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Agility class and late night training

The weather here in Norway is still absolutely wonderful. We had agility foundations class tonight and it was the first time with the dogs (did the theory indoors last week). We’ve got three border collies (I don’t think we’ve ever had that many border collies in a class before), a mudi, a kelpie and a field bred golden (who unfortunatley couldn’t come tonight) in this class. We did circle work, rear end awareness on perch, hand/nose touches, value for one jump and a set point exercise tonight. The dogs all worked really well and I think we can progress fast with this group. Shejpa got to to demos in class tonight, I think she appreciated that after a boring day.

I took Missy out late at night (it’s wonderful when you can do training in daylight at 10 pm) and did some training. She did a few jumps in the Salo Spider (set point exercise) and was perfect. Then I added some excitment (“ready… steady…” and a step forward as i released her) and she crashed into the bar twice. She kept the bar up the third and fourth time, but we should really start adding some movement and excitement to her jump training. Missy also worked on turning tight over a jump, something that takes time to get fluent with speed and height. We’re currently working pretty close to the jump with a low bar. My movement is the biggest challenge here as well. Missy’s circle work is getting pretty good and I think that will help on her jumping as well. We also did some nose targeting on the stairs and worked on her stimulus control (stand, sit and down while heeling) with the toy out. She did well.

Here are some lovely photos that one of my students took this weekend

Shejpa driving into target position
Pi retrieving her toy
Shejpa catching a treat
Missy and Fanny

Nice weekend

It’s been a very sunny and nice weekend. The house has been full of people since we’ve done a workshop and had students staying here. We had a nice dinner outside yesterday and we did training outside until 9.30 pm today and it was still light and warm. We’ve had lots of time to train our own dogs as well and with three dogs entered in obedience trials in may, we have some work to do. Pi (english setter, 11 months) is doing her first obedience competitions, Pavlov (border collie, 2 years, Thomas’ dog) is doing his second competition, this time in the second class and Missy (border collie, 4 years in a few days) is in the highest class, called elite. With a lot of dogs around, we’ve been able to do many long downs with strange dogs, wich is a good experience for our young dogs.

I took Pi to the woods this evening, and we worked on the retrieve and on some tricks (to improve her concentration for work in more challenging situations). Her retrieve was great and she really reminds me of a field bred retriever some times. She was very obedient and excited about her work tonight. We ended on our training field with some obedience excercises where I put her favourite food in a bowl and rewarded her with a send to the bowl when she worked well for a while.

Pi is in heat right now and our males are very interested in her. We always use the opportunity to do It’s Yer Choice with the male dogs, so Pax had to make some challenging retrieves in order to get the chance to sniff the pretty white lady. No problem with controlling the males around bitches in heat here, they just work even harder to maybe get the chance to go see.

We also got our little pool up this weekend. Missy and Pavlov went for their first swim this year. They really love swimming and I hope that I can use the pool to get them in better shape this summer.

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There are more new photos from this weekend in the gallery

Missy’s nose touches

We have done a lot of training today, both obedience and agility. I made a video of Missys nose touches to see how they look from in front of her. They’re coming along great with very little training.

Missy also got to do some double box and I’m really not sure if she should be doing it. Running sequences with her feels like eating too much chocolate. You know it’s probably bad but you can’t really stop. If she is to do any more sequencing, I need to think and plan much better than I am doing now. I don’t really know where to start with her, but I guess I shouldn’t worry about double box until we have better shadow handling.

Shejpa was a superstar in the double box today. I worked some more on the turns that she used to slow down in and it looked great today. She also ran the entire session with almost no food, she really likes her new sheepskin tug toys.

The weather has been great today and obedience went well too. Missy and I worked a lot on the send out to a square, where we’ve had problems with her not stopping fast enough once she gets in the square. We finally had some kind of breakthrough today and I’m getting hopefull about the trial on thursday. Pi was also good today, showing great attitude, tug and concentration.

Another video

We had a nice, warm day and did a lot of training at home with some friends. Shejpa got to do shadow handling and double box work. I focused on getting her to move faster through turns where she has to turn tight and looses speed and I am pretty stationary. They often make her slow down a lot, but todays training made a big difference. Shejpa and Missy did some bend work and Pi did a few jumps in the Salo Spider. Missy and I worked some more on her nose touches.

Shejpa jumping

Pi and I did all the excercises in our novice obedience class. She has turned 11 months and our debut in obedience trials is getting close. These are the excercises in the easiest obedience class in Sweden:

– Long down with other dogs for 2 minutes with handler 20 meters away (we did 1.20 min today)
– Heeling on leash with turns, halts and fast pace.
– Moving down. Dog heels off leash, handler cues “down”, dog stays in a down while handler moves 10 meters away, turns around and returns to dogs side. Handler cues “sit”.
– Recall. Handler leaves dog in a sit, walks 15 meters away and turns around. Calls the dog who finishes in heel position on left side.
– Moving stand. Dog heels off leash, handler cues “stand”, dog stays in a stand while handler moves 10 meters away, turns around and returns to dogs side. Handler cues “sit”.
– Holding dumbell. Dog in heel position. Handler presents dumbell to dog for 3 seconds before cueing the dog to take the dumbell. Dog holds dumbell for 5 seconds and gives the dumbell back to handler on cue.
– Recall over jump. Handler leaves dog in a sit in front of a jump and walks to other side. Handler cues “jump” and dog jumps and finishes in heel position.

