Posts Tagged ‘agility camp’

Marsha Houston’s 2-Minute Dog Trainer blog

September 4, 2013

I apologize for going silent the last few weeks and months. Business got in the way of blogging.  My purpose for this blog is to join the agility blogging community and speak to the topic of “aging” …..

First – I’m so excited at the maturity I’m seeing in my youngster (Phoenix NAJ) who turns two years old this December.  Running him has progressed from nerve-wracking and frustrating to magical in one weekend spent training with friends and Bud Houston.  Phoenix’s 2-minute dog training was always steady, but any activity in a group setting met with high stimulation and distraction.  I persevered.  He grew up!

Second – puppy Katniss (at 10-11-months) has been registered as an All American with AKC and is being prepared for a February-March 2014 debut.  I know there’s disagreement amongst agility people as to when we should start competing with our puppies, but I prefer to get them in the ring as soon as possible, let them have a fantastic time, find the holes in my training, and give them some ring experience.  In the meantime, I used my new favorite weavepole training equipment, and Katniss learned how to hit entries and weave 6 poles in three 10-minute sessions.  She doesn’t understand weaves yet, but she will very soon. I’m working at sending-for-independent-performance as well as running-at-side-with-great-excitement.  I want her to be familiar with both situations.

Third – rescue Haymitch (at age 2-3 years) has been getting very little work. He needs another TDAA Intermediate Standard leg to be in Superior Standard and Games 3 for the TDAA Petit Prix and he’ll get it someday.  He joined weekly classes last evening and daily training sessions for Haymitch will begin this week. I hope he’ll do well in October.  I reserve all his training for Teacup (TDAA) agility, and don’t put him on big a-frames and teeters very often.

Fourth – I’m writing a BOOK on the 2-minute dog trainer protocols.  Bud’s going to be my editor. Angie Houston has agreed to be my illustrator. I want this to be a book people read and enjoy re-reading, sharing with their friends, and giving as gifts.  I find dog training to be hugely amusing and humorous, and I want to share my strange sense of fun with others.

Okay – now for my take on “aging” in the world of dog agility …

I don’t want to automatically sound like an old fart but those darned whipper-snapper kids don’t respect us old farts!

Sure, they can out run us. Sure, they have the time and money for classes, workshops, seminars. Sure, they can wake up at 5am on a Saturday and still be energetic for their last event at 5pm.

But can they drink 2 margaritas and still provide experienced, detailed analysis of a student’s novice jumpers run?  Can they?  I think NOT!”

I’m just kidding, of course.  Codgers kid a lot.

I believe that clever agility enthusiasts should seek knowledge from coaches of all ages.  From young coaches with tons of energy, who are developing new protocols for agility dog training, to crusty old coaches who have developed all the training protocols in existence up to this point.

If agility training is a journey I’d suggest youngsters make a point of walking in the footprints of handlers with a few years’ instructing under their belts (or suspenders, knee braces, support stockings). We’ve seen the reactions of hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs to specific handling moves.

After all is said and done it is the reaction of the dog that determines whether the handling skill is a success or failure.  Certain types of dogs will often share a common reaction.  And a crusty old coach will usually be aware of that.

Here’s to the crusty old coaches in the dog training world!

I’ve trained my dogs once today and will have another “contacts” session with supper, as well as a group beginner class for Katniss, so now I can totter off to my favorite recliner and margarita.

Marsha Houston’s 2-minute dog trainer blog

June 11, 2013

I’ve been committed to the 2-Minute Dog Training principles since 1999.

I’m convinced that a short, exciting, engaged, and motivated training session every day strengthens the bond between dog and handler.

And I’m equally convinced that these short training sessions condition my dog to perform specific skills and respond to my cues more consistently.

When a handler asks my advice (I’ve learned to never volunteer advice — who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! — this gets dog training instructors in trouble all the time <g>) my first question is always, “what is your daily training regimen?”

Here are the most recent reasons I train every day with the 2-Minute Dog Trainer !!!

Facebook post from recognized dog trainer, “I’ve trained my dog everyday for 23 days!” And that’s a huge event, because her training sessions probably last 30 minutes or so, and take 30-45 minutes out of her day.

