The dogs and I have been hard at work on some Training Tips videos! Head on over to my YouTube page under the Dog Training & Behavior Playlist. Let me know what you think!
Here’s one to wet your whistle:
This is this approach to thinking of life with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue or other chronic illness that impacts energy of working to live within your own personal energy envelope.
It’s hard living in the energy envelope. Or at least what is hard is getting into the envelope and then staying in the envelope. When I’m actually in the envelope, the beauty of it is things get way easier. Once in the envelope things become deceptively much improved. In the envelope I feel really pretty damn good. Especially compared to life outside the envelope.
So why is it so hard to stay in there for me?
Because when I’m in the envelope it’s easy to pretend I have energy to spare. I really don’t. The reason life is going so well when I’m in the envelope is I’M IN THE FRIGGING ENVELOPE! It doesn’t mean I have any more energy. It doesn’t mean I’m magically cured of fibromyalgia (I wish!). There is no cumulative effect to living in the envelope. But there is so much more I want to do, so when I’m feeling good it’s so damn easy to delude myself that “Oh yea absolutely! I can do x,y,z, why not? I feel pretty good!”
Reminder to my dear self: teaching a 3hr workshop will absolutely put you so far out of the envelope.
Any yet the feeling good me of a few months ago when I organized these things, put another 2 workshops to teach in July and 1 in August. The living in the envelope me is a saboteur! I need to remember to not listen to her! Unless it’s her saying “No, bad idea” to something. Then of course I can listen to her.
In the envelope is good. Out of the envelope is painful. Be in the envelope.
NADAC trial recap for the weekend. It was awesome!!! I’m over the moon, on cloud 9, still happy dance big grin, etc.
It was my clubs annual spring trial, so I worked and helped out more than I usually do at trials, but I think I did an ok job pacing myself over the 2 days. Saturday a good friend of mine who rarely does trials on turf was also entered and we crated together. It was nice to see him and catch up. There were a couple of new folks and it was lovely to meet them, clap and cheer for them, and get to know them. I hope they decide to come to future events as well. As always hubby was a huge help, I’m ever grateful he is so supportive of my agility hobby.
The courses this weekend were super fun. And a plethora of bonus boxes. It was awesome. Usually we are lucky if we see 1-2 boxes all weekend. Saturday we had them in touch n go, both rounds of regular AND in weavers. Sunday they were in both rounds tunnelers, both rounds regular and BOTH rounds jumpers!! Seriously! 10 boxes in a weekend of 16 runs. And all of them felt 90% doable for where our skills currently are (which is also amazing).
I’m happy to report our winter training of go skills in many different contexts has paid off. I am so damn happy!! We struggled with those types of elements on boxes last season, she rocked them all this weekend!
Elite Jumpers, that final go line of the course OMG my heart sings as it does for so much of this course:
I found repeatedly a hole with turn always at big distances. Especially when there was a closer draw obstacle. She’d lock onto the draw. But I was pleased despite the lock on she was able to respond most of the time to my lie down cue. I started using that after the first round of touch n go where on the resend she could not shift her focus and wasn’t really listening but guessing. So good things to work on.
Elite tunnelers, that turn away with the green tunnel draw, got us both rounds. 1st round she made it to the mouth of that green tunnel where I downed her and redirected back out. This round was better as she didn’t fixate on that green tunnel and I’ll take the change she did do asking me for help.
Elite Weavers, so much awesome happened this round!!! But again the tunnel draw
Elite Regular, again over the moon about so much of this! Struggled with some of the push outs
And fingers crossed I think we maybe earned a passing distance challenge regular run on Sunday! Still waiting for final determination from NADAC but I felt comfortable enough with it to try submitting it for bonus review. We shall see.
Elite Regular distance challenge:
Tom does that is. One of his signature “pet me” moves. The classic set up is as today. I’m in the kitchen at the stove focused on making a late lunch. He silently assesses which leg I’m standing most of my weight on. Quietly approaches, then with expert precision, taps the back of my non weight bearing leg in just the right spot to cause my leg to buckle. As I’m caught off guard trying to rebalance and get my leg back under me, he scoots his head and front end between my legs and wa-la he is now in his preferred petting location.
