Zest has been working hard at Agility

02/08/2017

Zest has been working hard at Agility

Our last few weeks have been so exciting with our agility coming together and us winning several classes.  This means we have won up to the next grade in agility and will soon be competing in Grade 4.

 

Zest is gaining confidence in the ring and it is really showing in our agility. Here are some of our runs from the last couple of shows:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca0B_Oaqc9E

 

I reflected on our relatively short time together teaching Zest agility and that this was a reflection on 18 months of agility training. Before this and still now I work on making sure when I train I make the most of our short training sessions.

 

Here are my top 10 tips for effective training in many disciplines.

  • Millionaires don’t need to work – If your dog has food available all the time and more toys than they know what to do with they have no need to work with you. I do give my dogs toys in the house but the special toys she really loves I save for our training session and to strengthen our bond. And a portion of her food is used for training.
  • The way you do anything is the way you do everything – If I ask for the sit in the house I only want to ask once, because on an agility course I only have a split second to give my verbal cues and I need an immediate response to them. In the same way if you want an amazing stay from your dog do you reinforce this in all areas of your life
  • Who is the trainer? – I often ask myself this question. Every minute your dogs is awake and interacting with you training is occurring… and it isn’t always the human doing the training. Dogs are very proficient human trainers as well. One of my previous dogs requested to have the fire turned on after a cold walk and trained a few members of our family to do this as well. It’s not always a bad thing that our dogs train us but we do need to recognise if they are doing it.
  • Self-Control allows more flexible training – If we can train self-control into our dogs using many fun games everything else in training is 10 times easier and more efficient. Imagine a dog never trying to steal treats or taking a toy when they haven’t done the correct behaviour. This makes training so much easier I could never go back from this way of training.
  • Understand your dog’s biggest rewards and learn how to use them to your advantage – Ideally the best reward for your dog is you via a treat or toy but for some working breeds particularly it may be other things. If you know what they are and you have the creativity to learn how to control them then training motivation can go through the roof.
  • Help your dog not be afraid to fail – I love clicker training and shaping as the lack of a click just encourages the dog to attempt another behaviour instead. In many dog sports we need to have a dog that is will to do behaviours quickly, the more confident the dog is the faster they are willing to attempt behaviours. If they perceive that a bad thing might happen if they go wrong then they will go slower to ensure less errors are made.
  • Turn weaknesses into strengths –Enjoy watching how your dog learns and use your dog’s biggest strengths to help them overcome their biggest weaknesses. If I am training a particularly challenging behaviour I will sandwich the session with things that build my dogs confidence to attempt more challenging things.
  • Keep your training sessions short – I love sessions of around 5 minutes for my dogs sometimes they will be shorter or longer but I find this gives maximum absorption of information and learning from the lesson.
  • Take training on the road – Make sure once you have a behaviour you take it to different environments, for every behaviour you do this with the generalisation of the next behaviour will become easier.
  • Record keep – One of the biggest struggles I see is people not realising how far they have come and loosing motivation. This isn’t because they haven’t come a long way but because they can’t remember their starting point. Look back a few months ago and see what has improved, if you don’t record keep you won’t know. It also allows you to notice patterns and become a better problem solver for your dog.

 

Me and Zest love using all of the point above to build our speed and accuracy on course.

 

We are looking forward to competing in our new grade and moving forwards as a team.

 

Love and Licks

 

Nicola and Zest

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