Creating the Perfect TSS

Posted on 03/05/10 18 Comments

So, I have a workshop this weekend that I have never taught before. I can’t really go into too many details because I know some participants read my blog. In order for this curriculum to be successful, it needs to be mysterious and scary:). The topic of the workshop is dealing with trial stress or creating the best Trial Stress State for yourself. The topic was prompted when I observed several students, some new to agility others more experiencd, struggling while dealing with the stressors of trialing their dogs.

I am talking about maintaining the ability to make key decisions that will help develop the agility dog to their full potential. Let me give you an example. A fairly experience student was bringing out their young dog for the first time. The dog was ready but the team was not. The dog was super fast and very excited. However her handler was so over aroused, she was unable to make key decisions in the midst of their 30 second runs. At one point the dog left a set of weave poles at pole 7. Yes leaving 5 poles without weaving. As a handler what should you do? Well what would you do if it happened at home? Of course, you would stop, alter the dog’s state (allow the dog to focus on you) and repeat the obstacle presenting the same handling challenge that caused the dog to pop out in the first time. I may repeat that 3 times and if the dog continues to fail I will chalk it up to “more foundation needed” and reduce the challenge so the young dog can be successful (however this would not be how I would handle the situation for a more experienced dog).

The decisions you make for your young agility dog helps to lay the foundation for future greatness.

This handler just went on to finish the course without hesitiation. When I questioned her decision she did not even realize the dog had left the poles, let alone left 5 poles early! As a matter of fact, she got quite belligerent and told me I was “wrong” that the dog had completed all 12 poles. This is a handler in an over aroused Trial Stress State.  The only solution was to ask her to watch her video (which luckily she had).  This is not an uncommon scenario and is a big reason why a well trained, well prepared agility dog learns to perform completely different at home then they do in the ring.

So this weekend will be about facing stressors (that part will be fun for me, got lots of great ideas . . .  cue the melodramtic music:)).

We will do course work,  class room work focusing on mental prep and we will create a plan of action for each individual dog and handler team. In the end, my plan is for the weekend is to have more laughs then tears, but to effectively bring people to a level where key, spur-of-the-moment trial decisions, can be made without hesitation.

Today I am grateful for the unseasonably warm weather we are getting here in Canada. Wow. Stay tuned next week, I have lots to roll out!


  1. Wendy A says:
    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 10:41pm

    Keeping to the KISS principle:
    1) we need TSS in Seattle this summer!
    2) in a trial, do you completely do-over the contact obstacle from the upside when the blown contact occurs?, or do you get the dog to hop up on the end, and release after the NT has occurred?


  2. Kim Collins says:
    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 10:25pm

    Ya me thinks you need to add Friday to your week out here in June and do this seminar for us in Vancouver too!!!!:o)



  3. Joni S. says:
    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 3:29pm

    I would like this work shop. I could USE it. I saved the article on ‘Buck Fever’ you had. Wow, I could have used this yesterday. I went to a ‘Fun Run’ and she kept popping the poles at about 10 when I got some distance. What did I do….?? went back tried it again, but babysat her. Ugg….okay, next time, repeat presenting the same challenge that made her pop. Got it!


  4. lynne brubaker says:
    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 2:59pm

    BTW That is an amazing image of Feature on the DW


  5. lynne brubaker says:
    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 2:55pm

    PLEASE, OH PRETTY PLEASE do this workshop again, I wanna wanna wanna come too!


  6. denise says:
    Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 11:14pm

    I’ve been wondering how your lovely rescue BC Autumn has made out? Did she find a loving home to go to?


