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!

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. 🙂

First weeks with Tadaa

Tadaa has been in our family for three weeks now. I’m already in love with this funny little girl. She is really polite with our other dogs, happy for meeting new people and loves to play with Halli.

During the days we focus on getting a bond, as this is most important for me. We do this with a lot of playing, some clicker training and a lot of cuddeling. Tadaa is a confident little girl who likes to go her own ways. So here we have our main focus for now. Call-ins and letting her know that I’m fun too 😉

Kairi 3 months

This blogpost is a to-do-list from 3-6 months. I’ll upload some videos and training tipps in the next weeks.

1. Our main goal/aim is to get to know the world. See and meet different people, dogs, animals, surroundings, buildings and Kairi is doing a really good job. It’s so important that dogs learn to be confident on unknown environments. So we are having city walks 2-3x per week and just watch children playing in the park, sit and relax on benches, take the bus and play at different places.

Tipp 1: If you have a confident grown-up dog, let your grown-up dog join for the first walks. It’s amazing how much dogs can learn through observation. But have the same amount of “lonely” walks that the puppy is not getting too dependent of the “big sister/brother”. Enjoy some quality time alone with your puppy.

2. Playing, playing and playing. This includes tugging, sending the pup to dead toy, chasing and retrieving.

Tipp 2: Use different toys and combine with city walks.

3. Shaping – I don’t know what but we will see what we get. 😂

4. Self-control. This is really important for me, especially when it comes to every day life due to safety reasons. I don‘t want my dogs to jump out of the car, out of the door, running to dogs/people/food and endangering themselves our other people/dogs. That’s maybe why this is the most important life lesson for the time being.

Tipp 3: Introduce a release cue as soon as possible and BE CONSISTENT. Inconsistency makes every task hard to understand – not very fair. ☝️

Hello Kairi 🐱

As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was going to happen.

Your Adventure of Summergarden (Choice x Hunni)

After all those years waiting for a puppy and another long 15 weeks, she is finally home. Kairi, the longest awaited pup ever. She came all the way from Austria and I want to thank her breeders, Manuela and Tamara, and the owner of the father, Iida, for making my dream come true. Looking so forward to our future. Welcome, little Kairi! 💖

Welcome to Trainsmarter.no, welcome to a new kind of puppy journey.

«Oh nooo, not another puppy online class…!» – is maybe what you are thinking. But don’t worry, it ‘s not. This blog is an invitation to follow two crazy dog ladies, their dogs and their alternative agility lifestyle… – okay, forget the ladies, this is getting even better:

An invitation to follow the journey of two puppies, Kairi and Tadaa, on their way becoming agility stars – or not, only time will tell. ✨ But you can see them growing up, learning, playing, thinking, eating poop, being kids, being naughty, being challenged, being on adventures, being normal family dogs. And most of all, being damn cute!

Welcome and enjoy our puppy spam.