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    Working Dogs

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  • Mikki Clikka

    Clicker is an essential tool when I train new behaviours. I use a marker word too, but I like to start with clicker – the dogs appear ‘sharper’, the message is clearer and the results are quicker.

    I have clickers in the kitchen, in the living room, in various bags, in jacket pockets and in the car – just in case I’m caught clickerless. I have favourites, even with the same brand, because some are just a touch different from others. Of course I had researched various clickers before I settled for mostly iClick, but, as it seems, not all.

    Mikki Clikka has been a well kept secret – I came across it while away training in Holland. The good news is that it’s a UK product, made by Mikki, and it’s available from Amazon, Training Lines etc.

    Mikki Clikka is a favourite for three simple reasons:

    • It has a finger loop – long live ways to secure a cliker into the place where it’s easy and quick to access. The wrist band clicker is good, but often hangs somewhere it’s not as easy to pick up fast. Note: it also comes with a lanyard you can use to hang around your neck, but personally I don’t use that.
    • Its size and shape are user friendly – the big raised ball button is easy to access and easy to press,
    • Last but not least, it looks good. I love the red and black!

    The click is loud and clear, for a sensitive dog you might prefer something quieter, but for my detection training it’s a bonus, as I may need to click from some distance.

    And some great news: Mikki will be supporting our event Detection Masterclass, with Wesley Visscher, and each handler for this workshop will receive their own Mikki Clikka as a gift.

  • The Trainer’s Pouch

    ‘Treat bags… it’s time to renew and I’d like a really good one this time.’ I asked for recommendations on Facebook group with like minded dog-training-mad people like me. I got 63 replies…

    Up to that point I’d been a Terry Ryan loyal, I was on my second one in four years. It was getting seriously smelly, and the hinges had never felt as flexible as on my first one. So I decided to try something new, and having seen so many people with Doggone Good products, I went for one of theirs. It was a similar experience and quite good also. Though again the problem was it not washing properly (and taking forever to dry). I often use raw treats for my dogs and it can get messy.

    So messy that one day late August I discovered that the seams of my beloved treat bag had come to life! I was tempted to drop it in the woods right there and run, but felt sorry for the person who’d think it was a good find. I threw it into the nearest bin and went home to re-start the search. I needed one that was not just easy to use, but also easy to clean.

    I stumbled across my first silicone pouch, a Great & Small ACTIVE pouch. I thought it was neat to use, easy to clean and the magnetic closure was a clever idea to prevent its content from falling out – or slow down dog noses wanting to go in. But it wasn’t perfect. For one, it wasn’t large enough. But its biggest fault was the clip… it didn’t allow it to be fastened securely, so it would keep falling off. This sparked another Facebook conversation where it turned out I wasn’t alone with my dilemma. What I’d just got was similar looking, but better than Dexas Popware Pooch Pouch a few of my friends were disappointed with. But still not right.

    At this point somebody suggested The Trainer’s Pouch… Coincidentally somebody wore one at one of our interactive play workshops, so I could look at it. It seemed a little ‘boxy’ and not as slick looking as the one I’d just bought, but I couldn’t fault its functionality. Fast forward a month or so and I got used to its looks… I’ve been happily using a black one, daily. I’d even like a pink one, although I’m not a pink kind of girl!

    It holds enough treats, and sometimes I sneak in a ball too. It sits securely with a good belt that has a loop so the end of the belt doesn’t dangle. Treats don’t fall out, as one of our tracking workshop participants has found, leaning forward with it repeatedly while laying a track. And most of all, it’s easy to clean, dries faster and doesn’t smell.

    It comes in a few colours. I have a black one and have seen it in all other colours, pink, purple and blue too (the latter not in the photo). They’re nice, strong colours.

    If I’m to be really sensitive, I’m finding the belt slightly clunky when the pouch is on the table – you have to be careful where you put the pouch when you take it off and how you position it on the table, or the weight of the belt could drag it to the floor. But this isn’t at all about the performance or usefulness of the pouch when worn. Yes, this pouch doesn’t have separate compartments for different sort of treats, but you could put a bag inside. And no, it doesn’t have a hook for poo bags etc, but I personally prefer to carry those elesewhere and keep my treat pouch for rewards. The shipping from Australia can get expensive, but if you want one, they are available in the UK from Yell Dog.

