P like Patience

I haven’t written much about our trainings in the last months because, to be honest, I struggled with Tadaas motivation. I haven’t found out yet what really drives her. Tadaa is the most settled dog I ever had. Nothing gets her scared, she is open and friendly with everyone and has no problems being and playing at different places. So she’s really cool, but in training maybe a little bit too cool. Nothing really triggers her. She can watch Halli in training, she can play, she takes food, but nothing to get her fighting for it. My friends have heard a lot of my troubles (probably too much).

So I looked back how I worked with Halli. And we had some struggles too. Low interest, low motivation, hormones and for me low fun. But I never gave up. As I trained his full sister Tvitvi and followed the training with his brother Mick I knew it’s in him. We just needed to find out how to get it. It wasn’t always fun, and training with a low motivated dog isn’t actually helping my motivation. I participated in Katarina Podlipniks online class «fun and motivation», which helped a lot, but still didn’t trigger everything he could give. I lowered my expectations and only played with him for several weeks. If I only knew that patience is the most important tool I needed to have.

I continued working with him, teaching him basics, teaching him runnings (and that was a struggle! who could know that there are dogs who simply don’t get the concept of targets!). He wasn’t much into food, but liked to play. So we rewarded everything with toy. And I guess everyone who tried to reward shaping RC with only toys as tool know how tricky that can be.

Nobody is perfect

I’m not perfect, my dogs are not perfect. But being ok with that I need to remind myself sometimes. Especially that I’m not perfect. Every dog is different, they learn different, have different needs, different drives. Even through I went threw frustration, and still do, I never gave up. I like to plan my trainings, but sometimes things just go in their own speed. Halli taught me that a lot.

Competitions are experiences too

A trainer once told me trainings are for building up and competitions can build down. As we sometimes are tempted to loose our criteria. And that has for sure a good point. With Halli is started to compete early because I felt with his trainings that he needed to grow with experience. He has shown me that I was actually right with this decision. He went quite fast through a process of a little dog who was eager in training, but insecure in competitions. Not going all in and not even daring to try (like his first competitions with contacts). I never had that problem before with my other dogs who were really easy and highly motivated from the start. But that was ok. I saw with each new competition that he grew, he dared more and he experienced that «oh, that’s the same agility we do in training». I wouldn’t recommend that strategy with every dog, that’s why I want to point out that this was for his needs.

New dog – new experience

So now Tadaa is almost one year old. We didn’t get to more to tunnels and turnings or two straight jumps. With her I needed to teach her to play first, then finding out that it’s worth doing something together with me. I annoy my friends all the time with my struggles, but in the end I guess time will show what she really needs to have maximum fun doing Agility with me. I’m not the type who is giving up.

Find new playgrounds

I start playing and training new tricks at safe and known places with my puppy with as little distractions as possible. That helps the puppy to learn things faster.

But after some training sessions it’s time to test playing and some learned things at new places. To generalize training is important to me, and new places shouldn’t be uncomfortable or scary for my dog.

Tadaa always joins for trainings with Halli, competitions where I compete or and Jan Egil judges. And I always take the opportunity to play with her there.

Ask as many different clubs, owners of training places or friends as possible if you can book an hour or find a little time to play. And if you are competing for example with an older dog, take your puppy out in the breaks and play with it.

A friend has her training field next to her ponies. I had to take this opportunity to play next to them.
New surroundings and new surface.

First things first: Playing

There are different ways to reward your dog. Playing, treat with food, treat with voice or treat with physical contacts. Not every dog is into all of it and not everything has the same value. Halli is a really good player, but when he was young he wasn’t into food. Tadaa is much into food but playing is not so interesting.

Not every dog is a natural born player, some dogs need to learn it. So this for sure the first thing I test with my puppy. How is it playing? What kind of play does it like? Is it more a chaser or a tugger?

Example: Tadaa

Tadaa likes to run after balls, but she doesn’t like tugging with me with the ball. She also liked chasing the long tuggy toys but again, not tugging.

What I did:

  1. Find out what she likes. She likes balls but nor tugging them. So I used a long tuggy toy from havohravo.com which has a soft part and a ball in the end. She got interested because of the ball, but likes to bite in the soft part more. After some time she realized that it was really fun to tug.
  2. Find secure surroundings and have at least distractions as possible.
  3. Separated training and just playing- No expectations, just having fun.
  4. Be interesting. Running like crazy with the toy from her, make her wanting it. Maybe even using a squeaky toy to get the attention.
  5. Separated playing and food (in the beginning). Once she got food she wanted that for sure more.
  6. Give the play a command. It helps getting in excited mode.
  7. Let her win.
  8. Cheer cheer cheer. It’s for sure exhausting running, cheering and playing at the same time, but she loves it.

