Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Building to success ....

So you've got this dog.
It's a nice dog. It's a sports dog.

But it's not the same dog at trials or in class as it is at home.


What to do? What to do?

Well, if you've known me for any length of time at all you know what I'm going to say I bet. Set some goals, make a PLAN and get to it!

Let's take one specific thing to illustrate my meaning.

Seeing as how this is my agility blog let's talk about weaves.

You've got weaves, let's say in your garage, no problem... offside, near side, calling to you, sending away from you whatever you do you get nice looking weaves with some action ....

I thought I might be able to play in our garage ... umm I can hardly walk in our garage now!

You can work around the clock there with nary an issue  ... but oh lord anywhere else and you'd think you'd never taught weaves before ....

the struggle is real and you are not alone (be it weaves, scenting containers, dumbbell work, recalls, stays, contacts or whatever) and there are specific concrete things you can build into your program to help you .... honestly - let's break it down!!

So - your goal is going to become some variation of: doing whatever it is as well else where as at home!

Things to think about building in and upon

distractions - things that flap and move, things that our dogs would rather have (food, toys, other dogs, people). Build distractions up AFTER your dog is comfortable doing the weaves (or whatever) in each setting...

here is a little video example of toy distractions being scattered around

footing changes - concrete, padded floor, carpet, dirt, grass - all are very different to our very olfactory motivated canines! this is so much more important than people think of ...  I know when I started trialing I would have panicked to find myself on a horse arena floor - now I'd relish the challenge.

terrain changes (uphill, downhill?) if you always do things one direction the first time you turn it around you may feel like you are starting all over ... that said it will go much more quickly!

So in the above example  I might open the garage door one day and work weaves, then a few days later throw a couple of toys out and work weaves,... then perhaps both open the door and throw toys out ...  suck a friend or family member to come and putter in the garage for 3 minutes and weave then, ask them to stop and stare at us another time, put a big piece of carpet under the weaves another time .... tape the poles to change colour or pattern or put little balls on the top of the poles another time

While I was building distractions in the most familiar place ever I might also take the poles out of the garage one day - on the driveway, on the lawn, in the dining room ...  I might take the poles to our beer store (see number 6 in the link to understand that comment!)

If I was expecting weaves in a new location (let's say class) at the same time as this was going on I'd have one of two choices and what I'd do would depend on the dog and our mutual experience ... umm actually I'd do one ... but that might involve renting the space, or privates or something other people might not be able to do

1) I'd keep it really broken down and simple  ... start as if i was starting all over again ... I'd expect it to take much less time than the first time it was taught but I would teach weaves again as a discrete skill

2) I'd pretty much take what I got and ignore the weaves ... so run past them if they got missed or whatever ... if I chose to take the time to "fix" the weaves in a run I would then work on weaves alone for the time I had - in other words move towards 1 again!

I would absolutely NOT be worried they'd never come because at some point I'd be sure to  do number 1 and then all would be good again ;)

I also wouldn't fuss too much when they didn't work at a trial or in class -I'd just back up a degree and build confidence again.

What would you do?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just posted a new page over to your left ...

Because I just, with a great deal of pushing, prompting and editing from my co-author, just wrote  a little book on gratitude to help you find yours!
Written with animal sports people in mind there is lots to think about and even more to DO!

The Page is called Love The One You Are (With)   which is the title of the book  so hopefully that is a logical name for it!

You probably will find it a pretty good investment of $10 (Canadian even!) and I am quite positive you'll like the images and ideas. When you buy the book you get added to the Love The One  FB group too - always a fun way to find like minded supportive and often amusing people!

We are doing final final edits but go ahead and order yours today ... we will be able to send them out in plenty of time to kick start 2017 on a great foot - if you want to get one  as a present for a friend just include that in a note with their email and we'll be happy to send it along to them :D

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why is play so hard sometimes

I was house cleaning this am ... with half an ear on the radio and caught the very tail end of a author discussing play. I am pretty sure he was talking about human play - but you all know me well enough to know my mind went to dog play right? 
A few of my friends and my students have commented recently that play is HARD for them. 
This makes me sad, for them of course,  but also for their dogs. 

So,  a couple of thoughts ... 

