Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Do you know what you're looking for?

A couple of comments recently made me take time to think about what I want as a trainer.

Our club members are a great bunch and weekly training is always fun. The fun is not a distraction from any focus on the exercises we're working on more an addition to them. Likewise at shows there is a lovely atmosphere and on more than one occasion people have commented to Mark or I that our club members are the nicest people :)

We are very lucky to be able to train these people and each new person seems to be taken on board and develop the same attitude. 

Their attitude reflects on the dogs and so the dogs develop very well without any stresses or worries. Results at shows are certainly reflecting their successes.

As you know in my opinion Agility is our game and the dogs grow to love it because of how we train it so if the dog is struggling to deal with something we ask at agility I think it is up to us to work out a way to enable our dogs to achieve what we want in a different way or accept that maybe our dog will not achieve what we want them to.

As a trainer I want the dogs to be able to do the best they can and the handlers to understand their dogs limitations and work to get the best they can. Sometimes we have to use our imagination and knowledge of what our dog likes best to try to help with improvements.

So overall the things that I strive for is to help the handlers train their dogs to be the best they can be, giving them as much information as I can so that not only do they get the best out of their dog they also have the understanding and pride in what they have both achieved.

It will be great to train the next Olympia or Crufts winner but it is equally important to train everyone to enjoy reaching their own potential.

The picture above is Fifo and Meg who have achieved much more than we ever would have thought when we first met Meg. I also think is shows how well Fifo has taken on board the running exercises we're doing on Thursdays :)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The World Moves in Mysterious Ways

Those of you that follow Marks blog will know he lives his live by positive thinking. 

Here's an example of a chain of events that lead him to achieving something that he wants to do this year.

We arranged with Lauren last year to go and train at Devon Dogs this Sunday 25 March. Lauren planned a jump skills day for the Saturday 24 the day before. Perfect timing for Rhyme's stage of development. So I booked to go on it.

A few weeks ago we decided to book a Travel Lodge to avoid me having to go down to Okehampton and then back again (or rather avoid the van having to go back and forth). We dragged our heels a bit as Mark would then have to find something to do for the day. Mark being Mark did find something to do involving a long term project he's doing (that is another story and one to look out for on his blog). 

I was still a bit reluctant to book for some reason.

A couple of days later Lauren text as she had a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Canada that meant she cancelled the jump skills day :(

I was very disappointed after all Rhyme's development is THE most important thing ever and his jump skills could suffer LOL.

Never disappointed for long we thought we could use the day instead to catch up with our nephew and niece (we've got part of a skeleton that Thomas would like) - but you've guessed it they were busy.

Meanwhile Mark happened to see that Rick Wakeman was doing an 'Evening with Rick Wakeman' in a cave in Cornwall on Saturday 24 March :) 
The Travelodge had been non-refundable so was sitting there all un-used so ...............Cornwall back to Devon and Devon Dogs the next day was definitely do-able so suddenly it all came together for us to go. 

Also we will get an afternoon on the beach for the dogs. 

Every one's a winner :)

PS Mark has given Rhyme some lessons and his jumping is coming on just fine.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men

Well all our excitement about moving to Cholderton has had a sad set back due to a fire in Cholderton House. It was a beautiful old manor house and it is such a shame for the owners. Luckily nobody was physically hurt. Although all were disappointed it shows the stuff our members are all made of and some took advantage of a well earned break from training and others socialised :)
I am grateful for everyones patience.

Thursday was also cancelled so Getting The Show Season on The Road classes did not get on the road :(

Saturday we went to Devon Dogs to do some training for Lauren. We are there again on 25th March so Lauren structured the day differently from our normal format and we did a whole day rather than short courses.

As mine was Relationship Building involving quite a few young dogs or dogs that wanted more work on focus I had to plan carefully to avoid the dogs getting tired. The way I usually work most dogs are tired in one lesson. So I spent quite a while planning and putting words and reasons to why I train the way I do. Relationship is the key for me and getting the best out of each dog and handler partnership is important. Not every person or dog can or would want to be a Gold Medal winner. In my opinion understanding your and your dogs strengths and using them to get the most out of your time together is invaluable. Mark's psychology courses are great for helping the handler to be realistic and to move forward at a pace thats right for them. Strangely people often say they then over achieve and need to change what is realistic for them :)

As promised here is the words I came up with - hopefully they are useful.

