Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I have trained in some crazy places!

Bloggers unite to talk about Backyard Training

When I think of backyard training what typically comes to mind is: training alone, working on very targeted skills, and working in smaller spaces in my backyard.  What kinds of courses and skills can you train in small places?

Then I really started to think about my "training program" (I will call it that so it sounds really official) and it occurred to me that I have done some things that people might perceive as crazy and I have trained my dog in places (and people probably did perceive me as crazy).  Really the whole world is your backyard and you can use it to learn/train/proof fundamental skills.  You just have to have a little crazy in you :)

First, let me say, I am an introvert.  Not just a little bit introverted, but a lot!!  But the thing that I have going for myself is I get possessed by my goals.  That possession/obsession tends to carry me through some things that I would otherwise find painful--like training in crazy places.

I find that the thing that drives me to do crazy things is proofing some kind of skill with my dogs.  Tangle has been the victim of this most often, but all three of my dogs are not strangers to the oddity of my ways.  With all of my dogs I am trying to bridge the gap between "he does it perfect in the backyard" and "he can do it perfectly in a trial".  Right?  The holy grail of agility dog training.

Does your dogs have a brilliant stay at the start line, but could not, for even a second stay in the kitchen? The skill hasn't been proofed in all sorts of placed or in all sorts of ways.

When I was trying to get Tip to have more independent weave poles I loaded a set of six in the car (now I would probably load 2 sets of 2x2's).  We went to a quiet park, to a noisy park with lots of people (where we gathered a nice audience), to a horse barn at the fairgrounds (while throwing tug toys at her), etc..You get the idea.  Tip does have very independent weave poles now, BTW.

I have a plank (not painted or anything fancy).  Tangle I practiced his 2o2o in many different places.  In the front yard, back yard, at a trial, at a construction site.  You get the idea.  He can do his 2o2o with amazing distractions now.  And really, distractions are what is going on at a trial.

Tangle Tug Tour #3
One of my more recent "tours" was in the name of getting Tangle comfortable playing in strange places.  He was very good at playing at home (you know because you just play in your backyard and don't get the dog out).  He would NOT tug any place but home.  Tugging is essential to getting him warmed up and ready to drive through an agility course. So, I loaded my dog and a few of his favorite tug toys into the car.  We tugged at a quiet park, at the bank and Starbucks, at REI, and at 13,000 on top of a mountain.  Any place I don't normally play with my dog.  I wanted him to know that playing is important.

I proof start line stays on a soccer field.  No equipment, just me and the dogs.  I train it in a pack.  All three dogs are in a sit/stay, I start running, I call one of their names and give the release word "OK". The others must stay until their name is called.  There is motion, I throw toys, I use the other dogs as distractions.  Yes, I must ultimately proof in the agility ring, but if I can get close before I get there I am happy.  Agility rings at trials aren't frequent enough, are expensive, and you only get a few shots!  (Tip can do this skill hands down, but can't stay in the ring--why, because I didn't proof it there--ops).

So, really my point is that we are only limited by how we define "backyard".  Don't be confined by what is simply behind your house.  It is probably better for the dog in the long run anyway.