14 weeks

August 28, 2009

Well I am back from Sweden ad even though I had a good time I really missed my dogs!!  After 10 days away from Summit we had some training to do.  I am still extremely happy with him and I can’t believe how focussed he is, I still have not found anything he would choose over food and toys, kids come close but he will always choose to work with me which is great.

Our major focus is still on building great attitude and drive for each and every behavior and skill he learns.  It is just so easy to go through the motions teaching and playing all the foundation games while building on mediocre desire.  Susan Garrett has a great Acronym DASH which stands for Desire, Accuracy, Speed, Habitat.  The acronym stresses the important of building desire before accuracy and accuracy before expecting speed then changing your environment.  DASH is a great thing to keep in mind during any training session and throughout the upbringing of your puppy.  The tricky part is defining “desire” .  Does desire mean that the dog likes to work with you, take food and take toys?  Or does it mean that the dog will do anything to work with you and is crazy about taking toy and treats.  I am keeping my “D” criteria as high as possible before building any accuracy.  Where I have seen dogs lacking in the “speed” department it is due to weak desire from the start.

Everything I do with Summit and each training session we have I am re-evaluating his “D” and asking myself if it could be better….of course it can always be better.  So a lot of our sessions are soley to build more desire for work and playing with me.

Of course we have learned many other things along the way 🙂 We can do perch work, hand targets, roll over, puppy yoga, box games, balance discs, yoga balls, puppy grids, playing on planks and tippy boards and our control positions are really good.  Our major focus this past week has been recalls with distractions and retrieving.  I will post some retrieving video up as soon as I can.

Likely due to working so much on his desire our recalls have been so impressive.  We can now recall off other dogs, other puppies, visiting people and children and even food and toys.  Yesterday I accidentally called him while he was peeing and he came running at me forgetting all about what he was doing 🙂  We have been working on throwing cookies then telling him to “get it” then when he is a couple feet from the food I will recall him and reward with a tug toy.  I have yet to call him without that perfect puppy running as fast as he can to get to me.

All the border collie people keep saying “just wait…” but I really will be surprised if he becomes a terror.  Even at agility practise he watches the fast dogs for a second or two then offers me his perfect attention and is ready to work.  The only problem we need to work on is his startline behavior.  We have been building so much desire and drive while holding position that he has made it a habit to vulture and he practically has his chin on the ground 🙂

We are off to the mountains this weekend and will bring the camera to get some good photos.  Just two more weeks until we leave for world championships so we have ben hard at work polishing up Riots skills!



August 15, 2009

Well I caved and finally bought a new computer.  My old computer was about to give out on me so I decided to go for a Mac this time.  I wanted to test out some of the video editing stuff so I took a few quick videos of Summit tonight.  Turns out I have the wrong cable adapter so I just did a quick upload onto the old computer. We have only been working our hand targeting for a few days now and it is coming along so well that I thought I would do a session or two on the stairs…except I don’t have any…an old shoe box did the trick.  Quality is kinda crappy but here it is.

Unfortunately I have to leave Summit for a week while I go teach some workshops in Sweden…I’m sure he will be up to no good with his auntie 🙂

12 weeks!

August 14, 2009

Summit is now 12 weeks old and we have accomplished so much.  I have not had a puppy since Riot who is now 5 1/2 and back then I didn’t put much thought into the foundation training that I now know is so important.  So in other words, this is the first puppy that I have actually trained a good foundation with.

Summit has more and more energy each day but has learnt to relax and sleep in his crate between training sessions and our daily outings.  Here is a quick run down of all the things we have been working on for the past 3 weeks:

Socialization:  When creating a good pet and a great agility dog it is important to me that Summit is happy to be around different people, dogs and many different environments.  We are sticking to our 50 new men, women and children each week.  Daily trips to the pet store, hardware store (great to meet men, for him of course :)) and local playgrounds are a big part of his training plan.  We have been to the airport 4 times to work on recalls, tugging and crate games.  We have walked down town, in the river valley and had many training sessions beside the highway (leash on of course!)  An important attribute to any pet or performance dog is that they are not fearfull of any person, place or thing.  It is important to be aware of any fears or apprehensions your pup has and deal with them asap.

Tugging:  Next on our priority list is tug drive.  Developing both food and toy rewards is extremely important for a performance dog.  Tugging naturally raises the dogs level of arousal and gets their heart going.  Have you ever seen a dog who tugs like mad anytime, anywhere yet runs slowly on the agility field?  Likewise how many blazing fast dogs do you see that hate to tug?  Not only is it important to build intense drive for the tug, but also that the puppy will tug on anything you present to them.  Summit has a bit of a stubborn streak so for most of his first couple weeks we worked on tugging on more boring toys then as a reward he got to play with his favorites.  Similarly he would throw a temper tantrum if he could smell the kibbles in my hand and would refuse to tug.  This was a bit of an issue to work through but he is now happy to tug on any toy, even if I accidentally drop a cookie on the ground.  I did not want to start any foundation training that involved food until we had really good tug drive so that I would not run into a situation where I had to fight with him about the tugging.

