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Ring wise or ring sour? What is the dog doing?
Oh, nothing! I was just reading a trainer's blog who was talking about making sure your dog could do all of the obedience exercises without treats before entering them to prevent them from becoming ring wise (learning that the ring is no fun because it is rewarded less). I know someone who uses a prong collar to train for obedience and never takes it off except for shows. I was thinking that could also potentially create a ring wise dog.

Since I am working on training my own (conformation and obedience, agility eventually, and maybe even hunt tests) I thought it would be interesting to learn what other problems can create a ring wise dog so that I could prevent them. So, no problem currently!
 

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I believe dogs get ringwise because they do something that they would normally get corrected for in practice, but they learn that the correction doesn't happen in the ring, so they think it's okay to do it like that in the ring. Here's my ideas for preventing/fixing a ringwise dog:

1. Don't show a dog before it's ready. Make sure it's really solid on its skills.

2. Match, match, match. I go to as many matches as I can, even if it means traveling several hours.

3. Be willing to correct your dog in the ring, even if it means an NQ. That one bust can mean many successful runs in the future.


Example of how I used #3 just last weekend: Conner has been waiting in the ring until my sit signal goes all the way up to my head. He only does that in the ring, trial after trail, any other situation he will sit up as soon as my hand starts moving. Although this isn't scorable, I really don't like it, and told myself that the next time I showed if he was not sitting by the time my hand was at my waist, I would correct him for it. So when my hand got to my waist and he was still in a down, I told him firmly "No! Sit!" and he immediately sat. Kind of a bummer because he would have passed otherwise and there was ONLY ONE QUALIFIER in the class which would have meant automatic OTCH points for second. But the next day as soon as my hand started going up he popped into his sit. So it was totally worth it in my eyes.
 

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By the way, if you go look at the break down of the top obedience competitors scores when they NQ, you will likely find they NQ'd several exercises. Not because the dog had a horrible day and couldn't do any exercises, but because the handler immediately goes into training mode and starts doing things that could help future performances.

To me the worst way to NQ is on the last exercise. If you NQ early in your run you can at least get some training out of the run and it's not a total waste. In December we busted the very first exercise in utility, and by the time I got done the only thing we had passed was gloves! I found something in every other exercise to give a little extra verbal reminder. And even the judge complimented me on being smart enough to get some training in.
 

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One other thing I would add is to make sure not only that your dog is solid and ready before entering a show but also make sure you, as the handler, are ready as well.
My dog developed some very bad habits and multiple NQs in the ring because she was very sensitive to my nerves. This resulted in a bad experience for her because I was different. At matches and during training she was solid but the ring became a place where mom changed.
Ultimately we earned a CDX and are almost ready to show in utility. You better believe I won't enter the ring until I know my job as a handler without hesitation.
 

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. And even the judge complimented me on being smart enough to get some training in.
In our area, any hint of training in the ring, dependiing on the judge, will get you immediately excused. That would completely abort any additional exercises. There is no way a judge would compliment us for training our dogs in the ring. It is completely forbidden.
 

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You always take the risk of getting excused for training in the ring, but I'd rather get the training in and get excused than let the dog get away with it, because then it's just that much harder to fix later.

I really find that there's very few judges who will excuse you for a quick verbal reminder of what the dog is supposed to be doing. Stepping towards your dog, touching, or nagging your dog are different, but if my dog started eyeing the crowd on a finish, I gave the dog an additional finish command, and the judge excused me for that, I would likely not show under that judge again.
 

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I agree, some of the small stuff can be slipped in but it seems some have taken advantage and gone a bit too far so there have been some tightening up on everyone...at least that is my perspective.
I am relatively new to the obedience game but this past year there has been a lot of tension in the air regarding "stretching" the rules.
 

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That first point really is key and hard to convince new students to believe!

I've been told that one should be able to run through an exercise ten times in a row without errors. Any spot with less than desirable results show a weakness in the behavior chains and should immediately be taken out of the chain and perfected before returning to do the whole exercise.

The handler nerves and confidence comment is just fabulous too!
 

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In our area, any hint of training in the ring, dependiing on the judge, will get you immediately excused. That would completely abort any additional exercises. There is no way a judge would compliment us for training our dogs in the ring. It is completely forbidden.

Uhhhh --- yeah -- exactly.

IMO you can get away with giving double commands but any other sort of physical aide or verbal guidance will get you the boot. I've certainly "helped" with a 2nd command on signals and the judges do not mind, or motioning with fingers to get a straight front, but have seen LOTS of people excused for training in the ring ... for taking steps to get the dog to jump in directed jumping, cheerleading through articles, etc.

Two comments. Regarding the one of always training with a pinch collar except in the ring. To "sometimes" train with a pinch or whatever tool you use (whether it's a collar, food, etc) TEACHES a dog the difference!!!! If you train the dog properly and do not take him in the ring if he is still making mistakes or needing the tool consistently (food, whatever), you have a much better chance of the dog not getting ringwise because the tool is gone. This is exactly like training with an ecollar in the field. The dog wears the ecollar 100% of the time, in EVERY instance that you train, whether you plan to use it or not. It's better that the dog mess up and NOT get a correction while still wearing it than to be allowed the chance to mess up and not get a correction because he wasn't wearing the collar. If you train without the collar so the dog "gets used to it" -- all that teaches the dog is that nothing happens when that collar is off. Why teach him this before you step up to the line in a test???? DUH

That said it is very difficult to prevent obedience dogs from becoming ring wise...especially if it a dog that you want to get UDX legs & OTCH points. I think the current trend of TEACHING the dog how to act and play between exercises is a great way to prevent ring wise dogs. Touch, bounce, spin, etc -- all things you are allowed to do in the ring that keep attitude up.
 

