Wilco in the woods

It’s been a while since I updated about Wilco. I’ve been teaching abroad for a couple of weeks, leaving my dogs at home with Thomas. I really missed them, and it was especially hard to leave Wilco. Things happen all the time, and a lot happened during the weeks I was away. Mostly good things! Wilco turned 4 months old yesterday, and I really, really like him! He is so easy going. He can relax ringside at agility competitions, he has such great skills with both dogs and people, he loves training with me. He also loves herding, and when I got home he started to go into the sheep field on his own. I had to keep him on leash around the farm for a while, but he seems to have better thoughts now and is more allowed off leash. His herding looks really good, I can’t wait for him to grow up so that he can be trained!

Yesterday, we went to the woods for some fun. I usually don’t take Wilco on my longer walks with the grown up dogs, but take him out on his own for 10-20 minutes before or after I walk the others. Our adventures in the woods are both for his physical development and for building our relationship. For relationship building, I try to do a lot of recalls and play fun games with him, like hiding his toy and letting him find it with his nose. Sometimes we just walk and he can sniff and explore. Other times, we do things together. I want to have a nice balance between the two.

For his physical development, I like him to work in different speeds. When we’re just walking, I love that he chooses a relaxed trot. Trotting is great for recovery. For strength and coordination, I like to walk my dogs slowly in brush and on uneven ground. In a slow walk, the dog has to use a lot of muscle to move his legs, especially when he is walking in brush that requires extra high leg lifts. This training builds great stabilizing muscle around hips and spine. With Wilco, he is just doing a little bit of it to get used to the idea and to help him coordinate his long legs. I reward him a lot, and I try to reward when he is looking ahead rather than at me. He needs to see where he’s going. Finally, I also want him to do some full speed running. Restrained recalls are great for this!

We also find fallen trees and work on balance and coordination. I haven’t done a lot of body awareness things with Wilco. My priority has been for him to find balance using his own body. Compared to my older dogs, he knows less about climbing things, but when he does (this was his first time on a fallen tree!) he knows how to balance his body. With him, my priority is quality in posture and movements. Less is more, I hope. What are your thoughts on puppy conditioning?

Wilco learning down

Another “first” video today: I decided to try to teach Wilco a fold back down. The goal is for him to fold back while keeping all four paws still. This is just one of several position changes that he will learn, it felt like the best one to start with. I will later add the cue “dekk” and use this for position changes. In the first training session, I thought I would just start and see what he did. I normally capture downs in everyday life before I try it in formal training sessions, but I haven’t done that this time. I was just about to stop the session, and wait a few weeks before I tried it again, when suddenly he went down:

In the next session he quickly got back on track and we got quite a few decent repetitions:

The next step is for him to become less dependent on having the reward hand so close to his nose and I will increase the criteria for his paws to be completely still.

Wilco learning to heel

Time really flies, and I haven’t had time to do as much training with Wilco as I had envisioned. He is a very easy going and happy puppy (although he does like to bite me – hard!). When we do find time to train, he learns frighteningly fast. I often don’t understand how he can make the connections so quickly. Today, we started working on heelwork. I think it’s great to get video of the first time we do something, so the camera was ready today. Here is our very first session on heeling:

After a nap on the kitchen floor, we tried again:

The third session was on just standing in correct position by my left side. I just feed him as long as he stays there:

He is so much fun to train! I will try to find more time for training him in the coming week.

Squid is back!

After nine months of rest, puppies and rehab, Squid ran her first full agility course on Saturday. We have been doing a little agility during the past months, but mostly just worked on rehab and strength. She’s far from her top condition, but I’m so glad to have her back! This was her first run of the year. She was 4th out of 91 (29 clean runs) large dogs. I’m very happy with that considering that we’re both out of shape.

Epic also competed on Saturday. He feels much stronger than Squid and had a lot of speed, but dropped some bars in every run. I think he needs some time to work his jumping out after so much time off from agility.

Already on Saturday, I started to feel pain in my achilles tendon, and on Sunday I couldn’t really run. I had two runs with Squid, but wasn’t able to handle well because I was so much slower than usual. It feels better now that I have rested, and I was able to run some sequences with Epic yesterday without pain. I really hope that this won’t persist now that my dogs are finally able to start running again!

Five Years Ago – Puppy Squid

I’m really looking forward to training a puppy again. I’m looking at old videos of Squid and get excited about teaching new things (on the other hand – my grown up dogs still learn new stuff all the time!) and think about how I would do things differently today. You do learn a lot in five years!

Do you want to learn more about how we train, how to use shaping to teach new behaviors, how to create self control, stimulus control and drive? Check out our Foundation Class, starting tomorrow.

This is how we started – cuddling, playing, resting and socializing.

A week later – flying to Stavanger, Norway, and learning new skills.

Eleven weeks old – circle work, finishes and self control in her crate.

Fifteen weeks on New Years Eve. Many new tricks on her repertoire and training on stimulus control.

Seventeen weeks old – visiting Bergen, Norway, new tricks and stimulus control.

Agility Foundation Training With Win

Squid has to rest from training for a while. She was lame last week and although she looks fine now, after more than a week of rest, I will not let her do any training until I’ve got her checked up thoroughly. My local vet took a long look at her earlier this week and we took x-rays of back and toes, but we didn’t find much. Next step is a visit to a physiotherapeut on Monday.

In the mean time, I’m glad that Thomas has got so many nice dogs that I can train. I do some agility with his cockers, but right now I really feel like I want a third border collie to run, so I’ve started some foundation training with Epic’s sister Win. She’s a very nice dog and easy to train. Works with enthusiasm, but relaxes well when I run Epic. Here’s a video of our session today. We had five sessions for a total of 12 minutes, and I have compressed into a three minute video:

Keep your fingers crossed for Squid!

Obedience Class III – Metal Dumbbell Retrieve

My plan was to finish my series of videos of where we’re at with the exercises in class 3 by the end of December, but here we are in the beginning of May with three more exercises to cover. I’ll show a video of our metal dumbbell retrieve today. We can finally train on our field again, as the snow is gone and grass is starting to grow there. Squid was very reluctant to grab the metal dumbbell, but she will do it now and she has done the full exercise. I focus on speed in both picking up and running back to me at the moment. I will try to train all parts, but keep focus on speed to get a really, really fast retrieve.

Foundations for down from heel

When working with our online obedience class, I realized that I didn’t have a video that shows how we teach stand/sit/down from heel. We’ve done it for years, and I think that most people in Scandinavia is familiar with the process, but I found that it’s very new to a lot of people from other parts of the world. So, here’s a video showing part of the process (the part that might seem most weird). It starts with a offered down, so it’s important that the dog can offer behaviors without any help from us. We then start to walk slowly backwards and want the dog to follow and then offer a down. We gradually increase speed until the dog can do a nice backwards heel (which means that we sometimes have to reward the dog for just following to) and offer the down.