Fluid Contacts 

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

Focus on Conditioning! 

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.  

Commitment to Distance – Switch Work 

In this video I am working Trip on some various Switch work with the cone.   

The Switch cue for my dogs means for them to turn away from me. In this video I am working on side switches, and front switches mostly.  A side switch is when the dog is on my side and I want them to turn away from me, where as a front switch is when the switch off the front of my body. 

This video will show both of these Switch positions, and in later blogs we will look into more advanced Switch work with sequencing. 

https://youtu.be/8fAQKkLEL9U 

The Dogs Choice

Last week I did a live lecture talking about how I teach my foundation for contacts. It was a lot of fun and all my students asked some really great questions!  One of the main questions that kept coming up was “what position do you want your dogs to perform on the contact?”

And my answer was “whatever they want.”

My philosophy for training dogs is that I want the dog to tell me what they want to do. The dog is the only one who knows what feels good both mentally and physically. I never want to force my dogs to do something a certain way. I have what I consider is a “base” that I teach all my dogs, the basic idea and goal I have for that skill. But I let the dog put their own personal spin on it and I let them choose what feels right.  Both Ally and Trip were trained with the same base, and they run, and are handled much, much different from each other.

Let’s go back to contact training for a minute.

My “base” contact behavior is a 2o2o, with the dog being as low on the board as they can.  And when I begin training the foundation for my contacts I ask my dogs to sit, to help them learn how to shift their weight to their rear end, But I do not hold the sit criteria.  As my dog progress through their contact training, I relax the sit criteria, So I let the dog choose what position feels best for them, not only physically, but mentally.

And this holds true for all of my training, I adjust and adapt all of my training for each dog.  From foundations to high level competitions, my dogs are always in charge of what feels best and what works for them.

I train all my dogs and encourage my students to train their dogs with a goal of confidence in mind. img_0455
For each training session, I want my main goal to be that my dogs perform the skill with confidence. So part of that confidence building is letting the dog have that choice in how things can be done. If we use contacts as an example again, my base is that I want my dogs to stop at the bottom of the contact, as close to the bottom as they can and preferably in a 2o2o. But if my dog is constantly telling me they want to do a 4 on the board, I will let them, or in Nargles case, she wanted a running contact. Trip’s default behavior for almost everything is to sit, so he sits at the bottom of the board, Ally’s default is a down, so she downs at the bottom of the board.

I love letting my dogs choose. If I forced Trip to do a down at the bottom of a contact he wouldn’t be happy, and he isn’t going to put his heart and soul into performing that behavior, because it doesn’t feel good to him. And I wouldn’t be happy because I would be constantly fixing and working on his contact behavior.

nargles
I also take into account if they are physically capable of doing the behavior that is being asked of them and if they are properly conditioned to do the behavior as well.  A lot of dogs that I see in my seminars and classes with an obstacle problem, actually have a conditioning problem. They do not have the strength to perform the behavior that is being asked of them, a dog cannot hold a proper 2o2o on the contact if they do not have the core strength to do so, same with weave poles, jumping, etc.

Be flexible with your training plan, always let your dog have a say in what is being asked. Your dog is talking to you, all you have to do is listen.

Amanda

Intro to Distance – Cones 

In Part 1 of the Commitment to Distance series, I will be talking about cone work and why I feel it plays a big part in distance training.

What is cone work? 

I start all of my foundation work with either cones or gates. I started many years ago with gates and I still use them to this day.  One of the main reason I started using cones is they are easier to get (as opposed to making gates), easier to pack around and travel with, and when I want to start teaching my dogs Tight or working on tight lines, the cones work a little better for that.

I do still use the gates in a lot of my training and switch between gates and cones quite frequently during training.

I will use cones throughout this article, but don’t forgot you can use gates also!

I like using cones as they give me and my dogs a stepping stone between foundation/ground work and obstacle work. I will use the cones as “markers” when I start incorporating more obstacle work and harder sequencing into my training.

Starting cone work

I start with a single cone, my main goal in the beginning of my training is to create value for the cone. I want my dog to really want to find the cone and work with it.

I start nice and close to the cone, you can use a clicker to mark them interacting with the cone or I use a verbal marker such as “yes”.

I want to mark any interaction with the cone, with my end goal being that my dog will go around the cone. So I will mark baby steps to get there. Sniffing the cone, touching the cone, driving or looking at the cone, etc.  I want to really shape the dog to want to go to the cone, we want to build value for that cone.

Once I have my dog going around the cone, I can start incorporating body language and directional cues.  I can work on my “Go” with the cone, “Out”, “Here”, “Tight” and “Switch” can all be worked on with this cone.

I will also start to bring in more cones so I can work on increasing speed and distance, as well as work on my timing and handling cues.

One big component that I love about starting my dogs with cone work is that I can build their confidence. Building your dogs confidence is crucial to any kind of distance work. We want our dogs to be confident in their skills and confident in our handling cues.

Using Cones as Markers 

Once I feel that my dog understands all of my various handling cues and we are ready to move on to sequencing and incorporating other obstacles I will use the cones as “Markers”.

I will use the cones next to the other pieces of equipment as kind of a stepping stone between the foundation work and sequencing work. I want my dog to really drive towards the jump for example, so I will place the cone next the the jump as a marker. Because we have spent so much time with the foundation work and building value for the cone, my dog will see the cone and drive to the cone, which will also drive them to the jump.

I will also use cones in-between my discrimination obstacles. So for example, I can place the cones (i use about three) in between a aframe/tunnel discrimination. So when I cue my dog to go Out, they will see the cones and go to the outside of the cone, which will put them in the tunnel. And I can easily fade the cones by removing them one at a time as the dogs gets more proficient with their discrimination skills.

