One thing that often gets people confused is the difference between a coach and a trainer. Whilst these are similar titles I refer to myself as a coach and I will tell you why below.
My background is in helping people, before coming into dog training I actually had my career set out as helping humans! I have qualifications in psychology and counselling and this is what I thought I would do until my dog Milo came into my life, but I’m sure you will hear all about that story soon 😉📕.
Dog training is as much about the handler as it is about the dog. Our dogs are super clever things and they not only pick up on our behaviour and see that as clues to what is happening next, they also pick up on our emotions and how we are feeling!
So with this in mind I work on both ends of the dog lead!
As a coach I help people to understand their individual dog. No two dogs are the same and by understanding your individual dog you will learn how to train them more successfully and therefore get the results you require.
Agility is made of up of all manner of things with the majority of them being nothing to do with the jumps! There is a reason my logo is made up of lots of jigsaw pieces, because that’s exactly what you need for any kind of training success, you need each piece to fit together to achieve the bigger picture 🧩🧩🧩🧩.
Each piece of my logo represents a different element of training and when this all comes together you achieve fantastic results! This isn’t just limited to agility, what I teach you will transfer to everyday life! Win, win! 🏆🏆
A lot of agility trainers focus on the actual agility and yes this is important but what if I told you what you did before you left the house, what you feed your dog in the session, whether you use food or toys to reward or even what their journey is like to training could actually be hindering any success you have in that session?!
This is what makes me different as a coach.
Yes I could train your dog to do a certain trick or behaviour but my role is to coach owners to understand their dog inside out. This is what will give you success regardless of if you want to go to an agility competition or to just get a clear round in my training arena.
This is why I specialise in agility foundations, it is where the magic happens! 🎩🔮
Watching owners have those light bulb moments and seeing their relationship with their dog go from strength to strength is the best thing ever!💡
Understanding your dog is key!
With lockdown upon us there is no better time to become your dogs geek with my range of online training options.
So what a weird year 2020 was! Despite all the madness there were plenty of positives that have come out of this year!
Yes there were a lot of negatives and a lot of people will be glad to see the back of this year but for the purpose of keeping sane it is important to count our blessings!
There were no KC shows after Feb! So my boys did pretty well considering this.
Flash – Started the year in Grade 3 needing 1 win to move up to Grade 4 he got that at the first show he did in January along with a 2nd and 3rd place! At the only other KC show we went to in February he gained 2 more clear wins and a clear 2nd place!
🌟 He also gained enough points to achieve his Agility Warrant Bronze with a high majority of his points collected in agility runs (we had to use Milo’s certificate for the pic as we are STILL waiting for his to arrive!) 🌟
Flash also finished 3rd in the agility gundog league 💪.
Milo – No grade changes for him. He managed to gain a few rosettes and some placings in the shows we went to and I’m really happy with how he has come on this year with his confidence, drive and speed.
We also enjoyed all the Covid shows at pure, it was so nice to have something to focus on in the strange times. Agility has definitely kept me sane in the madness of 2020!
We also enjoyed training at pures new indoor venue. It is a fantastic facility and I’m looking forward to going back there when restrictions allow.
Along with my dogs personal achievements we also found our fantastic new venue:
Having a sole use venue is the dream when your an agility trainer and to have a sand one is even better! No slipping around in mud and no cancelled lessons at the slight hint of rain!
It used to be the thing to have an indoor venue to use however Covid has massively changed things meaning that an outdoor arena is THE thing to keep a business going at the moment!
On the subject of keeping things going I have also developed my online offerings with online courses, resources, zoom consultations, seminars, webinars and my favourite service to date Geek Club!
I really love my geek club students! Their desire to learn as much as they can for their dog will only lead to great things for them and lots of success!
2020 has also made me reflect on the business as a whole. I’ve realised as much as I love teaching, helping people and seeing people have fun with their dogs I must remember it is a business not a charity and I’ve made some changes going into 2021 to enable me to separate the business from home life and from my own agility with my own dogs.