    Would I recommend it to a friend? Definitely.

     

  • Why I Attended Five Interactive Play Workshops (So Far)

    At first I went along because I’d caught the ‘workshop bug’ and the topic sounded intriguing. I’d also been told on a working dog holiday that I didn’t play with my dog. What do you mean, I thought, we train a lot, and training is play. Besides, a Lab will never play like a Shepherd. My dog doesn’t even tug!

    And then I caught my dog tugging, with a friend of mine. It was me he didn’t tug with. I had never encouraged it because of the old ‘keep ’em soft mouthed’ myth from the gundog world. There is, of course, a genetic predisposition to what a dog chooses to do when it picks up an object. He hadn’t actually been a ‘deliverer’ when we first started gundog training. But we’d arrived at a point where I tried to interact using a toy and he’d just hand it over. Yes, we played. We played rough and tumble without toys, but he was controlled and cautious, which is a good thing considering how delicate we are compared with dog’s teeth. I tried to build him up to tugging, inspired by one of Susan Garrett’s programmes, but he was hesitant and I lacked confidence.

    My first interactive play workshop with Craig Ogilvie helped me see my dog’s chase drive and learn that the game didn’t have to stop if my dog lost interest. I learned how to prevent him losing interest in the first place. Some dogs have to be shown and learn to play with us – what an eye opener! I returned home feeling positive about interacting with my dog, and enthusiastic about hosting Craig’s workshops here in Surrey. Fast forward another half year, and Craig has been our guest instructor three times, delivering two workshops and one talk. I’ve also attended three of his workshops hosted by others.

    Here’s why:

    • We work just where we’re at and receive just the coaching we need, since everybody gets to have one-to-one time with Craig during the workshop. We’ve made progress since last time when we focussed on toy activation, I practised that at home, and this time I bring a couple of other questions and see what Craig suggests to focus on.
    • I grow as a handler, I gain confidence to push boundaries, many of which Craig pointed out weren’t there in the first place. I’m lucky to work with two dogs with different genetics, temperaments, drive, motivation and level of maturity. And of course it’s helpful to watch a variety of others in action with their dogs.
    • Craig as a coach makes me feel positive and motivated after each workshop. I understand better the why, what and how. Of course Craig could easily get my dog to play with him. Have you ever struggled in a class and the trainer got hold of our dog and made it perform beautifully for them? It doesn’t help. Craig goes beyond that. He may give the dog a twirl to assess or demonstrate, but his work is about getting YOU to succeed with your dog.
    • Craig is also an engaging, informative and fun speaker. Before his talk I wondered, would it be possible to match what he did in the practical workshops? And he matched it! Attending the talk set the context beautifully for my subsequent practical sessions. Things like what toys to choose and why Craig might suggest one or the other thing during play are all explained in this talk. The talk touches on background and aspects than may not come up on workshop day, but you might face at home and be better equipped to handle.
    • Last but not least, for those left gasping for air from the running around – it gets easier! I’m no fitter, but the more I understand the principles, the better I manage my physical energy. I’m even starting to have some spare brain power left to process what Craig says to me.

    I would take any opportunity for an interactive play workshop, because my dogs (and I) remain work in progress, whether it’s early days or polishing rough edges. My recommendation would be to attend Craig’s key note talk once (before or after your first workshop) and then as many workshops as you like.

  • Therapy Dogs Nationwide

    An interview with Eileen Hodge, co-founder, trustee of Therapy Dogs Nationwide and a volunteer herself.

     

    How did it all start?

    Having volunteered  for many years using my dogs for therapy myself and friends, I realised something was missing, the camaraderie and openness that we had should be for everyone. I decided to take advice and talk to others who had similar or more experience, and Therapy Dogs Nationwide started to grow. Our mission statement  is ‘A charity run by volunteers, for volunteers, to support them in what they do best’.

     

    What would be a typical situation for one of your therapy dogs to attend?

    There are quite a few typical situations as we visit a cross section of the community. I will give you two from my personal experience.

