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Critical Elements for Swagger & Raven

Posted on 06/16/11 27 Comments

Very exciting day. Tomorrow 4 1/2 month old Swagger and his cousin Raven start their first ever “Advances in Dog Training” and “Critical Elements course (formerly known as puppy camp). I am certain neither puppy will have any issue with the skills required (we both have an advantage here) but it is the environment with the other puppies that will be the question.

Either way it is going to be a great learning experience for both puppies and trainers.

My goals for camp are;

A) To help Swagger  find lots of joy in everything we do.

B) To help him find the joy in not barking in his crate when he can not see me:).

C) Get a chance to recall him away from other puppies (only if that opportunity presents itself).

D) Work on our consistent value for the reinforcement zone at my side. Mr. Swagger does have a lot of  Border Collie “eye” and therefore loves to herd me when I move or he thinks I am about to move. Just need more joy in being in tight really.

I am sure Penny will also be working on her own “To Do” list with her beautiful puppy “Raven.” If you remember Raven was the puppy I arranged to come in from the UK. Her sire is Feature’s littermate making her and Swagger first cousins.

I imagine Penny will include a lot of value for good choices around the RZ as well. Like many Border Collies, little miss Raven has a strong chase instinct making her slightly motion sensitive around other dogs.

Luckily for me Swagger, like his mother, didn’t have much of a problem with that, making recalls like the one below much easier to train then say Encore at the same age. Encore was incredibly motion driven so would lock onto movement and off of me at any given moment.

I guess we all have are challenges with our pups, that is what keeps it all so interesting for me both as a puppy trainer and as an instructor helping others.

Today I am very grateful for the chance to be a student with Mr. Waggie-bum (well, I am a teaching student as I will still be doing all of my regular lecture duties here at camp).


  1. Cherie says:
    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 11:53pm

    Yes, do share how to make joy in the crate happen. When I’m training at home alone with my two, my year old pup is fine resting by himself in the crate while I’m working with the older dog, Sam. But when we go with our trainer or someone else, he goes nuts when left in the crate. He barks and cries the whole time. We’ve tried the blanket over the crate trick. We tried putting the crate in another room. We tried an ex-pen. Blankets over the ex-pen. With toys/treats/water/nothing in the pen. It makes no difference to him that he’s getting no reward or attention, he just keeps barking and yelling at us. He is, after all, the center of the universe, you know.


    • Katie says:
      Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 4:17pm

      I’m struggling with this too! I call it “FOMO barking” (Fear Of Missing Out). I see that several people on these comments have asked for more info, but I can’t seem to find a response anywhere… My 15 month old BC loves his crate in theory (when we are doing crate games) but not in practice (when his is supposed to be relaxing by himself). I can’t seem to crack it.


  2. joR says:
    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 10:16pm

    Dear Susan,

    Is it possible to hear how Penny adjusts her training program to help Raven. I too have a very motion sensitive dog who wants to work everything including the wheely bin. It is now one of our games to be in reinforcement zone while I wheel the bin. I am sure any tips would be very vaulable



  3. Nat says:
    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 9:33am

    Wow, Swagger is so driven!


  4. Pat Burroughs says:
    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 9:33am

    I can’t wait to hear how Swagger & his cousin Raven did at camp : ) your guesion on older dogs with puppy training I would use some of the stuff on my older dogs espeacially directionals and body awareness even my 12 year old ( Beetle) and 13 1/2 year ( Dallas) do the body awareness games and core strengthing on the balance discs and they love it !


  5. Michelle says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 7:55pm



  6. Sue says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 5:16pm

    I’ve also been teaching my young dog 2×2 weaves and I’m thrilled with the results. I’ve had problems with her drive and the succees = joy that she is getting from this is creating drive in othere areas-success is starting to breed success.

