Keeping an almost 10 year old dog in shape

05.10.2010 – the day I met Liv for the first time. I can remember how excited I was when I woke up that morning. The 5 hour train ride to Munich airport, the first cuddle, the car ride to the breeders home. Especially the car ride home, thanks to the smell of little Liv’s vomit over my jacket haha. We were (and still are) inseparable the next 10 years and we have experienced so much together. Liv is and always will be my baby girl. And if you have a soul dog, your first and forever baby, then it is especially hard to realize that time is going faster than you wish. And all in a sudden, Liv is turning 10 this year. Where did the time go?

Liv is coming to an age where it is common to retire sport dogs from their active sport carrier and of course I spent a lot of thoughts on this topic. Whenever I tell people that she is turning 10, I see surprised faces and disbelief. Liv has barely white hair, flawless movement, pitch-black fur and an unbelievable liveliness. Nobody told her that she is coming to an age where she needs to take it slow and I decided to keep it that way as long as possible.

I have some doubts to retire a perfectly healthy dog just because of age (which is just a number). And sometimes I get sad seeing people buying a bunch of dogs and dropping all of exercise and activities with their «old» dogs because they «need to retire». Or is it because some dogs don’t have the chances to win the first places on the big international competitions anymore? Don’t get me wrong – I believe that NO dog in the world needs competitions and there is nothing wrong with dropping them. And of course, prevention is better than rehabilitation. But to stop all activities, (including training and all those things we crazy agility people do to support our dogs to reach peak performance) from one day to another isn’t fair in my eyes. Do happy and healthy dogs deserve to sit on the reserve bench because they are not as successful anymore? I don’t have the answers but I didn’t chose this option for our Gronendael Ginny who I needed to take out of competitive agility and training due to severe stress-related epileptic seizures. A 7.5 year old working dog in the best age. Retiring – or worse, putting the dog down – is and never was an option. We started with canicross and she found her passion in pulling us through the woods. Away from other dogs, people and other scary things which she can not cope with. Liv on the other hand is fit as a fiddle and she loves the quality time with me. Just the two of us. We started training running contacts when she was 8 years old and we still learn something new every day we spend time together. No dog is too old to learn something new and I love to see the excitement in Liv’s eyes when she can use her brain and body.

To retire a dog is a difficult and highly individual decision, depending on size, body structure and co-morbidities of the dog, as well as ambitions of the owner. Liv is a small dog without any kind of anatomical/structural extremes. She gets annual health-checks and had an orthopedic and cardiologic check-up when turning 8. She never had a single severe or/and sport-related injury in her whole life. And I don’t know if this is due to good genetics or an efficient work-rest-balance. But seeing Liv so healthy and happy is making me think even more about this topic and this is what I am doing to keep Liv in shape:

Agility: We train agility 1, max 2, time(s) per week and most of the time we are just training sequences. Maybe every other week a full course, together with some friends.

Physio: Once a week, guided by a professional dogphysiotherapist. This includes balance, strength, coordination and swimming training. Look at the videos to see what kind of exercises we are doing and look especially at the feet. We spent a lot of time to work on proper feet position because Liv likes to step around like the penguin in happy feet. Proper position is important for the right execution of the exercises (which means more gains and efficiency, less incorrect loading).

Rest: Liv has 1-2 months agility break each year. This means zero agility and this is so important to have to chance to let potential micro injuries heal. When attending a handling seminar, I use to enter just one day – this because those trainings are usually very intensive and I don’t want to train with a tired dog, especially in that age. On rest days we go simple walks like everyone else. Preferably off leash and in the woods.

Liv @atletisk Hund

Here are some general recommendations:

  • Don’t overtrain your dog. Keep the trainings short, effective and remember enough rest days. Don’t repeat sequences and obstacles in training you and your dog already master. Don’t overtrain your dog.
  • Warm up and cool down. Before each competition, each training, each run.
  • Prepare your dog physically to upcoming tasks before adding too much speed and drive. Try to train behaviors without obstacles if possible, without involving too much speed, repetitions or concussion.
  • Give your dog an agility-break each year. This is so important for regeneration. Liv has 1-2 months of zero agility every year.
  • Keep the body of your dog strong and flexible. Invest some time to train strength, balance, coordination, duration and body awareness to prevent your dog from sport-related injuries! Be sure to have enough experience or get help of a professional dogphysiotherapist to guide you through the exercises. Some exercises can be contra productive if they are executed wrong.
  • Get check ups of a veterinary in regular intervals. If you wish for chiropractic treatments, I tend to recommend chiropractors with medical background.
  • Use your head and do some research before feeding your dogs supplements. Don’t spend a lot of money on supplements without any scientific evidence.

