February 2009


We’re really looking forward to spring now. I’m fed up with snow! Missy and I are doing a lot of obedience right now. She is really doing great and I am looking forward to the trial in April. Her attitude is a lot better and we’re working on send to square and distant control right now. I want to be ready for doing the whole program when we train with Maria Hagström March 14, so I need to get started with some longer sequences pretty soon. I find it really helpful to have set clear goals for my dogs this year. It helps me to plan and focus and believe in a way that I haven’t done before.

Squid has been working on some obedience as well. Our goal for March 14 is good heeling in a trial like setting, with turns and halts and duration, and a good stand from heel. It’s going great, but we still have lots to work on in order to make it. Here is a video from earlier this week:

We’re also working on down, send to target, picking up all kinds of objects and a speedy recall. I would like to start working on send to square with her, but she doesn’t have the drive forward that I would like to see. She is very calm when doing obedience and often seems a bit tired. It doesn’t bother me, I’d rather have a calm puppy that I need to build speed into, than a crazy, over the top kind of dog. Missy was also pretty calm as a puppy (but had more toy drive as I recall). Indoors, we have been working on some more tricks, scent discrimination (freeze your nose to the post it note that smells like me) and nose touches for agility.

Shejpa went to a trial on Saturday, where a friend of mine ran her since I couldn’t be there. She did a good job in standard, but got faulted twice. Her running dogwalk was great! Here’s the video:

We’re going to a trial on Sunday, where I will be running her again. She was great at training yesterday, but then I heard a rumour about that the judge likes to use the table in standard. We very rarely get the table in any class here, and I haven’t trained it at all. Let’s hope the judge chooses not to use it on Sunday…

Shejpa’s debut in class II

This weekend was Shejpa’s debut in class II at a trial a couple of hours drive north at a very nice indoors arena where they could fit two rings. First class on Saturday was standard and we were unfortunaltly eliminated because Shejpa missed a pole in the weaves, and I wasn’t sure about it. My goal for the run was to get a good seesaw and she did it well. Next class was jumpers and we had a clean run, with a few turns that were not very good. She won the class and got her first jumpers leg in class II. Last class was an open jumpers class, where we got to compete against dogs from class III and the world team. Shejpa did really well and the handling felt great, I think we won a lot on good rear crosses. I crossed behind her at the last tunnel and she came out the wrong way and we lost a second or two there. I thought we were out of the top 3, but we actually won by 1,5 seconds! Open classes are unofficial, but this was the win that has made me happiest so far.

Sunday started with standard again and Shejpa and I had a clean run and got our first leg in A2. She had a great run, but I had to wait for 8 seconds on the seesaw before she nose touched. She has a hard time nose touching if she’s not coming with speed onto the seesaw and therefore doesn’t land in 2o2o when the seesaw hits the ground. Despite those 8 seconds, we took second place, only 2 seconds after the winner. Last run for the weekend was jumpers and this was a course that I really liked. Unfortunatly, Shejpa came out of the first tunnel when I just turned and ran instead of crossing behind her. Need to work on staying in tunnels even if I do weird things. She also dropped a bar after the weavepoles. Even though I had to put her back in the tunnel, she was the faster than all other small and medium dogs.

Two wins and two legs are great, but what makes me most happy is that Shejpa is such a wondeful dog to have at a trial. She is so relaxed and sleeps as long as nothing happens. She is as fresh at 7 pm as she is in the morning, since she only gears up when she is running. She is walking nicely around, wagging her tail at everybody. I can see that she has started to really like agility, because she would get excited when we were getting ready to go into the ring. Not about the chicken necks, but excited about running agility, wich is a big thing for Shejpa! She even started tugging on her leash before the last run. I never thought that day would come 😀

I didn’t get all runs on video. The worst one (elimination) and the best one (win in open jumpers) are not in here:

Squid’s First Obedience Seminar

Saturday and Sunday was Squid’s turn to work with Maria Hagström. Squid did really well and I couldn’t be more pleased with her! She stays in her open crate while other dogs are working and I am engaged in other activities. People with dogs have been passing her crate and giving her cookies for staying calm. Not once did she show any of the resource guarding behavior that I have seen before. She was all happy and wagging her tail. We did a lot of proofing on focus and sit stays on Saturday. And worked on stimulus control.

