After years of searching for the right new puppy, I am now days away from welcoming Quest into our family.
Obviously a lot of research was done to find the perfect breeder etc, I wont fill this blog up with that. I wanted to let you know what steps I have taken to ensure the puppy has the best start possible in his new home.
With having other dogs it is so important that I get the first few days right and I’m sure I will chat to you all about that as time goes on.
This blog is all about what things I have purchased to help me ensure that Quest settles in to his new home with ease.
Puppy Pen and Crate
Puppies need a lot of rest and also a space where they can play, eat, drink etc without my other dogs bothering them.
Even though we haven’t got any shows to go to at the moment, I thought I would revisit this old blog from my previous website and update it with any changes, the content may be useful for some of you so I didn’t want it to disappear with my old website.
Our Agility Show Routine:
I thought I’d write a little blog about what we do before and after a show as I am a massive believer about our dogs not only being physically ready to compete but more importantly mentally ready!
Mental preperation for your dog is so important, I see lots of dogs that in my opinion are far from ready to be put into the ring which can lead to all kinds of problems for the dog which then lead to the dog making mistakes which then leads to a wrongly frustrated handler!!
So what do I do on the lead up, at the show and afterwards? Here is a little run down for you :
The following routine works really well for us. I’m not suggesting that you copy it exactly, but that you find a routine that suits you and your dog to make sure they are calm and happy when competing or even in a class environment.
You all know I bang on about calmness a lot and the reason for that is because it is SO important! For anyone wanting to know more we run a very informative workshop on calmness, I’d recommend booking on that as a fantastic starting point.
On the lead up to a show my dogs will be ’emptying their buckets’ for at least the 2 days before, they won’t go on a walk – they will be practicing lots of calming activities and calm games at home and we will do a lot of scent work to keep their minds busy in a calm manner.
At the show when we arrive we take each dog individually for a little walk round (on lead) to stretch their legs and go to the toilet.
If the dogs aren’t running (having a go at the competition) they will be relaxing in their crates in the van, you will never see my dogs ringside unless they are either queuing, or we are doing a bit of training, and even then it is max 10 mins but we don’t usually train skills at a show we are competing at.
Flash did a lot of visiting the show environment right from being a puppy and growing up as we were there with Milo. We walked him round, played games, practiced recalls, sit and waits etc just to get him happy being around the show.
Milo didn’t have as much of this preperation and I do belive this is what contributed to his previous lack of confidence in a show environment. The games are so powerful as they are what have transformed Milo’s confidence and just seeing how happy he is at a show now is everything to me!
We have trained / rehearsed the dogs being calm in crates since they were puppies and we have then transferred this over into the van – it’s important to mention our van is kitted out especially for the dogs in all weathers. NEVER leave a dog in a car that is too hot / cold or if the dog isn’t happy in it! If you planning on competing with your dog it is something to consider that your car is adequately kitted out for the dogs in hot weather with adequate cooling methods etc and also for the cold months too as there is a lot of hanging around at competitions.
Once they have been to the loo, depending on the timings of their runs they are back in their crates right until they are due to have their turn.
When it’s our go, we get them out of the van, walk them round calmly and ask them to go to the toilet, they have opportunity to sniff and take in their environment while we are on the way to the queue. We also make sure they are warmed up and physically ready to run.
When we get into the queue it is all about focus and calmness while we wait. My dogs are given space from others, they don’t interact with other dogs or people but there is a constant interaction with me – it is a pet hate of mine when dogs are in the queue interacting with other dogs, as often the dogs don’t like it or they are more interested in the other dogs than the owner which then doesn’t transfer well to the ring! Both my dogs have a different routine to what I do with them in the queue as they both have a different personality and I match the games to suit this.
I guard my dogs very much from interacting with other dogs and people while we are in that environment as its not fair on them if I give them mixed signals on what is allowed sometimes and what isn’t. Imagine how confusing it is for them if we allowed them to say hello to dogs sometimes but then a few mins later, a few yards away they suddenly had to forget about that dog and run agility!
After the run they are rewarded whatever the outcome and I get my dog out of the arena as fast but as calmly as possible – their adrenaline is pumping, they have just concentrated, ran and worked hard for me, this is when their ‘bucket’ would be filling quite fast! When outside I allow them to sniff if they want to, we slowly walk back to the van allowing them to cool down, I guard them from any passing dogs by playing focus games, scatter feeding or simply moving them out of the way.