Sigh, how can I say no? He’s lucky he’s so cute.
A reader posed a question about best practices for introducing a new dog to their family. Especially with regards to their existing dog. Congrats on the new family member! Here is some general advice I give folks and honestly, what I practices I follow when introducing a new dog in my own household.
Now in my own situation, my dogs are used to very high traffic of dogs coming and going. But I’ve found when I add a dog to my life that will be a permanent addition, my crew has always assumed the dog was a visitor until about day 14. Then I’d practically hear them say, “Wait, what? This one is STAYING?! For real?! You’re kidding me?!” And then depending on the dog they’d either “Here we go again,” or “Why do you hate me so? Life was so great before and now this?!” or in the case of Tom practically cry, “What did I do to deserve this?! Why, oh, why is this happening?” There is also the dog that will go, “NO WAY IN HELL!” Those dogs are definitely more challenging and higher risk factors. I’ve worked with clients numerous times in such cases.
Regardless, my point is, don’t assume it’s all great for real in the first couple of weeks. Those are your honeymoon period. If you’re lucky. So many times when I was working with behavior cases full time I’d get the call, “Every thing was going great! I don’t understand?” Basically it boils down to, “Transitions are hard,” “change is hard” so dogs will tend to not let their guard down as much or take their time sorting out the situation, then as time progresses and they get more comfortable things will often shift.
So here are a couple of my general ‘rules’ when I have new dogs in the house:
Those are my basics for introducing a new dog to my home and lifestyle. Now some basics for introducing the dogs to each other. In this I’m assuming your pre-existing dog enjoys other dogs, and has had generally amicable relationships with other dogs in the past. And you have had some assurances from whatever caregivers new dog had prior to you that new dog enjoys other dogs and has had generally amicable relationships with other dogs in the past. If you know your pre-existing dog or new dog isn’t thrilled with other dogs, or has had past interactions with other dogs that did not go well, well that’s a whole nother ball game and well beyond the scope of this post. In such cases, I strongly recommend professional assistance, guidance and advice prior to bringing the new dog home, and throughout the transition period.
This post is meant to provide information on what I do when adding a new dog to my life and frequently recommend to clients with dogs without any prior dog on dog behavioral concerns. But, dog training and relationships aren’t one size fits all. As always, dogs, their people, and their lifestyles are very individual. So if you are considering adding a new dog to your home, these tips might get you started, or at least help you think about the processing of integrating dogs into your home in different ways, but please reach out for more individualized coaching. Learn more about the services I offer visit Maplewood Dog including remote private sessions or check out the referral listings through IAABC.org for a behavior consultant local to you. All the best! 🙂
I talk with my agility students and students considering competition often about defining what success in the ring means for them, their dog and their team. As I feel that definition can have a huge impact on not only your competition qualifying rates but more importantly on the relationship your dog builds with the competition environment and with you.
People at trials often comment on how relaxed, happy and easy going I seem. And how I can be that relaxed in competition?! For me, it’s all in how I define success in competition.
With my own dogs I define success in the trial ring as: I was able to maintain commitment to criteria as I do in training for all aspects of the run.
That’s it. Seriously. Simple as that. Yet often oh so hard to do. When there is this idea of a greater ‘prize’ be it a qualifying score, title or ribbon and when there is this feeling of ‘everyone is watching’ it can be really hard to be true to your training. It can be really easy to shift into ‘oh we can fix that really quick and still make time enough to Q!’ when in training if your dog say popped the weaves you would respond by restarting the sequence 2 obstacles into the weaves. Or you cue a rear cross and your dog spins. It can be really hard in a trial run not to throw up your hands, say “oh fine let’s keep going” rather than do what you would have done in practice of reworking the set up. It can be really hard to be as genuinely in love with your dog, the way you are in practice, when in trial your dog takes the wrong course or knocks a bar in a sequence you thought you both knew well.
Have I struggled or failed to stay honest and true to my definition of competition success? Of course. I’m human. I’ve failed. But I work towards that as my standard. I’ve found for me even the nicest ribbon or qualifying score doesn’t feel so great when it came at the expense of my training, my dog’s confidence and understanding, and our honesty in team work. And some of the best feeling runs I’ve ever had came when I was true to my definition, NQ and all.
