Squid and Wilco winning

August has been very busy for us! Thomas has been travelling around Denmark, Norway, and Sweden teaching (and last week hunting with Pax, Alot and Kat). I’ve been on a 10 day road trip around the south of Sweden with Squid, Epic, Wilco and Bud. We started in Kungsbacka with agility trials. It’s unusual to be able to compete at all levels in the same competition, so I combined visiting my parents with my first trial with all three dogs. Wilco did mostly well in his four runs. One jumpers class with just one bar. In agility class, he ran past the dogwalk on the first try in both runs. We also had some weave refusals. He needs much more training before he’ll be ready to perform consistently, but he seems to learn good things from every run, so I think it’s nice to let him play too. Epic ran well, but had bars fall in all four runs. Squid had a great weekend. She ran clean in both agility runs, placing first on Saturday and third on Sunday (very slow seesaw where she didn’t respond to my release). She had one bar in jumpers on Saturday, but set the fastest time. On Sunday she surprisingly missed the weave entry. Here’s a video of three of her runs:

We stayed on the road the next week – training agility and/or herding every day and meeting new and old friends on the way. The weather was great and we learned new things. On the weekend, Wilco was entered in four class 1 runs per day. The first day, he seemed very tired and slightly distracted. Maybe a week on the road had taken his toll on him? We decided to sleep in on Sunday and missed our first run. He ran great in the first agility run – nailed both weaves and the dogwalk on the first try. His seesaw is not that great yet, so he ran past it on the first try. He ended up fifth with a refusal. The jumpers course was easy and fast, and he did great! I did not expect him to win (there are so many very fast dogs in class 1!), but he did. First clean run and first win!

We really have a lot of training to do still, and I don’t expect him to be competitive right now. He’s still very much figuring things out and learning to use his body. The most important thing is that he is having fun when we go to trials, and that he is learning good things. I love that he is so friendly to everybody, and that he doesn’t get wound up by watching other dogs run. I was not happy about the runs where he seemed tired and distracted (the last run on Sunday was unfortunately a bit like that too – he didn’t want to play afterwards). This was a new experience for us, and I need to have a better plan if it happens again. Bringing a toy in the ring and rewarding something simple might be a better idea, but mostly I need to make sure that he is rested and ready.

Wilco’s Agility Debut

Wilco turned 18 months a week ago, and he is starting to become an agility dog. I have been moving very slowly with him, since he’s been very immature in both body and mind. I waited and waited for him to feel mature enough to do contacts and weaves, but then at 16 months I decided to just try it anyway. I was not planning to do any trials with him until next year, but then things went well and I felt like it might be fun and good for him to get out and do some trials. It was a little crazy, but I entered him in 8 class 1 runs on the weekend just after his 18 month birthday.

He does not know everything he needs to know to be successful and consistent in competition. He just learned how to weave, and needs a lot more confidence, understanding and experience on that. His seesaw wasn’t finished, and he hadn’t seen a flat tunnel more than twice in his life. I was not planning on winning any ribbons – just having fun and giving my young dog the best possible experience in a trial situation. And WOW – we did have a lot of fun! I can’t remember when I had so much fun at a trial before.

Wilco really tried his best. He seemed to learn things from every run and improved a lot. He was happy and I was happy. He is such an easy dog to manage outside the ring. Friendly with everybody, calm and not at all interested in other dogs running agility. He just wanted to have fun with me. He ran past the dogwalk on the first attempt on both days, but was happy to take it on the second run of the day. He hit all his down contacts on both dogwalk and a-frame. He did have trouble with weaves on the first day, but on the fourth run he got it right on the first try. On the second day, he surprised me by not making a single mistake in weaves. He even ran one standard agility run with only one mistake – a dropped bar between seesaw and weaves.

Bud came along and got to train and socialise around the agility ring. He was also very, very relaxed and well behaved. I love my boys!

Here’s a video with some clips from Wilco’s first weekend of competing:

All three dogs (Squid, Epic and Wilco) will be competing this weekend. Two runs each both days. It will be intense, but fun!

Wilco’s Seesaw Started

I started training Wilco’s seesaw just last week. My seesaw has been broken, but Thomas fixed it with some carpet. Like I mentioned before, I was planning on teaching a 2 on 2 off behavior, but it took more time than I had thought to get a good behavior. Thomas played around with Wilco on the end of the seesaw, and got nice 2o20 with a nose touch, so I decided to stick with that. I’m surprised how much drive Wilco has for the nose touch, considering we haven’t done much of it at all, and none since winter. I’ve worked on it for a few days and now added some height to the end behavior:

We also tried the end of the seesaw at the local club today, and that went just as well as at home. My club has a Smart99 dogwalk, so we tried that for Wilco’s first dogwalk away from the one at home. Once he figured out what we were doing, he was perfect!

