Coaches and trainers, the best resources for reaching our goals

This is a reprint of an article I originally published in Clean Run July 2013.

We are surrounded by information, thanks to magazines, the internet, seminars, books and videos, we have access to training techniques from the top trainers all over the globe. In the end, however, it’s the teacher and coach who works with us in our regular lessons who can help us the most. How does one go about choosing the right instructor, and, having done that, how does one get the most out of each lesson to maximize the investment of time and money? What can we learn from athletes in other sports to improve our ability to get the most out of our coach’s expertise?

Before you can choose the right instructor and training program for your team, you need to have some idea of your goals. You don’t have to be too elaborate, and goals can change, but without an idea of what you want, it is hard to get it. Goals are not the same as wishes or dreams, we can all dream of winning but unless we’re willing to put in the work it takes to get there, it’s not a goal. If your goal is simply to play agility as an escape from your everyday world, if you mostly enjoy the socializing with friends and the quality time with you dog, then you might not follow the same path as someone who dearly dreams of one day winning a top event. Spending a little time really thinking about what you’re really willing to work hard for will make it much easier to attain your goals in the long run.

In some parts of the country the local options are huge, there might be seven or eight training facilities and clubs within easy driving distance and each of those facilities will offer multiple training options as well as a plethora of seminars and workshops. In other parts of the country you might feel as though there are no options, there might only be one training facility or one club, with a limited choice of classes or instructors. Either way, you still want to create the best plan possible for meeting your goals.

Many people do all or most of their agility training through class instruction, often through a local club. Classes are often chosen based on what day is convenient, or what classes one has friends in, with the choice of instructor being secondary. This can certainly be a fun way to spend time, but it might not be the best way to achieve ones goals. Classes are wonderful, they are a chance to train in an environment that is similar to the trial environment, a chance to see many different teams master the same challenges, a chance to socialize with like minded people, and they are generally relatively inexpensive. However, not all classes are equal, and class instruction does not offer the same benefits as private instruction. No matter now brilliant the instructor, a class is still a class, you will not get the same personalized attention that a private lesson will give you.

Private instruction can be scary for some people, they feel more comfortably anonymous in a class where the instructor’s attention is not 100% on what they and their dog are doing. Private instruction also can seem much more expensive than class instruction, which is off-putting to some people. Another perceived negative of private instruction is that people enjoy the social aspect of getting together with friends for class time. All of that might seem reasonable, but if the goal is to really improve your game, then private instruction is well worth the cost.

Go to trials and watch teams in the Masters classes, when you see people who impress you, ask who they train with. Watch videos of National and International Championship finals, and make note of which handlers stand out to you. When you have a few names of possible instructor prospects, look them up online and poke around their website. In this day and age, you don’t have to limit your search to trainers who are physically near you, many instructors offer both private and group instruction via internet, and even if the instructor you are interested in working with does not offer such a choice, you can always email and ask, maybe they just had not yet considered the possibility.

Visit classes without your dog (offer to pay a drop in fee) so you can really pay attention to how the instructor works with students and how the class is run. Book half hour private lesson with instructors who you think you might like to work with. If the person who most interests you lives across the country or across the ocean, ask about the possibility of lessons via internet.

Having done the research, you’ve found the right person to train your team, now what? This is where agility competitors tend to diverge from athletes seriously involved in other sports, quite possibly to their detriment. Your instructor, if you have taken the time to choose carefully, should be someone you trust to know what is best for your team. Consider your instructor the way athletes consider their coach, the person who will help you make all your sport related decisions. You are paying this person a good amount of money and devoting a lot of your time, trust that you have decided intelligently, that your coach knows more than you do, and that your coach’s advice is worth taking.

An Olympic hopeful gymnast does not take classes with three different instructors whose methods are at odds with each other simply because they have friends in those classes they want to hang out with, or because those classes are convenient, or because they need to get on different equipment. A serious athlete takes the coach’s advice as to whether to take additional classes and who to take them with. A serious athlete will ask their coach’s advice about whether attending a given seminar or workshop or camp is in their dog’s best interest. Consider that most competitive athletes follow their coach’s advice not only about training, but also about everything related to their sport. When considering whether you should enter trials and which ones to enter, ask your coach. Do not neglect the areas that are somewhat peripheral to agility; nutrition, exercise, and physical therapy are all areas that your coach can guide you in.

