Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Week's Agility "Hurdles"

Maxie at Monroe Trial, June 2010, Open Standard,Q
There are more "hurdles" to agility than the ones the dogs jump over.   As mentioned previously, I've decided to branch out beyond what my local dog club can offer me. Awhile back one of our instructors, Noel G. invited us to her house for a viewing of Susan Garrett DVD training program called 2x2 Weaves and I really like her systematic training method. The club bought the equipment, but it isn't used in much of the training I've had since then.  Shortly thereafter I bought Susan's Success With One Jump DVD series, and I really like that too. I can do some of that at home.  BUT, Susan recommends working with a partner, which I don't have at home. 

As a first step, last week I discovered Susan's blog and website on the Internet at , and signed up for her free email newsletter, then bought her e-book called Training Tips.

My hurdle is to see if I can get someone from the club to train with me here at home a few mornings a week.

Sheryl Mc came last Monday morning with her Boston Terrier, Charlie, who is working at Advanced Beginner level. She's competing at Novice level. We practiced sending thru the tunnel, then the weaves, from all angles, and calling over either the tunnel or A-Frame (dog has to read your signals correctly and choose), and we practiced using proper body language and verbal signals.

We both agree that what we need now is sequence training, and that what the club is doing, from Advanced Beginners thru Excellent, is mostly running courses. We watched the first of Jane Simmons-Moake's Competition Training Videos, Obstacle Training, and agreed to break our training down into the steps featured there.  We notice that many of our club's competition teams are dropping bars, taking wrong courses, popping out of the weaves, bailing off the see-saw, rarely Q'ing in competition or at practice. In my opinion, they are all making the same mistake -- concentrating on completing courses. In fact, both Susan Garrett and Jane Simmons-Moake agree that no dog should be rewarded with continued "play" after they make a mistake. The dog has no idea it is competing. It is just playing with you and if you keep "playing" after they screw up, you are building value into the screwup and they will never learn to change their behavior. This makes sense to me.

Susan Garrett sent out a free podcast the other day, where she emphasized "Reinforcement Builds Behavior", so "reward your dog" for correct choices.  If they screw up on jump #5, STOP, repeat the sequence, and reward when they get #5 correct.  Don't continue past #5 without rewarding a correct choice. Reward choices, not ends.  Embrace the holes in your training, using them as pointers to weaknesses that you need to overcome. This will increase your dog's motivation, and decrease stress behaviors such as sniffing, barking, spinning, running off, choosing whatever obstacle they want. That podcast is called "2 of 30", stored at

Since our club doesn't have enough volunteer instructors nor the organization to provide a clearly stepped program from Intro to Competition, I have to do this on my own. Our Agility Director, Loralie H., says she wants to begin a "workbook" program that will resolve this issue. I'm looking forward to that because Lucky needs the structure. I need the structure. Maxie needs structure. It remains to be seen what that "structure" will be.

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