Posts Tagged ‘agility camp’

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest fulfills his destiny

July 17, 2010

I’m sure it sounds strange to dog-sport people, but one of my puppy’s jobs is to be a demo dog for our training protocols, and an ambassador for Houston’s Country Dream. 

Tempest got to visit the Parkersburg (WV) Humane Society yesterday, to demonstrate positive reinforcement and clicker training for agility.  He’s four months old.

Tempest is my best advertisement. When he behaves beautifully, students want to know how we trained those behaviors. When he behaves badly, students may think “What a brat Marsha has! She must suck as a trainer.” <g>

There were a few things I did with my first puppy, Banner ’96, that I’ve changed with Tempest. Having taught remedial basic obedience (fixing the horrendous behaviors permitted from puppyhood), I have a philosophy about how to properly raise a puppy.

If I don’t apply what I know to Tempest’s upbringing I’ll be disappointed in myself.  And my credibility will be diminished. The biggest problem with not applying my philosophy is that I’ll be forced to FIX things. And remedial training doesn’t stick nearly as well as initial training.

Take, for example, contact training. If we begin training the puppy by letting them run across the contact zone, applying no training to the bottom of the ramp, we might have a dozen nice “running contacts” in the course of a couple of weeks.

There will probably come a time, though, when the puppy wants to speed up. And the best way to cut time on contact equipment is to hop across that yellow area.

Then we go back and try to retrain that contact but, in the heat of competition, the puppy reverts to what he first learned — running the contact and jumping off prematurely.

Remedial training is a poor second or third choice.  So I’m taking Tempest’s initial training — whether agility, obedience, or rally — very seriously.

Imagine my pride when I took Tempest to be my demo dog at a local shelter during their kids’ camp on Thursday.

They wanted a simple agility demo but I didn’t have the way or will to haul a bunch of equipment. I actually prefer to demonstrate more fundamental training concepts in the context of agility.

So my demo topic became clicker training a puppy from — 1) the agility tire to  2) an open crate on the ground to  3) jumping into a crate in the truck.

My training tools included my truck with crate, a small tire, a portable crate, two strings of cheese, my clicker, and my 4-month-old puppy.

I began with a brief explanation of the principles of clicker training while getting Tempest through the tire multiple times. Since he’s doing so much rear-awareness work (2-on-2-off training), he tended to hop through the tire with his front feet and straddle it, looking at me as if to say, “is this it?”

Once I started moving he discontinued that behavior and began hopping through. As I talked to the kids, Tempest would continue his tire work, to the giggles and applause of the crowd. I reached down, unhooked his leash, and he stuck right with me, staying completely focused.

We then switched to “go in” with an open crate. Tempest applied the same work ethic to the crate that he’d applied to the tire. Popping in and out of the crate, stopping occasionally to ask his question, “What do I get if I just stand here?” To which I answered nothing.

Someone in the crowd asked about Tempest’s 2-minute dog training with each meal, and I told them what he does with stools, milk crates, contact obstacles, any raised surface.  One of the kids picked up a large brick and brought it over to our work area.

I gave Tempest his stupid-pet-trick cue — “What do we do with that thing?”  He immediately hopped onto the brick, moved his front feet to the grass, and stood with his rear feet on the brick.  YAY!  Laughter, giggles, applause …

I continued talking about positive reinforcement training and how we get our dog to offer behavior (all the while Tempest is offering performance with the tire, with the crate, with the brick), building their confidence and making them more comfortable in strange situations by allowing them to pick their own footsteps.

For example, in my experience, most car-sickness in dogs is a matter of them being stressed in a vehicle. If we teach them to hop into the vehicle, to enter a crate willingly, we can make them more comfortable in a vehicle.

I explained to the crowd that Tempest wasn’t able to hop into his crate in the truck due to his size, but that I was working at getting him to “attempt” the jump in, and would help him get into his crate.

As I said that, I pointed at the crate in my SUV, and said “get in!” in the same tone I’d used for the crate on the ground.

Tempest gave a massive HOP and climbed right into his crate !!   The crowd went wild. <g>

I was so proud of his steadiness, bravery, composure, and brilliance.

Christmas eve 2009, 2-min. dog training tasks

December 24, 2009

It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and “all through the house, not a creature is sturring, not even a mouse …”

Are you kidding?  I live with 8 dogs, one of which is a 10-month old BC pup!  Right now, as I prepare for the day, he’s enlisted his cronies in a game of wrestling.

Our 10-year-old Dash and 12-year-old Ringer are Kory’s favorite wrestling buddies. I think this says something for the mental maturity of the modern canine, and their capacity to remain puppies forever.

I set up a large, soft, crate near my desk, with plastic on the floor underneath and a heavy plastic sheet inside. I layered a soft quilt and 2 dog beds, hoping to make a great environment for Banner to be comfortable in for these long winter days.

She leaks a good bit and no amount of medicine keeps that from happening if she gets into her water-drinking mode. So I gave in, stopped the meds, and made an old dog playpen for her. She hates it.

On the other hand, the rowdy boys find it’s perfect for a doggy cage match. Two dogs go in, they wrestle, and wrestle, and wrestle, and one comes out (the other one is probably dozing off by now).

