writer, warrior, whack-a-doodle

Iron Dog!

Iron Dog!

June 14, 2010
Posted in: Dogs | Reading Time: 6 minutes

Loki received his FeD (Dogtorate of Iron) this weekend. Iron Dog is a certification at our school, The K-9 Clinic. From the day I found out about this certification almost 2 years ago, I've wanted to Loki to go for it. I was determined to bring out his better (working) qualities and work through his anxious, easily-stressed temperament.

It's been a mental, physical and emotional roller coaster ride getting here. We've had most of the required behaviors for this trial for about a year now, except one--the send the dog to the car. So in April, I signed up for the prep classes to clean up all the behaviors and learn the "send to the car."

We had our ups and downs during training and I remember at one point Loki went through a rough period and I threw a pity party for myself claiming we shouldn't even try.

"Hey mom, try not to slouch. You're making me look bad!"

Out of the 11 dogs who took the prep classes, 5 passed the certification, 3 did not and 3 did not attempt it. That in itself is a testament to the difficulty of the trial. On the other hand, just going through the training itself is a testament to how well-trained and excellent all the dogs have proven to be both on and off the field. Loki and I could have just as easily failed as we could have passed. In fact, there are a few behaviors where Loki's success rate is about 60%.

Out of the 4 dogs in this trial, 3 are considered "naughty" (including Loki).  The dog sitting right next to Loki in the above photo is considered not only highly dog-aggressive but people- aggressive to the point that dogs or people cannot get too close. Yet his handler is able to participate in this because this dog's obedience is so strong. During a prep class, Loki and this dog accidentally came nose-to-nose during a criss-cross recall exercise. It took one sniff and Loki knew he did not want a piece of him!

"Yo, mom! What's the hurry?"

Though the trial and certification doesn't mean anything in the dog trial world, I found it more fun but just as stressful. Unlike most trials, we were allowed to use rewards at the end of exercises. But on the other hand, unlike most trials, there are at least 4 dogs on the field trialing along with us which makes it difficult. Using rewards for completed and correct exercises relieved the stress I felt about Loki losing focus on me and being too focused on and stressed about dogs working alongside him.

"Mom, this isn't safe for a lady like you! I will rescue you!"

So what are the behaviors for an Iron Dog? Beside all off-leash heeling exercises with turns, sits and downs, the dog is also required to do distance work such as a recall with a down or sit halfway to me, one in which there is the distraction of other dogs running toward them as well.  Also included are two "down-stay" exercises, one where the dog is required to stay in a down while you are out of his sight for 3 minutes.  Off-leash agility, recall out of "play" and a "send the dog to the car" are also some other required behaviors.  The car exercise and "hand signal/no verbal cues" distance exercises were our biggest challenge.

One day I told Mr. Wild Dingo who was watching us train and fail repeatedly at the car exercise: "See him screw up? We are so not going to pass Iron Dog because of him!"  Ya. I was blaming the dog. And I'm proud of it.

"I'm getting in the car!"
Just like his mom, Loki's yapper never stops. Not even when he's running.

"I sure hope the keys are in it. The beach is only 10 minutes away."

Below is a video of the distance exercises. The entire trial was about an hour long. That's an hour of having the dog perform perfectly. The video below is 10 minutes for those who are as weird as I am about watching dogs work. I highlighted only the distance exercise and agility.

Our weakest exercise is now our strongest: send the dog to the car.  We had to not only send the dog to the car from 30 feet away but call the dog out of the car and send him back in. For some reason, the second part, which is the more impressive of the two parts, wasn't captured on video, so I filmed it at home. You can see it here.

Update:The commands I give to Loki are in German. I use German because my first language is English, therefor when I give him a command, I only want to give him one word with no modifiers. In English or in your first language, it's too easy to modify your words, such as "down" to "lay down" or "get down."   Using a different language makes it easier on the handler and the dog: one word=one meaning. The car command is "gein auto" which translates "get in the car."

Also you'll note you don't hear me call him during his off leash recall to down or sit half way. This is because I have a "soft" recall for him. He's a super fast dog and if I use his "hard" recall, he'll go so fast that he won't shut down. You'll note that I walk further than most because he can be too fast. In my and Loki's circumstances, being further away works to our advantage than being closer.

Words can't express how proud I am of  Loki. He completed a nearly perfect trial.   We screwed up one section and needed a re-do because of my inability to follow instructions. But Loki didn't screw up once. At the end, he knew he accomplished something. You could see it when he jumped with joy. One trainer recently commented, "He's a lot of dog."  He was right. He's an Iron Dog!

 Loki J. Starling, ABC, FeD
Iron Dog!


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25 comments on “Iron Dog!”

  1. Aww! Good job Loki!
    what is the verbal command you're giving him to get in the car? It didnt sound like "get in the car" it sounded like "skedattle". hehehe.
    That is quite impressive work!
    When you called him out and sent him back in he looked like... "what the hell mom, I just got out of there".

  2. Loki, you're amazing! I am always impressed when I see him work. The dogs in Switzerland are not going to know what hit them!

    I'm curious about one thing. Why do you leave the leash on during part of the exercises versus just taking it off and hooking it on when he comes to you?

    My girls would be pros at "get in the car". The other stuff, not so much! Bunny and Blue love recalls, stopping in the middle of them, not so much. lol

  3. This is posted by Lokis US foster mom. Loki came to us as Bobby and quickly got dubbed Billy because we said it so much it and it is friendlier. He will always be Billy to me...

