Archive for October, 2013

A Lesson in Adaptability

Hello there agility fans! I’ve just arrived in Vancouver to teach a 3 day seminar and as always am very excited to work with different people and their dogs.

I’ve already had some great agility conversations within hours of arriving,and one comment has really stuck in my mind. As usual, I was talking about the differences between my dogs, and I was complimented on my tendency to work with them instead of trying to make them adapt to my particular training style.

This made me think for a moment.

How many of us are trying to push the proverbial boulder uphill when we could go downhill instead?

Now I’m not talking about giving up all sense of teamwork and letting your dog do whatever they want, but through my recent dogs I’ve found adaptability is a powerful tool.

When I got my sheltie Dice, I knew that I had to be creative when dealing with her fears. I didn’t want to see her stressed or “make” her deal with things. The most reinforcing thing for me was my dog to be excited and happy to play with me. I could have tried to fit her into the mould of training that had worked for me in the past, but it left both of us frustrated. Instead I decided to experiment and find the ways that she and I could both have fun. As many of you know, despite being labelled by some as a “shut down” dog she is a highly successful agility competitor.

So with my next dog (my border collie Heist) I figured I was unstoppable. I mean if I could bring out the best in Dice then surely this drivey little border collie puppy would be a breeze. Hmm…well I may have gotten a bit of a reality check on that one! As it turns out, he had his own ideas of just how things should be done. It took me quite some time to recognize that I was fighting to make him conform to my ideas and it simply wasn’t working. I then started to experiment with different handling and training. I accepted that it worked best for us both if I didn’t try to obsess on small details but instead focused on our connection. With this mindset change, we connected as a team and I love running him!

So my question is, are you trying to force your dog to fit into a mould that your perception has created? Are you trying to cram them into that ideal regardless of their true personality?

I truly believe there is no “right” way to do things…there’s simply effective and ineffective. And what might be effective for one dog/handler team may not be for another.

It’s up to you to accept your dog for who they are and find how your training or handling can work for you both. Don’t fall into the same trap that I did in feeling like your way is the ONLY way to do things. Often what works for one style of dog or handler will not work for another.

If the connection is there, then great! You have an amazing agility partnership. But if it’s not, and part of this blog has resonated with you in some way, then embrace the lesson of adaptability. Accept the lessons that your dog can teach you and begin your path to a compromise in which you both can be happy.

In the end I feel that I may not have gotten the dogs I initially WANTED to have…but I’ve definitely gotten the dogs I’ve NEEDED to have.

For those of you who have submitted questions, I will still be answering them…just got a little sidetracked for the moment so thought I’d share what’s on my mind!

Until next time,

Happy Training!

Jess Martin

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October 18, 2013 at 2:08 am 6 comments

Whip its: A great way to teach your dog to play!

I came across this great video today on Facebook and couldn’t help sharing it! Lauren Langman of Devon Dogs demonstrates how to not only get your dog more interested in a toy, but how you can build a balance between toy drive and self control.

I’ve often recommended students use lunge whips or a toy on a string to mimic real prey. I think this video does an excellent job of showing how to use the “catch and release” of the toy really get your dog interested. I know my JRT will love this game!

Using the “flip” to teach the dog self control is a great way to avoid the stress that can come from a dog being repeatedly corrected for breaking a sit stay.

Best of all, you are working with the dog at a reaction level when you start introducing the self control techniques. I always want my dogs to react to my signals instead of thinking about doing it, since when they are in a high environment such as a trial many thinking behaviours vanish. If the dog is in reaction mode, they are responding to commands on a subconscious level.

This is definitely one I’m going to add into my training!

Hope you get as much out of this video as I did!

Jess Martin

October 17, 2013 at 1:38 am 10 comments

Tips for Socializing your puppy for success!

We all want to give our puppy the best start in life when it comes to socializing them properly. Everyone seems to have their own idea of which ways are best in terms of socialization.

I find the key is always making sure that YOU have more value than anything in the environment while making sure a puppy feels safe and confidence. With my sheltie Dice, I took a rather unorthodox approach to socialization. Since she was so nervous of her environment (people, dogs, objects etc.)

I only exposed her to these things in situations where she was in control. For example, people would ask if they could hold her and I’d say, “no, but you can sit on the ground if you like and see if she chooses to come up to you.”

The reason I choose to raise her in this manner was she had very little resiliency at a young age to get over things that scared her. She is now very comfortable in her environment, so I feel I made good choices in this area when she was young. I didn’t want her to feel any form of fear when it came to things she was already nervous about.

Keep in mind that your dog doesn’t have to love people, or other dogs to be a great agility dog…they simply need to not react their environment. This is why I am always working on my dogs coming to me after they have met a person, another dog, or explored a new object. I want to promote confidence, but I also don’t want them to learn that life is a party and that I wasn’t invited!

The end goal for socialization is a well-balanced, confident, but responsive puppy that loves to play with you above everything else.

Happy socializing!

Jess Martin

October 14, 2013 at 10:06 am 2 comments

Solving Frustration Barking

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian blog followers!

Today’s question is one that we’ve all probably witnessed at some point while watching agility…even if it wasn’t with our own dog.

Frustration barking!

Have you ever seen a dog that gets confused on course and then comes flying back at the handler barking, spinning, and sometimes even jumping up and biting at the handler? Yikes! This is not something we want happening at all is it?

Over my years as an agility competitor and coach I have seen this problem countless times and even had to deal with in my own dogs from time to time.

In this video, I have suggested not only how to help get the dog back under control in these situations, but also how to help PREVENT this from happening in the first place.

Afterall, we can’t be perfect handlers all the time! Helping to teach your dog to deal with their frustration in a positive way can help relieve the stress of both the dog and the handler!

Don’t forget to submit your training questions at http://www.agiledogtraining.com!

Happy Training!

Jess Martin

October 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm 2 comments

Focus Outside the agility ring: Is it necessary?

Hello Everyone! Today’s question inquires about creating focus outside the agility ring.

First of all, is it necessary for your dog to pay 100% attention to you before you go into the ring?

For me, I approach this question by asking are you getting the results you want inside the ring? If you’re not, then this may be an area you want to adjust to help your dog start in the right mindset for success. If you not currently having any problems with your dog’s performance, however, there is no rule that your dog has to have absolute focus on you outside the ring.

In this video I share some ideas to help your dog focus more on you before you go into the ring in competition.

Until next time,

Happy Training!

Jess Martin

October 13, 2013 at 1:05 am 1 comment

Start line question: getting your dog into position faster

Hi everyone! Today’s question is about how to get your dog into position at the start line without “arguing” with them. Have you ever experienced this? I sure have! Sometimes we feel like we are fighting the dog and we haven’t even started the run yet!

Let me ask you a question…do you feel like a team with your dog at that moment? Of course not!

In this video, I discuss some of the ways I’ve found to have my dogs WANT to move into position at the start. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like a team right from the beginning?

Thank you to everyone for posting your questions at http://www.agiledogtraining.com! Keep them coming and I’ll do my best to answer them all!

Happy Training,

Jess Martin

October 11, 2013 at 7:46 pm 2 comments

Transitioning between running and stopped contacts

Today’s training question inquires about how to transition between stopped and running contacts. I’ve gone both directions with this…transitioning my duck toller from a 2 on 2 off contact to a beautiful running contact and my border collie from a running dogwalk to a 2 on 2 off contact.

Here are a few ideas for making these transitions as smooth as possible.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s video where I’ll share some tips for creating an effective start line routine!

Happy Training,

Jess Martin

October 11, 2013 at 2:58 am 1 comment

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