Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Foundation Pays, Young Dogs and When the Time is Right

Not only is my Sheltie awesome, but foundation pays off big time.  Yes, this post is going to be about the little Steiner Meister.  First I will answer a question that someone asked me this week... How many years do I like to have in between getting a new dog.  Honestly years or time for that matter has nothing to do with it. Which is probably a good thing, since remembering things like that is a HUGE weakness and I would probably just forget to get a puppy.  I can't even remember how long me and the hubby have been together...  I will start considering a new pup, when my current working dog starts to succeed.  Success is a very wide term in this case, but when I can confidently step up to the line, every single time and say 'may dog is capable of going clear' (ja, it is ME who lacks the capability most of the time, I know), when I know my dog can perform each obstacle to my satisfaction, when training turns into fine-tuning and maintenance, then I will start thinking about a new dog.  Some people prefer only having one working dog and will only get a new pup when their current dog is about to retire.  I am WAY too addicted to agility for that, although I have to admit I don't think I will be able to run more than two (MAYBE three) competitive dogs at a time. It is hard work.  I have to say that I often see people get one pup on the other, thinking that they will 'solve the previous problem on the next dog', instead of solving it in the FIRST dog to start off with.  This doesn't really work.  It's kind of like buying a new bicycle instead of learning how to fix a flat tire.  And I have to say, I feel my timing between Chaos and Volt has been very good.  However, I might get another puppy in a shorter time period now, since Volt seems to be a quick learner.  Haha, but lets not get two or three years ahead of myself.

It is always interesting to me how people 'handle' their young dogs in general.  Training and socially and what they expose the dogs to.  While I try not to overwhelm my dogs, I am of the opinion that they have to learn to fit into my lifestyle and this has always worked for me.  Training wise I am a lot more fussy and particular.  I know what I want to do and I stick to it, I am not inflexible at all, but I have a plan.  I can also be very critical of others, lets be honest.  It is probably a bad quality on my part, but I promise I will work on it.  My biggest problem is with people just doing TOO much with their young dogs...

1.  Too much of nothing:  People that completely leave their young dogs with no foundation and no boundaries.  Mostly these trainers let their dog reach the magical age of 1 year and all of a sudden expect the dog to just LEARN everything, normally they expect this within two months.
2.  Too much Shaping:  While I use shaping as a training technique for certain things, I honestly believe that it has its place.  Even shaping should have an off switch.  I have just seen dogs go completely ADD. I am now waiting for the hail of bullets from all the shapers to hit *ducks*.
3.  Too much training:  The worst kind of 'too muchers'.  By 6 months old their dogs are doing full agility courses, are running contacts 13 times over and can weave.  This is wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start.
4.  Too much coddling: The paranoids and baby-talkers.  While we have to protect our puppies from injury and disease and getting mauled and all of these nasty things, we cannot wrap them in little pieces of cotton wool and cover them in bubble wrap.  And 'coochie poochie baby bear dog', has four legs to walk on and I assure you they understand when you speak in a normal tone of voice.

One of my rules when training a puppy and now I am talking AGILITY SPECIFIC training, is that I will never teach more than on fundamental aspect at a time.  I will use my current example:  Weave Poles is a fundamental concept (with many secondary issues, like entries, drive forward, striding etc), Contact Behaviour is also a fundamental concept.  While I was teaching Volt to weave, I didn't expect him to wrap his poor little brain (I am not implying he is stupid, but he really IS very little) around stopping in a 2o2o at the same time.  Now Volt is weaving at about a 90% consistency rate, while we still have tons to work on, like crosses, entries, speed, tapering, I can now stagger the next fundamental concept.  I can hear the screams of protest from across the world of people that have had success in teaching multiple things at the same time and I am not denying that.  This is my rule and I stick to it.

Anyhow, I did a ton of foundation contact training with Volt between 8 and 11 months, but when I started teaching the poles I stopped that.  So for just over three months, Volt has done no contact training.  Today I stuck down the plank expecting anything, but foundation definitely paid off.  Here is a short clip from his first training session back at contacts:

Still a ton of work to be done, but at least I know the foundation stuck.  I don't know if Volt will be ready to compete at 18 months, too much left to do and I let my dogs determine the pace of their training.  I am happy with him and I already recognise one or two little mistakes that I have made which I need to rectify, but all in all I am happy with his progress.  I am even happier with his enthusiasm.

Unfortunately no Sheltie pics, seeing as they are on my still broken laptop, sigh.

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