So, the dog for whom the environment was designed has to be forced in, and everyone else loves to go in for a quick nap or a long, lazy snooze with a best buddy. There’s plenty of room for 2-3 dogs.

This afternoon we head into town for a Christmas Eve party with my sisters’s family and my Mom. I’m taking the left-over pepperoni rolls from last night’s agility classes, and my blackbean stoup (thanks, Rachel Ray!) which we eat as a dip for corn chips.

Janice, my sister, isn’t planning a big meal, just tons of food strategically placed where folks can get to it. Shooting pool, a couple of beers, some food, and home before dark probably.

Having dogs means never having to say ….. “sure, I can stay as long as you like!”  Potty and feeding schedules keep us from wandering too far afield unless we’ve arranged for a dog-sitter.

One of these days, though, these wonderful old dogs will be gone. We’ll be able to pack up the remaining dogs and be more footloose. In the meantime, heading into 2010, we have three 14-year-old dogs, two 12-year-old dogs, one 10-year-old dog, and two relative youngsters.

The approaching new year has me thinking about goals for 2010. So far I’ve come up with:

1) Get Dash back into Rally training and finish his excellent AKC title.

2) Get Hazard into Rally training at mealtimes and get her entered in her first novice AKC trial.

3) Prepare Hazard for the January 23-24 TDAA trial in Columbus, Ohio.  She needs 13 Superior Standard Qs (4 of which must be first-places) and ONE Games 3 first-place for her TACh3. In the past the first-places have been difficult because we weren’t a solid team yet and Hazard was a bit shut-down on course. She’s coming back to her old self, however, and things are going to get exciting for us, I hope. Vicki and Jackie want to practice Futbol … should be fun!

4) Prepare Hazard and Dash for the February 13-14 NADAC trial in Zanesville, Ohio.  I haven’t done NADAC since Fall 2002, when Dash earned 3 novice titles at 20+ inches. He’s now entered as a Veteran (running 16″) and Hazard debuts in the 8″ novice classes. Bud’s created the hoops and our early training indicated neither dog has a problem understanding their performance of the hoops.

5) Continue working with Kory on little, helpful behaviors that won’t interfere with Bud’s agility training protocols. Last night we worked on “lie down” and “relax,” with Kory quickly figuring out I wanted him to roll onto one hip. We also played the box game and he quickly got his two front feet inside for the click/treat. He’s not quite coordinated enough (and is too large for the box, perhaps) to fit his whole body into the box. Of course, we were playing with the box while agility was going on behind us, so a bit of distraction training as well. For a pup, Kory’s capable of an amazing amount of focus. He’s also capable of figgeting and whirling continuously for what seems a tremendous amount of time.

6) Keep up with my dog-washing schedule. I’ve been quite disappointed with the performance of Frontline Plus this year. I’ve heard it said that our local fleas have built up a tolerance to it.  We had a series of regular rain storms in the spring and summer, so the ground stayed moist. I’ve noticed that it’s not as oily as before so perhaps they’ve altered a good delivery system so that dogs don’t have that oily spot on their shoulders. And we’ve been beseiged with flea-ridden rabbits in the dog yard this year. All in all, a horrible year for fleas and (YUCK!) tapeworms. So I’ve gone old-school — washing dogs, washing bedding, putting down flea powder, vacuuming often, dumping out (or burning) the sweeper bag often, washing more dogs, giving tapeworm meds, applying flea powder, etc.

Time to feed dogs and prepare for my day.  Today I’m going to do some straightening, burning cardboard, picking up recycling that’s blown amuck, cleaning some in the training building for Sunday’s workshop, and bathing Hazard.

2-Min. Dog Trainer – early December chores

December 5, 2009

Bud’s been out of town doing his judging assignment, attending the NADAC judging clinic, and currently being tested on his NADAC judging skills in Oklahoma.

It’s been an interesting week here and I’m pressing forward on several fronts.

1) Our holiday open house and cookie exchange is next Saturday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Dec.12). 

I actually established this party deadline to force myself to decorate the house for Christmas.  It’s too easy to forego holiday decorations when you work at home. I’ll say to myself, “who am I decorating for?” But then, in late December, with no decorations to lend a festive spirit to the least-light days of the year, the absense of glitter is a bit depressing.

With all the disruptions to my family in the past 3 years we’ll not be hosting the big Martin family get-togethers I envisioned when we moved back home and bought this place but I need to get over that and move on. So I’m decorating.

I’ve got a big tree in the living room with every available piece of tinsel I had (and I had a lot — did I say I’m a magpie?) and a small tree in the bedroom where it can be seen down the long hallway from the dining room. I’ve got 2 trees on the deck with old sleds and wagons stacked nearby. Mom and I hung garland and bows from the deck railing. Even the poop-bag rack has wreaths on it. <g>

Sometime this week I’ll be paying a visit to Mom’s American Holly tree and hacking away enough branches to drape the upper hall railing and the kitchen.

