Training Tips

Distance training

From Stefan Elvstad

My focus has been on distance training for some time now - ever since I realized how much NADAC upped the ante on chances... I discovered some pretty good training material for that written by Stacy Peardot, Bud Houston, and Linda Mecklenburg. I think it has been very helpful.

Last weekend, I decided to try something that's been a wish that I kind of doubted I would see realized - to send Mirha ahead of me to complete a serpentine while I stayed behind the first jump. It actually worked, and I shot a video of that training session. You can see it on youtube at (the interesting stuff is in the second half).

Lead out pivot vs Lead out push

From Stefan Elvstad

I got a question last Saturday regarding guidance on when to use a lead out pivot vs the other lead out form where you are facing the dog, and thought it was worth elaborating a bit on the answer.

There actually isn't any rule for when one should use the one or the other. They serve the same purpose and essentially do the same thing - direct the dog through the first turn after a sequence of obstacles from start. The lead out pivot is part of the Greg Derrett handling system and is a stationary front cross. It follows all the other rules in that system i.e. use the arm closest to the dog, face in the same direction as the dog, perform the cross as close as possible to the next piece of equipment, etc. The other form of lead out is part of Linda Mecklenburg's Awesome Paws Handling System - APHS -  and is called a lead out push.

I think of handling systems as languages, the way we communicate our directions to the dog. I don't think it is necessary to be pure to the language as defined by Derrett or Mecklenburg - if the dog understands your cues, then that is what counts. That said, it probably is better to choose one of the two lead out methods as YOUR standard, not making it harder for the dogs by requiring them to understand two different ways that you signal the same thing.

Personally, I think the lead out push is more versatile than the lead out pivot, is easier to execute with good timing, and results in better flow. Therefore, I have switched to using the lead out push rather than a lead out pivot, and I feel that switch was an improvement for Mirha and me. Others may have different experiences, and it may be that some dogs respond better to lead out pushes while others respond better to lead out pivots.

Who should lead out - handler or...

From Stefan Elvstad

Mirha and I were at Hyline practicing a sequence that involved a lead-out over a couple of jumps, acceleration followed by deceleration before the next and then an FC before a 270 turn - some of the stuff we worked on at the seminar. When we had tested two different approaches to doing it. Mirha, without any command, went back to the start position and sat down in a start line stay while I waited at my lead-out position. This was repeated the next run as well. So - I think Mirha led out while I was in a stay...

The experience was very fun and rewarding and really points out two things - Mirha must have enjoyed the practice or she wouldn't have offered this surprising behavior, so that is good. The other thing is something to be wary about. It presses the point that dogs do memorize the course and that one really must be careful to not repeat the same practice more than once or twice. What happens is that the dogs remember what they did last run and repeat that even if we don't cue it clearly (or at all). As a result, we get away with poor cues, possibly contradicting ones, the dog notices them and concludes that "hmmm that cue must not have meant what I thought it did", eroding confidence and also teaching the dog to ignore our cues.

The moral of the story: Let's make a point of changing the picture for the dogs at least every other time we practice a sequence.