The Dog Agility Bloggers’ Event topic for June 2014, addresses the topic SUCCESS. To view all the posts go to
Posts Tagged ‘puppy training’
My experience of dog agility has multiple mental games. The first is the shear pleasure as I attend training events, play with my dog, make plans for daily training regimens, and socialize with my friends. The second is the intense focus (or fuzziness) while I stand with my dog at the start line at a familiar trial site. The third is the pressure cooker of the national event final round.
If my mental game is flawed, if I don’t practice the way I compete (or compete the way I practice), then my attitude will not be appropriate for the event with which I’m faced.
If I practice with focus and drive, and compete with the same focus and drive, then I’m practicing the skill I’ll need to succeed in a trial setting.
If I practice with lightness and joy, playing with my dog in a relaxed manner, and compete with the same lightness and joy, then I’m practicing the skill I’ll need to succeed in a trial setting.
Neither of those choices are wrong. If, however, I train and practice with lightness and joy, and compete with focus and drive, not only is my mental game flawed, but my dog is probably confused.
For many years my “novice A” dog and I struggled. She was a bar dropper, built badly for agility, and poorly conditioned for the task. But she loved agility and I loved running her.
After several years in novice and open my attitude towards the game began to shift. I stood at the start line wondering “how are we going to screw this course up?” I wasn’t enjoying myself and I had no faith in my dog. Should I even continue? Everyone around me was Q-ing, earning titles, etc. (Sometimes handlers get another dog at this point.)
And then I had an epiphany. Bud Houston and I did agility training as a business. Trial weekends were my only vacations. Why was I having such a lousy time on my vacation? Why was I putting such pressure on myself?
If my vacation involved going to the beach and playing frisbee, would I have an intense need to qualify at frisbee? To earn a Q and move up to the next level? Of course not – when I’m on vacation I try to be more relaxed and have fun.
So I applied the “relax and have fun” idea to my agility trial experience. When I practice I do so with lightness and joy. I tell my dog he’s lovely and such a good boy. If we Q that’s great. If we don’t that’s okay as well.
I know many of the blogs in this cluster (see <http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/the-mental-game/>) regarding “the mental game” will discuss the intense, focused, driven mentality required to give a peak performance. Other folks live this way, it just doesn’t work for me.
I don’t love dog agility any less than they do. My mental game is just different.
In order for me to do well, I have to be happy with myself. I have to show my dog that he’s right in what he’s doing, and loved for what he’s doing. I have to be relaxed at the start line, and up-beat at the finish line.
I must resolve to spend time conditioning proper performance in my dog. I must resolve to swim and take my pain meds.
I must resolve to never blame my dog for failure. I must resolve to always finish a run telling my dog he’s loved and appreciated.
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.
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?
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 <email@example.com>. See you at camp!
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.
Our special topic this month is “backyard training” and, instead of including a bunch of training tips or exercises for training in your backyard, I’d like to be an advocate for training every day (whether in your backyard, front yard, side yard, basement, or the neighborhood park).
My puppies eat 3 meals a day until they are 4-6 months old. That’s about 6 minutes a day I can train a puppy. By the time my puppy is 6 months old I’ve spent 570 to 660 minutes of training my puppy.
That’s 10-11 hours of training, without stressing the puppy, without ever dropping below maximum excitement levels.
After the puppy is 6 months old I have 6-9 months before we being trialing.
That’s another 12-15 hours of training time, all done at mealtime with minimal interruption of my work or life.
So mealtime training — frankly ANY daily training regimen — enables the handler to condition lots of different behaviors with an excited, energized puppy.
If I take my puppy to a weekly class I probably spend less than 10 minutes out of any hour actually training my puppy. I would have to attend a class for years to get in the same training time I achieve through daily training at mealtimes.
An additional benefit is the delivery of the food reward (or toys, or tugging, whatever reward system I choose to attach to positive behaviors) from my hand.
My working relationship with my dog, whether it’s my 8-week-old puppy or my 2-year-old rescue, can develop very quickly when all rewards are delivered from hand — and when every day involves fun, exciting training with huge rewards.
