Posts Tagged ‘puppy camp’


Another Rockin’ Puppy Camp

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Well puppy camp was once again a blast. I was very impressed with the way the campers all were able to create focus and drive in some pretty young puppies. The key was “fast and fun” transitions. From the crate to work and back to the crate, including balance breaks (yes that is correct all you that worked with me in BC, we came up with a new name for ‘stress breaks’).  Balance breaks are quick breaks in your shaping sessions used to increase the dog’s excitement level and give both dog and handlers a break from their work. We used to call them “stress breaks” but too many students were taking them to alleviate signs of stress in their dogs (inadvertently rewarding the dogs for stopping their work).  The newly named “balance breaks” gives you balance between using food rewards and playing with toys. The students at puppy camp last week embraced the concept wonderfully. Here is a short clip from last week’s Puppy Camp.  Tomorrow we kick off Skills Camp, another big group coming in from all over (from California to Texas to Minnesota to New Jersey to Alberta and many ports in between!).

Today I am grateful we have scheduled a couple of yoga sessions (for staff and any students that are interested) before Skills camp this weekend (everything packed into one fun adventure!)


Calling all Say Yes Puppy Camp Alumni

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yesterday  in the comments section, Jason was looking for some compelling reasons to come to puppy camp.  By now you all know how passionate I feel about focusing on the skills to turn your puppy into a great family pet and how that foundation helps to crate a phenomenal agility dog.  Personally I think if more people scaled back the money they put into trial entries, and made more of an investment their young puppy’s education, I think you would find the return on that investment impressive. By the time your were ready to enter this dog into his first agility trail, he would be better equipped to perform brilliantly, right from the start.  You would replace the need to constantly “retrain” your skills with the easier task of of only needing to “maintain” them as your dog progresses through his career.

At our upcoming puppy camp we have six people returning who have already worked at least one other puppy with us previously. One of them is one of my instructors (and she doesn’t get that much of a price break either:)). Do these people know our program? Yup. Tracy has been instructing with me for years, but like us all, she sees the value in spending 3 days focusing entirely on the relationship between her and her puppy. US World Team member and a about a zillion-time AKC and USDAA National Champion, Terry Smorch was at puppy camp last fall with “Sirrah” the third puppy he has trained in our program, plus he is returning next month to follow up that experience with a Skills Camp for his little spitfire! Clearly there is value in investing in your puppy’s early education. 

Hey remember, Jason brought this subject up, the truth is we only have  2 spots left in our April Puppy Camp (and it is rare that a PC doesn’t fill), so I am not writing this as a form of promotion.  My intent is to stress the need for early education in your performance dogs. Just as I wrote a couple of days ago, if you invest time in making the simple tasks great, the difficult ones you will want to teach later on will become a lot easier.   It goes back to the fundamentals we stress at puppy camp; Relationship Building Games, Control Games such as Crate Games & Body Awareness Games. Don’t sign up for Puppy Camp expecting to drag your puppy across a lowered A Frame, I just don’t see any value in that. Fundamentals means we focus on F-U-N, making learning a blast for the puppy.  On top of the great curriculum we have, and our great staff, you Americans also are in the enviable position of saving $0.27 on every dollar you spend up here on things like hotels, car rentals and meals.  But I don’t want Jason to take my word alone for it, so I am going to throw this out to all of you former puppy-campers out there.   Write in and let Jason know why you think he should come to puppy camp!

Today  I am grateful that my dogs don’t seem to mind trudging through the mud,’cause it is absolutely everywhere around here right now!


You Only Get One Chance to Make A First Impression

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Well that was a blast, we had an awesome group of people here for puppy camp. It makes our job as instructors that much

Jane & Wicca in the circle of tug game.

Jane & Wicca in the circle of tug game.

easier when the people we are teaching are genuinely nice to be around, and boy did we have some fun puppies.  Wicca the Westie was a crack up and she certainly was the proprioception champion of camp when she climbed onto a pile of five stability discs without blinking an eye, or toppling the pile. Somehow we managed to get an ‘all white group’ which consisted of, three Eskies and a Samoyed which was entertaining to turn and see the sea of white fur balls. I bet Luna the Pedengo made a wack of new fans for the breed and we had a really cool Greyhound that tugged like a fiend! That is a skill that  will come in very handy as his agility training progresses. 


Henry tugs with Julie.

Henry tugs with Julie.

 Check out this pic of the Julie & Henry in the tug circle game: “Play-with-any-toy-I-pick-up”.  Many border collies can’t do what 5 month old “Henry” is doing here: he is tugging on a toy he has never seen before, and although this picture doesn’t show it, there was puppies, people, other toys everywhere!


The theme of camp this weekend was “You only get one chance to make a first impression”.  By that I was stressing how important it is to be certain the things your puppy is learning are not things you are going to have to try to “un-teach”  later on. For example, life in the backyard. You may have a fully fenced yard so there is a level of security associated with that.  Each day you go out to the yard with your puppy off leash, you are relaxed knowing he is safe, however, your off leash puppy is learning, with each rehearsal,  to have independence from you. At first the puppy adores you, so he follows you around, tugs on your pant leg and generally is your shadow.  But all of that will change and soon he discovers life beyond the limits of how far you can lunge towards him.  One day he will dig in your garden and you will call him “rover-come.” But he doesn’t.  Now you run over and try to scurry him from your garden.  He play bows with his butt in the air, gives you that ‘look’ and off he goes, running the run that only puppies can run. Zooming around the yard, occasionally doing a drive by of his freshly unearthed mound of dirt in your garden so he can grab a mouthful. Every now and again he give you reason to hope for an end to all of the choas as he drives towards you, but then darts away just as fast, heading towards more adventrue.  The more you call, the faster he runs – -in the opposite direction. What fun for the puppy.

That is a poor first impression of how to respond when being called. Great rehearsals give way to great performances later on in life.  This does not get better on it’s own. It now requires either:

a) a great deal of good dog training to overcome the wonderful reinforcement the puppy has received for all of this naughtiness


b) management of fencing off your garden and never letting the puppy off lead again. 

A far more successful plan would be to guard all first impressions for your impressionable puppy before poor ones get a chance to take hold. A few short months with restricted access to some of life’s simpler pleasures (like off leash running) will go along way to create a dog that listens the first time you ask him to do as you ask.

Isn’t that true of people as well? You know, once if you meet someone for the first time and you think “wow, what a jerk”.  Doesn’t It takes alot of really getting to know that person before you can ever shake that first impression. This is so true of your puppy.  Once he learns he can earn his own reinforcement by ignoring you, it takes a great deal of planning and good dog training to overcome it. The best idea is to not allow the puppy to learn there are any options to you asking him to do something.  Take stock of what impressions your puppy has already developed and see if some of them need to be altered now before the lessons get too deeply entrenched in his relationship with you.

Teaching camps here for 8 days in a 10 day stretch reminds me of how how grateful I am for the amazing group of instructors we have here at Say Yes. Lynda, Tracy, Blanche. Penny, Katie all make my job so much easier. Their knowledge and ability to apply the program, gives me a great deal of confidence, both to have them teach along side me here at home, as well as to have them represent me at seminars all over the world (which Lynda and Tracy both do, so just contact me if you would like them come to you:)). In addition to that though, is the fact that they are just really good people.  You know what I mean, good karma, great to be around, supportive of each other and kind to everyone they meet. It really makes teaching each camp a joy and something I look forward to doing.