It is hard to get the balance right when running a business that you love especially when it is also your hobby but going forward I’m happy with the way the business will be in 2021. 2020 has taught us all to look after ourselves and our families that little bit more!
So signing off 2020 with part of me glad to see it leave, the other part of me is thankful for the changes it has forced me to make and the new opportunities it has given me too!
However your ending the year be thankful for the lessons in 2020 as they will only make you stronger as a person.
Take care of yourself and your families, stay safe and keep having fun with your dog.
In this strange time that we are in a lot of people are making connections with family and friends online. There has also been a big increase in people learning new skills or gaining more knowledge by studying online.
In my business I love to utilise the online aspects of teaching as it can open up a level of learning that clients can’t get in the in person sessions.
Last year in our group sessions the theory side of dog training was presented at the start of our classes. This isn’t practical in our 30 minute one to one sessions so we have gone online!
I have online courses, resources, webinars and seminars but the area which gets the most light bulb moments for the client is the zoom consultations 💡.
The zoom consultations are tailored to the dog and client! I look at the dog as a whole rather than just the specific struggle the client is facing.
Dog training is sometimes considered to be an in person thing and it is, however this is only a small piece of the whole training picture. The real success comes from understanding your dog and all their individual needs and quirks!
For example I have 2 dogs who live in the same house but they both have very different needs and training plans. To treat them exactly the same wouldn’t be fair on them and if I did one of them would loose out as their needs wouldn’t be being met as they wouldn’t be unique to them.
Dog training especially agility training in some ways is a lifestyle, yes it is a hobby but it is the lifestyle that your dog has day in day out which will help them get the best results when it comes to training.
What we feed them, how much rest they get, how much exercise and mental stimulation they receive along with what they rehearse every day all has an effect on what your agility training will look like and your general dog training for that matter.
Although I primarily train agility I cover general dog training and behavioural work with agility clients through my zoom consultations and geek club. This is because behaviour transfers and the dog as a whole is so important when it comes to training of any kind.
It doesn’t matter if you do agility just for fun or to compete, if your paying for training it is cost effective to want to progress (otherwise your paying for sessions when your not achieving as much as you could) I help clients to understand why what they do in-between their training sessions is either helping or hindering their agility training.
If you know me personally you will know I’ve had lots of success with both my dogs when it comes to competitions. This isn’t a result of me just going to training, it is a small piece of the jigsaw. I also actually don’t train my dogs agility that often despite me having my own arena!
What gets me success is my behaviour knowledge and knowing how to apply that to the individual needs of both my dogs and I do the same with my clients dogs to. We look at all the little pieces of the jigsaw and slot them together.
Knowing your dog as a whole will supercharge any training that you do with them. Understanding why they sometimes ignore your recall cue, are suddenly not interested in food or why they don’t do a task when you think they know it and they do it perfectly well at home!
This knowledge is what will make you succeed!
I give my students this knowledge in my online training. I’ve studied for years (and still do) with numerous organisations and training providers to ensure I know what I’m talking about and that the advice I give out is the most up to date advice there is out there. I study to provide the best service possible.
I see it time and time again in training when people are too set in the task of doing agility, they get fixated with the ‘doing’ and if that doesn’t go like they were expecting then the dog gets the blame or they put pressure on the dog to perform the task.
Agility has got to be fun for both the dog and owner and pressure doesn’t equal fun! If pressure is part of the training sooner or later one member of the team is going to give up! Usually it is the dog!
People sometimes think my training is focused on competition, they make the mistake of thinking because they don’t want to compete that the dog somehow doesn’t need to learn properly. They do! Not only for safety but also because the training will transfer into everyday life.
If you can’t get your dog to wait on a startline chances are they won’t be able to wait as you lift the boot of the car or they won’t be able to wait nicely in the kitchen while you prepare dinner.