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One other thing I would add is to make sure not only that your dog is solid and ready before entering a show but also make sure you, as the handler, are ready as well.....


You better believe I won't enter the ring until I know my job as a handler without hesitation.
Thank you for stating this. As a beginner I noticed not only with myself but with other beginners that the dogs that were so wonderful in class performed badly in the ring. I realized that Kirby was feeding off my nervousness and was probably wondering "what the heck is wrong with Mom" or even "who is this person". I think it's harder preparing myself then it is Kirby.
 

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I think it depends on your area. In this area anything that might even be misconstrued as training in the ring is likely to get your butt kicked out REAL quick.
A double command on ONE exercise you might get away with. Not a second one.
I'm sure they're more forgiving in Novice A, but we have to show in Utility B and they are not in the least bit understanding of anything that might even resemble training in the ring.


In our area, any hint of training in the ring, dependiing on the judge, will get you immediately excused. That would completely abort any additional exercises. There is no way a judge would compliment us for training our dogs in the ring. It is completely forbidden.
 
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Exactly what do you all do to get past the "handler nerves" thing? I am sure that I am the biggest reason that Casey is not the same in a trial as he is just about any other time! I try to relax, do visualizations in my head ahead of time, know the exercises cold and then get all tight when I compete. Not only must I look different to Casey, I often say the wrong thing, throw the dumbell wildly etc. (recently I told him to "front" instead of "fetch"---duh!) I am hoping that more experience will make all of this better--I am not a nervous individual in my real life!!
 

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do you ever get past them? I don't.
The only thing that helps is going to as many fun matches as possible and "pretending" you're in a real show situation.
But then I get to the show, and my insides still turn to liquid....


Exactly what do you all do to get past the "handler nerves" thing? I am sure that I am the biggest reason that Casey is not the same in a trial as he is just about any other time! I try to relax, do visualizations in my head ahead of time, know the exercises cold and then get all tight when I compete. Not only must I look different to Casey, I often say the wrong thing, throw the dumbell wildly etc. (recently I told him to "front" instead of "fetch"---duh!) I am hoping that more experience will make all of this better--I am not a nervous individual in my real life!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Exactly what do you all do to get past the "handler nerves" thing? I am sure that I am the biggest reason that Casey is not the same in a trial as he is just about any other time! I try to relax, do visualizations in my head ahead of time, know the exercises cold and then get all tight when I compete. Not only must I look different to Casey, I often say the wrong thing, throw the dumbell wildly etc. (recently I told him to "front" instead of "fetch"---duh!) I am hoping that more experience will make all of this better--I am not a nervous individual in my real life!!
What helps for me is to NOT think about it (at least not too much). Just do it. You've trained your dog, you're there, just do it.
 

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The only time I ever wasn't nervous at all was the time I was entered in a total of 7 runs between three dogs. I didn't have time to think about anything, just step out of the ring, switch out dogs, and run back to the ring. Other than that, Immodium is a staple in my show bag!
 

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do you ever get past them? I don't.
The only thing that helps is going to as many fun matches as possible and "pretending" you're in a real show situation.
But then I get to the show, and my insides still turn to liquid....

I have to concur, this is how I am still after all these years. And my dogs do pick up on it and going to a match shows is totally different to me. I can not finish my breakfast the morning of a show or trial - it happens to me in all venues. And I have friends who tell me they NEVER get nervous - I am not sure I stay friends with them! :doh:
 

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I'd still rather fix a problem and get kicked out than let it go. I think it depends on what your goals are. If you're just out to get the titles and move on, it's probably not a big deal. But if you're looking to show long term with top scores, you've sometimes got to break the cycle.

Julie Hill is my hero in that way (in addition to the fact that she has put OTCH points on a bloodhound and OTCHed greyhounds and pointers). She will never work for "just a q." If she sees something that she doesn't like in the ring and thinks she can do something to fix it, she will take the hit. Because she's not thinking today, she's thinking long-term.

One thing I've picked up from her is if your dog isn't giving 100% attention in heeling in the ring, is try really hard to lose the dog. Really whip around on the turns, and on the fast break into a sudden full-out sprint. While that won't actually NQ you (and I can't see how even the pickiest judges could excuse that), it can certainly hurt your score enough to kick you out of the placements. But I can promise that she had the dog's full attention back. Back when giving a second command to sit on go-outs was an NQ, she would still always give the second command for the dog to sit, because she wasn't about to allow that to become the dog's new habit (and when you get hit three points for a no sit already, it may as well be an NQ when you're looking for OTCH points). If she got excused from the ring, oh well, at least her dog didn't get away with a no sit.

My Q rate has actually gone up since I've started thinking that way - show to help future shows, not to do well today. It's when I start to think "oh but I'm qualifying so far..." that the major problems start slipping back in. I've actually started going in with a game plan...if Conner's been having a problem with a certain exercise in the ring that I can't fix outside the ring, I go in with a plan for how I will fix it. If he does it correctly on his own, then great, I don't need it, but I'm prepared to use it.
 

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Jodie I had the same thought for a little while when Fisher was doing very slow or non-existant drops on signals. He never had a signal problem and suddenly started going down slowly. I let that happen once then for several shows in a row, said "DOWN" if he was not dropping the second my arm moved. In practice he's down before my hand gets in the air. Yes it cost us several entry fees but the problem went away.
The only thing I have found that is counter to it is trying to speed a dog up in the ring. I.e. slow returns from articles, walking in on moving stand, etc. By verbally encouraging the dog (failing in the process) the dog actually takes it as praise for going slow --- and he gets slower and slower and sloooooooower in the ring.
 
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