Reflections on Training

I still consider myself a newbie to the dog agility world, but I thought I'd jump into this blog action day on If I Knew Then What I Know Now.  Unfortunately, my thoughtful post disappeared somewhere into cyber space this morning instead of actually posting.  So visualize something profound here instead of these jumbled ramblings I whipped up over breakfast! 


1. Train the dog in front of you.  Not every dog has to tug to do well or needs a fabulous startline stay.  If it isn't important to you or doesn't seem to be working for your dog, then stop obsessing!  I'm currently rethinking a lot of my training and encouraging my dogs to be naughtier.  Bark, beg, jump, anarchy!  Agility should be about fun instead of trying to fit everything into little pegs.

2.  Develop a list of priorities so you don't let that most important criteria slide.  For me, attitude and its reflection in speed has risen to the top over accuracy.  I think I made a lot of mistakes in my training by focusing more on the outcome rather than the process.  Happy corgi didn't care, but I think I let the anxious Toller practice running slower when unsure instead of making sure to move slow enough where he could run full speed from the start.  I understand the opposite viewpoint of with confidence comes speed is just as true, but I think I like the opposite philosophy better!

And finally, here is something that I'm really glad I didn't know when I first started!
Running contacts are really hard, especially for a first time dog owner!  If I had known how much obsession is required I never would have jumped in and learned so much about stride length, timing, criteria, and making training fun for the dog!  Even though I gave it up with the corgi and still have lots to work on with the toller, I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Shenna Lemche AKA Project Leader  – ( March 7, 2012 at 9:51 AM )  

#1... YES! Dogs are dogs not pegs. :) Love.

And I wonder what it says about my sanity that I was duly warned about RCs and I STILL tried it. I don't want to think about it...

Kathy  – ( March 7, 2012 at 12:23 PM )  

GREAT POST and yes those running contacts are hard, LOL. Wasnt that a great topic because it really does make you think about where you started and where you are now. Love your pointing out about training the dog in front of you and making priorities, having a plan ;-).

andrea  – ( March 7, 2012 at 4:31 PM )  

Excellent points!
Agility Anarchy - I love it!! We are in!!!

vici whisner  – ( March 7, 2012 at 5:24 PM )  

Excellent reminders. Yep, those running contacts... good luck with them.

Muttsandaklutz  – ( March 7, 2012 at 6:38 PM )  

Yep, totally agree! There's a lot of good insight in that short blog post.

Honey the Great Dane  – ( March 9, 2012 at 10:36 PM )  

Oh, I love this post - and I so agree with you about the "Train the dog in front of you" - I've had to learn that the hard way with Honey as we were always with Border Collies and other working breeds with HIGH drive in our training classes (& even dance classes!) and I'd get SO frustrated at the way that Honey isn't like the other dogs. She doesn't respond the same way, doesn't have the same inherent drives & energy, isn't motivated the same way and doesn't even learn the same way (no repetition for Honey - she gets BORED so easily whereas the collies would get into a frenzy doing the same thing over & over again)...I've finally learnt to accept the dog I have. After all, there's a reason there aren't many Danes or Mastiffs or other breeds like this in dog sports!! And I've decided - like you - that I'd rather have a happy, enthusiastic dog - than a perfect, prescise one - which is one reason I've pulled out of competing. I know I can get Honey to the level needed but I also know that to do so, I would lose a lot of her natural enjoyment & spark (your "happy corgi" attitude thing you talk about) - and that's far more important to me.

Hsin-Yi

Lynnda  – ( March 14, 2012 at 11:48 AM )  

"I understand the opposite viewpoint of with confidence comes speed is just as true, but I think I like the opposite philosophy better!"
Not sure I understand your point -- one Training Geek to another.
The current column in Clean Run by a British competitor [land of the Win System] is on With Knowledge comes Speed. If the dog doesn't know where it is going, how can it ever go fast? Or if the dog does not know exactly what they are expected to do AT THAT POINT, how can it perform with confidence? I think the author's name is Dawn Weaver.
I do think it is important for instructors and seminar presenters to advocate techniques that work for most dogs *and* have additional techniques that can work with the reluctant dog. I would rather learn about a technique that works with 80% of 100 dogs if different personalities than a technique that was 100% with a few Border Collies. Just thought.
thanks for posting.
Lynnda L in Minneapolis

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( March 14, 2012 at 1:45 PM )  

Lynnda- I completely agree that as a dog gets more confident they gain in speed. Vito is getting faster in trials as he starts to relax and gets confidence.

But, while a dog is learning a behavior we all set priorities that decide on what we reward in that specific stage and when/how to up criteria. Susan Garret uses the term DASH for what she views as the most important first steps as a team develops. Silvia Trkman has a completely different set of priorities for a dog in that she puts speed as the number one criteria from the very first step. This means she spends a ton of time making sure the dog first knows how run flat out without equipment. As she adds handling/equipment in the mix, in order to keep speed as #1, she has to move more slowly in upping criteria.

Both philosophies are highly successful with a wide range of breeds and don't have anything to do with the specific methods used. I'm just discovering that I personally like speed over accuracy rather than accuracy over speed in the learning stages.
Thanks for the article reference!

achieve1dream  – ( April 4, 2012 at 9:56 AM )  

Great post!! Sounds like you're headed in a new direction with your agility training and it sounds like it's going to be a fantastic change. Keep up the awesome work!

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