Archive for March, 2009


A First for Agility?

Monday, March 30, 2009

I could be wrong but I think this could be the first of it’s kind. I have a friend that is currently doing her PhD on injuries to dogs competing in the sport of

An agility dog teetering on the edge!

An agility dog teetering on the edge!

 agility. Before you think this is just someone out to prove we shouldn’t do agility with our dogs, let me tell you that Kim does compete in agility herself and does quiet well. She actually won the Canadian Nationals last year with her Border Collie “Recess”, and was an alternate on our IFCS World Team, so she is no slouch! Kim needs everyone’s help. She has put together a survey to help her gather data.  I will just let Kim tell you, in her own words, what is going on. The more information we get the better it will be for all of our dogs participating in the sport of agility in the future so please take a few minutes and fill in the survey!

Encore tumbles out of a wet tunnel.

Encore tumbles out of a wet tunnel.

Does your dog play agility? We need to hear from you!

Agility Injury Survey: 

A research study examining the injury risk factors for dogs participating in agility.

The purpose of this study is to describe the injuries that are occurring to dogs participating in agility events. We are interested in knowing more about what types of injuries are most common (such as muscle strain, ligament sprain) and what part of the dog’s body (e.g., shoulder, toes, etc) are most commonly involved. We are also interested in learning how the injuries occurred – such as whether or not there was a specific event that contributed to the injury (e.g., collision with handler, or specific piece of equipment on course). 

We would still like you to complete the survey if your dog(s) has(have) not had an injury playing agility. It is important to understand how ‘big’ the problem is, which means we need to know about the injuries that are occurring within the context of understanding how many dogs play without ever having an injury.

This survey will take about 10-15 minutes of your time to complete. We would be happy to share the findings of this survey with you if you are interested. You will be given an opportunity to sign-up to receive a summary of the research findings before you finish the survey.

Encore's experience with a break-away tire at her first trial.

Encore's experience with a break-away tire at her first trial.



If you agree to participate in this study, we would ask you to answer some questions about you (your age and how long you have been training agility dogs, for example), and questions which focus on your dog’s participation in agility events. The survey will collect information on any injuries your dog has sustained while playing agility (either in training or competition). You will have the opportunity to enter information separately for each dog in your household that has participated in agility events.

The study is being conducted by Ms. Kim Cullen from the University of Guelph under the supervision of Dr. JP Dickey, Dr. NM Moëns and Dr. J Thomason. 

The information collected from this survey will be used to guide the development of Ms. Cullen’s PhD dissertation, which focuses on examining the biomechanical risks of injury to dogs participating in agility events. This project represents an important first step in building knowledge about common injuries occurring to dogs participating in agility which can result in improved treatments for these injuries, as well as improved equipment safety standards to reduce the future risk of injury to dogs participating in agility.

This study is sponsored by the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund.

Click here to access the survey:

Kim completed a B.Sc. in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo in 1996 and received an M.Sc. degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Science from McMaster University in 2002.  Kim is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Biophysics at the University of Guelph.  For the last six years Kim has been

Recess, Kim & Ryan.

Recess, Kim & Ryan.


 working at the Institute for Work and Health as a Research Associate where she has been a co-author on more than 20 scholarly papers.

Kim spends her free time teaching family dog obedience and training her four dogs: Bailey (12 years), Maddie (8 years), Recess (5 years) and Gossip (1 year).  Currently, Kim and Recess are the 2008 AAC National Champions in the 22” Regular Division.  For the past 10 years, Kim has been an active participant in agility, competing in AAC, USDAA, and NADAC with her two Labrador Retrievers (Bailey and Maddie) and Border Collie (Recess), all of whom have placed at the AAC Regionals and Nationals.  In 2008, Kim and Recess were selected as alternates for Team Canada (IFCS) and in October, Kim and Recess participated in their second USDAA National Championship, qualifying for the Steeplechase finals

Kim also shares her life with her husband John and son Ryan (3 years) and they are expecting their second child in July.  They live in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada.

Okay guys, lets get on board and fill out those surveys, if you have a blog of your own, please pass this link around, the more information we can get for Kim the better our dogs will be in the long run!

Today I am grateful for people like Kim that are looking to advance our sport with more in depth knowledge helping us more fully understand the physicality of our agility dogs.


