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AWMA Team members make the News !

Postby AronSchH3 » Fri May 14, 2010 2:40 pm

2 Chandler dog trainers heading to world championships

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Dré Hastings and Shawn Thompson speak dog.
Their ability to communicate with the canine world will be put to the test May 19-23 when they travel to Cottbus, Germany, to compete in the FMBB World Championships of Schutzhund. Schutzhund is a three-tiered competition in which dogs and their trainers demonstrate proficiency in obedience, tracking and protection.

Hastings, Thompson and their dogs will be among six teams from the United States competing against groups representing 29 other countries. They're not competing for fame (the sport is not well known in the U.S.) or prize money (there is none) but for pride and to demonstrate their ability to work with dogs. The two Chandler residents team up to run Best In Show Kennels, a dog-training and boarding service.

"If you look at the (competition) video you can see my dog's pretty obedient," Hastings said. "But he's just like any other dog at home. It's just that when we're competing, I ask a lot of him. We go to work and then work is over. But I explain to people, if I can get that much clarity with my dog for this, imagine what I can get with your pet."

Watching Hastings and Thompson prepare for competition with their Belgian Malinois dogs, the level of focus is striking. The dogs walk in lockstep with the trainers in certain portions of the competition and seem to await permission to do anything. They can be in the midst of chasing or holding the "subject" in the protection portion of competition but stop what they're doing instantly when given the command.

But as soon as the dogs are released from the rigors of training, they become playful pets.

Hastings' 70-pound dog Kaden likes to jump into his arms for a hug. Thompson is comfortable with his dog Cevin being around his wife and three kids.
The key to training dogs, they say, is clarity.

Many people when training dogs rely on body language and other non-verbal cues while thinking the dog understands what is being said. To demonstrate this, Thompson said he will sometimes instruct people who think they have taught their dog to respond to the command to sit, to give that command with their back turned to the dog.

"The dog just stands there," Thompson said. "The dog is relying on body language. He doesn't speak English."

That's why they say dog owners have to learn to "speak dog."

"When you talk to a dog, what they hear is blah, blah, blah and then people get mad because the dog doesn't do what they want," Hasting said. "But the dog is just doing what dogs do. It doesn't know the rules of the two-legged society. How does it know what anything means unless you teach it in a way it understands?"

Years of experience (between the two of them they have been training dogs for close to 30 years) have taught Hastings and Thompson to read dogs' behavior. That has allowed them to understand whether or not the dog is learning what it's being taught. Through experience they've learned it's most important that people are giving the dogs clear instructions.

Their experience in competition has helped them learn those lessons.

"We compete at the world level and we have to fine tune and pay attention to every detail in order to compete at that level," Hastings said. "We take those same things and apply them in our pet training business."

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