Obviously the FIRST step is registering your dog with GRC. But…. Once that’s out of the way…. The next question I get is…. Where do I start with training? Even though there are several different events and an SR qualifier… There are some essential skills that a GRC dog will need. I’ll break these down for you so you can get going with your dog.
Place: Even though this is an “untested” skill…. It is a HUGELY important one. There will be a bed behind a blind as an “on deck” area for ALL events, including SR tests. Having a cue for your dog to chill on a bed is a much better plan than using strict obedience and running the risk of burning them out. Or… only using physical restraint and getting them too wound up! Conserve that energy and concentration for the task at hand!
Loose Leash Walk: This is obviously a big part of the SR. But….. It is also in EVERY EVENT up to Level 3. To get from the ring entrance to the line of departure in every event, you are under loose leash responsibility. That means the DQ standards from the SR are IN EFFECT! Yes…. you can heel the dog (standard or tactical). But…. LLW responsibility is on the table in ALL events up to L3.
Middle and Down: These are obviously a big part of the SR. But….. They are also in EVERY EVENT at Level 3 (if not before). Spring Pole is heavy on obedience right from L1 on, but EVERY event at L3 requires a tactical heel from the the ring entrance to the line of departure. And (in all but SP) a down is required once you arrive there. These cannot be done enough!
Front: This is in the SR, and SP events. But, even though it’s not as ubiquitous as the others, it’s value at an event, is huge. This is the “come let me get your gear adjusted/on/off” command. And it’s also a really good way to get your dog turned away from a distraction.
Easy: This could be considered a “tested” command. Because of the liberty portion. It’s much easier for them to have a chill period if they 1- know what that is and how to do it. and 2- are told that’s what you’d like during that portion! Plus….. It makes managing arousal in between runs at events MUCH easier. Excuse the pun.
Look: This is another “untested” command that I think every GRC dog should know. Breaking eye contact on a target can be a great management skill, but… also…. A very good diagnostic. Like…. If they blow off a look command….. It’s time to put hands on them. The compliance rate for look is much higher than the compliance rate for recall as the disappointment gap is smaller. If they won’t do that…. They won’t do anything!
Collar Recall: To me, this is an “emergency” recall. I want a cue that means come put your collar in my hand. Like a hand target, but a collar to hand instead of nose to hand. The ability to get the dog to put themselves in your hands can be a literal life saving skill. Now….. It isn’t “technically” tested. Buuuuut…… There is a place where it will help you. In Spring Pole…. The tie breaker is a recall race off the toy. The standard is from the first signal to collar in hand- fatsest time wins. Now…. If you teach the collar target recall as in implied out…. You will cue “HERE” (or whatever) and the dog outs and sprints back and smashes the collar into your outstretched hand. This is mechanically faster than calling “Out”, then “Come”, then the dog runs and SLOWS DOWN to front properly, and you then have to reach for the collar. So…. Spring Pole competitors…. Take note. It can also help in Weight Pull to help cue the dog subtly into better form. And….. Can be a way to encourage a dog on the mill! So yeah….. Untested. But…. Useful.
SPORTS SPECIFIC SKILLS:
Weighing And Measuring: If you’re gonna do ANY of the drive sports, you’re going to have to weigh your dog at EACH SHOW!!!! If you did “place” or “down”, as suggested above, it should be easy. But… Measuring their standing height…. That proves more tricky for folks. Now… If The dog is generally brave it is essentially not hard to just wing. But… ifyou teach “easy” you can usually just cue the dog to relax and you can measure them that way. Of course…. If yu have a super tightly wound dog…. You may actually have a case for a stand, or a chin rest for exam type of behavior. But… HOWEVER you work it out. You must be able to get these numbers in the view of a judge.
Toy Fluency: Clearly, if you’re doing SP or WC you will need a clean out and general fluency with toys. But…. Toys are a WONDERFUL obedience reward event that are much more convenient than food.
Harness Fluency: For both MR, and WP a harness is part of the required gear. Being able to get them into and out of them without conflict is essential. And…. As far as I’m concerned wearing a harness for leash walking until the dog has mastered LLW is damn near essential to reprogramming a cooperative relationship with the collar.
Resistance Training: This is NOT just for WP competitors. There is NO serious human athlete in the world REGARDLESS of sport that doesn’t do Weight Training. The same should be true for dogs. Ashley Sculac (one of the founding members of GRC) has developed Canine Resistance Training to help folks with education and programing. From complete novices, to performance dogs of ANY sport, to competitive Weight Pullers. This may as well be considered foundational for any GRC dog.
That’s as close to a complete list as I can make without writing a book.
Any competent trainer should be able to help you with these skills. But one involved with GRC will be able to give you more specific help in prepping.
Be careful not to use someone that’s too much into compulsion. 1- It can flatten dogs and ruin your sports performance. 2- You lose points in the SR for aversion and timidity. SO…. don’t use trainers that take short cuts.
Check out the Resources section for sources I trust.
Now… go play with your dog.