Obedience tips from the pros

Play with your dog for fun and sharper performances

Diane Carr of Elsmere, Kentucky, is one of the top handlers of obedience dogs in the Cincinnati Ohio area. Her Border Collies, frequently win high in trial awards and have participated in the country's premiere obedience competitions.

There's no doubt that Border Collies are intelligent and have the energy and desire necessary to perform well in the obedience ring. There's also no doubt that Carr has mastered techniques to keep them that way.

How does she do it? Well, since “precision obedience can be a bore,” she does it with games.

“Dogs love games,” she said. “The idea is for the dog to play with the owner, not by himself. The dog doesn't set the pace, the owner does.”

One of Carr's favorite games is hide and seek. She'll hide anything — dog toys, treats, herself. The game teaches the dogs to use their noses (helpful in utility competition) and to concentrate on the task at hand (helpful in all obedience exercises, herding, agility, etc.).

She starts by placing the toy in plain sight, then revving the dog up to get it and bring it back. She increases the distance, then begins hiding it partly under furniture between sofa pillows, and other easy to get at places. She teaches the dogs to sit with their backs to the field of play so they cannot see where she hides the toy. If they turn around or move too soon, she stops the game until they wait as instructed.

Carr also plays ball and Frisbee with her dogs, takes them hiking and swimming, and has a kid's pool and sand box for them in her back yard.

However, she cautions families considering a Border Collie as a pet. “Think long-term — it's not just a year's commitment, it's a 12-15 year commitment.” Border Collies are not the best pets, she said. They are high energy and must be kept occupied, and the average family cannot provide the necessary stimulation for them.

[More on manners & training]
Norma Bennett Woolf

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