September 2011

Contact training with Epic

This week has been rainy and dull, but it doesn’t keep us from training. Squid is back from having puppies and is getting ready for her first trial in many months. Her weaves were terrible after the long break, but it didn’t take long to get them back to where they once were. One thing I really like about the 2×2 method is that you can go back and open up the first set of poles to show the dog what we’re after. It worked really well with Squid and she is now showing both confidence and skill in finding her entries. I look forward to the trial on Sunday.

Epic is working a lot on contacts right now. We’ve actually done nose touches, running contacts and up-contacts today. This is how his running contacts looked yesterday. It was his third session on a new height:

I didn’t get his nose touches on video, but we’re making progress. I’ve had some problems with building enough value for targeting on the stairs before, but I’ve found a way that makes him very keen at the same time as he gets more relaxed in agility training in general. I mix nose touches on the stairs with running contacts. It’s a great combination to make sure that Epic offers behaviors in order to get to run through the tunnel and over the dogwalk. If he got to do just that, he’d get tense and stalky.

I’m very concerned with keeping my dogs relaxed and open minded in agility training. Of course, this applies much more to my border collies than to the cockers. You can test the openness in different ways – Do they run to me and do great, repeated nose touches if I present my hand? Can they offer getting into position at the side without help and with good rear end awareness?  Can they look up at me and walk with me between exercises? For a while, most of our running contact training was about Epic offering different kinds of behaviors before he got to run. He is much more relaxed and open minded now. I can also use running contacts to increase the value he has for behaviors that have been hard to build value for – like nose touching on the stairs. We’re now walking to the stairs between repetitions of running contacts, and he has to offer real nice and focused targeting. When he does, he gets his toy and then he gets to run through the tunnel and over the dogwalk. Perfect! It’s 3 for 1 – value for nose touches, open mind on the agility field and training his running contacts. Nice balance in training.

What about the up contacts?  When I do running contacts on the full dogwalk, I’ve put a stride regulator before the dogwalk to make sure that he hits the up contact as well as possible. I don’t think he learns a lot by that in the long run, I just don’t want him to repeat a behavior I don’t want. Now I’ve started to train his up contacts separately. This was his first session and I think the video speaks for it self:

Foundation Class 2011

This fall, I am presenting my first ever online class. The class is open for 6 working participants and 20 observers. As a working participant, you will follow the class with your own dog (one dog per working spot) and post video for the entire class to see. I will of course comment on your videos and help you through all the lessons. The observers get to read and watch all material from me, watch all the posted videos, ask questions and join in on the discussions. This is a foundation class, much like the one we do IRL at home. It will be great for anyone wanting to get the most out of reward based methods. There is also the option of buying access to just one of the lessons. With that option, you can read the text and watch all videos, but questions and discussion is restricted to the participants and observers that follow the whole course.

The class will run from October 3rd to January 9th. A new lesson with text, video and homework will be posted every other Monday, for a total of 7 lessons. Every lesson has a theme, these are the themes that we will cover in the 7 lessons:

  • Play! How to get your dog to tug with you and how to use playtime to teach your dog invaluable lessons for future training.
  • Self control. How to use rewards to increase control and gain clarity when working with the dog.
  • Shaping. Getting you and your dog started with shaping, or fine tuning your shaping skills. How to plan, execute and evaluate your sessions and bring fun into shaping.
  • Heelwork. How to get your dog to heel with focus, precision, attitude and duration. Great for any dog, even if you’re not planning on doing obedience trials, as it teaches the dog many valuable lessons.
  • Stand, sit and down. Learn how to teach the “jumping stand”, how to get fast and precise behavior, generalization and a dog that will keep the positions no matter what. Also great for any dog, not just obedience dogs.
  • Retrieve. Build from the play we worked on in lesson one and teach your dog a fast, precise retrieve where the dog never chews on the dumbbell. Our method of teaching the retrieve is different, fun and very effective.
  • Stimulus Control. Adding cues to behaviors, teaching the dog to wait for the cue and to discriminate between cues. Every clicker trainer needs this lesson!

What you need to sign up:

  • Computer with good internet connection
  • To read and write in English

If you want to work with your dog in the class, you’ll also need:

  • Video camera and a video editing program
  • YouTube-account where you upload your videos

Sign up now! There’s only 6 working spots and 20 observer spots in this class.
You will receive log in-information when you have payed via PayPal. If you already made an account here, let me know and I’ll give you access to the classroom.

No working spots left. Sign up as an observer.


Type of participation