  7. Wendy A says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 9:02pm

    Hey, don’t forget us westcoasters! when’s the next TSS session?
    Question along the lines of your TSS teaching….what do you do if your really young dog races through their downside contact?….in competition (history now consists of 2 AKC Nov courses) Ollie has stuck his A-frames with NTs waiting for a release 100% of the time (2/2 – I attribute this to the first trained, last lost phenomenon), but 0% on the teeter (0/2) and dogwalk (0/2), although some bystanders thought those to have been fabulous running contacts. During your contacts and weaves workshops, you’ve never said what to do if the young dog “blows” the contact in early competition. As the point of this TSS workshop seems to be about the fact that the energy and thoughtstream in competition is NOT equal to that in training, young dogs and owners are going to make boo-boos. In anticipation for the dog boo-boos, I planned that for a blown set of weaves, I’d stop, allow him to regroup and send him back through, which is allowed in Nov AKC. Not caring about Qs, but faced with the dilemma of not being able to do that with contacts in AKC, on the anything less than perfect contacts, I chose to take a tiny time-out by stopping my movement, allowed him time to realize I was not just moving on to the next obstacle, had him regroup with me, then moved on. As you known, at the anything more than the novcie level, most redo’s in AKC result in the judge saying “bye-bye”. However, after doing another near 50 sessions of contacts, I am planning on trialing again with him in NADAC next month, where do-overs are allowed and the team can finish out the course, although it’s purely training at that point. For a blown teeter and A-frame, I suspect you would tell me to go around and send him again. Easy enough. However, what do you do for the dogwalk? Do you go back to the up contact on the dogwalk? or do you give them a “hup” to get on the downside and a chance to offer NTs before releasing and moving on to the next obstacle?
    PS: after talking with you in Palm Bay, I went back and thought more about the chin swooping – I realized we had slid into chin-swooping, rather than NTs b/c he had had a big nose snorting of dirt experience a couple of weeks prior in January and I just didn’t watch carefully enough what was happening to our NT criteria; so when I got back home, I video taped several NT sessions with a big pile of dirt on a piece of indoor-outdoor carpeting on the turf at the base of the contacts….it was great fun and really helped to get him to get back to a real NT – he had to learn to snort out the dirt on the NT, rather than inhaling it on the NT!
    Wendy and the Ollie-man


  8. Heather Sather says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 5:15pm

    Great topic!


  9. Stacie Enriquez says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 3:28pm

    Brilliant!!! It’s like this workshop was made for ME!! This is my first go-around with agility and yet I happen to have a very fast (and smart) dog. We do fine for the first several obstacles and then WHAM he blows by me and I totally go blank! I even had someone at a trial tell me what a great dog I had. . . . . and then asked if I was the REAL handler! I’m hoping you’ll be offering this workshop again.


  10. Gemma Osmond says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 3:24pm

    I want to go on this workshop!! Wonder if I can persuade my hubbie for a holiday in Canada this year, any future dates I could plan around?! Just the sort of workshop I’d love to go to in the UK!

    Have a good one! 🙂


  11. Trudie says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 3:21pm

    Well, as I am making just about every mistake in the book, I can contribute my personal over-aroused trial stress state : I sometimes imagine and hope my dog has touched the contact zone but I’m not sure he hasn’t until I hear the judge say “fault!”

    Also, my dog pays excellent attention to my body language, unfortunately in my over-aroused state I send him over off-course obstacles, how humiliating !

    Also, I can attest to the fact that if like me, you just take “running” for granted while training but in fact you don’t know how to run correctly and you haven’t done some serious pre-trial human fitness work, it will all let you and your dog down ten times worse in over-aroused stress state.


  12. Darcy Roessler says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 2:00pm

    My heart rate goes up just thinking about going through a work shop like this. Best of luck!


  13. Julie says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 1:26pm

    Sounds fantastic – have fun.


  14. Nelci says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 1:24pm

    Susan, this is a great topic, may you find it also good to incorporate into the Camps, when us foreigners can attend. In my case, one of the most difficult things for me to concentrate on is performance vs. results; which mainly comes into place during competition.


  15. Sarah Mairs says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 1:23pm

    What a great idea…….I think you should run the CAT FCI weave drill without walking it!!!!!!! Better yet the common Contact one with 23 obstacles with only one walk though…….can’t get much better practice then that! Have fun everyone!


  16. Linda says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 12:12pm

    What a brilliant idea for a workshop. Looking back I see how I lost my very well trained Novice dog in a trial situation for that exact reason, I just blamed it on my adrenaline overload….I will be better prepared for the next dog..

    Have fun at the workshop.



  17. Andrea says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 10:26am

    I personally never read this blog…


  18. Jodi says:
    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 9:36am

    Go ahead and describe what plans you have up your sleeve for this week-end workshop. I am confident to say that we won’t read it as we wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise…isn’t that right Andrea,Christine,Lynda,Blanche and Canty?


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