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Continuing to Look Back

Posted on 07/22/10 8 Comments

You may have noticed a bit of a change to the layout of the blog as Jason added a very clear and obvious icon to click for Recallers to enter into the members only section of the blog (by “members” I mean those that have signed up for my 5 minute formula e-course).  In addition, lower down on the same  side, we have added an easy way for anyone who wants to– to sign up for the course when we open up sales again starting today at 10 AM (EST) but remember it will only be open for 24 hours. I have added a new payment option for anyone who does not want to use paypal.

*NOTE: If you are still having problems accessing the members area PLEASE contact Jason, he is the go-to-guy for all things web related. I am the dog trainer, Jason is the web star. Again, Jason’s email address is:

Jason AT WebManna DOT com

Following up from Monday post, here is a bit more from that 1998 interview and my reflections looking back today.

Question 6. What was it in those early days that got you really HOOKED on the sport of agility?

Answer 1998: Definitely the challenge of running clean. I also hoped that one day I would be able to have a dog who could weave without me doing that world famous “weave pole dance”.

Answer 2011: A question I often get asked today is “what keeps me interested after all of these years.” For me it is just the dogs and my drive to bring out the best in them. I think you have to be careful not to lose sight of why you fell in love with the sport in the first place, if that is always what drives you, you will never loose the passion for the sport.

I certainly love the partnership I feel with my dog when we nail a course in competition but I love celebrating the successes in training and seeing major breakthroughs in the dog’s learning just as much. I think now the thrill is even bigger when I am  able to see all of it happen with a student’s dog.

Question 7. You participate in lots of other dog sports such as flyball, competition obedience — what is it about agility competition that you find so challenging and exciting?

Answer 1998: Prior to agility I trained in Dressage. I worked 5 nights a week, for months on one simple little movement with my horse. I loved the euphoric feeling I got when he could consistently get it right. I think agility gives me an outlet for this obsessive approach to training. I still enjoy obedience and flyball. I think training in each of theses discipline helps to build motivation, control and accuracy for the other disciplines. Agility, presents you with constant challenges as there is always one more maniacal judge out there putting together a sequence no one ever thought of before. Agility is dynamic and you must stay dynamic to keep current.

Answer 2011: Today it is the amazing speeds we are going at in agility and taking those maniacal course challenges and making them look effortless is an unbelievable high.

8. How long ago did you get involved in using clicker training for agility and other behaviors?

Answer 1998: I have used a verbal conditioned reinforcer to train dogs since Shelby was a puppy (over ten years ago). I really did not acknowledge the superiority of that plastic child’s toy (a clicker) until five years ago. I still use a verbal conditioned reinforcer but only as a behaviour marker not as a tool to shape behaviours.

Answer 2011: I guess I have come full circle now as I don’t use a clicker very much in my training today. I use it as a tool where it will improve my training. I actually will plan monthly sessions where I must use a clicker just so that I don’t lose my co-ordination.  I do recognize now though, that not all responses need a clicker to be shaped and there are occasions where it can interfere with the progress of your sessions.

9. Did all of your dogs initially learn agility using the clicker? (I know Buzz did)

Answer 1998: Not really, although I use a clicker with all of them today. The school I was teaching with back then had a foundation more of lure and correction than pure shaping. I trained with a lot more food and of course mild corrections if the job was not performed properly. We did use a verbal conditioned reinforcer as a marker in training. With Twister I relied more on the clicker and of course Buzz was entirely clicker trained. Today my dogs, and my students dogs, are trained with a foundation of the clicker and a whole ton of play training. All behaviours are shaped and the focus is on interactive play. I don’t allow the use of verbal or physical corrections at any stage of training.

Answer 2011: Just for experimentation purposes I have used and not used the clicker strategically with my dogs. With Buzz I used it for everything I shaped. For DeCaff much less. For Encore, as an experiment I didn’t use one at all until she was close to two years old. With Feature I now am comfortable with my strategic use where it will be beneficial to the behaviour I am teaching.