So here’s my basic formula for getting qualifying scores and runs I’m happy with:
1. Read the rules. Know the rules, know the standard you are being judged against. Know the challenges you will face. Understand the set up. Have a picture before you even begin of what the performance looks like and what skills your dog and you need to have mastered in practice. Have a picture of what your ideal performance of a skill looks like and work towards that.
2. Train it until you trust it. And don’t do it in competition until you trust it in training reliably. If you learn in competition you made a mistake and something you thought was to the level trust really isn’t, stop putting it in the trial environment until you’ve found and worked through the challenges in training.
3. Trust your dog and be honest. If you cue something and your dog does something you didn’t expect, trust that they believed you communicated what they actually did. If you’ve followed #2 above, by the time you are in a trial run if your dog does something chances are you cued them to do that whether you meant to or not. Honor it. To not to erodes your dog’s confidence and will end with second guessing and decreased speed (ask me how I know this. First hand experience. So sorry Zora, Niche, Regal, James, Monty…I’ve done it to all of them at one point or another, and then have to go back, fix my screw up and rebuild. It’s much easier to believe and honor what you dog did as correct to begin with)
4. Trial like you train. Maintain same criteria and responses for obstacle performance, handling, cues, attitude, focus, etc in all environments both training and trial. To not creates confusion and can make it really hard to get the same performance you get in practice in competition. Just look at how many people say, “He only does this in the ring! At practice he’s a different dog!” Often it happens because the dog realizes early on their handler isn’t the same person in a trial that they are in practice. Their handler has different criteria and rules in a trial and responds differently. (it can also happen for other reasons but rather often it’s at least in part the reason I just listed) And going back to #1 if you don’t trust you’ve trained it to where you can trial like you train, don’t trial it yet.
and 5. Trial to find holes in your training. When you trial to find your weak spots, it helps you push yourself to improve your practice and training, and find the challenge in the courses. It helps you to try new things in practice and then on course. It gives you information and data on where to hone your training and where to focus your practice for visible improvement. It allows you to continue to work towards that ideal you established when you started off reading the rules.
Here’s what I don’t do. I don’t walk into any competition run with the goal of qualifying. When you walk onto the course with the goal of qualifying in mind you are more likely to accept a lesser criteria or micromanage things on course (ie see point # 4), and to change who you are toward your dog in the ring, and by doing that increase the odds over time your qualifying rate will actually decrease.
I’d say my formula has been rather successful for me over the years. Looking at Zora in 2017 out of 175 competition agility runs we had an 81% Qualifying rate for the year, completed 2 NATCHes and a Versatility NATCH, qualified for NADAC Championships and then won our division there. Our class with the lowest Q rate was tunnelers because 40% of our runs in tunnelers this past year I chose to work our extreme distances skills and attempt Bonus runs. None were qualifying runs but all were super awesome and furthered our training practice. And in Rally in 6 competition runs we earned our Rally Novice all 3 runs with perfect 100 scores, and Rally Advanced in the next 3 trial runs scores of 77 (serious handler errors that run), 98 and 100.
And with that, agility trial season 2018 begins next weekend! With our complete lack of usable yard space for the past months, and therefore lack of agility specific training, I’ve only entered us a couple of runs one day. We’ll be using those to get some rust off and I’m walking into it assuming we’ll be training a lot on the field. Remaining true to my criteria means success.
I adore using mats or dog beds or other place type spaces to teach and then remind dogs about taking turns.
Tom and Zora have both been getting rather nudgy, pushy and whiny lately around the concepts of sharing my and other people’s attention so I realized I needed to be much clearer and consistent with our taking of turns during training as I’ve slacked a lot on the criteria for that. I’ve been really lax on where the non-working dog is to be in space.
We’ve now done 2 sessions where I went back to clear and consistent criteria that the working dog was active with me and the non-working dog was quietly lying on the dog bed. Then they swap on cue. And already I’m seeing a positive difference. Calmer, quieter, more focused work from both of the dogs.