Agility instructors, the good ones, devote a tremendous amount of time and energy toward being the best they can be. They care tremendously about their students and are constantly thinking of ways to improve every team they train. Where I teach, the work day does not end when the last class is taught, we spend many unpaid hours each week discussing our students needs, analyzing videos, studying what other trainers all over the world are doing with an eye as to whether any of it can help our own students. We are emotionally invested in our students, we really care about them and focus on figuring out what is best for each team. To get the best from us, our students need to trust us to know what is best for them.

AKC National Agility Championship 2014

I am, of course, super proud of our two dogs at Nationals, Wow! running with Chris for his retirement National, and Fame(US) running with Jessica for her inaugural National.

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As always after a big event, a lot of thoughts floating around in my head. National Championships are such an amazing opportunity to learn, learn, learn. One thing I thought a lot about as I watched everyone, was the importance of training and preparing dogs for this sort of competition. In addition to agility skills, there are many other skills to work on that really help the dog succeed in big events. Here are a few of them that came to mind interspersed with some snapshots of our guys having a grand time!

We had snow, ice, rain, high winds, and a huge expanse of pavement outside the arena. Every time I pottied our guys people commented about how lucky I was that they would do their business right there in the parking lot. Um… not luck, training. And a seriously useful skill to have for hotel stays, airports, big arenas etc.

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Between the travel, the hotel stay, and the event itself, the dogs are spending a lot of time crated with all kinds of new and different things going on around them. Dogs who have learned that their crate is a safe haven will be well rested when it's their turn to run. I always get a kick out of looking into our dogs' crates and seeing them totally passed out as though they were in our bedroom at home, oblivious to all the chaos around them.

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Some dogs don't like to drink when they're super-excited, and some won't eat when they're stressed. Getting this behavior on cue can at least assure you that the dog gets some nutrition and some hydration, even if they don't eat and drink as much as they normally would.

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Sometimes getting to an event requires a long car trip, hours and hours, or even days of driving. A dog who is accustomed to extended car trips will arrive at the destination far fresher than a dog whose only car experience is driving to class once a week and occasionally to the vet.

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Dogs who are not used to flying can really benefit from arriving a day early to allow for recovery.

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The roar of the crowd is loud at big events, as is the PA system. It behooves us to acclimate our dogs to this sort of sensory overload so that they are not overwhelmed.

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What's with all this fancy handling stuff?

There are periods in every activity, in every art, in every sport, when thought and inspiration bubble up, giving rise to a massive wave of innovation. The pattern is pretty familiar, as a species we seem programmed to be disturbed by the newness. First reviews often fall on one of two lines, either scathing criticism of this new direction, or argument that it is not really new at all, that we have all known this before, that the veneer of newness is merely snake oil. Perhaps it is fitting that we hit one of those moments of creative innovation in agility so close to the 100th anniversary of the premier of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, a piece that symbolizes all the stages of innovation, from the initial reaction, almost refusing to consider that these sounds could even be called music, to the absolute assimilation of being used, years later, as part of a Disney soundtrack. Ww now associate Rites of Spring with animated dinosaurs marching to their death, and are hard pressed to imagine that the very first time the music was performed, the split reaction of the crowd, pro and con, was so strong that police had to be called in to stop the violence well before the piece progressed to the first intermission.

What we in this country seem to be dubbing ‘European Handling’ is flooding the agility bandwidth with attention right now. A little while back we started to hear the rumblings as this new wave approached, but it was pretty easy to ignore. Momentum grew, and choices had to be made. The blogosphere filled with critiques. Masked with a very tiny veneer of politeness, we have shouts about how our handlers and trainers in this country are every bit as good as theirs, whining claims that all this supposedly new stuff has been around since the dawn of time, assertions that these new moves are not for us with our middle aged bodies and bad knees. On the other side of the spectrum, we have those who have embraced the wave wholeheartedly, memorizing lists of names for every handling maneuver, obsessing over each detail of change, willing to stop doing what has previously brought them success in favor of this new program.

Then there is the ‘voice of reason’, those who, with apparent balance and thought, take the middle ground. The advocates of taking the good bits, the parts of each method that work best for your team, and weaving them into your own system. Every team is unique, it only makes sense that what is best for one team might not be so good for another. This is such an obvious and sensible approach, take the best from each trainer you work with and put it all together for the perfect combination. Much like cooking, the recipe is just a starting point, ingredients are added and subtracted to taste, and our final product is perfectly customized.

