SCHUTZHUND - Schutzhund Training
Little Bit Mondio Ring
Maybe we should be called the "Twisted Schutzhund Club". Like the old Donny & Marie phrase, "a little bit country/ a little bit rock and roll " (okay, I'm dating myself!), we are a little bit schutzhund and a little bit mondioring, thanks largely to the influence of Michael Ellis.
The seeds were actually planted prior to this. When I read stories by Ann Putengot regaling their various theme trials, it inspired me. At the same time we were experiencing Ivan Balabanov's "environmental games". Dogs biting under tarps, fireworks, running through bottle streamers and hula hoops. Take whatever debris you had laying around the house and yard and incorporate it into your training! We decide to hold a "fun match" with a Jimmy Buffet theme, for no other reason than one of our members is a "Parrothead" and had the CD's and leis. I think other area schutzhund clubs found it too weird, as we didn't generate any attendance outside our own club, even though you could also choose just to do the regular schutzhund routine. The Buffet items were for "bonus points". Heeling was done carrying a marguerita glass filled with blue liquid. The retrieve was for a floating dumbbell in a kiddie pool with other toys. For the recall, you had to don a mask and hula skirt. This one garnered some odd looks from the dogs, who recalled but couldn't figure out where exactly to go when they could not distinctly see a face! The sendaway was done between two large wooden cut-outs of dogs, appropriately wearing leis, as well. In protection work, we didn't get quite as imaginative. I think we were running out of ideas by that point of our development. The helper had a stuffed parrot on his arm which some of the dogs sniffed before settling into their bark and hold! Hula skirts were used to strike the dog and distract them, and handlers earned extra points for being appropriately dressed in Buffet wear. However, we did draw the line at reports of possible coconut shell bras!
Not long after that, we were introduced to Mike Ellis as a trainer and the most important thing we learned is to use our imagination in every day training, not just as a method of testing. By incorporating aspects of mondioring, I believe we have created better, more mentally stable dogs. One part of this is to take the training "off the field". Teach the dog that certain cues mean it is time to go to work, no matter whether it is in a new building, the "official" training field, or a piece of woods. In mondioring, the dogs have to retrieve whatever items are selected, not a dumbbell. So, in our training you might see parrot rings, McDonald's kid toys, or even hula hoops used as retrieve items. How many times have you seen someone throw a fit because an extra dumbbell or piece of litter is on the field? Instead of that attitude, the floor or ground at training is likely to be littered with things, including balls and toys, so that the dog learns to retrieve what is thrown, no matter what it is. And it is done by gentle verbal correction and encouragement.
Heeling quite often involves walking over or around whatever unique obstacles are present. Since the same concept applies to working in the "group" it also becomes helpful in the schutzhund routine. The dog learns that if he gives you more attention as he approaches odd things, he will be rewarded. Rather than be corrected for losing focus, and have a dog who is nervous or fearful about approaching groups of people or weird things, you shape the opposite. Initially, you reward before you get the first eye roll. Then closer…more…and ultimately you have a dog who loads when he sees that you are approaching something, because it means reward. Think of the application in schutzhund!
Another very important mondio piece we have adopted is the "positions". Prior to this, my dogs were taught the stand primarily as a "stay" position. In schutzhund, many points are lost by the dog moving forward on the stand and also scooting forward on the down in motion. The mondio style of teaching positions uses the fold-back down and the kick-back stand. Sound confusing? It simply means that the dog does not move forward to change positions. On the stand, the rear legs kick back instead of walking forward. On the down, the dog folds backwards instead of the legs-sliding-forward manner. So, the dogs are less likely to continue moving forward when they understand this.
In protection work, it can mean doing a bark and hold in a closet, with things falling off the shelves or jumping onto a child's play gym. We even combine agility at times, with directing the dog through tunnels and jumps and THEN to the bite. Most of all, it just involves not being so wrapped up in keeping the environment sterile and distraction free and using the world around you to enhance your training. It also keeps things fun and stimulating for the dogs. Good Lord, how dull it must get walking up and down that field! Much can be accomplished with balloons, duct tape and garbage bags.
We are not at Mondioring club--- at least, not yet! But we have seen how adopting some of the elements of mondioring can improve our dogs and at the very least, spice up the training. Deb Krsnich