Sunday, April 29, 2012

"To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching."

so says Henri Frederic Amiel.

I had the pleasure of observing a dressage clinic today. (Fancy English flatwork for those who aren't riders). The clinician today impressed me no end. In the horse world I came from horses weren't maliciously abused but the foundation was really about working both horse and rider hard. I had broomsticks rammed behind my elbows as I rode to encourage better posture. I cleaned rooms full of tack on days I missed striding to a fence. I watched horses being smacked around when they couldn't understand the aids of their green (new) riders. Spurs on riders that couldn't hold a steady leg. Riders with unsteady hands on reins attached to sharp bits. Not all riders, not all instructors but many. Last summer I had a really positive experience riding with a lovely instructor who let me work in my own way with lots of breaks and rewards for good work.

The clinician today was awesome. She watched horses struggling with the basic concepts of self carriage and never got the least bit frustrated. She watched riders having trouble following her suggestions and she simply adapted her frame of reference. I constantly heard "nice work, give the horse a pat", "good work, share the good" and so on. Every horse and every rider finished their lesson feeling good about the work they had accomplished and with concrete things to move forward with.

Of course I reflected on the dog, and agility, trainers I see. Finding the balance between play  work and learning and humans and dogs is tricky. It's a fine art and one few instructors I have seen have perfected.

The fact there are 2 learners present complicates things. What might work best for the human might not be the best strategy for the canine partner. The human might not be able to do what the canine needs. A complex cycle indeed. Teaching (anything) is a delicate matter at the best of times but with two students who may or may not be communicating well the path to learning can be fraught with peril.

Perhaps that is why so many instructors are excellent at half of the equation. They may isolate the things the animal playmate does and be positive but they may leave the human wondering about their habits.  The coach may offer praise and feedback to the human half but ignore the canine unless there is a breakdown in communication.

It took watching excellence in action for me to really understand this extra challenge of the animal/human coach.  Gives me new understanding  as I reflect on the coaching I often see around me.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

There must be something wrong with me ...

I enjoy agility ... I obsess about agility ... I like playing the game ... I spend lots of money on agility - equipment, toys, training, reading material, facility rental, gas, entry fees,  my vehicle, heck our farm  ....

I'm mighty proud of the crew when they nail a tough course! I enjoy competing ... but I don't obsess about ribbons, placements, standings or Qs.

I can't decide if that's a blessing or just a weird anomaly.

Agility isn't work for me. It's a hobby, it's a passion, it's FUN.

I like Qs but I like good runs better. I'd rather have a sweet run with no Q then a rough, unhappy run with a Q. Starting agility with Brody was good for me. He was a weird height locally so often won his classes,  Q or no Q. Placements really didn't mean a lot so I embraced the concept of competing against ourselves; aiming to run each run better than the last time. Lucky lucky me in hindsight.

I'm not chasing anything but a good time. I get so few opportunities to trial it's self evident I like being successful but not at the expense of my dogs mental or physical well being.  If we trial enough that a dog makes a list that's great- that's awesome! When friends make the various lists I'm happy for them and proud of them but I often don't think to even look for me. I don't select what classes to enter based on what title I might get - I usually pick classes based on timing and what I think the dog needs at that moment.

I don't choose trials based on how big the title ribbons are (although I think there should be recognition for the titles for those who want them). I won't support a trial hosted by people I have no respect for. I wouldn't trial under a judge I felt was chronically unfair to dogs (although I am bad about knowing the judges quirks as well as I'd like given how rarely I show).

I (think I) pay attention to details in training so I build a comprehensive program for each dog. I don't drill  errors time and time again until my dogs hate the thing that went wrong. If we are struggling with something I am sure to build lots of success into the work as well as lots of challenge. When things go wrong I look to my own handling and mind set. I must be a weak handler as the mistakes we make are mine, not my dogs.

What on earth is wrong with me?

Shaping a Tire and my Lousy Timing ...

Had the chance to do agility twice this week! Miracles really do exist!

