Friday, February 19, 2016

Busy Little Bee on the Internet

I have posted nothing because I have done nothing. I’m not kidding. It has to be close to two weeks since I have done any dog training at all.

“Life”…it gets in the way sometimes. Since I have cut back on my part-time duties as a dog trainer (for both myself and for Best Friends) I have felt a little…"isolated”. Too many hours alone - too many hours replacing wholesome social interaction with social media.

I’ve been wanting to get move involved with national/international “dog organizations” for a while. Volunteer jobs often come up with the CKC, and occasionally with the AAC as well. Nothing has tickled my fancy (as they say) until a few weeks ago. UKI Canada (of parent UKA International) posted looking for a volunteer web administrator. Immediately that felt like it would be right up my alley. I’m creative and rather web savvy, I’m also dependable. So I applied. Now, I may very well have been the only applicant, but I was given the job. I didn’t want the fact that I was possibly be the only choice be discouraging to the UKI Canada Reps, so I dove right in and gave it everything I could.

Over the past week I have put in about 24 hours of work, and things look pretty spiffy. At least I think anyways – nobody has given any negative comments anyway…so I’ll assume all is good.

So now that the bulk of the work on the UKI Canada website is done, I can start getting back on my own dog training. Wait. Scratch that.

Tonight I am rubberizing the dog walk at Best Friends. I have a few more friends to help out this time so hopefully things will go swimmingly. Tomorrow I have two half day workshops with BOBBI LYONS!! The morning will be Vixen, the afternoon will be Indie. Should be a blast!

So Sunday, Sunday will be dog training!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Handling 360 by Susan Garrett

Susan Garrett is once again opening her Handling 360 (H360) online handling course. She is preluding the opening by releasing a series of videos (yes, they are marketing videos) that feature personal stories of the growth and success of current H360 members. I am an original member of H360, signing up when it was released in February of 2014. Each year I have continued to re-enroll as an “Alumni member” in order to continue to have full access to the training material whenever I need it.

In Nov 2014, the program was opened for it’s second round of enrollment, and like then, I am again being bombarded with questions from fellow agility enthusiasts who are wondering if they should enroll. I’m not complaining – as I am always totally cool with helping people out in any way I can.

However, I found myself repeating the same thing over and over again, so I decided to write a blog about it instead. So here is my run down and review of H360...

What is H360?
It is a start to finish agility handling program that has something for every handler and every dog. It has a logical flow and progression of exercises right from foundation exercises (away from equipment), all the way up to “international level” challenges. New to agility handlers would start right at the beginning, as would new to agility puppies and dogs. More experienced handlers and dogs could jump in somewhere in the middle, but would also value from doing the “foundation” exercises if there are any holes in their training or understanding. With the membership you are guaranteed 1 year of access to the program.

What is breakdown of the program?
There are four (4) core “modules”, each building on the skills learned in the previous module. In each module there are several lessons, with a new lesson in each module being released every two weeks. Even if you choose to start working in “module 1” you will have access to the lessons in the next three (3) modules so that you can preview the skills being worked on.

What are the core modules?
“Module 1” focuses on “groundwork” away from agility obstacles. It has about 70 exercises in total, a few being released over several weeks. These exercises are all part of an innovative plan that will build speed, accuracy, cooperation, and understanding for every agility team. Susan provides and video explanation and demonstration of each and every exercise, as well as a written explanation of the exercise for quicker review. Not much room is need for the majority of the exercises. I myself do most of the exercises in my tiny living room. Baby Vixen is living this module right now!

“Module 2” focuses single obstacle handling; in this case a single jump or a single tunnel. I am going to estimate that this module also has about 70 exercises. This module breaks down every single approach and handling option that could be encountered on a jump or tunnel. Again, each and every exercise has a video of Susan explaining and demonstrating the exercises. PDF downloads are also available so you can take those with you to your training space. A larger space is needed for these exercises – I can (just barley) do the single jump exercises in my 20’x20’ backyard with a sheltie. I can do some of the tunnel exercises back there, but not all. I usually throw my jump or tunnel in my car and head to the local off leash dog park during quieter hours. If I am feeling particularly bold, I’ll go to the closer local green space where dogs aren’t suppose to be off leash, but we are well behaved so no one has complained…yet.

“Module 3” takes the skills from the previous modules and challenges the handler and dog with speed! It tests the dogs understanding of the handling and obstacle skills under the more realistic conditions. There are about 100 exercises in this module. This module has been by far my most favourite. It has been touted as the “missing link” in agility training of the past. You will need a bigger space and more equipment for these exercises so I usually hit up my local clubs and pay green fees. If your dog is doing all the equipment (contacts and weaves) then this module will more than prepare a handler and dog for the starters/novice level at local agility trails. Towards the end of the module you and your dog will be well prepared for the advanced/intermediate level.

