We’ve had all kinds of exciting things happen over the last 3 weeks.
Last weekend we went to a tracking workshop presented by someone who owns some of Griffin’s relatives. Her dogs have been very successful in AKC tracking (following the scent of a person over varied terrain). Her presentation was very good and it was exciting to see so many people attend and ask really great questions.
I am not crazy about tracking -I like more active training than setting up puzzles for dogs to solve, but I can see how this will be very beneficial to my dogs. Scent related activities tend to be something my dogs are weak at (indicating it’s me…more than lack of capabilities of the dog/s) and this will give us a structured way to work through this. My dogs have been started in tracking training with a different method and I really should follow through and hope I have the motivation to make it happen!
The presentation was very good at indicating what the final goals are and then outlining the training to get there. It’s both fairly simple (start with a short distance. Gradually increase. Gradually add in variation) but also complex (humidity, moisture, temperature, hills will all influence what happens). I do think it’s important for us to try new/different things to be sure I keep having experiences as a learner and to see other kinds of activities.
Here’s a video of our friend doing tracking training about 8 years ago! Bailey lies down when she finds the ‘articles’ I dropped when I made the track.
I knew of Jane from her older book on dog training When Pigs Fly: Training Success With Impossible Dogs (though I’ll say it’s mostly just dog training, appropriate for all kinds of dogs!) I knew of her Puppy Culture DVD/program, but was not very familiar with it.I have an unscientific bias towards a puppy raising program developed by Griffin’s breeders.
The Puppy Culture DVD is extremely well produced/professionally done. By every standard I can think of, it’s the best done dog training related DVD that I have ever seen. The editing is great, the sound quality, music added, content, how the content is displayed, it’s all very, very professional. And the content is well done. I had to go and look up some of the studies she referenced and don’t know that they are very persuasive on their own, though I do agree with the points she was trying to make.
The sessions confirmed something I have felt for a while – breeders and shelters with litters/puppies should be doing a lot more to get puppies prepared for life in an average home. Puppies should have training to pay attention to people, to not be worried about the environment, to problem solve without being frustrated, to be fine crated alone (with a delicious chew), to have a great start on house training, training to take food from a hand, and polite ways to ask for what they want (sit and watch vs bark//paw/panic). I hope to see more of this catch on, it will only help families be better able to help puppies in their care and for puppies to transfer to new homes with less frustration.
Her early effort on attention/eye contact was interesting. She referenced this as important for bonding, especially from the perspective of the human. Apparently one study found that attachment-forming-related-hormones increased during eye contact – for both people and dogs. This didn’t happen with people and wolves. And it didn’t happen if the dog were cued/commanded/made to look at the person, only if that attention was willingly offered.
The talk made me really want to raise a litter of puppies. For a while I’ve been half-joking about breeding/raising puppies specifically to be awesome pets (laid back, calm, healthy, social with people and dogs but not frantic) – but I don’t know that those are the kinds of dogs I want to live with myself.
I took many pages of notes, it was fun to jump into a topic I don’t know very much about and I’m especially excited about some of the widespread data collection plans Jane has for the upcoming years. There’s so much variation within breeds and individuals – her project will let us know what to better expect – and better help – puppies and families.
A few weeks ago we had Denise Fenzi back again. We had a half day on engagement, half day of heeling games, and Sunday was ‘Handler’s Choice.’ I’ve seen Denise present twice before, but it’s been a few years. It’s fun to see so many people enthusiastic about training.
Denise is so excited about training and helping teams. It’s fun see how her seminars change over time. I have not done any of her online classes yet but I was told that parts of the seminar were like real-life versions of her seminars. I didn’t take a lot of notes – mostly funny things she said or interesting things – “90% of dogs will like motion for the sake of motion.”
In the middle of the trip we had a chance to attend an agility seminar! This wasn’t a planned part of our trip but was a great opportunity . We did two half days with Isabelle Emanuelsson and Jouni Orenius. The set up was excellent – the seminar host had two outdoor agility rings, one big/’normal’ sized area and a smaller area. There was a pond very close so the dogs could cool down between runs. Even though we were only there for the morning portion, we got in a -lot- of training. The 8 working dogs were divided into 2 groups – I’m not sure how it was decided, but it worked out as 4 small dogs and 4 large dogs – and all the large dog people were apparently fine with the lecture/course analysis part being in English! We would talk about the course for 15-20 minutes and then 2-3 ten minute sessions with one instructor. We spent the second part of the morning in the other area with the other instructor.