Tuesday Sally, Brody, Thea and I went to All About Dogs to crash Sophie's training session. Sophie is learning to work in the face of distractions  and really there isn't much more distracting than the red girls! (At one point when they were both in crates the two of them had the hall echoing like a flyball tournament) 

We did a jump grid, a J pattern from the Alphabet Book, some contact work and a little weave work. Lots of fun and Brody was driving his weaves very nicely. Thea was a wee bit stunned about the weaves but figured it out! Sally was awesome too. Great consistent contacts from her (fabulous flying dog walks and aframes from Thea too!)

Wednesday Sally and I headed to Spot On. I was tempted to bring the small crew too but decided to change things up and bring Sampson instead. I'm glad I did though the little dogs would have had fun too. 
The first agility thing I saw when I pulled up was a tire. I realized Sam has never seen a tire. Could I shape a tire? I wasn't sure as I have always taught the tire by having a touch plate or target of some sort on the other side. Guess what? A dog who understands shaping well, even in a brand new place, figures it out pretty quickly. We did a few low tables (also something he hasn't seen but he gets the concept of table very well) and a couple of jumps (WINGS! so cool!)  It took a little patience to get the first tire, set very low)  but we got it. Then we got it a few times in each direction. My timing wasn't perfect but it ended up being functional! Then we went a hopped over a few jumps.Then we went back to a 16 inch tire. No problem. It's not on cue yet but it won't take long.  I put Sam in the truck (interesting - he completely melted down at the thought of being crated in the back of the truck - something he had done lots of when young) and pulled GO GO Sally out. 

Sally was a little happy to be at agility. She was a little happy to be with me. She was a little happy to be out of the truck. Sally is a happy dog. All that happy added to one very happy dog. 

There was a course set up that we played with. One direction of weaves proved a little challenging for Sally at first but the harder direction was absolutely no issue for her. I don't get it but I didn't sweat it either just worked through it. Great contacts with comprehension. Good happy drive.  Some nice layering - even to a dog walk. Good girl. 

Then Sampson came back out. We did the tire a couple of times and hopped up on the downside of the dog walk a couple of times (again shaped only - very cool) We did a 8 obstacle sequence. Table, jump, tunnel, tunnel, tunnel, jump, jump, jump. He stopped dead and stared at me at one point in disbelief. He really was astounded at the thought that agility in a great big field he didn't know might be possible. He opted out twice and went for a little gallop around but he returned to work quickly and happily. The opt out zoom by boy wanted to do agility! I am having so much fun with this only shaping thing. (I was very grateful for human companionship yesterday as it helped my patience enormously!)

What a fun couple of days. 
Until I figure out the picture thing  or start paying ~gasp~apologies for the recycled pictures - I will use ones from the farm blog whenever they fit!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

10 Habits of Happy Agility Trainers

Yup there is certainly crossover between handling and training .. but I think training deserves a list all it's own! Many of the things here are influenced by my personal pedagogy - and similar no matter what species the student is!

1. Plan your sessions. There really is little purpose in training without a plan. Depending on who you are as a planner your plan may need to be very formal and written out on cards  that you can refer to as you play (for example 1) warm up 2) 6 reps of jump grid 3) teeter work 4) dogwalk work 5) aframe work concentrate on proofing the contact behaviours then cool down - we will spend 20 minutes in total on this)   or it may be as simple as saying I'm working happy contacts this session (which should still include warm up and cool down). Decide roughly how long you want to play and stick to it. Planning your training does absolutely no good unless you follow the plan. All the planning in the world is useless if it sits in a book undone. In order to plan forwards you can either backwards map (start with your end goal and fill in the training backwards from that point) or  you can scaffold (work forwards towards your goal building on the blocks you have in place). No matter which method you chose note taking on successes and failures will pay off in spades (my notes are very rough  - this is an aspect of training I'd love to improve!)

