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.

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. 🙂

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

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.

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.

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!