If you can’t recall your dog around agility equipment in a secure area chances are you will struggle in the park when your up against bigger distractions!
Along with those two examples training agility changes the relationship you have with your dog for the better and relationship is at the heart of everything you will ever train your dog to do ❤.
So why do you need to train online? Well if you are hungry for more knowledge on how to get the best our of your dog then online learning will give you all the tools for this knowledge in the comfort of your own home.
On reading this I hope you have all had as good a Christmas as you can in these strange times!
I don’t know if your anything like me but as soon as boxing day is over I’m wanting to take down the decorations and get planning my goals for the new year!
It is such a strange time at the moment and because we have no idea what is happening with future restrictions and events that there is little point planning anything.
When it comes to dog training it is so important that you have not only long term goals but short term goals too. This could be as short term as what you want to achieve by the end of the day!
Setting goals not only gives us something to aim for but it provides a measurable outcome for what your wanting to achieve. Having a measurable goal is an easy way to keep track of success even on days when it feels like you aren’t getting success at all! It enables us to look at where we are now compared to when we started and tweek the plan if necessary.
Setting any goal enables us to break down the task into smaller tasks to work on to help us achieve the desired end result. Many people make the mistake of lumping lots of skills together rather than breaking each task down into micro tasks.
In my agility geek club I encourage students to not only have short term goals but to have long term goals to. It must be said that although we are set on the desired end goal in dog training we may need to be flexible in the approach we take to get there and this is why I love club! It enables me as a coach to advise my clubbers what is right for their individual dogs needs.
Along with setting goals geek club is packed full of vital information on understanding your dogs individual personality and needs and incorporating this in training.
As a coach I’m there to guide students on the best way to break down their goal and work on each element to achieve their desired result and if things take a sideways step I’m there to guide them back on that path of success.
My passion lies in agility foundations – your never done when it comes to foundation training! It is something we constantly revisit and they are key in enabling success in your training whatever level your training at.
A lot of people are keen to get the foundations done and out of the way so they can move onto the more exiting bits of kit, however these are the same people that I see failing time and time again in the competition ring!
It doesn’t have to be limited to the competition ring, in training if we are too quick to move on then the probability is that your not going to succeed as well as what you could do by not rushing things and working on foundations as part of your training.
This is summed up perfectly in one of my favourite quotes:
Foundation training is essential in EVERY training session and I teach my students how to incorporate foundation training as part of their training routine.
Your never done when it comes to foundations (or learning for that matter!)
Agility is like a big jigsaw of tiny little bits and each piece needs to be worked on to enable you to get the bigger picture.
Back to goal setting, what is it that you would like to achieve in your training in 2021?
I am hosting an online seminar in January specifically about goal setting and how to enable you to make 2021 your most successful year yet! If you are interested in joining us simply click the link below and as soon as the details have been finalised I will send you all the information you need to join us!
I am only opening up a few spaces on this seminar to ensure I can give everyone attending my full attention so make sure to register your interest so you don’t miss out!
If you’d like to receive my Top 10 Tips for Successful Agility Training and be added to our monthly newsletter mailing list then simply click here! Our newsletter will feature training tips, recommendations and our latest news!
Whatever your training plans are for 2021 I wish you lots of success and fun times with your 4 legged friend 😊❤.
Well hasn’t 2020 been quite the year and not the one any of us were expecting to have!
2020 has changed the business and reflecting on the last year it has actually changed it for the better, even though it may not have seemed that way at the time!
We have found our new sole use venue which I am SO grateful for! It has always been a dream from when I first set up the business to have a sole use venue and I now have one! It has a fantastic well draining sand surface which has been a god send with all the rain we have been having!
When I initially looked at the venue and it was all overgrown and derelict I actually wondered if we would be better with a field! After the long slog of tidying it up and fencing I am so glad we went with the sand arena – no slipping on wet grass, no mud and very limited cancelled sessions due to the weather!