1. Search play on this blog - I've been writing about it a very long time (including a post on 50 ways to play with your dog)  

2. Be observant - watch your dog in playful moments and THINK about how you could engage in that play without shutting them down, or distracting them. 
Games with less teeth action for me please!

3. Be spontaneous - if you are walking past your dog and the time seems right to play - go for it - play can last mere seconds and be successful and if it isn't natural or easy for you I truly recommend playing for 10 seconds or less ... leave you both wanting MOAR! It's much easier to build up to longer and longer success than to try to keep a game you don't quite get going ...
Maybe we should play now eh Thea?

4. Be imaginative ... our imaginations get squelched as we age .. sigh ... 
What do I mean by this? I mean just because you haven't seen somebody do it doesn't mean you can't, try it. Maybe imagine yourself as a dog and think about what would get you happy and playing.  Test something one way, then test it another - wave a toy up like a bird taking flight, then twist it along the ground like a snake minding it's own business. 

 Dora quite likes dress up 

5. Be open - don't get stuck in YOUR definition of play. Play is a partner's game. No one partner gets to say what's RIGHT and either gets to say it's WRONG. So if you hate a game your dog loves (teeth on a pant leg leaps to my mind - thanks puppy fosters) it's ok to not play it ... but it's not fair to then insist that ruffling your dog's fur backwards is a great game if they don't like it;  A little mutual respect goes a long way here. 
Singing is one of Sally's favourite games, Sigh, 

What makes play hard for you?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

hay ho hay ho

It's back to play we go ....
the last 11 weeks flew by - I was income earning in multiple ways - which was wonderful but had significant overlap of some time absorbors ... so was pretty much working from 5 am til 10 pm with an hour of commuting and some stuffing my face breaks in there - basic feeding and grooming happened for the animals but that was about it ... cannot wait to get everybody back into working out .. maybe we'll have some nice enough days Big T will join us again!

Last Sunday Sally was invited to go to the premiere of Saving Dinah .... she was so very very good  letting her adoring fans pat her and set her up for photos - a true little star ...

it amuses me the way she can put on whatever hat is needed in a situation ...

such a good good girl, particularly given a total lack of direct attention in the last couple of months

Friday, November 18, 2016

Seasons change ... and so must I

Here comes winter.


Urban winter was often wet, and cold, and miserable.

Rural winter is often beautiful and striking and cold and a little frightening.

In the city we holed up and turned up the heat and ran from covered, heated space to covered heated space.

Here we all bundle up, light a fire earlier and earlier and shovel. A Lot. A Whole Lot.

I used to hate winter pretty passionately. I am not a fan of being cold.
I still don't like being cold but I love warming up. Winter makes me appreciate so much in life.

The early early dark? That's a whole other story!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

did you miss us?

The lovely and infinitely wise blogger entity shut me out of the blog. Yes. Again. Sigh. I'm BAC K though - and that makes me happy!

Probably a good thing I was  locked out as life was a bit crazy with a bunch of online courses, a new rescue, the farm and then a friend recovering from surgery who needed me to fill in for her. FDSA is on break until December first which is lovely and lets me do some other writing. December first is the fourth iteration of what I think of as my most foundation building  course ... All in Your Head.   it's the course that sets the frame work for the toolbox metaphor and it helps people figure out who they are and what tools might be the best for them to test and use. While I originally thought it was for people with ring nerves and stress it turns out it's fairly universally applicable and many people have gotten much more out of it than they, or I, anticipated.

There is also a little course I have running on a different platform as it works for anybody not just dog sports or horse sports people ... I've called it Hitchhiking Your Way to Time Management Success with 42 Tips and even though I'm still getting used to the platform we are having a lot of fun with it. I made it super accessible (that is CHEAP) and then am further slashing the first fifty sign ups because I know I will be tweaking with them ....


is the link - and the coupon should you be  one of the first fifty people to sign up  is FIRST50 which takes $5 off the price (to bring it to $9) (and yes - there are still coupons available)

I ran a little course to review the toolbox - tons of fun - will certainly offer it again ... and am writing a horse course and a grief and loss course right now. Busy fun days.

Never too busy to love on the dogs mind you - lots of great walks and plays and chores with them as you can see!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Guilt ... in the multi animal house

Some of you have likely realized we live in a pretty full house considering we are merely two human adults.