Griffin is great, I don’t think we did too badly – there were only two moments where something seemed completely impossible for us. The overall things we need to work on are no surprise – it’s a lot of what we get told to work on during lessons at home.
More cues: I know Griffin needs more cues/understanding of cues to tell him about turns/how to take a jump. We’ve started this but he doesn’t understand it very well yet. I’ve also started this with Viktor and Tonks but not followed through well. Jouni talked about this being one of the important more recent additions for his dog/s. At the trials/seminar I could see where the cues would help (and at home too!).
Push Griffin for more speed: Easier said than done. He’s not a slow dog, but he’s also not trying very hard. He’s not crazy about toys but I’m back to trying to use more toys in training to increase his arousal even if I can’t use the toys as a reward.
Go faster: Our usual agility instructor has been very politely been saying this for a few months. She says it in a way that’s sort of “You could go faster. you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but really you could.” At the seminar the prompts were a lot more enthusiastic.
However – this has been one of the harder things to apply. The more I’m thinking about where I need to be, how to cue my dog, and when I need to cue – the more I slow down! This also happens when I’m driving my car – if I think about more things I start to go slower and slower…
And running faster is not just actually running faster – there were many times when I’d be too early to cue some areas. The strategically running faster is going to be an important part.
Skills: I didn’t feel Griffin was too behind in skills. We could push to backsides of jumps, he had good independence on contacts and was decent (but not perfect) about weave entries.. One of the fun things we did was two blind crosses in a row – this had never occurred to me even though I must have seen it. It will solve a few handling challenges with a lot less training.
Misc: On the first day we did courses that were about 24 obstacles. When we arrived the second day, we saw folded pieces of paper….to add numbers up to 32.
The presenters had a lot of enthusiasm for timing handling options and were eager to pull out their stopwatches.
At one point Isabelle made a comment about Griffin being “..an angel about jumping!… an angel about handling!” which I found very amusing. Other people often seem to think he’s more biddable and cooperative than he actually is.
Griffin’s fitness was not as good as the other dogs. Not far behind – but we had to cut some of our turns a little shorter. In training I may be keeping our sessions too short.
At one point there was a comment that it was very “American” for me to not be cuing him a lot. I don’t know how true that is- I think our obedience experiences make me want to give Griffin more responsibility and less cues.
One of the sessions had a theme of “flicks” – a variation of rear crosses. We did really well with this even though that’s not something we ever really do. Apparently doing other kinds of rear crosses transferred over very well. Not only was I confident we could do it, but he actually did well. This did mean we had to then get harder tasks for us – but it was fun to do something very well!
I’m so glad we had this opportunity. We’ve done a few agility seminars this year and it’s a lot of fun. I love the location and it was a great balance of successes and challenges.
We got to go to another seminar! Two days this month! The last time I spent this much time at agility seminars was 2005 – yes, 11 years ago. I know I need to go to more agility seminars.
This one was to see Steve Schwarz in Youngstown at a beautiful, big training building. I’ve read Steve’s blog for many, many years and have appreciated his approach to training, thinking about training, and his enthusiasm for training. A few of his things I especially love:
An article I can’t find – but Steve talked about not feeling well but still doing some training – to prepare for less than ideal trial situations. I think about this a lot and some evenings after teaching I’m too tired to want to do anything with my dogs other than playing but I’ll think about this and go do a good training session.
www.agilitycoursemaps.com – Sometimes I’ll use this when looking for set-ups for classes or training my dogs. I wish more people would put in course maps (and I’m guilty for not doing so!) – though I know there may be some judges who don’t give permission.
This Recall to Heel article/video: We do this exercise in beginners class and when teams move to intermediate they get a link to this article. And to the whole blog as a “recommended resource.
