Thursday, June 24, 2010

Obedience Seminar - Kamal Fernandez

Last weekend I went to an Obedience seminar - Training course with Kamal Fernandez.
Brody and I were lucky enough to get one of 10 handling spot, where I could take Brody and work with him during the seminar.

Saturday started with a FREEZING cold start at Ardmore.

The four reasons that you are not getting what you want from a dog
  1. Lack of understanding - the dog does not actually understand the task you are asking it to do properly
  2. Lack of motivation - the dog is not motivated to do it
  3. Lack of Respect - the dog does not respect you
  4. Relationship problem - a handler issue.... eg. the dog is a rebound dog, or trying to live up to a previous dog.
I think that Brody definately has a lack of understanding of the things I am asking him to do, and needs more motivation.

The basic ideas were that in training a dog, to get a really motivated excellent dog you should:
  • Positive reinforcement (LOTS)
  • Clicker training - allow the dog to learn what you want by offering behavior, rather than being lured. A clicker could be an actual click, or clicker word.
  • Teaching to dog to be focused on the handler, almost WILLING the handler to notice that it is doing what the handler wants so it can be rewarded.
  • The dog should learn to hold a strong heel position, despite distractions or the handler looking away, talking, or doing strange body posture
  • The handler should not lead behaviors or nag to heel, or look at the dog... instead reward with a high motivation reward when the dog is doing it well
  • Lots of training in the ring is really important e.g. 4:1 training:competition. So your dog isint sure when a reward is coming. The dog thinks the ring is just an awesome place to be, as it gets all these rewards there! Choose what you want to reinforce and have your rewards ready.
  • Overtrain what you need in the ring - do 150% more heelwork then you need in the ring, or three retrieve's when you only need one.
  • Randomizing where the reward is coming from, and teaching that the dog must do the behavior to get the reward, rather than be lured to follow the treat.
  • Reinforcement zone - using where you reward a dog to build importance for that area e.g. the left side for heel work
  • Plumbline - the position your dog should hold during heelwork - like a piece of string from you hip down to the ground
  • Using lots of hands on tactile work with your dog, to build your relationship and value for interacting with the handler, and desensitize to handlers touch / movements
  • Being a 'lumper or a splitter' e.g. breaking an exercise down to lots of very small pieces
  • Hierarchy of reinforcement - having a range of rewards, and understanding the importance / value of each for your dog, and using them appropriately.
  • NOT naming a behavior / task till you get exactly what you want. Kamal used noises to gain attention rather than asking for things, and rarely used to dogs name. Also just click / reward for a long time until you get your 'finished product' that you can start adding the cue / command to.
  • Reward NOT lure. Train the dog that yes. there is a treat in my hand but you only get it for looking at me, not following / nosing the treat. The dog learns that to get the treat / reward he must give the correct behavior.
  • Don't 'cheerlead' your dog. If you cant get the attention / work you want in the ring you need to do more training. Your dog should WANT to be in heel, looking at you because you might just look and see him working really hard, and reward him!
  • Not all dogs are toy motivated, but you can build this drive. By making the toy more rabbit like (not a half dead three legged rabbit - be exciting and realistic!), putting onto a rope, flicking around etc. Trying different types of toy, incorporating treat into toys to build interest. Even playing with other dogs in-front of your dog. Work over many sessions to build up the interest / drive.
  • Food circles - to reward, build drive and interest. Throw a treat out, and encourage the dog back, pull the dog around you and throw another treat out.... You can change so the dogs runs around you, through your legs etc.
  • Targeting - teach a dog to hold a nose touch to hand, to use in heel work and maintaining head position.
  • Transfer of value - making a little boring thing totally exciting and the best thing ever for your dog because of the rewards / high value you build for it.
Important concepts to consider when teaching new tasks

Proofing - testing your dogs understanding, giving controlled chances to fail so the dog learns
Generalizing - transferring the experience + learning to a new environment
Reinforcement - builds behavior

