Party Crasher at Novice Camp

Posted on 06/10/09 18 Comments


Snapping Turtle
Pre-historic visitor to agility camp!

Well Novice camp started off with some excitement as this young lady decided she needed to lay her eggs right at the end of my opening sequence!  Every year at the end of May-first week of June, the turtles come up from the pond to lay their eggs. We have two varieties, the cutie-putie type painted turtles and the sort picture here which are snapping turtles.  

The snappers, luckily for us, prefer the water in our woods behind our house at it is a running creek.  The dogs never go back there as the brush is pretty thick. The only worry is this time of year when they come up onto our hay field to lay eggs.

It was entertaining for all of us, as it usually is each year, but this girl wouldn’t leave us alone!   John put up a snow fence to keep the dog’s away from her while she finished her job but once she was done she came up onto the agility field to get a closer look. That is when John loaded her into this wheel barrow to take her back to the woods.

After that adventure was over we all settled into have quite a great camp! It was suggested throughout camp on several occasions that “that was a gem Susan, you have to post it to your blog” so here I will leave you with one of them.

I commented to the group to not be concerned about the speed of their novice dogs. I spend a lot of time rewarding my young dogs close at my hips or “reinforcement zone” as Greg Derrett coined the phrase. In the midst of sequences I will often reward a dog for driving back to RZ. For this reason they are not all “launchy” and “powerful” when we start running courses together.

I used the example of Feature and Encore. When each of them came out most people commented on how “slow”  each one looked. At Feature’s first two trials she could not get within 3 seconds of any of Encore’s times. Only a couple of weeks ago John said to me he thought she would never be as fast as Encore. Well even though that would not change how I felt about her, I was pretty sure John was wrong and she proved it last weekend at the Ontario Regionals.

You shouldn’t want your novice dogs to be frantically grabbing obstacles, squirreling around like mad. The power and the speed will come, but the time spent working on the finesse will pay off down the road. It is far easier to teach collection and thoughtfulness to your young dog before they realize they are equipped with a 400 horsepower engine and a set of Pireili tires– then after!

Today I am grateful for the improvement every dog and handler showed over the 2 days at the camp formerly known as “Novice” camp.  See you all next year at “Growing the Teamwork Camp!”


  1. Laurie Graichen says:
    Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 11:48pm

    Interesting comments. After reading them I am guessing you don’t want to “push” your young dogs for speed over thoughtfulness.

    But I hear a lot of novice people (not on this blog) saying they want to make their (equally novice) dogs slow down so they can keep up with their dogs. Which I don’t agree with, I think that leads to dogs that trot across contacts, meander through weaves, and cosntantly adjust their pace to their handler’s.

    Would you agree that while one shouldn’t “push” for speed, that one shouldn’t try to discourage it if the dog is offering it in a safe way, but rather learn to handle that speed.


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 11:09am

      Great observation Laurie, I agree entirely. If your dog understand his criteria you should never try and slow him down, if he doesn’t understand his criteria why the heck would you trial him??? My point was for people not to get to bent out of shape if their young dog is not as fast as they thought he should be NOT to slow down those dogs that are fast!


  2. Morgey says:
    Friday, June 19, 2009 at 9:27am

    Wow thanks for the tidbit on speed in novice dogs. That has been on my mind a lot lately.

    Over the last month I’ve felt that my 3yo BC has really slowed down on course espcially compared to his running around in the yard, etc. On the other hand as time goes by and my handling skills have improved, I am seeing far less off-courses and much better control.

    My instructor early on said “You have the race car, we just need to put a steering wheel on it”


  3. Mary says:
    Friday, June 12, 2009 at 7:20pm

    This is great advice Susan, thank you for sharing. I have two novice boys and these are the first dogs I have worked in agility….can you say at what point you begin to ask for more extension work from your dogs? Or does this just seem to come with some time/experience for them in the ring?

    Thanks so much, this helps me relax about speed…others were putting the pressure on to get me to pressure my boys, but really they are more technically correct then others at times on course…just not driving like some yet.

    Thanks again!


  4. Glenda & Dream says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 1:01pm

    Thanks for the post about speed and finesse. My first agility dog had tons of drive AND focus/control. Sadly I lost her before her time, and my new dog (new being relative – she is nearly 3 yo), is just not as naturally driven to do agility as Ceilidh was. And like you – it really doesn’t affect my feelings about Dream – I just love her to bits and would be happy with her regardless, but….

    I have a great instructor and we’ve been following your system since day one, and while Dream may not have that “out of the box” speed, she is actually far more consistent in her obstacle performance than was Ceilidh at the same age.

    Still, lately I’ve been feeling discouraged about the speed issue, thinking that the dog that I see running 100 mph in the field playing will never consistently exhibit that speed in the agility ring. Your post has definitely lifted my spirits and I think I’ll relax a little bit now and just look for that finesse, and feel confident that the speed will follow. I really do believe she will be brilliant, and look forward to starting our competitive life together this summer.


  5. Claire says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 10:13am

    Life ain’t fair… I just noticed two handling foundations days added in august, ad they are both already full!

    Wah! Wah! Wah!


  6. Claire says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 10:09am

    I too would love a Say Yes! Master Plan… but I thought I was just being anal!