This training exercise/sequence generator. I don’t use it a lot, but it is a beautiful thing. I love how it is such a lovely example about how agility is not just random things, but a combination of possible elements.
The morning seminar was on “Can You Handle It” and looking at the various handling/dog path options. Griffin and I had a working spot and ended up being the first dog! I had not been at the seminar the previous day so we came in without knowing quite what to expect. I was tempted to ask to be moved on the list, but went with it! Good practice!
Griffin had trouble with the floor at first but then settled in and ran better. We weren’t perfect on the course but I wasn’t surprised by anything and we did well. He was trying hard, fast, and on task. We got good feedback, got to do some of the “be more mean” exercises (harder ones) with reasonable success. My favorite part was that nothing felt very hard or impossible – our skill set is definitely bigger than it was at the beginning of the year!
Griffin got a few compliments on his speed and enthusiasm and we had some nice comments on our skills as a team. The funny thing is we really are not experienced compared to many there – I think we just do a good job of the principles Steve talkes about – being good at pieces and training those to a higher level of fluency and looking at options available and not feeling restricted. Several people were amazed at his age (7). As always, we have a lot of little skills to work on and things I wasn’t 100% happy with, but those just go on our (giant) training list and we’ll work on it at some point. We got some positive comments from Steve on Griffin’s contacts and ability to hop onto the end with enthusiasm when starting sequences from a contact obstacle. After so many years of having very challenging dogs – it’s nice to have some things go well!
Steve is a great presenter – he has a plan, stays on task, gives good feedback and full attention to the teams, and knows a lot about the ‘big picture’ of agility. I would definitely encourage/feel comfortable having my students work under him.
The seminar was originally going to be about the AKC Premier class skills in the afternoon (that’s where we were going to work!) but that part got cancelled and changed to a lecture/demo on “Backyard Mastery.” It’s definitely a talk I would like some of my students to hear – they could get a lot out of it and we talked about it in class this week a little. Many of them don’t have yards or places to go and work dogs on agility, but some of the same concepts apply to their manners/focus/groundwork skills (add variation! change an element at a time! changing something can make the task harder – don’t just do the easy version! ask ‘what if….’).
Tonks came in at lunch to do some play training. Some of our skills have been lacking recently but she came in on a (mostly) loose leash and easily, she played and responded to cues, we switched between toys and could turn to a toy behind her back, and she settled during part of the afternoon lecture! I should have put her in the car and got up to walk the courses but it seemed like a great opportunity for her. When demo teams ran on sequences she settled and watched – she’s probably only watched agility one other time and definitely needs practice learning to not care about other dogs running.
The changed schedule allowed me to get back to Columbus in time to teach evening classes without needing a sub instructor. I was tired, but it was a really great day! I’ll definitely be going up there for seminars again.
I was only able to go one day – and with a 3 hour drive each way, it was a very long day for us. We had registered to work in the morning session (Open/Novice) and then audit the afternoon (Drive and…something?). The morning spots were full so we took an afternoon session.
My primary goal was to give Griffin a good training experience somewhere away from our usual place and to work around the distractions of other people – and to test his training in a new environment.
Loretta is an excellent presenter. Most of the teams attending were very new to agility (some of the dogs hadn’t even seen tunnels, barely seen jumps, and most weren’t fluent with tunnels/jumps yet) – it was great to see how Loretta approached the situation and helping the people and dogs have a good experience – and to be inspired to continue training. I took many, many notes that will help me hopefully let me be more inspiring to beginning teams. She was also able to adapt for the few more experienced teams – most them have worked with her previously. Loretta was very generous with her time and ended up going over time with both groups and staying late answering additional questions.
Griffin was great! His first run was not very pretty but his enthusiasm and focus were great. The room was fairly small, the jumps close together, and people were sitting along 2 sides of the room, dogs crated there, and a few dogs not in crates (new seminar attendees!). I did ask that someone stand to block the uncrated dogs – just in case Griffin wanted to visit but he didn’t think about it. Some of our usual challenges came up – signaling too early and me waiting too long to get to the next place on course – sometimes I don’t trust his commitment enough. I think it was a really good experience for him and I’m really excited for our next agility seminar working spot in 2 weeks!