Kamal used lots of games to build motivation for the dog
  • Get the party started
Sit in a chair, somewhere quietly with the dog with you. Suddenly jump up and have a big play with your toy, being super fun and exciting for the dog. Alternatively to playing you could do food circuits. This builds interest in you, and the dog is always looking at you to see is a game is going to start.
  • Eye Spy
Stand up with the toy / treat in your hand. Stand still until the dog looks at your face, rather than the treat. Click and reward. Progress by increasing the time the dog must look, then increased time and you looking away. Teaches the dog that he wont get a treat by focusing on the reward, instead is rewarding for giving the handler attention. Encourages the dog to be looking at the handlers face all the time just incase they notice and reward.
  • Give us a clue
Stand and without giving any other clues / cues (dont' move your body!) move your hand to the left side in the heel position. Click and reward your dog for any movement towards the left side, and each time ask for a little more movement. Reward on the left hand side to build value for the heel position. If your dog dosent notice your hand, do more eye spy games and you can wiggle your fingers a little.
  • Chase the rabbit
Basically running around with the tog (tug toy is best) making it super exciting and fun, the dog tugging and playing with the toy. Make it exciting and not predictable, let the dog win sometimes (unless you have a very dominant dog) to encourage drive for the toy.
  • Hit the baby
This is an extension of chase the rabbit..... when your dog is playing / tugging with the toy really well, with your hands touch their face and body. You can add in doing the same with your foot. Desensitizes the dog to touch, and also increases contact/importance with the handler.
  • Musical chairs
Ask the dog to do something (sit, spin, down, thought legs....) click, run to your chair and reward the dog. Repeat. Then ask for two things, click and reward. Then do the same, but run to another chai you have set up with rewards..... This can be played with lots of people or on your own, and teaches the dog that it dosent know where its reward is coming from.
  • Good Cop Bad cop
Ask the dog to do something with handler (like eye spy), then another person tempts them with a box of treats. The dog dosent get treats from the 'bad cop', who says 'oh no too bad' and pulls the treats out of reach. When the dog looks / returns to the handler it gets clicked and rewarded. Teaches the dog to stay focused on the handler and ignore distractions to be rewarded.
  • Catch up
Another person holds the dog in the middle by the collar, and the handler walks in a circle around the outside (left circle) with hand in heel position. Dog is released, and when the dog arrives in the heel position with the handler is clicked and rewarded. Ask for a little more heel work each time, and then can change to right hand circles. Teaches the dog to race into the heel position and it will be rewarded, also good for Test A recalls.
  • Beat ya
Hold the dog by the collar, and throw the toy out in front. When the dog is pulling against the collar restraint release and race towards the toy, let the dog win! Builds drive for the dog, and also desensitizes against collar touching / handling.
  • food circle
A different way to reward with food to help build drive. Throw a piece of food out in front, and encourage the dog to move fast, and come back. With another piece pull the dog in a circle around you, and throw it back out in front, repeat. Can change to the dog going around the handler, through legs etc.
  • Simon Says
How well does your dog actually understand its cues / commands?
1. put your hands at the side, and ask your dog to sit
2. Hands on head, ask your dog to sit
3. hands on hips, ask your dog to sit
4. Hands on knees, ask your dog to sit
You can do this for a number of commands and do all sorts of body / hand positions.... what about when you sit down? Will your dog stand etc. This tests your dogs understanding.
  • Push me pull me
For building a stronger heel position, where to dog actively maintains the position ('plumbline'). When the dog has a strong static heel position, start testing by pulling the lead so it pulls the dog out from your hip slightly. As soon as the dog resists the pulling to pull the head back into heel, click and reward. Can add in more active pulling, pushing the shoulder away etc.

I hope my summary of the seminar has been helpful, I will keep everyone posted with how our new training regime is going, and hopefully load some pics / video's from the seminar if I can get them.


  1. Cool - thanks for posting this (especially for those of us who couldn't make it to the seminar)!!

  2. This article is such a great help for dog owners like me. I learned a lot from this. Now, I know what could be the possible reasons why there are dogs who cannot be easily trained. Motivation and positive reinforcement are indeed essential attributes in training dogs.

    I am also a dog honor, and I am currently researching more ways to effectively train dogs. I found this great free ebook which I wanted to share. Here is the link: