Posts tagged ‘jess martin agility’

“You’re Late!” Tips for improving your agility timing

I think everyone in agility has heard the phrase “You’re late!” For some of us, it becomes a phrase that get’s repeated over and over. I remember years ago joking that anyone could teach my agility class…they just had to repeat “you’re late” over and over again. Of course this is a massive exaggeration, but you get the point as to how often my students were hearing it!

So how do we stop ourselves from being so late with our cues? The issue in my opinion is that we are attempting to react to a very specific moment in time. Realistically if we are looking to be that accurate, there are going to be many times where we miss the mark.

Think of it this way…if we are playing darts and I give you the choice to either get points for hitting the bullseye, or points for just hitting the board, which one do you think will get you more points?

Exactly! Just hitting the board is much easier as it is not as specific of a target. The same goes for your agility timing. If you are trying to time your cue to the moment of commitment for the dog you are attempting to hit bullseyes! This makes it very easy to be late and the consequence of course is the dog dropping the bar, jumping an inefficient line, or even going off course!

So how do we adjust our timing to be less precise and therefore more effective?

Here are a few tips for making this adjustment:

  • Start your cue when the dog reaches approximately the halfway point between the two obstacles instead of when your are sure the dog is going to take the jump
  • Increase your forward motion cues: using more of a “send arm” will help your dog continue to drive to the correct obstacle even when you are turning earlier than usual
  • Keep moving! Make sure that there are no sudden stops that will pull the dog off the obstacle that they should be taking
  • Use a verbal “jump” cue or a verbal turning cue if you have one
  • Continue to look at the jump your want your dog to take until you see “intent” (the dog looks at the correct obstacle)

By using these methods, you can give yourself more chances to be successful with your timing since you have a much larger area to be on time.  

For more help creating your own Handling Success, sign up for my online handling course beginning Dec 9th! Registration is now open!

Visit www.agiledogtraining.com  for more details.

Happy Training,

Jess Martin

November 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm 3 comments

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 12 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

Training Questions Answered: Reckless Jumping

The training questions have been pouring in and I’m so excited to get a chance to directly answer them! I’ll be answering a question a day for the next two weeks…maybe more if I don’t get through them all! I have to admit that for me, the most rewarding thing about teaching is seeing people overcome problems that they have really been struggling with.

Check out today’s great question about a dog who is jumping recklessly and knocking bars when the handler accelerates. This is a problem my border collie Heist has struggled with at times (although unlike our malinois subject, he has never gotten a jump wing stuck around him!). Here are some tips that I have found made a big difference to his self awareness and sensitivities to my acceleration.

I hope this video helps give some insight for those of you struggling with dogs that are jumping recklessly.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next segment in the Your Agility Questions Answered! series.

Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? I’d love to hear from you! Submit your question at http://www.agiledogtraining.com

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

October 9, 2013 at 3:20 am 2 comments

Lessons in success from the Canadian Open

The idea for this blog post was actually inspired while I was away in Edmonton last weekend competing with my dogs at the Canadian Open. I went into the competition hoping for some medals with my sheltie Dice, but although she did win two bronze medals at the event, it was actually my young dog Heist that I felt was most successful over the weekend.

Did he get on the podium?

No. He actually didn’t have a single clean run all weekend.

So where did this feeling of success come from?

I realized that real success isn’t always measured by gold medals.

What made his runs so successful was that he was working with me better than he ever had. He was thoughtful, balanced, and overall we had brilliant teamwork. That is what truly mattered to me.

Not winning events.

Not beating out my competitors.

Simply improving on a personal level as a team.

We’ve all had clean runs that we’ve somehow managed to get through. You know…the ones where you get out of the ring and you have no idea how the dog actually managed to make it through clean! Then we’ve had amazing runs that had one little bauble…maybe a knocked bar or even an off course, but you recognize that the almost clean run was actually better in many ways than the clean run.

Here’s one of Heist’s Canadian Open runs that despite errors was one of my favourite runs with him. He handled many skills that he has struggled with in the past as well as stopping on this dogwalk after only 6 days of re-training from a running contact.

When it comes down to it, agility isn’t just about competing against other people. It’s about competing against yourself, and pushing to be just a little bit better every time.

If you are competing strictly with others, you lose momentum very quickly as soon as something doesn’t go to plan. If you expect to win a class and you don’t, you immediately feel defeated or even more pressure to do better in the next round.

But what would happen if you were most concerned about making every run the best one possible?

Focusing on every run as an individual event that had no relation to any previous performance?

I often tell my students to “etch-a-sketch” their previous run. Just like the etch-a-sketch toy…you created something, now it’s time to shake it clear and start from a blank slate.

Many people count themselves out of the race as soon as they reach an obstacle in their path. True… a bar down may take you out of the gold medal position, but it doesn’t mean that your next run can’t be one of the best you’ve ever had. Many of us give up on a subconscious level once a run doesn’t go to plan because we can’t let it go.

Just because your dog missed a weave entry or knocked a bar in the previous run, doesn’t mean that you will get the same result in the next round. Past runs good or bad are in the past.

As an example of this, this past weekend one of my students came from having no clean runs to running clean and winning the Canadian Open Final. Had she held on to the mistakes in her past runs, they likely would have haunted her into the finals. Instead she assessed the issues at the end of each run before moving past them with confidence. When I talked to her before the finals, she was in a great headspace mentally. She recognized that her major mistakes in previous rounds were all in areas that she had hesitated about making handling decisions. In response, she vowed to make confident handling choices.

In the end she made two great handling choices for her dog that allowed her not only to run clean, but to win by a narrow margin.

She wasn’t competing against everyone else…she was competing against herself. Your own mind can be your greatest advantage in competition or your biggest handicap.

Imagine if she had gone into the finals thinking about how she was having bad luck this weekend and feeling that she didn’t stand a chance in the finals against “so and so”.

Do you think the results would be the same?

So next time you’re training or competing with your dog, think of what success means to you…not to everyone else.

Remember, if you think you can or you think you can’t you’re probably right!

This weekend was a great reminder for me of how it’s not always about the final placement.

Sometimes it’s about the personal success along the way.

Happy Training,
Jess Martin

September 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm 1 comment

Is it time to take your dog training back to the drawing board?

Have you ever had a moment in your dog training where you realized you were missing a major piece of the puzzle? That there is one piece seemingly holding you back from reaching the results you wanted?

Maybe you’re even feeling that way at the moment.

If you are, then maybe it’s time to take your training back to the drawing board. I’m talking of course about the subject of “re-training.”

Re-training comes from the realization that what you trained the first time isn’t working for you now. This takes guts to admit, because no one likes to feel that we need to start over. Instead, try thinking of re-training as a fresh start; a new beginning if you will. Imagine how it may change your performance for the better.

Feeling a bit more motivated? Great! Now let’s delve into the question that is re-training.

Let’s take a quick moment to clarify that for re-training to be successful, you must get the result you want. Why? Because otherwise you end up right back where you started!

Take my sheltie Dice for example. I’ve attempted to “re-train” her teeter performance several times since she has a tendency to leave the board early, sometimes incurring faults. My quick solution to this problem was to tell her “down” while she was on the board to encourage her to ride it to the ground. Sure, this worked for a little while, but then she started leaving early again. Then I decided to teach her to keep all four paws on the board until I gave her a release word. This worked for maybe a trial or two, but I didn’t enforce this new behaviour in the ring and so that deteriorated as well. Basically I wasn’t truly committed to re-training, and hence I was destined to end up back in the same place.

The first consideration you have to make when deciding whether or not to re-train a certain aspect of your performance, is how much you really want it to change. Imagine if you had a scale from 1-10 (10 being you desperately need the behaviour to change). Where do you fall on this scale? How much are you willing to invest in getting that coveted end result? Because I can tell you now, that part way doesn’t get results. When it comes to re-training, you’re either all in, or you will struggle to really change it. So are you in or are you out?

Decided to commit to change?

Now comes the planning stage. I know some people like to plan out every little training detail when it comes to things like this. I’m honestly not the planning type. Somehow brining a notebook to my training session just seems to suck all the fun out of it for me. Instead, I tend to focus on visualizing my end result and then the steps that I think will get me there.

Here’s a personal example that I’m going through at the moment. I’ve decided recently to temporarily abandon my running dogwalk project with my border collie Heist and instead teach him a stopped contact. It has gotten to the point where I’ve realized that the amount of time I’m spending trying to train one obstacle is limiting my time training things that are arguably more important. So I started coming up with a plan by:

  1. Visualizing what the end performance will look like
  • running into a two on two off contact with his head low and forward
  1. Thinking of what small steps I can take to help me train those skills
  • Teaching him to keep his back feet on an object (stairs work great for this)
  • Teaching a nose touch (I plan to fade it later)
  • Starting with him jumping onto the end of the contact and running into position…then moving him further up the board
  1. Actually doing the work!!!!
  2. Maintenance and proofing

Now, admittedly I’m only at stage 3 with him right now. People seem to think that retraining contacts is a slow, tedious exercise. I can honestly say that I’ve been re-training for less than a week and today it just seemed to click for him. Make sure you aren’t spending too much time obsessing over small details that likely won’t matter in the end! Otherwise you’ll still be re-training a year from now!

So you’ve got your plan and you’re putting it into action. Awesome, right? What happens if/when the past starts coming back to haunt you and creeps into your new behaviour? First of all, relax. People get way too bent out of shape about things popping up unexpectedly in their training. If you’re re-training, then it means that you’re essentially attempting to re-do something you’ve already taught. This means that your dog is likely going to confuse the two at some point in training. Be patient and stick to your new criteria. If you find you’ve hit a wall…take a break and try again later (sometimes they just get a little mentally stuck during a training session, as do we!). If the problem persists then you may need to change up your plan of action a little bit. Either way, be flexible and work with what the dog gives you. This is another reason I find that over planning can actually be detrimental to your training.

The final stage of the re-training journey is your ring performance. This is the real test. The goal is to make sure you get the new behaviour you’ve re-trained so that your dog learns that this also applies to a competition. Be strong here! Your consistency is the real test! If you let your training start to deteriorate you’ll be heading right back to where you started in the first place…fast.

Here are a few suggestions for passing the final test:

–      Have a plan for what you will do if your dog doesn’t do what’s expected

–      Enter some extra runs for the purpose of training (AAC only)

–      Try to use the same commands/body language you do in training (often trying to manage the dog’s performance throws them off a bit)

–      Realize that this is one run of many! (yeah I know it’s hard while in the moment, but believe me guys…perspective is a key motivator in successful change!)

Remember…“Learning is not a spectator sport” – Chickering and Gamson

Happy Re-training!

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

August 26, 2013 at 4:16 am 3 comments

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