    Yesterday morning we were having a quick weave practice when I realized I had 2 dogs in the weaves at the same time. Created a bit of chaos to begin with but what fun to see the old boy driving through the weaves and both dogs feeding off each others enthusiasm.

    It made us all smile.


  7. Carol R says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 4:35pm

    Susan, great video of Swagger’s recall. No puppies at my house now, only a 7 yr. old sheltie. But, I am teaching an agility foundations class for youngsters and have been working all of these skills with my Quiz before presenting them to students. All the things I never knew to do 7 years ago and Quiz is loving going through all the “beginning” things. She was also my practice dog for Recallers 2 and loved all the games. So, it’s kinda like having a puppy in the house.


  8. Shelley says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 2:36pm

    Swaggers recalls are ace! What a little pocket rocket!

    Guess we will wait for Lynda’s verdict on the webinar as to how good a student you were …….coz we know Swagger will be a perfect angel!! Have fun all of you x


  9. Stephanie Burns says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 2:02pm

    Susan – You are right about having a puppy helping the older dog. Our older dog is a rescue Belgian Malinois who was trained using force methods and did not offer behaviors when we got him. With time he began to trust that he would not get corrected for making a mistake and is more relaxed. Now that I am training the puppy, I am doing more foundation work with him. He is more receptive to it now that he has our trust and I am seeing some great progress with him. I’m training the 13 month old puppy the 2 x 2 weave and she is a super star, and I’m having better success with my older guy now that we have more of a relationship. Thanks Susan for all that you do for your students and their dogs – you are a super star!!!


  10. Alaska says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 12:59pm

    Some other thoughts on value of including the older dogs in foundation “work” (in quotes, because we treat it as play):

    1. The older dogs who “get it” stimulate me to think up new ways to increase foundation games challenges that I will later be able to use with the puppy when she’s ready.

    2. Puppy learns from watching how the older dogs do it. For instance, when we do crate games with all the dogs in a line, the puppy is clearly intently watching the older dogs hold their stay in their crates despite my efforts to fake them out, wanting not to be the one who gets caught accidentally releasing on something other than the release cue.

    3. We do round robin IYC: me in the middle with a handful of treats and everyone in a half circle around me. Same exercise but everyone is working on something different, whether it’s learning not to lunge for a treat or learning to be patient when it’s the other dog’s turn or learning to shift focus from the hand with treats to looking at my face. Again, they observe how each other performs their respective challenge and, I’m sure, learn from it.

    4. Everyone enjoys having a job to do, rather than just hanging out while the puppy gets to do all the interesting stuff.

    5. And yes, I do notice holes in the other dogs foundations more easily when they are asked for the same performance criteria I am expecting from the puppy.

    On another subject…”Swagger McDagger” sounds very distinguished to me. I vote for him to be introduced that way in formal settings 🙂


  11. Karla says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 12:34pm

    Daily life has become joyfully engaging for my “retired” dogs because of Recallers 2….every day is games day now! It might not be time to bring home a puppy yet, but Susan, you are dangling the carrot! And it’s always time to learn new things and be prepared.


  12. Linda says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:36am

    I couldnt agree more with what you say about the older dogs benefitinng from foundation. I have been doing a lot of RZ, balance and circle work with my 5yo dog as I have done it with my (now) year old pup – the improvement in the 5yo’s attention on me and my body movements has been quite dramatic. I have had to start being very careful with my turns as where as I could ppreviously get away with being a little impressise now she reacts so quickly we make mistakes if I’m not accurate!

    Big lessons for both of us thanks to the pup. 🙂

    Swagger recalls look fab!


  13. Linda says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:27am

    When I really started concentrating more seriously on recalls with my 3-yr-old Cairnboy, my 11-yr-old Cairn also became more responsive. And even though he hasn’t trialed for several years, he’ll run to the table with Andy, and both will go down quickly. My Cairn girl, who will be 10 next month, has always had trouble making time on course. Recently, she finally got her AKC EX A Pref title in JWW, and has a leg to go for the Std EX A title. Her speed has increased thanks to watching Andy train. I’ve messed up a few of her runs trying to adjust to her new pace–I can’t get into position ahead of her like I used to!