Release: our next focus was teaching the release.  Summit seems to have extremely good verbal discrimination and learned his release word very quickly.  I teach the release with Susan Garrett’s sit-tug-sit game.  The first step was to teach Summit that when I take the toy away he needs to offer me a sit, next we added  bit of a distraction by lowering the toy over his head, if he broke the sit I would quickly hide the toy then try again.  When he could hold position with the toy above him I said “break” and he jumped up for the toy.  After a couple session of this I faded the lure of the toy and said “break” and when he broke I would then present the toy as his reward.  Make sure to be still with your body, the release word should be purely a verbal cue.  Even now he takes it very literal and actually “breaks” up into the air…

Recalls:  We are trying to keep up with our goal of 20 restrained recalls a day, but some days we don’t have a holder.  Recalls are so important for building drive, motivation and a great recall.

The fun stuff:  I really enjoy training the more exciting skills like start lines, circle work, hand targets, etc.  It is very easy to teach all the skills that will lay a foundation for a good agility dog.  The hardest part is building great intensity and drive into each and every skill/behavior you teach the dog and this has been my major focus.  Teaching a sit stay is a very simple exercise for a puppy, but more important than distractions and duration is the attitude your puppy portrays when you leave them in a sit.  My biggest goal with Summit is to build in as much attitude and intensity into each individual behavior I teach him and not move forward until I am happy with his level of desire.  Again this goes back to building that great desire for toys and food as a reward before moving onto the fancy stuff, sometimes hard to do but it pays off in the long run.

At 12 weeks old here is what we know so far:

-release word

-sit on cue and hold position: good duration, I can move about 40′ away from him, and I can throw a toy back behind him without any foot movement then release him to it.

Tug drive – on any toy and with distraction like cookies or people he really wants to go see

Recalls – great drive on his recalls and have not yet rehearsed not coming when called

Crate Games – sits at back, drives out and in with great speed

Circle work – his circles are as good as Preston and Riots already, we can do outside, inside, front crosses, 360 spins, you name it!

Its yer choice – we wont take cookies off the ground off jump for our toy unless told “get it”

Hand targets – they are killer!  Hand is almost on ground and he pushes hard with distractions and multiples

Perch work, 4 feet in a box, backing up, wobble bards and stability disks are coming along

Table – drives on, hits the deck and wont budge!

Our priority is now on retrieving….this is our biggest challenge yet 🙂

Stay tuned for a video sometime soon!

We had Susan Salo here on the weekend for a repeater jumping seminar for all the people that came out for her foundation clinic in November.  I got to work Preston, Riot, Bounder and even Summit!  The seminar was great and everyone walked away with things to improve upon.  Susan has a great style of teaching and always has something positive to go along with the constructive criticism.  Preston still needs a lot more work on his bends but I was really impressed with Riot and Bounder’s progress.

We had a puppy session on the second day where Susan did some demonstrations with the younger pups then talked about the progressions from 8 weeks to trialing which was very helpful.








Canadian Nationals 2009

August 7, 2009

Well we are back home from the 2009 AAC nationals and finally have a free moment to post.

Our trip to Ottawa started off with a bang when we were held up at the Edmonton airport and almost missed our plane.  We had  13 dogs on the flight which is a few more than usually allowed so the security check and check in took longer than planned.  We got to the gates just as they were taking off our luggage but thankfully allowed us to board the plane.

This was Preston’s first nationals and his highlight was definitely winning Jumpers round 1 in the 16″ regular class.  He has plenty of very good moments but unfortunately forgot how to hit a weave pole entrance.  I’m not sure what the problem was as he normally has extremely good entrances.  In every single run including the warmup games he missed his entrance so our results in the standard and steeplechase class suffered.

Riot ran three clean rounds and won the standard class on Sunday.  Unfortunately it was the first year she didn’t make the steeplechase finals since she pulled out of the weaves when I said “yes!” (more proofing to be done).  Overall she came in 10th which is the highest placement thus far.

Bounder was the super star yet again as she had her best nationals ever.  She ran 6 clean rounds with lots of speed and many mini gambles.  I was pretty sure she had won the thing but its not over till its over…  Unfortunately I forgot to check my scribe sheet in the last gamblers run where the scribe forgot to give me that almighty tick in the gamble box.  She would have gotten a final score of around 620 points but ended up coming second behind a very cool little papillon.  From now on I will remember to check my scribe sheets 😦   Bounder also missed out on the steeplechase finals for the first time, unfortunately she fell off the top of the a-frame in round 2 and I carried her off course just in case she was injured.

Summit got to come along for the ride and definitely went above and beyond his quota of 50 new men, women and children for the week.  He got to experience hotel life and even got to go see Parliament.

Minus the banquet and results presentation, this years nationals was very well organized, the site was beautiful and the competition was the best yet.   Next years nationals will be closer to home just a three hour drive to Calgary, AB.