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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 11:29 AM Thread Starter
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The importance of rituals...

I'm looking for opinions/experiences on how important (or not) you think little rituals are when training or competing in Schutzhund. What I mean is, little things like how you load/unload your dog, what little work you say or sounds you make before going onto the field, whether you let the dog get a little whiff of their tracking reward (if used), how you warm up, etc. Stuff like that that is not part of what is being scored.

I am very new to SchH and more and more I see a lot of emphesis placed on these little rituals, sometimes almost as much as the training itself. This is something very new to me as a dog owner. Now as a gymnast I can *totally* relate, lol. Every routine in every competition had a ritual for me, even how I did my hair, how I stretched out, prepped my hands, etc. But as far as my dogs, up until now I haven't placed any emphesis on developing a ritual. With Kenya I have dabbled in a few things - three levels of rally obedience, two types of agility, three CGC exams, a temperament test, and the obedience phases for Family Obedience and Protection 1 for dog sport. We'll do the BH and CD as soon as I get around to it. So far my only ritual has been letting my dog sniff around the venue, doing a few minutes of warm up, then putting the dog up until its our turn. But I don't use the same leash/collar, say the same word, load/unload the dog the same or anything like that. In fact in these areas of training I purposely "mixed it up" whenever possible so that the dog was proofed to perform her skills in any condition in any order. Now these other things I have done with Kenya are not as complicated as SchH, but she's done very well (has never NQ'd or failed anything yet). But with Nikon I feel more pressure to develop these little rituals with him. So I am wondering how common this is? What is the value? To me it seems like ritualizing things TOO much only sets us up for disaster when things don't go as planned. But maybe the dog is easier to turn on and off when he knows what to expect?
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 11:50 AM
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Re: The importance of rituals...

I think they can be very important. Not just from the standpoint of setting the dog up to succeed by making sure the dog knows what to expect, but also for the comfort level they can bring a handler. That last aspect is huge when trial nerves take over. Most everything at a trial is outside the handler's control, and that can be very nerve wracking. About the only thing that is in the handler's control is prepping their dog before going on the field. Learning to do this properly is a very important part of becoming a good handler.

Of course, what that prep entails and what rituals are involved varies from dog to dog, and the usefulness of these things boils down to if it's the correct method for that dog or not. Handlers need to figure out what works best for their individual dog. The best handlers, those who score high regardless of when and where, definitely have their rituals. They're experts when it comes to that last minute trial prep.

Quote:
Originally Posted By: Liesje To me it seems like ritualizing things TOO much only sets us up for disaster when things don't go as planned. But maybe the dog is easier to turn on and off when he knows what to expect?
My feeling is the later. As I said, it is one of the few things that is in the handler's control on trial day. You can't predict, prepare for or train for every possible contingency. But you can provide a set cue to your dog exactly what you're going to be doing and what is expected, and once the dog understands that it goes a long way to combat all those other contingencies and things you never see coming. The dog is more resistent to whatever else is going on because he's clear what his job is. He's not taking cues from the environment, he's taking a cue directly from his handler, and that cue is always the same. He knows what it means, and he trusts it. And the benefit in easing the handler's nerves is a huge one too.


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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 11:55 AM
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Re: The importance of rituals...

To give a good example I know you're familiar with, Lies, remember those goats at the SDA trial this past spring?

A whole herd of goats frolicking, fornicating and doing all sorts of other things right along the sidelines of the trial field, just a couple feet away from where dogs were working, was a huge distraction. It blew the minds of a lot of dogs.

Now some will say "you need to train for that" Well, sure in an ideal world. But I'm not sure how many of us have access to herds of goats to practice obedience next to on a regular basis.

Having cues for the dog in that sort of situation helps tremendously. The dog who has that, and who's handler used them properly before stepping on the field, is much better prepared to work in that situation. He is less like to step on the field, see a bunch of goats bolting around a few feet away and become confused or totally lose focus or say "gee, this is weird, what the heck are we doing?" because he already knows what he's doing because his handler told him so.