RC Progression

Here’s another update on Wilco’s running contacts. Yesterday, we worked on turning to me and running straight to the tunnel in the same session:

I’m so excited about his progress with the dogwalk. I’m also very happy about his weaving. I need to control myself and train some handling tonight instead. And I started shaping a 2o2o for the seesaw today. Just shaping him to step down from a sofa cushion and face forward to get a reward. I will then transition it to a box outdoors and add some speed and handler motion. From there, I’ll transfer it to the end of the seesaw.

Wilco’s dogwalk and weaves

Wilco turned 17 months old today. We’re having a lot of fun with learning running contacts, weaves and handling. His progression on the running contacts last week was amazing. We went from 30 cm to 120 cm in just two days of training. Then we took a break for four days while I was away with the older dogs. Today, I decided to try some soft turns off the dogwalk. Mostly because I was too lazy to set up the tunnel for straight exits. And because I was excited to know what he would do with the turning. I used a pole at the end of the dogwalk so that he wouldn’t come off the side. I used “jajaja” as a cue for soft turns/attention (follow me), and I rewarded from my hand if he met criteria. He wasn’t always perfect, but had some really nice hits!

We’re also working on weaves. I started teaching him to find the entry on a set of two poles. Then I borrowed this channel weave set from a friend, because I felt like I wanted to go to 12 poles much earlier than I’ve done with the older dogs (taught by the 2×2 method). This is pretty much like the 2×2 method, just with six sets of two from much earlier on in training. Tonight was the first session where I rewarded from my hand (instead of throwing ahead) and where I tried to teach him to stay in the poles even when I move in front. He learns so quickly!

What about Wilco?

I’m sure some of you are thinking – What about Wilco? I’ve written a lot about Bud lately, but Wilco is actually the dog getting most of the training right now. He’s still very childish, but things are starting to come together. I’ve been waiting for him to mature before starting on contacts and weaves. He’s 16 months old now and I wanted to try to start teaching him weaving and running contacts. I’m so glad that I waited! Even though he still is far from grown up, he seems to be ready to learn and most importantly – he’s ready to fail. All the foundation we’ve worked on is paying off. I started him on two weave poles 3 weeks ago. He quickly understood to find the entry, and I decided to go with channel weaves from there on. I borrowed a set of channel weaves from a friend. (This kind – it’s not really the way I’d want it, but it was accessible, and I like it more now that I’ve tried it). I still have it open to a point where he can almost run straight, but definitely need to collect to go through when sent from an angle. We’re working all kinds of entries with jumps and tunnels before.

Two weeks ago, I decided to at least try some running contact training. I was not very optimistic, as Wilco is still very bouncy and childish in his movements. It went much better than expected, and the foundation that I’ve done seems to really help! Today, we went from the lowest dogwalk (35 cm) to 80 cm, because the lower heights only got us front feet hits (or three stride misses). He’s running to a tunnel, and I’m throwing a toy after the tunnel if I like the performance enough to click. I really, really love how he keeps driving forward even when I don’t reward a few tries. He has much more forward drive than I thought he did, and he seems to also learn and adjust from failures. Running contacts heaven is a nice place to visit! Here are some repetitions from his first two sessions on 80 cm.

We’re also working on handling on jumps and tunnels, and he is doing great. He hasn’t found the fastest gear yet, but he has a big and efficient stride, tight turns and a will to understand. I’m very excited to see what he will become in a year or so.

Wilco 1 year

Wilco turns one year old today. He is still such a puppy. He hasn’t even started to lift his leg to pee. He is long legged and bouncy. I haven’t done a lot of training with him, there are many things that I want him more physically and mentally mature before starting. I know puppies his age with full height running dogwalks, but Wilco hasn’t started any running yet. I think he’d be too bouncy and immature for that at the moment. We have started to play a little with two low jumps and some tunnels. He jumps nicely and learns quickly, but needs short sessions to be at his best.

What I love most about Wilco is that he is so kind to everybody. He gets along with all dogs and all people. I hope he keeps that attitude. He travelled with me when I was teaching a seminar a couple of weeks ago, and he could stay tied to the wall of the indoor arena all day and just be friendly to any dog coming up to him. I also really like that he relaxes well when other dogs are running, playing or working. Just like his father, he can be perfectly relaxed by an agility ring. I’m also very happy that I can ask him to lie down and watch quietly as I run agility with the other two dogs. Having three dogs that you can train without having to put them away between sessions just makes everything much easier.

Wilco 1 year


We don’t train as much as I would like at the moment. Thomas is in Norway three days a week, and I have a lot to do with all the puppies and dogs. And we have way too much snow. Wilco enjoys running in the snow with his friends, so he’s not too sad about it. I really look forward to spring! But first, we’re preparing tonights birthday party for him and his brother.



Online Classes for 2015

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 😀

Wilco learning to focus in position

Wilco and I had a fun day yesterday, with a lot of obedience training. Since Squid is in heat, I decided to focus on Wilco in every session with our training group. He is really starting to mature. He was able to focus for the entire day, and he’s got more power and speed than before.

