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Did I Make a Difference?

Posted on 02/02/12 105 Comments

That question was suggested to me recently as one to think about “Susan, how would you answer that question at the end of your life.”

Did I make a difference?

I know my mom and dad made a difference raising 8 amazing children of their own and adopting two other equally amazing children (I won’t even mention the number of foster kids we had along the way:)). Each of us makes a difference in our own way. I would like to think I am making a difference in the lives of dogs and dog owners. That is what drives me to continue to work so hard at what I do and it is what drove me to start doing more of my work online where I can reach more people around the world.

Part of making a difference is understanding what will bring the most value to those of you who share my passion for dog training and agility training.  And one way I hear from you about your needs is through periodic surveys that query you about what tools and skills might be helpful.

Following a recent survey, I received a request to do a private, start-to-finish workshop in running contacts.

Previously I would I have just refused because I really didn’t want to try to train something if I didn’t feel confident I could transfer the knowledge successfully to others. But here I am, ten years since training my first dog’s running contacts and having successfully taught each of my last four dogs as well as helped several of my students’ dogs, I feel I have gotten the methodology down to a point I am ready to teach that “start-to-finish-all-inclusive” workshop.

Although I am doing more and more of my teaching on-line, the truth is I do still love to work with people on a one to one basis. Even though I really don’t have as much time to work with private clients as I used to, I recognize that helping other dog owners succeed is so rewarding which leaves me in a constantly struggle trying to do it all!

I do sometimes look back to my life a few years ago as a simpler time for me, (that is an understatement). When I think about the reach of this blog, my newsletters and my on-line programs, well, I realized how important it is for me to  continue to share what I’ve learned with others. That is what inspired me to start building my team, so collectively we could reach more people — even though it may have made my life more complex and yes at times, far more chaotic!

However, I really wanted to continue to offer live events as well… so recently I extended an opportunity to my most recent “Recallers” class in order to find that small select group of people interested in participating in this “start-to-finish” training with me. The first criteria I had when designing this program was that it had to provide MASSIVE value to those individuals who placed their trust in me. That’s always been my goal, with every bit of training I’ve ever produced.  I have taken great care to be sure the model accomplishes that goal.  In order to create that much value I knew I was going to have to raise the bar of pricing for a highly-specialized dog training workshop to a new level. It’s not a program for everyone. It’s not meant to be. That’s why it was priced the way it was and limited to just five people. Yes there was an application process, but the reason for it was that I wanted a cross section of dog breeds and experiences in dog training  and not to get “just the best” or “only Border Collies.  I wanted a true representation of dogs doing agility.

All of this appears to have caused a ripple this week in the world of dog agility.  Some people have suggested this project is all about money for me.  You know I could have done what the rest of the agility world expects and simply offered up three RC workshops for 15 people, charged each  individual $650 per workshop and no one in the agility community would have batted an eyelash AND I would have made more money! I would have created less work for myself with no on-line follow up to do, no sleepless nights figuring out how to help one of five people solve a problem and no DVD to produce (each of my 5 participants get a comprehensive DVD to recap the work in the course), which, by the way, will not be available for sale to others. The DVD is being provided as a tool to help students in the workshop reinforce their learning.

Sure this small focus group is a “different way” of doing things, but let me share with you what I believe is the key to my success as a dog trainer and as a business owner; I am not afraid to try new things even when the old ways are still successful, even if it means moving in a direction that others have not traveled before and opening myself up to criticism along the way.

This project is about finding the best way to help others further their education. It is about working closely with eager people who share my passion for collectively solving interesting and complex problems.

In short, it is about discovery, challenge and innovation.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at Swagger doing his running contacts here is a video clip.

Over the next couple of months I am going to be working very hard to bring out the best in this group of five dog and handlers as they work through the methodology of my running contacts. They will be participating in one on-line workshop, further online discussions, two live training sessions here at Say Yes and a full year follow up with me in an on-line forum.

Even though I will be focused on this group, I don’t want it to take away from my core mission of helping as many dog trainers as I can to meet their own dog training goals.

