Wednesday, December 3, 2014

To be interested in learning, you must be challenged!

I was going to blog about something slightly different, but an email from a friend the other day really hit the core of this topic, Continuing Education.

Some friends and I were chatting about running really hard courses, both in competition and in practice.  It was mentioned that there are a number of people who are getting bored with agility.  Once you get a couple of MACH's/ADCH's that is not challenge enough anymore.  We were not trying to diminish that accomplishment (they are huge), but really expressing that we don't learn as much from the third MACH/ADCH as the first and that there has to be more challenges placed in front of us.

She said "People are not going to be interested in learning unless the test (agility test) gets harder"

I loved this statement.  When reflecting inwardly on this statement I find it to be very true or key to what keeps me motivated and learning.  For me personally, I always have to have challenges that are beyond my current capabilities.  This is what keeps me wanting to continue my education.  Think about it, why would you continue to learn calculus if you were only tested on multiplication flash cards?

Hoot pondering life

We as trainers and competitors are figuring how to train ourselves and our dogs with greater competency and efficiency than say even 5 years ago.  Our young novice dogs frequently have skills that our seasoned 7 year old dogs don't have.  Our teachers are presenting foundation classes that challenge the skills of my 10 year old agility dog.  Novice dogs are entering the ring with an intense love for the game.

I believe that we as trainers and competitors, have outpaced our agility organizations (USDAA, AKC, etc...).  We are learning, training, and adapting faster to harder challenges in our classes and daily training then these organizations can present courses to test those skills.  The gap has grown.  If the gap continues to grow, we are going to lose the innovators in our sport if we don't continue to challenge them intellectually.  People who need to be stimulated by the challenges will move on to new challenges. 

I will speak only for myself, I can get slightly bored.  Not because I can run every course clean, I don't.  But I want to come home from trials with a list of to-do items that inspire me to get better.  I want to see sequences that presented challenges.  Challenges that I had not thought about training until that day. Or perhaps caused me to think about my cues and feel the necessity to be even more clear for my dog.

How do you cue a tunnel entrance if it is two tunnels nested together?  How do you cue the dog walk when it is has a tunnel entrance on both sides?  What new skills do I need to develop to get the backside of a jump right after a straight tunnel?

For me the challenges don't always have to be physical (for me or my dog), but must always grab my intellect.

P.S. Training puppies keeps me interested, but I can't keep getting puppies

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hoot's Running Dog Walk

Hoot will be the second dog that I have trained on a running dog walk.  It is interesting to me how it is still a huge learning experience, but in different ways.

It seems the first time around you don't really know the process, but you have to have patience and faith in that process as it is revealed.  This second time, I know the process, but there are different twists and turns in the journey because of a different dog.

Split was my first dog that I trained.  He was 7 when I re-trained him from a 4 on.  Some things were easy for him because of his experiences and some things were hard because of his experiences.  For instance, proofing with motion was really easy.  He already knew to stay on task when I am running crazy next to him.  He understood that the yellow zone was really important already.  Getting him into a full stride was hard, really hard.  He wants to take one more stride than he needs on the dog walk.  But, that means that his turns off the dog walk are easier for him.

Hoot is my second walk down this path.  She is a puppy with no prior experience.

Hoot has been very easy to get her to adjust her stride, she totally loves the process (actually Split does too), and if she has epic failures it is really easy to take her back a step and get her back on track.  But she doesn't take to changes as easily as Split.

Last week I tried to see if I could get her to run to a dead toy.  This would allow me a bit more freedom to begin to introduce motion.  She runs to the dead toy like a champ, but she gives me 3.5 strides on the dog walk (4 being ideal).  3.5 strides leaves less time to adjust strides to hit the yellow.  So, back to tossing the toy I go.  I will just try to throw it earlier and earlier to see if I can ease into it.

Also, she can tolerate some faster starts (like from a tunnel), but I can't do a whole session of them.  She begins to give me less strides again.

The absolute nicest thing about doing a running dog walk with Hoot is she resets herself.  That is, after she has been rewarded she knows we will be doing it again.  She runs to the start, places herself where I have been starting her and she is ready to run again!