Saturday, February 12, 2011

Key Points from Silvia

The Foundations seminar from Silvia Trkman was great. She covered aspects of teaching all the obstacles and explained what she believes are the most important parts of covering an agility course. 

Some key points:

Agility should be fun for both the handler but especially the dog. Agility is all about running, and most dogs love to run so teach the dog to run. Such an easy concept but one that is often forgotten. Most handlers are so antsy to get their dogs on the equipment and start teaching contacts and other obstacles, that they lose sight of what most of the course is - running.

Teaching obstacles is easy but the main focus for dogs from the time they are very little is that they should learn to run. A course is really just something the dog runs through and then there are a few obstacles they have to go over.

Reward your dog a lot. Silvia was a bit surprised how little we reward our dogs here. She said even if you forget the course you need to keep directing your dog to a few obstacles then reward and redo the course the right way. It isn't fair to the dog to just stop. The dog was following your directions and shouldn't suffer because the you, the handler, has memory lapse. 

Talk to your dog. Use both body language AND verbals, why not you can. Isn't it only fair to give the dog all the information you can. If you can tell them and show them with your body - do it.

Silvia starts her dogs on jumps early, but makes it a very long process. So the dog is just reaching their full jump height when they are 18 months.

Start training sequencing without contact obstacles even if you don't have a start line yet. Start the dog from a send so they can work on running.

You can never have too much handler focus or obstacle focus. Reward what the dog is not good at, as usually they will be better with one or the other.

Reward coming to had a lot, especially while you are moving, running etc.
Turns are taught separately and are usually the first thing she starts working on.

She trains all her contact obstacles and weaves separately from everything else. She will only add them to sequences when they are solid and the dog can perform them independently. Then she will place them at the beginning or end of a sequence so that it is always easy to reward the dog.

For weaves she does not like using guide wires, gates, hoops etc. It makes it difficult to know if the dog is really understanding what you want. The dog can do it with the guides there, but take them away and they don't know what you want. So basically you still haven't taught anything.

You should always look for the dogs understanding so that you know you can go on.
2on/2off is taught with a trick, as is the teeter.

Never ask your dog to do something scary. You need to be able to be trusted. The dog needs to decide if it wants to do something. Never lure a dog into something they are afraid of.

If things go wrong no worries, just do it again but always remember to have fun!

One of the best quotes she had was,"Of course it helps if you run to the right obstacle."  But she said not to worry about all the wrong obstacles, just run to the right one. There will always be many more wrong obstacles on the course you can't worry about avoiding all of those, just run to the right one.

It was a lot of fun to hear about her training methods and hear the critiques she had for those that had working spots.  Lots of good handling and lots of improvement made during the day with her suggestions.

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