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.
Happy New Year! It’s going to be a good one, I hope. I’m finally starting to see the end of the rest and rehab tunnel that both my dogs have been in for the past months. I really, really hope that they will be able to get started with some serious agility training when we spend February in Italy. I am also waiting for my new puppy to come into this world. If all goes as planned, puppies by Epic will be born in a month from now.
I also look forward to going abroad to teach this spring. First out is a seminar in Wrocław, Poland in January. It’s my first time in Poland, and I really look forward to it. When I get back from Poland, I will pack my dogs in the car and start the long drive to Italy. In Italy, I will teach at least two seminars (one in Onigo and one in Rome) and try to get a lot of training done with my own dogs in between.
When I get back from Italy in the beginning of March, I hope to have dogs that are ready to compete again. My eyes are set on agility try-outs for EO and World Championship in the beginning of May. Please keep your fingers crossed for my amazing dogs. All I want is for them to be healthy and strong this year. The rest is easy! In the beginning of April, I hope to welcome my new puppy to our home. After the try outs, I will go back to the U.S. and PosiDog in Ohio for another 10 days of seminars with some of my favorite people!
Thomas will also have a hectic spring, where he is training Paxa (german pointer) for mountain hunting trials in the beginning of spring, commuting to Norway to finish his masters degree in ethology, training border collies for herding trials and helping 40-50 lambs into this world.
On top of this, we always strive to bring our online students quick and helpful feedback. Every day. Next online class is our Foundation Class, starting on Wednesday January 8th. This class is good for anybody that wants to know more about our way of training. Here is a video made by one of our students from this fall – Lise Pavard with aussie Lulla:
We’re also at lesson 2 with our class “Obedience – Preparing for trials“. It’s so much fun! You can still join us if you want to give your dog a boost before the trial season begins.
We will offer a few different classes this winter. We asked you what theme you wanted to work on for a month, and many people wanted to do heelwork, so we will offer a month of all aspects of heeling for those of you that want to focus on that. Class starts on November 18th and you can post as many videos as you like for us to comment on during a month.
We are also offering a brand new class, that will help you prepare for obedience trials. Obedience trials are about so much more than just teaching the dog to perform exercises. Teaching the behaviors and exercises is approximately half the job. This class covers how to prepare for trials. You don’t need to have all exercises trained to perfection to enter this class – it’s great training even for young dogs. Class starts on December 9th.
Our new Foundation Class was a huge success and a lot of people have asked us to do it again. The new Foundation Class includes more skills and cover some aspects that the first version of the class didn’t. We really love teaching it and look forward to helping new students teach their dogs great skills. There is also an option for old students to repeat the class at a discounted price. Class starts on January 8th.
We consider setting up a new one-theme online class in November-December. Last year we did heelwork in October and November, and retrieving in January. In our one-theme classes, we present a lot of material and different games that will help you teach a certain exercise or behavior. Then you have a month to train, where you can submit as many videos and questions as you like in the classroom. You can also join as an observer, and have access to all videos and all discussions without posting videos of yourself.
Now for the question: What theme(s) would you like us to focus on this winter?