Monday, April 21, 2014

Variety is the spice of life ...

so spice it up friends - spice it up!

Dog notices start lines?
use cones, use cinder blocks, use snooker flags, use tape on ground poles as a chute, whatever you cna think of that's different - use it!

Dog has only ever seen one kind of jump?
WHY? change it!
 use a flower box under it
 blocks on it
poles that aren't evenly set
a sweater over it
a tarp under it
use cones as standards
books as standards
chairs as standards
pool noodle poles
broom handle poles
stripy poles,
rope as poles
anything goes

whatever is takes - change it

change it safely but change it - don't leave an aframe in the middle of your ring all summer cause it's the easy place - either move the frame or move the ring ;)  (this is just as true for horses as dogs people!)

I want my animals asking how high, how hard, how far not what the heck is that.

If my at home versions are a little Red Green so be it. We all have fun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unicorns and Giggles and Real Life

Spring is in the air - the dogs and I are playing more, walking more and just generally enjoying life. One thing I am finding very peculiar about life now  is that even as I have more time potentially available to teach (and learn) the hard stuff with the dogs the ratio of play, training and walks stays about the same. 

Apparently all my posts about short intense play work were not me trying to feel better about the work I could fit in but actually really true. For me anyhow, short intense, planned training is the way to go. It is true we've added more dogs and Big T now works from home which limits the crazies a bit. It's 7 am and I'd DO SOMETHING but he's still asleep. 

Sally did a jump grid tunnel the other day and LOVED it. She, of all dogs, gets the happiest when training is on the horizon, 

The little dogs have been coming to the barn with me and getting a couple of chances a day to run like squirrels .. been playing with teaching Yen heel as I do this - pretty outrageous and chaotic but still lots of fun. I won't bore you with video - but it's silliness. Pure unadulterated silly. Sweet Arnold is now at the barn acclimating to piggy life - the dogs always go to visit with him. Pretty sweet stuff. 

Just pulled the first tick of the season off Yen. YUCK. Was so hoping the cold brutal winter would have killed them. Brody is matted and burred and in his vague senility even worse to groom than usual. Lucky us. 

All good. All normal. Getting ready to move - again. I hate moving but this is a pretty exciting move into a house built with the dogs and us  in mind.  A counter is going over the washer dryer located beside the dog wash  - should make grooming a whole lot easier I expect!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Who's fault is it anyhow?

You've all heard it before.

My dog blew me off.
My dog doesn't like the scent my instructor uses.
My dog is so stubborn.
My dog missed the contact again.
My dog .... fill in the blank

How about getting to we and sharing responsibility?

We weren't communicating quite well enough
We didn't practise the right stuff
We don't have the pre show routine worked out yet

Or even better accept the human role in the mistakes:

I need to plan my training
I need to work on fitness
I should work with more distractions
My reward placement should improve
The rate of reinforcement needs to be better

How about it isn't a fault thing? It's a learning opportunity?

What a concept.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Please, for the love of your dog, PUT AWAY THE POM POMS ...

Cheer leading is a great sport I hear.
It's entertaining.
It's athletic.
It builds team comradeship and is apparently both fun and challenging.

BUT it's its own sport.

There is NO NEED for cheer leading in dog sports, or horse sports. Easy to say isn't it? Yah I do it too!


Begging for engagement, clapping your hands, pointy fingers, scooping over, repeating the dogs name a million times, all this and more can easily turn into cheer leading. Cheer leading is not rewarding ... it is noise for the sake of noise, self rewarding  (look at me super handler being all positive and shit) and it is a a feel good behaviour.

It is not constructive, helpful, educational nor useful.

Bending over your dog,  asking for hand touches that the dog never gets to follow through on, repeating a phrase or name again and again or any other similar behaviour simply poisons that cue. The dog will become inured to it's effect, and it will lose all impact. Not might. WILL.

Reward your dog (and yourself) thoughtfully with a plan. Have a plan in place for when your dog loses focus, or works more slowly than you want or whatever but please avoid the cheer leading! If I find myself cheer leading  I quit. Right there and then. Done for the day - dog doesn't want to play anyhow and making the dog play is no fun for any of us. I obviously need to spend the time planning not training if faking being happy is the norm.

Don't get me wrong - I talk to my dogs and horses a LOT especially in early training. "Yesssssssssssss, good dawg, lovely, ohh soooooo good", even just talking to myself in a happy voice "ohh pointy finger go away we don't need you here" or talking about what I want to see "focus forward a little more zoom" whatever keeps me on track works. I am not advocating silent training.

I am encouraging you to use rewards (of all sort) effectively and thoughtfully. I am suggesting you can nag a dog through cheer leading. Timing and reward placement are critical concepts no matter the sport ... use them well.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

"Bad" judges are the "best" judges

I suppose there are lots of ways judges can be bad - which is why I use the quotations. If a judge is gratuitously mean; or disengaged (reading their phone would be one good example) or otherwise just not behaving nicely then they aren't the best judges. But if they hold high standards, explain what they are looking for and judge fairly across competitors then they are the best judges. I find it stressful when a judge who knows most of the people running picks and chooses who to watch contacts very closely on for example. (Well I find it stressful with Sally, Brody has never missed a contact so judges who were uneven in how closely they watched people never bothered watching him too carefully). Are you going to "get away" with it or not? I'd much rather have a best "bad" judge and know we have to hit the contact hard enough to leave no doubt at all.

I judged a little schooling show for horses yesterday. It is hard to be fair sitting on the other side of the run. I wanted to reward the cute, the sad, the hard trier. I didn't really want to use the rider I overheard making nasty comments about her competition. Judging the classes I was judging yesterday is a lot more subjective than agility - more like rally maybe - and sometimes more like figuring skating. But even so I made every effort to put everything out of my mind except what I could actually see in front of me. The subjective bit popped up when I had two equal performances and had to split them somehow. Then I made every effort to share the love around ;)

Fair standards, clarity and consistency that's what the best judges embrace and uphold  that means a "bad" judge might just be the best of judges. Embrace them. Learn from them.  And use what they teach you the next time you compete!