Sunday, January 30, 2011

Taking an Informational Dump!

Must empty my brain before bed, so that tomorrow I don't get mentally constipated or something...

I audited the popular "Starting Your Puppy" this evening with Silvia Trkman. She was, as promised, a good presenter.  You can see she is much more casual than others on the seminar circuit, or at least gave the appearance of "I like what I do for me" and not "DO IT OR YOU ARE WRONG!"

She mostly reiterated her known philosophy of tricks as a foundation for learning, and then expanded on a few other necessities for puppies. I liked that she explained that actually teaching a dog to run was tantamount to a good agility career. Many of the exercises involved rewarding motion (with you, not random).  It might be something many people do naturally, but not everyone does and (especially for certain breeds) it is a crucial step.

After learning to run, and learning to run with you as a handler, she explained that the next steps for her would involve teaching a wrap- the tighter, the better of course. She demonstrated shaping this behavior very patiently using an object (pole, cone, tree, etc).  The working pups practiced this briefly, then took turns learning the next step: send to the object, wrap, and accelerate out of the turn to chase you. Then of course, reward the motion with you. She explained that you can learn many handling maneuvers this way, including distance sending, wraps, front crosses and could close the exercise in a variety of ways: pivot in a circle, practice front crosses on the flat or simply rewarding forward. Silvia advocates learning handling on the flat before employing with obstacles; she also teaches many items separately until perfection is achieved (e.g. contacts, weaves, and start lines).

She did go over a few of the the most beneficial (in her opinion) tricks you can do with your dog: sit-up, back-up, figure eights, and most interestingly, tricks involving object interaction. I loved the idea of teaching pushing objects as a precursor to the teeter. Pushing in doors, drawers, skateboards etc, with gradual force should help the dog to feel comfortable with motion and to learn that they can control it.  She thought that basically anything you could do that would provide interaction with obstacles, whether it be the front feet or especially the back feet, was a must.

She did talk about about her heeling method as well (starting out as another kind of object interaction) as being good for focus, and remember to be working in many environments as well.  Everything started out as a trick, or used the trick as a stabilizer when working the environmental factors in. A recurring theme seemed to be... a lot of things can be boring to a puppy and are hard because of that fact, since you lose their attention. It can also then mean that you are boring to your dog. So, if you elicit fun things (chase games and fun tricks!) and are an active participant in the fun, then you will have a good chance at a successful team.

Overall, the takeaway points seem to be that you have to make sure you have taught them the process of learning and problem solving, then present your puppy with many, many variables, and make sure you are an ever active FUN partner to all of the above.

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