So I’m not sure who I can rant about this to, so, lucky you guys get it.

I’ve recently been running a mixed online/in person Foundations class. One of the people coming along brought a 6 month old puppy, a min-pin x chihuahua. This dog is pretty cool, a bit bitey sometimes, decent drive and I saw good potential in it. The owner is an older woman, I don’t think she’d done any training like this before but her daughter has been training with me for a while now and is doing amazingly – she has been trying to help her Mum come to terms with the ideas in the class (eg. don’t lure your dog, click and treat, use toys to reward, etc).

Anyway, halfway through the course, the woman says she’s not going to continue because her dog is getting too silly. Because of the agility training.


Let me point out what we’ve learnt and worked on so far: how to use a clicker/shaping, shaping a wrap, doing basic body awareness tricks (back up, pivot, etc), restrained recalls, crate games, it’s your choice, footwork for front crosses, thinking about using toys and food in a fun and rewarding way, and going through tunnels with the owner at the other end. Not exactly what I’d call ‘full on crazy-making stuff’

Now, keep in mind this is a 6 month old dog – so, that’s adolescence too, right?

I’m just like… I don’t understand. It’s frustrating because MY confidence takes a hit. Like, damn, what if my class DID make this dog silly? But what is silly, anyway? Is the dog wanting to play more?? Or is it less focused? Pulling on a lead when walking? Biting more? I dunno, jumping around? Running around the house? Of those things, I could attribute ONE to agility training (playing more)… if anything, shaping and tricks makes them more focused, happier to work with you, happier to be with you… Ok, none of my dogs walk nicely on a lead without pulling but I never promised that, it’s agility. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve had someone else quit because of the same reason (I DID! A BC puppy with great potential) and I’m like: do you guys not realise that agility is FAST? It’s about RUNNING, and PLAYING, and being SILLY, and working together, and working through problems as a team? If you want a brain-dead dog that just plods along beside you with eyes glazed over, sure, go to the local obedience club. Then when you come back, I’m going to make your dog get happy and excited again!! And I’m going to teach it self control, too! but if you just do the crazy stuff then complain when it only wants to be crazy, that’s not my fault. You have the tools and exercises in front of you, with rationale as to why we’re doing each one…

Or, I dunno, TELL me that you’re feeling like this is a problem and I can tell you how to fix it! Don’t just quit. Like, I don’t care – she’s paid me the money and whatever, it’s just annoying to me on a personal level. It’s my job to help you with your dog training problems, so ask me to help. She hasn’t posted anything in the online class, despite regular reminders that she can post whenever and whatever she wants.


I don’t know if I should ask her “by the way, what behaviours are you talking about when you say “silly””, since I’ve already said: “no worries have a good life” (I um… don’t take ‘rejection’ well, so I tend to just get rid of people if they want out), and then see if I can point out how that has nothing to do with agility and how she can fix it? Or if that just looks desperate, like I’m trying to cling to her business.  I don’t know.
Anyway. I guess people can do what they want, and that’s fine.




open mind, open heart

This is a MUCH better family photo!

This is a MUCH better family photo! I haven’t bothered doing a stay yet, so he’s getting tied to stuff for photos 😉

So Loki’s breeder contacted me the other day, asking whether Lokidog was everything I expected & wanted.

I said yes, he’s a super little dude, but that we hadn’t found our ‘bond’ yet.

We chatted for a bit about puppies being puppies, and just needing to love them, and how if I hadn’t found that bond within the next few weeks to give him back (!!) because it wouldn’t be fair to either of us, etc etc. and I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, and here’s my thoughts:
It took me a long time to feel a ‘bond’ with Lu. In fact, it might not have been until just after the honeymoon and/or when she got sick that I really began to feel like I adored her. I feel like it’s taken us a very long time to get to know one another and how we work, and in some ways we’re still getting there, but it’s certainly there now.

I find it difficult, in general, to get emotionally attached to things, or to feel deep feelings about things, especially new things/people/whatever that maybe I don’t trust as much. Once that attachment is there, it’s very strong, but it takes a long time to develop, so therefore it wouldn’t be surprising that I don’t just fall ‘head over heels’ with him. I find it so fascinating how much this ‘dog training’ part of me has led me to really analyse my personality – I’ve certainly learnt a lot about myself over the last few months! I think that emotional investment thing makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable. Not enough rationality and logic, there. I want to think: I will love this puppy because he is smart and fast. Not: I will love this puppy because I love things and he is loveable. It’s a hard change to make.

All that being said, I’m looking at him with open eyes- to adore him as a little puppy, and to cherish his cuteness, and just try and love him, because he is very loveable. And look, it’s not that I don’t like him, I adore him and he’s awesome and great, but I don’t feel a deep strong bond just yet. It will come, but interestingly, even just shifting my mindset to be more “love him lots!” is making me feel all warm and fuzzy when he’s being particularly cute. I’m trying to be fun and spontaneous and move more when we play, and so far we’ve had lots of success with playing, making a liar of my last post.