Kairi Puppyclass

Kairi and me are participating at Silvia Trkman’s puppyclass at the moment and I can tell already that every minute is worth it. Especially for someone like me who is working (more than) fulltime and in shifts are online classes essential. I am trying to train 5 min x 2 everyday and this can be at any hour of the day. And although I do not have the time to record and edit every session we are doing, I am learning a lot by observing my classmates when I have the time..

Here are some videos what we have learned so far. I can highly recommend to take just 5 minutes everyday to teach your puppy tricks. Tricks improve coordination, body awarness and the BRAIN. Teach your pup to think on it’s own and how to be creative. How to use those legs, paws, nose and head. Try to teach useful, silly tricks and have fun together. 🙂

Happy New Year

We wish everyone a happy and healthy new year!

So much happened in 2019 – hundreds of days with happy memories. Some days of success, some days I’d rather forget. And a few days that showed me that life can be brutal and unfair. When I think about the past year, I don’t want to think about the moments I can brag about. I want to think about the moments I am thankful for. Thankful for being loved, being in love, being healthy, being able to work, being supported and surrounded by the best family, friends and dogs I can imagine.

I have no fancy new year’s resolutions this year. Life has been good to me and it’s time to give something back. Bring it on, 2020.

Ami

Kairi 6 months

Happy 6 months, Kairi. This is what we have learned/shaped so far (from 15 to 24 weeks).

  • Handtouch
  • Nosetouch
  • Sit/Down
  • Twist left/right
  • Turn left/right around objects
  • 2on2off
  • 4in
  • Target mat
  • Heeling position
  • Watch other dogs run agility
  • City walks
  • Going on a leash
  • Sit stays with short distace and duration
  • Balance pads
  • To not fetch own poop
  • To not eat poop of dog siblings
  • To not eat guinea pigs

Physiotherapy

We have officially started our agility winterbreak. My dogs get an agility-free periode of 4-6 weeks each year for regeneration. But that doesn’t mean too much laziness – we will focus on muscle building, balance- and coordinationtraining and condition.

We visited Mari Westersund of atletiskhund.no in Froland yesterday and we will work together on a weekly fitness program with all three dogs. Atletisk Hund has all kind of training utilities and a dog swimming pool for safe and effective training. Liv is an active agility athlete with 9.5 years. Ginny a retired sportdog with a slight deformity in the back and little Kairi is a 5.5 months old puppy with still zero muscles. Three different dogs with different needs, that is why I am so glad to have an educated dogphysio therapist and trainer by our side who can support us with personalized training. After an analysis of both weekness and strenghts of all the dogs, all three got costumized lessons.

Liv started with balance training, squats and pushups. She got to know with the swimming pool too and we will try to teach her a nice and effective swimming style step by step.

Kairi got a short puppy session and she got introduced to the balance pads. And with Ginny we were working on hind feet awareness.

We are soooo looking forward to next week and will continue with our homeworks. I can highly recommend to get support/assistance of a professional canine dogphysio therapist/trainer for prophylaxis as well as rehabilitation. We are more motivated than ever to start the new year stronger, faster and fitter. 💪

Visit ATLETISK HUND for excellent instruction with safe tools and swimming training. Mari is hosting canine physio seminars too. Check out the facebook side (click here) for more information. 🙂

Kairi 4-5 months

Happy 5 months, happiest little goofball in the world!

Toys by floramicatio, treats by Zoo1 Arendal, coats by Pomppa Norge

Self control: We are still focusing a lot on self control and stays as this is the skill Livo is lacking the most haha. #traumatized

Body awareness: I have introduced the first balance exercises to Kairi because I am convinced that it is never to early to train body awareness. Proprioceptive and balance training supports the gain of a whole range of muscles, especially the autochtonous mucles in the core without adding a lot of pressure to joints and tendons. I am looking forward to work even more on this topic with the help of canine physio trainer Mari Westersund of atletiskhund.no in the next months.

Heeling: We are far away from professional dog obedience but I want Kairi to learn the basics. We started with the heeling position on the left side and will slowly build on heeling through the position. But next step is to learn the position on the right side.