Sidebar — I’ve wanted a holly tree of my own for many years but Bud hates the prickly leaves and the mess they may. Also it’s difficult to transplant the tiny holly trees that spring up under the mother tree. If air touches their roots the little tree will die. And you can’t just plant the seeds — I’m thinking they have to pass through a cedar waxwing to become trees. Also, you actually need a male and a female for the female to bear the red berries, so you need to transplant a lot of little holly trees to get the one you want for the future. So I’ve come up with a plan. I’m going to line with plastic and fill 5-6 medium-sized pots with soil and set them strategically around the seed-drop-zone of Mom’s holly tree. If and when seedlings pop up in these pots I’ll remove them and plant the entire ball of soil. I’ll watch these youngsters and thin them to get the one male and one female I need. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Someone reading this will probably comment on the error of my thinking — my readers are a well-educated and brilliant group — but we’ll see ….

2) Our early-bird discount on 2010 camp registrations ($50 off !!) is  Dec.15, 2009. 

Our mailing for 2010 camp registrations didn’t go out until November 1st, so folks have had just 45 days to put together their camp plans for 2010.

And, like Bud and I, our campers have been busy with other things for the first 30 of those 45 days.

Beginning December 1 I’ve had several requests for spring 2010 dates for private camps and breed-specific camps. Our vision, when we created this dog training resort, was of a group of friends traveling together, sharing cottages, supporting each other in their training efforts, and making an annual event of their agility vacation. I’m convinced our vision has merit in today’s busy world.

In the meantime, most private camp coordinators are choosing a traditional camp format with group training both morning and afternoon, with an option for group meals and private lessons if anyone wants them.

3) Our Thursday night classes for December and January are proving to be interesting from an instructor’s standpoint.

The most interesting class is the masters class. This past Thursday was mine to teach and Bud had provided four sequences.

I think the group was startled when I explained we were going to attempt to do all four sequences. For this group that means starting on time and little or no course-walking. I gave them 1-2 minutes to walk a sequence, then we ran it.

The last sequence of the four was the most challenging, but we spent about 15 minutes on each sequence and ended our class right on time. League play had good attendance Thursday night. I, once again,  managed to NQ Hazard’s run.

Sidebar:  Hazard is gaining confidence in the presence of big dogs and was REALLY ramped up Thursday night. We all laughed as she jumped up in the air in the middle of the dogwalk. It was all terribly exciting from the viewpoint of a little agility dog who had spent an hour hanging out in an ex-pen.

4) Our winter workshops run Dec. 13 and 27, Jan. 10 and 24, Feb. 7 and 28. 

I expected the Thursday night class to take some pressure off the Sunday afternoon workshops. Frankly they were getting too big for our taste and folks were not exhausted at the end of the 4-hour session. They should be exhausted, right?

This week has been a busy time for workshop registrations as well. I’d love to save 2-4 slots in the advanced workshop for folks who aren’t local. The 4-hour workshops are great for maximizing travel expense, and the cottage packages (including overnight stay and private lesson) make for a fun weekend with dogs.

In the meantime, today Mom and Janice and I are mixing cookies for the cookie exchange next weekend and we’re getting our first real snow of the season. I’ve got folks arriving this afternoon for an overnight stay in the red cottage, so I’m heading off through the snow with a load of firewood for the cottage’s woodburner.

We have propane furnaces in each cottage but one of our guests tonight is from North Carolina, and she’s going to find our 30s temps a little chilly, so I thought the woodburner would be an added comfort.

2-minute dog trainer, last camp of 2009

November 15, 2009

Today we start the first day of the last camp of 2009!

This camp is followed by about 3 weeks of frenetic travel for Bud including two 3-day trials, a NADAC judging clinic, and 3 days of NADAC judges testing. He’ll be flying from here to Kansas City, home, then to Florida, then to Texas, and finally home again in early December.

Because of his busy schedule in the next month I decided to have him bring the big Christmas tree from the basement. My Mom and sister helped me assemble it and get most of the lights working.

This tree came with the house. No one in my family wanted it, so it stayed with the house for which it was purchased.

It’s a pain in the butt, frankly. I decided about 5 years ago to not buy “pre-lit” trees anymore. When one light goes a whole branch goes. The manufacturers give you all these instructions and extra light bulbs, but who in their right mind is going to try to follow the cords on a 300-light tree to find the one bulb causing all the problems.

What most folks do, of course, is buy a cheap strand of lights and add them to the tree. So wouldn’t it just be easier to buy the tree and the lights separately? That way, when a string of lights is broken you just replace them, rather than leaving them on the tree and adding more lights.

Anyway, bottom line, it’s November 15th and I think I’ve broken all my previous records by actually having my Christmas tree up in the living room. I even had it lit for a few hours yesterday, just for kicks.

Our campers arrived before dark so they didn’t notice the lit tree in the living room. They’ll see it tonight when they come to dinner. Their comments will be interesting.

This group of campers are all friends and most of the dogs working in this camp will be Brittanys. One camper’s aussie injured himself 2 weeks ago (chasing a cat and ran into a framed picture leaning against a wall — I have aussies, so I can picture the lack of impulse control that started the whole scenario).

She’ll be working a Houston loaner dog, my 9-1/2-year-old Dash. I still think of him as a youngster but I’ll have to keep an eye pealed to any signs of exhaustion on his part.