Question from teacup exhibitor, “How do I get my dog to perform at trials?”  My response, “what is your daily training protocol — what training do you do at home?”  Her response, “I don’t train at home. I only train during agility class.”

Question from local student during discussion of distance training, “How do I teach my dog to work at a distance?” My response was, “You reward her for the work and gradually move further from the obstacle you’re training on. How big is your yard? What equipment do you have set-up in your yard?”  Her response, “My yard is only about 20 feet across and I don’t have any agility equipment in my yard.”  Shocked, I responded, “So what’s your daily training look like?”  “I don’t train daily,” she said.

Okay folks — if you want your dog to perform consistently at agility or obedience trials, if you want your physical and verbal cues to override environmental distractions and trial stress, if you want to feel successful and feel positive about your dog — you must train your dog.

It is absolutely NOT enough to just attend a weekly class if you intend to show your dog.  Perhaps I’m speaking as an instructor, but arriving at class every week with the same darned skills you left with last week is unacceptable.

It is absolutely NOT enough to train in one building, doing just agility class sequencing or following the lesson plan presented by your instructor.  Expecting your dog to generalize performance when you only train in one building, one night a week, surrounded by the same dogs and people, is unacceptable.

Training your dog is supposed to be fun!  One of the reasons I enter in dog agility trials is to motivate myself to continue improving.  I can’t qualify if I don’t continue to improve.  I can’t improve if I don’t continue to train. My dog can’t train if I don’t continue to devote time to him.

If I can’t devote 2-5 minutes a day to practice weave entries, or start-line stays, or sending my dog to a jump, or hitting contacts — then do I really believe I’ll succeed at a trial?

So here’s the thing.  If you want the trill of victory you must do some work. I’m not suggesting you drill your dog 30-60 minutes a day.  I’m suggesting you add mealtime training to your daily schedule — spend a couple of minutes twice a day with your dog.
The thrill of victory will become a possibility, and those victories will be all the sweeter for the investment you’ve made in time training your dog!

Marsha Houston’s Blog – 2 minute dog trainer

March 12, 2013

Bud’s been working with Kory on a performance skill which draws the dog close in an agility run, re-sets the dog’s line, creates corners, corrects trajectory, etc.

We spent some time last weekend with Erica Behnke and her Tilly, Brenda Gilday and her Leela, me and my Phoenix, and Bud and his Kory — all fast little dogs with tons of positive reinforcement — working on some new uses for this skill.

I would like to establish a fun 3-or-4-day agility camp to explore “101 uses for the come-by and switch” in dog agility.

Anyone interested in coming to camp for a few days, learning this skill, and exploring its uses in the strategy of sequencing??

Agility camps at our place involve 4-to-6-hours per day of instruction, unlimited personal use of the training building and equipment, group dinners in the evening (includes adult beverages, dessert, the whole bit!), and accommodations on site are available (either bunkhouse cottages or separate guestroom).

If you’re interested in a special skill agility camp for you and your agility dog, contact Marsha (me) at <>.  See you at camp!

2-minute dog trainer – Marsha Houston’s blog

January 5, 2013

This blog is going to be the outline for the Observation chapter in my upcoming book Marsha Houston’s 2-Minute Dog Trainer.  This book will expand on my brochures and handouts.

Observation – being Observant – conditioning Observation

First, a definition: “Observation is the action of observing, or watching, and recording or noting information from what has been observed. It is also a judgment made from watching.”

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea that some people are more or less observant. Pop culture celebrates the concept of observation as a specific skill for The Mentalist, Long Island Medium, or Psych. Many people believe that psychics are skilled at observation.

Whether my dog and I are training or performing, observation is key. In preparation I must condition myself to provide consistent cues, observe my dog’s response, and provide the correct feedback.

But being observant is only half of the equation. Reacting correctly to what I observe is the other half of the equation.

Then I must consider my dog’s powers of observation — often referred to as attentiveness. And her ability to react correctly to what she observes — conditioned responses.