And of course we are continuing with the most important: playing, socialization and walks in the forrest.

Shaping directional cues

The concept of trainsmarter.no is to build a strong understanding of tasks/behaviour outside of the agility field and to transfer the skills into the agility field. You don`t need to be an agility professional with a lot of equipment for this. No agility venue, no own garden, no obstacles. All you need is a little bit of creativity and patience. You have so much time to connect the behaviour to obstacles when your pup is old enough. The goal is to minimize repetitions in training as well as physical and mental stress on your future agility partner.

One example is teaching left and right. I started teaching left/right when Kairi was 15 -16 weeks old and we are still working on it. Teaching left/right to perfection is quite a mission. That’s why I am starting when the puppy is quite «young» (15-16 weeks) and why I want to proceed in small steps.

1. Teaching the movement
Kairi learned to turn left and right without any objects with 15 weeks+. I use «Twist» for turning left and «Dreh dich» for turning right – two very unlike vocals to make discrimination easier. If your dog is not offering any twisting, you can use a treat and try with luring, but take care you don’t help too much and for too long. We want the pup to figure out the task. Goal is to teach the puppy the movement of turning the head. That’s why I’m clicking the head movment, this is the keypoint of the exercise. Head turns first and the body follows. I’m starting with just one direction. After understanding the task and connecting it with the vocal, I introduce the other direction. I wouldn’t start with both directions at the same time, this makes shaping/understanding harder and the dog will focus more on luring than on thinking. I have very little video material from teaching twisting, unfortunately. But here is a short video of testing the directional cues and training with distractions.

2. Introducing an object
Now the real fun begins! After teaching twisting without objects, I introduce an object to the movement. So, Kairi got already an idea how to use her body and her pretty head, and she learned to love the twists and turns. That’s when I introduced an object, in my case an empty bottle. First, I rewarded steps close to the object. Then I rewarded her passing the object, going around the object. On the next steps, I was shaping the full circle with rewarding first every nanosteps, then two, three and more and more steps. Remember that you can influence the steps of your pup by throwing the treats to the direction, you want the dog to start again .
After Kairi got an idea about what I expect of her, I introduced verbals. In connection with a object, I use different vocals and not the cues for twisting. In Kairi’s case it’s «Capcap» and «Ciiiiiik» (inspired by Silvia Trkman) with a long iiiii . Again, I try to make the vocals sound different to help with discrimination. And also here, I start with one direction and add the second later. See the video below for the first steps of shaping.

3. Generalising and adding movement
Take your object and move to other rooms. Use the same rooms but other objects (trees, cones, barrels). Sit, then kneel and stand and sit again. Use toys instead of food. Add slowly movement, restrain and weightshift. Do whatever you can think of to generalize the behaviour. If you have been patient enough in the previous steps and your puppy knows what to do, all of this will be a piece of cake. On the following video, you can see Kairi’s first time training left/right on the agility venue with restrain and some speed. And she just knew what to do. Nevertheless, we will use the next months to gain even more understanding, more confidence and independence. And I’m quite sure it will be as easy when moving to «real» agility obstacles, when Kairi is old enough. I am not going to use an agility wing in the next few months, but that’s ok. No stress at all. 🙂


This video is just a glimpse of our training. We hade many more sessions between the first shaping steps and moving to the cone/changing to toy. They are just not recorded. We are no superheroes. 🙂

Toy: Floramicato

Treats: Zoo1 Arendal

NO workshop

Last weekend, we had the spontaneous opportunity to participate at the Norwegian Open workshop with Tereza Kralova and Jan Egil Eide. Norwegian Open has been cancelled due to the Norwegian dog disease as you might know. Luckily, the organisators could offer this workshop on the weekend instead of the competition. I have to admit that I wasn’t very sad about the change of plans, as I am not as glad in competitions as I am in trainings. Nevertheless am I looking forward to an amazing NO 2020. This will be next year’s agility highlight for sure.

The seminar itself was exactly what we needed. It has been a long time since we attended such an agility bootcamp. We got pushed and ran like there is no tomorrow at Tereza’s course and met some tricky challenges at Jan Egil’s training. I was definitely at my limits on saturday. Surprisinly, Livo – 9.5 years of age – was not and it is so good to see how fit such a little dog can be. I am still too slow for my 9.5 year old dog after all those years.

Looks like there will be more running training for me and rear cross training for Liv in future. We are still suffering from lazy-handler-syndrom obviously.