2020 made us focus on one to one training and said goodbye to our regular group sessions (thanks corona) I actually love training one to one, dogs are so individual and unique and clients get more success training one to one as they are focused on the training and not the distractions of the other dogs in class!
We will still run small group workshops as this is part of the dogs training progression but these will be tailored for the needs of our one to one students.
I have also developed my online tuition, Zoom consultations, webinars, seminars and my favourite service yet my Geek Club!
I am so passionate about learning, understanding and the dog as a whole and geek club enables me to help owners truly understand their dog as a whole which inturn enables them to have greater success in their agility training.
My own dogs also managed to have lots of success in the limited shows that we did this year. Flash won into Grade 4 at just 2 shows which I’m very proud of! Flash also gained his Agility Warrant Bronze and finished 3rd in the gundog league.
So signing off for this year and reflecting on all the positives that have come out of 2020. Who knows what 2021 will bring but for now enjoy your Christmas and spoil your dogs 🧡🖤.
Yesterday I trained my own dogs in an indoor arena. It is only the 2nd time that they have trained in this venue so when packing my treat bag I needed to think carefully about my choice of reinforcement.
The arena has a very nice AstroTurf floor so my choice in which food I used had to have careful consideration.
I needed something that is high value and motivating enough for my dogs but I didn’t want to use wet food such as ham as I didn’t want it leaving any residue on the floor (out of respect for the venue) I also didn’t want something that is too crumbly as I don’t want it to leave crumbs all over the floor that could distract my dogs or other peoples who were there after us.
Here is my choices:
As you can see in the picture I have a range of rewards! These range from medium value right through to high value.
Platinum sticks – I’d say these are medium value for my dogs and possibly the lowest in my food choices. These will be used for established behaviours that the dogs are confident with in any environment.
Next we have our own branded fish treats. In today’s selection I’d say these were the next level up, however we do use these as high value rewards too in different scenarios. What I like about them is their small size as they enable me to deliver a high rate of reinforcement without the worry of giving lots of food.
We then have the Kronch salmon treats and cheese. I’ve put these in the same bracket as I think for my dogs they hold the same value.
Then I have the liver paste which will be used for close work, for example if I want to keep them employed in heelwork or during or circle work for a warm up.
Then at the top of the list we have dehydrated steak. I love my dehydrator – I use it a lot for creating high value treats without the wetness they would have without the dehydration. They also enable me to give a highly motivating reward very easily with no fuss or mess.
It is important to say that the dogs normal food intake will be reduced to allow for them having this, they obviously won’t eat all of what I take to that training session.
What do you use in your training to motivate your dog?
Do you have a selection of food that you use in training or do you always reward with the same thing? Do you use the same thing for your agility training each session?
It is important to always have a variety and to mix up the type of rewards you use each time, I mean I love steak however I would get bored of it fairly quickly if I had to eat it for each meal or even if I had it every single time I went to a restaurant for dinner!
The other thing some people struggle with is using treats when their dogs are raw fed. this is also because of the value of the food the handler uses compared to what they get at home for free.
Raw fed dogs are getting such a high quality food when at home and for doing nothing, no work, no training (if owners haven’t ditched the bowl) yet their owners take them out into extremely distracting environments and then expect them to recall or learn new skills for a dried treat! These are usually the dried treats that have been purchased from the supermarket with minimal nutrition or taste for the dog! (Think chewing cardboard!!)
I am always quite confused when owners ask me when they can stop using food in training and I often reply “the same time you go to work for no pay” Yes we may reduce the frequency of rewards given in training but we always reward with the dogs highest motivator. I can’t understand why owners get so hung up on giving food… it is food not gold!
Maybe your dog likes toys better than food when training which is fine. Toys can be a fantastic motivator and reward when agility training.
However toys come with their own little warning label and it is important they are used correctly.