So, along with the small group training, I am also developing several free on-line webinars to help each of you improve your own dog’s contact performance.

Remember that survey I mentioned earlier?  While a few of you were interested in running contacts, most expressed that stopped contacts were your priority  because they can be taught with a greater degree of certainty and don’t require the same level of athleticism from the handler once they are in place.

So how can I help you?

What has you mystified, what needs improving with your contact training? Is your dog missing an element that you can’t figure out how to add or improve?  What topic(s) would you like to see me address with regard to your stopped contacts?  Your feedback is critical to in helping me develop content that meets your needs in these upcoming webinars, so please let me know what you are struggling with!

Today, I am grateful for the trust you have placed in me to help you achieve your goals.  And I am grateful for the privilege of working with all of you to collectively further knowledge about the hobby/sport/interest that brings us all such true and abiding joy.


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  5. Cheryl says:
    Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 2:30pm

    Susan, can you provide any tips on getting started using manners minder for 2o2o on A-frame?
    Thanks so much.


  6. Susan says:
    Friday, March 9, 2012 at 4:05pm

    Some great ideas here everyone, will try to address as many as I can!


  7. Gracie says:
    Friday, March 2, 2012 at 11:40am

    Susan your training has made an incredible difference in my training life. I immediately applied it to our aussie/rott who is more shy and sensitive to see very impressive results! I then applied it to my baby smooth collie. I’d like to brag that at 5 months his hand touches are flawless and he engages his brain in everything he does. ive seen his brother trained with traditional methods. wow what a difference. I trained my boy last night how to carry a milk jug when I asked, till then he showed zero interest in milk jugs. I wanted him to enjoy playing with them. he does now thanks to your methods!He went to his first conformation puppy match 2 weeks ago. at just 4 mo he was more attentive than the older pups, his focus was on me -100% OF tHE TIME!!! then he came out of the ring and won a toy. he played with that toy and didnt notice a pretty merle girl sniffing his butt or a huge fluffy sable male pass in front of us. all I can say is wow. Im getting ready to apply it to a friends troubled bored boxer. thank you susan you are amazing and have changed this girls life. (btw I was adopted and its amazing how many people have influenced my life all starting with the loving parents who adopted me!)


  8. south florida pet sitters says:
    Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 8:28am

    All the required information provided in the blog are useful and appropriate.


  9. Maria Schmidt says:
    Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 7:58pm

    So glad you are doing this intensive research into running contacts. I hope that someday it will trickle down to the masses via DVD. I love your DVD’s. Keep up the fantastic work. Even though we have never met I consider you my personal trainer and greatest inspiration. Thank you.


  10. Kathy M says:
    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 4:26pm

    The five people will be very lucky and if I was not a stay at home mom who has limited resources….but I am hoping all their learning will trickle down to us eventually ;-). I just had my first trial with my new dog trained since early puppy hood with recallers ;-), 2x2s, puppy peaks, YOU HAVE MADE A HUGE difference in her and my life and our relationship,it was so lucky I found all your resources when I did because it got us off on such a good foot- and I am sooo happy with her contacts in her first trial, but I would like to know how to maintain her fast happy performance and what to do if I get less then my average in a trial. –THANKS—


  11. amygdogs says:
    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 12:28am

    I greatly appreciate all you do. I am sorry you have heard neg comments. The RC special class price and trips to Canada are out of my reach right now, but I am sure that the people who can do it will get a great experience.
    I have taught the 2on2off for my dogs. Right now I have a fast border collie and need that extra time. I would like to know how you taught your dogs both RC and 2o2o. I also would like to better understand how you get the incredible constantly .


  12. sue-w says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 2:12pm

    My questions/help I need with a stopped contact:

    * she hops into the 2o2o position (is a hop okay for her feet and shoulders?)

    * her dog walk is slow across the stop (slow trot)

    * she does tend to hold her head up higher than when a target was used

    * as Kerry mentioned above, what about using a Manners Minder in training (or a Ready Treat Remote Trainer). I believe you mentioned in a Webinar that LOH has used one. Could you incorporate into a stopped contact Webinar how to use a MM or a RTRT?