With only 4 dogs working in camp they’re sure to get a lot of work. On Tuesday, with evening classes coinciding with camp dinner, we’re going to give our 2010 camp schedule a test run.

Our 2009 schedule is all group training — 9-to-noon and 2-to-5 — with dinner at 6:00.

Our 2010 schedule is part group training — 9-to-noon — then private lessons or small groups — 1-to-5 — followed by an optional group meal at 6:00 p.m.

I’m really intrigued with the idea of being able to deconstruct the elements of a camp and allow folks to pick the events they want.

By pricing camps as components a 2010 camper may choose to do 2 or 3 days of a 4-day camp with their friends. They may, as a group, choose to fix their own meals in one of the cottages rather than coming to the log house for dinner.

And they may choose to join our Tuesday night classes and league play while here as well.

This Tuesday, with classes from 6-8:30 p.m. coinciding with campers dinner, we’re going to test out the 2010 camp schedule.

We’ll work group exercises from 9-to-noon, take a 1-hour break, then have either private lessons (friends are welcome to stay, videotape, take notes, whatever) until 4, take a short break, and meet for dinner before classes.

I’m looking forward to a busy month, followed by winter with lots of writing projects (including all the 2-Minute Dog Training homework for “Go Rally Training Manual”), some dog training, lots of swimming, and a few evening classes and workshops.

I’ll be reporting in DogSports magazine the results of my sport foundation training class. Hickory (aka “Kory”) will be my primary guinnea pig, though Hazard is going to be learning obedience and rally through the winter as well.

The 2-Minute dog trainer, retrieves

November 8, 2009

Bud and I spent 4 hours yesterday morning in the parking lot of a local Tractor Supply store, talking to people about dog training and handing out our brochures.

Things started out slowly. Then, in an effort to get Hazard into the warm sun, I set her sherpa bag on the table and let Hazard curl up with her face to the crowd.

From that moment on we were mobbed by people and kids. Note to self — if you want to draw attention put a dog in a box where people can see her. <g>

We took 3 dogs and all of them had a great time.  Hazard got all sorts of petting and attention. She came out of her sherpa bag for kids and, as soon as they were done with her, whirled around and darted back into her safe zone.

Dash, my 9-year-old aussie, slept for the first hour on the back seat of the Tahoe. Then, when he heard a pack of kids, he hopped out and made the rounds. His next few hours were filled with schmoozing and butt scratches, occasionally returning to the comfy interior of the truck. Dash had some bad experiences with kids in the past, so I’m pleased to see that he’s finally feeling more confident around them. Perhaps it was the knowledge that he could always retreat to the truck that enabled him to be so brave and outgoing.

Kory, Bud’s BC youngster, spent much of his time lying quietly in a crate in the back of the truck. Bud got him out often for some walks and retrieval work, and Kory got his share of attention from the kids.

When we’re working with a young dog I always keep a mental post-it-note of “what is most important for him to learn today.” This is part of the 2-minute dog trainer philosophy, by the way, that each interaction with a dog is a learning experience for that dog as well as for us.

Kory’s most important lesson yesterday, and his biggest success, was to stay in the crate with us nearby and to refrain from tearing up his bedding.

He also got to work on retrieving with Bud though I must say, proudly, that Dash is the retrieving king in our house.

When my first competition dog, Banner (now nearly 14 years old) was beginning her obedience career I was learning about positive reinforcement training methods. She learned to heel using Dawn Jecs “choose to heel” methods, eating treats and working without a choke or prong collar.

My training path separated from the AKC obedience club with which I was training and Banner earned her CD without much assistance or support from our instructors. I was determined to find another way than the one I’d seen at our weekly training sessions.

I taught my old girl, Banner, to retrieve 13 years ago using Sue Sternberg’s Inducive Retrieve method. A friend gave me a little brochure containing Sue’s typed instructions and her hand-drawn illustrations. Sue has since created a new brochure which is much fancier than the original photocopied version, with pictures instead of drawings, available at http://www.greatdogproductions.com/ppp/images/InduciveRetrieve.jpg

During the time I was training Banner to retrieve my club’s training followed one of two paths — the ear pinch or the collar twist. In our open class our instructor began dumbell work with “hold, hold, hold,” fingers clamped over the dog’s mouth.

Having taken ownership of my dog’s training in novice class I felt comfortable taking a separate path in open as well. I read Sue’s brochure and began training in little 5-minute increments at home.

In class, while everyone else was learning how to force the dumbell into their dog’s mouth, Banner and I went into a corner where we worked on the inducive retrieve.

At the end of 8 weeks my classmates were able to have their dog sitting in heel position holding the dumbell, mostly. Banner, on the other hand, could fetch the dumbell and return to front, holding the dumbell, giving it to me.

It was shocking to my instructors. Their response was the same tired response we hear today when we train with rewards instead of punishment, “what do you do if she refuses to pick up the dumbell?”

My response was, “she’s never refused to pick it up!   Why would she?  She is constantly rewarded for returning the dumbell to me, so the toughest part of the exercise is staying by me while the dumbell is tossed.”

