Monthly Archives: December 2014

Traveling with a Rock Star (Puppy)

A few days ago we returned from a trip to Florida for the AKC Agility Invitational and Eukanuba show. Chili, Salsa, and Juno all got to represent their breeds in agility. They had some good runs and it was fun to show off what my girls can do. We may not be fast enough to be “real” competitors, but all three are great dogs and it’s fun to have an event that showcases agility as a sport for all breeds.

On Friday evening, PBGVCA held back to back specialty shows. Gromit had turned six months on Wednesday, so he was just barely old enough to show. I was on the fence about bringing him, since we weren’t taking the RV and I’ve heard so many horror stories about young puppies in high rise hotels, but decided that he would come along also. I ended up being really happy to have made this choice. Gromit had some success in the ring, but more importantly he had a terrific learning experience. Some factors that I think contributed to his ease of travel:

1. Gromit is really housebroken, not just crate trained. This meant he could have some freedom to play in the hotel rooms without worrying about accidents. Not being crated all of the time made the trip a lot less stressful for him. We did crate him while we slept at night and he was great about giving us time to get up and get ready for the day before taking him out. Getting to “out” meant going down a long hallway, riding an elevator, walking through the hotel lobby, and walking around to the side of the building to grass, so it wasn’t a quick process.

2. Traveling with older, calm dogs. My agility girls don’t necessarily like to play with their younger cousin, but seeing that they took everything in stride helped to show him that it wasn’t a big deal. Chili and Salsa aren’t necessarily confident dogs, in fact Gromit is much braver than they are, but both have made the trip several times before and knew what to expect.

3. Keeping up training and expectations in new places. Even on the road, we still practiced crate games, leash manners, sitting for meals, and other basic behaviors. I didn’t go anywhere with Gromit without food in my pocket in case a training opportunity arose. He is very familiar with the mat that I bring to training classes and trials, so having that at ringside gave him a comfortable place to hang out between classes.

IMG_2323

4.  Gromit has been many places since he was very young, including dog shows, agility trials, hunt tests, therapy visits to nursing homes and college campuses, training classes, dog friendly stores, and friend’s homes.  The trip wasn’t a big traumatic experience, just something that he has grow to expect.

IMG_2283

5.  Bottled water and forti-flora.  Need I say more?

Raising a puppy to handle this type of experience so well wasn’t easy.  Every day of Gromit’s life since he was born was been a learning experience for him and will continue to be, but to me it’s worth it to have a dog who can handle whatever life brings him.

IMG_2357 IMG_2279 IMG_2303

Continuing Education

This article is a part of Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day. To read more on this subject, please visit http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/continuing-education/

When I first became involved in the dog world in 1986, ideas about training and showing were very traditional. Newcomers of course had a lot to learn, but there wasn’t much expectation or opportunity for those with many years of involvement in dogs to improve or challenge their skills. To some extent, this mentality still exists today but mostly in the conformation and obedience worlds, rather than in younger sports like agility. For the most part though, I think there is a different expectation today. Dog training is definitely something that needs to be learned hands on, so a trainer with many years of experience likely has something to teach, but if they are still doing things the way they did in 1974, I would argue that they also have something to learn.

I am fortunate that dog training isn’t only my passion, but also my career. This means that I have more easy access to conferences and educational programs that some, but the wealth of information available is there for those who want to find it. Only a few short years ago, learning a new dog sport or training technique meant seeking out an experienced trainer and learning in person, whether through a local class or weekend seminar. There is a lot of value to this type of real time learning and feedback, but learning opportunities like this were often limited by geography and scheduling.  Another complication I often encountered was that my hounds struggle more than more traditional agility breeds to learn new things and remain motivated in a distracting environment, like a group class or seminar.  Even when I have been fortunate enough to work with instructors who have the patience to understand that not everyone progresses at the same rate, I have often found that I need to do most of the “real” training away from class.  Training alone can have a lot of benefits, but its also easy to fall into a rut or lose track of whether (or not) progress is being made.

A game changer for me in recent years has been the concept of online training classes.  Being able to work at my dogs’ pace without comparison to other breeds but still having the motivation and structure of a formal class gives us the best of both worlds.  Many classes offer levels of participation that include video feedback, but I have found that this isn’t always necessary.  Sure, this takes away some of the social aspect of dog training as a hobby, but as someone with a full time job and multiple dogs I can’t think of a more time efficient method of ensuring that everyone gets meaningful training time.  Even if I select a class for a particular dog, I often do the class activities with all of the hounds, with each working at their own level.  Learning online also allows access to a higher caliber of instruction than I would have easily available locally.  I do still belong to my local training club and take advantage of group training to practice around distractions, but feel like online training opportunities are going to be a big part of my dog training future.BK2_2194MD