Sunday, February 20, 2011

Positive Reinforement Training takes Best in Show

by Larry Kay ....

It's not just the Westminster Best in Show 2011 winner, who thrives under praise. Paw Nation interviewed more than two dozen Westminster Dog Show handlers, owners and officials and found that every one we spoke with uses positive reinforcement dog training, in which praise is emphasized and bad behavior is mostly ignored.

The biggest name in the dog world right now, Scottish deerhound Hickory, is busy taking in the adoration and good wishes of not just the fans at the Westminster Dog Show but animal lovers all over the world. Fortunately, she's had good training for all the attention from the likes of Martha Stewart and more. She became the champion she is today mostly because of the guidance and positive encouragement of handler Angela Lloyd.

"Praise is the key to get inside a dog's head and heart," says Lloyd, who believes that dogs respond magnificently "if you are going to show them unconditional love."

Lloyd's mother, Gwen Plush says that her daughter has become a champion because she "bonds with the animals she shows. She understands them and they love her." Lloyd, now 31, has been going to dog shows since she was a child and in 1998 earned the Westminster Show's Junior Showmanship title.

What the Westminster Experts Say
Thomas Bradley, the Westminster Dog Show's chairman for the past 10 years, says that "positive reinforcement has been on the rise for quite some time." Bradley says that, as far as he knows, new methods among elite show dog handlers are all based in positive reinforcement.

Make a Game of It - Westminster Junior Showmanship competitor 17-year-old Sarah Broom has shown her champion basset hound, Castle Hill's Never Too Rich CD, nicknamed Nicole, at Westminster for the past two years. Broom learned to train and handle dogs in the 4H Club and says, "It's better to tell your dog what she does right." Broom makes the long hours of training more fun with games and toys. She believes that positive reinforcement is the best way to properly train any dog, show dog or not. She has also trained Nicole to be a companion dog, and together they help at-risk kids read in school programs.

Ignore Bad Behavior - Virginia Baxter, a rookie Westminster trainer and handler uses only positive reinforcement with 3-year-old bull terrier Ch. Dogmore's Delight, nicknamed Cricket. "I don't believe in forceful methods," says Baxter, scratching Cricket behind the ears. Instead, Baxter advises, "Ignore what a dog doesn't do right." Cricket, in addition to being a champion show dog is also a certified therapy dog that goes to hospitals.

Some Praise Everything - Veteran Westminster handler Michael Kemp has shown champion dogs for decades and has won Westminster's Best in Show, Best in Group, Best in Breed, Best of Opposite Sex and dozens of other ribbons. How does he do it? "I use as much positive reinforcement as possible." That means Kemp praises the dog for everything she does, even the wrong things.

"I tell them they're good so much that they respond to everything," Kemp says. "I don't force them. I encourage them to show their best." In fact, one champion dog Kemp handled "made a career out of being bad. Instead of trying to make her good, I praised her for being bad, even when she misbehaved." That dog, a bichon frise named Ch. Devon's Puffenstuff, won Best in Group at Westminster two years in a row, Kemp says, "because she was so vivacious." He recommends that family dog owners should simply "trust the dogs to do their thing." He says that it's best to "let dogs use their brains" and that owners should "make something good out of whatever they do."

Different Kinds of Training
There are variety of positive reinforcement methods. All trainers emphasize voice praise. Some trainers also use a clicker, which Bradley notes has increased in recent years. Some trainers use treats, while others do not. Pat Crowley has handled show dogs at Westminster for 31 of the past 35 years, and though she prefers not to use treats, she does use voice praise and believes in the power of positive touch. "Positive reinforcement is all I use," she says.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Early Spring 2011

Upcoming Dates:
Feb 6 11:30-1, Pills, Nails, Ointment oh my... This jam packed workshop is led by Kristen Neal, she is a surgical technician at Dakin Pioneer Valley Spay & Neuter Clinic, we are so excited to have her back. You will learn how to give medication, apply eye ointment, clean ears, trim nails and so much more... This FREE workshop is open to ALL. Please NO DOGS! You are welcome to RSVP, but not needed. Invite friends, family all are welcome!

Winter-Early Spring
Pre-Registration is needed... For all classes, call or email to register.

9-10 Graduate Handler
(at present: not accepting students) this 6 month course is for dogs and their people wishing to achieve the ultimate in communication, obedience, skill and safety. This class goals: are total off leash control, both verbal and hand signal control, 20 mins sit/down stays. Experimenting with the very latest in human and dog communication. Highest skills/manners are achieved in this class.

10-11 Social off leash play group, MUST BE TEMPERAMENT TESTED PRIOR  

11-11:30 Silence is golden: this new class is for those wanting to hone there skills and communication with their dogs in the dogs most ideal approach SILENTLY using only body language. This 8 week class is just $160, beginning Feb 20, 2011 LIMITED TO 5  handlers

Monday NO group classes. Private lessons welcome

Tuesday: (and Sat: 9-10 am)
6-7pm Manners 101, this is an open enrollment- on going class. During this jam packed 8 weeks we cover all the basics: sit, down, come, stay, wait, and leave it and more. We cover leash manner, polite greeting, counter surfing, chewing, puppy biting and a lot more. Your are invited to both Tues and Sat classes for just one enrollment fee of $160. New students can begin anytime.

