Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Value of Little Things...

WTF Chaos, does your tongue not turn with your body?

Before I start, the theme of tonight's photos are WTF...

Life goes on... REALLY?  It is amazing how much I invested in one little weekend, one little dream of making the team.  The crash afterwards, before the preparation for the World Champs start, was not pleasant... well that is putting it mildly.  My dogs, just by the way, don't like breaks... and YOU try explaining to them they actually need a rest now and again.  They were driving me absolutely nuts and offering the most insane behaviours to try and get me to do something with them.  Apparently walks and playing with the ball is just not good enough.  Oops, I think I might have created workaholic dogs?

We have had a few shows since my last post, some ups and downs and good and bad... the boys are keeping their stats up, got some clears, but you could see that we had not been training.  I was sloppy, out of place, oh hat and the TIMING... *bows head in shame*.  I will make a compilation at some point in time, but I have other things on my mind first...  actually I have LOTS of other things on my mind.  It is one of those times that I could write 70 blog posts one after the other, but then I am pretty sure all of you would click the 'unsuscribe button' before I get to the 5th one.  So I will just start off with this one...

WTF are you looking at Stein?

I started Agility like most people... absolutely clueless.  I did what I was told to do.  Training was different then, I would say that you 'taught' your dog to do each obstacle, but I would be lying.  You basically put your dog on lead and by way of repetition, the poor dogs eventually got the idea of what they were supposed to be doing... well kind of and in most cases.  Once they had the basic idea, some dude or dudette that was the 'trainer' would stick up a course and off you go.  That was training.  So my first dogs all thought 'training=running full course'.  Also while my first dogs didn't do too badly and got around courses, I can honestly say 'my first dogs = sucky (actual) Agility skills.'

Now while I won't deny the obvious advantage of occasionally training full courses, and while I assure you that part of my preparation for the World Champs will definitely involve training some of the judges's courses, I do think that a very large percentage of Agility handlers under-estimate the value of training 'little (oh so big)' things. And definitely over-estimate the value of training full courses the wrong way.  Want to know when Volt ran a full course for the first time?  Erm, well at his first show... Want to know how many full courses Volt has run since then?  I don't know, how many shows have we had?  He has had one actual training session on a full course.

WTF is that expression Spaz?

I believe in training skills, as in one skill at a time.  That is after all what a course is... a load of small individual skills, stringed together.  I have witnessed so many training session on full courses, where said handler and dog, would 'get around' and keep going, but not get one actual part right (I am a bit of a perfectionist, when I say get it 'right').  I have seen handlers struggling and struggling with one small aspect (let's call it a pole entry), eventually get it right and then... *shakes head in frustration*, because there IS a 'rest of the course' they will go on, instead of rewarding.

Get those one or two jumps that you have at home out in the garden ladies and gents!  Absolutely endless skills you can teach, without running a full course!

WTF is up with all that drool Spaz?

Another example of a little thing that can make a HUGE difference is that of... you guessed it... the verbal marker!  And that one is pretty useful WHILE training a full course, just by the by.  Scenario:  Alett stands next to show ring, handler Thingamabob runs, Thingamabob's dog misses the pole entry... then misses the pole entry again... and again... and another time (by this point Thingamabob is normally whispering threats of starvation and 'free to good home' under their breath), each missed entry is followed by a 'naughty' or a 'are you stupid'... wait Thingamabob's dog misses the entry yet again (at this point Alett looks away, cos she can't take it anymore).  When Alett looks back, the dog misses ANOTHER entry... But then, all of a sudden, pigs fly and clouds are made of cotton candy and Thingamabob's dog actually GETS the entry... so what does Thingamabob say at this point in time... NOTHING and then to make it worse, they just continue running the course (or normally attempting to, since Thingamabob's dog's brain is fried from missing 13 pole entries in a row)... so poor Thingamabob's dog has no clue that it was now RIGHT, correcto mundo, successful, on the spot, got an A...

Verbal markers are absolutely wonderful things ladies and gents, it's something that dog's VERY quickly learn to understand if you just USE them...

My point being, look for the little things in Agility, they are what maketh the dog and the handler and the course and the game and the everything...  A little thing is what will win it or lose it!

WTF was I doing? Javelin?


  1. I always wonder why less people use verbal markers on course. Your verbal markers are all you can take on course in a trial--why not make them meaningful? :)

  2. Well said Alet I said this lots of times when I came over to teach in South Africa countless times. Verbal makers are a massive part in ANY dog training not just agility. So important.

  3. Totally agree on the verbal markers! Makes a wealth of a difference if you can tell your dog "YES!" on a correct weave entry. In a way, it allows you to be running and training your dog at the same time :) Just wish people would start using them more often...

    I'm a bit unsure though about the argument against running full courses. I totally agree that we can accomplish huge amounts for our dogs just with a few jumps at home, perfecting turns, maneuvers, etc. But agility being a team sport, the full courses are - to me - the training for the handlers. If new handlers don't run those full courses, they won't learn how to troubleshoot on course, how to position themselves properly on a long sequence, how to plan their strategy, etc.

    Just my two cents on the matter!