So I spent Christmas in Norway.

I was a bit sceptical about this holiday, because last time I was away, it was really hard on my legs. Not that I felt much at the time, apart from tired muscles, but when I got home and had rested a few days, my legs suddenly felt like they were giving way. One of them felt as if the knee was about to bend the wrong way and if I sat down, it took ages to straighten it out again. On top of that I stopped training at the gym at the start of this year and have been training at home, with only my body weight as the load. To be honest I haven’t been very systematic with that either.

Unbelievably, my legs have been brilliant. No aches, getting down the slopes with ease and without any stops all the way down. Who would have guessed that?

I had a go at crosscountry skiing again. It’s been my plan to do this, as I have a real job keeping warm because I freeze on the lifts. I have tried a tiny bit a couple of times before and am quite useless at it. I hired some skis and spent the last morning trying to control them and my balance. This resulted in a number of falls, several bruises in the making and stiffer legs afterwards.

The older I get, the easier it gets to give up on things, that are difficult or hard. Remembering always to think, Don’t be afraid to fail – be afraid not to try, I am buying a set, when I get home. That way I will end up trying again and again and again.

This is truly a beautiful country. Apart from once, I have managed to see a moose or two every time I’ve been in Hemsedal and saw one on the way home this time as well. Perfect.

At home Natalie has been dog-sitting. Swift has been somewhere else, so apart from stealing a few toilet rolls and not coming back when called, everything has been fine. Now to get back into the swing of things regarding their training.

I work with a paper trainings diary. To be honest there’s not quite enough space in it for four dogs, but I’ve introduced many abbreviations, so it functions quite well. I am a member of Hotdoghallen, which is a heated building with quality carpets on the floor and all obedience equipment. You can’t train agility in there, because the shock absorbency is no where near good enough. In my basement I have a room with one jump and good flooring, where I can practice without jumping and I have an agility course outside. I live in the country and rather open for a western wind, which means I can’t always train outside. My jumps are lightweight and tip over easily.

A break in training means a couple of training sessions, where we find one another and the exercises, but don’t try to build on anything. Going in to the session with an expectancy of mistakes or slight lack of precision. The goal is to re-establish what we had, before the break. Generally I choose my exercises before I leave the house and I choose which part of the exercise, I will focus on. Unless my purpose is to check whether or not the whole exercise is in place, I never train whole exercises. Most of my dogs only meet whole exercises at a competition and I have never trained sequences of exercises. The word transport doesn’t exist in my trainings dictionary. I have an expectancy that my dog is checked in regardless of what we do and moving from one spot to another in the ring, gives the dog a chance to use its body in the way it chooses, before it again has to use it, as I choose. My philosophy is that quantity has a detrimental effect on quality.  If I train after top quality, I will end up with a very motivated dog. It’s this motivation, that carries the quantity at a competition. Plus seeing a happy dog has enormous  value for me.

All exercises in our program consist of several or many elements and it’s these that I train. Each dog normally has three areas to train, whereas Swift has more, because her abilities only stretch to simple and isolated elements. The more complicated the section, the less things we train and complicated is defined by that particular dog. After a break we start with the dog’s easy exercises, whereas we start with the difficult exercises once we are back in the training process.

I differentiate between training and practice. I don’t practice very often, but always have the dog’s learning in focus. I’m thinking, What does this dog need to learn? When you think in these terms, it naturally limits what you can train and for how long.

Then I’m thinking about how to remove the other parts of the exercise as much as possible, so that the area of focus is visible to the dog. For example you don’t need to do heelwork in order to train the positions on the move. Once the dog is 100% on the verbal cues standing still, it needs to be 100% whilst moving. However you still don’t have to train the heelwork at the same time. You can walk backwards, sidewards and turn as well as moving forwards.

My plan for today is as follows:

Yoga going out to the target in the sendaway, possibly with a smaller target if it goes well at the first attempt. Stand, sit and down commands at my side with no movement. Distance control with focus on both stand and sit to down position.

Busy jumping the hurdle with a dumbbell. Reinforcing her wait and speed of pickup. Sendaway from heelwork position, aiming at not holding her, whilst she focuses on the box. Then heelwork in a long straight stretch, one stand position and another long stretch. This because she tries to stop up by herself after one position. So I’m adding value to moving forward by rewarding for the first stretch, doing one position whilst I stop up and then moving forward again, reinforcing that one position doesn’t necessarily mean we’re taking another and rewarding more after the second stretch of heelwork.

Swift has one-step heelwork to practice, where my focus is on her body and head position and her movement. The retrieve where she walks a couple og meters and sits without adjusting her grip on the dumbbell. Her stay where she holds her position, whilst I move in next to her and doesn’t drop her head, whilst I move away from her. At this point I am still only about two meters away.

Merry is in season and not training in the hall whilst that’s the case.

Let’s see how that goes!