There are seven dogs vying for training attention at the moment and nine horses hoping for a groom and  work. We'll ignore the parrots, chickens, rabbit and cats who would also welcome more us time I am sure.

Sigh. Time is limited, guilt is high and too often sometimes nobody gets worked, That makes it worse, for them and for me too. So I am strategic. I use planning and scheduling as a tool. I don't let it run me but it is an important step for managing this type of guilt.

Did you know there are types of guilt? There are. An article from 2012 in Psychology Today outlines three types of guilt - guilt for something you did (really when you think about it the likely reason we learn guilt in the first place - to emotionally remind us not to repeat errors!) Apologize and move on. Another type of guilt considered by this article is guilt over something you think you did. Wishing someone ill, then hearing something bad happened would be an example of this. False memories can create this sense of guilt too. So before being overcome with guilt make sure you really have something to feel badly for! Guilt over not doing enough, and guilt over success are other types of guilt we experience.

The type that we need to delve into here though is anticipated guilt, We only have time to work play with one or two animal friends and the guilt over this can stop us doing anything. Rather than enjoying the moment with one we fret over lost time with the others.

Guilt is learned and often has a purpose but not all guilt has a positive reason. Sometimes recognizing that is enough to move forwards. Sometimes it takes more effort.

So understanding guilt as an emotion is important first step but then you need to identify what exactly it is that you feel guilty about. Look for unproductive  guilt as you do this.  I feel faintly guilty every time I play agility with a dog now - but realistically know Brody can't see nearly well enough to be safe. Sigh it sucks but guilt doesn't make it suck less. Share your feelings either by writing them out for you (privately is OK)  or by discussing them with a member of your support network. Build in some reflection time to minimize guilt going forward. Don't be afraid to be proactive.  Brody can't do agility anymore and can't come for long farm walks anymore but I can take him out into our fenced back yard and let him snuffle around for 5 min while I watch him every other day.

Cultivate gratitude for the pressure to do more. I often remind myself how lucky I am to have mature dogs who maintain training without too much work and daily am grateful for the elderly dogs despite the fact I would prefer to be training than home cooking or doing extra cleaning. What can you be appreciative of?

Cut yourself some slack. You are doing the best you can do in the moment. And you know what? Odds are pretty darn good all your animal partners are lucky to have you ... no matter if they get their fair share of you time or not. Nobody but you measures time by a clock. Make it meaningful when you have time and everyone will appreciate it. 

Do something for all - not every day, not even every other day but make sure there is something you do with each animal partner that strengthens your relationship and helps you let go of the guilt.

Here are some ideas:

training in your sport
play training in an alternative sport
snuffle mat 
going for a drive
sharing food
grooming time (not for Brody - hahaha)
anything that appeals from the Fifty Ways to say I love You blog

If you are struggling with this SCHEDULE time - it really won't take long but even saying Thursday is retired horse day made a difference here.

Test it, try it. Ask if you have questions.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Happy Birthday Brody ...

we added another 1825 to the count that totals over 5000 days of living with Brody.

He's very blind, and pretty deaf, and sleeps-a lot.

He's 16 and both fills and breaks my heart daily now.

He still hates being groomed ... and I worry about him hurting himself torquing away from me so his legs are matted and long...sigh

He loves his meals and loves to be with us - it's pretty weird leaving him in the house when we go for walks and to town but it's easier for him. We walk around the  yard together every day and that's often quite the adventure for him - tall plants, hills, rocks all stop him sometimes.

He is game - he is so very game ... He falls down, and up,  the backyard steps (not house stairs he is carried for them now) and shakes it off then comes at them again ... I really should get a clip of him doing the stairs - he is super man about them - bing bang bounce in impressive leaps (unless he crashes). He eats as if every meal might be his last - lying flat on the floor savouring each bite gleefully.

I miss my constant sidekick when I'm outside (and here I'm out or working online or asleep pretty much) but Brody is nearly always asleep at my feet if he can be. I miss my fabulous training buddy - what a  play dog he was.

I am so very glad to have my teacher, my friend, still with me. If ever there was a dog to remind you that they are partners in the journey - that forcing your will on them is not going to be fun - Brody is that dog. That Love the One you Got dog ... he was willing to do so much together that he probably wouldn't have chosen to do (agility, media, humane ed and more) but doing it with respect for him was important.

