I’m at home for a few days in between Norway trips. Last week, Bud flew with me to Tromsø to teach for a couple of days. We had a great time. From there, we flew to Oslo and traveled south to Fredrikstad, where there was a trial with some interesting judges. Bud won A3 on Saturday and became Norwegian Agility Trial Champion. He also qualified for finals but popped out of the weaves in the final run. Tomorrow, I head for Stavanger on the Norwegian west coast. No dog with me this time, so I’ve tried to spend a lot of time training and conditioning my dogs while I’ve been home. We made a video where you can see some of the skills taught in the Agility Handling Foundations Online class starting on September 3rd. Let me know if you have any questions about the class. And please leave a comment and tell me what you’d like to see a video on next.
Our next set of online classes start on Monday, and we’re excited to get to know new trainers and their dogs from different countries. You can still sign up if you want to join the fun.
I often think about how lucky I’ve been to have had grown ups who helped me out when I was young and wanted to train and compete with dogs. From my parents who always supported me by driving me to classes, trainings and competition –and bought dogs for me, to the well known instructors that took me under their wing and helped me access training that I could only dream about with my budget as a young adult. I am so grateful for that.
Twiggy and I at the Swedish Youth Championship.
I feel like passing this favour on. I want to give a young dog trainer and their dog the chance to join our foundation class for free. If you are 25 years old or younger, this is what to do: Like the page fannygott.com on Facebook. Write a comment on the post on our Facebook page and tell us why you want to join our Foundation Class Online. We will wrap the contest up on Monday at 15:00/3 pm CET and let you know the result during the evening.
Are you too old for this competition? Think about how you can help a young person. Give the a ride to a competition? Ask them to come along to a seminar? Train together? It means so much.
We all have limited time and energy for training our dogs. Life gets in the way of training all the time. Make sure that the time you spend training your dogs is spent in the best way possible. Very small adjustments to what you’re already doing can make a huge difference in how successful your sessions are. Take your training seriously and consider these simple points that will improve your training if you’re not already doing it. Yes – you have to spend a little more time and energy before you can start training, but you’ll get much better results and a more focused dog.
Prepare the area before you start your session. Set the stage for training by making sure that the environment you’re training in doesn’t have unnecessary distractions. Make sure that your rewards and props are in place.
CUT UP YOUR TREATS! It’s worth it, i promise. You don’t have time to pluck that hot dog apart with your fingers while you’re training. If you do, you’re not rewarding often enough. Pick treats that are easy to administer and that your dog likes. If you’re using a toy – make sure to pick one that works well with what you’re teaching. Rewards are not only about the dog liking them, but also about being able to place them where you want and to be able to move on to the next repetition quickly once the reward is done.
Make sure your dog is pottied and warmed up. Are you at your best when you really need to pee? Or when you’re just woken up from a nap? Probably not, and it applies to your dog as well. Make sure he’s well pottied and awake before attempting to train.
Know what your goal is and train one thing at a time. Training is always less efficient if you don’t have a goal and a plan. Your goal should be specific to that session and easily measured. Make sure to articulate it if you’re training with a friend or instructor. If you’re training by yourself it might be a good idea to write it down.
Always check to make sure your dog is engaged before starting your session, and before moving on to a new repetition. Is your dog excited by the reward? Does he focus on working as soon as the reward is finished? If not – you have to address that first. All other training has to stop while you figure out why the dog isn’t engaged. Is he scared? In pain or discomfort? Is something too distracting? Is the reward not reinforcing enough? Are you putting pressure on the dog without realising it? Fix the problem or change the environment before doing any other training.
These guidelines apply both to short sessions in your house and to when you’re in a class or seminar. People seem to be just as sloppy with their preparations when they pay money for training, which is partly why I’m writing this blog post. Make sure you get the most out of your time with an instructor. It’s so unnecessary to spend that time with a dog that gets distracted because of your poor preparation.
I hope this doesn’t sound harsh. I just want people and dogs to have more fuvn and less frustration in training.
If you’re interested in more training tips, or need help with engagement, rewards and planing, check out our online classes that start on February 5th.