    * your feelings about using targets in training?

    I believe you were one of the earliest, well-known trainers to have on line courses …. now many are offering their own types of on line courses and I think you spear-headed that movement. I also think these individuals should be thankful for your innovations, rather than critical of a private course you have decided to offer. [ I know, I sent you emails expressing my disappointment that I would never be able to come to Say Yes for a camp or a course (too much cost with travel, lodging, etc.). ] You listened to me and probably others and you created Recallers 1.0. I am very thankful for your adventerous nature and desire to reach many dog owners!


  13. sue-w says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:54pm

    We struggled with finding a method that worked for contacts. When we first started agility class, my girlie could not hold a 2o2o —- her rear end would go sideways and she would slide off the contact end (back then she was around 1 year old; methods have changed greatly since then). I worried a lot about the toll a 2o2o might take on her body — so we went to a 4 on the floor. It was good, but the down was slow and she did curl a lot. This hanlder has problems with running fast enough and with remembering the course (as I am a senior, I also need to keep in mind the safety of my body — no blown knees, etc.) We have retrained a 2o2o and she has no problem holding her end contact. I have been assured by instructors that, since she is only 34 lbs, that a 2o2o will not cause her body any harm. I will set my questions out in a separate comment.


  14. denise says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 8:45am

    You’ve definitely made a difference to me!

    Some people will always criticise – it’s usually either jealously or ignorance that drives them.

    Stopped contacts – 2 issues (which are linked) need help with committed nose touches, not nose touching while sneaking looks at me and independence on the 2o2o position so if I peel away from the contact my dog will still drive into correct position not come off on an angle so that he can maintain eye contact with me.


  15. Christine says:
    Monday, February 6, 2012 at 2:30am

    I am sure the course will be much more than running contacts. (personal timing, mistakes oneself does not see,…) Much fun and all worth like all your courses.
    Some poeple will have to wait for the next time and wish those who can do it all the best.
    The great thing about the online courses is that you can do it your time, it is afordable and no dogs in a plane for 15 hours and many aditional expenses.
    Love all your work


  16. Kerry Levin says:
    Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 11:39pm

    What do you think of the Manner Minder for contact training?


  17. Mary Lou says:
    Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 7:06pm

    You have made a HUGE difference in many peoples lives including myself. Also, don’t forget how far reaching that influence goes. Not only have I learned so very much from my working with you for the past 10 years but the understanding I achieved has then been passed to my students and their dogs. My creation of the “Hit it!” board, “Touch It!” and “Tug It!” would have never occurred had it not been for the knowledge and understanding you provided me with about shaping behavior.

    You have made a difference in peoples lives, many of which you have never had any contact with. I will be their spokesperson and shout out a resounding thank you from all!


  18. Virginia Harry says:
    Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 1:24pm

    Consistent speed down the down plank rather than fast up and across, and then a walk/stalk down. I see this in even the top dogs and I don’t know how to train my dogs not to do it with a stop contact.


  19. Deb D says:
    Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 9:30am

    Thought of another question regarding 2o2o. At speed Rylie has a hard time stopping at the bottom of the a-frame. He knows his job and if he slips off he immediately hops back on to nose touch (we have just finished contacts in the last 6 months or so so he is very green). I obviously don’t want this behaviour but he has started to be more careful on the frame but far slower so he can stop at the bottom. He is only 13 pounds so this may play into it. Do you think this is a weight shift issue – and regardless how would you address it?


  20. Sharon S says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 8:04pm

    Susan, vive la différence 🙂

    My question is on the nose touch:
    Is one strong solid touch, or a ‘chicken peck’ type nose touch preferred for 2o2o?

    Have seen both used successfully, but am unsure which is better, or even if it matters.

    Thanks so much for responding to our contact mystifications, and never doubt that you have made a difference.