Online puppyclasses

We love online classes! It’s a perfect possibility to train with your trainer of your choice no matter the distance. And it`s the most flexible kind of training. You decide when to train, where to train and what to train. Most online classes have the option to chose between active and auditing spots. There are many advantages with active spots – you and your trainer can follow all ministeps and you get immediate and personalized feedback to your questions and problems. Auditing spots can be very useful if you don’t have the time to record and edit all your training sessions or have an injured dog for example.

As mentioned before, I want to present some online puppyclasses which I find recommendable. This recommendations are based on personal experiences with the class itself or the trainer.

Silvia Trkman lolabuland

The queen of online classes. The first and the most famous. I guess she started with online classes when 90% of people didn’t even know how to spell agility.
Website: http://www.lolabuland.com/online-classes/puppy-class/
Duration: 12 weeks, 6 lessons with 2 weeks of break
Price: 210€ active, 120€ auditing

+ probably the most experienced online trainer
+ huge community – stalk your fellow classmates and get even more tips
+ you can win a free class through your graduation video
+ you get the basics for the next classes (foundations, extreme foundations)
+ no equipment required, no minimum or maximum age


Katarina Podlipnik FUNtastic dog agility training

The name keeps the promise. Katarina is well known for her positive training attitude and it`s all about speed and motivation. She is not the average dog handler, having experience with Papillons, Croatian Sheepdogs, Malinois, Pumis and PyrSheps and many more breeds through her online courses.
Website: http://www.funtasticdog.com/on-line-classes/how-to-improve-speed-motivation-and-drive/
Duration: 3 months, 6 lessons
Price: 240€ active, 160€ auditor

+ benefit from Katarina’s experience with a variety of dog breeds
+ Fast feedback, usually less than one working day
+ especially for those who want to work on motivation/playing
+ Forum, stalk your classmates!

Polona Bonac – LET’S PLAY

Another handler/trainer who has been in the game for ages with various kind of breeds. She made the world a better place through sharing her video of the 5 most common tugging mistakes on youtube. In this online course you will get the possibility to learn even more about the most important agility skill – playing with your dog.
Website: http://polonabonac.com/?page_id=4467
Duration: 6 lessons
Price: 150€ active, 70€ auditor

+ focus on playing, playing, playing
+ boosting your dog’s motivation

Susan Garrett – RECALLERS

Canadian superhero of dog training, inspiring many dog owners/handlers/trainers around the world. This woman knows things about innovative and smart training AND she know dogs. All of her online classes are known for being detailed and structured.
Website: https://www.susangarrett.com/the-five-minute-formula-to-a-brilliant-recall/
Duration: 40 games
Price: ?
+ Super detailed and structured
+ not only agility training

Nadine Alshut – Peak Performer

Good news for our German speaking friends! You can find a puppy class complete in German, made by Nadine Alshut from Germany. The class is based on Susan Garrett’s recallers class with many detailed videos, Q&A parts and personalised feedback. Learn more about playing, teamwork and impuls controll.
Website: https://training.peak-performer.com/online-kurse/erspielt-euch-zum-team/
Duration: 3 months, 30 games
Price: 230€ active, 180€ auditing
+ GERMAN!
+ detailed videos and Q&A parts
+ Forum, stalk your classmates!
+ Sheltieowner!

Enya Habel -Puppy Diary

Winter is coming! This is a 100% auditing puppy class. Watch and learn from Swedish Enya and see little Rally growing up. From everyday life to agility foundations. She has done an amazing job training her first Sheltie and I’m sure this will be an exciting journey too.
Website: https://www.enyahabel.se/shop?lang=en
Duration: 12 months
Price: Ca 250€, auditing

+ Shelties!! Cute!!
+ no struggles with recording/editing

Siv Svendsen

Siv Svendsen is most experienced in Obedience and Mondioring. She is a «motivation-nerd» and explains her trainings in small and easy understandable steps. Even though you might not be interested in doing Obedience, her puppy classes are useful for any sports and activities with your dog. Her classes are only for auditors.

Website: https://www.nolimitobedience.se/onlinekurser/

Price: € 30 – 50 / class

+ everything in your own pace

+ classes in swedish & english

Are you participating at another online puppy class? We would love to hear about your experiences!

50 shades of playing

Playing – the most important lesson of puppyhood. Playing is fun, healthy and useful. It helps building a good relationship, improves body control and adds a lot of excitement into training!

