Archive for June, 2011

2 minute dog trainer – agility volunteers

June 27, 2011

Agility bloggers have been asked to speak out on the topic of volunteers and volunteerism.

My focus, as a 2-minute dog trainer, and administrator for Teacup Dogs Agility Association (TDAA), is on the little actions that can result in big benefits.

I’d like to draw attention to the unsung heroes of the agility world, the agility trial committee.

The agility trial committee is responsible for everything from publicizing the trial to cleaning the bathrooms, and are often seen in the background at trials.

Trial committee members attend countless meetings, spent hours of their own time preparing for the trial, and devote themselves completely to their club on the weekend of the trial — often diminishing their own dogs’ agility trial experience.

I make a point of noticing the efforts of the trial committee, especially when it comes to the cleanliness of the trial site and the comfort level of trial exhibitors and workers.  I notice because Bud and I don’t have a trial committee and we have to do it all ourselves.

When you attempt to do everything yourself, or be all things to all people, you realize the importance of having a committee of like-minded, cooperative, and hard-working individuals.

There are many ways exhibitors and guests can assist the trial committee volunteers with their work.

As the “2 minute dog trainer” I’d like to focus on those that take just a couple of minutes.

1) read your confirmation and observe rules regarding parking, pottying your dogs, and crating …. if you bend the rules a committee member has to note that and (perhaps) do something about it.

2) notice the status of toilet paper in the restroom, or bottled water available to judges/scribes/timekeepers, and offer to replace and refill supplies.

3) as you learned in kindergarten, say “thank you” when services are rendered to you, whether it’s the trial secretary setting out course maps, the awards table volunteer hanging ribbons, or the hospitality volunteer cleaning up after lunch … knowing their work is appreciated is often the only compensation coming to the trial committee.

If exhibitors become more aware, engaged, and attentive, we can enhance the trial experience for the trial committee.

If the trial experience is enhanced for the trial committee they’ll offer more opportunities to show our dogs.

2-minute dog trainer – establishing and reaching goals

June 19, 2011

I’ve been recording Tempest’s runs. I’ve recorded 5 of them.

On the first day I established a few goals for the rest of our lives. <g>

Triggering Event — second and third run of the day, novice Fast and novice standard, Tempest did a “fly-by” on the dogwalk once, and the teeter twice.

Goal — put pressure on his path on the approach to the dogwalk and teeter, point directly at it, say my verbal cue clearly and loudly.

Achievement — Tempest’s standard run today started  1)tunnel,  2) dogwalk.  I pushed into his path, pointed at the dogwalk, and put authority in my verbal cue. He shot straight up the dogwalk without hesitation.  He also went ahead of me to the teeter, though he lost his 2-on-2-off at the last second.

Triggering Event — Tempest had a good start-line stay and a good down/stay on the pause table, and I want that to continue.

Goal — continue asking for and rewarding calm obedience-for-agility. Put a pause table protocol into our meal-time schedule.

Achievement — Tempest held his start-line stays today, but got to the table ahead of me and — in his excitement and stimulation, refused to lie down.  The judge finished counting, said “go!” and still I waited for my down.  Didn’t get it. Turned and walked away from him. Called him over the last 2 jumps and left the ring. This MUST become a major training objective for Tempest. His excitement cannot override a down command.

So many lovely things happened today that I cannot dwell on the pause-table-down for long.

We had a JWW course that began with 3 jumps in a straight line followed by 6 weaves — all lined up nicely along a side of the ring.

YIKES!  I consulted with Bud — “should I lead out to the weaves and let him manage the jumps on his own while I focus on the weave entry?  Or just plan on having to restart the weaves?”  Bud said, “take a small lead-out and then tell him to WEAVE!

I led out past jump 2, released Tempest, he dropped bar 2 so GAME ON!  I shouted Weave! and he nailed those suckers.  I then sent him into a big pinwheel where I really wanted him to manage the pinwheel while I set up for a landing side cross.  When I realized no Q was in the offing, I threw caution to the wind and drove in for the cross. It wasn’t pretty, but we managed to switch sides.

In standard he was running beautifully until I tried to draw him in before the weaves. My “close” cue was ill-timed, way early, and forced him to drop bars on the double before the weavepoles. So much about the run felt smooth and connected that the off-courses and dropped bars didn’t phase me.

We’re on this fabulous journey, and all I can hope is that Tempest stays healthy and happy, and that we continue enjoying this great sport.

2-minute dog trainer — OMG what a blast we had today

June 18, 2011

I felt like singing “I’m baaaaaaack!”