We have a few weeks left before our first trial and Pi is doing good so far. She needs to be able to heel for longer periods of time without rewards, get more experience in the long down and practice in competition like settings.

Missy is in the highest class (called elite) and has a competiton on thursday. She got to do her directed retrieve and scent articles today and did a great job even though we really challenged her understanding of the excercises.

A short video from todays training (Shejpa shadow handling, Shejpa bend work and Missy’s nose touches):

Training in the rain

It’s been raining since I got home on thursday, but we’re training outside anyway. I did obedience with Missy and Pi this morning. Pi is really doing great! She’ll make her debut in obedience in may and we have a lot of work to do. I have been driving the car down to our training field this weekend, wich makes it easier for me to do short sessions with each dog and then switch to another dog. It really does make a huge difference with the birddogs. I guess I’m to spoiled with my border collies and I’m so grateful for having many different kinds of dogs that can teach me how to be a good trainer. Short, intense sessions with high quality rewards and crate games gives me full attention from the dog’s that often wish that they just could be running around sniffing and looking for birds.

Shejpa got to play the two crate game that she really loves. We use it to get drive away from me on a straight line when I’m running straight and fast, but that isn’t really the problem when there’s a crate involved, so we mix it up with rear crosses and decelleration where she has to turn instead of going straight. She’s still turning wide, but she’s at least changing her line. Shejpa was really good today, with lots of focus and willing to tug.

Missy did some obedience, but I couldn’t help but to do some agility as well (we have an obedience trial on thursday, so we really should be concentrating on that). She hasn’t done nose touches in a while, but they were fenomenal. It’s amazing how much faster she has gotten a great nose touch, but I guess it’s a combination of me learning from my training with Shejpa and Missy being so much easier to work with than Shejpa. I gueas I have to make a video of Missys nose touches soon. We also did some one jump excercises and shadow handling. All three dogs did some jump grids as well. Shejpa was in too much of a hurry, but the other two did great.

Here is a video of some of our training today:

Canada in a short summary

We’re back home after ten intense days in Canada. We learned a lot and made new friends. Shejpa is a great dog to travel with. The vet at the airport in Norway even asked if she was on calming drugs, because she was just sleeping in her crate while we were waiting. I guess a lot of dogs are more worried about flying and waiting at airports.

The first two days was Greg Derrett’s master camp and I was just watching. It was very interesting, but you get more confused the more you learn, that’s for sure. Greg and Susan does not agree on everything and that leaves me in a spot where I have to make some descisions… I left Greg, Susan and the rest of them on their own on the third day, because Shejpa and I got a spot at Laura Derrett’s work shop. It was fun to run, but Shejpa got tired very quickly in the hot weather. It doesn’t look too bad when I watch the videos, but some runs felt like she was jogging. I think I did a pretty good job though, and sometimes it’s better to be slow and correct (as a handler learning) than to do it fast and sloppy.

Greg and Laura went back to England and we carried on for four more days with Tweener Camp. We did a lot of things and Shejpa was mostly a good dog with quite a lot of drive. She liked the sheep skin tug toy and we bought a few nice toys to bring back home. I tried them on Pi today and she was thrilled. We did quite a lot of work on the nose touches, but we didn’t come as far as I had hoped. I realized that we weren’t quite finished with fading the target and worked a lot on that. She’s generally good when I take the target away after one or two repetitions, but when we start with no target, she’s uncertain on where to put her nose touches and tends to curl into me on the stairs. We made great progress and one of the things we did was to place lots of targets around the stairs, but out of her reach, to proof that she was targeting straight anyway.

Shejpa relaxing in her crate

Shejpa relaxing in her crate

We also worked a lot on a hot target discrimination (much like the one you do at chicken camp). I chose quite difficult objects that rolled away if she wasn’t thoughtful and controlled. I liked that idea, but I guess it slowed us down a bit. She indicated the hot target (chapstick tube) by laying down with the target between her front legs. I thought the discrimination part would be easy, but Shejpa behaved much like the chicken at chicken camp – throwing themselves at a target that you drop or peck at. We did work through it and I think it was a great experience for both of us. Shejpa really needs a lot of shaping (wich I have neglected with her) and challenges that forces her to be more thoughtful. Some people will tell you that shaping makes dogs frantic and stressed, but I would say it’s the other way around if you do it right. Shejpa is getting more and more calm and thoughtful for every session of shaping.

