Training indoors after my Christmas break went extremely well. I’d made a plan of what to train with each dog. However, having a plan is nowhere near enough. If training is going to lead anywhere, it’s important to have a precise idea of where the dog is in it’s learning process and also what the success criteria are for the particular session.
My training this time round consisted of simple elements and with the sole purpose of getting back into the swing of things. With the exception of Busy not remembering her stand command, each dog performed exceptionally well with their chosen focus areas. Which brings me to the title of this post.

When everything is done fabulously well, it’s very easy to either do repetitions or add other exercises to the session. If the dog performs to the success criteria or above the very first time, there is a risk of the dog achieving less in a repetition. The learning process is supported best, when we stop in time. The only thing that I ended up working on was the lost stand command. All the other things, we did only once. This meant that the session was over after 40 minutes and I had three dogs with me.

They were not tired, but training sessions are never in order to tire my dogs out. If I’d added exercises, that I hadn’t prepared for, then I wouldn’t have had a precise idea of the dogs status or the success criteria. That would be more of a spur of the moment thing, with the risk of me making mistakes.

Remembering this, is very easy for me when I train obedience. I think it’s due to the fact, that I am aware of what I am working towards and can see every step of the way very clearly and in detail. I know when the dog has enhanced its performance and every tiny development has its worth, which I hang on to by stopping in time. Sometimes I stop building on what the dog can and spend some time maintaining the new skill by doing the exercise just once with the same success criteria. This strengthens the exercise, so that I can build on it at a later date without risk of it crumbling away again.

If only I could do this with agility. Unfortunately I can’t see every step on the way and I can’t just feel, when I need to stop up and repeat without building. I get greedy, when it goes well and want more. So remembering to stop in time is something I have to remind myself of every single time I go out. I’m getting better at it and tell myself that it’s better I build too slowly rather than too fast. With this very conscious thought, when I train agility, I can feel my dogs progressing.

So the last two days I’ve trained agility, because all of them are now on heat. I don’t go in the hall at this time for much the same reason for not doing many repetitions – I’d give them conditions that could open up for a deterioration of performance, as they would have to wear something to protect our carpets. They could of course get used to this, but it’s so rare, that it would be necessary, that I have chosen just not to use the hall.

The plan for training was running contacts for all and different sections with jumps, seesaw and weave poles.

Running contacts are new to me. I’m trying to teach it to all four dogs at once, which is probably rather ambitious, when I really can’t see the steps along the way. I’ve been patiently spending plenty of time at each stage and not rushing too much. I’ve got them on the two planks placed on a plastic milk box now. They all learn differently and have different issues with the exercise. Busy Braindead has a recurring tendency to try to make things easier for herself by checking whether or not it really doesn’t give a reward, when she doesn’t do the job properly. The borders don’t try to cheat.

Merry is very conscientious and hits every time. However she is not very fast. I’ve chosen to ignore this and hope with practice she will get more confident.

Yoga is faster. She misses every now and again, but corrects herself next time around. This shows that she is thinking and her making mistakes is also a way of helping her become very conscious of the criteria.

Busy has never had anything but running contacts. She tends to look at me and lose focus on the mat at the end of the dogwalk. I’m changing the criteria for her and only rewarding, when she looks where she is going. As I’ve said before, she’s not that bright. If I use a treat dispenser, she only sees that and not the mat. If I lay the toy on the ground, she just runs and gets it without doing anything. Trying to call her back is pointless. Busy does as Busy wants! Treats landing on the ground at the end of the dogwalk have the best effect.

Baby Swift is without doubt the best of them. All the way along she has been the most consistent, collecting herself jumping in and out of a low box, landing in the same way on the mat on the ground and now learning to hit the mat on the ramp. She is only 7 months old, so I have ages to teach her this. The others are going to be competing again soon, so there is a far more limited time span. This puts the fine art of limitation under even more pressure, making it more important, that I remember to stop in time.