Regionals, qualifying for Nationals and picking up pretty ribbons every time we went

Happy Birthday dear Brody. I wish you all the good, always.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A peril of social media ....

No not the bullying, or cyberstalking, nor even the never ending parade of food making me hungry ALL. THE. TIME.

It's the grief

the people murdered, robbed, with lives destroyed  in myriad ways

a friend of a friends little cousin is facing some terrible cancer

a horse I was watching hoping she'd be pulled from a kill buyer ended up shipped for meat ... sigh

it's relentless, it's timeless

and then there are the ones who rip a little piece of my heart out

The beautiful Penny, no longer with us. taken by her human Tanya   

My heart was so full of grief on hearing the news about Penny my eyes leaked (the loss was sudden and unexpected and lovely Tanya did everything possible and then a little more). Too recently Holly lost Parker - a duo who inspired me to keep working with Sally  as much as Susan Garrett and Buzz did. Lisa lost Walter a dog dear to my heart. Joanne lost Georgie... the list could go on and on and does.  Social media reminds us of our connections to each other. There is perhaps nothing to both dread, and value, more about it.

Tanya, Holly, Lisa, Andrea, Joanne, Kathryn, Devon, Sheila ... the list is long, and incomplete but  my heart aches every time I type, and say,  the words "so sorry for your loss, you were so very lucky to have loved each other". But repetition makes them true not trite. My eyes have leaked for each loss and I know they will leak more. (rotten allergies!!)  I will not get tired of reminding myself  that the hardest part of love is the inevitable loss that comes with it. The opportunity to connect to people in such trying, impossible times is a gift.  Such is the power of social media.

Penny always reminded me of Sally.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Doing. Is not teaching. It just isn't.


I have a new teaching gig.

Teaching teachers  in an online format. I've taught many teachers over the years but  face to face and either for a very short time (workshops) or over the course of  years (teachers in my schools). This is new. This has me thinking.

Because I can effectively teach, or do whatever,  does not mean I can teach you how to teach. Because I have a national title does not mean I should be teaching a dog sport. If my horse won some blingy fabulous class at some super duper show that does not mean I can teach you to do the same thing. Sigh.

So, without further ado ...

Good teachers are

10. Enthusiastic about the subject matter.  The topic might be teaching scent work, how to post on a horse or mathematical equations.The subject matters not one little tiny bit. The enthusiasm does. The passion does. Passion is infectious.

9. Able to step outside their traditional way of thinking to present an alternative way of accomplishing something. Not everyone learns the same way. The flexibility required to be an excellent teacher is staggering at times. When you are working with a person trying to teach an animal that ability to present an alternative to your normal way of doing things may become very very potent indeed.

8. Teaching all students no matter if they are the smartest. most talented, wealthiest,  or most wonderful person in the room. Appreciating that you can respect someone you may, or may not, like becomes critical to good, joyful teaching.Every student deserves to learn.

7.  Patient ...So so very patient. At least able to realize when they are getting frayed so they can step back and regroup. Yelling and teaching have gone together a very long time. They shouldn't.

6. Setting the bar high,  then a little higher.  I am not talking about unattainable goals. That is demotivating, depressing and even cruel.  Helping students achieve all that they can is a whole other matter and if your students can surpass your highest achievement what a wonderful compliment that is to you!

5.  Always learning. Always and forever. For your students, for yourself and for the love of learning. Michelangelo said it simply "I am still learning". Me  too, and this I hope for you too.

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_learning.html
Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_learning.html

4. Allow errors and mistakes. Trite, but true - we learn from mistakes. Teachers and students both have to be allowed and able  to make, identify and work on gaps, holes and down right mistakes.

3.  Knowledgeable ... do I even have to say this? Stay a chapter or two ahead of students. Know where to find answers to questions that you aren't certain of.

2. Positive, and no I don't mean all Pollyanna and sunshine and fake rah rah sis boom bah. I mean helping people build from strengths not tearing them down. Scaffolding works. Identify how to best help students get where they want to go and teach one needed piece at a time. I, personally, love mastery learning - one brick at a time gets built. 