10. What are some of the most dramatic changes in agility training methods and handling that you have observed as both a competitor and trainer/instructor over the years since you first became involved?

Answer 1998: People are starting to be more hands off in their agility training. They are letting the dog figure things out more rather than pushing and pulling them. People aren’t trying to totally control everything their dog does as they learn things like weave poles, contacts and the teeter totter. The resultant dog you see in the ring has a much better attitude and work ethic. Handling has changed dramatically as well. I remember doing demos with Stoni where a course of 20 obstacles was set, I would let her run it twice and then, for the show, I would sit on a chair in the centre of the ring and let Stoni run the course without me. I paid dearly for that and it took me two years to convince her I really did know the way around the course better then her. People used to try and handle dogs from a greater distance. I believe a strong European influence has caused many handlers to re-evaluate this handling style and run with their dogs more to assist them around the course. I think it makes a much prettier picture of “teamwork”

Answer 2011: Today speed, tight turns, running contacts and a “shrinking world” are the biggest differences in the sport since the time I started back in the early ’80s. The internet has made each of us around the world become more aware of all of the tools that are available (a great example is the different number of countries represented on my new e-course) . I believe the Europeans are continuing to lead the way with their experimentation into handling and particular their innovation in course design.

Today I am grateful for this stretch of time working at home. So wonderful! Remember today is your last day to sign up for The 5 Minute Formula e-class. Get on board after 10 am this morning (est ie New York time zone).


  1. Karissa says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 2:03pm

    I love your comments about dressage. I, too, am a “former” dressage rider. I decided to take an agility class with my dog one winter when it was REALLY cold and I was looking for something to do outside of the cold, cold barn. Within two years I had sold the horses and gotten a second dog (now a third). lol There ARE so many similarities between the two sports and it does fit my personality type very well. I’m glad I’m not the only one to notice it!


  2. Barbara Kraatz says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 12:51am

    I am unable to get to members content, though I understand you said it would take into tonight to get it back up. (It is now 9:50 P.M. PST) Somewhere today I read someone was able to get more course content. So far, all I have gotten is Bonus Game 1 and homework. Is there more available now? Thanks.
    PS – I am successfully logged in.


  3. Elena Urzi says:
    Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 4:35pm

    I hope is all ok for my paypall account .
    pay pall have send me a mail for $ 397,00 cad for brillant recalls package sayyesdogtr


  4. Trudie says:
    Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 3:20pm

    Without being indiscrete or anything, could you enlarge more on the European experimentation into handling and innovations in course design ? Or where should I be looking to keep my agility knowledge up-to-date.
    Anyone who owns all your DVDs, books, ebooks and articles has more than enough material available for 5 minutes a day training plan…! Your marketing prowess definitely played a part in my signing up!


  5. Deborah Smith says:
    Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 11:50am

    Jason is a genius and was quick to help!

    Thank you Susan for this kick start to helping me get back with my Agility game. My young daughter JoAnna and attended one of your first camps! Now I am taking your first e course. Taking care of elderly parents has taken me away from the game that I loved playing with my dogs. I am ready to get back in but I have now two very sweet but fearful Rat Terrier Girls starting out. It is about the journey and I am learning a whole lot about training from my Rat Girls! Looking forward to this course!


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 3:23pm

      Thank you Deb for acknowledging Jason, I too think he is a genius and unlike many geek-like-types he is amazingly personable and a tremendous asset to any business!


  6. Laura says:
    Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 9:33am

    Okay, I think you’ve got me signing up. Your marketing strategies have been interesting to watch, with your “Walmart pricing” (prices ending in 97), a limited time to sign up and then reopening for another short time. 😉 Looking forward to what I know will be a very valuable (and fun!) course.


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 10:24am

      Laura that is too funny, I had no idea all of Walmart’s prices ended in “7”! I suspect though, the reason you and others have signed up for this course has more to do with the level of dog training help you have come to expect, more so than any great marketing prowess you have credited to me:).


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