Amanda

Teaching Discriminations

When I begin teaching my dog’s their discrimination I use cones as “markers” to help show my dogs the “ins and outs” of discrimination work. 😀

In the diagram below I show where I place the cones, in this example I am using an Aframe and a Tunnel. But I will use a variety of discrimination’s, such as two tunnels, two jumps, a jump and a tunnel, tunnel and weave poles, etc, etc.
I will place the cones (I use about three cones) in-between the two obstacles, these cones act as a marker for my dogs to “see” the Out vs. the Here. Because of all the foundation work I have done with the cones (please see the Intro to Distance post) my dogs know that when I say Out they go to the outside of the cone and when I say Here they come to the inside of the cone.

I will continue to work multiple kinds of discrimination’s and various degrees of distance before I start to remove the cones.
Amanda
Have questions or comments? Want to learn more? Come learn with Amanda in the Fluid Motion Patreon group! www.patreon.com/fluidmotion
Or comment below! 

Intro to Distance

I use cones to help build confidence and speed while I am working on their distance skills. Confidence is a huge part of distance work and in my opinion the most important!  When I want to start teaching my dogs any distance skills, the main thing I am looking for is to build their confidence, and using cones and flatwork helps boost that confidence before we start incorporating distance with obstacles.

My six week Intro to Distance class is available on the Fluid Motion Patreon group, more information can be found at this link: www.patreon.com/fluidmotion

Below is an intro video to how I use cones to start teaching distance skills!

The Choice

Those who have attended seminars with me have heard me say this time and time again;

“If you want distance, your dog must have confidence”

 

I love distance handling; I love the feeling of having that connection with my dog from 40 or more feet away. But the key to that kind of distance work is, and always will be confidence.

I train with confidence in mind from the very beginning, from the time I bring that little eight-week-old puppy home, I train them with confidence in mind.

Part of building that confidence in my dog is letting them have a choice. My dogs always have a choice from day one, they choose what “kind” of agility they wish to do.  I never force distance upon my dogs, if that is a path they wish to take, I will support them in my training and my handling.

By giving my dogs a choice they have freedom.  Freedom to be who they want, to run at the speed they want, and by letting them choose their path in agility we will connect as a team; and that is more important to me than any distance between us.

Climbing the Mountain!

I had the chance to film some of my Functional Fitness workouts with Ally that I did a few days ago. In the clips below, Ally is climbing Infinity Mountain with the Toto Fit equipment.

I am in love with Toto Fit’s equipment! The quality is outstanding and all of my dog’s are very stable and confident on it.

And check out Toto Fit’s website for information on all of their equipment: http://totofit.com/

APF Pro and the reasons I love it!

I have been using Advanced Protection Formula (APF Pro) from Auburn Labs for quite some time, I have always really liked it and through the years, I have used it on and off. Early last year I started using it with all my dogs consistently and I saw an amazing difference in my dogs as soon as a week after I started feeding it.

For Try, at almost 13 years old, she started moving better, running around like a  4 year old puppy again. And not only that, her hair coat got shinier and  her eyes brighter.

Nargles was the biggest difference, she has always had lots of anxiety, and tends to always be nervous. She also can be hyper and over reactive at agility trials, she would get so over the top that she couldn’t process anything while we were running.

After APF Pro for about 2 weeks she completely turned around, she calmed down, she became less nervous and anxious while traveling.  Her performance in the ring improved ten fold, she could focus and lost much of her hyperactive tendencies.

What made me a firm believer in how much APF Pro helped Nargles was at an agility trial last summer. I forgot to bring an extra bottle with me, and I ran out of APF Pro on Saturday of the trial. During Friday and Saturday, Nargles was amazing. During Sunday she started getting overreactive and lost all focus. Once I got home and started her back on APF Pro, she was 100% focused and “On” for the next trial on the following weekend.

I am a huge believer of APF Pro and all four of my dogs get it every day, even my young dogs. During a trial weekend, I will usually give them a bit more, a dose in the morning and another at night.

So what is APF Pro? 

APF Pro is the most advanced adaptogenic herbal formula for use in canine athletes. APF Pro combines the proven nutritional technology of the original APF (Advanced Protection Formula) with the muscle-building power of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E). 20E is a safe and natural plant extract found in Rhaponticum carthamoides. 20E is one of the most widely researched nutrients used by top athletes and body builders for its remarkable ability to safely increase lean muscle mass during strength training. None of the adverse effects of anabolic steroids are found with 20E.

APF Pro is unequalled in its protection of both the immune system and cellular metabolism. APF Pro gives your dog all the stress protection unique to our original formula, plus the added gastric health benefit of Aralia mandschurica. Veterinary researchers have found Aralia can have important protective benefits against stomach upset caused by stress.

APF Pro combines APF – the only natural herbal formula backed by university-level research- with advanced muscle-building and gastric health benefits to deliver the most effective nutritional formula to support your dog’s health and performance.

  • Improved formula provides powerful anti-catabolic action to help build and maintain skeletal muscle
  • Increased resistance to stress induced gastric upset
  • Protects the immune system from long-term or intense stress
  • Optimizes glucose uptake and utlization in muscle cells
  • Promotes higher levels of ATP and CP in muscle cells
  • Improves utilization of lipids (fats) for long-term energy production
  • Improves and protects mitochondrial efficiency
  • Delays the onset of fatigue during exercise
  • Improves recovery from physical exertion
  • Protects digestive function by providing sustained energy to the GI tract
  • Delivers powerful anti-oxidant activity to protect against free radical damage
  • Protects against the damaging effects of intense or chronic stress

 

INGREDIENTS

Eleutherococcus senticosus,Rhodiola rosea, Schizandra chinensis, Aralia mandschurica, Rhaponticum carthamoides in a water-alcohol extract

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