Tag Archives: Agility

Tampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: What is UpDog?

4 Way Play Frizgility 10361263_1512780378945583_2448123466868105570_nTampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: What’s UpDog?

UpDog is a brand new dog sport organization created by Kat and Jack Fahle, Andrea and Jason Rigler, and Babz Mahony. These dedicated disc doggers wanted to expand their favorite sport to include a wider variety of dogs – and people – than seen at typical disc dog events. Traditionally, while many people enjoy games with discs in their yards, only athletic dogs of certain body types and handlers with great disc throwing distance and skills are very successful at disc dog competitions. UpDog organizers wanted to change that. “We feel that everyone should be able to participate in the game of disc. It’s one of the most fundamental things people do with their dog – play fetch. As such, we’ve created games that allow all levels of people and dogs to play. We’ve helped make the sport more beginner friendly by creating games that incorporate short tosses, by allowing the use of soft discs, rollers [discs that are rolled on their sides rather than thrown in the air], and, in many games – multiple discs,” says Kat Fahle. UpDog’s website says, “UpDog is dedicated to expanding the awareness and participation of people and dogs in athletic endeavors. We want more people and more dogs having fun, playing together. So we designed some fun games built around the opportunity for every dog and human to work towards their own personal bests. You will have fun (Play), you will earn achievements (Achieve), and you and your dog will learn and grow (Expand).”

UpDog offers a variety of games that incorporate elements of agility and flying disc. But extensive training in either sport is not required. If your dog can catch a thrown or rolled disc and/or can do agility jumps and tunnels, you can have a great time at UpDog events. The games offered through this venue are fun in and of themselves, but they also provide a stepping stone to other dog sports. Fahle says, “Not only is it easier to get started in disc via UpDog, the other great thing is that as you play our games you are building foundation skills needed to play Freestyle should the day come you want to try that out. So you and your dog are learning while playing!”

Everything about UpDog is “beginner friendly,” as Fahle says. “If your dog is at the point in his training where he will only return a disc if you have another disc, we have some games that allow multiple discs. Say you can’t throw more than six feet; we have games where short tosses are all that are needed and then once you build your skill set there are more games and more levels to explore. We also allow you to roll the disc, which may allow for a new person to get more distance at first while they learn better throwing mechanics.  For dogs not yet used to hard discs; we allow soft discs!  Say you have a physical limitation that doesn’t allow you to ever throw farther than 6-10 feet; you can stay in level 1 for as long as you need. Simply because you earn enough Ups [qualifications] to move to level 2 doesn’t mean you have to move to level 2.  Conversely, the games and levels offer challenges for even the most skilled disc dog teams as well.  In UpDog, there is something for everyone at every level of play,” says Fahle.

Unlike most disc events, you don’t have to place in your class to “win.” Fahle says, “We’ve built in a system of achievements and UPs so that every person who earns even just one point while playing is rewarded. Each game has achievements that can be earned. Starting this fall, when a team joins UpDog, their achievements will show on their digital profile, which can be shared via social media, linked to on websites, et cetera. Then, as they accumulate achievements, those count towards UPs. These are physical rewards somewhat like dog tags that participants can earn and collect. The earning of UPs also allows teams to move up from one level to the next somewhat like titles in agility.”

UpDog has been very well received in the disc dog community, and it is beginning to make waves among dog sport enthusiasts of all kinds. Even though the first UpDog classes were offered just this spring, the upcoming UpDog event, planned for August 9th in Plant City, filled up all available competition spots in just 13 hours (spectators are welcome). The UpDog team traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan, recently to present the sport at the United Kennel Club’s national event, the Premier, and it was very well received. The fall will bring UpDog competitions to Illinois, New Hampshire, and Canada. Pretty great for a brand new organization born right here in central Florida!

For more information on UpDog, visit their website at http://updogchallenge.com/ or find them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UpDogChallenge.

Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball, Fun Scent Games, disc dog sports and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

Tampa Dog Trainer: Dog Travel Safety

dog traveling

Dog Travel Safety is an important concern

Tampa Dog Trainer: Dog Travel Safety

By Brenna Fender

Dog owners often travel with their pets to competitions, on vacation, or just about town while on errands, but they may not realize that the way they travel can mean the difference between life and death.

Do you drive with Fido loose in the back seat or running around your RV?  Do you pile your gear on the passenger seat?  Things like these can make a big difference in the event of an accident.