I took a lot of notes – both about teaching and training. Loretta very much understands dog training, not just agility, and she seems to prioritize classical conditioning over skill training in many ways (which I completely agree with!). In brief examples she touched on the ways she’s worked to change her dog’s natural responses to get the emotions she wants in certain situations and I was very impressed with what she has done. Many people ‘in’ training/sports know how to do this in theory but aren’t always as good at applying – it’s obvious she has again and again for her dogs as well as student dogs.
We’ve heard variations of this talk several times before, but we can always learn more about self control. Many of the activities are things we now use in classes and lessons to help people and dogs learn more about self control
It’s so nice to have a dog that responds to all cues and signals – but it’s even better when the environment and distractions can cue the dog to stay on task rather than the dog helping himself unless told otherwise.
Look at increasing self control in everyday life. When are you reactive instead of proactive? I know this is one of the challenge areas for my dogs. There are places where I know I could easily add in more self control – but I haven’t. No real excuses, I just haven’t taken the time to do it. Here are a few on my list of things to do:
Exiting the car (wait for permission to exit, refocus on me when leaving the car)
Entering the training building (calm walking, refocusing at the door)
More challenging self control games with food and toys – not just the same games we always play
“Control the consequences, not the dog.” When we’re controlling our dogs (“Leave it!” “Stay!” “Off!”) – self control isn’t in place. The dogs are learning to help themselves unless told otherwise. Controlling dogs also results in dogs who evaluate where we are – and who can get to the rewards first. By setting up training sessions where dogs can make choices – and only get rewards for good choices – the dogs are learning to take more responsibility.
During our turns at the seminar, Tonks did some self control training around people. We started with one person and then moved to many people. She got rewards for staying with me, but when attentive she sometimes received permission to “go see!” someone else. She loved this game and was very, very adorable.
In later sessions, we had her walk with me around people and fewer visits. Adorable! She would lay against a person and put her face right up (or in) faces and sometimes even cry a little. She really loves people. My biggest challenge was to give her bigger rewards – I get very serious in training and have a much harder time doing exciting reward rituals with my own dogs than student dogs!
At the end of the seminar, I intended to give one of Tonks’ turns to Griffin and do some trial prep self control distractions. I got distracted and ended up inside with Viktor. He did reasonably well – he loves people too and is much more frantic about his enthusiasm. I’m glad he had that experience and was able to eat, play, and do a little training near the group of people.
I don’t know when Tonks will get to do her next seminar – but it was a really good experience for us and I’m looking forward to the next time.
Griffin gets to do an agility seminar in a few weeks – I think my first time ever working at an agility seminar!
Over the weekend we did our first seminar together! We were at the training center for a Shaping seminar with Fanny Gott. We spent some time working on her heeling and retrieve. Saturday had a lot of auditors and I was very happy with how attentive she was. And Sunday I was comfortable enough to let her off leash for a while with only a brief visit to the crowd.
We worked on heeling and retrieving. She already knew about left side but was not as close/parallel as she should be and was not always intent on staying in position. We haven’t worked on heeling a lot before now – but it hasn’t felt like it was going `very well. Now we have a little more of a plan – mostly about changing placement of reinforcer (much closer to me) and needing to practice in more locations.
We also worked on retrieving – Tonks has a good play retrieve (unlike Griffin) but that’s a different skill than a formal retrieve. We did some training on a hold, working up to a gentle pull. Later we did a fast pick up, we’ll have to work on some of her play cues to help with that. I think it’s going to be hard to get intensity for her retrieve but I know we will get a lot of precision.
I’ve been waiting – years- for the opportunity to see Bob Bailey speak (click her for an article about him!). I’ve been endlessly fascinated by him ever since Blaze was a puppy and I first heard about Bob Bailey and his ‘chicken camps’ where people could learn great animal training skills. I was almost thinking I would never get a chance when I found out about this seminar just about 6 weeks ago. I quickly rearranged my schedule and we made a trip just outside of Chicago.
