During the month of November I am working on a content creating challenge, so for every day this month there will be a new blog post, video, or podcast! I am very excited to create so much new content for everyone this month! Its going to be great!
The first blog for November is going to be part of a series, and it will be covering how I will be helping to bring back Ally’s confidence and connection with me.
Connection, Confidence, and Trust between me and my dogs is the foundation to of my training with my dogs. And last year some of that was lost between Ally and I, so my goals over this winter is to try and rebuild it.
2019 was hard for Ally and I, and I made mistakes that eroded away some of the trust her and I had between us. When the pandemic hit and forced us to take the rest of the year off, this was not completely a bad thing for her and I.
I probably would not have taken the time off like I have if it was not forced upon me. With staying at home and no trials, Ally has pretty much just been hanging out all year just being a dog. I have noticed huge changes to her personality and general attitude, and I credit the months of doing nothing for that.
I also needed a break, I knew that our relationship was not in a good place, but I was not sure how to even begin to fix it. I had planned on just stopping training her, which I did, and that helped, but I think it helped because it was giving her the break she needed. I needed some down time to give myself time to think, and I also have realized that I need to reorganize and reprioritize my life.
So how has Ally changed?
She engages in play now, she wants to run and play with the other dogs, and me. She wants to cuddle and be around me much more than she used to. I took her out last week to play around on a small sequences I had built and much of her frantic, over aroused, and frustrated barks were gone. She will always bark, that is who she is, but I noticed she was much more “at ease” when we were working.
Same goes for me, I felt less stressed and pressured while training her. The goals I had for her are gone and I didn’t feel them weighing on me anymore. My goals for her were wrong and she desperately tried to tell me that, but I did not listen.
The year off gave us both time to heal, and figure out what we each needed. And while all this can sound odd when talking about a dog, I have learned so much from her, and I hope I can help others with her lessons.
The first lesson being that my dog will always choose their path in agility. And the second is that I need to listen.
In the next part of this series I will talk about some of the non agility things Ally and I are doing to reconnect, and what I am working with her on in agility to build back her confidence.
I have talked a lot about my Patreon page over on my Facebook page and on the Fluid Motion Instagram page, but what is Patreon?
Patreon itself is a website made for creators, they have made the website very easy to upload content, organize threads, and create all on their website. I have supported creators on Patreon for quite some time and in March I started creating a Fluid Motion Patreon page.
The Fluid Motion Patreon page is a monthly subscription with tiers starting at $10. As soon as you subscribe you have access to every post I have ever published since I started the page in March. You also have full access to my 6 week self study classes, Directionals 101 and Consistent Contacts – Foundations.
Along with that you can watch lessons and lectures from the past Virtual Seminars I have done this year, handling analysis videos, lectures and chats, and reviews of students runs as well as my own.
I have grown to really love my Patreon page as I get to work with students not just for a 6 week class, or a weekend seminar, but for months at a time. Over that time I can help with issues they are having and really dive deep into what needs to be done to address the problem.
I also post lots of unedited training sessions with my own dogs (VIP Tier and higher) and get very personal about struggles I am having with my dogs, or agility. My Patreon group has really become a highlight and I love posting and really diving into content that those in the group wanna see.
If you want more information about Patreon you can check out the main page at www.pateon.com/fluidmotion or you can email me and I would be happy to help!
Just like us, I feel that dogs can get bored with the same food day in and day out. Along with boredom, feeding the same type of food over and over again, I believe, can also cause issues with our dogs health.
If I am always feeding my dogs a commercial diet of, Chicken, Sweet Potato, Liver, Eggs, Kale, and Spinach, my dog is missing out on key nutrients that are found in other foods.
While the above mix in a commercial food could be balanced and they would be “fine” eating this food every day, I feel that my dogs are missing out on nutrients found in a variety of other whole foods.