Choose your weapon

There are many different kind of toys for different kind of players. The hard part is to find out what kind of player is your dog and what he likes most. The favorite toy can also change.

Chaser

Chasers like to hunt and run after toys. I recommend rewarding with long tuggy toys which can be dragged on the floor or just throwing balls. It will get the dog in hunting mode. You can try to make a tugging game when the dog has catched the toy or you let him win it.

My recommendation: Holee rollers. Because you can also tug a little. Long tuggy toys with soft (faux) fur.

Tugger

Tuggers like to pull the toys and have a little fight with you. Even though rumors say a dog should never win this tugging game otherwise he will be the «leader», I think this is bullsh*t. Some dogs loose motivation if they never win. Some dogs like to tug hard with you, others like more personal space. It’s important to make the tugging comfortable for the dog. I recommend short tuggy toys or holee rollers which you can grab.

My recommendation: Tug toys with a ball in the end. It’s easier for the dog to grab.

Healthy playing is more fun

Always make sure you are playing so it’s physically not harming the dog. Try to have the toy on the dogs height, so the head is not getting pulled up. Be careful with playing while puppies are changing the teeth. If playing is uncomfortable it’s less fun.

Our favorite dog toys are from floramicato , havohravo and dog’s craft.

DIY balance/contact board

Making a training board isn’t really hard and not expensive. Here is another diy-tipp from me.
I bought a shelf which is 300 wide. (how long is depending on dogs size), a yoga matt and furniture pads. I already have a small balance pad from before. So I cutted the yoga matt in the same size as the board (a little longer, so it’s over the edges), I glued it on, put the furniture pads at the end on the underside and that’s it. Waiting until the glue has dried.
I used the Yoga mat because it’s made for not slipping. It’s also possible to use carpet or bathing mats.
I want to use it for pre-teeter training. Tadaa should get confident with the movement under her paws. It’s also possible to use it for balancing. Happy diy – time 😉

Happy Birthday Tvitvi

Three years ago my little surprise was born. I wasn’t sure if I would have a puppy until this day, I remember it like yesterday. When Jan Egil showed her picture to our friends and said «This will be our new dog».

Tvitvi was my first small dog and my first Papillon. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. She was small, fluffy, confident, funny and biting us all the time. After some time she got also really cudely. I remember watching her while she was sleeping and even telling Jan Egil that she is just the sweetest creature on this earth.

In 2017 we travelled a lot. From Czech, Austria, Germany, France, Northern Norway. Little Tvitvi was an easy and fun traveling companion. Afraid of anything, facing every adventure together with us. She made so many friends, and I think she made quite an impression to some people too.

She was so unbelievable clever and motivated. I had so much fun training with her, I had to take myself back to do not too much. But we had so much fun together.

I remember her warm body rolled together on my lap, she always chose to sleep in contact with me.

And then on january 21. in 2018 the accident happened… I still can’t talk about this day. Only that it broke my heart. I still can’t understand why this most innocent soul had to leave us so early.

I’m thankful for all the nice memories we could share in the short time we had together. I’m forever thankful to Elli, her breeder, who gave her to me. I’m also thankful to Elli and Rebecca, the owner of Tvitivs sister Funny, for becoming my friends.

Fast as the wind, brave as a lion, beautiful like the midnight sky.
I miss you. Every day. My beloved Tvitvi.

When and how do we end?

In general we read and discuss a lot how and when we should start Agility with our dogs. When it’s healthy to put that kind of pressure on a young dogs body. If you ask 50 persons about that topic I guess you will get 45 different answers. But shouldn’t we ask ourselves when and how to end an Agility dogs career too?

We know agility is an extreme sport for some dogs . Extreme movements, extreme speed, extreme pressure but also extreme fun. When I started Agility about 17 years ago preventing injuries with warm-up, cool-down, special training for building up muscles but also chiropractic treatments were no topic at all. Luckily we learned a lot in the past years. But even though we are wiser and try hard that injuries won’t happen, accidents can happen.

My thoughts about when and how to retire a dog from Agility

My Belgian Shepherd Jamjam is now 9,5 years old. She’s a quite big dog who has a lot of energy. I do run agility with her because we both love it, but how much do I love it? The whole season I was at a point where I don’t feel we need to compete but simply should enjoy it. After our national championships in June we had a long summer break. The stomache disease in Norway made it not possible to go after my plan and start competing and training again in autumn. And then we were at a routine check at my vet who is treating our dogs with chiropractics. And she told me Jammi has never been in better shape. She usually tempts to be a little stiff in the back, but I always keep a dialogue with my vet if she would recommend to stop with the sport.

