Archive for February, 2009


On Being a Champion

Friday, February 27, 2009

When I was 18 years old I went to work on a dairy farm. Now I was born and raised in a city of 300,000 people. I had no idea what to expect or what cows were all about. I applied to over 50 jobs that summer, most of them in a government program for finding students work. The only one that offered me a job was the Junior Agriculturist Program. I was a Jr Ag. The farmer I was sent to work for (Morely) and his wife (Thelma) used to poke fun at me because I dragged my heels and walked with my head down all the time. Then, after being at the farm for 6 days we had a Sunday afternoon off. Morely got out a baseball bat and some balls  and two of his kids, a couple of the hired hands and I went to the field where Morely hit out fly balls to us. I rarely missed one. I was bowling people over, sprinting half way across the farm and skidding through cow paddies in order to get to a ball before it hit the ground. When it was all over Morely said to me. “You  need to find a job that you can turn into a game for yourself and then you will be great at it!”  It was such an innocent comment. One that you would make to someone just in passing, half mocking them and then never give it a second thought. However I have never forgotten it. I returned to that farm to milk cows for many summers after that, and yes I became great at it. I still remember that Sunday afternoon like it was yesterday and not all of those 11 years ago. . . okay you can stop laughing now.  

I once read this quote “Champions in any field make a habit of doing things others find boring or uncomfortable.” I thought to myself, I really like the quote but it isn’t me. I would lose interest in things that were boring or uncomfortable, just like anyone else I would imagine. So how have I have managed to do alot of winning, even before I ever started in dog agility.  I was on championship hockey and basketball teams starting when I was a kid. I won events in horse Dressage and did an incredible amount of winning in flyball and obedience prior to coming to agility. Here is how I changed the quote to better describe my thoughts on becoming a champion  “Champions in any field make a habit of taking things that other people find boring or uncomfortable and turning them into a game for themselves.”  It is all about the game for me, always has been, always will be.  

 I still drive up to that farm to visit from time to time, and I am still very grateful for all of the varied experiences that I enjoyed there (I have more cow stories then you can imagine!)


Free Stuff for You

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Catchy title for a blog post eh? But really I have some good stuff for all of you and it is f-r-e-e! I have decided to give away 31 dog training tips during the month of March, but there is catch. It is a perk I am only extending to those of you that are signed up to my newsletter. If you sign up half way through the month you will not have access to any newsletter I may have already sent out (mostly because I don’t know how to access them once I have sent them:)). If you are already a newsletter subscriber (you would have received a newsletter yesterday or today) do nothing and these tips will start appearing March 1st. If you are not a subscriber sign up now at our website, on the front page under Susan’s Newsletter or Sign up for Our Newsletter or something like that. So get the word out to all of your friends as I will not be posting these tips anywhere else. If you think this blog has been helpful to you, then you WILL want to be on the list to receive the free dog training tips that I have planned–everything from how I pick a puppy to how I walk an agility course.  Stayed tuned, March will be action packed for all of us, I for one have 16 seminars days to teach throughout the month of March, can’t get more action-packed then that (unless of course you have 17, in which case I would have to have 18 because that is just the kind of person that I am:)).

Today I am grateful for all of the new trick training ideas everyone sent me yesterday. My dogs won’t know what hit them!


Idea List for Shaping

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Okay, to follow up on the shaping post, here is my, not-yet-completed list of things to shape. When I get it finished, I will post in on my website. If you would, please look over the list, alert me to any duplications you see and write up your own suggestions. They don’t need to be “tricks” but rather responses you can shape. Some with props, some without. Certainly there are some behaviours unique to certain dogs. It may be easier to teach one do to speak quietly than another. Some of the behaviours I have taught to one of my dogs I likely wouldn’t consider for another (for example I don’t know if I would trust Buzz to hold a lite cigarette the way I did Stoni (he may decide he liked it too much but knowing him he would move on and get with Micheal Phelps for some real action:))).  Seriously there are physical strengths and weaknesses that makes one response more suitable for one dog over another. I wouldn’t teach a hand stand to a dog that wants to pull on their front end in agility but I would get them walking upright (provided they were strong enough for it). You also must consider the age, and physical attributes of your dog and perhaps consult a PT before you undertake them. Mostly they should be fun for both of you.

List of Ideas to Shape

  1. Shake a Paw 
  2. ItsYerChoice (cookies on your paws, face etc)                    

    Stoni performing "hold" and "Pals" - -  Shelby being a good sport!

    Stoni performing "hold" and "Pals" - - Shelby being a good sport!

  3. Wave
  4. Bow
  5. Cross Paws in Down
  6. Walk while crossing paws
  7. Chase tail one way then the other
  8. Show me Your Belly
  9. Stretch while on your back
  10. Speak
  11. Speak quietly
  12. Talk (different than barking)
  13. Crawl
  14. Back up
  15. Jump Into My Arms
  16. Limping on front leg
  17. Don’t Peak (cover your eyes)
  18. Dig
  19. Roll Over (one way) Tumble (the other)
  20. Play Dead 
  21. Moonwalk (back up while laying down)
  22. Pop Backwards vs walk backwards
  23. Jump Up & Down on the spot
  24. Walk on Front Paws
  25. Hold (any item)                    

    Twister praying.

