next is a look at Dave's unique approach to Nose Work.  It’s easy to follow the blog as a feed by signing up to get the RSS feed to the right.  It will come directly to your inbox and you won't miss an installment.


Trailer Summary for Obedience Without Conflict with Ivan Balabanov Video 1: Clear Communication

Posted by Doug Calhoun

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Based on clicker training principles, the Balabanov method relies on voice signals instead of a mechanical device. Trainer Ivan Balabanov has had great success with his method, including winning the 2005, 2006 and 2007 AWDF Championships, the 2007 FMBB World Championships and 2007 FCI All Breeds World Championship. The central goal of the Balabanov method is to break each obedient skill down to its most essential concept and then teach the dog a full and explicit understanding of this concept. Clarity of communication between handler and dog is essential in this method of training, which requires a structure of rules and system of signals. To learn more about these signals and the structure required for success check out the trailer and DVD.


Trailer Summary for The Foundations of Competitive Working Dogs Obedience 1- Basic Skills

Posted by Doug Calhoun

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This video not only shows you how to build drive and constructive play your dog, but also how to manage that energy and maintain it in 'containment'. The basic skills covered in this video are perfect for any dog or puppy learning obedience aiming with interest in pursuing dog sports. This trailer also demonstrates how to use the concept of containment in basic obedience while teaching the basic obedience exercises of sit and down. Joanne Fleming, the technical expert featured in this video, explains in depth how not only to train the dog, but also how the handler should adjust for different types of dogs, based on their body types and drive levels. So gear up and watch this trailer to learn more about what your dog can achieve!


Trailer Summary for Small Dog Fun Competing with a Small Dog: Novice Obedience

Posted by Doug Calhoun

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When starting to train your small dog in obedience this DVD is a great resource to have around. The video covers simple commands, like sit and stay, while demonstrating their use in competitive obedience. In the trailer, Gerianne Darnell and Barbara Cecil show how to teach 2 types of finish command- a right about finish and a "flip finish" or left finish. The techniques are geared toward the challenges faced when training a small dog however the content is excellent for softer dogs or anyone wanting a unique perspective into precision in placement and attention to detail. Through positive reinforcement techniques, this title will demonstrate the Novice Obedience exercises in detail. So, if you are just beginning to compete in obedience, what are you waiting for? Start training today with this DVD in hand.

Because incorrect positions are exaggerated in small dogs (they are more obvious), the detail this title provides makes it excellent for owners of medium and large sized dogs as well.


Trailer Summary for Competitive Obedience with AnneMarie Silverton: Competitive Puppy

Posted by Doug Calhoun

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When preparing a puppy for competitive obedience, the techniques of AnneMarie Silverton are an excellent place to start. Regarded as one of the most successful and influential trainers in the last 25 years, her techniques for starting a puppy on the path to a successful future are detailed in this DVD. In the trailer, AnneMarie covers the basics of using food as a tool, how to handle it properly and it's role in the various stages of training. She warns that food can become a bribe as opposed to a motivator and explains the importance of fading lures during the correct instructional phases. Because the video is very direct and detailed it's beneficial for any breed and owner interested in pursuing competitive obedience. An exellent reference and informative watch, we highly recommend this DVD.


The Long Road

I just had the most amazing weekend of my life.

On Friday afternoon I left to go to the Greater Kansas City Dog Training Club’s double trial on Saturday with Rick and Riva in tow. I got down there Friday night in time to do the training match only to discover that I had left Rick’s dumbbell at home. This was a first in 35 years of showing dogs :-) Several kind souls offered up various dumbbells for Rick’s use, and after a few practice throws, Rick decided the replacement was ok :-)

Rick went in to the weekend with 96 OTCH points, so a couple second places would do the trick. He placed second in Open at the first trial with a 197 ½ for two points, so we only had two points to go! At the second trial, Rick won Utility with 198 for ten more points, and finished his OTCH! Good Boy Triple Champion Rick! The GKCDTC really knows how to put on a show, Rick won a bunch of goodies including a gas card for first place, and a utility bar that people signed like a MACH bar, what a cool idea!
Newly crowned OTCH Rick, Riva, and I left Kansas City on Saturday night for the five hour drive to Tulsa, where Riva was entered in a VST (Variable Surface Tracking) test on Sunday. We didn’t share that information with very many people, as I wanted to just travel under the radar. Sunday morning dawned sunny and WARM. We were lucky enough to draw Track 2, before the sun really kicked in.

