Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Processing the Information....

I am trying to process all the information I have heard, saw and learned at the Silvia Trkman seminars thus far. I have attended three sessions so far with three more to go. Yes, it is a bit overwhelming. Very refreshing as something has always drawn me to Silvia's techniques ever since I found her online a number of years ago. 

Her dogs are all so happy, and confident. Her methods are very straight forward and I really like that. Not a lot of rules and if something is done wrong, so what, just move on. It is not the end of the world, agility is just a game we play with our dogs after all.

I am processing everything into different sections and then will hit the high points, but it may take a few days to get it all organized. 

I really like Silvia's principals or her 10 Golden Rules as she puts it on her website and I try to follow them as much as I can. The need to walk your dog is nothing new. But walking your dog to increase the bond between the two of you is not often thought of. More that you walk your dog to give it exercise, which is true, but there is a bond that develops also. I walk my dog at least twice a day even if I don't get home until 9:00, we head out. Of course in MN in the middle of January sometimes the weather prevents it. And I will admit our walks are usually much shorter in the winter when our goal is at least a mile twice a day, longer if the weather permits. In the Spring, Summer and Fall we get in longer walks and try to get in about a hour twice a day.

But alas Reese is usually on leash for those walks or runs. Yes, I might run but Reese is trotting or she is on a long line and can run back and forth etc. I want to be able to find a place where she can run, really run!  That is a huge problem for us and for agility. Reese loves to run and agility is about running with a few obstacles thrown in the middle. I need to use running to motivate Reese on the agility field and if I can do that we will have it.

Zoomies on course are not an evil thing that need to be stopped and suppressed immediately, they can be used to our advantage so we will use them. Granted this is not such an issue anymore except for at new places, so we will see what happens tomorrow.

The thing that really struck me was when Silvia said, she can tell right away when she sees a dog who gets to run and one that doesn't. The dogs structure is different and the whole way they move is different.

I can see this with Reese as she bounces more up and down when she runs, instead of using smooth movements at least on courses. It is also one reason that I have trouble getting extension from her in her jumping. Granted I think I raised the jumps too fast for her, but I need to work stretching for her hips with her legs out behind her more, something a dog that runs free and fast is going to have more naturally.

And of course tricks is where it is at. Many people still scoff at the idea that it is all about tricks but that is what it is. Agility obstacles are just teaching the dog a behavior. Nothing hard about teaching the obstacles, it is the handling that makes agility hard. So why not teach the obstacles in a fun way through tricks. Makes sense to me.

Reese knows a lot of tricks and I have had a blast teaching them. Tricks also help to prevent injuries, another reason I teach them to Reese. Since she doesn't get to full out run a lot to develop those muscles we do the funny tricks like lifting her back legs up independently. Yes, she will throw this behavior onto the agility field too. Like coming down off the teeter or the dog walk if she is slightly to the edge at the down contact, she will still hold it with one back paw on and the other back paw much higher in the air. But it is a solid hold on the contact, not a paw flailing around in the air where she might pull a muscle.

By teaching these tricks you are able to strength train the dogs muscles that often don't get used as much if at all. Many people have heard if you have a backache do crunches. If you improve the strength of your stomach muscles your back muscles will improve too and they won't have to work as hard.

More strength = less chance of injury
More flexibility = less change of injury
More strange positions and movements the dog is used to = less chance of injury when stepping wrong.
An injury free dog makes me a happy handler!

Between spending more time walking with Reese and the time we have spent learning tricks we have developed a much tighter bond and working relationship. Sorry folks it hasn't been the time in a crate that she has spent away from me that made her want to work with me or be more focused on me. It has been the fun we have had while doing things together that improved our relationship. 

That being said the time Reese has spent in her crate has had its own value. So I won't discount that it hasn't helped her separation anxiety or helped her learn to comfort and rely on herself to cope when she is alone.

It is so nice to see someone like Silvia who truely wants the focus to be on fun not rules, and someone who is not as strict about criteria and still manages to get the end result she wants.

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