For this reason, I like to rotate. I rotate between flavors within brands and I also rotate brands. I like to find 2-3 brands that I like/trust and rotate my dogs between those brands. I have no real system for this. I might feed one brand for a couple months and then switch to another or I may switch brands every month. A lot of how I rotate depends on sales as well. A few of my favorite brands had a Labor Day sale so, I stocked up!
I love feeding Grandma Lucys and rotating between their flavors. They have a wide variety of not only proteins I can rotate through, but different carb sources as well. Grandma Lucys is currently my “main” food, meaning I have been feeding just their brand for quite some time and rotating within it. My dogs have been doing extremely well on it, and the picky whippet LOVES their formulas!
I am an ambassador for Grandma Lucys, but I truly love their products and have used them for years with my dogs. (their Artisan formula is what Try needed for her kidney issues later in life, and she loved it!)
Right now I am rotating between different flavors of Grandma Lucy’s each week because my dogs currently eat about a bag a week. (this can change depending on how much fresh I add to their meals as well) So, for example, I am feeding their Pureformance Fish right now and next week they will be getting the Macanna Beef.
I want to be able to rotate between different protein and carb sources for my dogs to not only keep the flavors interesting for them, but to also make sure they are getting all of their nutrients from a wide range of different protein, carb, and veggies sources.
None of my dogs have any protein or carb intolerances, so, I can rotate between grain and grain-free. I do feed my dogs varieties of food that include grain and they do quite well on it. I used to be very much against using grain in my dogs diet, but when I saw how much my dogs stamina and weight improved when I added some grain, I always use some in their diet now.
For a while, I will rotate on and off of grain inclusive foods, once again, trying to give my dogs a nice variety and wide rotation of different nutrients. I do this with my fresh and freeze dried toppers as well. I try to vary food as much as I can when adding fresh and use a wide variety of the following:
Ground meat (Chicken, Beef, Turkey)
I also rotate with different freeze dried toppers, which are fantastic when traveling!
Grandma Lucys has a fantastic 6 for $60 special going on right now, which includes 6-1lb bags of different protein and carb sources, all for $60! This is a great deal to try out the different Grandma Lucy flavors and start your dog on a nice rotation diet.
I love canine nutrition and I have been studying it on my own for the past 15+ years. My passion for nutrition started with my heart dog, Chance, when she was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma and I was told I had maybe a month, if I was lucky.
I spent that day and the entire night researching everything I could about canine cancer, which led a deep dive into canine nutrition. I hired a nutritionist the next day to formulate a cancer diet for her and my passion for helping my dogs through food hasn’t stopped since. Chance lived for four months after her diagnosis. While it was not nearly enough time, I truly believe that her diet and supplements helped her live past the couple weeks that was originally predicted.
From there my interest in canine nutrition only grew. I have fed just about every variety of diet to my dogs throughout the years
Cooked and Raw
Prey Model Raw
And everything in-between
With all the varieties of food I have fed, the most important lesson I have learned is, feed the dog in front of you; do what’s best for you and your dog.
I fed different types of commercial, from kibble to commercial raw and commercial cooked. I have had great experiences with some and terrible experiences with others, kibble and raw alike.
Currently, I feed my dogs a rotation of commercial dehydrated and freeze dried with mostly cooked fresh food added and minimal raw.
I am extremely flexible in what I feed and I judge no one when it comes to what they feed their dogs. I am a firm believer in doing what works best for you and your dog.
Why I don’t feed much raw anymore
I want to make this very, very clear. I am NOT against raw, at all! Unfortunately, though, I have not had the best of luck feeding raw, whether it is DIY (with recipes formulated through a nutritionist or formulated myself) or commercial.
I fed my dogs (at the time, Try, Nargles, and Ally) a full raw diet for about a year or a little more. I started with a meal plan formulated from a canine nutritionist and my dogs did “okay”. They held a good weight and their coats looked fine but they were just, okay. I moved to feeding them a diet I designed and again, just okay. From there, I went to a commercial raw, then to feeding the Honest Kitchen base mix with raw added. For most of the year I dealt with random upset stomachs. Their hair coat would look great, then kind of blah. Also, I didn’t notice it until later, but their stamina was not as good as it should have been.
