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).