  14. Kristi says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 8:58am

    Susan, what happened between recall one and recall two? Few moments of tug and then released to play? Did you ask for something before releasing to play? (a sit, e.g.) Was there a moment’s quiet before letting him go again? Always thinking about transitions now . . .


    • E Gay says:
      Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 9:10am

      I second this question!


  15. barrie says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 8:46am

    Seconding Deb D’s request! CG/RL has given my 8 yo JRT a lot of joy/value in going into and staying inside a crate but she just doesn’t see the point if I am not visible to her 🙁

    WOW on those recalls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  16. Deb D says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 7:17am

    PLEASE share how you get Swagger to find the joy in being in his crate when he can’t see you. I struggle with this.

    When I first got the crate games video for my two (then) pups my 11 year old girl insisted on playing too even though the only thing she’d ever been trained to do in her life was to look gorgeous.


  17. Evelyn says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 4:03am

    absolutely awesome recalls Susan !! I wanna be like you when I grow up 🙂

    my older dogs also get to do the puppy stuff and they love it… guess there is always a puppy in a grown dog !!

    wonder why I forgot some of that fun stuff … glad I remember and I will definitely continue all that !!

    have fun at camp !!


  18. Lisa Henshaw says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:43am

    Regarding the training old dogs and puppies… I don’t have a puppy (haven’t trained the 5yo dog yet). However I teach beginner agility. I always have a dog with me for demos, usually the 5yo Chappie. He loves playing all the foundation games and I might be biased but he’s so good at them I have a hard time getting him to fail. Shame I didn’t put that much work into the next steps of training (whatever they are…. hurry up and do the contacts course please Susan).
    Last week I used my 11 yo dog Gidget for a change and she just fired up. It was really fun for us both doing stuff like restrained recalls. You’ve inspired me to do more of this with her again.
    Cheers, Lisa from Australia


  19. Viv says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:22am

    You are so right about training puppies and older dogs. I’ve got a 17 week old puppy and training him is like working with children: you get a new window so that you can see everything from a different angle. I can’t turn back time but I can try to do better, thanks to this little guy.


  20. MRB says:
    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:03am

    I wish I’d known what I know now when my dog was a puppy, but if she hadn’t been so hard to train (especially recalls), I wouldn’t have worked to become a better dog trainer and I wouldn’t know what I know now. And I wouldn’t have gone to trainers like Susan for help. So glad I have.

    Last night we did four runs in a mock trial in stormy weather and she stayed with me, while I mucked up the course for her, bad old days she’d gone treat hunting with her friends under the shelter.


    • Kristi says:
      Friday, June 17, 2011 at 8:51am

      You must be the A+ Cookie!! I think it’s so exciting that this big accomplishment on your part is not even the end, but a step in the journey. Just think what the future holds . . .


  21. The Robberdog says:
    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:37pm

    Super cool recall Susan, what a thrill when they come flying back like that. Re your question in the newsletter about older dogs getting ‘puppy work’. I hadnt thought about it till then, but it is so true. My older dog had never been taught to walk backwards… until I taught the next puppy. While training my newest pup 2×2 (my first time) I also started working on my older dogs weave entries… which I had taken for granted for the past 7 years!!
    So true.


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:55pm

      @The Robberdog How cool is THAT! That is exactly what I was writing about — it just hit me recently yet I have been doing it for years!


  22. JanV says:
    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:22pm

    Wishing you & Swag-a-lag-a-ding-dong a spectacular camp experience! Looking forward to more sensational video!


  23. Jane G says:
    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:01pm

    Wow. Very impressive Mr. Swagger (& Susan, of course).
    Have fun at Critical Elements. Don’t give Ethel too much trouble.


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