2. Balance your workouts. Training only what you do well is pointless. Training only your weaknesses means your strengths will erode. Training only what you like to teach means there will be holes. Training what you don't really understand will lead to great confusion on everyone's part.
Balance is going to look different for different dogs and people. Brody and I play a great deal with building drive ~ much easier to do with things he knows well. He has some holes in his training but we work so well as a team that we can often compensate for them; therefore, I don't need to work too hard on them. Thea gets bored if we do the same thing twice. We work basic things with her but they always look different. Sally's sessions probably look the best balanced to an outside observer as she has lots of holes to fill but also has lots of strengths to play with. Balance also includes taking time to just be.Sometimes let your dog be a dog and enjoy that. Take a camera with you - it's hard to train and snap pictures. Get a new toy that is just for playing not for training. Take a day or two or a week off. My dogs come back from a training break better than ever often with tough concepts nailed down. I am a huge proponent of cross training - a little rally, a little obedience, tricks, running flat out in a field, swimming - whatever!

3. Differentiate. Not just between dogs but for each dog. Give them alternate ways to learn things. Let me use the table as an example. (I very much doubt that non agility people will read this but just in case - in the AAC the table behaviour one wants is the dog jumps onto the table, lies down for a 5 second count then leaves for the next obstacle). All of the dogs here understand the behaviour required and none are particularly good at it in a trial situation so the table is part of our ongoing training plan. Differentiating the table means giving the dogs lots of ways to really understand the desired behaviour. One session might involve driving at a table in speed and rewarding the dog for not sliding off it. Another might reward the automatic down that is expected of everybody but Thea. A third might be using different surfaces for the table. Another might be proofing the sticking  to the table with a tug session on it. And on and on and on; every variation I can think of that will help the dogs understand what the perfect table looks like.

4. Break it down. Training needs to be achievable to work. Playing with Sampson has really driven home the value of this one. Still wholly shaped for agility he reminds me of the importance of building one brick at a time every time we play. Without luring or physical manipulations as short cuts he can only learn one step at a time. It's taking ages as I work him less than anybody else but his knowledge runs so deep it's amazing. If he's done it once he doesn't forget.

5. Believe in your student dog and yourself. There will be days that you will wonder why you play this sport, if your dog is happy and what the point is. Accept that and be prepared to work hard to support your team. Without being too new age about it, you can learn and have fun together even if you never go to a trial. In fact some of the best fun we have had did not happen at a trial. The journey is fun - enjoy! You can accomplish goals and you will have fun. I know it ~ so you might as well agree.

6. Know your collective limits. In no way do I mean limit your goals and aspirations but recognize where you and your partner are now. If you have financial limitations it may not be the year to chase Top Dog titles. My biggest limitation at the moment is time, creating time for training and competing is tough and has been for many years. If your canine partner is aging, or has soundness issues, or whatever, perhaps you'll have to pick and choose how often and how long you train and what your end goals are. Maybe you have physical limitations? Acknowledging the limits you face will help make training time much more meaningful and useful.

7. Learn from errors, mistakes, even failures! As you play with train your dog(s) mistakes will happen. Absurdities will creep in, have no doubt of that. That's OK! In fact it's cause for celebration. It shows you where holes are and gives you a chance to patch them. Patch them with joy and thoughtfulness not the panic you might in competition which could actually end up doing more damage in the long run. I get fed up sometimes when I am playing lawn agility. Wondering why something I am doing doesn't seem clear to the dog. I stop, regroup, and maybe even adapt the plan! (Be Flexible very nearly earned it's own number!)

8. Understand that everything you do is part of the sexy stuff! I really mean this! A solid nose touch, a rock like start line stay, a zippy tunnel, a happy wait in a crate are just as important as flying fast furious weaves or a slamming teeter. Each brick needs to be solid for the house not to fall. If it doesn't feel sexy to you make sure it's part of your training plan so it doesn't get neglected. With Brody aframes came easily to him so I MAKE sure we keep throwing them into training when we can.

9. Know your student and yourself. Are you inspired by working with a team mate? Watching others? Having lessons? Are you demotivated when somebody does better than you? Is your dog ready to do what you want to do? How long is your dogs optimal learning peak? How many correct repetitions of footwork do you need to do until it feels right? (Does your dog need to be part of every footwork effort? Not in my world they don't!) Does your dog need to be ramped up more often or work on impulse control more often? Are you fraught with nerves in new settings or so blase you run the risk of forgetting what class you are in? How can you work your plan to help with either end of the continuum? Understand all these things as you put together your training plan.