At a monthly meeting the club asked for a demonstration of the method and I decided to make it a real test of inducive over forced retrieve. If their real question had to do with my response to a refusal, I needed to demonstrate that a refusal wasn’t likely, and that a refusal was a result of confusion, not willful disobedience, and should be met with encouragement, not force.

At the outdoor picnic meeting I turned a very excited Banner (I was, afterall, holding her dumbell!) away from the group and had a friend hide her dumbell near a member’s feet, under a table. I turned Banner back toward the crowd and told her “take it!”

Banner ran away from me and searched for the dumbell. She didn’t stop for petting, attention, or food. She searched and searched, occasionally looking back to make sure I was still waiting for her. I kept smiling and encouraging her.

After about 90 seconds of searching she dived onto her dumbell and ran as fast as she could back to me. It was the first time I got that thrill of having a demo dog do exactly what was expected. <g>  My first “I told you so” moment.

Jaws dropped. I hadn’t repeated the command, hadn’t restarted my dog, had just given her encouragement and continued smiling at her. Her drive to find the dumbell was created by the rewards I’d been giving her for bringing it back to me.

Bud and Kory have been working on a play retrieve so yesterday, in the tractor supply parking lot, I encouraged Bud to go to the inducive foundation work.

Within 30 minutes Kory was not only chasing the dumbell, but picking it up and returning to Bud with it. I doubt if Bud will ever want an obedience retrieve, he just wants a fetch for agility training, so there was no real need for the front-and-give dumbell work.

But I’m thinking that, with the foundation training being put in place, an obedience retrieve isn’t far off for this youngster, if either of us are so inclined.

Sport Foundation homework, 2-min dog trainer

November 3, 2009

We begin our sport foundation class tonight and I’ve chosen three topics for training and homework:  Heeling (my version of Dawn Jecs “choose to heel” program), stand/stay, and start-line stay.

There will be 2-minute dog training homework handouts for each of these skills by 5pm today.

I’m planning to work Hazard in this sport foundation class, let her be my demo dog and get used to being brave around strange dogs. Everyone should be on-lead, so there’s little danger to Hazard in this 6-7pm class.

Following sport foundation class is our Tuesday league play. I’m encouraging EVERYONE from the sport foundation class to join in league play.

There will be some folks who just stay and watch, I’m sure, as we’ll have a couple of beginner agility dogs in our foundation class.

I put the Tuesday night schedule in place with Hickory and Bud, as well as Hazard and Marsha in mind. It’s SO easy to develop instructor syndrome (the instructor’s dog never gets worked) or private lesson syndrome (the instructor’s dog always works in an empty building with no other dogs to provide stimulation and distraction).

The two syndromes result in a dog who attends their first trial with two strikes against them:  1) they’re under-trained and lack the hundreds of hours of foundation training that leads to a good first experience in the show ring,  and  2) they’re over-stimulated and unused to the carnival atmosphere of the trial site.

Tonight’s class will be an investment in our young dogs’ agility and obedience careers and I hope our students get as much out of it as we will.

League play will be our first C-Wags agility session for 2009. I’ve handed out some dog registration forms but will need a dozen-or-so more forms for new students tonight.

When dogs are registered with C-Wags the organization will begin tracking Qs and titles, and providing certificates for achievement.

We’re charging a whopping $5 per run starting tonight. Part of that fee will be passed on to C-Wags. Students will pay for their scribe sheet, add their dogs’ names and C-Wags numers (or “pending” if applicable), and hand the scribe sheet to the scribe before their run.

This is a new experience for us but I believe these weekly matches will be good practice for me, in preparation for our first actual C-Wags trials in 2010 (dates to be determined).

We’ve been a C-Wags club for a year or so now but haven’t put together a trial committee, established set dates, applied for trial weekends, etc.

Now that C-Wags offers obedience, rally, AND agility, it becomes a weekend certainly worthy of our attention.

Hopefully our students will agree …

In other news, DogSport magazine is featuring lots of coverage of the TDAA Nationals, our 2009 Petit Prix in Racine, WI, in the upcoming issue.

Additionally they’re creating an on-line forum for trainers and instructors (students as well, I’m sure) who are interested in discussing dog training.  The link is: 

http://www.dogsportmagazine.com/?p=658  

I’ll be posting about our sport foundation class, as well as bits of information from our new Thursday night masters classes. An interesting new way of distributing information!

New camp plan for 2010, new weeknight classes

October 30, 2009

Bud and I talked on the way to and from Wisconsin about revising our camp program to answer the needs (both time-wise and money-wise) of agility enthusiasts.

Since 1999 we’ve done camps as “package deals.” Like seminars or workshops, the camper paid a flat fee and everyone got the same product. Four days of agility, 6 hours a day, plus a meal, accommodations extra whether campers stayed in a motel or stayed in our cottages.

I’m convinced that today’s agility exhibitor wants more flexibility. Our 2010 camps are going to be sold as components, with every camper getting to customize their training experience.

Instead of having 6-7 people check in on Sunday night for a Monday-through-Thursday camp, some people will arrive Sunday, some perhaps Monday, some may leave on Tuesday, some stay until Friday, etc.

Instead of having accommodations be a block fee it will be based on the number of nights you need a bed.