Bud and I are often asked to help solve problems — performance errors, relationship disconnects, or confusion. My first question is always, “what does your daily training look like?”
Set aside 4-6 minutes a day, at mealtimes, to fully engage your dog in training games. Work on obstacle skills, self-confidence, or self-control.
Put one jump in your basement or your backyard and work on sends (“go on!”) or crosses (front-crosses, back-crosses) or whatever — invest the time and be amazed at the results!
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.
Getting a new dog, whether it’s a puppy, adolescent, or adult from a breeder, or a rescue with unknown heritage, is a crap shoot.
Dogs have issues with confidence, with aggression, with shyness. Dogs can get sick, can experience trauma. Dogs can experience inherited behavioral or physiological challenges.
First-time dog owners sometimes assume that every dog will be a happy, healthy pet, and that agility or obedience performances are possible with every dog.
I’ve been around the block a few times, this isn’t my first dog show (so to speak), and I know how rare it is to find a dog in rescue who is happy, confident, well-socialized with people and dogs and cats. To find a rescued dog who has all these qualities AND is an eager agility partner is incredibly rare. To find a rescued dog with all these qualities, the athleticism for agility, AND who randomly offers behaviors for the click/treat, is a treasure.
When I adopted Haymitch all I wanted was a dog who was confident, who could be socialized to be comfortable in a trial setting.
What I got is a confident dog who has no apparent issues whatsoever with people, dogs, cats, equipment, vet techs, etc.
He is as athletic as I need, easily chases and keeps up with the border collies, plays with Phoenix with confidence, climbs and jumps onto chairs and tables, has no fear of anything I can see.
When I get out my clicker and treats Haymitch looks for work. He tries all the stuff he knows — at first he only knew “jump up,” “sit,” and “lie down.” Now he throws all three of those, but he’s added “tire,” “tunnel,” “teeter,” and “weave” to his offerings.
Yesterday we had 2 training sessions on our little circular sequence (jump, tire, teeter, tunnel, a-frame). I also added a 5 minute session with 2 weavepoles.
This morning we entered the training building and he offered the tunnel twice. Walking to the weaves he offered the tire. When he saw we were headed to the weaves he offered a weave entry and then ran beyond it to the training teeter. Like a kid in a candy store, his skills are growing and he’s able to offer double the behaviors of a week ago.
Before this weekend is over I want to be working Haymitch on his sequence, AND on the weaves, with the distraction of Bud and the other dogs in the building.
I just want to go on record as saying “I will never take for granted this fabulous little dog and the personality and skills he brings to the team.”
Thank you, Margaret Hendershot and Multiple Breed Rescue!
Haymitch timeline ….
June adopted Haymitch
July rear dewclaws removed, began agility training
July 28-29 first trial opportunity (B&D)
August 17-18-19 second trial opportunity (ARF)
September 2 trial opportunities (Four Seasons and B&D)
October last weekend PA Petit Prix
November first weekend TX Petit Prix
I’m curious about exactly what is possible for Haymitch, if I devote the time and energy he deserves.
In the meantime, Phoenix is 7 months old and will begin weavepole and full-size contacts training this winter. His first trialing opportunity will be next summer, though he may get held back so that he can debut with Django who is just 4 months old.
The second check from a local dog-training business has bounced. Bud’s been stiffed for a seminar fee AND all his expenses related to an April 21-22 seminar. The seminar was full and healthy. My blog addressing our frustration with this issue is in the works.
In other news — I realize I’m taking on a lot, adding Haymitch, a little chihuahua / corgi mix to our pack when Phoenix is only 6 months old.
But I have the time, now that we’ve formally closed our training center (we do just camps, seminars, private lessons, and building rentals), and I’ve noticed that my priorities are changing again.
My primary interest is training Phoenix, though Haymitch will probably enter a trial ring several months earlier than Phoenix.
My goal with Phoenix is to develop distance and speed skills which will allow him to move at his natural speed while I move slowly.
My goal with Haymitch is to develop obstacle skills, and confidence skills, which will allow him to attend TDAA trials and have some fun.
The dogs are really on two different training tracks. I’m interested in knowing if any of my readers have experienced this, and how you tracked progress.