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association states that a 60-pound dog riding in a car traveling at 30 miles per hour becomes a projectile which can hit the windshield – or the driver – with the force of 1,200 pounds. While 82% of Americans wear their seatbelts, only a fraction secure their dog during car travel, which means that, in an accident, a canine companion can become a deadly missile. This endangers your dog, your passengers, and you.

Owners can travel much more safely by securing their dogs (and other loose objects) in their vehicle. One way to do this is by purchasing a crate. The safest crates are made of either hard plastic or metal.  There are pros and cons to each – plastic might be less strong, but metal wires may bend and injure a dog. Noted conformation handler, breeder, and American Kennel Club judge Pat Hastings says, “I believe that a quality fiberglass (plastic) crate is the safest way to travel with dogs. We have stopped at two accidents where the dogs were in wire crates and the impact of the accident broke the wires at the welds. Some of the dogs were killed by the wires and some were just injured but it was very difficult to remove the dogs as the wires were bent inward.” Ruff Tuff Kennels are the latest innovation in travel crate safety, designed specifically with car travel (and accidents) in mind. (Learn more at http://www.rufftoughkennels.com/)  Fabric crates, while better than nothing, provide far less protection than a solid crate.

Placing a crate in your vehicle isn’t enough to make your dog safe – that crate must be secured so that it doesn’t become a projectile in a crash. While the gold standard used to be to use bungee cords, ratchet straps and other methods are now considered to be better suited to assure that a crate will remain stationary.  Do not place loose objects in a crate during travel because these can strike the dog during an accident.

Another way to keep your dog safe is by using a specially-made seatbelt. A properly fitted belt will allow your dog to change positions but will keep animals from being thrown during an accident. Proponents of seatbelts believe that these are safer than crates because animals can impact the wall of a crate during rapid deceleration. However, seatbelts will not shelter a dog from projectiles like a crate will. If you’re purchasing a seatbelt, make sure it is crash-tested and guaranteed.  Recent tests have shown that many seatbelts are useless or downright dangerous in an accident (http://www.forbes.com/sites/hannahelliott/2013/10/28/the-best-seat-belts-for-your-dog/). The new crash-tested car seat might be a better bet for small dogs, but the product is very new. (http://www.mightymitedoggear.com/dog-supplies/crash-tested-dog-car-seats-pupsaver)  Other crash tested options can be found here: http://www.mightymitedoggear.com/mighty-mite/dog-care-travel-gear/car-accessories/safety-harnesses-dog-seat-belts. Be sure that dogs in vehicles are not seatbelted near airbags, which are dangerous for animals and small children.

Many of the crash-tested crates and seatbelts are very expensive and owners may think that there is no use trying to keep their dog safe if they can’t afford these options. But securing your dog in some way is very important to the safety of all involved, even if you have to do so with a garden-variety crate.

Don’t forget to secure your gear as well.  Collapsible chairs, spare crates, training bags, luggage, children’s toys, and other items can all be dangerous if an accident occurs.  Use straps to keep items stationary or pack them in stow away areas within the vehicle.

Other tips for safe travel involve keeping your dog’s head inside the vehicle, never allowing an animal to ride loose in the open bed of a truck, and never leaving any pet in a parked car. These situations are all documented risks to animal safety, with the potential for injury or death.

Many dogs are part of the family. When traveling, treat them like you would treat a family member. Make sure that your dogs are safe and secure.

A version of this article first appeared on USDAA.com.

Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

Tampa Dog Trainer: Brenna Fender – Is Humility at Odds with Success?

clickerclassIs Humility at Odds with Success?

By Brenna Fender, Tampa Dog Trainer

When you walk off an agility course, out of an obedience or rally ring, or away from your dog training class, do you dwell on your shortcomings? Do you gloss over your successes and focus on your failures?

Do you think only about what went wrong and rarely about what went right?

I am guilty of behaving this way and, thanks to my interest in sports psychology, I’m wondering why. The bottom line is this: I was raised to believe that humility is proper, and that bragging should generally be avoided.

As children, we take pride in our accomplishments and believe we have enough skill and talent to take on any task. And that’s a good thing, because children learn and grow by trying out a wide variety of experiences.

But life takes its toll on us and we learn that we can’t do everything we think we can. Self-doubt depletes our confidence. As we continue to grow, our social skills develop. We learn that it’s best to be humble, to understate our skills, to avoid making others feel “less” because we, in some areas, are “more.” It’s polite, right?

Sport psychology gurus offer a different take. This don’t-brag-about-yourself, don’t-think-too-much-of-yourself, really-you’re-no-better-than-anyone-else behavior that many of us have grown into appears to be in direct conflict with having a winning mindset.

This is a problem.