10. Be positive and celebrate the victories together ... in a way that is meaningful to you both! I have said it before and I'm sure it will come up again - positive training leads to positive results in the ring. Dragging your dog, yelling at your dog, punishing your dog in anyway is not positive and it will have a negative impact on your training. When your dog makes a mistake know how you are going to react and what you are going to do and react in that way. If you get frustrated give yourself a time out and go relax. You won't ruin your dog by taking time to calm yourself but you may very well ruin your relationship if you don't! In terms of rewarding Brody could care less if I picked him up and danced with him after he does something right. He wants to run to a crate or spot and be fed and told he's a super star! Thea likes to be cheered and then fed  (she doesn't care where) . Sally likes applause and to bark at me for a toy (or more agility) then food. I enjoy each of the routines for each dog. Training calls for the same level of celebration as competition. Often we ask for more difficult things in training then in the ring so we should reward whole-heartedly and with joy.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday night and the living is good ...

Finally at the school house for the weekend ... it's LOVELY and green and beautiful.

I suspect the dogs are as happy as we are ...

Played on the lawn for awhile ... tables for all

jump work for Sam

weave entries for Sally (the one she struggled with at Webb)

then just a little 2x2 action for Sam ...

great, good, fun dogs!

(Snuck in a practice at Spot On yesterday too. Thea did strange contacts and speedy tunnels with no sweat at all - also did a little weaving ... still needs lots of support for that! Brody did distance teeters,  zipped around a little loopy course and did his speedy speedy weaves. Sally worked hard, contacts (including some proofing) weaves, box work. Lots of fun was had by all!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

looking forward .. backwards mapping ...

Always easy to backwards map if you know your end goal ...

I never rarely know my end goal.  So sometimes I have to just pick one.

67 days from now is the Eastern Ontario Regionals.

With a push, or two, or three, I have decided to enter Sally in the regionals element of the weekend. Considering letting Brody play in the jumpers and standard warm up courses, or maybe steeplechase.

Now I have something specific and tangible to work for.

Was already working but this may bring things into focus a bit.
What I won't do is decide there are skills I need in early June and then drill drill drill them into the dogs. So many people work their dogs so much harder than I would ever want to.

Every day we will play together. About every other day we will do fitness play and on the other day we will do some skill work. We will take some days off anybody's version of work and have a straight  play day.

I will work on my own strength and fitness separately to the dogs (started sit ups yesterday - have been doing a light workout in the weight room at work twice a week for a couple of months).

This week I will identify new skills I'd like to build between now and then. I already have a few on the list ..

let's get the party started!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

10 attributes of Happy Agility Dogs...

After doing the list for agility handlers I decided dogs deserved their own list. After all, the dog is half the partnership. And the one who actually performs obstacles. Not all happy agility dogs will have all of these characteristics but most will have many. So with no further ado: 

10. Blistering speed. No wait a minute. Brody isn't Speedy Gonzales, nor are many dogs who enjoy doing agility.  More like "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" for many of the happiest agility dog I watch run. They may not look slow or fast but they are moving in a dance. Often when you consider yps (yards per second) they were faster than a less happy dog that might have looked faster. So perhaps this should be: moves with positive purpose.

9. Tugging fool. Errrr. That doesn't work here either. Sally is a tugging fool it's true, but Brody and Thea also enjoy agility and should be counted as happy agility dogs. They tug but not with reckless abandon and neither finds it as rewarding as food. Perhaps the broad concept is better stated as evidence of controlled joy when agility is at hand. (As sad as it is, I don't think a dog out of control  is having nearly as much fun as s/he could).

8. Perfect obstacle performance no matter the cue given or handlers position. Really? Heck no! A dog's happiness is predicated on these things? Don't think so. And you might notice this didn't make my list for happy agility handlers either. Agility is supposed to be a team sport. Surely the most fun runs for the team (we all know the audience enjoys the ones where communication breaks down!)  are those when the team is communicating well? Really this is a matter of communication, good communication allows for happy dogs. And communication is a two way street handlers have a responsibility for communication but happy dogs (even quiet ones) communicate quite effectively with their handler.