    So many of us train agility in a relative vacuum. Not everyone has the luxury of regular classes (at least of the caliber we would wish), and the structure and the feedback that goes with them.

    I think I can train stuff pretty well… if I know I have to train it. I often find in revisiting camps that I have inadvertently missed or rushed through an important step in a foundation skill progression, and my “finished product” suffers as a result. This is also true when putting the pieces together.

    As much as I love my DVD collection, that is not the best format for me to learn, and I find I have to take notes on the DVD’s to use in my actual training. I TRY to make myself cheat sheets and flash cards and how-to’s from camp and DVD notes, but I worry that I am missing stuff.

    So… A Say Yes! Master Plan would help give my at home training the structure it needs, as well as giving me help in remedial training. I would envision a Mainstream plan that would send you through (and provide support material for);
    a-lifeskills for puppies (inc. crate games)
    b-puppy camp (a might be part of b)
    c-skills camp
    d-grad skills camp
    e-team building camp(maybe to include some DB work?)

    Then there would be the add-ons (or repeats), in no particular order;
    a-jumping skills
    b-weaves and contacts
    c-building drive (exists so far only in my dreams)
    d-lifeskills for adult dogs
    e-masters handling
    f-double box work
    g-Bodywork for competive dog sports (body awareness stuff)
    h-lurer’s anon.

    OK… I AM anal!


  7. Linda says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 7:09am

    “It is far easier to teach collection and thoughtfulness to your young dog before they realize they are equipped with a 400 horsepower engine and a set of Pireili tires– then after!”

    OMG!!! Such pearls of wisdom…unfortunate for me it is a few years too late for the current dog=D Another goal for the NEXT dog.



  8. Laura says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 7:02am

    I like the new camp name!

    As some other have mentioned over the past few days, I am not always sure which camps are meant to be taken when. Perhaps on your website it would help to post some sort of schematic with arrows from one camp to another, showing the potential path or paths that could be taken by someone who wanted to follow your program.


  9. Judith Batchelor says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 6:30am

    I am so glad that Novice Camp went well- I can’t wait till next year when my pup and I will be ready to go. I know my pup is going to be fast … so any handling tips are appreciated – thank God for this blog


  10. Sally says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 6:14am

    Hmm sometimes you wish that a young dog wouldn’t decide to tackle things at a million miles an hour as it might just make the whole training job a bit easier.

    Says me who is battling with a dog who was going great guns through the 2×2 weaving program – would weave 6 straight up with ease. Then due to weather was forced to take a break for a week or so and then it was 2 weeks before we were able to get back to it. Well in that time a green baby dog who was weaving and driving reasonably hard through the poles has suddenly found those extra turbo boosters and now seems to have way more speed then she knows what to do with so will blast past the first 4 poles and enter the last 2.

    Erm after trying my tolerance for a few days we seem to be back with the program.

    Dam these young dogs like to keep you on your toes.


  11. Catherine says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 6:11am

    Thank you for your blog.

    I am learning so much from it! I wish I could have made it to your “growing team camp” – someday. I find this whole question of speed so fascinating. My Tervuren started out as a very worried puppy with a lot of anxieties. We have worked through are fears and as both of us become more and more educated, I am seeing a steady increase in speed. What I learnt from you last summer at Camp East and from a winter of reading/rereading and trying to apply the information in the Foundation Booklet, Crate games, the one jump DVD and Susan Salo’s DVD’s has paid in dividends.

    Nell is my first competitive agility dog. What I find challening is absorbing and applying ALL the information so I can do best by my girl!

    I love your turtle friend – she sounds like a keen observer.


  12. lenekristin says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 2:47am

    Hi Susan!

    Thank you for highlighting this with time and speed on young dogs. It is very common to think that the young dogs need to learn speed first, and then thoughtfulness, when it’s really the other way around.

    Not just good for the agility part, but also the physic of the dog, injuries and jumping technique to take it slow from the start, and then build upon that when they’re ready.

    Love reading your blog, so keep up the good work sharing your thoughts and brightning up my days 😀

    Lene Kristin and Susi


  13. Kristine says:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 12:20am

    I am also thankful that you posted this! I am experiencing the exact same situation with my very thoughtful, young BC. I have been keeping the faith and working very hard at her foundation training. However, I am trying not to be discouraged by comments from others, including my husband, that she is not as fast on course, or flashy as they expected. A few other people have told me not to worry, but it is very reassuring to have you share your thoughts and experience on this. Thanks!
    P.S. we had a turtle just like the one you pictured come into our yard last Spring – unfortunately one of our dogs found her before we did. After a tangle with the snapper, our pup had quite a few nasty slices – including one that left a battle scar on her nose. I could not figure out why the turtle would leave the thick brush and pond behind our property to travel quite a distance up into our open yard. Now I understand that she was probably coming up to lay eggs.


  14. Michelle says:
    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 11:07pm

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you very much for shareing that gem! I have been very worried about the speed of my young dog(she is a driven Border Collie that I was sure was going to be fast!) I’ve been trying to do all the good foundation things with her, all the time being paranoid that I have broken her speed as she is fairly slow and thoughtful when training and lightning speed when running at the park.

    Thank you! that made my day 🙂


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