01 November 2013

it really isn't about quantity

I heard my first rumor about me in a while - that I train a lot/too much/all the time. I heard it second hand, through someone who thankfully defended me.

When I was giving a phone interview recently, I told the truth, that I train about 10min at a time, probably 2 or 3 times a week. The interviewer said something along the lines of "huh, all the big trainers are telling me the same thing, why do you think that is? while we smaller time competitors are going to long classes all the time..."
Well first off, I am betting even in a 90min class your particular dog is probably only working about 10min. Second off, well, we are "big name" trainers and handlers because we know exactly what to focus on when we train. I really focus on one skill at a time, for the most part. If I go out in my field, I may not have a written plan and a video camera and a notebook, but I am usually going to pick one weakness and spend 5 or 10 minutes working on making it a strength. I don't spend much time practicing strengths - things my dogs are already good at. I try really hard when I train to make sure my dogs not only practice something, but actually UNDERSTAND it. If they understand it, then they don't need to practice simply to do it over and over. I don't know about you, but when I was in school I HATED homework that asked me to do the same basic thing over and over just to practice it! I wanted to do just enough to understand it, then do something else. I try to do the same with my dogs. I seek to get them to understand the behavior, such as a weave entry, then I test their understanding in increasingly creative ways, in short sessions, and reward them for getting it right. I don't go out and rehearse the exact same entry 10 times in a row. I think my dogs and I would both get bored with that very quickly.

So no, I really don't "train every day" or "work my dogs so hard". My dogs have good conceptual understanding of what I want from them. We work hard in short sessions, we play hard in short sessions, and we mostly just hang out and go for walks together. When I teach, I try to tell people, at least 90% of your activity with your dog should NOT be agility, it should be "other stuff" - hiking, simple walks in the park, swimming, a little bit of play or fetch in the yard, romping with a tug toy, whatever. I follow that myself too! And my dogs are certainly trained, and well-trained at that, but it is not because I am out there for hours a day drilling them. I hate drilling! Why should they enjoy it?

Anyway, I hope this doesn't sound like a defensive post, as it really isn't intended to be. But when you are next thinking up your training plan, maybe put a little more emphasis on quality and understanding, rather than quantity of repetitions. And then go for a walk! Your dog will thank you!

Speaking of walks... my challenge to myself for the winter is to get me and Strafe back into tip top shape. We slacked off after the EO, and while we both got through Cynosport without issue (my PT still tells me my dogs are in good shape compared to quite a few out there), I was not happy with my level of physical tiredness on Sunday, and I still think Strafe needs a bit more strength in the rear.

not always the most stylish jumper...

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I really enjoy reading your blog.