Bob Bailey has been speaking with Parvene Farhoody for quite a few years now. Parvene is in many ways a student of Bob Bailey’s but she’s also done many great things herself and is very experienced working with pet owners and training in a variety of settings. They did a great job of dividing up the seminar as well as coaching/problem solving with a few demo/working teams over the weekend.
The seminar was various lectures, some by Bob Bailey and some by Parvene – though most of the power point slides were in the same format – my least favorite part of the seminar – yellow on black, with interesting stylistic choices on capitalization, font size, and italics. I was familiar with this format from seeing some DVD’s. There were presentations on critical thinking, behavioral economics, efficiency, history of animal training, and a few more. There were two working dog teams that had some coaching throughout the day as the teams both worked on training the same behavior and improving fluency. I always take a lot of notes at seminars – this time I had 48 pages of typed notes from a 2 day seminar. There was a lot happening and from past seminars I know I think I will remember things – but if it’s not written down for reference I never remember!
Saturday evening, a well known scent trainer, Randy Hare did a demonstration and lecture. I feel like I must have missed some of it because some of it didn’t make very much sense – later I heard others also expressing confusion so it may be possible he was used to teaching in another format. I’ve seen some of his videos before and seen the great stimulus control his dogs have – searching for the correct odor and then receiving their reward, even though toys are bouncing all over and other distractions occur. It was also interesting that some of his training is entirely the opposite to some of the scent training I’ve been exposed to – and both approaches have dogs successfully working and competing.
Many of the lectures were pieces of things I had seen before on Bob Bailey’s DVDs – but some of it was so great to be able to hear him talk about his experiences and approach. I would be able to listen to his stories for days. It’s almost impossible to believe the things he’s done with animal training, the experiences he has had, and how much he has accomplished.
Sometimes when I’m teaching, I’ll get excited when a dog accomplishes something fairly simple even though I’ve seen it hundreds? thousands? of times by now. It shouldn’t be quite as exciting – but it really is. And I saw that same thing from Bob Bailey a few times -even when coaching a team training a simple ‘go around a cone’ exercise there was so much enthusiasm, attention and excitement for the successes and errors. I sometimes was watching him instead of the working dog – Bob’s attention primarily was on the dog but would occasionally flicker to the handler and then right back to what the dog was doing. He seemed to almost be unable to stop himself from adjusting props and distractions a few times to push the dog further along in the training.
It’s going to take days to go through all my notes and start working through the changes I would like to make to training for my dogs, my student dogs in various classes and the teams I work with for private lessons. I kept a running list of ideas and alterations I want to work on.
The few things I walked away with:
Fast: Training should be fairly quick. Look for areas where this isn’t happening, find ways to make adjustments. Not to say we need to get to the final goal right away – but we need to continue to make measurable progress. “Don’t waste your most precious resource – time.”
Keep more records: I’m pretty diligent about having very basic records – I have rough outlines for all my training for the past few years and even more rough notes on classes. I need to go back to finding simple ways to track a few more things that will be useful for measuring long term progress and the impact changes make on our training programs. “..permanent, objective records…”
Evaluate everything: One of the underlying themes was the critical thinking – and especially of established programs/practices in training. There are a lot of things that are dog trainer myths/traditions/’ways’ that are not always necessarily most efficient or effective practices. There were quite a few what-appeared-to-be-not-so-glowing references to various popular training systems/programs/marketing situations – but the honesty was there, there’s a lot going on in the dog training world that is not data driven and the love of some of these things can hold trainers back. I’m pretty good about not falling into the popular-training-system thing, but I also don’t always evaluate my own training enough or why some programs developed by others seem to work well (or not so well). “The [behavior] principles are free! They’re yours!” – Parvene Farhoody
Don’t accept good enough. It’s so hard. There’s so much to train, limited time, etc. If I keep worrying on my agility details my dog will be 10 before he’s ready to compete. On the other hand, we don’t want to accept and reward poor performances or we’ll be creating a big whole long term. One of the points repeatedly mentioned was to not make things easier if we had trouble – it’s not a best training practice. With my own training I will rarely make that adjustment but when I teach I sometimes will. I’ll need to make a better plan for how to reduce the need to consider that option, as well as how to make it appropriate and worthwhile for clients to be able to follow through and completely re-set, give the dog a break, etc rather than accept “good enough.” This goes along well with the 4-H motto of “to make the best better.” “The exceptional trainer does not accept good enough.”