“Module 4” is “course work”. You will require a full complement of agility equipment. There is a new course released every 2 weeks for almost the entire year of the membership. Within each full course are several “sequences” that Susan specifically challenges each handler to try. Most often these are contact and weave challenges! Video of Susan running both Feature and Swagger on each course is provided too. There is also provides video of each sequence as well as PDFs to download. These courses are not easy…they are technical and fast. These courses will well prepare every handler for the masters/excellent level of competition….and beyond!

What else is there?
In addition to the four (4) core modules, there are several “bonus" items. I wont go in to too much detail here, but will say they go above and beyond what one would expect from an online course...however, if you have ever taken one of Susan's other online courses then you can likely form an idea of what else is in there...

This sounds overwhelming; will I fall behind?
Yes, it is overwhelming. The sheer amount of information provided is incredible! But, you need to learn to focus on you and your dog, and where you are at in your own journey. The lessons in each module are released on bi-weekly intervals, but that is not necessarily the pace at which you are expected to be successful and ready to move on. You regulate your own learning and the pace at which you move on to the next challenge. You are also not expected to be working in all of the modules at the same time; work through one, and then progress on to the next.

How much does it cost?
I can’t exactly remember, but it is about $1200. I want you however to breakdown that cost and compare it to agility lessons you may already be taking. Without exaggeration, I am estimating that learning this entire program from start to finish through private lessons would take 2 years of weekly lessons, or 3-4 years of group lesson – plus your additional practice time at home. Do you own math, but if you were to take this training from me, it would cost you $3000-$5000 dollars. That isn’t even including the contact and weaves training necessary for competition - so add more lesson time and money!

What if I sign up, but decide that it isn’t really for me?
In the past Susan has offered a 30 day money back guarantee – if you weren’t happy, no questions asked, refund issued.
If you are not happy with your current instruction, or your team’s current performance, then I encourage you to take your training in to your own hands. This program allows you to do that! If it is still too much for you to take on, but still want help, I will be offering classes over the summer that focus on some of the exercises in core modules 2 and 3.

I hope this answers some of your questions. Have fun!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong again.

Had a GREAT puppy agility class with Vixen today! It was filled with mistake, after mistake, after mistake! You did see that I wrote it was “GREAT” class didn’t you…?

Why do I like mistakes so much? Well, quite simply, our dogs learn from their mistakes – mistakes create an opportunity to learn! During our training, when she made a mistake, she was not punished – she was not yelled at, or corrected with a leash ‘pop’, she was not scolded in any way. What we did was show her that her incorrect ‘choices’ would not yield any rewards. We did this by simply removing the ability to access a reward. We control the reward…not the dog. We then provided her with the opportunity to make correct ‘choices’ and when she did she was rewarded for making that decision!

This exercise showed me that my puppy has two really great personality qualities. First, she is tenacious. She has great focus and keeps going after what she wants. My challenge is making her want what I want her to want instead. Second, is that she can continue to work through mistakes. She never threw a fit, she never resisted, she never lost focus - she just kept working until she got what she wanted….which coincidently ended up being what I wanted!

So what were we working on exactly? Well…recalls past distractions! Our goal today was to get the puppies to fail. We wanted them to fail so we could show them how to make good choices in the ring. First up was recalling past a noisy border collie. I was sure she would try to “put that noisy beast in her place” but she ran right by with no second looks!

Next up was recalling past an empty food bowl. Well, this apparently is her kryptonite! The food bowl is empty so she cannot self reward for NOT coming when called. Even though the food bowl is empty, the handler must still rush in and cover the food bowl to prevent the puppy from continuing to look for rewards. This is IYC at its finest. Remove the dog’s access to something rewarding, and wait for them to make the choice of NOT continuing to steal.

It took a few different set up to find where we could get Vixen to be successful, but once we did, we were able to reward her good choice twice! First with a food reward for recalling to me, and then a bonus reward of getting to get a treat from the alluring food bowl! Rewarding back at the food bowl helps the puppy understand that choosing to ignore a distraction can actually lead to that distraction becoming your reward!

This same principal applies to putting agility obstacles under stimulus control. Most dogs are tunnel sucks – if they get one on their line there is almost no change of pulling them off it. The game we played with Vixen grows in to the tunnel games I play with Indie. When running towards a tunnel, instead of cuing him in to it, I may cue a “down” instead. The question is ‘can he listen to my verbal cues even when faced with his most favourite obstacle’? The reward for going in to a “down” is immediately being released and going in to the tunnel! The side effects of this game are a really great “down” cue - any where, any time - as well as a super fast reliable tunnel performance! 

Remember – If it isn’t fun, then you are doing it wrong!