7. Makes no mistakes. On course. In training. Ever. Given the reactions of some people when a mistake happens you'd swear this should be on the list. But, if you've read anything I've written you'll know I value errors. Both mine and the dogs. That's how we learn. Learning makes us all happy. One of my happiest runs with Brody was a masters standard* run where he added an extra chute off a dog walk. We were clicking; we were working like a great team and I had no idea he'd ever guess the chute was part of the course. He did. He still doesn't know he made a mistake there - the error was mine - wholly and I celebrated it! I will often chose a mistake over a hard, harsh call off ... if I can't communicate gently and ahead of the error I accept it will happen and put it in my learning bank. Happy dogs aren't afraid to make mistakes.  (*good catch Helen, thanks!)

6. Creative. Often one sees a happy agility dog being creative. They might make up a game, offer a behaviour or otherwise express themselves. Thea and Sally are both a little TOO expressive for some but to me, even though I would chose a quieter run if everything else was equal, it is an expression of joy for the sport and sometimes frustration at poor handling ~ the first I like, the second serves me right! Waiting to start a play session Brody will often offer behaviours. Sally is most excellent at this expression of joy in her sport. She changes the game weekly in some way.

5. Resilience. A happy agility dog either has or develops resilience. They accept that a bar might fall, a horn might blow, a bug might be on the dog walk, the weave base might look different than usual, the judge might wear a hat, whatever goes! They might be a naturally shy or reserved dog but they have learned that agility is fun and will be fun. Bouncing back from a slight change is important to true enjoyment of the game for the dog. A more sober happy dog may not find the same level of joy in every run (Brody leaps to my mind here) but they will find some joy in every run!

4. Passion. A happy agility dog is going to have at least one passion. It might be a tug toy (see above) or it might be food, it might be a favourite person, game or obstacle but their passion is going to be evident. Some dogs may have multiple passions.

3. An understanding of the job at hand. A happy agility pooch can predict what will be rewarded and what won't be. The rules of the game don't drastically change (obviously as the dog advances they get more complex). Consistency is present in a happy agility dog's life. A dog won't be carried off for one moved foot on a start line stay then allowed to complete a full course for a complete start line break. Contact expectations won't vary from run to run. Cues will be as standard as human error allow. (Yes, I once ran Brody at an a-frame saying "tunnel, tire, whatever this is!" when his usual cue would simply be "up". I still don't know where my head was at that run!)

2. Physically Fit. Many things make me sad when I watch agility. An unfit, unhealthy dog doing his or her absolute best to get around a course is one of the saddest. Not only can the dog not be happy it's also dangerous. Cross training is my personal way to ensure fun fitness . We do lawn and farm 'gility, hill work, stair work, stretching and walks and sprints. All fun for us all.

1. Happy agility dogs get a chance to do other things. They might do other non agility things as part of life - Therapy work, rally, obedience, herding whatever. More importantly they are not always ON. They do not work (or even play in a human context) endlessly. They have time to be a dog. Sniffing the ground, running in a field,snoozing by a fire or on a couch. Not every single engagement with their person is work sometimes it's a snuggle or cuddle. An open crate can be an invitation for a nap  - not an insistence on formal training time. A happy soul has time just to be. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Harmony ....

Very long month done
Agility everywhere
Most excellent dogs!

Young Sally matures
A pleasure to play with now
My joker; my joy!

Hard working, sober
Happy, fluffy boy ~
Still loving this life!

The chocolate dog
Bossy, fierce, a most 
excellent teacher. Thanks T!

Grows into himself
with every passing day now
So proud of my boys!

Our family. Small. 
Multi-species. Full of love. 
Lucky lucky me. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

10 Habits of Happy Agility People

I love watching folks who really enjoy agility. I don't mean theoretically, I mean in a wholehearted, embrace the sport, embrace the dog kind of way! Isolating 10 key good agility handlers traits was fun ..and prompted by a list for riders I tripped across (again with the horses!)  This list is not about the "winningest" handlers but a list of traits I aspire to have. I suspect there is crossover with other  dog sports  too - but agility is my thing. What have I missed?