We started experimenting with adding distractions when he is sitting by my side and looking up. I’ve been feeding him in position before, but I’ve never interrupted him for looking away, only for moving. I don’t think he’s been mature enough for this before, but now I really felt that I got exactly the result I wanted. The important thing here is not how he performs the behavior, but rather how he is handling being interrupted and having to try again. I want my dog to be engaged in the interruption, and very eager to try again. It should matter to them when they miss out on a reward, but I don’t want to see any displacement behaviors or avoidance. I want the dog to bounce back immediately and work hard to get it right the next time.

Wilco gets quite intense when I interrupt him, but he is doing a great job in going back to calm and focus quickly. With a dog that struggles more with this, I’d probably be moving all the time, and work on focus in motion (walking backwards or with the dog at heel). Remember that this is a process, and with some dogs, you really have to reward them just for trying again. It could be rewarding the over-aroused dog right away for sitting down after the interruption, shaping the response that you want. Or it could be rewarding the more cautious dog for engaging in the no-reward routine, without asking for anything more than that they don’t give up. When Squid was young, I taught her to steal the toy away from me when I did my “haha”-routine. I worked only on the routine, until I got the right emotional response to it.

Working on the best possible emotional response to different interruptive routines is important! We put a lot of work into creating a great emotional response to our different kinds of rewards, but this is just as important if you want to be able to mark incorrect performances (for example in a behavior chain or when working on duration) and by that increase the likelihood that the dog will try again with great attitude. I mostly use this kind of cheerful interruption (term stolen from Denise Fenzi) in well planned sessions, where the choice is an easy yes/no, and if I use distractions I like them to be planned. I think that the rituals would lose a lot of power if I used them all the time to get the dog to try harder. Most of the time in training, just withholding the reward and waiting for them to try again is the best way to handle wrong responses.

Here is a video of Wilco’s training today (second session on this):

Wilco 8 months

Wilco turned 8 months last week. That means that he’s lived with us for over half a year. Wilco is a very nice little dog. He’s got many traits that I really like. First of all, he’s kind and social with everybody. Meeting new dogs always means that he wags his tail and hopes to start a new friendship. He likes people, but is calm and balanced when greeting them. Although he is happy and friendly, it’s hard to get him to lose focus in training. He is not triggered by other dogs moving fast or playing, so there’s never a problem with training him close to other teams. He is also very good at waiting for his turn when others train (although I have to admit he could be better at waiting for his turn when I train the other dogs). He easily relaxes when nothing happens, bot outdoors and indoors. I also think that he has a very nice build and a balanced structure that he uses well. He’ll probably end up a bit taller than Squid and Epic. He’s got tall legs and a short and strong back. I like these traits a lot in a border collie. I feel very lucky!


Wilco waiting for his turn

I read a Swedish blog by Maria Brandel last week, on how every dog is different and how it’s not dangerous to be ready for competition early, but also how you shouldn’t be stressed out if your dog needs more time. I totally agree, of course. It’s not a bad idea to wait if you feel like your puppy isn’t ready for what you want to teach. Wilco learns quickly and has good focus, but there are still things that I don’t think he is ready for. He is stilla puppy, and he doesn’t have the power and strength of an adult dog.

Wilco’s father Epic was another type when he was young – he matured early and has always been very powerful. I’ve always compared Epic to at typical “jock”. Physically capable, strong, hardy and with a lot of confidence. I don’t think he’s grown out of that role yet. Squid was a very different young dog. She was clever and learned a lot of behaviors, but she had a lot of trouble with other things. She couldn’t do anything with power and speed. She stopped working if anything went wrong. I couldn’t do much duration work or trial prep, because she’s get very worried if anything went wrong. When she was about 14 months old, I took her to the vet to make sure that she was healthy. She was, but we had to let obedience wait for quite a long time, while we did other things. Agility was easier, but it took some time before she really got excited about doing it, and I had to build her confidence in jumping very slowly.

Wilco is somewhere between his father Epic and his aunt Squid. He isn’t as sensitive and slow as Squid, but also doesn’t have the power and confidence of his father. He is mature in some ways, but still a puppy in other aspects. With Squid’s journey fresh in my memory, I’m not worried that I won’t get speed and confidence in Wilco. I just enjoy developing the things that I feel that he’s ready to do. A balance between games for speed, physical conditioning, shaping and skills for obedience and agility. There are things that I haven’t felt like there is much point in working on yet – for example a formal retrieve or send to box. When I started with Squid, I planned to teach her send to square early. It took me an extra year before I felt she was ready. When I started training, it took me 9 minutes to get her to find the box with her eyes and run there in full speed without any prompts. I don’t regret waiting!

At the same time, I constantly feel like I should be training Wilco more. It’s not that I compare our journey to others. Not much anyway. It’s just that we have so few years to spend with out dogs, and I want to make the most out of them. There are things that I think that Wilco should wait before he learns, but also a lot of things that we should be doing more of right now…