But is this really such a good idea? To be able to take only what works best for our team requires a level of expertise high enough to know what will work best. It requires complete understanding of whether it is the method that fails us or our poor implementation of it. While it is true that no one knows your dog as well as you do, it does not necessarily follow that, just because you know your dog best, you are able to figure out how to achieve the best results. Becoming a true expert requires not only intelligence and comprehension, but a tremendous amount of practice and experience.

Agility, much like baking, requires a really strong understanding of the basics before one branches out and tweaks a recipe. Something as simple as adding a little more sugar or a little more salt to a bread dough does not just make the end product sweeter or more savory, both sugar and salt have a profound effect on yeast, changing everything from how much and how quickly the dough rises to the texture of the end product. With much time and practice, ideally learning from a master baker, but at the very least learning from carefully and scrupulously following recipes, an understanding for the science of baking is acquired. Eventually those seemingly little details, like the temperature and humidity of your kitchen and the type of wheat used to make the flour, are no longer trivial, and suddenly that recipe that on your first go-round yielded less than spectacular results tastes incredible.

Those of us who have reached a certain age remember clearly images of the first programmable computers, behemoths in climate controlled rooms boasting memory counted in kilobytes, swallowing punch cards and slowly spitting out information. In a scientific sort of sense, the difference between those giants and the pre-computer world is much larger than the difference between computers of old and the current crop, but on a practical level, the difference between the first computer and the smart phone that resides in your pocket has a much larger impact on the way you live your life. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that seven years ago, when the first iPhone was introduced, many of us thought it was silly and excessive, that the learning curve wasn’t worth it, and our old phones were just fine. So although the difference between the good old standby front, rear and blind crosses, and today’s German, Whiskey, Lap and Jaako’s might not technically be as huge as the difference between the old days of running agility all on your left and the transition to agility being a two sided sport, those little technical details in the new way of seeing handling might make a tremendous difference in how we experience our sport.

So often we listen with intent to contest rather than with intent to learn. It has certainly happened to me that, rather than take material in with an open mind, I feel myself already composing a rebuttal, my brain turning down the volume on the new information as I wait impatiently for the speaker to finish so that I can flaunt my own opinion. It is certainly not a new concept to remark that change is uncomfortable, that famous saying, ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know’ is believed to date back to 1539. Whenever I find myself digging in my heels and reflexively pushing away the new, or, even sillier, trying to pretend that it’s not new at all, that I’ve known this information all along, I cut myself some slack and forgive myself for my humanity. And after that, I get down to the work of learning the new, or, if I decide I have no interest in this new thing, I admit that I do not have enough expertise to form an educated opinion on its merits and faults.

And what of this newfangled ‘European Handling’? I am immersing myself in it, allowing myself to become the naïve student, working diligently at each exercise my coach sets before me, watching videos, reading articles, studying, studying, studying, so that I can master this stuff, so that I can be in a position of forming an opinion based on fact and not insecurity, jealousy, or fear.

There's something so invigorating about being the student instead of the teacher! Here I am learning the timing of a new cross, failing and failing and failing until my body finally does what my brain is telling it to do

But seriously...

In this part of the country, at least, there has been some serious griping about Westminster Kennel Club and the way they conducted the random draw for their agility trial. This has been followed by all kinds of suggestions as to how they should do it next time so that it will be more 'fair', and remarks that we should write to the WKC respectfully to suggest they do things differently.

All of which leads me to believe that there are a lot of people who either don't read the AKC regulations, or don't understand what they are reading. Westminster is having their first agility trial and so they did what I suppose a lot of clubs might do, they followed AKC recommendations. And what are those recommendations?
Section 16. Entry Acceptance Methods. A club
may choose either of the following methods for accepting entries to a limited entry agility trial. Please visit the AKC website or refer to the Agility Trial Manual for a checklist of steps for both entry-acceptance methods. The AKC strongly recommends using the Random Draw method for trials which are likely to exceed the “total entry limit” within the first 24 hours after the opening date and time.

The Westminster Kennel Club is no stranger to entries exceeding show limit, that's been pretty much the way things have gone with Westminster for at least the 40 years (probably longer, but that's as long as I've been going) so they took the AKC recommendation and had a random draw.