  21. Jessica says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 5:52pm

    I’m an agility junior with bostons, my first agility dog (semi-retired at 3 due to a spine issue) has superb RCs taught via Silvia Trkman’s method. I now have a puppy (14 months) and I’m still trying to decide if we should do 2o2o of RCs. Initially I had the mindset of doing RCs because Stormy’s were so superb (even though they took oodles of work) and I’m just not getting there with Mayhem, the puppy. He has a 2o2o on the teeter, but when applied to the dogwalk is quite creepy. Which tends to be a common problem with 2o2o. I really would like him to have RCs (I’m definitely in shape/fast enough to handle them) but being a small dog he just loves to leap, even if its halfway down the board. As much as I would love an opportunity to learn your new method (what techniques do you use anyways? I’ve been following this topic and haven’t seen you mention anywhere HOW you actually trained it) It is not something I could ever afford, as I have to pay for all my dog stuff and rarely even get to trial due to my lack of funds. Cheers.


  22. jose medina says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 2:44pm

    quisiera saber ¿ que tengo que hacer para que mi perro toque la zona de contacto en la subida de la pasarela,gracias


  23. jose medina says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 2:41pm

    how I can solve that touch the dog on the rise since the gateway does not touch the contact area? thanks


  24. Kathy says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 1:47pm

    Have you decided on the 5 people yet?


    • Susan says:
      Friday, February 3, 2012 at 2:23pm

      @Kathy, we are in the process of decided now. They will be notified this weekend.


      • Kathy says:
        Friday, February 3, 2012 at 2:38pm

        Shoot-was out of the country and didn’t get in on it. My dog would have been a great candidate-competely raised in Say Yes methods, great 20/20- super drive and a non BC-but I will look forward to seeing how the 5 do in the class-hopefully we’ll get to see a little of the results. Good luck with it!

  25. Sophie says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 10:13am

    Hi Susan,

    I currently have my second agility dog, trained her with stopped contacts (2o2o). I don’t know if you’ve already addressed the “Motivation” part of racing to the end of the contact to stop in the position.

    What I see in my own dog is that she enjoys agility, but she is not an intense BC or like my previous dog, a dobe, at all. She doesnt slow down on the downplank or anything because she truly understands what is expected of her .. her performance is a fast trot, sometimes run (although we’re having really high temperatures here.. and she’s got a fluffy coat).

    Dunno, I’d like to see an article about that, haven’t seen much on this topic. I have seen a lot of how-to’s teaching, and transitions from training to competition addressed tho.

    Very nice article, and very good luck with the 5 students..! I’m sure they’ll do wonderfully, if Swagger’s astounding RC are any indication! 🙂



  26. Louise S says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 10:05am

    PS Sorry – the typing was so fast I missed the second ‘t’ xo


    • Susan says:
      Friday, February 3, 2012 at 11:15am

      @Louise thank you for taking the time to write. Sending you positive healing thoughts, you will be in my prayers.xx


  27. Louise S says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 10:04am

    Hi Susan

    Unfortunately due to major abdo surgery for cancer in June 2011 I am still on the long road to recovery and unable to train my girl yet due to the physical strain on me. That being said, I have a deep feeling of peace and knowing that you are my ‘guru’ of all things dog related and I hang on every word you say on this blog, safe in the knowledge that you are truly offering me the best help. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to these blogs and wish I was in the physical shape to be doing Puppy Peaks or some other online course at your super reasonable prices so I could hear from you more often and also to give back in some small financial way to say thanks for all the free stuff. I want you to know that there are lots of people like me out there who value your time, energy and heart so don’t let any negative ripples get you down. You’re an awesome woman who does so much out of your own generosity and today I am so grateful for Susan Garret.


    • Mary Cain says:
      Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 8:05pm

      I feel the same way… Susan I wish you hads seen Joel Osteen this morning… What you are talking about hte “Haters” is exactly what he spoke on… He words were”” PAY THEM NO MIND” Be an eagle and flyu abocve the crows and hawks… I have learned so much from you over the years, and will always be a part of your journey… If I may say this!!! You must say “I’m not here to please people but “GOD”.. This is what you are destiny so do it with Pride and Joy… Peace Out!!!


