Better Dog Training Sessions in 2018

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.

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 😀

Switching between behaviors on cue

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.

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…