1. Persistence: Good handlers are willing to try, try again. They know that there will be more runs, more days, and the slow and steady approach always wins. They understand that frustration is part of the learning curve and don't threaten to quit after every mistake. They don't make excuses, they don't blame others. They carry on. 
2. Open-mindedness: the best agility folk know there is something to be learned from everyone, even if to see proof of why NOT to do something. They are not handling preachers, and are always aware that good handling is good handling no matter the style.
3. Responsibility: Good handlers understand that they made the dog they run. They celebrate an error as a gap that they can work on. They take responsibility for the holes rather than being upset by the dog. They "get" that they are the one with the ultimate responsibility for both training and competition.  
4. Enough is enough: This may seem counter-intuitive, but knowing when over facing or drilling a dog into the ground is critical. They can quit when ahead. They remember the age and needs of their canine partner. The best agility players have dogs who always want more! They seem to intuitively know when enough is enough. They have the patience to invest the time to develop the skills needed. 
5. Timing: Great agility handlers have fabulous timing. Timing in training progression, timing in rewards, timing in progression of training. You don't see them stalling out on a 2 set weave pole, or running a teeter between 2 tables for months on end. 
6. Self-Improvement: The best agility people work to understand their whole dog. That doesn't mean jumping on a bandwagon for the sake of it (chiro, acupuncture, raw fed, animal communication, whatever!) but it means thinking about what their dog really needs and making it happen (which could be any of the aforementioned things). They seek to be better handlers of the dog they love. They understand that this takes money, time and humility! 
7. Seeing the Big Picture: Good handlers enjoy the “play” and the path as much as they do the goal achievement. They know that each day and each step is as important as the other and is a natural progression in development. All comes in the fullness of time - any day might be your last day to play so they let them all count, and find things to celebrate whenever they can. 
8. Joyful Role Models: Good handlers know good handling when they see it and seek it out. They embrace those who will not only help them improve on a competitive level, but also on a personal level as well. They bring joy to those around them including their dog partners. 
9. Positive Problem Solving: Good agility people can tackle issues in a variety of ways to solve them. They understand that different dogs may require different strategies to be successful. Further they embrace the uniqueness of each agility partner they play with. They understand that punishment is not necessary in agility and is destructive to relationships generally. 
10: Good Listeners: Good agility people have open ears. They are aware and sensitive to the feedback from their dogs, and aware and not defensive about feedback from other sensible agility folk. They take the information they hear and adjust their responses and plans accordingly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Off and On ... what's the switch ...

Sally has a phenomenal off/on switch

She is go go go go go go when we are walking or working  but in the house she very happily chills on a bed (or the couch). Yes, she'd prefer to work for agility or tugging but she gracefully accepts food rewards - even boring little puffs that Brody turns his nose up at after a weekend of hard work.

I have written about my trail mix attitude towards food rewards (mix of fabulous, great, good and boring food rewards in any play session).This weekend Sally demonstrated her focus work  - what Renee (the owner, and head trainer at All About Dogs) wanted was a dog who could play hard, stop, focus, eat a treat gently and then repeat the cycle mixing up requested behaviours and rewards. Sally did it 5 times and not once did she get so amped up (and she was plenty charged!) that doing any of it was a problem. With Sally toys have simply gotten added to the trail mix of options.

If you asked me how I taught this I'd have to admit to part of it being a naturally strong work ethic on Sally's part, she is a dog of joy and likes to play. She figured out that the way to her favourite things was some times to work her way up the ladder. (Though truth be told she'll still give me a look if I throw out her less favourite toys while also holding a Super Toy). I learned the importance of wind up and settle with Thea and what I learned there helped with Sally. Little increments were important in the beginning. I wouldn't have held a super toy and thrown out a spoon to start!

I think one reason she is easy to turn on is that we don't overwork, we do short sweet sessions with lots of reinforcement for getting it right. It made me sad to see some young dogs (not in our demo but at the larger show) working so hard they were getting exhausted. Not a state I ever want to induce in a dog who is working~ to drag out my soap box for a minute ~ if the dog is exhausted the work can't be fun. If the work isn't fun the joy will be gone. If the joy is gone it may poison further work sessions. All around? A no good, very bad thing!