    Visiting a care home so the residents can hold, stroke and talk to my small dog, they start to chat about pets they had as youngsters or before they came to the home. There are so many smiles and fond memories. For the bed ridden he sits on their bed and snuggles up whilst being stroked and more often than not has a little snooze.

    Another is going into school to help the children with their reading but also with any behavioural problems. Groups of children will come and sit with the dog  and read their books. We don’t correct them but will help with sounding the word and it doesn’t matter if they get it wrong, the dog can’t spell! Also in school there are children with specific problems (behavioural or social and emotional) who benefit greatly from spending time with the dogs. Just sitting and stroking calms them down if they are ‘hyper’ but on the other hand if they are sad or unhappy they can play games and learn how to react round dogs and other animals. It is a medical fact that stroking an animal lowers your blood pressure markedly and also releases endorphins  in your brain (the happy hormones).

     

    Are you looking for more dogs? If so, what sort? Any preferences on breed, size, temperament?

    We desperately need more volunteers with their dogs as we have a number of places on our waiting list.

    We accept any size, any breed. We have Chihuahuas to Leonbergers and a Great Dane. Our stipulation is that the dog is over nine months old and has been with the owner for six months. They undergo a temperament assessment with one of our trained assessors which takes around 45 minutes.  If you have a well behaved dog you will be likely to pass an assessment. The dog doesn’t have to like other dogs either, just to love humans. We also have Staffies, and Rottweillers, a real cross section. Also they have to be well presented, nails clipped well groomed etc and have all up to date vaccinations or homeopathic equivalent.

     

    How do the owners and the dogs find it? Is it a big commitment?

    All our volunteers will tell you how much satisfaction they get out of their visits with their dogs. Watching your dog help others and bring joy is the best feeling in the world.

    The commitment is whatever you want to make it. We have volunteers that visit establishments 7 days a week and other maybe once a fortnight or once a month. The average is around two or three visits a week. The volunteer chooses how much they want to do but we do ask that however many times they go it has to be regularly as people are relying on them coming. Full time volunteers will do their visits on a Saturday or a Sunday or if it is convenient with establishment in an evening. We also have VIP supporters who haven’t a dog who will give talks for us or accompany us on talks and awareness days. These are normally at weekends or evenings.

    As far as the dog is concerned they will tell you whether they are happy  in any given situation. I have 3 therapy dogs, all love working with children but only one like visiting the residential home. Owners will know their own dogs, and owner and dog have both got to be happy in where they visit. They can change where they visit at any time if they are unhappy and we will support them in whatever they decide.

     

    How can somebody interested become a volunteer? Is any additional training required?

    If anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer with their dog they should Email enquiries@therapydogsnationwide.org or write to Beryl Scholes, 14 Maes-y-Bryn, Berthengam, Flintshire CH8 9BA , or they can ring for a chat 07840 994 003.

    There is no specific training involved but having attended  training classes at a local pet obedience club is beneficial, as is the Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme. We want well behaved, socially acceptable, friendly, lovable dogs which is what most responsible dog owners have.

     

    Website: http://therapydogsnationwide.org/
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/therapydogsnationwide
    Twitter: https//twitter.com/TherapyDogsUK

  • A Little Win from Everyday

    Guest blog by Craig Ogilvie

    As dog lovers we all have a set of goals that we would like to achieve as a team with our canine companions. Our goals will naturally vary depending on our lifestyle and aspirations.

    Whether your goals are to work together with you dog to earn a first place or to help your dog become your perfect companion, here are few guidelines to help you map out your path to success.

    Firstly, become very clear and specific on the goals that you would like to achieve with your dog. Once you are clear on your goals write them down on a piece of paper and stick the piece of paper in a place so that you will see them every day. This will give you a clear set of goals to work towards.

    Secondly, take each one of your goals and separate it in to as many little steps as possible. Often if we just have one huge goal that we strive towards with our dogs we can become overwhelmed by the task at hand and lose focus. Breaking your goals down in this way will give you the ability to work together as a team with your dog towards a part of each of your goals every day.