After a weekend at an agility trial, dealing with Nargles’ HORRIBLE upset stomach that led her to the vet and a month later Try almost dying from salmonella poisoning, I threw in the towel on feeding a raw diet.
I switched my dogs over to a kibble and never looked back. The allergies that I fought with Nargles began to improve (and are almost non-existent now thanks to Herbsmith Allergy supplement). No more upset tummies, random diarrhea, or nausea episodes. By far, the biggest improvement was their stamina while competing; I never realized how tired they were. Also, while they were at a “good” weight, they were always thin and I always felt like I was feeding a truckload just to keep them at that “decent” weight.
When I made the switch to kibble, I decided to always add a variety of fresh foods, such as:
Eggs (raw and cooked)
Canned Sardines (and fresh when I could get them)
Cooked Meats (Beef, Chicken, Pork, Fish)
Fresh veggies and fruits
I varied between a few different brands of kibble, ultimately, in search of a couple of brands I liked/trusted and switch between then from month to month. (sometimes one brand for a couple months and then switch). I liked my dogs on kibble, they did well, and I was very happy with it.
Then, I went to SuperZoo 2019, a HUGE pet convention with everything under the sun, including lots of different brands and types of dog food. I was able to meet owners of various dog food brands, get to know them, ask questions, and I learned more than I ever thought I would. My biggest take away from the event though, Trust. I wanted to trust the food I gave my dogs and after I met the owner of a kibble I was feeding, I lost that trust, but I gained trust in other brands.
Currently, I am feeding a rotation of Honest Kitchen and Grandma Lucy’s with Simple Food Project as a topper. These are all brands that had already gained my trust from feeding them off and on over the years, either as toppers or while traveling. Meeting the owners of Honest Kitchen, Grandma Lucys, and Simple Food project only solidified that trust and made them a concrete part of my rotation.
I rotate between the brands and their flavors, and I love all three of them equally. I still add fresh toppers to their food, just as I did with kibble. And I have also started in the last month, using Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated toppers and Vital Essentials freeze dried toppers as well.
My dogs still get raw every now and then. I have a great source of chicken and beef hearts here that I add to their food 1-2 times a week, as well as raw eggs. I sometimes buy them ground chicken, turkey, or beef, but I always cook it. Pretty much the only thing I feed raw anymore is eggs, chicken/beef hearts, and some sardines when I can get a hold of them.
It breaks my heart to see posts on social media screaming that raw is the only way to feed, and all dogs should have raw, or that kibble should only be fed, or cooked, etc, etc. Every dog is different and should be fed that way, not every dog will thrive on raw. And not every dog will do well on kibble.
The only thing I will suggest to just about everyone, if you are feeding a commercial diet, add some fresh food, even a small amount. Even just adding an egg every other day will do wonders for your dog!
Cook too much chicken for dinner and have some leftovers? Give it to your dog! (no seasoning)
Grab some yogurt! or canned sardines!
It doesn’t have to be every day, but even just 1-2 times a week is fantastic!
I think rotation and variety is HUGE when feeding your dog (and yourself!) I try to vary what they get quite a bit, not only for their health, but to keep them excited about dinner time!
I am pro what works for you and your dog, raw did not work for me, but what I am currently feeding does. Could that change? Yep. Could my next dog not do well with my current feeding rotation? Yep, it could happen, and if it does, I will feed the dog in front of me.
Below is the general recipe I use for making fermented cabbage for my dogs, I started feeding fermented cabbage earlier this year and I see a HUGE difference when using it with my dogs!
I started with a general fermentation recipe, and for later batches I added the probiotic and really liked that as well! (Thank you Dr. Karen Becker!)