On Sunday, Squid got to do her first sequence in a trial like setting and we worked on the first part of a trial – entering the ring and getting ready for the first exercise. In our last session, we worked on heeling. Here is a video of some of the training from yesterday. As a bonus, I included some of Shejpas dogwalks from lunch:

Obedience Seminars with Maria Hagström

Maria Hagström is a Swedish dog trainer who is extremely successful. She has been at the top in obedience and working trials for a long time and her young working kelpie Ylle was qualified for national championships in both tracking and obedience last year, only 2 years old. He also made the national obedience team. Maria’s training is a lot like ours, all shaping and reward based. We just love training with her as it always leaves us with both motivation and inspiration. This time, we had invited her to do four days of seminars at a riding facility close to where we live. I worked Missy on Thursday and Friday and Squid on Saturday and Sunday.

With Missy, I got a lot of new ideas for her training. Obedience with her has been frustrating this winter, as I have felt that she always is too high and that there are some details that I just can’t fix. Maria made me realize that the details that we are struggling with has to do with her level of arousal. When I got Missy to calm down, the details started to look much better automaticly! I have been struggling with position and straight sits in heeling, with stimulus control on stand, sit and down from heel and on keeping back feet completly still when working on distance control. I now realize that all of those things will be much easier to fi if we get Missys level of arousal down.

Maria talks a lot about active and passive reinforcement. With a dog like Missy, you would like to keep the dog as passive as possible while rewarding, and also doing a lot of “its yer choice” while rewarding. While heeling with Missy, I should mostly reward her sitting at my side, and reward her when she can focus on me while I move the treat around. It helped a lot and I can’t believe that I have had trouble with getting her arousal right when training heeling. When her arousal was right, her sits where perfectly straight.

Maria also puts lots of emphasis on preparing your dog for trials. Getting all the exercises perfect is not enough. You should do lots of training on longer sequences (2 exercises or more) without rewards (of course, dog gets rewarded at the end of the sequence). For most dogs, this is the biggest difference between training and trialing. They get lots of rewards while training, and then none when in a trial. Doing lots of longer sequences will prepare the dog for trials and also give you valuable information on what needs to be worked on. You often get problems while doing longer sequences that you don’t get when you are just training and rewarding a lot. You also get to see if your dog is doing well on the first try. If you don’t do this in training, you will have to make those misstakes in a trial, wich is both expensive for you and demotivating for the dog. It is also important to do this kind of training in new environments and in situations that look like a trial.

On Friday morning, we got to choose a sequence to do with our dogs to try this kind of training out. With Missy, i choose a short heeling pattern, a recall with stand and down and then my plan was to reward her for heeling with me to the next exercise (it’s very important to have good transitions between the exercises). I put a lot of thought into the warm up and Missy was really good outside the riding facility, calm and focused. When we got in the trial setting, she was higher, but not as bad as the day before. We need to work more on it before it works in a trial, I think, but we’re definatly on the right track!

Keeping Missy lower on the arousal curve is something that I really need to think about in agility as well. She is so high while doing agility that I don’t feel that we’re making progress while training. It is mostly my fault, since I have a tendency to just run, run, run with her. Never calming it down. I have taken the new knowledge about Missy’s obedience into our agility training. We have a really long way to go in agility, but I think it is the best way in the end. Missy has great knowledge of jumping, weaving, contacts and handling, but when she is too aroused, she will just throw herself over bars, pop out at the third weave pole, fail to collect and get out of balance on the dogwalk. This is a video from our first training session with lower arousal as our primary goal. I have edited out the most boring parts, there was a lot more sit stays and “its yer choice” in it: