Advancing Skills Camp

Posted on 11/02/10 16 Comments
Feature Playing After Skills Camp

Moving into the last day of another great skills camp. Super group of people, super group of dogs. Since all dogs and handlers are returning for a continuation of Critical Elements we have been able to take massive steps forward this week.

Day one I asked the group to focus on all may be influencing their dog’s skills. Things that my be saboteurs to that what which they are trying to accomplish.

I am talking about things you may not even be aware of right now. It could be behaviours that happen when the dog is away from you or it also could be those things you are actively working on and didn’t think of agility when you trained it.

For example, lets say you want to lose weight. You hire a trainer, you do exactly what she says. You put in extra cardio on your own a few nights a week on top of the killer workouts 3 or 4 mornings a week with this excellent trainer. Still you don’t lose weight.

As with anything in life, it isn’t necessarily all of the things you do right that has the greatest impact; it is that which you are doing wrong. Working out 7 or 8 times a week will certainly contribute to getting into better shape but if you are eating ice cream and cookies at every meal you dream of being a fit person will likely elude you.

The same is true of your dog training. While trying to improve upon your agility dog’s skills.  If you feel you are following directions well, practicing sufficiently but not getting the desired results; it is time to  turn the magnifying glass on what else may be affecting your dog’s agility skills.

For example, if you are working on tight turns but your dog spends most of the day running big loops around your kids in the backyard or you do dock diving twice a week– your uber tight turns may be tougher to get no matter how many hours you put in on the agility field.

It isn’t always the things you are doing right that lead to great improvement it is stopping the things you are doing wrong.

All of this may sound a bit disheartening but I hope it is the opposite. I hope it will be inspiring as you may now have direction to clean up some of your agility skills.

And speaking of inspiration, I hear that John Cullen will be launching his new product later this week. I got to take a sneak peak at it and WOW is all I have to say — a couple surprises in there for everyone who jumps on board!

Today I am grateful for a heated floor when stepping out of a warm shower on a cool fall day.


  1. Nicole says:
    Friday, November 5, 2010 at 1:14pm

    Hi Lisa,

    I think the children chasing and dock diving become problems for agility because they are other reinforcements for wide turns and jumping long.

    So if the dog is constantly running wide circles with a high reinforcement and rate of reinforcement of playing with kids then it doesn’t mater how much you try and train a tight turn. The reinforcement level and amount for tight turns just can’t come close enough.

    It becomes simillar for dock diving. The reinforcement rate and level for jumping long over rides the agility training.

    I think I’m on the right track. Susan’s comformation would be great to have.

    ~Nicole and Boomer too


    • Melissa Blazak says:
      Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 4:20pm

      If you are consistent with your training when in each venue can’t the dog discriminate between skills needed in agility vs. requirements in the obedience ring, or on the dock? I am curious.


      • Mary M says:
        Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 10:35pm

        A dog is going to do what is reinforced, so this is part one of the problem….part two is muscle memory, the same with humans.

    • Melissa Blazak says:
      Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 4:24pm

      Oh, the kid chasing I do believe is counterproductive to anything….unless the kids are actually throwing in some obedience or are taught how to play tug with the dog. But, how do you stop the kids? The dog, I believe, is the easy part!


  2. Angela M says:
    Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 3:31am

    This is a very good point…will think about this.Thanks for the reminder!


  3. Lisa Kucharski says:
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 9:38am

    Could you further explain how dock diving/playing with kids/other non-agility activities could undermine agility performance? What would alternatives be?Thanks. Lisa


    • Melissa Blazak says:
      Friday, November 5, 2010 at 4:06pm

      Would it not depend on whether or not you want an “exclusive” agility dog?

      Having done little “agility specific” training even though I’ve been auditing workshops I am really into cross-training my young standard poodle. Whether or not it will affect his future agility career (which is 1 or 2 years down the road) is not something that bothers me.

      My boy just turned 2 today and we are currently training in rally, obedience and field, he did dock diving this summer and has been herding instinct tested. We plan to do more herding and dock diving.

      I think it all depends on your goals.

      Someone with much more agility experience than me (which is none!) can perhaps see where other activities might be counterproductive to what you want to see in the agility ring. However, Rudy and I want to be a “jack of all trades and master of none”.

      The one thing I do recommend though from having done all of these things for the last few months is do not EVER let your criteria slip regardless of what you and your dog are doing. If it means running out of time on the dock because your sit stay went, or having your dog drag you to the bird bucket in field, do not give in to peer pressure!


      • Nicole says:
        Friday, November 5, 2010 at 4:21pm

        No I dont believe it comes down to wanting just a specific agility dog or flyball dog or any type of trained dog. It comes down to reinvorcement level and rate.

        So for example to the dog Kids are a number one reward where as tug is a level two reward. Now the dog gets to chase those kiddies in a big looping circle for hours a day seven days a week. Where as training tight turns with a second rate reward only three times a week just isnt going to be enough to over come the reward rate and level for big turns.

        PS if anyone can figure out how to train with pineapple and bananas I would love to know how because those are Boomer’s number one treats

        ~Nicole and Boomer too

      • Rachel says:
        Friday, November 5, 2010 at 4:57pm

        Pineapple and banana — My thought would be to get a dehydrater and dehydrate enough be soft (no longer juicy) but not so much that they’re hard.

  4. Ninette says:
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 2:32am

    Hi Susan – I really enjoy reading your posts … this makes so much sence stopping what one is doing wrong even during non-training times – thanks for the tips and advice.


  5. MRB in Oz says:
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 1:16am

    There’s nothing like doing some extra hard exercise and then following it up with a kitchener bun (jam and cream holeless donut with sugar coating, mmm).

    That’s the trouble with “doing the right health thing” we think it means we can do more of the wrong health thing. So people who choose diet drinks can actually gain weight because they think that means they can have an extra bikkie (cookie).

    By the way it’s better to be fat and fit than fat and unfit, and yes it is possible to be quite fit and fat too. So even if you are having that extra nibble, do your exercise too.

    I had to bump the thirty minute walk to one hour because thirty minutes made no difference to me. And I do like my food.


  6. Mary M says:
    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 9:39pm

    Very nice post, yes after critical elements last spring, I went home and evaluated how my dogs spend their days….has helped so much to take out the things that clash with the training I am doing…now if I could just coax my partner to put some things into practice it would be better. But the dogs know what my criteria are and they know what they can get away with elsewhere….doesn’t help with greeting others etc…..but I pick my battles!

    Again, nice post,


  7. Rachel says:
    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 5:04pm

    What are the physical therapy-type “balls” that Feature is standing on? Those look like good fun.

    I wish my bosu-ball had nubbles — looks like it could be a good foot massage during my work out!


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