Many successful athletes, actors, and others don’t worry about always sounding humble. They speak openly about their successes, talents, and skills. They do not often point out their shortcomings, and if they do, they don’t apologize for them. Does that kind of talk make you uncomfortable? Does it feel too much like bragging?

It may seem that these people have let success go to their heads, thinking they are better than others because of what they have achieved. But perhaps they have always believed in themselves. Maybe they have always felt that they could achieve what they set out to do. Perhaps that’s part of what has led to their success. What if they are good at certain things because they believe they will succeed, rather than being successful because they are good?

I believe that I have certain skills and talents. Could I be good at those things because I believe I am, rather than the other way around? It’s mind boggling to think about!

The dilemma is, can I allow myself to think I’m good at new things, like the sports I do with my dog? Can I speak highly of my own performance rather than be self-deprecating under the guise of modesty and humility?

Maybe I need to spend some time changing my own thoughts when I hear people make successful statements about themselves. Perhaps I need to brand it as confidence that leads to success rather than boasting that comes from it.

 

Brenna Fender is a dog sport journalist who writes for Clean Run Dog Agility Magazine, USDAA’s website and many other high profile dog publications.  Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers agility, pushball and dock jumping instruction. Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boutique boarding! Angelica Steinker the owner of Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is the author of Agility Success a book addressing the mental training aspects of agility training grab your copy at www.CleanRun.com.  

Tampa Dog Trainer: What’s My Dog Motivation?

Border Collie Licking FaceWhat’s My Dog’s Motivation?

You can’t choose what motivates your dog. By Brenna Fender

When I first got my Beagle from Tampa Bay Beagle rescue, I had to carry him off of his comfy spot on the sofa to deliver him to his crate every time I left the house. My other dogs all ran to their crates when cued in order to enjoy a bite of cheese, but Wrigley didn’t move a muscle. He knew what to do because I had already taught the “go kennel” behavior. He also liked cheese. But he still didn’t get off the sofa to go get his treat.

Why not?

Because the comfort of the sofa was more powerful than the taste of cheese.

Wrigley, was not stupid or willfully disobeying me. He simply liked the sofa more than he liked the cheese. How could I (or you) handle a problem like this?

• Try a variety of treats and rank the rewards by how much the dog seems to enjoy them. Any food that’s safe for dogs to eat can be used as a treat. Different kinds of meat, from cold cuts to hot dogs to chicken, all kinds of cheese, leftover pasta, and more…. Be creative! See if you can find a high-value treat that will motivate your dog to get off the couch (or do whatever it is you want him to do).

• Make his crate extra comfortable so that there won’t be such a discrepancy between the value of the crate and the value of the couch.

• Play games with the crate that involve going in the crate for treats and then immediately being released so he gets lots of food rewards for an investment of very little crate time. Thinking that he might only have to spend a little time in his crate might make exiting the sofa worth it.

Many trainers who compete in dog sports have chosen dogs that like to work and that find these activities inherently rewarding. They like moving and love working with their trainers. These dogs would trade a sofa, no matter how comfortable, for anything that involves activity. But I’m willing to bet that at least some of you have dogs that might prefer the sofa to the A-frame, to competitive obedience training, or even to coming when called. You have to think outside the box to find out what motivates your particular dog. It might be steak, or lasagna, or a squirt of spray cheese; it might be a tennis ball that squeaks, or a stuffed animal, or a rope to tug on; it might be a squirt with a hose, a game of fetch, or a toss of a flying disc.

It’s been years since my Beagle chose the couch over his crate. By combining the methods mentioned here, he now runs right to his kennel with the rest of the dog family. It can be a lot of work discovering what motivates your dog, but it’ll be worth it.

Happy Crate Training!

Brenna Fender is a Tampa Dog Trainer who writes for Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa and attends dog sport classes at our main location! Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers puppy kindergarten classes, basic manners, canine good citizen and pet therapy prep, agility, dog dock jumping, problem solving and behavior modification especially for aggressive dogs.  We also offer boutique boarding, board and train, pet sitting and dog day care!

Tampa Dog Trainer: 10 Ways to Stay Competitive in Agility by Brenna Fender

Training Services

Agility is fun and exciting dog sport for both dog and handler!

How do you stay at the top of your agility game? By Brenna Fender

Maybe you’ve reached a high level of proficiency in your chosen dog sport (or sports), or maybe you’re just starting out. Maybe you are somewhere in between. No matter what, you know one thing: you want to be playing these games with your dog for a long time. How do you get to the top levels of a sport and then stay there? Here are 10 ways to help make that happen!