Relationship Buildning suits dog owners who wants to develop a great relationship with their dog. You can join with a puppy, a young or adult dog of any breed. A great relationship is the foundation that makes both everyday life and (training for) trials fun and easy. Dog training and ownership is so much more than just training behaviors. Training behaviors is part of it and is quite easy in an environment without distractions. A great relationship makes it so much easier to have success even in more challenging situations. Thomas will guide you in this class and use his experience in reward based training for field trials.
Foundation Class is great for anyone that wants to become a better dog trainer. Learn how to develop great rewards, shaping skills, foundation behaviors, self control for your dog, and much more. This class is great for dogs at any level.
Today is Spy’s first birthday. We’ve celebrated with our first successful play session outdoors and our first ever session on backwards heeling. I teach heeling by walking backwards and having the dog follow me. One of the things that I love about this method is how it can be modified for any level, and how it encourages focus and engagement in training. I was very happy that Spy stayed with me through the training session, and that she was happy to switch between food rewards and play.
We started Foundation Class Online yesterday, and I have decided to follow the lessons with Spy. She’s definitely ready for it now and it will be great for her to try all the different behaviors in class. It will also be great for everybody in class to see how I work with her and what we’re struggling with. You can still sign up if you want to join the fun!
Right now we’re waiting for Squid to start whelping. She’s been restless and focusing on digging in the whelping box (although she also tried a tunnel and under the playhouse in the garden). It’s going to be a long night… Bet’s puppies are two weeks old today and have opened their eyes. We’re also in the middle of lambing and have gotten 10 lambs so far. All the babies are keeping me very busy.
This fall has been very exciting. I brought my German wirehaired puppy, Alot, grouse hunting in the Swedish and Norwegian mountains for the first time.
I started training the foundations like sit stay, stop signal, recalls and delivery to hand already when she was a baby. All training is based on fun games that develop a great relationship.
I prefer to keep a balance between the level of obedience and the hunting drive that usually kicks in at six months and keeps developing until she turns two or three years.
She was only six months old the first time I took her to the mountains. She found the birds, but didn’t point yet. I shot a few birds that she was allowed to retrieve just to give her the experience. She picked them up and returned straight to me to deliver to hand.
One new thing I taught Alot which I haven’t done with my other GWPs and setter, is to teach her steadiness to the gunshot. The procedure is exactly the same as for adding any other cue.
1) Check that the dog offers the behavior fluently without any cue.
2) Add the cue right before the dog offers it.
3) Change small things all the time to avoid any patterns. Make the cue salient. Generalize it.
4) Test the cue with gradually more distractions and increase the distance.
The first sessions I used a loud hand clap instead of a gunshot to make sure not to scare the little pup. This video shows the first steps.
I could progress really fast because I already had built a lot of value for the sit behavior and because such the gunshot is a salient signal that is different from all other cues.
In September I took her to the mountains again, and let her hunt with an experienced dog. Now she was seven months old. Before leaving I introduced her to partridges. She could point, flush and be steady to the verbal cue (see short video below). But she didn’t had the experience to handle grouse in the mountains and didn’t point yet. But she was perfectly steady to the gunshot every single time.
I recommend to get the foundations done and then take the young dog hunting to gain experience. Then nothing really goes wrong because I know that I can control the dog if she tries to run in.
In October she was eight months old and we spent a week in the mountains. Now she covered more and more ground, on average 100 meters to each side and sometimes up to 150 meters. She even handled the grouse perfectly and we both had such a great time.
There are some great contrasts in the hunting sequence. The dog should hold her point and only flush the birds on cue. She should be steady to the wing and shot and wait for the cue to retrieve. When hunting with a youngster, I don’t ask for all at once. I know she will flush willingly if I ask her (like in the partridge video), so I don’t ask her to flush. I just walk up to her, flush the birds myself. This way the situations become nice and calm and I get the opportunity to praise her for making good choices. I even fetch most of the birds myself and let her hold or sniff them as I return to her to reinforce the sit stay. But she did a great retrieve on a runner. Super experience!
Kat, my 3 year old working cocker has been hunting too. She did great in two field trials and placed third and forth. In both trials she got a first prize with “CK” (certificate quality), which means that she is more than half way to the title Swedish field trial champion.
