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.
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 exerciseand 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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
Find secure surroundings and have at least distractions as possible.
Separated training and just playing- No expectations, just having fun.
Be interesting. Running like crazy with the toy from her, make her wanting it. Maybe even using a squeaky toy to get the attention.
Separated playing and food (in the beginning). Once she got food she wanted that for sure more.
Give the play a command. It helps getting in excited mode.
Let her win.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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 😉
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.
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.
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.