They are in the arena / environment for maximum 5 minutes, their actual agility run lasts anywhere between 22 and 40 SECONDS. But please don’t underestimate how mentally tough this is for them!
In the van they get a big fuss, another reward and and calming activity to do, I make sure their water bowl is full and I cover their crate to allow them to switch off. This process is repeated throughout the day depending on how many runs the dogs have and the timing of those runs.
The day(s) after a show the dogs spend time ’emptying their buckets’ in the same way they did previous to the show, they won’t be walked, they will have lots of rest time to allow both their bodies and their minds to recover, they will play calm scent games, have Likimats and enjoy time relaxing with lots of cuddles too!
Lots of people don’t train their dogs to switch off and this is so so important for not only agility training but for everyday life !! I work with lots of dogs that spend their time in high arousal where they just can’t think straight – owners often make the mistake of branding the dog ‘naughty or stubborn’
As trainer I’ve never met a naughty or stubborn dog yet – I’ve met lots of dogs who are ‘highly aroused’ either through being worried or excited and I’ve also met lots of dogs who just simply don’t understand the tasks the owners are setting them.
Mental wellbeing in dogs is something I’m hugely passionate about, lots of owners could eradicate problematic behaviours and get a better agility performance if they only knew how to spot the signs and help their dogs out in all situations.
I will never know everything as a trainer and I find that really exciting – the dog world is rapidly growing and this is why it is so important that we grow with it, learning is key!
We will never stop learning, we are always on training courses, workshops and camps to expand our knowledge and training is always ongoing with my dogs. This knowledge then gets passed down to you with workshops, classes and events.
Keep your dogs happy and everyone’s a winner despite the results!
As some of you know, before concentrating on agility training I ran Tails and Peaks Dog Training. I am currently in the process of tidying up the old website and I noticed there are a few good blogs on there that I have written some time ago.
Instead of loosing these blogs forever I have decided to post them on here! Some of them wont be specifically about agility training but they will all be relevant to dog training and care. Enjoy!
This Blog was originally written in November 2019
Now the title of this has probably grabbed your attention as we live in a society where we are told we HAVE to walk our dogs..
Well what if those walks did more harm than good??!
So today I decided to take Milo out on a walk round our ‘quiet little village’
Milo and I don’t go out on regular walks (you will realise why as you read this blog) so I thought as my agility training got cancelled and we haven’t been out round the village for a while that we would take a stroll.
**before I go on let me just firstly point out that he gets his physical exercise regularly in other forms**
Anyway, Milo is a dog who can get worried and anxious, I have done lots of training work with him and I know his personality very well. One of his choice behaviours when both anxious and exited is to bark. Although he is friendly with dogs he knows, he gets worried by strange dogs and certainly doesn’t like ones in his face or personal space as he can get worried by them. He can be noise sensitive and he sometimes finds things scary if he’s not expecting them to be there. Children can sometimes worry him. He absolutely LOVES food, this includes the stuff he shouldn’t eat too!
Today it is raining and Milo isn’t a huge fan of the rain. The rain can also amplify sound for dogs.
So with all this in mind we set off for our walk. When I walk my dogs my whole attention goes on them. I don’t just walk them I walk WITH them, we share the experience together. I am very mindful of their personality and needs.
Let me give you a run down of all the things that happened on the hour we were out:
Loud bangs while I am locking the door from workmen down the road.
Birds flying in and out of bushes right past Milo’s Nose.
Wall walking – one of Milo’s favourite things to do!
Off lead dog being walked along narrow pavement, ignores owner who asks dog to sit, owner lets dog come over and pester us despite the fact we keep walking!
Lots of sniffs – some good and one that was a bit scary!
Man in a wheelchair getting in a taxi via a ramp in the boot.
Children going to school, all various ages.
Dogs being walked of all ages and sizes but all lunging and pulling owners towards us to try and get to us.
Off lead spaniel being walked through field, owner doesn’t put dog on lead at roadside, they continue to march past with dog off lead and don’t even consider to put it on the lead despite carrying one in their hand.