1 head of green cabbage
1 probiotic capsule
Salt (I like to use Celtic Sea salt)
Mason jars with a fermenting lid
Wooden pounder (optional)
Chop the cabbage into small pieces, saving a couple of the outside leaves whole, set them aside Try to make them as close to the same size as possible. I like to cut them into about 1″ size pieces, that is the size my dogs like.
Put all of your cabbage into a large bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of salt, this can vary with the amount of cabbage you are using, 2 tablespoons for one cabbage seems to work for me. I also open one probiotic capsule and add it to the bowl.
this is the long and hard part! If you have a pounder you can start pounding the cabbage, if you don’t have a pounder you can mash it with your hands. (this is what I do) I will work the cabbage for about 10-15 mins and then let it rest for about 10 mins, and then mash again for 10-15 mins. I am wanting the cabbage to have enough water worked out that we can use that to fill the jars.
once you have worked the cabbage, it should have shrunk by about half, now we get to fill the jars!
I use Ball mason jars, I like the 32 ounce wide mouth jars. Start filling the jars with your cabbage, gently pressing the cabbage down, we want to work out the air bubbles.
fill the jar until you have about an 1″ – 2″ gap at the top (headspace), as you press the cabbage down, water should be coming up to the top. If you don’t have enough to cover the cabbage, add a little from your bowl. (And if you don’t have enough water in the bowl you can use some tap water, I add a little salt to it if I need to use tap)
Now take your extra cabbage leaf, cut it down so it fits into the jar, you want it to cover your cabbage and hold it under the water. I then put my ferment weight on top.
Now just put your fermenting lid on and you are ready to go!
I have found that about 3 weeks is the perfect ferment for my dogs, they like the taste and it has been pretty consistent for me. if I ferment it too long they aren’t as fond of the taste as it gets a bit sour.
I have stopped training agility skills with Ally. I don’t practice in the yard, I don’t work her on courses, or sequences. Ally and I haven’t done any real agility training since probably around March.
I am going to be very honest in this blog, and it may not sit well with some people, and I understand that. But I also firmly believe that I am not the only dog person who deals with this, and this blog is for you.
Ally is a difficult dog, I love her to death, at the same time she drives me insane. All you have to do is search back through this blog and my Youtube channel to listen to me talk about how hard she is and my constant struggles with her.
Her and I are oil and water, and in the early days of our relationship I thought very long and hard about placing her in a herding home, (she loves herding more than just about anything) a home I approved of never came up, and I am very glad for it.
I consulted with many people on what to do with her, from agility trainers to behavior specialists.
She has big feelings (most people would call her very reactive), she wants to micro manage everything, all the time, to the point that she will almost pass out exhausted, just from being in the house watching the other dogs lay around.
All her movements are fast, she can never just do something, she has to do it FAST and with full force. She gets frustrated very easy and expresses her frustrations with barking and squealing.
She is exhausting to live with, and lately I have been putting her in the bedroom so she will just sleep. She will just be awake ALL day just in case someone moves and she works herself into intense panting.
Training her is also hard, she does everything like a bull in a china shop, full force, ALL THE TIME. And she is frustrated almost immediately, a lot of it due to the fact her and I are oil and water.
I have done all the positive training techniques, took multiple classes to build on my knowledge of shaping and micro shaping for her.
But we still end with the same result.
Her and I both frustrated.
I had big goals for her, she is the niece of Try who was the most amazing dog to ever walk to the line with me. And I suppose that is where a lot of our issues started, too many goals, too small of a puppy.
I realized she was never going to be Try and changed my goals for her, but we still just didn’t click.
I took her to Starter Stakes at the NADAC Championships in WY in Sept of 2018. We didn’t place, but I was beyond proud of her, she did that distance work like she was born for it.
She qualified for Silver Stakes (the next level from Starter Stakes) for the NADAC Championships in Ohio for 2019.
And we crashed and burned. Epic Fail. Epic Embarrassment.
I couldn’t get her to do a jump 5 feet from me, let alone the Silver Stakes distance of 40-50. We walked off of two courses, we were frustrated, we cried, it was the worst event of my life.
