Marsha Houston’s Blog – 2-min. dog trainer – prepping Haymitch

Most of my 2-minute training protocols were created with adolescent or mature dogs in mind, because I developed this program when we had older rescued dogs and my classes were filled with adolescent, untrained, pups.

In the last couple of years my blog has focused on using those protocols to develop an eight-week-old puppy into an agility or rally partner.

Phoenix, at 7-1/2 months, does his 2-on-2-off contacts for breakfast and dinner. We have jumps set up in the yard and he’s also doing “go on” and “jump” for meals. I’ve begun asking for some responses to common handling at mealtime as well (front crosses with simple rotation, some back crosses) but I feel no need to rush him into more complex sequencing or obstacle performance.

Ever few days I play with him in the 2-by-2 weave poles. We don’t do a bunch of repetitions, but I want him to remember what “weave” means. By this coming winter I’ll begin emphasizing weave entries more, proofing contacts, and start putting together sequences.

On the other hand, Haymitch landed in my lap ready for action. He’s 18-24 months old, athletic, greedy for food, greedy for toys, and bright as can be. I have no idea what his past was (don’t really care) but he hasn’t shown any fear issues. He doesn’t lack confidence on equipment, with other dogs, with people, etc. The perfect rescue dog. (Thanks, Multiple Breed Rescue and Margaret Hendershot — you picked a great one for me !!!)

We got Haymitch in June — that month was his settling-in month. His mealtime activities included sitting for his food bowl and keeping his nose out of other dogs’ bowls.  Also in June he was introduced to jumps, the dogwalk, the teeter, and some minor sequencing.

I’ve also worked with him at his recall. Immediately following the June 29 derecho Haymitch found a hole in the dog yard and went on a minor “run-about.” So many trees were down there was no traffic on the highway in front of our house, and he focused his worried dashing about to the neighbor’s freshly-cut hay field, so I left the gate open, left hot dogs on the porch, and went about repairing storm damage. Fifteen minutes later he was standing on the front porch wanting in. I resolved to give more focus to his recall, though his response was due largely to the horrible storm he’d just survived, and the continuing rumbling afterwards. He didn’t so much run off as just “run.”

In July he’s had surgery to remove two worrisome rear dewclaws, and his stitches come out this week. Also in July he’s been introduced to the a-frame, the tire, tunnels, and chute.

These introductions to equipment have been the equivalent of one beginner agility session. Bud and I worked together yesterday on tire, chute, and tunnel, but it’s mostly been me casually going to the building with Haymitch for a little training.

But now training begins in earnest in preparation for late October’s TDAA Petit Prix events in Latrobe, PA, and Wichita Falls, TX.

Texas’ Kim Brewer thinks I should bring my little corgi/chi mix to Wichita Falls. I don’t know that he’ll be ready, but it should be an interesting trip for him (shopping list includes new sherpa bag), and it may mean that little Hazard, at age 8, stays home with our house-and-dog-sitter.

He may go to the Petit Prix as an ambassador versus competitor, but he’ll be entered in all the runs and he’ll be as trained as possible. We may skip every set of weaves, he may bail the teeter, he may not hit a contact all weekend — or he may do just fine.

The Latrobe, PA, trip is easier to confirm since it’s a driving trip. Of course he’ll go!  Again, we may skip every set of weaves, bail the teeter, miss our contacts — or do just fine.

This is all directly related to my investment of time and effort. His performance in PA and TX will be a direct reflection on my skill as a trainer, and his confidence level.

Job one is establishing our timeline. I want him to experience a couple of TDAA trials, to gauge his confidence level and his skill level. I want to know if he’ll stay in the ring with me, stay focused, in the presence of that level of distraction.

July 21-22 Medina Swarm — doubt if we can possibly be ready, but might be an interesting test of his confidence level, may go for one day

July 28-29 B&D Creekside — would be great to get him into the Petit Prix venue and Bud will be there for a judge’s clinic so it would be four full days in that environment — two days to adjust, two days to play on equipment

Aug 18-19 ARF — definitely will go, should be able to train weaves by then

Sept 8-9 Four Seasons — would be a great experience for Haymitch AND his ex-best-friend Margaret is the judge, so it’s a great training opportunity.

Sept. 29-30 B&D Creekside — probably our last opportunity to prep for the Petit Prix as Bud’s doing a bunch of seminars in early October.

Job two is assigning skills to the timeline.  In our classes we have great success with:  1) familiarize dogs with equipment and condition performance, 2) present obstacles with movement, 3) sequence familiar obstacles with those less familiar,  4) string together 3-4 obstacles.

In July I want Haymitch to see all the equipment and begin small sequences.

In August I want Haymitch to start weaving, and confidently performing the teeter.

In September I want to start putting it all together.

In October I want to let him have a great time at the PA and TX Petit Prix, and develop the teacup agility partnership I imagined when I asked Margaret to keep an eye out for my first teacup agility dog.

See you at the Petit Prix!

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