    Twister praying.

  26. Stretch
  27. Get Your Tail (wrap from legs around mine)
  28. Take my Leg
  29. Where’s Your Big Butt (lay down and put your butt in the air)
  30. Target yourself with your nose
  31. Meow (lick Lips & growl)
  32. Dead Dog  
  33. Pray 
  34. Lick your lips
  35. Wipe your face
  36. cover your eyes
  37. In the chair
  38. Lift your rear leg on a person/chair etc
  39. Wrap yourself in a blanket
  40. Turn on/off lights
  41. “no” turn head in disagreement (do you agree?)
  42. sit up pretty
  43. Stand tall
  44. transition from sit pretty to tallpict2774
  45. Transition from tall to sit pretty
  46. Cover nose with both paws
  47. yawn
  48. open door / pull latch
  49. pick up and carry 
  50. growl/ show teeth
  51. lick your nose
  52. go under chair
  53. back flip
  54. circle around something
  55. High Five/10
  56. target with rear paw                         Feature doing puppy Yoga; “downward facing dog”
  57. Pals-put your arm around another dog                    
  58. Stand on two paws (on same side)
  59. Go to target & sit or down
  60. retrieve Kleenex
  61. Go-see–visit someone           
  62. Walk upright on hind legs         

    Feature sits pretty

    Feature sits pretty

  63. circle right, circle left
  64. Put toys away 
  65. Put stuff in the trash
  66. Discriminate items on scent
  67. Discriminate items on sight
  68. Lay flat out on your side
  69. Target your butt with your nose
  70. Pivot on front legs
  71. Pivot on rear legs (turn on haunches)
  72. Show your teeth/smile
  73. In a box then shrink it down—all paws in a tiny tupperware container
  74. Stand with your front paws on my shoes
  75. Walk with your front paws on my shoes
  76. Walk up the walk with rear legs 
  77. Puppy yoga (downward facing dog)
  78. Jump into arms
  79. Jump through my arms
  80. Jump and spin off of me
  81. Jump onto my back
  82.  weaving backwards between legs                   

    Encore playing ItsYerChoice

    Encore playing ItsYerChoice

  83.  Puppy Pretzel (roll your head as far between your front legs as possible)
  84. Bear Skin run – lay flat on with legs behind you and head on the ground
  85.  Praying on the bedside or chair
  86. Kill the toy (shake it violently)
  87. Clean the floor (allow me to drag you)
  88.  Balance on a physio disc
  89. Sitting pretty lifting one front paw then the other
  90. Give kisses
  91. Hand Target
  92. Give kisses to another dog
  93. Climb a ladder
  94. Ride a skate board
  95. Be pulled by another dog
  96. Stand with your 4 paws on my 2 legs (while I am sitting on the floor with my legs out in front)
  97. Rest your head flat on the floor
  98. Front paws up on the wall (like you are going to be frisked by a policeman)
  99. Hide your head under the couch
  100. Go to your bed,matt or other targeted location


Today I am grateful for the unique behaviours each of my dogs have learned over the years.


The Three Crucial Keys to Agility Greatness

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So you want to know what I view as the three most things in creating a great agility dog? Foundation, foundation, foundation. So few people find the joy in the little stuff. Everyone wants to jump in and do the sexy stuff so they sequence their 5 month old puppies between uprights with a bar on the ground or they  get working their running contacts or sending their wee puppy through a open row of weave poles. That’s the sexy stuff.  Meanwhile my dogs do Crate Games, Recalls, Body Awareness Exercises, Puppy Grids and Shadow Handling Games.  They do not see agility obstacles until they are close to a year old (with the exception of the table which I teach very early on–a low one, 4″ high). My dogs  don’t start sequencing jumps until they are 15 months or older. I don’t think holding off on the so-called fun-stuff has hurt me at all. Feature is now now the third dog in a row that I have owned that has won a big class over seasoned agility dogs within their first couple months of trialling. I am sure to someone watching, it would appear that my young  dog has been running courses from the time she was just a puppy.  To quote John Pinette, “oh, nay nay.”  The reason for my dogs early success has little to do with agility, and  a great deal to do with  foundation training. As I say over and over, I focus on raising a great family pet and the attributes that make a great family pet also lay the foundation for a phenomenal agility dog. With a solid foundation the rest of agility training (handling sequences, training weave poles or contacts) comes quickly and relatively easily. Without this proper foundation you will be frustratedly training and re-training, as you seek a level excellence that may elude you throughout your dog’s entire career. Find the joy in the training the small stuff or what I consider the “important stuff.”  Plan for more time on Crate Games and One Jump Exercises and less time trying to run full courses. Anyone can do it, it is all about focusing on the ground floor as you work your way up to the top floor.