I’m so glad I went, I would go and see this seminar again.
The dogs didn’t think it was the best weekend, lots of time in the car crates, walking by drainage ponds full of geese, and some training on breaks and at lunch. I got to see a training friend who I had not seen since we did a dog training program together in 2008! There were a handful of other people I thought I knew (some I actually did, some I didn’t) and I was surprised I didn’t know more people there. Viktor had his first hotel stay – that deserves it’s own post sometime soon.
In early November we had our obedience seminar with Fanny Gott. Going into the seminar I was disappointed and frustrated – we had barely done any of our homework since last seeing her in the spring. Griffin had been on very restricted activity over the summer and we only ended up with about 2 1/2 weeks of training right before the seminar.
The seminar was great! It was a pretty small group and for the first time we had a lot of our students participating. It was so great to spend more time with them and watch their training progress and to hear about it over the following weeks.
Griffin and I mostly worked on a few of our challenge areas: stand to down, splash down/fast down, fixing his moving stand (getting rid of extra steps), and sequencing. We had lots of good parts and then some of it is just frustrating, I know we’ll get where I want to be and I know it won’t be a quick fix.
One of the skills that I want to have is to be trying harder and be more creative about my attempts. Take a look at the video on this page – I would never have thought to put two toys on the flirt pole or to use the hiding stations or make crazy noises. Note too that this is one of the sessions where the dog played much sooner – some of the sessions required even more persistence to get play. It was painful to watch at times – so much energy was needed to get Tia to be interested and the non-response from Tia is very not-reinforcing. But we did manage to get play/the start of play- and get it many times.
I know I do many of the same variations with distractions, rewards, and sequences,. Even though I taught creative problem solving to kids for a few years and I am good at applying it for these other scenarios of creating distractions, new reward rituals, and different types or variations of sequences. I know that results in some weak areas for my dog – he’s not necessarily expecting any one thing – but he know the typical variations that will happen and so we fall into these predictable ‘unpredictable’ patterns.
Other teams worked on playing, heeling, position changes, self control and so many other things. The dogs were exhausted and on one of the days we ended early because the dogs and people just couldn’t do any more. It was such good training and the dogs who attended several days were making significant and measurable progress. Most of the dogs who came for just one day were making improvements too (the handlers for sure!) and I could easily see how if the people kept working at the skills the dogs would quickly be progressing.
I took fewer notes than usual – “only” 27 pages which hopefully means I’m getting more comfortable with the material. And even after seeing some of the lectures multiple times – I still am making notes ! A few general pieces of advice to share:
“Build on high quality of reward rather than high frequency.” If we are only keeping a dog with us and engaged by feeding/rewarding a lot – we should evaluate the quality of the reward/work on finding and developing higher quality rewards. This will be important to help us progress and especially for competition we need the dog to work for us for a long time.
It’s “..one of the biggest mistakes that people make” to add play cues before a dog loves playing. We want the play cues to mean happy and fun and engagement. If the dog really isn’t into the play those cues will quickly have some not-so-fun emotions and expectations.
We want to not have a big difference between life and competitions and to “not settle for anything less than joy in both settings.”
We need to be sure we “..Build value for the right things.” The activity and rewards, not extra cues or lures or props that we have to get rid of later.
Griffin and I have a new set of things to work on (to add to our list from the spring) and it’s overwhelming how much I want to do – but also I know we’re about ready to go into the obedience ring. We’ve been looking at trial schedules and trying to match that with the free weekend days we have available. Griffin’s at a point where we have both big problems to fix (drop on recall. scent articles. stand to down), but also he’s fairly steady in his work- especially the novice pattern – and sequencing is becoming easy for us. Even Griffin waiting and watching another dog do agility was easy for him.
2014 was a disappointment in terms of trialing and training – Griffin’s injury and rehab gave us over 8 months of restricted activity and even now I’m still cautious about what we do. I can’t believe we’re 2 weeks into December – the seminar has helped me think about what we’ll be doing next year.