The track started on grass. Riva started beautifully, and shortly down the track, a neighborhood boxer charged the fence barking at Riva, which badly startled us both. Unknown to me at the time, that happened close to the first turn (a short first leg.) I thought the first leg would be longer, and when Riva went down the second leg of the track I wondered if she was just trying to get away from the barking, snarling Boxer. Since she seemed to be tracking, I made the (good) decision to go with her. Riva then entered the opening to a covered parking garage. As she went in to the garage, her nose turned to the left, and she then continued forward, all the way through the garage and out the other end. When she came out of the garage, she cast around a bit but didn’t commit, so we backed up and worked our way back in to the garage. Riva went down the second half of the garage, then broke off and came back, and we worked our way back towards the original opening. Riva’s nose then snagged on the crack in the pavement, and off she went, and we soon spied an article ahead of us (a crushed wire basket of some kind.) GOOD GIRLIE!

Off we went after the article, and the track came out of the parking garage and after a little casting, Riva hung a right. We then went through some sidewalks and other areas and came to the corner of the building, where Riva turned hard left. Over sidewalks, grass, bricks, and to another article (bandana). NOW I was getting nervous.

After the second article, the track crossed a road and went in to a grassy area. Riva showed loss of track and went left. As I followed her I questioned her whether it really went that way, and she broke off and turned around and went right. Now I knew we were on the last leg and my heart was pounding. After our near miss at her last test in October, I didn’t think I could take that disappointment again. Riva too knew we were at the end, and she was diving on every piece of trash she could find that might be an article. Her tongue was hanging out and she was getting HOT. Finally, ahead of us, was a plastic article with the coveted number four on it, and our long training journey culminated in a PASS, a Tracking Champion, an AKC Versatility Champion, and now a QUINTUPLE Champion (Riva is now a conformation champion, an agility champion, an obedience champion, a herding champion and, finally, a tracking champion.)
Just like the obedience club the day before, the Indian Nations Tracking Club knows how to do up a tracking test, with a beautiful plaque customized with Riva’s name on it and a place for a picture, and longtime INTC member Ruth Harris donated $100 per pass so each passing team received their entry fee back. Wow! There was also another pass, a 12 year old Border Terrier, who had had some of the same “near misses” at previous tests that Riva had had. A very exciting day for the old girls (and I mean the dogs, not their handlers <g>)!

An OTCH on Saturday and a CT/Quintuple CH on Sunday, oh MY.

I have many people to thank, and I hope I don’t forget anybody. First of all the biggest thanks goes to my long suffering husband George who had to listen to more whining then anybody else and deal with the occasional tears after the flunks. Thanks to my friend Dee Nelson who started the VST journey with me and laid MANY MANY tracks for Riva. I especially remember one day that Dee and I tracked with Riva and Powder in the rain at Iowa Western, and we marveled at what our dogs could do. Also thanks to Dee Dee Rose who turned me on to Steve White and the HITT tracking method (Hydration Intensified Tracking Training). Thanks to my friend Sharon Brewer for the many, many hours spent discussing tracking, VST, and various other subjects <g> often over a bottle (or two!) of wine. Thanks also to Bert, Linda, Pam, Deb, Norine, and Peggy for listening for literally years about this tracking thing I wanted so badly. HUGE thanks to Jerry Lewis for his inspiration, his positive energy, and his constant belief that Riva and I could do this. Thanks to Vince Ramirez for the training advice over the years, and who said to me as I went out on Riva’s track Sunday morning that my dog DESERVED to pass. Thanks to Dian Quist Sulek who told me to NEVER give up, and who laid many tracks for Riva and offered up much advice and encouragement. Thanks to the judges Carol Clark and Charlene Dunn, who plotted a fair and doable track, and then gave Riva and I the time and space to be succesful. And thanks to the Indian Nations Tracking Club, especially Bob and Gail Brown, for their hard work and wonderful hospitality.

Obviously, it takes a village to earn a VST :-)

This is truly the HARDEST thing I have EVER done in dogs, and this is spoken by the person who was the world’s biggest herding idiot ten years ago. What I went through to get the VST made the HC’s look easy :-)

But the biggest thanks of all goes to my wonderful Riva, my best girl friend and my constant companion. Riva is almost 13 years old, and what she has accomplished is nothing short of incredible. George and I shared a bottle of wine when I got home late on Sunday night, and we talked about how the time had been growing short for Riva to earn this title. I told George that I would have walked away from the quest in a heartbeat, but not once did Riva ever say to me, “You know, I really don’t care to do this any more”. She was ALWAYS up and ready to go when I said “Do you wanna go track?”

And of course the excitment and elation is tinged with a hint of sadness, as the training journey really has come to an end. How lucky was I to have met up with this incredible animal. I hope that she feels the same.

Gerianne and Quintuple Champion Riva

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