Running Tempest today felt a lot like the old days of running Banner (as in, a dog who was thoroughly enjoying herself and was willing to play the game) EXCEPT for the fact that I know a heck of a lot more about agility now than I did in 1997, and my dog is a lot better trained than Banner ever was.

We started our debut with getting Tempest measured. He stood beautifully for Ron McClellan to measure him, and came in at 20.5″ — just as I’d hoped. A full inch shorter than Banner and Dash, and a great size for my agility dog.

Our first class was Novice Jumpers with Weaves, where Tempest held while I took a modest lead out, then slipped on his approach to jumps one and two. This was a matter of him figuring out the footing, a nice cushiony agility mat — softer than what he’s used to.

He kept the bars up but by-passed jump 4 — I brought him back and he jumped 4 and went off-course to a jump 15 feet ahead.  He had NQd, so now I could relax and take my time with the rest of the course.  He did some seriously advanced agility through the rest of the course. His weaves took 3 starts, but he settled down and finished them.

Next was Novice Fast.  Tempest held while he allowed me a 30-foot lead out, nailed all his contacts with a 2-on-2-off, and did a beautiful 6-pole set of weaves once he was aimed properly (in other words, he’s not seeking out weave entries yet — note to self, work on weave entries).

Most importantly, he allowed me to cross on the landing side of two a-frame performances!  There was a dropped bar somewhere in there, and a simple “tunnel-jump” distance challenge with which he had no issues. He Q’d and took second place in his class. His first Q — in any organization — ever !!!

Last class of the day was Novice Standard. He allowed me a 20-foot lead out, but I took my eyes off him.  He was placed about 8 feet off the first jump and dropped the bar. I’ve watched the video and it appears I need to put him either ONE or TWO strides from the first jump — and 8 feet is about 1.5 strides.

Dropping the bar caused him to (a little anxiously) come in to me instead of taking the dogwalk, earning a refusal. Then we circled around, he rushed across the dogwalk and hit his contact while I was still running ahead. He had a refusal on the teeter but agreed to do it second time around. We went to the pause table where he assumed his down position and allowed me to walk away.

I precued the left turn after the chute, and he came out facing the way I’d hoped — then on to the broad jump and the rest of the course. I remembered to slow him slightly on the weave approach, and he nailed the remainder of the course.

For the day — Novice Jumpers NQ, Novice Fast Q and 2nd place, Novice Standard NQ.

I’m beyond delighted. He was excited about the agility ring, poking his head in the ring gates at every opportunity. “Send me in, coach!”  Never gave up, never surrendered, never sniffed, never worried about the environment, just shear joy and boldness.

Oh, yeah, Kory had a good day — Open Jumpers NQ (dropped bar), Novice Fast Q and 1st place, Open Standard Q and 1st place.

It was exhilarating to be back out in the agility world again.  We saw our dear friend Erica Behnke (her Brittany, Toby, ran right before T each time), Leta with her new Boxer, Zeus, and Yvette, Ellen, and a bunch of folks who — strangly enough — have aged about 5 years since I saw them last. Hmmm …. strange …. of course, some of them didn’t recognize me either. <g>

My Mom is home house-and-dog-and-kitten-sitting.  I picked up a shelter kitten 2 weeks ago (late May) which I named Splash, Kory’s litter name. She’s black and white with a blaze and collar.  To keep her company, I found a wild little tortoiseshell at the Parkersburg shelter last week while doing demos for their kids’ camp.  Both girls are abour 12 weeks old, and are Siamese mixes, according to cat people. I’m hoping that translates into “dog-like.” LOL

I’ve spent 2 weeks “taming” Splash and she’s absolutely delightful.

Bud named the new torti girl — said she looked like an owl — so she’s Hooty. I love that name. We started taming her on Thursday and she’s already choosing my lap to the floor.

So Splash and Hooty have joined our tiny clan. They’ll police the house and keep the rodent population down while we’re away.

Splash is in training to be a killer. She appears to like things that fly rather than things that crawl and squeal.  Hooty wants to kill anything that moves, including bugs and specks of food on the floor.

Both girls are being taught about proper use of claws (un-retracted claws = quick trip to the crate), are litter trained (they prefer clay to feline pine), and are becoming incredibly loveable.  The dogs, originally fascinated with cats, are now bored with them.

The girls are going to be good friends once the hissing stops.  There’s a metaphor for agility trials somewhere in there. <g>

2-minute dog trainer – today’s the day we debut!

June 17, 2011

I’ve been working towards this day since March 10, 2010. With as focus as I can manage at my age, we’ve planned and trained and hoped and dreamed.