Time and place - it is very important to choose the right time and place to train your dog varying on things that will distract from what you what the dog to do.

Window of imprint from birth up to 12 - 16 weeks many behaviours will be created in that time. 

This is the best time to share with your dog the life it is expected to lead. 

Top handlers will use this time to imprint the learning system they will use. E.g confinement and restrictions so the dog takes on board that the handler is the only source of anything. Some will get their pups as early as 5 weeks to help this happen in case the breeders home opens up other behaviours such as escaping as in case of Rhyme LOL (not a problem for me as this is his character and he got so much socialisation too)

This is the time I like to socialise to ensure my dogs can cope with my lifestyle including having loads of other dogs, people, children etc around. They need to be happy to travel to stay in hotels to be bold and confident. I do not want to be in the position of being in a qualifier and worrying that my dog won't be at his best because of crowds, children helping on the ring, having to stay away the previous night etc.

As owner it is your responsiblity to help your dog enjoy sharing your life and understand times why your dog may not behave the way you'd like. 
Eg many dogs are disciplined for not being able to wait on the start line. This may be due to something as simple as being uncomfortable with dogs behind him as he can't see what they are doing. Other dogs get in trouble for sniffing the ground which is a totally instinctive thing for some dogs and needs careful training to move in from.

Get to know your dog and it's breed so you can understand which behaviours will need more help to modify.

Any modification of behaviour needs to be patiently addressed. A behaviour needs to be learned (using rewards), challenged (rewarding every successful attempt of coping with the challenge) and only occasionally proofed until moving on to the next stage. 
Rewarding has to be on a varying schedule or it can extinguish the first time you do not reward. A pack of cards or dice can help you be variable.
Examples if you always get a tip for waiting on tables the time you don't get a tip you think that person is tight or wonder what the point of waiting of tables is. Also if you always get a bunch of flowers on a Friday on your husbands way home you will be annoyed when you don't get them once but if he brings them at special times or various times then you will always appreciate them. 

What you reward with can also be a key. Knowing what to reward with is crucial. 

Time - not only important re before exercise food etc but also how long your dog works for. Some dogs will benefit more from rapid regular training sessions instead of one hour long stints. Try timing each session and find your dogs best time.

Time and place also relates to your timing in giving the rewards and the placement of reward.

Wait = willing, able, interested and trusted.
Willing - the dog has to have had lots of rewards for waiting and showed in various situations eg before door opened etc for them to even want to wait. In agility we love to get on and do the equipment as much as they do so we need to ensure we want them to wait too.
Able - are there dogs behind unsettling your's, people collecting leads that make your dog nervous, smells grabbing their senses? It is important to help the dog deal with distractions and appreciate that it can be hard for them. Work through learning, challenging proofing etc.
Interested - watch dogs playing they will break off stare at each other daring each other to move. The joy in their anticipation is clear - that is what I like to see on the start line not a worried flatten dog or one not worried about going when released. It should just be another game.
Trusted - if you have worked though all the above then you should be able to trust your dog and your dog you. If you start testing the behaviour the dog can get confused so set a clear pattern that is realistic and don't spend hours trying to catch the dog out. I prefer to challenge by doing something totally unusual so the dog is still interested. I think dogs do have a sense of humour and enjoy challenges. Eg dog waits - you sit in a chair. initially the dog may get up but you are in a position to reward it not to. The dog gets rewarded for waiting and waiting gains more value but you have not messed around with your start line routine.

Sorry we ran out of time and I won't publish any of the "consequences" game we played (not this blog anyway LOL). Hopefully this will help. If you want details of the games/exercises we did please contact me. 

Anyone interested in further training or if you think this course would be useful for others please contact me.

It was a lovely day and all the dogs concentrated very well and hopefully you all have an idea of how to maintain that in different classes and environments. Great dogs and lovely people :)

Ruth sent me a great picture of Inka that evening :)