As to the argument that several people have given, that the draw should have been by entry, not by envelope, Westminster did not have a choice there. Again, AKC rules:

“Conducting the Random Draw”
• If the stated entry limit(s) is exceeded during the “Draw Period” the club shall conduct a Random Drawing of all entries received. Otherwise, the Random Drawing is not necessary.
• The Random Drawing shall be held within 48 hours of the finish date and time of the “Draw Period.” The date, hour, and location of the draw must be stated in the premium list.
• The drawing shall be held in a place accessible to the public. The results of the draw shall be made available to the people present at the draw.
• In conducting the drawing for entries, the Trial Secretary shall avoid any method that raises any questions as to its randomness and impartiality.
• One drawing shall be held for consecutive trials. One secretary or one group of cooperating secretaries shall conduct the draw.
• The drawing may be:
1. Manual: Trial Secretary selects envelopes
(or numbers assigned to each envelope) at random and entries contained within each envelope shall gain entry to trial up to the stated entry limits.
2. Computerized: The computerized method must be impartial, must select all entries submitted in one envelope as one group, and must conform to the standards of random selection.
• If the last envelope selected in the Random Draw contains entries that would exceed the stated entry limit, there shall be a manual or computerized random draw of the individual entries contained
in the envelope. The total entries drawn may not
exceed the limit(s) stated in the premium list.
• When the advertised limit of entries has been drawn,
CHAPTER 1 – Section 16
all remaining entries shall be drawn for a position on the Wait List. If openings in the trial become available prior to the closing date, the opening shall be filled in order by entries on the Wait List.


Years ago I went by the AKC (I used to live right near their headquarters) and asked why the random draw was by envelope and not by entry. It made more sense to me to have the draw by entry so that you wouldn't have one person with ten dogs getting in instead of ten people with one dog each. I was told that this was the way people had wanted it, that someone with multiple dogs did not want to go to a trial if only one of their dogs got in, and that's how the rule was decided. I don't know the exact history, it doesn't matter enough to me, but if it does matter to someone, go back through old minutes. The AKC is wonderful that way, all their minutes are public and they are quite transparent about how decisions are made.

A little bit of ranting

I haven’t written a blog post in ages, life has gotten in the way of having the time to do a good job of it, but a lot of different things have been percolating in my head over the last week, so I am taking a few minutes to put it out there.

Supposing you were faced with a dog training issue that you absolutely could not fix, no matter what you tried. This proved to be extremely frustrating, but after a time you learned to accept and live with the issue. Eventually you became so used to the issue that you were quite convinced that it was unfixable. You understood that not all dogs had the issue, and that some dogs had been trained not to exhibit the behavior, but you could see that your dog, and some others who you had met along the way, were over the top in this regard and it was not reasonable to expect them to stop behaving this way.

Although there is some controversy, researchers have found that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to truly become a master in a field. Innate skill plays a part, as do passion, memory, and physical ability, but there is no doubt that good, intelligent practice is a huge step in becoming a master. If you practice a skill about 15 hours a week, you would become a master in about ten years.

OK, hold those two thoughts. We’ll get back to them.

As a species, we are programmed to not like change. Of course that’s a huge blanket statement and each of us has experienced fighting for change, loving change, etc. But in the big picture, we are most comfortable with what we know. We like change when we’ve thought of it, or when we can see how it will specifically benefit us, but when change involves any sort of minor or major discomfort, the gut reaction is to rail against it. Think of the uphill battle for women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights. Heck, some people become unglued if you say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’.

We’ve all grown up in a relatively sexist society. Seriously, we’ve made huge progress, but all you have to do is go to Toys R Us to see how far we have not come. There are still people who will say of a girl, ‘The way she’s dressed, she’s asking for it.’ And of course lots of people, when confronted with bad behavior from young males, still feel comfortable saying ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘what do you expect with all those raging adolescent hormones, he’s a good kid at heart.’

Now to bring the first two thoughts together with the second two.

Bitches in season. There’s been a lot of discussion lately about whether they should be allowed to compete in AKC agility. And here we have people stating unequivocally that there are some male dogs who absolutely cannot learn to work around bitches in season, that it would be unfair to ask them to, it is just not something they can control.

When these people that bitches in season are allowed to compete in other venues, in other parts of the world, tell them that bitches in season compete in other dog sports, they delineate the differences between the sports, the countries, whatever. They tell you that there’s no way of knowing how many dogs do not ever get to compete in Europe because they cannot be trained to ignore bitches in season, and how unfair it is for those dogs. They tell you they’ve tried everything, with some dogs it cannot be taught.