Instead of assuming everyone wants to attend a group dinner in the evening we’ll offer that as an option and let people opt in or out of group meals.

The biggest problem is probably going to be explaining this system to folks.

For example, in order to give Bud some sort of regular schedule during camps we’ll keep the morning (9am to noon) group session. If folks want to participate in that group training the cost is $35 per dog.

Beginning at 1pm we’ll have 1-hour blocks set aside for private lessons. Cost will be $65/hour. Friends training and traveling together may bundle their private lessons and turn them into a group event.

A camper may choose to arrive Monday, have a private lesson Monday evening, attend the group session Tuesday morning, have a private lesson Tuesday afternoon, attend a group dinner Tuesday evening, work 2 dogs in the group session Wednesday morning, have another private lesson Wednesday afternoon and depart for home.  This example would cost $290 ($40/night for bed x2, $35/group class x2, $65/private lesson x2, $10/meal x1).

Another camper might want to do the full package — 4-5 nights in a bed, all 4 morning sessions, 4 private lessons, 4 group meals, depart on Friday morning.  This example would cost $640 ($40/night for bed x 5, $35/group class x 4, $65/private lesson x 4, $10/meal x 4).

Additionally, we’re rethinking the entire deposit process. We’ve gone from a $100 deposit in 1999 to a $200 deposit in 2009. We’re going to roll back the deposit to $100, and give a $25 bonus to early-bird registrants (before 12/15/09). We’ve offered this discount before, but the discount was always off the balance due rather than the deposit. Now, if you register early, your deposit is only $75.

Deposits will still be non-refundable, but transferrable (portable) once in the calendar year. So, if you put a deposit in early for a week in May and have to move it to June you’re not penalized.

This lower deposit will reflect the decrease in camp fees paid by folks wanting 2-3 days of vacation. Instead of making all our camps weekday camps we’ll also be doing some long weekend camps — Friday through Monday.

I’d really like to see a camp season where every day sees campers arriving and campers departing, and every one of them getting a customized vacation.

This will complicate my “chambermaid” duties a little, but there might be a time when your clean sheets are folded neatly on top of your mattress, rather than having every bed pre-made and sitting ready for you.

Most camps will become a bit “free-form.” No real roster, people coming and going, groups growing and shrinking.

However, we’re going to put our THEMED camps again, with topics including distance, foundation training, teacup, masters, and novice.

We’ll also be encouraging breed-specific camp registration … how fun to train with 4-5 others who share your love of your special breed!

While we’re rethinking the whole camp process we’re also instituting weeknight classes. When we moved here we swore off weeknight classes but they’ve gradually crept back into our schedule.

On Tuesday evenings we’re expecting a flexible and ever-changing group of people and dogs. We’ll start the evening with a 6-7pm foundation training class with homework from my 2-Minute Dog Trainer protocols. At 7pm we’ll break off to be briefed for the week’s game, walk and run the game. At 7:30pm Bud or I will teach a sequencing class, probably based on the league course and the challenges it presented. Cost per event, per class, per dog, is $5 — pay-as-you-play.

On Thursday evenings we’ve sold class slots in a 6-7 masters handling class, followed by a 7pm league play (same course as Tuesdays), followed by a 7:30 intermediates-to-advanced handling class. Cost is $35/month regardless on whether there are 4-or-5 Thursdays, with no make-ups for bad weather, and no prorating (that means, if you join for the last 2 weeks of the month the cost is still $35 to claim that slot).

We’re looking for students on Thursday nights who are serious about doing homework and seeing improvement.

We’re hoping that the Thursday night classes will take some of the pressure off the Sunday afternoon workshops. When Bud’s here we’re able to do split group work but his travel schedule has him gone for 1-2 workshops per quarter. By myself I’m hard-pressed to wear out 12 handlers and their dogs.

We going to adding THEMES as a training option for the Sunday workshops as well including, teacup, distance, masters, etc.

We’re eager to see how all these changes will play out with customers, campers, and students.

Dash, and last night’s fun run

September 18, 2009

When Bud leaves me in charge of setting a course for our fun run night I generally have little training sets that are my favorites, and I incorporate them into sequences.

Last night I set a 20-obstacle course which included Bud’s opening line (see his blog from Tuesday) which was a bit of a dog-legged straight line.

From that opening line I had them go into the front cross minuet exercise. From the minuet we skipped and layered a jump on our way to the pause table. The layering was so obvious, and NOT layering so difficult, that everyone chose to layer the jump — successfully or not.

These skill sets were all nested in the course and were followed by a back-cross to the dogwalk exercise, a pre-cue-to-a-flip exercise, an a-frame contact with a tunnel between dog and handler exercise, and a run for the finish.

Students struggled a little bit with the front cross minuet, mostly because of poor handler movement or the use of advanced handling on less-than-advanced puppies.

There were two youngsters who disallowed the layering of the jump choosing, instead, to do all the work before them just in case it was right.

All in all I was pleased with everyone’s ability to walk and assess the challenges of the course.  Our new student, having trained elsewhere (and mostly on her own in her backyard), is missing some of the strategy we introduce in our intermediate class.