2 dogs on lead in field , one off lead (same owner) As we enter the field the off lead dog runs over to us at full speed barking constantly at us ( I was near the gate and left the field and waited politely next to a car – using the car to shield Milo from said off lead dog as it still hadn’t been put on a lead) Owner then rudely decided to tell me I could have waited in the field, when I explained Milo wouldn’t like the dog running up to him yapping at him, she then told me that “she’s only noisy” (I will leave the fact that this lady is also a dog trainer and keep my opinions to myself on that one!!)
2 dogs being walked on lead through field.
Sheep in the field (further down but still in the same field – there is no fence separating them from the path)
3 separate dogs fence running and barking at us as we walk past their house.
Loud bin wagon emptying an industrial bin.
Jogger running past us.
Car mechanic’s working on a couple of cars.
Dropped sweets on the pavement.
Neighbours going out with their crying grandchild just as we arrive back home.
So, the list above …quite a list isn’t it when we drill everything down to step by step moments?! It is fine, it’s real life .. all the above happens but it is the reason I don’t do it regularly with Milo!!
I KNOW my dog, it is MY job as a responsible dog owner to be his advocate, to protect him, to ensure he can trust me not to put him any scary situations at all!! Would you like to do something everyday that worries you? Probably not!
Was he worried today?
He didn’t bark or react once! – and I am not saying that to brag, I am saying it to let you know it is ok to do what is right for YOUR DOG!
Yes there were times on today’s walk that people looked at me gone out – like there was something wrong with what I was doing . .
I didn’t allow Milo to say hello to any of the dogs I came across. I actively avoided them! I took a wide birth, I crossed over, I used cars to shield him. I ignored the comments of owners who thought they knew best! (just smile and keep walking!)
We practiced disengagement from anything and everything (including dropped sweets)
We had fun with loose lead walking games.
We (well Milo) had sniffing time while we were in the field (on lead)
We played on lead games in the field.
He got to walk on walls which he loves!
We paired anything that could be deemed as scary with lots of reinforcement.
We trained on our walk.
We had fun experiences together.
Could I have done things differently, yes I could. I could of had the walk others wanted me to have – to let him meet every dog there was to meet, I could have ignored anything that made a loud bang or that was a bit unusual, I could have let him off lead.
But I didn’t and because I didn’t we had a really successful walk – LOTS of fun, no dramas, no barking – just a good time!
What did I do when I got back? I made sure he had a comfortable place to relax (without our other dog pestering him ) In Milo’s case this is his crate as he loves his crate, it is his little safe den. I gave him a pizzle chew and I’ve let him empty his brain bucket, chill out and relax, I have given him time to truly switch off.
Just because he didn’t have a reaction, doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an effect on his arousal levels.
What did I take with me in terms of food rewards for training, well I have put a picture below:
So quite a lot!
Did I use it all, No!!
The picture above is what I brought home, I realised I wanted to write this blog and I quickly emptied my pockets to show you what I took and what I didn’t use. I often hear from owners that they don’t like using food as a reward – well let me tell you something your boss at work probably doesn’t like paying you each day, they would much rather keep the money in their pocket, but if they didn’t pay you then you wouldn’t work! Simple! It is the same with dog training – dog’s need paying for the good choices that they make! I have varying values of food which I can use depending on the training or what I want to reward at the time! His normal kibble is the brown round pieces – we mainly used that today, yes the food he will be getting today anyway!
We used his normal food for the majority of training on today’s walk. I used some chicken as a jackpot reward, a bit of the dried liver for training games in the field as it is larger so he could see it easily in the long grass. The rest I didn’t even use.
The moral of this blog is :
Please don’t be a D**K with your dog – yes your dog may like to say hello to others, but they might not want to say hello back! Put them on a lead around other dogs always unless the other owner has said it is ok.
Look after them – don’t put them in situations they may not be ready for if your not prepared to implement some training while your there.
Today on our short walk, even though it was fine, we had a good time, nothing bad happened, it reminded me why we don’t do it every day! Milo would hate being put through that daily and if he was I for sure would soon have a reactive dog instead of the one I have got.
Not every dog suits every situation. What is right for one dog may not be right for the next.
Your dog sees you as their protector – please don’t put them in situations where they may have to question that!
If you need any help with training for real life situations then please get in touch.
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!