Susan and DeCaff

Susan and DeCaff

Bob Bailey came to Say Yes on the last day. We were eight people (mostly Susan’s instructors and Susan her self) working our dogs and talking (a lot of talking, really) with Bob helping out. It was a great experience and I’m very thankful for being invited! I also drove Bob to the airport and got a chance to really talk to him about the 80% rule that has been kind of misunderstood in Scandinavia. I got great information from him. This is my own summary of what he said (and I hope I got it all right):

– When the animal is successfull 80% of the time, you should raise your criteria.
– It’s a common misstake to not challenge the animal enough in training
– 90% success is definatly a misstake
– You need to re-think and make a new plan if you’re not progressing (not getting a higher percentage of correct responses) in three consecutive sessions.
– You need to re-think and make a new plan if you’re getting worse (getting a lower percentage of correct responses) in two consecutive sessions.
– You shouldn’t worry about not getting 80% success as long as it’s getting better and better, but don’t raise your criteria until you’re getting closer to 80%.
– How low your success rate can be is dependent on if the animal still thinks it’s worthwhile to keep trying. Bob thought that 50% was kind of a limit for a lot of animals.
– These principles are worked out by gathering data from a lot of training sessions with a lot of different animals and it worked great for Bob and his trainers.

You can fins lots of pictures from our trip in the gallery (click on “photos” above). I’d like to thank Susan for another fun trip across the Atlantic and Justine for being a great room mate. Also, congratulations to Justine, Lynda and Susan for making the FCI world team!

We’re leaving tomorrow

In less than a day, me and Shejpa will be on our way to Canada. I think Shejpa is more cool about it than I am, she is really getting used to travelling and she’s never seemed to care about the flight. I’m mostly nervous about having to rent a car on my own, and about getting out of Totonto airport with the crate and all my bags. Travelling alone really makes you feel lonely. Fortunatley, I’ll be meeting Justine and her shelties at the B&B. We’ll be sharing a car and a room for the entire week. It’s nice to not be all by my self.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be handling with Greg and Laura Derrett. I’m signed up to take Thursday with Laura (“Which Cross When”) and otherwise observe Greg’s masters camp. Then there’s Tweener camp Friday-Monday and on Tuesday, Bob Bailey will be at Say Yes. Very exciting! I worked on our crate games and nose touches yesteday. I could tell that I hadn’t played crate games for a while, but Shejpa is really good at her crate games, so she should be back to her old level of perfection pretty soon. Her nose touches were great in the mud, so I’m excited about trying them out on the floor in Susan’s building. That should be a lot easier. We also did some back chaining on the stairs, from the second step. She hesitates on the last step some times, but I think that’ll pass when she realizes that she’s correct to just drive into target position. I suddenly wish I had more time before camp. I’d like to do more shaping with Shejpa (my other dogs are so much more rewarding to do shaping with and I’m a victim of my own, short term contingencies of reinforcement), brush up on her it’s yer choice and teach her a hot target (we got homework for Tweener Camp via e-mail just the other day).

Here’s a video of Shejpa’s nose touches from earlier this week:

This weeks tricks

On monday night, I decided to teach Pi to put her paw over her eyes. A common method for teaching that is to put tape on the dogs nose and click as the dog uses her paw to remove the annoyance. I decided to use shaping instead. It took me quite a while to get her to put her paw on her nose, but once she got the hang of it, she started offering a really cool behavior. I love this about shaping tricks that are about body awareness, the dog will start streching her self and gradually do more advanced movements as her body adjusts. I also bought some more ceramic bowls for the dogs. Not for eating from, but for standing in 😀 Pi is quite good at the middle bowl, but has only been able to put three paws in the smallest one (that require her to put her front paws on her back paws).

The next smallest bowl

Setter yoga

Started working on the right paw today

Investing in an agility future

I have orderd a full set of agility equipment today. We just have to pay the deposit and wait for five long weeks. We’ve had seven winged jumps and a set of weave poles that Thomas cut into sex sets of two when he taught Pavlov to weave with the 2×2 method (wich makes the weave poles move a lot if you don’t stake them down). You can do a lot with a double box, a set of weave poles and stairs/travel plank for contact training, but there comes a time when you feel the need for a full course. Our students are also getting better and better, until now, we’ve mostly done foundation classes, but I hope to get some students to keep training with us to a competiton level. We’re also doing agility camp this summer and will have Laura Derrett teaching here in august, so our own equipment is very welcomed. We’ve decided to buy equipment from Premier Agility in the UK. I like the feel of their stuff and I like that it’s colorful and wooden. Some of the swedish aluminum equipment would just make me depressed if I had to have it standing on my agility field.

Me and Shejpa did some agility training with Thomas, Therese and Karine yesterday. I made up two sequences using my seven jumps and the weaves. Shejpa was more distracted than usual, wich made some of her turns way too wide. We had some nice runs as well and I especially liked that she was totally independent on the 270°s (wich made the serp easy) and that she stayed on her line and didn’t father flick when we tested the dogs understanding of driving lines. She’s really nice to run when she gives agility her full attention.

I havn’t done much today, just some tricks with Pi, but I need to to obedience with Missy and Pi and I guess some jump grids with Shejpa.