Also, I’m thinking about doing this class– I’d be really curious about what she’d say about Lu… is her hesitation to run full speed in agility a confidence issue? And if so, how do we change that? And how do you motivate a dog who doesn’t have a ‘passion’ for anything much (except biting the hose but that isn’t exactly practical for a trial, or chasing kangaroos – also not so practical)? I was thinking about happy tricks and how she doesn’t really get happy, and then I thought about what she does when she does get happy, like when we come home, and she climbs up on us with her front feet. I’m thinking I shape this into a more useful trick, or make it into a game. Whether I smoosh her face, or push her and run back for her to put her paws back up or what, I’m not sure. And of course, any info I get would be beneficial for Loki, too, and it could be a nice complement to both Silvia’s stuff and the Fenzi play course I did.



He still never has his mouth open!!

highs and lows

I taught a class tonight with two newcomers. I did the same intro lesson as I did a few weeks ago…

And… let me say, it feels like a catastrophic failure. I introduced myself, what I’ve done, where I’ve trained, etc, then got them to do some restrained recalls to see how their dogs went and to get them into the idea of chasing and playing. Agility=fun, right?

So, the guy with the belgian shepherd goes first. That’s ok… then the lady with the rottie who doesn’t play with toys… all fine. Shepherd has another go, rottie slips her collar and starts getting all loud and full-on. It wasn’t aggression, or things would have been a lot more full-on, but the rottie is a big dog, and makes big-dog noises. The lady maintains that her dog loves everyone and wants to play. Ok… sure… I don’t intervene- I want the lady to deal with the problem. She calls the dog a few times and it comes.

We do a bit more of this, the rottie runs off again and starts getting all loud with the shepherd. The guy kicks this lady’s dog with his steel-capped boots. She gets the rottie, puts it on lead.

I suggest we have a break and do my human-clicker game. I think it’s really valuable for people to be in the position their dog is in when it’s trying to figure out what behaviour you want, and the game went down really well the other time. The guy was very sceptical. Having trained schutzhund or very strict obedience, the idea of ‘letting the dog think for itself’ was a hard one to grasp, I suspect. The lady had a similarly hard time. Trying to get them to understand the idea of gradual steps was also near-impossible. I’m sorry but you can’t sit down with a bucket of food and wait your dog out hoping it will eventually give you a handstand. No. So after that went poorly, they got their dogs to have a go with them. Slightly more success then, though the shepherd, perhaps not surprisingly, had a very difficult time looking away from its owner. It’s been taught attention=everything, which, I’m sorry, is going to be to your detriment in agility. Anyway, they did ok and the dogs were starting to interact with the objects.

We did some tunnels, again, somewhat failing there as although the shepherd was initially quite anxious about going in it, he wanted it longer straight away. Sure, maybe I should close the weave-poles and set up a course while we’re at it, I think you’re about ready!!!

Then it was really awkward because he started to talk about dog aggression and what I was going to do about it and that he had issues with it. I explained that it was our first time meeting and given what I saw we’ll probably keep the rottie on a long line for now and work on those issues. He proceeded to tell the woman that she needed to ‘nip the problem in the bud’ and should have punished her dog for running off (um, how? maybe she should have kicked it when it eventually came back to her. That would be AWESOME) and how his dog is superior (basically) because it focuses on him, not on anything else (so?). Meanwhile she gets all snarky (fair enough, he’s basically calling her dog aggressive) but that she’ll come back next week, and he says he will to (yayy… lucky me).

I suspect he thinks that because he’s done obedience, because he “taught” (read: lured) his dog to climb a ladder he’s ready to like, run a course. I’d love to set up a course and say: Ok, you don’t need foundation? Great. Run this.

I just feel so deflated- my first two were so great and open to the ideas and were playing with and having fun the whole time… these two looked sour for the whole hour and got forbid if their dogs should look somewhere or be distracted while we were standing around talking. This resulted in lots of collar pops and “SIT, yes, SIT!!! yes SIT! yes SIT!” (dog didn’t get rewarded for the yesses, by the way). So… fun times had by all, really.

Penny mentioned to me the idea of an “experience agility class”, charging twice as much and just getting people to play on the equipment and lure through the weaves and stuff. Once I have my dogwalk, I might seriously consider it cos it’ll mean people like this can just do that stuff and don’t have to mess around the foundation stuff.

thursday thoughts: football rules

So, having become fed-up with the fact that the two closest agility clubs here are full to the point that they’ve had to close their waiting lists to get in, most obedience clubs don’t let you do agility until your dog is 12 months old (any kind of agility), or run in very strict ‘modules’ that don’t allow anybody to train in a way slightly different to theirs (see this post for more), I decided that I’d start looking into setting up my own training, whether in club-form, small-group lessons form, etc. I’ve done enough foundation with Lu to figure I’ve got a pretty good starting point for other new people, and had an idea of how to run more advanced classes in a ‘workshop’ format, to take advantage of combined knowledge.