Bottom line — my daily training, which takes place in intense bursts of activity, most closely replicates a performance environment.

Brief daily training sessions allow me to practice consistent cues, observation, reaction, and allows my dog to become attentive to my cues and develop consistent responses.

Marsha Houston’s 2-minute dog trainer blog

October 31, 2012

I’m anxious to get through our second TDAA Petit Prix and resume blogging!  I’ve got so much to catch up on.

First, and most importantly, my little Haymitch had a fabulous time at the 5-days-of-Petit-Prix trialing in Latrobe, PA.

I’ve had Haymitch since just June 1, 2012, and he didn’t start training a lot until mid-July when he was healed from rear dewclaw removal surgery.

Haymitch has done over 95% of his agility training in JUST 2-minute dog training, mealtime training, and there were some missing pieces at the Petit Prix (like jump conditioning), but he’s a great weaving dog already and showed amazing maturity and drive.

His AKC debut is the Friday-Saturday after Thanksgiving, and we’ll see if he and I can do some looser work. He needs a good bit of distance training between now and then because I’m not running those full courses with him. <g> I want to continue training with him and writing this training journal.

Second, Phoenix will be turning 1 year old in early December, and he’ll be attending our November 25 agility workshop for distraction training.

Poor boy, he hasn’t gotten to train anywhere but in our back yard, hasn’t really gotten out much at all, so we have tons to achieve in a few short months before his (hopeful) March debut at Queen City (note to self – get premium).

Third, we have our second work-study camp of the year next weekend (the second weekend in November) and we’ve got a bunch of the 4H Ohio Teen Dog Experience counselors here to gather deadwood, make bonfires, do some painting, and get our place in shape for the winter.

They’re a fun bunch, and very clever dog trainers, so I look forward to some hard work and good times.

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.

2-minute dog trainer – weekly classes

May 26, 2012

In my May 11 post I described, in as much detail as was possible, our ideas for the end of our “training center” phase and the beginning of our “social club” phase.

It’s interesting to look back over my life and divide it by phases.

In 1998 my married-lady-working-40-hours-a-week phase ended with a bang. My 15-year relationship with my husband gave up the ghost without a whimper. I never knew anyone could care so little about a marriage as my ex.

Regardless, life marched on and I met a man who shared my interest in positive reinforcement dog training in general, and dog agility in particular.

We have fun together, have the same sick sense of humor, can vent to each other without worrying, and understand each other.

So the dog-training-center-facilitator phase of my life began April 1999. At Dogwood Training Center we averaged 120 students, with another 200 campers who visited for a week at a time.

In 2007 we considered semi-retirement, and my parents needed more attention from me, so we sold Dogwood and moved to Watertown, Ohio.

Our plan was to do a few camps each year, do a lot of writing and travel with our dogs, and slow down a little. We began our family-first-with-lots-of-writing phase.

Dog agility exhibitors in our area asked us to open our building for classes. We’ve averaged between 10 and 15 students since then, requiring a bit of work but nowhere near the effort required by our central Ohio site.

We have one more weeknight group class. Then we enter our TDAA-management-and-training-our-puppies phase.

Here’s how I see it working for us.

Every Monday or Tuesday Bud will set equipment in the training building and establish 3-4 training sequences which he’ll print out and post in the building.

On Tuesday evenings Phoenix and I will go to the building to do some “2-minute-dog-training” — working on obstacle performance and the specific skills a fast little dog with a slow old handler needs. If anyone wants to join us an play along, that’s okay.

On Wednesday evenings Kory and Phoenix will go to the building to do some sequence work — honing the more complex skills needed as Kory (AX AXJ) approaches his USDAA Masters titles. Phoenix and I will join them on little bits of sequences.

The rest of the week people will come and go, playing with their dogs on sequences designed by Bud, or of their own creation.

Here’s how I see it working for our local students.

Students who choose to become Board Members get access to the building and grounds, plus either or both nights of training at no additional charge. We hope they’ll help us maintain the public areas of the property.

Students who choose to be regular Members get access to the building and grounds, plus kick in a few bucks if they want instruction.