1. Advocates for  students. (Human and animal). : "take a break" "try again" "what can we learn from that".  are what you'll hear good teachers telling students ... or  "The ring needs better light" "Please wait your turn" "please keep your dogs under control when taking breaks".to others

and good teachers are professional ... they don't slag other instructors, whine about students endlessly, sit on their phones during lessons .... you get my drift ...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I never was promised a rose garden ...

But wow did we win the lotto with Thea ...

I've blogged about Thea here   and about agility with her in many spots  including here (the video is so Thea in many ways). Thea has taught me so much ...

She is brave, funny, opinionated, friendly, keen, athletic, affectionate, empathetic and smart. The list of adjectives for her could go on and on and all would be positive and loving. She has the most amazing capacity to charm the world.

She is also ill. Quite ill. Frighteningly, heartbreaking ill.

Her kidneys have decided not to function. Sadly she needs her kidneys to be functioning better than they are.  Our amazing canine nutritionist designed a home cooked diet for Thea a month ago when she was first diagnosed and she rallied incredibly for the month. Wooing and asking to go for walks. Loving life and being loved.  Then Monday night she was sick. Tuesday she didn't want to eat. Today she was at the vets on fluids. Tonight she had three long french fries (one of her favourite treats) when she got home. Back to the vet tomorrow for more fluids if I think they did anything to help and then we'll make a plan.

This little dog has done so much - Pet Project work, Saving Dinah work,  All  About Pets Shows for years, agility,  a little scenting but mostly sharing her huge heart with the world including many many fosters of all species. I hope the hard coming for us is easy and peaceful for her. I hope we have another miracle and she hasn't used up all her lives quite yet.

Her compatriot Walter is not well this week either. I know he and his human would appreciate good thoughts. They certainly have Thea's and mine.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Cred Factor

So... sigh

What is credibility?

Good old google tells me it is "the quality of being trusted and believed in". 

Where does it come from?

That can be a tougher nut to crack. In animal sports it can be earned by competition placement, titles and great big ribbons. Some people believe without titles one shouldn't teach. 

But if one teaches and one's students do well isn't that also worth trust and belief? I'd posit yes. Actually if one's students learn I'd theorize that credibility is achieved. 

Sometimes I wonder about people. 

Often I wonder about people.  When you think about it I get paid to wonder about people so that's probably a good thing. There was a trainer, judge, competitor in a non agility dog sport awhile back claiming that unless one had a multiplicity of titles and was a pro one shouldn't be teaching.

As a teacher of a whole lot of things I know this isn't quite right. I have taught many a person to breath through, and out of, panic attacks. I have never personally experienced a full blown panic attack.  I have spent a great deal of time being truly present with people in the midst of them. I have observed and studied and spoken to many people about them. I have had many people going into crisis ask for me to be with them over people with much more experience.

 National titles are lovely, big ribbon walls are impressive,  but the best teacher for you may or may not have either of those things. They should have dedication - both to learning to be better teachers and to helping you be the best you can, or want, to be. 

Finding the right instructor is HARD. Cred for you may not be the same as what earns cred in my book. Like so much else I blog about it really does depend. For me, I want instructors willing to listen to me, respect my animal partner but who can push me to excel. as well. Thanks to my horse sport life I never think I have outgrown the benefit of a second set of eyes and ideas but I have determined some criteria for what earns cred to me. 

  • Good eyes - that are on the student not their  phone. 
  • A kind and generous personality - one that wants excellence 
  • Honest - there is no use in telling me "good good good" when there are errors being made 
  • Experience playing the game I'm playing - I don't care if you aren't at my level but you'd better have tried what you teach at some level
  • A willingness to say "I don't know - let's find out"  my personality asks questions - and once I trust my second eyes I ask them lots of questions - I don't expect absolute knowledge but i do expect respect for my curiosity
  • An ability to express things in other ways if i just don't get it

Give me this and I will be excited about working together!!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

I'm back!!

Oh the stress of being locked out of blogger.
I was sad.
I was shocked.

I was mad.

But all is forgiven.

I'm BACK!!

Had about 4 blogs I wanted to write - hopefully they'll all come back to me.

gratotous house shot as blogger has updated and lets me use phone photos now - who knew?