Experts, and by that I mean people with at least 10,000 hours of professional experience, speak up. They are clear about it. Dogs can be taught to work around bitches in season, even very distracted dogs, even dogs who are not ‘high drive’ agility dogs. They tell you that they have yet to meet a dog who could not be trained to do so. This should be very good news. Imagine finding out that something you thought was unfixable was actually fixable, that you had finally stumbled upon the experts who would be able to help you. Wouldn’t you jump on the chance? Apparently not.

And when we say that some male dogs can’t learn to work around bitches in season, what are we really saying? That we still believe that boys are controlled by their hormones, that they just ‘can’t help it’.

People who were competing when hand timing was the norm might remember that there was a certain segment of the agility population that was dead set against electronic timing. There could be malfunctions, the timers might not go on or off when triggered, it would be unfair, etc. etc. People who came into agility recently are baffled when told this. For them electronic timing is the way it’s always been, in fact they immediately express concern for how unfair hand timing could be with the propensity for human error. Likewise weave poles in JWW, THAT was once a big deal, but people coming into the sport today are not bothered by it at all.

Maybe, just maybe, what the person against allowing bitches in season is trying to say is ‘I’m worried that my training skills are not good enough to step up to this new challenge, can’t we keep things the way they are?’.

a short summer update

Boing! made her return to the agility ring last month after a 15 month hiatus. She has had an on and off shoulder issue which seemed exacerbated by agility, especially A Frames, so we gave her a prolonged rest. She's no spring chicken anymore either, so she's entered in preferred now. She is so happy to be back in the ring! Although my plan is to only run her in JWW, I accidentally entered her in standard our first weekend back. She had some glitches, but still managed to win the class handily (I think she was 5 seconds ahead of second place).

Dig-It is starting to run more consistently for me. We are still finding our rhythm but we're starting to Q together!

Kiss~Me is about to turn 10 months old and we are having a great time together. Most of my training time with her is spent doing non-agility stuff. Tricks, heeling, disk catching, and she also learned to swim last week. About once a week we do some actual agility training for a few minutes (usually about five or so) and that is coming along really nicely. It's so much fun to see how everything falls into place, and how you really don't have to spend a lot of time working with actual obstacles if you're working on foundation skills regularly. Yesterday we ran a short sequence that I had run earlier in the day at home with Boing! and Dig-It. Kiss~Me has only ever done an AF on two other occasions. It's lowered, of course, because she's still too young for a full height frame.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm off to Vermont for camp!

Speedoggie Camp 2013

The last three days were fabulous and exhausting! We held Speedoggie Camp at Antonia Rotelle's beautiful facility in Estelle Manor NJ. We had three great instructors, Chris Ott, Kathy Keats and Marcus Topps, and 33 energetic and game participants. It was so much fun and everyone was easy-going and helpful which made my job really easy.

I even got time to work with Dig-It and Kiss~Me in Chris's section and Kathy's section, which was loads of fun. I hadn't expected to have any time to work my own dogs, so it was a blast! I was especially proud of Kiss~Me who has never done anything like this and ran like a trooper! I don't really do 'agility' with her yet, we work on foundation skills, tricks and obedience a lot, but not sequencing.

Here she is doing what some people thought of as a complicated sequence -

I was very proud of her!


Once again, we are sending a team from the USA to compete in the Junior European Open. Last year we went to Austria, this year the event is in Switzerland. Chris is again Team Coach and I am Team Manager.

Click here for the official event website

If you are not familiar with the event, this is an International Agility Championship event open to children up to the age of 18 who are sanctioned by their national club. The United States fielded our first team last year at the Junior EO in Austria.

Chris Ott volunteers as the Team Coach, selecting and preparing the kids for the event, and I work as Team Manager, trying to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible for the families involved. It is a huge undertaking, but we love it.

This is an incredible opportunity for kids to compete against the best of their age group, but it's expensive. We do not receive any funding from the AKC, we do this because we really believe in the kids who are going and because we believe in the future. As you can imagine, this is not an easy undertaking for the families involved. We would really, really appreciate any donation, no matter how small, toward covering the costs our team incurs, including entries, travel, lodging etc.

You can donate through paypal by clicking on the link below.

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Camp etc

Another Camp Gone to the Dogs Summer Camp has come and gone. We were lucky to have absolutely glorious weather every day except Friday, and camp was a joy. This was Kiss~Me's first camp, boy was she excited!

Boing! Banshee and Toggle, of course, had as much fun as ever.

