Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Criteria: A standard, rule or test on which a judgement or decision can be based.

I have been thinking about criteria and dogs. I think maintaining criteria is PARAMOUNT.

BUT...KNOWING what your criteria IS is just as important. In agility, in herding, in whatever. I have lots of criteria for my dogs..and I stick to them as much as I possibly can ;-)

For example...

This is my criteria for the dogs when I am blogging on the computer! I don't want balls thrown in my lap, or dogs jumping on my head, or chaos. I want calm, quiet dogs. Notice the terrier is also following suit.

When we got Crackers...People told me, "Terriers are DIFFERENT!!!"...to the point I was worried. I had never owned a terrier before, and Crackers is from HUNTING lines...so I thought, HOLY SH*T...what am I getting myself into!?!?

Well...in reality...terriers are not. They are just like other dogs, they do what is rewarding, and don't do what is not. They need a SOLID UNDER ANY DISTRACTION recall (as all my dogs do!) and need to understand that certain behaviors will not be tolerated. I think that goes for every dog.

So...now that Crackers is a great little dude, and he and the husband are on the World Team...I get the "He is an EXCEPTIONAL TERRIER"..."THERE'S NOT ANOTHER LIKE HIM!
While I do believe there is not another Crackers out there, I really DO.
I also believe that the way he was raised, the rules, the rewards, the criteria he was raised by, made him the dog he is today. He can call off a rabbit, because we didn't just say "terriers cannot call off rabbits"...we said "we NEED him to call off rabbits so he doesn't get hit on the road!".

Things I was told about Jack Russell Terriers:

You cannot call them off rabbits or small vermin
Do NOT let them off leash in fields as they will run away
A SOLID recall on a JRT? PLEASE...
They will attack and cause fights with your other dogs
They will mark in your house and you can't hardly potty train them
They will kill cats, or other small pets

So, we got Crackers...and while he had "tendencies" towards some of these things, we just didn't let it happen. Using training and setting firm criteria, we accomplished, potty training, solid recalls, no killing of small animals (in fact LOVE of small animals! He did TRY to attack Vittles in the very beginning), no fights with other dogs etc.

No different than the horror stories I had about Border Collies:

They are neurotic
They will put toys in your face all day long
They never sleep
You cannot call them off motion
Very motion sensitive, hard to get attention if they are focused
Will eat your house
If you don't walk them 34 miles a day and play games with them CONSTANTLY they will burn your house down, kill your children, and gamble all your 401K on the stock market

Ok...maybe the LAST one wasn't totally true...but you get the idea.
Criteria...what do you WANT your dog to act like? I have 7 dogs, I don't want constant chaos, toys flying everywhere, neurotic shadow chasing, cat killing, dogs...so I trained them to not be that way.

Just the same way as I encourage certain behaviors for the purpose of agility, or herding, or whatever. Barking...for example. I don't like my dogs barking in the house. Again...7 dogs, all barking. Loretta would want to go on a killing spree. Barking IN AGILITY however...is fine. It builds drive for many dogs, gets them out of thinking mode and charges them up. I teach my dogs barking in agility is FINE...with one criteria that must be met--YOU MUST LISTEN TO WHAT I AM SAYING AND DO YOUR JOB. Aka your noggin' cannot explode and throw bloody bits of brain all over the arena...it's messy.

But, barking I encourage...I do. Now...when I am running another dog and my dogs are all going APESH*T in their crates because they wanna run with me. I can't bitch too much about it. I fostered it, I wanted it...so that is the bed I must lay in. I'm OK with it :-) MOST of the time!

For example--the video below...Lynn likes to bark, I encourage it as you can see. Gets her SUPER HIGH and HAPPY!!!!!

So then there is agility criteria...which usually has to be VERY tight in regards to the shades of grey I am willing to accept. Criteria that I can think of, right off the top of my head are:
  • Start line stay--HOLD IT
  • 2 on 2 off---you must go into it, and I will tell you to wait if I need you to wait, otherwise, because I am a SUCKA I tend to quick release, Loretta loves running agility too!! I know this is a weakness..so I loosened my criteria to fit what I will do in the ring! Easy peasy lemon squeasy.
  • If I ask for collection---YOU WILL COLLECT. That means rounding of the back, chipping in a stride, and I want you landing within a specific distance from the jump. DO NOT HIT OR TOUCH ME.
  • Weave poles and jumps are your responsibility--that includes entries and exits, staying in, keeping bars up (with lots of education on my part)
  • Table is one behavior, get on it, and lay down and stay there until I release you
  • Go on means run as fast as you can and take whatever is in your way.
  • Jump means take this jump NO MATTER WHAT I am doing, you will need to collect as I am going somewhere else and chances are it's because of a turn
  • No biting :)
  • Keep your head on course
Criteria I have for MYSELF on the course:

  • Cure collection and extension EARLY
  • RUN RUN RUN RUN!!!!!
  • Hold your dogs to their criteria
  • If you mess up, do not let your dog know something happened
  • Don't take agility to seriously
I have added some more criteria to Lynn specifically for her running dog walk. As you can see from the video below, this is an example of some of her criteria. No matter WHERE I am, she needs to complete her dog walk. She needs to run through the end, THEN if a turn is needed she can turn. But she must, no matter WHAT I am doing and WHERE I am, complete her dog walk correctly.

The criteria has been set, and trained and rewarded when correct. She understands what is asked of her and performs it perfectly AND confidently with speed. Lynn is a thinking dog, so this requires me to be very clear with criteria. It has made me a much better trainer.

Lynn has also been taught that if I say GO-(insert obstacle name) she is to ignore ALL OF MY MOTION OR LACK THEREOF and DRIVE TO THE OBSTACLE I NAMED. SO I can peel off and do other things if needed.

Criteria I have for my dogs in herding:

You will not take yourself to stock, only when I tell you to.
You will control yourself around stock, I will not put you on leash (when they are puppies of course that isn't the case!!!!)
When I call you off sheep, you will come off
Lie down requires your belly on the ground--lie just means stand--and don't take a step into the sheep until I ask you to walk up

Of course with herding, as the sheep change or move, all this crap could go out the window ;-) Mainly the lie down, you might say lie down, the dog stops to drop and then the sheep shift, and you have to give a come bye flank...that is where the grey area is...BUT...if I give a lie down, I expect the dogs intentions are to do so. I learned from KK how important that is.

Criteria equals understanding...in life, in agility, in herding. Lack of criteria equals confusion.

Are you clear in your criteria? Are there certain criteria you didn't think through when you taught something to your dog? Do you have a hard time determining criteria for a behavior?


An English Shepherd said...

Agree about Terriers, they are as you/they make them :-) Our Terrier Chip does not behave how we thought Terriers were meant to...

Kelpie and Collie said...

Excellent post :)

vici whisner said...

Thanks for your post. I've been considering a Jack for my next dog (4 shelties now). I'm on again off again as everyone tells me all the horror stories. Your post gives me hope. I'm on again!