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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 11:59 AM Thread Starter
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Re: The importance of rituals...

Quote:
Originally Posted By: Chris WildI think they can be very important. Not just from the standpoint of setting the dog up to succeed by making sure the dog knows what to expect, but also for the comfort level they can bring a handler.
This is what I was holding in the back of my mind, maybe it's more for the person than the dog? Again I am new to SchH but in all the other competitions I've done, the most common mistakes are made by the handlers b/c they get flustered and give conflicting messages to the dog, or say the command a different way, etc.

I guess my main ritual is visualization. I did it before all my gymnastics meets and I do it with my dogs. I visualize us doing the pattern, not only perfectly, but doing it how *we* do it (ie, using the turns and finishes that we practiced, doing the paces how I do them...not just watching a YouTube video of a WUSV competitior in my mind but watching myself do it). Other than that, I've always been kind of a "go with the flow..." person so maybe that carries over into how the dogs are handled.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 12:01 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The importance of rituals...

Quote:
Originally Posted By: Chris WildTo give a good example I know you're familiar with, Lies, remember those goats at the SDA trial this past spring?

A whole herd of goats frolicking, fornicating and doing all sorts of other things right along the sidelines of the trial field, just a couple feet away from where dogs were working, was a huge distraction. It blew the minds of a lot of dogs.

Now some will say "you need to train for that" Well, sure in an ideal world. But I'm not sure how many of us have access to herds of goats to practice obedience next to on a regular basis.
Yeah that was freaky! Neither me or my dog had seen goats that close before, much less ones jumping all over their "mountain" and having goat sex, lol. I remember I had just put Kenya away and they were getting ready to start, I saw those goats come out so I ran and got her, put her along the fence and was like "oh look! A goat...oh well" and that was that. I'm not sure if she noticed them during the trial or not. That was really nice they let us go in there and practice, that's the first time I've ever been able to actually go in the ring/on the field for any sort of warmup (besides the designated walk-through without the dog).
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 12:45 PM
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Re: The importance of rituals...

Quote:
Originally Posted By: Chris Wild
A whole herd of goats frolicking, fornicating and doing all sorts of other things right along the sidelines of the trial field, just a couple feet away from where dogs were working, was a huge distraction. It blew the minds of a lot of dogs.
OT but


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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 01:07 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The importance of rituals...

It was wild, at least for me a "city girl", never seen goats that close before, much less going crazy like that!
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 01:59 PM
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Re: The importance of rituals...

Hmmm...
the goats were definitely a huge distraction for Hugo! Had it been a HIC,
his interest would be desirable, but while doing practicals for FO, not so much!

Share with us some of your rituals...
I know I've heard "wanna work?" but it sounds as though there's a list.


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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-25-2009, 02:21 PM
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Re: The importance of rituals...

I don't have any rituals to share, but just wanted to mention if you are planning on incorporating rituals and signals in your training to get your dog ready, make sure that you are familiar with the trial rules, because they often extend over to the surrounding area and the parking lot, not just the trial field.

For example, in trial, on the field, you cannot have any rewards on you, like a toy, or food, and only certain collars are allowed. So even getting your dog out of the car with a prong, for example, and then switching over to a fur saver before going on the field may be cause for disqualification. Or revving your dog up in the parking lot by teasing him with a ball might be seen as a breach of trial rules - so you want to use rituals that you can incorporate on trial day without having to use extra equipment or rewards.

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 06-26-2009, 04:06 PM
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Re: The importance of rituals...

Bernhard Flinks is big on rituals and teaching rituals in every phase to those that study from him. Some good tips I got from him, the hard part is keeping everything straight because I went into information over load.

But then again any body with an OCD personality is going to have rituals for almost everything?Not saying that I'm OCD of anything.

And the club I practice at we have rabbits every evening along with birds of pray hunting them Make for a very interesting practice time ( I will try to get a picture next week.

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