7-8 jumps, tunnels, weaves and fun: have fun learning the foundation of agility. This 6 week class is introduction to fastest growing dog sport in the world. During our classes we will explore a variety of obstacles in the sport along with the beginning of handling needed. Cost is only $150. Beginning Feb 22, 2011

6-7 pm Skill Builder/Experienced Handler: this 10 week class is the next step for those with some experience under their collar.  Join anytime, open enrollment. Cost just $190

Weds: 7-8 pm Therapy Dog, this class will prepare the dog and handler for working in a variety of therapeutic environments. During this class we focussing on safety K-9 manners. We will also discuss the the many layers of therapy dog work. Ideal for dog 8 months and up, with graduations from Manners 101 (exception may be made with prior approval) just $190 for 12 weeks, beginning Feb 23, 2011

Thurs: no classes

Friday: 5:45-6:30 Tricks Club: you and your dog will learn while having a blast. This weekly class we learn play-dead, roll over, math trick and even reading. Words do not due this class justice, come watch you sure to want to join. Just $150 for 3 months

Sat: 9-10 am (and Tues 6-7pm)
6-7pm Manners 101, this is an open enrollment- on going class. During this jam packed 8 weeks we cover all the basics: sit, down, come, stay, wait, and leave it and more. We cover leash manner, polite greeting, counter surfing, chewing, puppy biting and a lot more. Your are invited to both Tues and Sat classes for just one enrollment fee of $160. New students can begin anytime.    


Focus, Control and Recall EVERYTIME ™ and Counter Surfin: Saturday 12 at 10:00-11:30am. Learn to keep your dog’s focus, in any situation, including dog parks, around those pesky squirrels; learn Come When Called EVERYTIME ™and so much more. Fee is $40. Limited to 5 students.

Polite Greetings, Leash Walking and Too Much Barking: Sunday FEB 27 at 11:00-12:30 pm. Does your dog's pulling or jumping embarrass you?  Or maybe you just want your arm back in its socket and the scratches on your legs to heal.  Whatever your reasons for teaching your dog not to jump up during greetings and to walk politely on leash, it's a great idea! Fee is $40 Limited to 5 students.

Jumps, Weaves and Tunnels:  This workshop will allow you to explore the fastest growing dog sport and take you and your dog’s skills to the next level. You and your dog will learn trust and teamwork as you progress in your skills with sequencing obstacles and learn the footwork needed to be successful in the sport of agility. Your dog will jump through tires, tunnels, and weave poles, much more.  (Dogs must be a minimum of 5 months of age to jump at the proper height for health and safety reasons) This 1 day  class is limited to 6 dogs. Meets on Sat in TBA from 11-12:30 just $15!

CGC ONE DAY! This 1 day prep class and test for thr AKC Canine Good Citizenship Earning the CGC award will ensure that your dog is a well-respected member of your community.  The Canine Good Citizen award is one of the first AKC certificates your dog can own and CGC provides an excellent foundation for all other training. Canine Good Citizen training is fun and useful.  You’ll find that training for the CGC award will help you establish a closer bond with your dog 1 day class meets Sat FEB 19 11am-12:30pm  the fee is only $30, includes the test! EMAIL ME IF INTERESTED!!! Invite your friends! Open to all!!!

Therapy Dog Weekend Workshop:  The focus of this weekend is on preparing the handler and dog for the therapy environment.  This 2-day workshop is ideal for both the novice and experienced handler and will include field trips into the community to gain skills.  Skills include working around medical equipment, loud noises, food, toys, and other distractions.  Topics covered include stress and calming signals in dogs, infection control, medical ethics, general liability, and handling difficult visitation situations.  Beginning Sat-Sun MARCH 26-27 this workshop is just $140. Limited to just 5 teams We will meet from 10-4 both days.

The whole Sha-bang: this Weekend Behavior Workshop covers is all! Polite Greeting, Leash  Walking, Barking, Off-Leash Control, and Counter Surfing and behavior in public: this JAM packed class.  Sat-Sunday 11-4 both days. Fee is just $160 for the entire weekend Limited to 5 handlers. March 19-20

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Sorry for an inconvenience, with the blizzard conditions we feel its safest to cancel all classes. BOTH TUES FEB 1 AND WEDS FEB 2! the classes will be made up...

Have a safe and warm snow days
Leading the Way offers doggie daycare and all types of training, including private, group classes and a residential training program. Behavior assessment and modification is done using ONLY positive methods focused on shaping behavior.

We have over 25 years of professional experience, dedicated to enhancing the relationship of both ends of the leash, through knowledge, compassion, and building long term relationships with our clients, both two and four legged.