1. Keep your dog in good weight. Bobbie Lutz, who competes in many sports with her seven Whippets, says, “In speaking to lure coursing dogs, although this goes along with any sport, the biggest thing I’d recommend is keeping the weight down. A dog who is an enthusiastic courser as a young dog will more than likely still be enthusiastic as an older dog… but if they’re overweight, they certainly can’t be competitive.” Older dogs (and people) might not expend as many calories during the day as they did in their youth, so adjust how much you feed accordingly.

2. Condition your dog for your sport. This doesn’t mean just attending classes or training a lot. This means that you should exercise your dog outside of training or practice in a safe manner. Work your dog on exercise balls or peanuts. Take long walks. Run on the beach. Go for swims. Hike in the woods. Run your dog over cavallettis (very low jumps generally spaced closely together). Get educated on the safest and best way to condition your dog for sports. Include research on supplements and food options as well. Investigate alternative means to keep your dog in shape and comfortable despite the strains of an athletic lifestyle. Many competitors swear by chiropractics, acupuncture, and holistic healing.

3. Make sure your dog loves to train and compete. Melissa Dragovich, who competes in many dog sports with 12 dogs, says, “If your dog is structurally sound and you’ve done a good job building a solid working relationship, drive, and foundation, it seems to me that most dogs would just continue to work…mostly because they love what they do.” Keep training and competing fun!

4. Limit repetitions and vary your activities to avoid boredom and overworked bodies. Kellie Verrelli, who has been competing for 17 years with various breeds, says, “We do lots of other things to keep our dogs fit and wanting to work. Balance balls, swimming, running in fields, working component training rather than drilling long sequences, and sometimes just taking time off and just hanging out.” Also, “Avoid pattern training, also called muscle memory,” says Angelica Steinker, owner of Courteous Canine who has been a dog sport competitor since 1992. “It is boring and very hard on the dog physically. Change something every time you train (location, position, clothing, toys) to help speed up generalization to avoid excess repetitions,” she adds.

5. Break it down. When training, don’t do full agility courses or the entire obedience routine in every practice. Tinna Brown, who has been competing in agility for more than 14 years with various breeds, says, “I am not in classes and do not really run courses. I work on jump conditioning, small challenging sequences, polishing and skills once or twice a week integrating tons of play specific for each dog.” Working on small parts of the entire course or routine allows you to really concentrate on the details while saving your dog’s body (and keeping things interesting for everyone).

6. Only train when you are feeling positive, upbeat, and reasonably energetic. This keeps things fun and motivating for your dogs, plus you’ll be able to celebrate correct behaviors in a way that will help your dogs learn faster. If you find yourself getting grouchy or frustrated during a training session, try to end on a positive note by giving your dog an easy exercise and then take a break. It’s better to have a short-but-positive training session than a long negative one!

7. Start proofing (testing your dogs with distractions) early in the process. Steinker says, “Play lots of proofing games without corrections, just setting your dog up for success. Use proofing from the very beginning so you can train with fewer repetitions.”
 
8. Stay on top of changes in your sport. Read sport-specific magazines and websites, attend seminars if you can, view training DVDs, and attend national and international competitions to see what people are doing in different areas of the country and the world that you might want to incorporate in your training. If you keep doing what you’ve always been doing, you may not stay competitive in your sport for very long.

9. Practice your part of the game without your dog. Don’t confuse your pup as you try to learn improved heeling footwork on turns, your new agility handling move, or a fancy disc-throwing technique. Perfect your handling without your dog and then introduce him to the new move. This will keep from degrading your dog’s performance as he tries to learn the new technique along with you.

10. Take breaks if you need them. Sometimes handlers get burnt out, even if their dogs are still motivated. Take a few weeks (or more) off and exercise your dog with other activities so he doesn’t get out of shape during your hiatus. Try a new sport. Get your dog certified to do therapy work. Take long walks or find a new place to go for a swim. Or simply cut back on your activities, doing fewer weekends of competition each month or doing only one day of two day trials. Don’t ignore your declining interest; do something to spice things up and increase the fun!

Remember that, no matter what, your dogs are your family. A bad day with your buddy in training or competition is still a pretty great day! Keeping competition in perspective will help keep you at the top of your game for a long time.

A version of this article first appeared in DogSport Magazine, www.dogsportmagazine.com and is posted with permission.

Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers pet sitting, group and private instruction for dog sports, behavior and even aggression.  For more info visit www.CourteousCanine.com.  We offer dog training in Tampa.  Pet sitting in North Tampa and surrounding areas.