I walked into it with a goal of just doing courses and trying to have one clean run, no podium goals, I knew this level would be hard for her. But I had no idea it would be such an epic failure.
So now it is June. And I am looking at the NADAC Champs in WY (if they are held) and trying to assess what I should do with her and what I should enter her in.
We can go in Starter Stakes, and that level of distance is her comfort zone.
So after some months off to lick my wounds after the 2019 Champs, I start training her in January.
With goals like:
(these are taken straight out of my training notes)
“Increase confidence on Switches from a distance”
“Build send away distance to 20 feet”
“Build discrimination distance to 20 feet”
And each training session, while we worked on those things, Ally and I always have tension between us. We are both annoyed with the other, but we love each other. We have a complicated relationship.
And because of this all my training sessions felt very frustrating, I would work my young dog Wall-E, less and less. Not wanting to carry that emotion over to him. So while trying to fix Ally, Wall-E was not getting the training he deserved.
So one day, while working on our send away goals, she is barking and annoyed, I am trying to tone her out and setting a target down.
I look at her, she sits; looks at me, and I just sit on the ground and say:
“lets be done.”
And so we stopped training. She has the skills, she knows Starter Stakes level distance, do I wish I could be in Super Stakes again, like I was with Try? Yes. All the time, it is my passion, I love it. But she is not that dog.
And I am probably not that trainer for her. Do I think she could do Superstakes? Maybe, with someone else. But not with me, her and I don’t mesh like that.
All training is doing for the two of us is building frustration. She isn’t learning with me, and that is my fault, I don’t have the skills for a dog like her, or maybe we are just oil and water.
So here is the “what I learned today” part of this post.
I know there are people out there like me, people who have dogs like Ally and while they love them and wouldn’t trade them for the world, they are frustrated.
So I stopped training her in agility.
She has been learning tricks (her new “flop” is adorable) and we have been working on her disc dog skills. (we can only do rollers, but we are masters at that now)
So I am not “done” in the sense I don’t do things with her. She is my best hiking dog, and we still train fun tricks, but I don’t want to continue to increase our frustration by training agility skills.
Ally and I do well in trials together, she hones in more and I think for her trials feel “real” where training is just pointless and annoying.
While our 2019 Championships was a failure, I was finally able to watch our videos the other day. And she didn’t have the skills for the distance I was asking, I thought the distance that was required was at the top of our limit, but it was not, it was over it. I would have never entered her if I had known that, and I will not forgive myself for a long time for that oversight, as her trainer, and handler, I should have known that.
So to the person who is reading this, who loves their dog, but is so frustrated.
Its okay. I wish someone would have told me years ago. Its okay.
Its okay to be annoyed.
Its okay to be frustrated.
Its okay to cry mad tears, sad tears, and frustrated tears.
What matters is where you go from here. How do you address it?
What is the main source of your frustration? Can you avoid it? Work around it?
I like competing with Ally, now that is not to say that I still don’t get frustrated, I do. But I know its not her fault. If something happens on course it is probably due to my handling that isn’t what she needs, or a skill she doesn’t have.
I know where her skills are, I know where her confidence is and I make sure I do not ask for more than what she can give me from this point on.
Does this mean I will never train her again. I don’t know. Maybe the lack of training and the increase of us just playing frisbee together will help us be able to train again.
But right now, I don’t care, she is seven years old. I want to have fun with my dog. I want to enjoy running agility with her, and I want to be less frustrated.
So here is to all the people who are afraid to admit their dog frustrates them, annoys them, but you love them more than anything and you just want to have a good time doing a sport you love.
I’m a big believer in allowing my dogs to choose their path in agility. I want my dogs to choose what works for them, both physically and mentally, and in my opinion contacts are one of the “big” things that I like to let my dogs choose.
Every dog is different. Their structure is different and where they are mentally is different. So when I start teaching my dogs their contact behavior, I allow the training to be very fluid. I want my dog to tell me what works for them!