So, I got Husband on the phone and we called three of the local shires, to see if they had any sports-grounds or ovals with lights that we could use. Now that daylight savings is over, it’s getting dark by 5.30-6pm, so having classes at 6.30 or 7 wouldn’t work without lights, or without power (if I were to supply my own lights).

Now, you’d assume that all ovals and sportsgrounds would be property of the local council and therefore governed by them, right?

Well, the resounding answer we got was:
“Oh, well, there’s a football club there. You’ll have to talk to them.”


“Oh, well, there’s a football club there, so they’re in charge of those grounds”.


“Well, there’s a football club there, and they use the oval every night”


(and really, every night of the week?? Every. single. night???)

I’m sorry, but I thought that ovals were for the use of the whole community, not just AFL players? What if I had a soccer club? Or a Lacrosse Club (I’m assuming they play on ovals..?) or a cricket club, or some other kind of running-around-on-grass-club that required lights?

No, no. It’s all about football. Which really irritates me because, well, why? I know we’re ‘football mad’ down here, but I’m certainly not- I want to run my dog around with a group of other likeminded, responsible dog people, somewhere with lights, and at this point in time, the only place I can think of is a parking lot because everything else is under the control of football clubs, apparently.

I often wish that agility here would take off more, become bigger, more clubs, better handling, better instructors, more trials to choose from, trickier courses, more international seminars, etc, but when I look at the response I’ve received from our councils in reply to my request, I can see why it’s so difficult to make it go anywhere. Even horses have specific grounds they can use (pony-clubs). Where’s our dog specific grounds?!

Probably being used by football clubs, 7 nights a week.

a quick video for the weekend

I just finished this video from this week’s cik/tok training for my Silvia Trkman Foundation class… Today we had an absolute ball- we did 3 lots of figure-8s around trees that are really far apart, and she was just MOVING… it was the fastest I’ve seen her, the most confident, and the happiest doing Cik/tok. Progress, y’all!

Then we played the 2-ball tunnel game and that about wore her out. By the end of next week, I want to have a compilation video of cik/toks from next week, a compilation video of tunnels from the 2 weeks, and compilation of beginning weaves. Phew! Hopefully I can fit it all in with school going back.


ST Foundations: Assignment 1

Lu’s serious face and posture when you say “Ready…. ready….!” with
a ball in hand… 

So Assignment 1 for Silvia Trkman’s foundation class is up, and in a way I’m dreading it a bit because it’s the thing we’re really not that great at, which is sends to wraps.

I watch other people’s videos and their dogs dive into the wrap, whip around it, and dive out of it, full speed. I’m lucky if I get a lolling canter into it and around, and usually a sprint out. I can get more speed if I send her from a tunnel but that’s not what we’re meant to do.
So I’m thinking maybe she’s a dog that just does things, but doesn’t put 110% effort in… I know she’s not a BC, I’m not going to get those low to the ground sprints, but SOME kind of enthusiasm would be nice. Maybe that will come with maturity? I hope so, because I’m feeling very lacklustre right now.
And I shouldn’t judge her on this morning- she’d already been zooming around with Mal, she crashed into a wooden fence and hurt herself earlier, and I took her to a new park where we’d never worked before (very sniffy), so of course she’s not going to be her best, and I HAVE been getting some better drives into a wrap with a plastic bottle, or the hose or something, but only ever once or twice.

She just doesn’t seem to get enthusiastic. Like… when I get Mal out, I say “ready… ready….” and he’s dancing on his feet, tensed up, ready to do… whatever! If I say ready to Lu (and we’ve done plenty of practise with that cue!) she tenses and looks serious, but isn’t ready to burst out of her skin to do whatever’s about to happen. I wonder if that’s experience- she doesn’t 100% trust that she knows what to do next so she has to take it easy to figure it out. I know in new situations sometimes she’ll stop, observe, walk.. stop, observe, walk… She’s a thinker. I think all the thinking is slowing her down.

We’re also going to be doing some more tunnel work- I’ve been curving it gradually over the past couple of tries and I’m thinking the speed is still pretty good (as with her, it could always be better I think – which doesn’t bode well for running contacts, but that’s another story entirely) so then when she’s blasting through, I’ll start doing call to hand and turns, and maybe some obstacle discrimination with all my tunnels (fun tunnel-land!).

I just think Lu is so quick and so smart that she should really excel in agility… but I’m just not seeing the best from her right now.
We’ll try again tomorrow.