Making Great Strides In Just One Day

Friday, March 27, 2009

Good day yesterday in Vancouver. Again a really keen group working in masters handling and luckily for me I had a large number of observers at the workshop as well (I think there was about 20 or so of them). Being day two of the two day workshop I started out as normal, answering questions that may have come up overnight. Then I made a plea to the group to help me with Feature and Encore’s “seminar crap.” I had many people keen to help, so it worked out great. My idea was to move the table the girls had being perched upon and expand it. I moved it closer to where I was teaching plus added another table to go side by side. That way when Feature decided to “kill” her frisbee shaking it like crazy, she wouldn’t bump Encore off of the table. Also there was plenty of room on the two tables for both dogs to sleep (they actually did that at one point during the day). I looked at my problem and realized these poor dogs had been watching other dogs work for two of the last three weeks. Rarely did they get to do a “demo” or get a turn to work and even rarer yet was me giving them a cookie for staying put for an entire day. So a few people donate  to a heaping bowl of various types of yummy dog treats and I placed the bowl nearby. Each time  a dog ran there was at least one volunteer standing near the girls to feed them for acting appropriately. At first they just got fed when any dog ran. Then I put Feature on a leash. If  she jumped off the table while a dog was running, whoever was on patrol at the time would take her leash and hold her off of the table. This meant she could no longer watch as she had a row of chairs with bodies in them in front of her. Within a few repetitions she was no longer jumping off the table with every dog. By the end of the day my dogs (who were likely stuffed full of treats) where much, much quieter and actually relaxed on the table. At the end of the workshop I ran each dog on the final sequence while the other waiting and didn’t make a peep. This reinforcement crap really does work eh? 

Today I am grateful to the slew of people at the workshop that spent time with my dogs in order to help me alter their behaviour. Great people here in the west!


Hanging On to Good Behaviour

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I have been on the road this time exactly one week and already I am seeing some “CRAP” from my dogs. Crap is a word that I have often used while teaching if I don’t like what my students are rewarding. “. . .well that was crap” is something I have said over and over. If you have watched my Success with One Jump you will have seen the out-takes at the end of me using the word over and over. Yes it means; poop, caa-caa, manure, shite, turdaceousness or fecal matter. I have said this so often that Lynda, on of my instructors, came up with an acronym for it. 


                           R= Rewarding



Crap, if you continually reward ambiguous performances in your dog you will get crap behaviour. No way around it, it will never be worthwhile. You may not even realize you are rewarding the behaviour. Like the dog that runs aggressively up and down the yard with the neighbour’s dog on the other side of the fence. That is self-rewarding crap, so your role in the development of that crap may not be as obvious, but the responsibility for you allowing it to happen is still yours. I have been playing the same roll this week in my own dog’s new “Crap”.  My dogs have always been very quiet in their crates or on a table while I work another dog and also while I teach seminars. Lately Encore and Feature have gotten more vocal. I did see this start in Minnesota so I can’t say it has come on all of a sudden, but it has gotten progressively worst.  In the last 2 days Feature has even decided she would occasionally  leave her table to go sniffing while I am teaching. CRAP!  So when they bark, or leave the table I have been giving them a time out, locking the offender in a crate or removing her from the building. N-i-c-e, lets just punish something that you should have been using reinforcement to prevent Susan! So yesterday afternoon I went on the attack. I experimented with ways to stop what I didn’t like by using reinforcement to my advantage,  while not interferring too much with my teaching. So rather than have Feature just hang on the table while I watch handling, I had her lie by the chair I was using. Hmmm, quiet, yet creeping around on her down, not so good. So I took off my shoe and had her put her right paw on it. Putting her right paw on my shoe is a behaviour I shaped a while ago, why? I don’t know, but it came in handy to give her a boundary to observe. That worked for the last couple of hours but I need to alter things because I can see her already changing the criteria of her right paw on my shoe behaviour. I don’t want to end up with very naughty seminar dogs after this trip so I have got to get on it, back to the drawing board today! It is very much like contacts in a trial. You have a wonderful performance at home but all behaviour does drift, and if don’t notice it, after a few trials or years of trials “all of a sudden” you are left with something that does not at all resemble what you started with when you first trained the contact behaviour at home. I love my well behaved dogs and I don’t want to lose that while teaching!

I am very grateful that God gave me a nudge to help me realize the crap (don’t know if He would use that word) that was beginning with my dogs and how I needed to come up with a new plan of reinforcement to alter what I don’t like.


Skinner Was Right

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reading the comments on my blog while in my hotel room last night, I came across this one from Theresa.  Theresa was just at one of the workshop a couple of days ago and what a nut. She certainly added to the atmosphere of the seminar. So here is what Theresa posted to my comment section. Definatly worth another look.

I attended the Handling Foundation Workshop on Saturday, and will add it was absolutely the very best seminar I have ever attended !!
It was a total blast, and from 9-5 it was choc-a-bloc full of Great handling exercises, and problem solving tips, and ways to create drive and maintain it, plus so much more !
Having never attended a SG seminar, I didn’t know what to expect, and can only say to anyone reading….. GO !!!
She is allot of fun, brilliant at teaching and handling, and will totally make every minute worth your wild !! ( or is it wile ?) I am already saving my pennies , nickels, AND dimes, to go to the very next one I can…Kate, are you trying to make me jealous ? (advances in dog training ) ? LOL
Stella (my pooch ) had as much fun as I did, and that say’s it all !!!!!