    Thirdly, be sure to take a little win away from every day. What do I mean? By following this plan your goals will be laid out step by step. You will not have to spend hours at one-time training with your dog to work towards your goals. Instead you can structure short positive training sessions at times of the day to suit your lifestyle. Try not to focus on the duration of your training sessions, instead focus on the quality of what you have covered during the session.

    Focus on taking a little win away from each training session in the form of a positive step forward. This will mark a positive end to each little training session and leave you both eager to start the next session.

    Big goals are achieved as part of a process that involves lots of little wins. If you and your dog take a little win away from every day together there will be no stopping you.

    Craig Ogilvie makes you the centre of your dog’s world. Having spent a great deal of time training and testing working dogs in locations all over Europe, he very quickly went on to achieve unique accreditation. He is the first and only person from the UK to be licensed to test and train dogs internationally in the working dog sport called Mondioring, which consists of Obedience, Agility and Criminal Apprehension. He is one of the very few experienced and qualified civilian Police Dog Training instructors in the UK, a dog behaviour practitioner, seminar leader, author, and public speaker. His passion and study of training, interacting and communicating with dogs led to his discovery of the Interactive Play Experience and How To Become The Centre Of Your Dog’s World. He has been delivering his systems worldwide via sell out workshops, seminars and online training, helping dog lovers all over the world to achieve their goals.

    Web: Love for Dogs  |  Facebook: Craig Ogilvie | Instagram: @craigogilvielfd

    See dates for Craig’s talks and workshops at Enjoy Your Dog on our Events page!

  • The Nose Knows

    A couple of years ago I embarked on the fascinating journey of scentwork with my dog. We started with search dog training, to find missing people, and have since added other scent games to our repertoire. Compared to Mr Nose, who was born with this skill, I’ve only scratched the surface, but I’m hooked.

    Dogs’ sense of smell exceeds that of humans more than we can imagine, they experience most of the world through their nose, like we do through our eyes. I’m still smiling at the memory of watching my friend’s puppy on a mission, working his way forward, his nose in the air, while the horse manure we both knew he was after was in full sight. But puppy was in scent mode!

    Now imagine out of sight sources and the smallest traces of scent from them. Our dogs rule when it comes to that. They help detect cancer, locate disaster victims, find illegal drugs and so much more. There are only two things we need to do: get them interested and focused on working with us on solving the puzzle, and learn to interpret what they tell us – start seeing things from their point of view.

    You may not want to train a service dog, but you can do scentwork for fun any time, and here’s why I think it’s great:

    • Any dog with a nose can do it. Puppies can start young, because their sense of smell is already there, whereas for other training they still have to grow physically and mentally. It’s ideal for dogs recovering from an injury or for older dogs where exercise levels are limited but there’s a need for mental stimulation. It can focus reactive or easily distracted dogs and provide an outlet for hyperactive dogs. It can help shy dogs gain confidence, because this time they’re in control.
    • Our dogs already know this game. It’s our turn to learn to trust them.
    • It wears them out, in a good way. Most dogs will be more affected by half an hour searching than a three-hour walk. Scentwork may not be physically demanding, but it takes so much concentration, the brain will need a good rest afterwards. Fido will be in happy dreamland for a while.
    • Possibilities are endless. Scentwork can be done indoors or outdoors, in any setting, with other people involved or just handler and dog. Equipment needed is minimal and low cost. Some days I keep it as simple as hiding a tennis ball while out on a walk, on others we explore step-by-step tracking. We do, of course, have our preferred scentwork game (it’s quite serious when we look for people), but we also have an option to search for lost coins when we’re bored at the pub.
    • It’s fun. Dogs can find scentwork rewarding for the sake of it. I have seen my dog ignore favourite food and favourite people while on a mission.
    • It builds a good relationship. I need my dog to solve a puzzle I couldn’t solve by myself, and he needs me to read and handle him to set him up to succeed – we’re a team.

    I’d love to hear how scentwork has made a difference to you and your dog. You can add a comment below.

    If you haven’t yet explored what your dog’s nose knows, buy a book, find a class, attend a workshop (we’re running our tracking foundation workshop again in February), and most of all, enjoy your dog!