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To Cue, or not to Cue?

A few weeks ago, I had a bit of training dilemma, followed by a training epiphany, followed of course, by a new training dilemma.

Training Dilemma #1

Epic and I have been working a lot on heeling lately for rally trials. Occasionally Epic will drift a tiny bit. Sometimes it’s a forge, sometimes a lag, it doesn’t seem to be consistent. I want to help her and so I say “Here Epic!”. This causes Epic to come to me, and then drift away almost instantly scanning the room. This part is consistent enough that I know it’s something she’s learned but I’ve been struggling with where the communication breakdown is.

Epiphany!

After watching some video, I finally realized that “Here” is the cue I use to indicate there is food on offer and I’m going to throw it for her to snatch out of the air, or to chase along the floor. I have used this cue consistently since we started training. So consistently, in fact, that I can go to video of myself with 4 month old Epic and hear myself use it. To Epic, the cue I have been using does not actually mean what I want it to mean, which is “Pay attention,  something exciting is going to happen!” To Epic, “Here” means, “Pay attention because you are going to have to chase something soon, and you better be ready to catch it”. OOPSIE!

word meme

Training Dilemma #2

After some thought, I came up with a potential solution. In order to rectify the cue confusion, all I need is another word that means, “pay attention come to me, something exciting is going to happen”. Simple right?

WRONG!

Removing one word from my nervous chatty vocabulary is going to be really hard for me. I have major brain/mouth disconnect when handling either dog. I see something happen and plan to adjust my handling by spitting out an appropriate cue. Ninety per cent of the time, a different cue comes out or I spend so much time thinking about what I’m going to say that I spit the correct cue out at the wrong time, usually too late!

*Silent Scream*

As I write this, I wonder if it’s a nerves thing or if it’s some kind of processing disorder. Regardless, retraining my mouth is going to be really, really, REALLY hard. Like impossible hard. Or rather, impossible hard unless I break down learning to say the new word behaviour into tiny bits, much like I break down behaviours for any of my students, human, or canine. Right now, I’m looking at a three step process.

  1. Stop saying the old word when the behaviour occurs.
  2. Teach Epic the new cue outside of the heeling context.
  3. Learn to say the new word at the right time.

After some more thought, I realise that going through the process of teaching her this cue is going to be a lot of work, even if I work on steps one and two simultaneously.

I also realise that a “pay attention” cue is really useful and something I should teach Epic, but using the cue is going to cost us a lot of points in the CARO rally ring (and eventually the obedience ring), even if I save it for The Most Dire of Circumstances.

Especially if I save it for The Most Dire of Circumstances! If she’s so far gone in the ring that I need to use my cue once, I could live with it. Right now I can see myself needing it a few times and herein lies the problem: Teaching a new “pay attention and come to me” cue, to use when I find Epic is out of heel position, will do absolutely nothing to teach Epic to maintain heel position.

What is a blabber mouth trainer to do?

In the end I have decided to just stop ‘helping’ Epic with the extra cues if she drifts. That’s right. I’m shutting the hell up! If you know me at all, you know how hard this is going to be.

Instead, I am focusing on giving her as much positive reinforcement as I can when she is with me, in position. This means a click and a food, toy or play reward. Drifting means no cues, no begging, no pleading, no opportunity for reward. Sometimes I stop moving when she drifts, sometimes I take my cookies and “go home” by ending the session and thinking about how I can help her be more successful next time.

We’ve been working on this consciously for a couple of weeks and in practice I think this is really helping. In a “real life” scenario like the rally trial we attended last weekend, still revert back to the wrong cues and they were not helpful, as to be expected. Fortunately, they were not horribly hurtful. We did qualify once, but the second run, I was so nervous that I asked Epic for a wrong station. In over 100 runs, I have never once made that mistake once with Bear, but it’s not a surprising error when I consider hard I was focusing on trying to NOT use the useless cues. We have a few months before our next trial and now I know that I still have some work to do achieving fluency with my own behaviour (shutting up) as well as Epic’s (staying in position). Stay tuned for updates!

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CARO and CKC Comparison: Eligibility

Cornish coast path at Bessy's Cove - geograph.org.uk - 522399

The same, yet different.

 One of the things that drew me to CARO originally was the fact that CARO rules allow for the participation of a wide range of individual dogs and people. CKC, on the other hand is a bit more restrictive although I am very pleased about the recent changes they have made to allow the participation of a wider variety of dogs.

CARO Canine Eligibility

  • Dogs of any breed, or mix of breeds.
  • Dogs 6 months of age or older.
  • Dogs registered individually with CARO.
  • Course adjustments may be made for physically challenged dogs at the judge’s discretion.
  • Dogs that appear to the judge to be in pain or discomfort may not compete.
  • Bitches in season may not compete.

