It’s finally spring in upstate NY. That means instead of enduring wet, 40 degree weather; we are celebrating wet 50 degree weather. I’m not complaining because while every walk means muddy feet…well I guess I mean muddy feet, legs, face and belly, I can get outside regularly to work with Tai. Now 16 months old, Tai is growing up.
I updated my training journal last week with lists of skills we’re working on…contacts, jumping, weaves, handling…it’s a long list that will keep us busy for the rest of spring and summer. I also have a tab called “Focus” as Tai is a typical male adolescent with a short attention span. And he is motion sensitive and he has very acute hearing. Oh, did I mention he is a border collie? I’m recording where we are working including the distractions, what we are working on, his level of intensity for his work and the number of times I lose his focus during the session. My definition of losing focus is simply a head check toward a barking dog in neighborhood that means even a little bit of work on my part to get him back in the game. Strict criteria but it helps me measure the value Tai has for the “work” we are doing.
That record keeping reminds me to be a good dog trainer: plan out our sessions, have all equipment ready, prepare the rewards I’m using and keep our sessions short. Following these simple steps vastly improve the chances Tai will stay focused and work with great intensity during our sessions. I also am ready to change the direction of our training if the neighbor lets out her barking, fence running cocker spaniel when we are in the middle of weave training! Sometimes I plan our work around distractions, sometimes they just happen. It’s all good.
Tai did a good job as a demo dog in classes this past weekend. He executed his flatwork (no obstacles) quite nicely as I made the point to the students that agility is really just a game of running around a field with your dog, chasing “reinforcement zone” while taking obstacles along the way. He also demoed his love of crate games – showing their value to build both self-control and drive. I was proud of my youngster!
It’s another rainy, cool day today. But we’ll be out there for sure. I’m excited to move to the next step in training his running dog walk a la Silvia Trkman. We are in the beginning stages – simply running across a flat carpet runner using the same striding as he would running fast across a field. But today we will move to a wide and thin wood plank. Thanks to the internet, I’m taking an on-line running contacts class with Silvia, submitting videos for feedback. Enjoy our first homework assignment in this clip (you will need to copy and past into your browser):