January 4th I do another round of our popular online class “Relationship building”. This class is based on my experience training gundogs, but is open for all breeds. You can join with a puppy, a young or adult dog of any breed. A great relationship is the foundation that makes both everyday life and (training for) trials fun and easy.
We’re happy to repeat some popular online classes this year! If you’ve been in our Foundation Class, there is Advanced Obedience Skills, where you can progress and learn even more fun behaviors, while perfecting the ones you’ve already learned. If you haven’t been in our Foundation Class, we’ll offer a new round of it, as well as a new round of Relationship Building Class.
Check our classes out here, and let us know if you have any questions. You can send us an e-mail, or just comment below. Also, let us know if there are other classes that you’d like us to offer this spring.
Here’s a video of Wilco learning to spin yesterday. Sometimes, targeting is very useful!
And here’s a funny video of Epic trying to focus on running contact with some puppy distractions 😀
When training your dog with reward based methods, making the dog thoughtful by coercion is not an option. There are better ways to train your dog to use his brain, really listen for what you’re saying, and to avoid anticipation and keep the level of arousal just right.
Varying what you ask your dog to do in an unpredictable manner makes you keep the initiative.
Therefore I teach my dogs several different reward markers. It’s not only practical in training that the dog knows which kind of reward to expect when, but it’s also allows me to develop a great working relationship where my dog turns to me to ask for guidance. Another advantage is that it is great stimulus control training.
When the dog knows the different cues and reward markers, I test the dog’s understanding by giving the cue the dog doesn’t expect. It’s important that my cues start and end the different behaviors. Anticipating or guessing should not pay off.
Examples of cues in the video (translated):
“Get it” – Bowl of food
“Break” – Release from controlled position
“Ja” – take the toy from my hand
“Out” – drop the toy
“Fetch” – take the toy on the ground
“Back” – take the toy on the ground 180 degrees behind you
Switching between behaviors and a lot other tips on how to develop your relationship in training and everyday life will be covered in the new online class Relationship building starting Nov 1st.
As much as I love summer, I’m always happy when fall arrives. I certainly don’t like the darker nights or the fact that we’re getting closer to winter, but summer is such a hectic time for us. In mid-August, things start to calm down. I have time to take long walks in the woods, to train my dogs, even watch some TV at night. I have friends visiting quite often, but at least I’m home enough to know where I can find appliances and food in the kitchen. Hopefully, this also means more time for blogging. I really want to document a lot of Wilco’s training. I love to go back and watch videos of my dogs as puppies, and I’m sure it’s interesting for others as well.
Poor Epic had some time off because of a cut in his paw. He’s back in training now.
Thomas just left for the north of Sweden to hunt ptarmigan and grouse with his pointers and spaniels. I’m at home with our big gang of border collies. I hope that he gets there safely and has a lot of luck with hunting.
We’re happy to present Advanced Obedience Skills – our new online class for those of you wanting to take the obedience skills from Foundation Class to the next level, while also working on some new behaviors (like sit up, scent discrimination and formal recall) and concepts like stimulus control, distraction training and sequencing.
An old friend of mine found this picture from Swedish Obedience Championships 2004. This was my first time there, a great memory with my fantastic border collie Twiggy. Tomorrow would have been her 17th birthday if she was still alive.
Just four days left before we start the second round of our new and improved Foundation Class online. We’ve been very happy with the class, and the feedback we get from our students shows that they are too. Here are some comments that we got from our American student Sara Pisani, who now has gone on to take our preparing for trials obedience class:
“I loved the Foundation class and if I was not so busy working with you on the next class I would take it again. What I most liked and what really changed work for Finn was the station for breaks during work. It really increased his drive. I also really loved the switch command. His retrieves are so much faster! Of course, the backwards heeling has really helped as well. Your feedback – both of you – has been spot on and greatly appreciated. Thanks so much and looking forward to continue to work with both of you!”
Here is a picture from yesterday. As you can see, we still have very mild weather – no snow or ice. I love it! One of my goals for 2014 is to get my dogs out more in civilization. We mostly hang out on the farm or in the forest, and they really need to get to see more of the world. I guess our Italian tour will help too.