Jokers Notebook ~ Module #40

This is the 40th and final training module of the Jokers Training. In this module we will talk about ongoing training methods to master the foundation skills introduced in this series.

If you started the program with a young pup by this point you are working with a keen agility partner completely comfortable with the independent performance of obstacles at a considerable distance from you; and with no need for handler micro-management. There is no Velcro.  

The Jokers Method

~Bud Houston

The methodology that I’ve used to train my own dogs for independent performance over the years has been a matter of my own growth and learning, adaptation and inspiration. I make no claim that this is the “one true way”. But it is a way. It has simple rules, identifiable objectives, and straight-forward methods for obtaining those objectives (especially if you are inclined to do your homework).

The Ongoing Training

Skills learned by a dog in his first year are typically learned for life. Mastery of those skills and the developing a comfortable partnership between dog and handler are the ongoing training ambition.

The Jokers modules have introduced a lot of very specific training methods to release a dog to independent performance while at the same time developing complimentary skills aimed at directing a dog working out in space. For example, we teach a dog to send in straight-away line 60 or 100 feet from the handler; or work lateral to the handler at comparable distances. But these would be hollow and one-dimensional skills if we don’t master, for example, “Left and “Right” directional commands.

Returning to Resource

The Jokers Training modules are designed to allow you to return to the training resource if you are struggling with a specific skill, or you have not mastered it yet. Above, I mentioned teaching Left and Right as necessary skills. And you really should return to the resource methodology on a regular basis; (Modules #2, #5,#9; and every Module featuring the Tandem Turn which is the “relative” avatar of the “absolute” directional.)

Some dog trainers are intimidated by teaching Left and Right. Especially because it’s more than rare to get immediate gratification of the dog’s learning and understanding. Patience grasshopper! You should be relaxed in the certainty of knowing exactly how long it takes to teach a dog a thing.

It takes as long as it takes.

Applying What You’ve Learned

When your dog is old enough you will likely give competition a try. And if you are an avid and committed student of the skills we’ve presented in the Jokers Notebook series you will approach competition with a keen desire to practice those skills.

The video below shows a simple overview of a numbered course.

What you’ll learn to do, over time, is to identify the “control positions” on a course. A control position is a place on-course where you, the handler needs to attend the dog. What are the control positions on this course? And to obtain those control positions, assuming that your dog can outrun you, what skills should you employ?

The video below shows Bud and Kory on this numbered sequence, using Bud’s calculations for handling and skills choice:

You’ll find three examples of “own-the-pinwheel” skill; at least two Back Passes; a Named Obstacle recognition, Left and Right directionals and nearly constant work at a lateral distance.

The dog that actually won this competition happens to be a student of the Jokers method. (I protest that her club’s running surface is to-die-for superior.) This is Brenda and Leela (who was a very young dog then):

Teach yourself to accept failures in your dog’s learning progression and in competition as information. If a dog failed a bit, it informs your training mission and gives you focus.

Training the dog as a day-by-day task

This section should probably be viewed on-line. As a printed document it’s not much as a presentation; but when viewed in WordPress all the links to videos open up as big pictures and manage to summarize the developing story.

The Two-Minute Dog Trainer

I’ve had more than a few dogs in my house that never so much as got a meal in their first year of life without “working” for it. The method of the Two-Minute Dog trainer is to mix feeding the dog (which you must do) with training the dog (which you should do).

Below is a video of Pip and Cedar working for their breakfast:

You’ll note in the video that the key skill we were practicing during meal-time training was “Named Obstacle Recognition”. Rather than spending your career handling the tunnel under contact discrimination… why not just teach your dog the names of these obstacles?

The Indomitable Dog Trainer

The video below makes a continued argument for the two-minute dog trainer discipline. It is amazing what you can accomplish with a dog when you endeavor to train the dog for the skills you desire the dog to master:

The Devil’s in the Details

You know, I might have written a step-by-step lesson plan for this final training module. It would have been a repeat or regurgitation of foundation exercises that we have been practicing over these 40 weeks.

While you may certainly return to Return to Resource as I suggested earlier, what you are more apt to do is find the opportunity to practice a skill on a floor that was set for an entirely different objective.

I’ll show a couple short exercises below; nothing fancy. But the finding of the training opportunity will ultimately come from your own closely held and prioritized list of training refinements specifically for your dog.

Preparing for Pole Jacks

The Joker Training modules haven’t put a lot of emphasis on training the weave poles, mostly because that training should begin in earnest about where the puppy foundation training ends.

The video below was taken from the Two-Minute dog trainer discipline. With weave poles you should take some care maintain the dog’s enthusiasm for the training; and not to become irksome in your demands for repetition.

You’ll recognize in the following video a challenge sequence from course-work described earlier in this module. You should always find an opportunity for practice of foundation skills from the set of equipment on the floor.

I will likely publish advanced curriculum for superior weaving skills. But the cool thing about being a dog trainer… if you can state the training objective, it’s very likely that you can design an appropriate training method.

A Departing Lecture

In earlier modules we did quite a bit of work with progressive sending. Now that you have nearly mastered the skill, it shouldn’t hurt to see the opening lecture with a few details for successfully sending a dog ahead to work:

Video Homework

Send links to one or more recordings of your practice of the exercises in this module:

  1. The two-minute dog trainer meal-time training session
  2. Your dog in competition.
  3. A bit of work with the weave poles.

This is Module 40. When you submit homework you should include the Module number and, if possible, the exercise you’re practicing.

The Fuller Brush Principle

The Fuller Brush Principle, according to my logic in 2009 applied largely to the dog. But don’t you know, I’ve decided that it applies in equal if not greater measure to the dog’s trainer and handler.

A reminder of the Fuller Brush: “If twisted it in your hands you’d have this twisted brush. However, if you dropped the twisted brush into hot water it would revert or reform to its original shape.” I wrote a blog post on this topic back in 2009:

An agility student might be taught advanced skills in handler movement and dog training. Yet when in competition/hot water… that student will revert to “original shape”. That means he/she will return to handling that is comfortable even though the handling is one-dimensional and assures results that are mediocre at best.

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