We’ll continue offering a few private camps each year. We have lots of fun with our friends from around the country. And our cottages provide sleeping quarters for folks traveling a distance and wanting private lessons.

We’ll be answering lots of questions, obviously. My basic response is “we no longer have a dog training center.” Everything else will work itself out.

Phoenix approaches age 6 months.

Phoenix has been with us 3 months. He’s been a clever little boy, interested in offering all sorts of favorite behaviors for food, for toys, for attention.

His mealtime training includes 2-on-2-off contact performance, distance sends through a series of hoops to a jump, and some sequences requiring that he follow my movement.

Every afternoon I try to break away from paperwork to play with him. We’re working on his formal retrieve and he’s currently chasing the dumbbell and bringing it back to dump it in my right hand. We’re also going to the training building occasionally to work on the more advanced equipment. He’s developed independent performance of the full-size a-frame, the skinnier dogwalk (not the full-size one yet), and the full-size teeter.

I’ve noticed he indicates lack of confidence by simply avoiding an obstacle, but he can be encouraged to be brave with food, toys, or attention.

He’s a typical border collie. He loves his baby pool, his big brothers, and stretching out on the couch.

I’m so lucky to have found him, though we have no idea of his heritage.

I love him intensely.

2-minute dog trainer – Phoenix at 14-16 weeks

April 2, 2012

Because Phoenix is a rescued pup we’re not sure of his birthdate. The rescue group, on Feb. 20, guessed he was born 12/20/11, and was 8 weeks old.  I thought he had to be older than that (who ditches an 8-week-old puppy in rescue?!?).

So now, the first week of April, he’s either 14 weeks old, or a little older. I’m waiting for his teeth to start falling out at that 16-week mark to have a better idea of how old he is.

I’m going to establish a birthdate of 12/15/11, making him 16 weeks old this week. We’ll see what happens with his teeth.

Regardless of the precise age of this pup, he’s learning rapidly and is a joy to train.

First, the resource guarding is a constant training opportunity for us.

Instead of a little growl when I touch his bowl, I get a happy face and a wagging tail. I always hold the bowl and stroke Phoenix’s back, and the tail continues to wag.

If I touch his face with my free hand, the tail stops wagging, but he doesn’t freeze up anymore. This is going to be a long-term training objective, and we can’t ever forget that he doesn’t like having his food bowl approached.

He has half-a-dozen behaviors which he offers in sequence when I pick up his food bowl.

He loves to offer:  sit, down, 2-o-2-o contacts, front, heel, table, and go-to-bed (get in crate and lie down).

For breakfast we work on contacts. I’m allowing him to climb the ramp now, so 2-on-2-off is done in motion, at some speed.

For lunch we work on pause table (on the living room ottoman) and go-to-bed (with his crate).

We’ve added a new exercise for dinner. I’ve set up 3 hoops (ala NADAC) in the yard and am teaching “go on” as a cue to keep engaging the hoops.

If the sequence of 3 hoops is 1-2-3, I start with #3, “YAY” and reward, then #2-3, “YAY” and reward, then #1-2-3, “YAY” and reward.

We reverse direction and repeat the exercise. I can generally get three of four of these sequences in for a single bowl of food.

2 minute dog trainer – Hazard at ARF’s first TDAA trial

May 23, 2011

This past weekend Bud and I loaded all our dogs in 2 vehicles and headed out for two separate events. We only have 4 dogs now (Dash 11, Hazard 7, Kory 2, Tempest 1), fewer than we’ve ever had since we’ve known each other.

There’s a certain freedom now that we’ve never had before. No need to call a dog sitter to see if a weekend trial is possible.

We just load up all the dogs and go. This means Dash, our old man now, is simply a traveling companion. But he walked into the trial building with a spring in his step, and accepted string cheese as payment every time Hazard left to run a course.

This was the first TDAA trial run by the folks at ARF (Agility Rally for Fun) in eastern Columbus, Ohio. The group has a large dedicated following of dog trainers and dog lovers, and we were treated to a lovely weekend of teacup agility.