Yes she and Brody have been sleeping well but they both enjoyed their walks yesterday and have been behaving normally. Sally is instigating play, bouncing at cats, leaping around and seeking her usual cuddles. Brody is being entirely Brody!

Sally's motto could be "happy to play whatever, whenever, just because!"

Monday, April 09, 2012

Lucky Lucky

Today is a day off for me.

Thursday was a very long day with work and then set up for the show - lots of trips across the city!
Friday was opening day at the All About Pets Show. Fun, but as with every year for the last 17 a little chaotic making sure the vision of Thursday worked in reality! Friday was also the busiest day in terms of number of visitors.  Saturday the show was fun, with fewer visitors it's the day I snuck away for a few minutes and to check out some of the vendors. Always lots I'd buy if I won a lotto - and  I do stock up on treats and try something new (This year I was gifted a Shticky too - we;ll see how that works on the volume of hair my gang generates!). Sunday things were very smooth but the tear down loomed large in my mind.  (Each day I was working at the central adoption area, helping out at the higher end artsy booth we have to raise money for the rescue I work most closely with  and running 2 agility shows)

Many many things I love about the show - seeing adopters from the past is HUGE

As is getting animals in great homes

Hanging out with dear friends

Loving on the dogs

17 years of no Easter is a long long time tho!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

All about pets show

And my first iPad post so forgive any glitches. It's still a bit strange to me.

Dogs are running like superstars this weekend. I'm Sore and achy but they are copimg well. Wish I had footwear other than my boots as my feet are blistering fast. That said still enjoying the chance to work and play with the dogs....

(adoptions have been ok too soo far, 3 Hamsters, 3 rabbits, 2 budgies, 2 guinea pigs)

Busy but fun!

First issue. Doesn't seem to want to post pictures. Will have think about this.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

rewarding times

It was interesting to watch people when they were finished working last week. Many simply grabbed their dog and stood still in the ring until they got feedback. The dogs stood and watched, seemingly quite happy but not sure if they were done or about to start back up or what.
I, as you'll see if you watch the video, had my own twisted sense. I was glad the cameras kept rolling so often through the very end of the session.

I was also pleased with the way I used a variety of rewards. Different toys, different food, different placement. Keeping the dogs engaged and wanting to play is important to me.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Setting Criteria

As I watch the hours of Webb footage I took I am struck by the need to pick what you want to reward then follow through.

If I watch a dog run and I'm not sure what is earning the reward I wonder how the dog can have a clue. I noticed that even as I am filming I tend to whisper good dog when I see something I like. Drive, contacts, sweet weaving, staying with a handler, start line stay or moving away nicely - the what doesn't matter but the positive feedback does.

It ties to the concept of making errors. If a dog is set up for success every time they do something how can they learn how to deal with an error - or even what an error is? Webb won't let a dog fail more than twice without changing things up a little but mistakes are important. I have always felt errors of enthusiasm were a good thing and now I understand more of the reasons for my belief. Without the ability to make mistakes and learn from them true, complete learning isn't going to happen. 

Without rewarding for criteria with young/green dogs and regular reminders for every dog it's going to be awfully hard to maintain criteria.

Without setting criteria you are way way behind the 8 ball!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Working with Webb - video proof!

Trust yor dawg dahling .. trust yor dawg

Trust but verify might have been our motto this week.

We started proofing Sally's contacts fairly seriously - as in trying to tug her gently off the bottoms. She stuck em hard once she understood the game. I started moving laterally and forwards on her as well. She did dogwalks, teeters and aframes with great joy and drive and never got particularly stressed about the proofing. Should be fairly easy to carry on I hope.

I worked on footwork ... and learning to SHORTEN my stride. Yah you read that right. After how many years of learning to lengthen my stride and run properly now, just like les chiens, I need to learn when (and how) to collect. Presuming I can figure it out I think it's a good problem to have.

We played agility (contacts and weaves) Friday, handling skills Saturday, building confidence and a fun match Sunday, private on proofing contacts Tuesday, course work Wednesday and handling distance Saturday. Yay for us! I'm fitter than I thought I might be quite honestly. It was work and I'm tired but it's a lovely satisfied tired. Dogs seem to be tired in a similar way.