CKC Canine Eligibility

  • Purebred dogs registered with the CKC (or dogs eligible for registration).
  • Purebred dogs of CKC recognized breeds that have an event Registration Number (ERN) or a Performance Event Number (PEN).
  • Purebred dogs of CKC listed breeds that have a Miscellaneous Class Certification Number (MCN) or a Performance Event Number (PEN).
  • Purebred dogs of breeds not recognized by the CKC that have a Canine Companion Number (CCN).
  • Mixed breed dogs that have a Canine Companion Number (CCN).
  • Dogs must be 6 months of age or older.
  •  Lame dogs (in the judges’ opinion) can not compete.
  • Dogs may not be entered under a judge (or an immediate family member of the judge) that owns, sold, held under lease, handled, boarded, trained or instructed a dog regularly in the 6 months prior to the trial.
  • Bitches in season may not compete.

The main differences, at the moment, between  the eligibility of individual dogs in CKC and CARO include a streamlined registration process for CARO and an allowance in CARO for course adjustments for dogs that are physically challenged. If a handler would like to request course changes for a dog with a physical limitation for a CARO trial, they may do so in writing and should include this request and with their trial entry. In my time as a judge I have approved a few course modifications including: Lower jump heights for mobility restricted dogs, extra time to complete the course for older, slower moving dogs and, obstacle substitution for visually impaired dogs.

CARO Handler Eligibility

  • Handlers must own the dog they handle, or be an immediate family member of the owner (Junior Handlers are an exception)
  • Course adjustments may be made for physically challenged handlers at the judge’s discretion.

CKC Handler Eligibility

  • Dogs may be handled by the owner, family member or another person
  • Trial Secretaries, Superintendents and Trial Chairs may not handle a dog at any trial in which they are acting as an official.
  • Exercises and routines may be adjusted for handlers, but only if the modifications do not provide and advantage to the dog and the dog is required to perform all exercises.
  • Individuals may not compete under a Judge who is an immediate family member.
  • Individuals may not compete under a Judge who as attended regular training classes held by the exhibitor in the 6 months prior to the trial.

The main differences for handler eligibility between CKC and CARO revolves around who can and cannot handle a dog under whom. I am not sure how the CKC rule about accommodations for handlers with physical disabilities plays out and what kind of modifications have been allowed. In CARO the process is the same as for dogs, it must be done in writing prior to the trial, preferably when you send in your entry. In the past I have seen a request from handlers for exercise substitution (someone who could not run), for extra time and even for leniency with the tightness of turns for handlers with balance issues.

That just about covers my understanding of the eligibility rules for which dogs can and cannot compete at CKC and CARO rally trials. If you are serious about competing in rally at either venue (to me, serious means you are have or are considering entering a trial) you owe it to yourself to read each organisations rule book.

Click the following link to go to the CARO Master Handbook – 2013

Click the following link to go to the CKC Rally Obedience Trial Rules and Regulations (January 1, 2012)

Next week, we’ll compare CARO and CKC classes and titles!

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CARO and CKC: What’s the difference?

CKC and CARO: Apples and Oranges?

Many of us involved in the sport of rally obedience often have an opportunity to participate in the same sport under different organisations. in order to succeed in the same sport in multiple venues, a person really needs to have an idea of each organisations rules. We all do this for different reasons. maybe we like titles, maybe we like working with our dogs, maybe we need the pressure of a trial, any trial to get our dog training butts in gear.

When I travel out of town for seminars, I typically am doing an Introduction to CARO Rally Seminar with participants who already have an idea of what rally is about and who often have been participating in CKC rally for some time. At every seminar I have done to date, conversation drifts towards a comparison of CARO and CKC. Where are they the same? Where are they different? Which should a person do first? Which is more difficult? I know where these questions are coming from: For those who know one venue, comparison is often an easy way to understand something new. However, for those brand new to the sport, comparing two venues when they do not have a basic knowledge of either venue is confusing. What this means is that I try to steer clear of venue comparison because there simply isn’t time to cover the important similarities and differences.

At the last seminar I delivered, I promised to prepare something for participants to help them better understand the similarities and differences and I am finally getting around to it. From my extensive experience with CARO and my limited experience with CKC, these two venues differ in a few ways that I intend to explore every over the next few weeks.

  • Eligibility
  • Classes
  • Titles
  • Equipment and rewards
  • Course design
  • Ring procedure
  • Exercise performance criteria
  • Scoring

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Rally Course of the Week – September 6, 2013

CAROlogoEXCELLENTCourse Details

Level: Excellent (CARO)

Space Required: 50’x50′

Designer: Ayoka Bubar

Download this Course: CARO 50′x 50′ Course – Excellent (T13-001)

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Rally Course of the Week – August 30, 2013

CAROlogoAdvancedCourse Details

Level: Advanced (CARO)

Space Required: 50’x50′

Designer: Ayoka Bubar

Download this Course: CARO 50′x 50′ Course – Advanced (T13-001)

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Rally Course of the Week – August 23, 2013

CAROlogoNOVICECourse Details

Level: Novice (CARO)

Space Required: 50’x 50′

Designer: Ayoka Bubar

Download this Course: CARO 50′x 50′ Course – Novice (T13-001)

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Rally Course of the Week – August 16, 2013

CAROlogoADVANCEDTEAMCourse Details

Level: Advanced Team (CARO)

Space Required: 30’x70′

Designer: Ayoka Bubar

Download this Course: CARO 30′x 70′ Course – Advanced Team (T12-052)

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