My little Hazard had a 6-out-of-10 weekend. I have to keep reminding myself that she and I lose focus when we’re tired, so Saturday morning is always our best effort.  By Saturday afternoon Hazard was losing juice and being distracted.

Sunday morning we were both tired and disconnected. By Sunday afternoon I was more on-the-ball and was keeping a better connection with her, so we Q’d but were slow.

I’m working on Hazard’s TACh4, which requires a total of 75 superior standard Qs and 75 games 3 Qs.  She’s had her games for awhile, but needed standard Qs. We walked into ARF’s building on Sunday needing 15 standard Qs and got just 3 — we now need 12 more superior standard Qs.

I’d love for her to get her TACh4 at the Petit Prix, and there are 2 standard rounds there, so I really need to get 11 standard Qs this summer to be on track for that achievement.

I also need to get this little girl in better condition. I just don’t do enough agility with her and (typical Sheltie) she prefers to sleep about 23 hours a day.

One more bunch of tasks for my “to do” list.

On the other hand, Bud took Kory and Tempest to Kuliga for a 1-day seminar on Saturday (May 21). He said Tempest was a good boy to travel with, he used Tempest as a demo dog for the novice group Saturday morning, and they all got home safe and sound.

Yesterday Bud led our students in a 4-hour distance workshop, the last of our Sunday afternoon workshops and the end of the spring quarter.

I hated missing it, but thankfully all our workshops are going to move to weeknights starting in June.

I was sharing our summer training and trialing plans with Bill and Belinda Cox this past weekend and Bill said, “we never schedule any training for weekends anymore.”

When you’re training dogs to show I guess you just have to make time in your weeknight schedule for all your training. That doesn’t leave room for workshops, seminars, camps, etc.

The economy, and the wealth of trialing opportunities in Ohio, have created a situation where folks want to spend their time and money on weekend trials instead of training.

We’re adjusting our camp offerings to accommodate this shift.  I want to do 1-2-day camps.  Arrive one afternoon, get in some training, stay overnight, get some more training, maybe stay 2 nights total.

2-minute dog trainer, fall 2010 classes

August 24, 2010

We face many of the instructing challenges faced by clubs and private training centers worldwide.

Our students are an even mix of dedicated (and intense) obsessed agility enthusiasts, and social (not-so-intense) weekenders who enjoy the comraderie of dog training classes.

In an effort to address the intensity of our most obsessed students we’ve created three new student designations over-and-above our former levels.

The most intense students will become Boot Campers. We want to go back to basics, retrain some old habits, get them thinking along new pathways. We want them to learn multiple strategies and build a solid toolbox of agility handling skills to answer the puzzles put forth by agility judges. We want them to engage in top level dog-training activities, and reinforce consistently the performance that will win.  We’ll do video analysis of their trial runs and work on specific issues as they wish.

Boot Campers attend all 6 Sunday workshops, all 13 Thursday night classes, get a private lesson every week (and free use of the building in between), and free attendance to our October 2-3 Houston’s Country Dream Boot Camp.

Slightly less intense students become Platinum Students. Our goals are the same but the training addresses their limited time.

Platinum Students get all 6 workshops and all 13 Thursday night classes, plus they get a private lesson every month (and free use of the building in between), and free attendance to our October 2-3 Houston’s Country Dream Boot Camp.

A step back in intensity, though still more active than our former workshop attendance, is the Weekend Warrior.

The Weekend Warrior gets all 6 Sunday workshops and all 13 Thursday night classes at a 50% discount (I expect they won’t make it to all 13).  They get discounted private lessons and are eligible to attend our Boot Camp (Oct.2-3) for $200.

Because we want to encourage these enthusiastic trainers we’ve applied our discounts to these three levels of commitment, and removed discounts from the casual-occasional-walk-in students’ registrations.

Our Sunday workshops will remain available for the casual-occasional-walk-in students at $40 each (for 4 hours) and our Thursday night classes will remain available to them for $40 for a month’s classes (4 or 5 training opportunities).

Already, with nearly 2 weeks before our first fall 2010 training event, we have 3 boot campers and 3 platinum students. How exciting is that !!