I decided to run my Dash on the course. Dash is my 9-1/2-year-old aussie, and the dog for whom the 2-Minute Training protocols were developed. He’s a non-confident, food-driven, low-motivation dog.

More importantly, Dash is OCD. He will repeat a skill in the manner to which he was first introduced to it — forever. Once he learns something he does it the same way every time. If I suddenly alter the way something is cued or presented he freezes, licking his lips, filled with self-doubt and anxiety — or jumps around barking.

By working through the 2-Minute Dog Training protocols with him I was forced to vary the presentation of obstacles, adding to his skill set. Do not, however, think for a moment that he is thinking outside the box and developing solutions on his own.

He’s simply digging into his reference library and asking himself, “what is Mom asking me to do this time? Oh yeah, that’s an optional presentation of a jump.”

He’s a fascinating, bright boy. I probably spent more time on foundation training with Dash than I have with any other dog I’ve trained.

His fear of new things is partly his nature but he lived with an idiot and her 2 young daughters from 8 weeks to 5 months, so Dash’s natural fear of new things was magnified 100 times by the time I rescued him.

Last night, when everyone was finished walking the course, I said, “I’m going to run Dash on this course. I haven’t practiced this course with him, and haven’t worked him much in the last couple of years. If we nail it I’ll expect all of you to nail it too.”   HAHAHA

Running a course with a trained, willing partner is poetry. It is the spiritual connection with a dog that brings us back to this sport again and again. When I thought I’d not be able to do agility again it was the loss of this magic that depressed me the most.

I ran Dash mostly silently. When I signaled, he followed. I didn’t have to tell him anything, just showed him the way and turned him loose. True, honest movement received his response of true, honest work. It was so sweet. He nailed all his contacts, never missed a beat in the minuet, was attentive and respectful on the pause table, and was the ultimate canine agility partner.

Trialing with Dash has been depressing in the past few years because the pace I’m able to set is overtime in AKC’s Excellent-level courses. Overtime by fractions of a second. Really depressing, over the course of a weekend, to have beautiful run after beautiful run busted by the time-keeper.

Watching Dash last evening sealed the deal for me — he’s moving to Preferred, jumping 16″, and continuing to enjoy the game wherever we can play it. He’s just too marvelous a partner to be left at home.

In other news — today I’m going to fire out a bunch of e-mails and see if I can’t build some interest in our fall 2009 agility camps.

September 29-October 2, 2009 — four-day teacup agility camp, followed by 2 days of agility trial, followed by our departure for the Petit Prix in Wisconsin.  We’ve got 4 spots filled in this camp (one by my Hazard) and, if I can’t add more dogs, we’re going to be exhausted at the end of 4 days. I’ve got a guestroom in the house and a whole cottage available to accommodate someone wanting a great little vacation for themselves and their teacup dog.

November 15-18, 2009 — four-day standard agility camp, these dates were moved forward a bit to accommodate Bud’s acceptance of a last-minute judging assignment. Campers will arrive on Saturday, November 14, and camp will run Sunday through Wednesday. Group meals will be provided all 4 days, and you have 6 hours a day of instruction. Campers may work on equipment before camp starts, during our mid-day break, and after dinner. I have 2 guestrooms in the house and a whole cottage available for someone wanting a cool-weather training experience. This is our last camp of the year and we’re always blessed with beautiful weather in mid-November.

2 Minute Training sets

September 16, 2009

In a brief training session yesterday afternoon I walked a course Bud had set up for Vicki and Jackie, our regular Tuesday and Thursday night students, and my partners in the Strategic Teams game in Wisconsin in a couple of weeks.

The lesson for Tuesday night had to do with straight lines created by judges who run with dogs uninterested in moving ahead of the handler. These straight lines are killers to those of us who have encouraged our dogs to run ahead and faster than us.

I walked the course, noticed several options, and ran Hazard on all three of my options. She was keen to work, speedy, barking, and having a great time. And she nailed the course all three times, with all different options.

At the end of Jackie and Vicki’s lesson we broke one of the awkward sequences into a strategic-team lesson. With other dogs on the course, running around her, and handlers shouting at their dogs, Hazard completely shut down.

Handling her over 3 jumps in a little sequence became nearly impossible as she tried to get away by taking jumps without being cued or released to do so.

We switched strategies, putting Hazard’s bit of the course out of the way of our teammates, and she was able to function much better. We’ll need to remember this when it comes time to chop up the strategic-team course in Wisconsin — “Hazard needs to work along edges and in corners of the course.”

In other news … One of my blog readers sent me a link to video of Jon Gosselin (why on earth does he talk to papparazzi as if they are friends?) as the German Shepherd pups got loaded into crates and returned to the breeder. It would have been an indication that someone in this group was thinking clearly if the BREEDER had come to get the dogs.

Instead, Jon got to use the return of the dogs to the breeder as an opportunity to jab and poke at Kate, who was using the dogs as a tool to irritate Jon. Dogs caught in the middle of divorce are often used to create pain for the other spouse.

Fortunately dogs aren’t probably as cognizant of being used this way as children are. My heart goes out to the adults these Gosselin children will become. They will probably all require therapy and I can only hope that one or both parents are tending to that.