    Billy Boy, YOU DID IT! I am so proud of you. Well, I'm proud of your mom too. You two are a fabulous team and I expect many more feats of daring, courage and bisquits in the future.

    Congratulations on seeing the potential in each other, working through the tough times (Billy No Bite) and coming together as true working partners.

    Congrats from all of Billys old friends.

    PSST Hey Lady Wanna Train some more dogs?? I got a...

  4. Wooos Loki! Amazing job woo did there training woo Mom like that. I am very Impressed!
    ~husky kisses~
    -Kira The BeaWootiful

  5. Thanks so much for posting the movie. Of course I can read your words forever but nothing captures the magnitude of your achievement like a live action video.

    Amazing! That was so hard! Every exercise and Loki was fantastic. The get in the car! Wow! I loved the spontaneous over the tube jump just because he looked so beautiful when he came flying over.

    I liked the little grab me leash that Loki wore during exercises. Makes it easier to pick him up. The idea of German commands is super! Too bad it's too late to retrain my wee brain, but I might work on it since I do tend to use too many words.

    Congratulations just don't say it.

    Mango Momma

  6. So, do woo get to sing 'I am Iron Dog'


    Herzliche Glückwünsche!

    Khyra Who Will NevFUR Even Khome Khlose!

  7. We are so proud of you, Loki! We're reading this on Mom's work computer so we'll have to watch the movie later at home, but just the description and pictures tell us that you were awesome! You put in a lot of hard work training your mom and we know how dumb moms can be, since we have one of our own. Way to go!! You are so AWESOME!!

    Steve and Kat

  8. WOW, Loki, how impressive!
    I expect you'll be the one actually FLYING that plane to Switzerland.
    I could never even think of getting close to your greatness; (then again the only Iron BT I ever heard of was a door-stopper...) however this week-end the Maman and I will be participating in the attempt to break the canadian largest simultaneous sit-n-stay record. Small potato compared to your achievements of course, O Master, but I hope not to hear the Maman's latest training endearment, which goes something like: "darn you, you little black b*st*rd". Somewhat confusing, really, since, technically I am black and white, but I could swear she even has a hand-signal for it!

    PeeS: Where was Juno during your hour of glory; home and perming up her jodhpurs?

  9. Thanks for commenting on Jackal's blog. Someone else mentioned I should probably condense my blogs into one and I've been seriously considering it. I think it would definitely simplify things. I'm just hesitant to do so because I'm worried I might lose individual followers who might not be interested in other aspects of my blogging. I might give it a shot though. I think it would really help. Thanks again for your sweet comment. Hope you feel better and I hope your moving plans are going smoothly. 🙂

  10. hello loki its dennis the vizsla dog hay wow that is sum impressiv stuf!!! sitting down for so long??? gitting sent to the car and coming bak and gitting sent to the car agin??? gitting stoppd partway bak to joyous reeyoonyun with mama?!?!?! inkonseevabul!!! but yoo did it!!! kongratchoolayshuns!!! ok bye

  11. hello loki its dennis the vizsla dog hay wow that is sum impressiv stuf!!! sitting down for so long??? gitting sent to the car and coming bak and gitting sent to the car agin??? gitting stoppd partway bak to joyous reeyoonyun with mama?!?!?! inkonseevabul!!! but yoo did it!!! kongratchoolayshuns!!! ok bye

  12. That is a huge accomplishment. Congrats to you and Loki. Such hard work and it paid off in the end for you both. Keep up the GREAT work

  13. Way to go Loki!! I don't think any of us that the stamina to do what you do! Heck, I'm tired after just running out the doggie door to the patio!


  14. big Big BIG congratulations! Been following your blog for a while now, and its obvious Loki IS a LOT of dog! Your commitment to training him is commendable, you deserve to be proud of your Iron Dog!

    jack a-roo & miss moo's mom

  15. Gosh - am so embarrassed that it's taken us so long to come and offer congratulations!! Sorry - getting really behind with visiting blogs - and I don't like to just skim through and leave some trivial comment so when I saw that there was a decent video to watch on this, I thought I'd save it for when I had proper time to appreciate it!

    Anyway - CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! That was just amazing, fantastic, awesome - and no wonder you're so proud of him (and yourself!!) It was a wonderful achievement - so impressive! I know how hard you have worked at this - so it's so wonderful to see how it all came together! Yes, I agree - that "get into the car" - exercise is super impressive - I'm so glad you did a renactment at home coz it was amazing to watch Loki turn around and get back in when you told him, after you'd called him (although you could see his thought process going "WTF? What is with these crazy humans? Make up your mind!" - hee! hee!) I must try that with Honey - ought to be a laugh since it takes her half an hour to get in the car with us just standing next to it!! I wonder - does anyone do it with the dog hopping into the back (eg. in a station wagon) as opposed to the back seat? Coz that's what takes so long for Honey - she takes ages to gather herself to jump in...but since that's where she normally rides, I wouldn't want to teach her to get into the back seat! 🙂

    Anyway, congrats again - you must still be on a high! Woohooo! I wish you took video of EVERYTHING in the test so I could watch it ALL! 🙂


  16. hi julie,
    that was cool watching,it was nice meeting you guys today-officially.i couldnt have helped out a cooler team of walkers. i hope we keep in touch.

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