The non-working on the bed dog is remembering to stay on the bed until I give their name and release cue. Even when the working dog and I are doing some rather active, movement based and enticing things. The working dog is getting my undivided attention and we’re making some great progress on things.
An interesting observation is each dog has asked to be the on the bed non-working dog at times when they want a break from the active more precision based training we’ve been doing. I respect that and we do a dog swap when ever either asks for that.
In the past when I’ve been consistent about non-working dog is on the mat during training sessions, I see really nice fall over to other areas of life, such as when people are at the door, leave it exercises and meet and greets in general. As those too have deteriorated in ways I’m less than thrilled with lately, I’m including practice and clearer consistent criteria on our greeting manners using their ‘on the bed’ behavior too.
I’m always impressed when week after week, reliably, people and their dogs show up for classes. Have practiced homework. Have even just managed to get themselves out the door to come to lessons. Let alone to be on time, to actually be here as scheduled repeatedly. In awe that this approach to learning works for them. Totally grateful it does, as it means I have a business model, grateful and in awe.
Because, I’m terrible at it. If I sign up for a multi week class, I do so assuming I will skip at least 1/3 of the classes. Unless I have some other motivator, one that isn’t the joy of learning something new. If there is some other motivator, like fear, necessity, or a higher order goal that requires a stage where I have to check this box, one that isn’t linked to enjoyment, fun, self satisfaction, personal goals, then I’ll likely be more reliable.
Why? Because I find learning based on external accountability and some form of deadlines and expectation I do, practice and learn certain things in a time frame, incredibly de-motivating for me. Has been for as long as I can remember. Learning in such ways saps the fun out of it for me. It’s incredibly inefficient for me. Often frustrating. And requires significant planning and conservation of energy that would be more efficiently spent other ways. I can do it, and do it well, as my formal education transcripts show, but there will be fall out. The bureaucracy of it all drives me out of my mind.
Yet, I love to learn. And do so in many ways that are efficient and joy building for me.
But sometimes I forget how poor and unreliable I am as a student in the traditional way we often think learning and education is to happen. So I sign up for a class, all excited and prepared to jump in feet first. Then as the class goes on, and the structured requirements, limits, rules set in, I find myself avoiding, annoyed, apathetic, the fun and enjoyment of learning and the material quickly sapping.
Until I step back. Remember why I wanted to take the class in the first place. Remember it’s the bureaucracy I’m finding distasteful, not the material itself. Separate the arbitrary rules of the course, from the learning. Find the joy once more. get back to having fun with my dog.
And remain in awe of each of my students every single time they show up for class. Oh how I wish I could be like they!
agility, competition, coping skills, Dog Behavior, Dog Training, Dogs, handling skills, impulse control, intelligence of the dog, leash walking, obedience, perspective, philosophical, play, progressive training, puppies, relationship, safety, thinking ahead, thoughts, training humans
The other day during a lesson with a long time client who has a new puppy she asked me, so when do we start teaching The Basics and how long will they take?
I looked at her blankly. The Basics? As she’d said The Basics with capital letters, as if what we were already doing wasn’t The Basics.
“You know, the six basic commands…sit, down, stay, come….”
Oh. (Though I can’t for the life of me figure out what the sixth one might be. Sit, down, come, stay, heel and what? Stand maybe? But how many people outside of the competition world really use a formal stand cue?)
When I think about the education I want my puppy or new to me dog to have I have an entirely different list I’d call The Basics. My Basics revolve around a dog learning to navigate the human world they are in as safely, comfortably and confidently as possible. Sure sometimes obedience cues may be involved, but they aren’t a key component or feature even.
Here are The Basics I strive to teach. As once these Basics are solid teaching those more formal cues is most often a walk in the park as the foundations are now in place. I take The Basics very seriously for the dogs in my life and spend a tremendous amount of energy, time, care and thought into teaching them.
1. Humans will help you. When in doubt, find a human and ask for help. You don’t need to take care of problems alone.
2. Humans are safe. We might be a little slow to understand sometimes, and we make mistakes, but we are safe and can be trusted. If we do something you don’t understand, it’s ok to forgive us and know it wasn’t done maliciously.