Thanks Susan !! YOU ROCK !!!!!!

Ok Theresa, you win, I will come to Seattle, I promise–this June, be there or be square. See that Skinner dude was right, that reinforcement crap really does work!

Today I am grateful for the awesome group of people that I have come to work with me here in Vancouver.


New Experiences for Traveling Dogs

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My dog are country folk. While at home, life is pretty quiet. We walk on our own 28 acres so do not meet up with new dogs. There are few children that come to visit and those that do, are very well behaved.  Almost all dogs that we come across are either at an agility trial or coming to camp so they are met while controlled on a leash. Cars come down our driveway only for camps and they drive very slowly. All of that has changed for Encore and Feature this week since we came to British Columbia. We are staying at a hotel on a very busy 6 lane street, much like a highway in the city. We have to cross this street each day to walk to the nearby park where I let the girls run. Each day we have been met by a troop of young boys that hoot and holler and race the dogs because they are sure they can beat them in a foot race (it is obvious the male’s illusions of grander starts very young:)). Yesterday I spent my my day off with my friend up in Whistler. Bill and his wife Wanda have an amazing new house very close to where the Olympic downhill event will be held next year. When we arrive Wanda had an AMAZING vegan dinner waiting for us. She is one awesome cook and not even vegetarian herself! In the morning Feature, Encore and I joined Bill and his dog “Brigg” on their morning meet ‘n greet with the local dog folk. They get together every morning at 8 AM for a mountain hike. There was about 15 dogs and 7 people. It was fascinating to see my dogs interact. All of the other dogs in the group were males. Some intact, some not, but  most very happy to have new butts to sniff. Encore took everything in stride, ignored the boys while leading the pack on romps up the mountain, through the woods. You would have wondered who was the local and who was the guest! We climbed through the mountains for about an hour. Feature would not leave my side for the first 20 minutes or so. Encore would run but always kept an eye on us never straying too far. Eventually she came back to collect Feature. It took a bit of convincing but it was fascinating to watch her coax her less confident house-sister out to play with the rest of the dogs.

All of my dogs do get “puppy socializing” but honestly not much off leash interaction with dogs they do not know after they have “grown up”. If I had been asked to bet previous to this week, I would have said Encore would be the more timid one in a group of strange dogs and Feature the confident know-it-all. I guess her 22 months really showed as Feature relied on her big sister to teach her how ignoring the boys is always the best thing to do in life!

We went out for a shorter jaunt along another mountain trail before we headed back to Vancouver (for more workshops starting today). This walk was just Feature and Encore so they really ripped it up. Here is a short vignette of the

Today I am grateful for the great friends like Bill and Wanda.


Sleepless Near Seattle

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ok a the title is a bit lame I know, but I flew over 3,000 km to get to Vancouver, and being just over 3 hours from Seattle, I just had to do it. I have now finished two days of workshops here on the west coast of Canada and everyone has been terrific. Lots of laughing and lots of learning.  Sunday was another double box day but Saturday was Foundation Handling Skills. This is quickly getting to be my favourite workshop to teach. It is a new one for me, I taught it only once  previously in Minnesota and I will teach it once more while I am here in Vancouver. Basically it is foundation stuff I do with my own dogs but haven’t had time to teaching in my puppy or skills camps because there is sooo many other things to cover. Foundation Handling skills is made up of about fourteen different categories of skills that I further break down with 4 or 5 games in each category. Mostly they are games you can do with out agility equipment. Some may be anal, nit-picky stuff like observing the way your dog turns when he goes into his crate. Encore only ever turns right when she gets in her crate so when she is on my right side and turns right she is rehearsing a “flick away” from me every time. So she has rehearsed thousands of flick aways I am sure during her lifetime of play crate games or just being sent to a crate. Raising Feature I made sure she always turned towards me when entering her kennel. Does this mean Encore is more likely to flick on a course than Feature? I really don’t know, but if rehearsals make for perfect performances I would rather my dog not learn to “flick away” on me at any time. So that is one of about 50 tidbits I threw at all of them on Saturday. I did mention that that might be getting a bit too OCD for people, but the other 49 things definitely were worthwhile and pertinent to everyone.

Today is my day off. I am up in beautiful Whistler with me dogs. I am staying with friends and wow, is all I can say. Living here I think you would never get tired of being gratefully for just living here (I have got to get photos and then you will know what I am talking about:)).


The Necessity of Failure to Create Great Success

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Take a moment to watch this awesome video, it is really revealing. I love it. I especially like what Danica Patrick has to say. “You’re driving your car and you feel freightened a little bit. We bump up against that feeling as much as we can, to try and push that limit further and get comfortable there and then push it again. So you are constantly on the brink of crashing because, . . . that’s the fastest.”

 Failure Creating Success

Have a great weekend everyone!  Today I am grateful for the save travel of my dogs and I to Vancouver.