Today I am grateful I can still yak to John on the phone when I am so far away teaching (. . . yeah, I am sure John is really grateful for this too:))


MAC Trial

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Well another one in the books. It was cold and snowy here the first day I arrived in Minnesota, well dah. It is Minnesota and it is February! A really well run trial. The girls from Omaha were up and I have to thank Brittney and Dana for making sure my runs got videoed. Some of the runs were a dog’s breakfast.  The  footing was new for me and my dogs, very deep, loose footing. Great for landing, nice and soft for the dogs but very tough for my short little legs to run through. Feature adjusted well and won all her classes on Sunday. She now needs only 2 legs to move into Masters. Encore and I OTOH had the worst weekend of agility we have ever had together. She had a few bars down in her first run but Carol Smorch worked on her and it really made a big difference.  She did have some very pretty runs, winning Standard today and getting the odd other leg but I am just not used to her and I not being in ‘sync’ when we run together. It is like she is driving so hard and fast she is anticipating where the course will go rather than allowing me to show her. My back has been bothering me off and on for the last few months so I am not moving as well as I used to, plus I am in the worst shape I have been in in the last few years. I am sure that all of that has some impact on her. I will have to study the video tapes both from Florida and from Minnesota and see what I may be missing because her consistency is not the way it should be and certainly is not typical for missy En.  The highlight of the weekend, aside from the great company, would have to be the two girlies each winning their height class in the Grand Prix on Saturday.  Here is the video.  Judge Cherie Whittenburg put up a challenging but fun course, I for one obviously enjoyed running it!  

I teach for the next two days here in Minnesota before I head down to Wisconsin on Wednesday where I start a five day teaching stint there. 

Today I am grateful for the new friends I am meeting in Minnesota, great hospitality and the dry roads for driving:)


Time Alone

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Well I just finished a long drive from home to Minnesota. I decided to drive and not fly as I wanted to bring both Encore and Feature so I could put them in a trial here before I start my teaching.  It is a bit risky driving from Canada around the great lakes and up to Minnesota (it sounds weird to be driving up to Mn when you live up at Canada to start doesn’t it:)). When I was in the veterinary pharmaceutical sales industry I used to drive about 30-40,000 mile a year, every year for 15 years. I am a good driver, one of the few people that made it through my years as a rep without ever having a mishap with my company car. However driving, like any skill, weakens without practice. I must admit in the last 10 years I rarely drive. Anywhere John and I go together he does all the driving. I think it started because he is a bit of a nervous passenger but now I have learned to love to be the passenger. My van is over 3 years old and still does not have 50,000 km (20,000 miles) on it yet.  Most of the miles John has put on it. Really the only time I drive it is to go to church and that is it. When I am home I am home and I try not to go anywhere:). So this big adventure to Minnesota and Wisconsin is a whole lotta driving from my point of view. It was about 12oo km (720 miles).  I was lucky in that I only had about 1 hour of snowy weather to drive through the rest was absolutely perfect conditions.  I started out at 2:30 Thursday afternoon and drove until about 8:30 at night. I knew my driving skills where pretty rusty when at 7:45 last night (about 2 hour past sunset) I realized I had been driving without my headlights. Actually, if this is going to be true confession time,  I didn’t make the realization myself. I figured the trucker behind me was either trying to induce me to  have an epileptic  seizure with all of his headlight flashing or he was trying to convey something really important to me. Eventually I got the message and put the lights on, poor man, I swear he must have thrown out a shoulder with all the work he had to do on his light switch. Please no one tell John, my absent mindedness is a bit of a sore point with him:).  When I finally arrived at Carol and Terry Smorch’s tonight I realized how much I enjoyed my drive. God bless XM radio. It can keep you entertained for hours without you knowing it. I also figured out (aaah admittedly while driving) that I could unplug the patch for the satellite radio and plug in my ipod and open up an entire library of podcasts to wear out.  Driving like that my mind comes up with all sorts of great training ideas. At one point today I had to pull over for over an hour, pull out my laptop and get some of them down before they ran out of my head as quickly as they came in. As unusual as it is for me to have this time by myself I can honestly say I really, really enjoyed it.

Today I really feel blessed to have the phenomenal driving conditioned I had for my trip here to Minnesota.

PS. Hey if any of you are in the area, I hear two working spots have opened up for the Advances in Dog Training session in Wisconsin next week (Thursday & Friday). Contact Katie at for more info.  Of all of the different workshops that I do, if you could only ever come to one of them and I had to pick the one for you, there is no doubt it would be Advances in Dog Training. Everything else I do has all developed from the Advances in Dog Training workshop.


Laugh out loud

Friday, February 20, 2009

Today I am on my way to Minnesota and then on to Wisconsin. I am going to try to catch up with computer stuff while I am on the road:).  I would like to invite you to laugh out loud today. As I have mentioned in the past. I love to laugh. I keep a few video clips I keep on my computer that make me laugh and I play them every once and a while. Here is one that I have favoured on my youtube site. I have a few. John Pinette has got to be one of the best comedians ever, for his timing of delivery and facial expressions. Plus he is hysterical without being totally disgusting & crude, a very unique feature in today’s comedians. If you watch this to the end you will see how salad has become a conditioned reinforcer for John. My favourite part is when the girl scout rings his door bell.

Enjoy. Today I am grateful for the combination of my sense of humor  and lack of a great memory. IT allows me to watch the same thing over and over and laugh out loud like I had never seen it before.