Sarah Westcott with Hank and three of mine. Banshee got to live with Sarah during camp to have some special time away from the kid.
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Hogging the bed
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Kiss~Me and Boing! sharing a rare moment of affection
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Kiss~Me and her new friend Driver
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All three of the herding group girls got to go herding -

Herding photos by Steve Surfman

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Here's video of Kiss~Me having her first and second herding lessons

Kiss~Me turned seven months old on Sunday. We've started some 'real' training in both agility and obedience. Here she is on a dog walk ramp for the first time.

and second time

and her second heeling lesson

Toggle and Dig-It went to a USDAA trial last weekend, Toggle won pairs, Dig-It was 2nd, and Toggle won standard (Dig-It was only entered in pairs)

Bringing up baby

Because she was the star demo dog of our agility u classes, and she demos for most of my classes, and also because she's our coddled and spoiled 'late in life' baby, the first 'kid' Chris and I had together, Kiss~Me has had a very public puppyhood. I can't go to any dog event without her being immediately recognized and fussed over, and if I don't have her with me, people want to know why. So of course lately people have been asking about her training because I haven't posted much in the way of video. In the course of an average week I talk to a lot of people about Kiss~Me's training, and the questions tend to run along the same lines; how often do I train, how long is each training session, what am I teaching her, what do I use as a reward, the basic kind of training questions that interested me when I was watching more experienced trainers working their new puppies. Also one other question that comes up a lot, often as more of a statement, that bugs the hell out of me and really has nothing to do with training and everything to do with the way people perceive things, but more on that later.

I don't really have 'training sessions' with Kiss~Me, at least not the kind that one sets aside time for. Most training is organic and takes place while we are doing other things. I'm not training Kiss~Me as much as raising her, helping her to grow up and learn. Right now she's with me almost all the time. I think that's important for puppies. Of course puppies need to learn to be left alone at home in a crate without fussing, and also to be in their crate without fussing while you're home and doing things without them, so we make time for that too, but neither of those skills takes a lot of time, so she's with me most of the time while I'm doing other things.

We had a lot of company over the last few days. Kiss~Me's sister, Fray, came to visit from Tuesday to Thursday. Esther came Thursday afternoon and stayed through Friday, Marian came up Friday morning for a few hours, then Chris's parents came over Saturday for lunch. Also, because we were having people over, and because it's that time of year, Chris and I spent a lot of time gardening. So all in all, a very busy few days. During that time there was a lot of 'incidental' training of Kiss~Me while other things were happening.

Over the course of three days we worked on -

Recalls indoors/outdoors with distractions

Drop on recall indoors/outdoors with distractions

Drop on send outdoors with distractions

Retrieve to hand

Heel (pivots, side-steps, about turns, straight lines)

Lie quietly at my side

Back up

Send over jump

Recall over jump

Backside of jump

Front cross

Rear cross

2o/2o on AF and DW

Not taking any obstacle that was not asked for (no going off course)

Say 'mama'

'Who lives in the pond?'

Tug and release

'Kill mama'

Weave through legs

Recall to side




learning the names of different toys

learning the names of different parts of the house (in the kitchen, in the living room, in the yard, upstairs, in the bathroom, etc.)

Also general skills like being quiet in her crate while we have dinner, not barking when someone comes to the door, waiting to be invited to go through a gate, sharing her toys, etc.

Kiss~Me is still at the age of hanging out with me most of the time, so while I am fixing dinner, talking to a client on the phone, folding laundry, gardening, lighting a fire, conversing with friends etc. she is simultaneously getting trained. Most of her reinforcement is from playing with me and getting my attention, so I don't have to have a treat or toy to work with her. Also, I do reward her a lot by playing with toys, but toys are not restricted, they are spread out all over the house and property, any dog can play with a toy any time, no work required. Playing with me and a toy might, however, require doing something that I ask for.

Skills are taught in every day life and incorporated into every day life. The natural flow of it is what makes it easier to get the same behavior in any location, training is not something that happens when you have a certain leash and collar, a bait bag, and your tug toy, it's just part of life. Training is not something that 'ends on a good note' as soon as the dog has done something right. I don't want the dog to think that learning is a chore, I want the dog to revel in repetition of success.

Oh, yeah, the other training question (statement) that I get all the time - 'Does Chris do all of Kiss~Me's training?' or, the less polite, 'Chris trains her, right?' Kiss~Me is our puppy, who we both play with and spoil and coddle, we both live with and interact with. She learns every minute she's awake, so of course we're both involved, but I am the primary stay at home parent, so I teach her most of the stuff she's learning. And why the hell does it even matter?