I’ve been busy and that’s probably a bit of an understatement. The true fruits in a blossoming of spring are the many chores and labors of upkeep on our rural property. It’s been a wet enough spring that it seems like we’re mowing the same grassy patches every four or five days.
At the beginning of the week we drove to the eastern shore Virginia to pick Marsha’s new BC pup “Tempest”! T is Kory’s half brother, having the same sire. He’s a rambunctious tri-colored little thing, very driven at only nine weeks of age.
From left to right in this picture: Kory, Tempest, and Dash (our 10 year old puppy).
I’m pretty sure the entire litter hasn’t been spoken for yet. If you’re interested in a high drive pup with impressive working credentials in the pedigree, you might check out the breeder’s web page: http://www.jijinkennels.com. Oh, but disregard any mention of the pup “Rex”… because that’s our boy Tempest.
I had an epiphany on the drive out through Virginia this past week about the content of the Joker’s Notebook. While I’ve written designed curriculum forever for the agility instructor doing group classes I think where I need to go, for awhile, is the design of the daily exercises that refine the skills of the dog and handler agility team. The main theme is still “distance”, mind you, but what I really need to do is share the exercises that I set up in my own field for my boy Kory.
Foundation skills need to be continually reinforced, polished and refined. These essential skills should not be considered as a job that is done once, like building a brick wall that, when it’s done, the builder walks away content that the wall will stand. In dog training you might think of the foundation skills more like painting the brick wall. When freshly finished the paint is gleaming and bright; but will over time fade and chip.
Over time the dog’s trainer might want to make refinements or raise criteria for a specific performance. For example, in the unambiguous finish of a contact obstacle the handler might desire the ability (power) to run in any direction while the dog assumes and holds the bottom position until released.
So… to continue the analogy, we’re going to repaint the wall; and brick-by-brick we repaint the entire wall.
- Introduce the position
- Run & hold
- Incrementally add distance
- Incrementally apply continued handler movement
The daily training of the dog should address what we consider the foundation for the skills for the dog while continuing to raise the criterion for performance. And that will mean that the trainer continues to address the entire methodology of the skill from introduction to proofing for each of those vital skills.
This requires a checklist of foundations skills for the dog and a fairly well-defined definition of the training steps for each. That checklist might be unique to an individual dog; but is more likely to be unique to the dog trainer’s approach to the necessary skills for performance and the methodology use to achieve those skills.
Following is my list… which doesn’t necessarily have to be your list:
- Directionals: Go On, Left & Right, Get Out
- Obedience commands: Down, Sit, Stand, Stay, and Heel
- Contact obstacles finish: AL1RTO
- Weave poles
- Technical handling skills: Close and Fig of 8s
Having made the list the dog trainers set of daily exercises for the dog should give room and training space to address each of those skills. Too often the dog trainer/handler will want to play and practice in the realm of skills in which they are most comfortable and successful. This leads to ignoring other important skills which may over time degrade.
Crafting the Daily Exercise
Mindful of our training ambition the daily training exercise with a dog should both fortify the foundation skills and incrementally increase the criteria for performance.
Early in the history of modern dog training someone wrote that working more than about 15 minutes might become irksome to the dog and so counterproductive to the training mission. And yet the positive dog trainer who relies on play and reward to train the dog might get considerably more than 15 minutes a day out of the dog.
The dog trainer needs to take care not to overwork the dog…. even the dog having fun playing a game. A dog overworked can be injured or suffer from dehydration and heat stroke.
Out and Away
Here’s one I set up in the lower field. It’s too big for our training building. For Kory I envisioned three, three times a day. Well, we didn’t even get done with the first day… and Kory was killing the huge pinwheel, and the tricky serpentine start & finish, with me pretty much loitering near the pipe tunnel, giving verbal directive. You’ll probably recognize that this is an expansion of the “exploding pinwheel” exercise; a protocol I’ve followed with all of my distance working dogs.
This exercise has escalations… as many good exercises do. I’ll probably go through those in great detail in the pages of the June Joker’s Notebook. Frankly, I’d like to film some of our exploits on the working exercises and put links out on U-Tube so the development of the exercise is more than two-dimensional.
Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest
Who spoke these words?
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air.
Okay this one’s easy; but still: the first correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.
Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – April 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special04” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.