3. Humans will keep you safe. No matter where or what’s around. You can go anywhere and be anywhere and know I will do everything I am able to keep you safe.
4. Humans are trustworthy. I will not lie to you. I will not set you up to fail. You can trust me to help you, to be safe, to keep you safe, to be honest, to be accountable, to be who you need me to be. You can trust that if I ask you to do something, you can do it.
5. Body awareness. Know where your body is in space, how to move it in different ways in different places. How to control your body at various speeds and directions, and on different surfaces and objects. Understand your body in relation to other beings, bodies and objects. Learn what your body can and cannot comfortably and safely do. I use this Basic when teaching sit, down, heel, stay, come among other skills.
6. Emotional control. How to go from 0 to 60, and from 60 to 0. Ie the learning and ability to be aware of and understand your arousal levels. With various stimulus and places. How to control yourself emotionally. When you are tired, excited, unsure, Etc. How high is too high. How to recognize that feeling. And coping skills for what to do safely to calm yourself and to handle your excitement or insecurities depending on context. I include in this learning to keep your mouth and paws to yourself when interacting with humans unless otherwise invited. And how to settle. I use this Basic later when teaching stay among other skills.
7. A default automatic leave it response. Assume that everything in an environment is not for you unless otherwise invited to engage with it. This includes: food, objects, other people, other animals. If you want to interact or engage with something either find a trusted human to include in the decision, or pretend what you want isn’t really there. This Basic also ties in heavily to Basic #1. I use this Basic when teaching leash walking, stay and come among other skills.
8. How to hold the need to void, despite needing to go, until taken to an appropriate place. Ie house breaking and toileting. Totally one of my Basics. Don’t pee in the house, don’t pee in my bed, don’t pee because it took me 15 seconds instead of 5 to get my coat on, don’t pee on the tunnel because a dog before you just did.
9. How to be relaxed when confined or restrained. In various ways, environments, contexts. Everything from grooming, to vet procedures, to car rides, to leash walking. From crates, to muzzles, to leashes, to harnesses, to hands.
10. How to be alone. Even if activity is around you.
11. How to play. With people. With safe other animals. By yourself. In different places. With different things. How to feel relaxed and safe enough to be vulnerable, silly, playful. In that how to confidently make mistakes, to confidently try, to take chances and risk.
I think those are my Basics in a nut shell. If my dog has learned those 11 things well, then teaching sit, down, stay, come, heel and the who knows what 6th are a breeze, along with so many other things I may ever wish to teach or do.
What do you consider are The Basics?
Today was the first of the 2 half day seminars our agility club sponsored taught by Debi Hutchinson. Debi is a well known agility handler, instructor and seminar presenter from Maryland. Today’s focus was discriminations. Zora and I participated in the afternoon advanced session which consisted of 3 different set ups
The majority of the seminar we worked on a set up that was 2 straight jumps into a discrimination composed up 2 side by side u shaped tunnels. Making 4 openings and you had to direct your dog into the correct opening.
My personal take always from this exercise with Zora were:
Use my lead out position to my best advantage in communicating the clearest line and path
Mark a couple of jump bars in 4ths and practice directional skills into this type of set up with me in various places working to be able to cue her what part of the bar to jump over making the next obstacle then clear. This is in prep for the idea that at some point a distance line may restrict my movement in some way
We then did a bit of work on a simple dog walk tunnel discrimination sequence. Zora and I have a rather solid clear communication system for such sequences so Debi gave us more to work by really having me practice my pace and speed at further lateral distance and to create the most efficient line and speed for Zora, which was helpful.
The final exercise of the afternoon was a sequence with a tunnel a frame discrimination in a sequence of jumps. Zora and I did it from 3 different handling positions: me lateral distance to the right layering the jumps, me to the left of the a frame/tunnel, and me in the middle. The lateral distance layering position was my most comfortable, but not as efficient a line and therefore speed, as when I was in the middle and Debi had me really pay attention to where Zora was when she was in the tunnel and timing my movement to coincide with Zora exiting the tunnel, which really tightened up her line very nicely. I shall have to remember that.
All in all an excellent seminar. Tomorrow afternoon we return for the advanced distance seminar.