Here are some thoughts how to make playing to the highlight of the day:

If you have a dog which has a lot of playdrive – big congrats, it‘s a jackpot and so much worth! Just keep the attitude and keep playing, playing, playing. If you have a dog which is naturally not 100% interested in playing, I highly recommend to invest some time and energy NOW. Playdrive doesn’t come for free (okay, sometimes it does). Always remember that dogs are individuals and every puppy has it’s favourite playing style. Some are born as alligators and love to tug. Others love to chase but rather want to destroy the prey on their own instead of tugging with the owner. Some love distance while playing (Liv), some dogs love a real life wrestling combat (Kairi). I want my dogs to love all facets of playing, preferably with me. This includes tugging, chasing, running, retrieving and playing with different toys on different environments.

1. Choice of toy: My first choice is an easily visible toy (sheep wool! ❤️) on a loooong string. I want the toy to be on the ground to invite the puppy to develop a flat running style with the head “down”. Especially Shelties (and other breeds with an anatomical steep chest) tend to get “airy” while running. Some puppies don’t agree with our first choices. Maybe your puppy loves balls? Put it on a string. Socks? Rubber toys? Fluffy toys? Squeaky? Be flexible and creative. And have some extra 💰💸 for toys, it is totally worth it. If your puppy is comfortable with playing, you can gradually change the toy.

2. When to play: Be sure that your pup is not dead tired and be sure you are in the right mood to put enough energy and effort into playing, especially with less motivated dogs. Playing should be the highlight of the day!

3. Where to play: Start playing on a familiar place. We want full focus and don’t want the pup to worry about the environment. So better to start playing at home than on New York Times Square – this will be homeworks for later!

4. How to play:

Verbal cue and restrain Introduce a verbal cue which promises »HEYYOUCANGETYOURTOYANDTHISISSUPERFUN” and use it constantly when you are sending your dog to a toy. Start with restrain training as soon as possible.

Re-what?! Restrain means to hold your pup back on the collar/harness and build focus on the object of interest (OOI). This can be a toy, food or something abstract like a agility obstacle. Start with releasing your dog when it is looking at the OOI and we take what we get at the start. Release after your dog is looking at the OOI a nanosecond and gradually increase the duration. Make this to your dog’s favourite ritual! This sounds really weird but just try it.

Tugging I love to start with tugging because puppies love to use their sharp puppy teeth to destroy you, the world and everything else which comes in front of those tiny cute faces. Be smart and start tugging at this point, that means ASAP. Keep in mind if your dog prefers distance or proximity. Move the toy away from your pup with speedy and unpredictable movements and never put the toy into your pup`s mouth, forcing it to bite. Don’t be too aggressive, try to have a good mixture of adding and releasing pressure. Your puppy deserves to feel like Schwarzenegger and needs to know that it has a chance to actually WIN the toy. Don’t dominate the game and be fair.

Chasing Is super fun and almost comes for free. All you need are fast legs and a good friend. Ask your friend nicely (we need that friend in future too) to hold your pup on the harness. Take the pole position and start running! Use restrain and your release word and have a big party party when your pup is catching up with you. Start with 1-2m and gradually add distance according to ability to concentrate and age.

Sending to a (dead toy) It`s very important to use a good visible toy, so get out your most colourful gigantotoy and find a flat place, preferably a golf course. Or at least, avoid jungles. Start with short distances (max 1m) and short restrain. Add distance gradually and according to ability to concentrate and age!

Retrieving I want my pup to prefer to play with me rather to play solo. Lazy as I am, this is easiest when the pup is retrieving the toy. 90% of all pups will take the toy and run off to Neverland. Solution – just do the same. Put on your best pokerface, run to the opposite direction with another toy and pretend that it is SUPERFUN over there. Go bananas and play, play, play if/when your puppy is coming after you.

Explain to your neighbors later why you are standing alone in the corner of your garden, high-pitched and clapping like a circus monkey, throwing grass/dog toys like it’s the funniest thing in the world. It’s important with priorities.

5. Rule no 1 – there are no rules! Always start playing the way your pup loves to play and build all those other “playing abilities” on those your puppy knows and likes already. Enjoy the quality time. ❤️

6. Ring a friend, if you need help! You can find a zillion good online courses regarding playing. A recommendation of puppy online courses will follow as a seperate blog post. 🙂