So, THAT’s How It Works!

July 15, 2010

I often say Chase and I or Inca and I or Holmes and I are working on something (obedience, rally, tracking, agility . . .).  I rarely share how we work on these things because I believe I am pretty inept.  I am fortunate to have very smart dogs that figure things out in spite of me.

Chase and I are doing an Advanced/Excellent Rally crash course.  I’m hoping Chase will earn at least his RA before he goes off to Susan’s herding camp.  Tonight Chase taught me something very important (and I recognized it — of course, he’s probably been trying to show this to me for most of his life).

Chase is a thoughtful dog.  He’s silly and outgoing and mouthy, but when we’re working on something, he is a problem solver.  He wants very badly to get it right.  This is what happened.  We were doing advanced signs in a drill mode.  “Everyone up, do sign #48.  Here’s the sign.   Good — now everyone do it again.  Great.  Okay one more time.”  Chase got it right on the first try.  On the second try, he didn’t, and on the third try, he laid down which is his “I quit” default.  What was going on?  I think I get it.  When Chase does an exercise correctly the first time, but I make him do it again, he assumes the first try was incorrect and he changes something in the exercise.  When he runs out of variations, he quits trying.

I’m not going to do that to him anymore.  When Chase gets an exercise right, we quit or we do another exercise.  All this time I’ve been making my boy crazy — he keeps trying to make me happy, and I just ask him to do it again, and again.  I am inept, but I am able to learn.


  1. Kathy M. says:

    OK, I am sitting here chuckling! This is exactly what Denali does to me. When you think about it, it is very logical. “I did it right, proved I could do it, so why on earth are we doing it AGAIN?” Makes a lot of sense…to everyone but us silly humans!

    Denali definitely does not “get” repetition, which is why she was SO bored and not motivated in formal obedience. It has taken us five RAE trials for her to start to understand that for inexplicable reasons, we ARE going to run the course twice. Since the Excellent and the Advanced courses are usually very similar, with minimal changes, it really feels to the dog as if we’re doing the same thing all over again. Denali didn’t hesitate to convey how silly she thought this whole idea was. “Why would I repeat this all again, when I just did it?” You should have seen the look on her face the first couple times. She has never exactly been a subtle creature.

    The price one pays for a smart corgi! Now, do you think the judge would understand if we asked for some additional variation between the EX and ADV courses – just so our corgis won’t be bored? I’m thinking NOT! 🙂

    Good luck in your next attempt. RAE leg 6 is coming up for us this weekend in Carmel. Worst case, we get to go to the beach! Can’t be all bad!

  2. Taryn says:

    Yep, the same rule applies to agility training, always stop when they’ve done it well! Big rewards and move on to something different. I think it is probably even truer for obedience exercises as they are more precise.

  3. Molly would give me one perfect front, one perfect “sit beside me when I stop,” etc.

    I’m sure her position was “We have just SHOWN we can do that! If you can’t think of something different to do next, *I* can!”

    And I didn’t think formal obedience was interesting enough to make it interesting for her. How she would have loved agility…..

    Ah well.

  4. Kristine says:

    You have just learned one of the big rules of dog training: “Know thy dog”.

    Some dogs love repetition (Zoey thinks flyball is the best sport ever despite it being the same thing OVER and OVER again). Riley and Rugby? well–they would have hated it.

    You know your dog better than anyone else–in all the dog training classes I taught, I always told my students to feel free to tell me to buzz off if they thought I was asking them to do something their dog wouldn’t respond positively to. I also firmly believe in ending every training session on a positive note so if Chase does the exercise right the first time, reward him and move on. He’s shown you he knows what you want and leave it at that.

  5. Susan says:

    The beauty of herding is that moving sheep IS the reward. When they are not right, you block them, stop them, interfere with them until they make moves in the right direction. Then they get their sheep. The exercise is always changing, because the sheep are always moving. Chase should LOVE herding the sheep because he will be right often if he is thinking.