All I want is for Tempest to be smiling at the end of the run, and for some of the agility equipment to be left standing. <g>

I’ll post updates here and on facebook. The schedule in Cincinnati has us arriving at the trial site early afternoon, so I’ll have time Saturday morning for updates on Friday afternoon’s trainwreck / bliss.

It is so marvelous to have an agility dog again. Bud’s let me run Hazard in teacup trials, but I haven’t had a standard agility run with one of my dogs since 2007.

And, in 2007, Dash was dealing with fear issues (as always) regarding the start line “go” box, so there were no Qs, very little bliss, just a lot of calming.

More later!  (For anyone new to reading my on-line journal of 2-minute-dog-training for dog agility, Tempest has been trained since he was 8 weeks old, 2-3 times a day, for just a few minutes. He only started doing sequencing, and group classes, at 12 months. For the last 3 months he’s been doing class at our place and at another club’s site, to experience different equipment and environments. He’s a very good boy and I love him dearly.)

2 minute dog trainer – Tempest coming of age

June 2, 2011

We have two more weeks before Tempest’s AKC agility debut, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how he’s progressing.

I’m also pleased with myself on several counts (sounds weird, but bear with me).

First, I created the 2-minute dog trainer for basic obedience — four (4) modules including a) attention to name and recall, b) greeting a friendly stranger, c) walking on a loose leash, and d) calming behaviors, grooming, overall house manners.

Second, I created the 2-minute dog trainer for local shelters — seven (7) modules including a) choosing the right shelter dog, b) teaching new name and recall, c) housetraining, d) managing destructive behavior, e) greeting friendly strangers, f) walking on a leash, and g) calming behaviors for your home.

Third, and building on the previous two packages, I wrote the 2-minute dog trainer for Sport Foundation training, including  a) come to front,  b) stay in sit or down,  c) stay in stand,  d) standard or wing jump performance,  e) tire jump performance,  f) weavepole entries,  g) unambiguous contacts,  h) heel position training.

All the time I was sharing these protocols with campers, writing and publishing as electronic documents on our website, I personally had no dog on which to practice them.

Fourth, I focused all my attention, and brought 14 years of opinion, on purchasing the right pup on which I would practice these 2-minute dog training protocols.

Fifth and finally, I continued with the 2-minute Sport Foundation protocols during Tempest’s puppyhood, during my 4-month stint as a slave in the kitchen of the local hospital (seemed like much longer, but that’s because I was in a state of constant physical pain and psychological torture <g>), during a long winter where we took on tons of new TDAA work, and into his competition preparation.

Near Tempest’s 1-year birthday I added 2-a-day training sessions to the 2-minute protocols. These additional training sessions involved weaving and sequencing, and each lasted no more than 15 minutes.

At the same time we joined an intermediate class at another location, giving Tempest experience on other equipment.

Now, at age 14-1/2 months, Tempest is well ahead of many other pups his age in terms of performance skills, especially 2-on-2-off contacts, start-line stays, and weave entries.

He’s also WAY better behaved on basic obedience skills than most dogs we encounter, either here at home or out in the world.

And I’m very careful to not over-stress his young body, while keeping his active mind occupied. Though he’s advanced in skills for a pup his age, he never experiences intense or extended training sessions.

All training is done in 2-5-minute play sessions. If the temps or humidity makes training stressful or uncomfortable, training is discontinued. I never insist on multiple repetitions.

Three months ago we began focusing on jumping and sequencing, and Tempest started learning how to weave.

Two months ago jumps became job one, with weave entries job two.

One month ago jump bars began moving up from 12″ to 16″ to an occasional 20″ jump.

With our debut in just over 2 weeks we’re now focusing on control and close work.

After several weeks of playing with toys and tugging to reward him for sequences, contacts, weaves, etc.,  I’ve switched back to string cheese and have increased his reinforcement schedule.

Last night in class he dropped just 2 bars the whole hour, though many of the jumps were approached from odd angles. This is a huge improvement over his previous tendancy to blast through the jump bars instead of going over them.

He hit and held 95% of his contacts (he popped off the teeter twice).

More importantly, he followed my movement and stayed on course most of the time. He took a couple of tunnels without being asked, but we weren’t working at the time so they were purely “time killers.”

Instead of being nervous about his debut I’m excited and looking forward to a good laugh with him.

Months ago, when I was considering my next agility dog, and before I had Tempest, I just wanted a dog who was brave and willing.

Now I have that brave and willing partner, and he has mad skills, and I credit the 2-minute dog training protocols (and my persistence and consistency) with the working relationship we’re building.