Toys increase arousal and when arousal is increased the dogs have a diminished ability to think clearly unless we have taught them specific skills for this. Beginner handlers sometimes get frustrated as the dogs then don’t listen and frustration in training will over time break down the relationship and could even deplete the dogs desire to play with the toy at all or even do agility!
The other thing with toys is that unless trained correctly the dog sees them as something to enjoy on their own. You may have experienced this yourself, your dog gets the toy and then runs round for what seems like hours having a great time with it. Then they won’t come back into you, they do that super fast fly past and any hope of you getting the toy back relies on your ability to catch them.
In agility we need to use the toy as an extension of us, that the dog has a big desire to retrieve it as fast as they can and get back to the handler for a game of tug.
If you’d like to know more about any of the subjects I’ve covered in todays blog then keep an eye on our website for our new online courses and webinars.
Rewards and the importance of getting them right is something that some owners can find tricky.
Rewards are usually seen as treats or praise but there is so much more out there that can be rewarding for your dog. What we need to do as owners is find out what exactly motivates our dogs and learn to use this to our advantage when training.
Having the correct rewards and motivation are essential for successful training and it is really important that we learn what our dog loves in order to use this as a reward and reinforcer in training.
It is important to say that each dog is an individual and what they find rewarding will be as individual as they are. Along with this how rewarding they find something can change due to the environment they are in and their arousal levels at that time.
For my dogs, food is their biggest reinforcer. They do like play but at this stage it’s not a strong enough reward for me to use it to reward them in agility.
Play is fantastic and we do use play as a reinforcer at home and we are at the stage now of introducing play to new environments as a reward when training.
Pre covid I would have a one to one training session with my trainer, both dogs have 30 mins each and in the picture below is what I typically take with me to a session.
There is our own brand dried treats in the pots, cheese, ham and chicken. I use a Lotus Ball to deliver the food reward when training certain skills.
It is important to have a range of treats available and I often mix and match what I give them in training to suit what we are doing. When training something that requires a bit more work on their part I make sure I pay them well with the food that they like the most.
Here is what I came back with after that particular session :
As you can see, although I took this all with me I didn’t use it all! I used mostly the chicken, also some ham and a few of the dried treats. The cheese was not used at all. I’d rarther have too much than too little as I can always save anything I’ve not used for another day.
When training my rate of reinforcement is quite high and I jackpot the rewards too when the dogs are doing exceptionally well. I want to make sure my dogs continue to have high motivation for the sport and also that I pay them well for their work.
This is sometimes a common mistake that people can make – not rewarding their dog correctly and not having the correct form of motivation for them to want to do the work in the first place.
Imagine yourself being asked to go to work for below minimum wage or for free? I don’t think you’d like it would you?
Our dogs are the same they need to see value in what we are asking them to do.
Often in training the dog can get value from a number of things we would prefer them to ignore; other dogs, sniffing, birds etc. The environment the dogs are in can provide a range of fantastic rewards for our dogs. These distractions are opportunities for the dogs to seek fun and reinforcement away from us.
Sometimes in training when dogs get distracted what often happens is the handler wrongly blames the dog, the floor, the other dogs, weather etc etc the list goes on! In actual fact all that is happening is that the dog is finding their fun/ reward elsewhere.
A reward is something your dog finds rewarding even if you don’t!
I know we find rolling in 💩 disgusting but for some dogs it is the best thing in the world and they will seek out opportunities to practice this behaviour!
Take spaniels as an example – they have been bred for generations to use their noses to hunt. They are intrinsically reinforced by sniffing, that means every sniff is reinforcing the sniffing behaviour so they will repeat it which isn’t always useful in the agility ring! We need to make it more rewarding to work with us in that scenario and give them an outlet for that natural behaviour elsewhere (and away from the agility ring)
It is sometimes hard to know where to start when it comes to rewards so I have a few tips that may help you.
Firstly what I would suggest to any dog owner is to ditch the bowl!