All of my dogs start with the same “base” training, but I will make adjustments for each dog. For example, I like to start teaching all of my dogs a rear end behavior on the contact (a 2 on 2 off), and I also teach a contact behavior with a sit. Once those are mastered, I begin to take into consideration the individual dog.
I have four dogs; let’s talk about each of their contact performances:
Try remains in a standing position with all four feet on both the aframe and the dogwalk.
Nargles has a running contact on both the aframe and dogwalk.
Ally has a 2 on 2 off. She chooses to lay down on the dogwalk and sit on the aframe.
Trip does a 2 on 2 off for both the aframe and the dogwalk.
As you can see, all offer very different behaviors, and I am okay with all of them!
Each one of these dogs chose a contact behavior that felt good to them. I used the same “base” training, but then I let them choose what works best both physically and mentally.
Even these contact behaviors could change as well over time. When Ally is sore or she is not properly conditioned after her winter off (and conditioning plays a HUGE role in contact performances), then she will stand for both the aframe and dogwalk. This tells me that something is “up”, and perhaps as she gets older, her contact performances will change. I will allow that! I want her to be happy and choose the behavior that works for her.
Part of my contact training foundation is about observing the dog in daily life. When waiting to go outside, does your dog sit? Stand? Down? What is their natural behavior when asked to wait? Does your dog like to stop? Or run? Or maybe take a few steps and then stop? All of these things can help tell you what kind of behavior your dog might want on the contacts; pay attention them!
I have also learned that a lot of dogs have different preferences for the aframe and a dogwalk. that’s fine; I allow for that too. 🙂
Another big thing in my dog’s contact training is teaching my dogs to shift weight to their rear end. I want my dog’s body to be in balance when coming down the ramp. This means I want their weight to be balanced between their front and rear end. Naturally, dogs carry more weight on their front end, so I want to help counteract that by encouraging a weight shift to their rear when training contacts. During their training I watch my dog carefully and ensure there is a balance between their front and rear end. I don’t want my dog to come down the ramp with all their weight on the rear, because at the bottom of the ramp they will they transfer their weight to their front, which makes it more likely that they will jam their shoulders.
I help teach a rear end weight shift by asking for a sit behavior in my early contact foundation training. I feel this helps teach the dog a proper weight shift and encourages balance in the dog’s body. Once I have worked through the foundation steps and feel that my dog is weight shifting and keeping their body in balance, I will start to loosen the sit criteria. At that point, if my dog chooses to stand, I will let them. And by the same token, if they choose to lie down, that’s fine too! In Trip’s case, he liked sitting at the bottom, and he continues to do so. But he also sits naturally in daily life as his preferred waiting position, so his behavior on the contact made sense to me.
You can view and participate in the entire Consistent Contacts program in the Fluid Motion Patreon group, click this link to learn more! www.patreon.com/fluidmotion
Conditioning and fitness is a huge part of my training program with my dogs. When I am working on a skill with my dogs part of the process of teaching that skill is ensuring that my dog is properly conditioned.
I look at the condition of the dog when it comes to an “agility problem” as well. If I have a student who has a contact or weave problem the very first thing I am going to address is whether the dog can perform that obstacle. Are they conditioned properly for the skill that is being asked? In my experience most dogs who have “agility problems” have conditioning problems as well, popping out of weave poles, missing contacts, that all come back to conditioning issues.
Conditioning work is also a huge part of my foundation work, I never look at my fitness training as only fitness training. I can use all of my fitness work to build teamwork skills, foundation skills for my distance work, directional work, and lots more!
I want my dogs to properly conditioned not only so they can perform the agility skills needed safely, but to also prevent injuries.
TotoFit has an amazing blog with great information from beginner to advanced fitness work. Their philosophy and equipment focus on safety and that is one of the many reason I love working with their equipment!
My next post in the Focus on Condtioning series will discuss some of the foundation exercises I do with my dogs.