      • Susan says:
        Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 8:10pm

        Mary Cain you are such a blessing, not only in my life, but in the lives of all who know you. Love you!

  28. Tonya says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 3:08am

    Which is easiest on my dog’s body? Which is is best for the slow running handler? Which is easier to teach without equipment at home (other than plank, steps etc)?


  29. Vin says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 2:43am

    Personally I don’t have to be the best in the world, I just have to be the best to my dog and a 2 on 2 off works well for us. Good luck with your select few. And I don’t mean that in a horrid way. Maybe for my next dog, if there is another one.


  30. Jane Gray says:
    Friday, February 3, 2012 at 1:06am

    1st-Do I understand correctly that you have both stopped and running contacts? I would ultimately like to have RC, but for now I really need to do something. I am concerned about how to teach my dog the proper end position so as not to cause injury to their bodies. I hear, stopped contacts are hard on the shoulders & back.


    • Susan says:
      Friday, February 3, 2012 at 1:27am

      Hi Jane, yes my last three dogs (DeCaff, Encore & Feature) I trained both stopped and running contacts. Both were cued responses if I ask for a “run” they were not to stop if I say “target” they are to stop. All three dogs had/have only a stop on the seesaw, Encore and DeCaff have/had only a run on the A Frame and all three had/have both on the dogwalk.


      • Michelle says:
        Friday, February 3, 2012 at 1:29pm

        I understand the need and importance of running contacts, however, when doing gambles I can see the benefit of a stopped contact. Do you see this benefit or do you think they can do gambles just as well with running contacts.

  31. Shelley says:
    Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 11:46pm

    Susan could you address at some point, about dogs who are on a ‘go slow’ as they approach the contact point please. x


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 11:51pm

      That seems to be a popular questions so you can be sure I will build in some ideas into a webinar to you all over come it.


  32. Linda B says:
    Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 10:45pm

    Just recently started training my young dog for 2o2o contact. We have done board work, stair work and back-chained the bottom side of DW and AF. BUT when I put it all together she runs right off the end, like she is trying to stop but hasn’t figured out how to manage her speed into the 2o2o position. So what is the interim step I’m missing to help her manage herself into the end behavior.

    Thanks for the feedback.


  33. Debra Jones says:
    Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 9:25pm

    Sure wished I was a fly on the wall at the small contact class you are preparing, Susan! I know it’s going to be awesome. Being that I’m just beginning (at 57!) agility, what ever you include in the online contact course is going to be out of this world!!! Especially for us who can’t run fast…or run at all! LOL


    • Susan says:
      Friday, March 9, 2012 at 4:05pm

      Looks like you may get your wish Debra!


  34. DSMBC says:
    Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 8:56pm

    Thanks Susan. I also echo others comments, your recallers has made a Huge difference in our lives. I wish I had the time and money to do the running contacts course, hope you will have a DVD for sale someday!?

    Consistent, Independent contacts are what we are struggling with, plus the same issue many here have of stopping at the top or halfway down Or bailing all together — guessing it is just a lack of understanding about the job and criteria.


  35. Linda Knowles says:
    Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 8:42pm

    Susan, I have really enjoyed Recallers and Puppy Peaks. I attended one of your seminars years ago and even though I wrote you a letter after the seminar that I thought there should be more work, I still complimented you on being a great trainer. And now that you have offered to show us yourself training your dogs, it’s just amazing. Always wanted to come to Canada but never could make that trip. These courses are just amazing and even though I have trained my own dogs for around 14-15 years, my knowledge has expanded so much. Someone else mentioned about dogs are our pets firstly and thank you for noting that in all your training videos and webinars. I believe I have some of the same problems as everyone above concerning the contacts so I won’t add mine to the list. Thanks for thinking about people who can’t run 90 with their dogs to the end of the contacts. There seems to be a lot of us out here. Anyone for People Veterans Agility classes? LOL. Thanks again.


  36. Laurie says:
    Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 8:16pm

    I retrained to a stopped contact with my corgi. I can’t get him to miss the contact in practice, but I don’t like that he creeps into the zone. In competition, he still bails more than half of the time.


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