So the good news. She has never been in better shape. The bad news, this really made me think. Is it still worth it? I really love Jammi. And Agility is not so important that I would risk her well being.

I already retired two dogs from Agility. My first dog Bubu had to end all kind of sports because of arthrose at a young age of seven. He made me learn the hard way. Pipi was retired in a slow way. She had her last competition when she was 9. We stopped because I was focusing on Jammi and Jan Egil, who ran some competitions with her, tried to focus on his own dog. Pipi is twelve now, happy, healthy and grumpy as always.

So how I wish to end an agility career is not because I have to, but because I want to and because it feels right.

With Jammi I feel it’s getting closer to end this chapter. I want to run some jumping courses (only suited for ponies 😉 ), maybe compete a little, but I think it’s ok to stop. We luckily have much more together than just Agility, and I hope we have many more healthy years together to enjoy all these things in life.

Competition in November since our summer break.

HalliGallis first competition

Jan Egil was going to be judging in Denmark two weeks after Halli would be old enough to compete, and my plan was longer to try if we can be ready for at least competing in jumping.

We entered anyway both, agility and jumping. I took the chance to train the competition set-up and see if he is influenced by the surroundings. I made my own little courses in the Agility runs.

One month ago I kind of got a reminder that I really need to step up Hallis slalom training if I want to get it ready. So I needed more system. Ups and downs made me almost give up, but then I changed a little in our system and suddenly he got it. A mix between understanding and learning to fail made him concentrate and understand what to do.

What I did? We trained channel since spring, he loved the speed and that he could control it himself. He early had a really nice focus forward. But as soon as I started to close the channel more and more he hurried too much. So last step was to take a part with 4 poles from the normal weaves and let him try to adapt the movement he learned to only a small part. This we did beside channel which was almost closed. After he understood 4 I tried to add two more, and two more and from 8 I went to 12 which was no problem. It seems that this last step helped him to really understand his job.

I’m really proud of Halli and what he could show at our first competition together. He is growing with each run and we both want more.

Tadaa was joining her first agility trip. She got to stay in the hall, we played and did some tricks, greeted people and she took a nap next to the ring. She’s such an easy puppy and I enjoy her funny and positive temper.

Focus – with a little help from evolution

Teaching focus is fundamental in dog training. Sometimes we need our dogs to focus on us, which is quite easy to achieve with calling them. But in some cases we want them to focus away from us. We want a dog who is focused on obstacles and understands it’s task.

Something we teach our puppies is focusing on toys (or food). We teach them not to stare at us, but focusing on an object.

Use science

So why not help ourselves with evolution? There has been behavior studies on communication between humans and dogs. For example pointing somewhere when we want the others attention going there. Tests with chimpanzees & humans and dogs & humans show that chimps don’t understand what we want to tell with pointing somewhere, but dogs do. Their attention goes to where we point. It’s really interesting that dogs can read this sign, since they can’t communicate in this way with each other. I guess that’s the reason why showing with our arms where to go is so natural for our dogs. We can adapt this behavior for tricky starts too. We teached our dogs to focus where we point on command, so if the dog should start away from us we can help us with the focus command.

Interested? Read more about this study

DIY Yummie treats

Since Halli wasn’t much into food or treats when he was a puppy I had to try something else. This is a recipe for easy dog treats I got from a friend I would like to share.

What you need:
2 packages grounded chicken
2 eggs
2dl potato starch
2dl oats
1,5 dl water

Mix all ingredients together in a cooking machine or by hand. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Put it in a bread pan and bake it one hour with 175°C.
After you took it out of the oven let it cool down. You can also wait a day. Cut it in small pieces, use it fresh, freeze it or put them in a drying machine.

Handtarget- how to start

One of the first lessons I teach my dog is a strong hand-target. This is a basic lesson for many different techniques. I for example use hand target for teaching an «in» command or to teach rear-crosses.

This is how I want my hand target to look like. The toy in my other hand has high value, but Halli learned that he only gets it when he keeps his nose on my hand.

To learn the hand target I make it first easy for my puppy to touch my hand with putting food there.

I only treat from the hand the dog should touch, even though I later might hold the toy or treat in the other hand to try to make a «distraction». I also try not to put the hand toward the dog, he needs to find it.