What I mean by this is to use your dogs normal food for training. This doesn’t have to be as mammoth a task as it sounds, we talk about it lots on our training but if you would like more help with this then get in touch.
Both my dogs ditch the bowl as part of their everyday life. It’s transformed the relationship I have with them and I can use the food that they were going to get anyway to reward their good choices throughout the day without the need to fill them with treats!
Ditching the bowl is fantastic for relationship building.
The relationship you have with your dogs is at the heart of everything you ask them to do!
Good relationship = Good training!
So if I ditch the bowl then why do I still use treats??
Well this is because I want my dogs to be motivated and to be super excited about what we are learning. I also want to pay them well when they get it right. If we pay well with something they love they will repeat that behaviour more – it is that simple!
We only use the food pictured above for agility training they don’t get them any other time. If they got this food all the time they wouldn’t see the value of it in training, why would they work and try hard for the food they get for doing minimal at home?
On the days when they have these extras I drastically reduce the amount of their normal kibble/ food so they don’t gain weight.
But here is the thing… These are treats / food my dogs absolutely love! They get super excited about them! Don’t make the mistake of using boring treats when training, your dogs won’t want them! They will end up displeased, disinterested and disengaged and they will seek things in the environment instead.
You want your dog to be really excited about the reward your giving them, then they will be really motivated to do the task in hand! Think of it like you getting a bonus in your pay packet at work.
If your dog is lacking motivation or if they are easily distracted, find what it is for them that flips that switch on!
Mix it up don’t always bring the same food to training even if that is high value – if you had the same thing day in day out you’d get sick of it right?
When I’m training my dogs they aren’t sure what type of food they are going to taste next and that is what keeps their spark, motivation and drive!
Does this mean we always feed them a mountain of food in training?
As my dogs skills develop I adapt my rewards adequately for their needs. For example if my dogs have a well established behaviour at home they wouldn’t get the same reward as they would if they were learning a new skill in a distracting environment.
I often hear owners say things like “They will do anything for cheese, they are only doing it for the food” Which in some cases may be true BUT it is how we use the food that counts – there are all manner of things going on in training and using food as a reinforcer opens up all kinds of (geeky) things such as transfers of value, reinforcement schedules and more – but all that is for another day!
Don’t be stingy with reinforcement, you wouldn’t like it if your boss was stingy with your wages! Dog training is the equivalent of you going to work for money! Dogs work for us not only because man has bred them for generations to work alongside us but also because of the reinforcement they gain from doing so – food, praise, play, relationship it is all part of the jigsaw!
Be your dogs geek and find what it is that motivates them to supercharge your dog training, relationship and to give you real life results!
So for those who know me you will have noticed a few changes …. my sparkly new logo for one thing!! Isn’t it fantastic 😀. I have incorporated a bit of our Tails and Peaks logo along with incorporating my unique philosophy (come and train with me to learn more 😉)
Lockdown 2020 really got me thinking.. you kind of have to when you have so much time on your hands!
This has been in the pipeline of my thoughts for a long time and lockdown gave me the opportunity and the time to really focus what I want from the business and to move it forward in a way I am happy with and in a place where I can really help the right people.
KB Agility is going to focus purely on bespoke agility training. Our blogs will feature training information relating to agility, what we get up to in training and on our days off!
Having successfully ran Tails and Peaks for a number of years coupled with training both my dogs to achieve quick success at compitition level I decided I wanted to concentrate on teaching agility, specialising in core skills and foundations.
I have watched the industry for a number of years and I have noticed it is usually the foundations that let people down when they get in the ring.
I have successfully coached both my dogs along with many of my agility students to achieve success from the start when they embark on their agility competition career.
I believe by understanding your dogs unique personality and by giving them fantastic foundations you will achieve great things!
I am super excited to start this next leg in my journey. Hit the follow box further down this page to follow my blogs to gain valuable training advice and to watch my dogs carry on their agility journey or hit the train with me button and come and train with me!