In the meantime, Jon and Kate are an embarrassment. I’m ashamed to say I used to enjoy their show.

Having been divorced I absolutely understand the desire to hurt the “ex” and the desire to gather supporters by stating one’s side over and over. But I did this in private, one-on-one, with my friends.

Jon has developed a relationship with the photographers who exist outside his fence. Kate has developed relationships with interviewers who will pay for her opinion. It’s gross. They both look foolish.

In other news …. Bud heads out to Springfield, IL, tomorrow for a day of teacup seminar, followed by 2 days of showing Hazard, followed by 3 days of standard agility training. This event was set up with us by Deb (Richey) Auel. Deb has been a friend and supporter for as long as I can remember. She was our teacup judge at the trial where Bogie earned his TACh.

I’m going to be interested to hear how Hazard does, running for Bud, in a strange place with a new judge. I’d love to see this Sheltie-Ranch girl come out of her weird phase.

News from the 2-Minute dog trainer

September 7, 2009

This is Hazard’s time to shine. My hope is that, after training and trialing with me for a few weeks, she’ll turn back on to agility and be more confident. And my hope is that Hazard will run for Bud at the Petit Prix, at least some of the time.

This week I’m beginning little teacup sessions with Hazard. Our training will include narrower jumps (instead of 4-foot jump bars we’ll work on 2-foot wide jump bars), weavepole motivation and speed, but not a lot of contacts. Hazard’s 2o2o contacts have transitioned naturally to lovely running contacts and I’m not messing with that. We’ll also be doing some distance training.

In other news, I found a fiberglass double utility tub at a yard sale for $10 and Missy Holmes (formerly Richards) plumbed it for me last week in exchange for private agility lessons for her cattledogs, Gracie and Gunner.

I’ve had a terrific time in the last few days, washing 1-3 dogs a day, getting their shedding hair out and removing months’ worth of grime and grease. Aussie and Shelties don’t require much bathing as a general rule, and I know at least one sheltie person who claimed to have never bathed her dog — just brushing and trimming — because shelties really don’t get a lot of oil or smell in their coats.

A major transformation happened on Saturday when I spent 2 hours with Ringer, our 11+ year old rescue with the MAJOR black tri coat. I thinned, I de-matted, I clipped, I trimmed, I hacked away at this horrible over-the-top aussie coat. Then, when all the excess hair was gone, I bathed this boy for (probably) the third time in his whole life.

Ringer lived the first 3-5 years of his life in the bottom of a stack of crates at a puppy miller’s torture chamber. He was one of 150 or so dogs to come out of a puppy mill raided in Spencer, OH, many years ago. We fostered him and then adopted him.

Ringer was a mess when we got him though rescuers had already bathed him a couple of times. The smell of urine and feces didn’t go away for many weeks. In order to save herself work the puppy miller had removed the steel trays from the crates that sat on top of Ringer’s, so all the upstairs neighbors pooped and peed on him. To this day the slightest sprinkle of rain sends him running indoors. <g>

Ringer is undoubtably the most “grateful” dog we’ve ever had. He has several behaviors to express this gratitude including coming to give me a little kiss on the hand after every meal, visiting each of us once each evening for his hug (he’s the only dog I know who actually craves hugs — the tighter you hold him the more he delights in the contact). Puppy mills are an abomination and should be outlawed.

Today I got Banner’s toenails trimmed (a major achievement since she’s deaf and mostly blind and tends to panic attacks when her arthritic feet are touched) and I’m off to comb and bath Bogie and Birdie, Bud’s 13-year-old shelties.

I’m hoping all this grooming will relieve my house of some of the dirt and hair plaguing us this summer.

Bud’s been on a cleaning frenzy, starting with the installation of the washtub that required movement of some stuff in the basement. This led to a clean-up of the whole basement, hauling tools and tables to the green shed where they will reside from here on out, and organizing the green shed.

In between cleaning episodes, Bud’s digging down through 40 years’ worth of stacked building materials at the lower cottage. My Dad loved to save old bricks, cinder block, stones, fencing, lumber and wire. Unfortunately it was mostly stacked under some trees in the woods adjacent to the cottage.

After 40 years it takes a minor excavation to reveal exactly what sort of pile you’ll find. So far Bud’s found rotten wood piles (great, soft soil which he added to his garden to break up the red clay), brick, chain-link fencing, and field stone.

All have been dug up, hauled up to the house, and stored for future use. Hopefully we won’t need to excavate it again in 20 years. <g>

My Mom, Sister, and I drove yesterday to central WV to visit some really beautiful state parks. We started by checking out Hawk’s Nest, overlooking the New River, then drove on to Babcock State Park and the gristmill there. On our way home we stopped at Hawk’s Nest for lunch, and Glen Ferris for pictures of the lovely falls.

The lousy economy means lots of folks are doing “staycations,” but the state park system still shows signs of financial woes. But Bud and I own about 20 acres of woods and I know the battle between tame and wild that occurs whenever you try to carve civilization out of wild woods. So I guess the state of WV is doing an okay job. I wish the owner or manager of the dining room at Hawk’s Nest was a little more of a perfectionist.