Archive for September, 2012

Marsha Houston’s blog – getting Haymitch prepared for the 2012 Petit Prix

September 22, 2012

I wrote the following in mid-August as Haymitch and I were preparing for his very first trial, a TDAA trial in Gahanna, Ohio.  I’ve been meaning to update my blog for readers, but have been busy training my dogs. <g>

ON AUG. 12, 2012 I wrote:

The next 5 days will be devoted to a couple of advanced agility concepts, weaving and sequencing. And mental preparation …

Weaving —

I began attempting to teach Haymitch the 2×2 weave method. He didn’t get it at first, and didn’t get it at last. Dogs all learn differently, and he appears to be uninterested in offering to engage agility equipment unless I’m moving with him. With me standing still he offers non-equipment behaviors, like sit, down, jumping up, etc.  If I’m moving he offers to engage agility equipment.

I accept the dog I’m with, so I wired up a set of weaves and walked him back and forth a few times.  The wires, for such a little dog, provided no blockage to his efforts to jump over or duck under the wire. I put his leash on and he continued to easily duck under or jump over the wire. Hmmmmm ….

I moved to the 2×2 weaves, set them up in a slightly-akimbo line of 6 with the short TDAA weavepoles so I could get my hands in there easily, and began just luring him back and forth through the poles. I gradually allowed for a more independent performance. I gradually straightened the line of poles. Haymitch performed about 30 repetitions before he started to lose appetite.

By the 20th repetition he was starting to get the idea of what was required to earn the treat. I’ll repeat this training every day this week. When he starts actually weaving independently, I’ll open the weaves up again to build some speed and encourage that independence.

Sept.20, 2012, update … Haymitch is entering 6 weaves correctly about 90% of the time. I’m adding tougher entries and sending him to the weaves over a jump. He’s staying in the sets of 6 poles consistently. NEXT:  Adding weaves in flow, at speed, and increase to 10 poles.


Bud set the building for his private lesson with Pearl and her Tervuren (from Cincinnati). It was easy to come up with some sequences for Haymitch.

At first I did a number of straight runs over agility equipment. I lengthened those runs from 3 obstacles to 5-or-6 obstacles.

Next I put some “handler focus” bits in the middle of a straight line, asking Haymitch to pull off the obstacle in front of him to attend my lead. He missed cues the first couple of times, but quickly drew into the line I demonstrated.

As with agility obstacles, Haymitch showed he is fearless and intuitive. He goes into obstacle focus when my arm is outstretched, and comes into handler focus when my arm is dropped or I have my hand in “luring” shape.

Sept.20, 2012, update … Haymitch does nice sequencing with no distractions. At his first trial he wanted to visit the judge but always allowed me to call him back, and never ceased to work for me. NEXT: Adding longer sequences, putting 12 weaves in flow, asking him to do some distance work. New exercises will include the exploding pinwheel and “go on!.”

Mental preparation —

I just can’t be more impressed with this little guy’s natural ability. We adopted Haymitch about 2 months ago and didn’t really start serious agility training until late July.

I keep waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak, and for Haymitch to fail to respond to training or handling but it hasn’t happened yet.

Sept.20, 2012, update … I feel confident in Haymitch and my ability to form a team over the next few weeks (and years). He’s a willing worker and responds perfectly to the intuitive training we specialize in. NEXT: Work a little each day with Haymitch on sequencing, and a little with Hazard on speed and enthusiasm.

Marsha Houston’s blog – 2012-3 Winter Agility Workshops

September 8, 2012

2012-3 Fall/Winter Dog Agility Training at

Houston’s Country Dream

We’re reinstating a few workshop sessions so we can all stay active during the winter. These workshops are on Sunday afternoons from noon to 4pm.  Private lessons are available before workshop sessions, and during the weekMinimum registration SIX (6) handlers, so tell your friends and bring them with you!

______/______ November 25 (holiday recovery workshop)

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ January 13

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ January 20

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ January 27

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ February 3

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ February 17

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ February 24

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ March 3

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

______/______ March 17

dog 1      /      add’l dogs

_____/_____      TOTAL

   x $40     x $25 add’l dogs


Please mail your workshop fee (payable to Bud Houston) to:

Bud Houston, 14543 State Route 676, Waterford, OH 45786.

Marsha Houston’s Blog – 2min dog trainer – what makes a great coach or instructor

September 4, 2012

As a 2-minute dog trainer (most of my training takes place in mealtime sessions) I must be committed to providing a brief, intense training experience, whether I’m coaching my dog or my student. I believe a good instructor imparts useful information, but also shares a philosophical framework for that information.

My philosophy includes:

I believe I’m the emotional leader for my dog. If I have fun and maintain an upbeat attitude my dog will assume the same attitude, will enjoy the training experience and wish to repeat it.  I can push and put pressure on my dog in competition because I practice that in training.

I believe I’m the emotional leader for my students as well. If I assume an attitude of intensity and enthusiasm my student will assume the same attitude, will enjoy the training experience and wish to repeat it.  Students can withstand pressure in competition when they’ve practiced it in training.

My idea of a great agility coach:

My idea of the perfect agility coach and instructor is one who shares a solid training philosophy and integrates it with brief, intense, training sessions.

Students and dogs should respond with an equal dose of intensity and enthusiasm.

After all, what’s the point in a laid-back, blase’ training session that does little to prepare a student for the pressurized environment of agility trials.

A great coach applies pressure to students in class, pushes them out of their comfort zone, asks them to hurry to the start line, shouts “please go now!” to replicate the trial atmosphere, and pushes for lots of repetitions and work.  Sometimes a great coach upsets a student — it’s not always fun, but it’s often necessary, to be pushed by a great coach.