Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feet, weather, training and a mission statement

The foot ligaments: are better! Not at 100 percent yet but I think with timely applications of adrenaline and ibuprofen I’ll be able to run Phoenix this weekend. The swelling is pretty much gone, my foot is still kind of bruised-looking and definitely sore, but if I wear stiff-soled shoes, I can walk without pain. Give me another 36 hours and I’ll be able to sprint like the wind. Or something like that.

The training: What exactly AM I doing with Phoenix’s obedience work now? At the moment, we’re on the “less is more” plan. I’m making it a point to keep our daily sessions at 15 minutes or less. And I’ve quit training every day. OMG! THIS IS HARD FOR ME! I’m a training junkie and always had dogs who felt the same way. We could train FOREVER. Phoenix thinks that much training, for a dog who knows what he is doing, is highly over-rated.

While some trainers might argue “But he HAS to understand that he HAS to do it,” I think the “We will train as long as I want to and you will like it” approach is counter-productive for where we are right now. I’ve been down that road. Yes, I absolutely agree the dog has to understand that non-compliance is not an option, but he also has to WANT to do the work or all the HAVE TO in the world is not going to create the kind of teamwork I want. If you get the WANT TO, the HAVE TO is kind of a non-issue, providing the dog understands his job.

So we’re doing less training but we’re doing it with more intensity and stopping while whatever we're doing is absolutely the most freaking fun either one of us has ever had. Talk about hard! When things are going so well, I want to keep going. But I want the game to stay fresh and fun and grinding him into the ground just to prove the point that I can MAKE him do it is not the answer.

Something that helps is keeping a training journal. I’ve done this for years, but now I use it to pinpoint what I want to work each session and how I want to make it challenging or new. This keeps me from trying to work everything at once (over-training, ugh), which seems to be my training default, and also helps make sure we work each of the Open/Utility exercises on a regular basis. Left to my own devices, I would totally ignore the moving stand and broad jump. Just because I can. Because they are stupidly, deceptively simple. And they need to go away.

The weather: sounds awesome for camping this weekend. With an extra blanket. And long underwear. And thick socks. And I’ll probably be sleeping in my stocking cap, something that hasn’t happened since the ice storm power outage of February ‘07.

The weather dudes can’t seem to agree on nighttime lows, which are ranging from 38 to the mid 40s for the weekend. Well, I camped one year in the spring and the water froze in the dogs’ water buckets. We lived.

The mission: when I started ExerciseFinished, I never intended it to be a training blog. And it isn’t, because there’s always of bunch of weird crap on here that is just reflections of my life and has nothing to do with dog training.

But when I do write about training, I truly hope my thoughts, experiences, reflections, etc. can help trainers with the same kinds of issues to reasonably think things through, not just follow the training approach that often seems to value making the dog perform no matter what - instead of trying to figure out what the dog really needs in order to give a happy, willing performance that is not based on constant cookies OR fear or pain avoidance training.

In keeping with these thoughts, you might like Denise Fenzi’s new blog, She is much of the same mind and expresses it in a more sensible and organized fashion, unlike my rambling discourses.


  1. Does this mean I don't get a JWW run this weekend?? You don't want to re-injure your foot... you should probably take it easy. Here's hoping our weather is dry and fall-like!!

  2. If I didn't know better, I'd think you WANTED to run the Skinny Little Dog! ( :

    You may get your chance - my foot is not at 100% and who knows what it will be like by Sunday!

  3. wow. Welcome to the land of lazy trainers, which is clearly not your native habitat. My first dog (canaan dog) thrived on short, intense, fun sessions a couple times a week. My current dog (papillon) is one who will continue to work, even past when he would prefer to stop, if I want to keep going. He starts looking sort of glazed, but he keeps trying.

    The "you have to": well.... there is "you have to" and then there is "you have to". Its essential to discriminate between a dog who is not willing to put in any effort versus one who either has tried to (and used up all effort) or has some other thing going on that prevents him from putting in the effort.

    Assuming that the dog is not just dissing you, I guess my feeling is that if your dog is not giving you the effort you want, you need to go back and look at the handling and expectations, because something is not synching up with the dog. Maybe its a "I have 10 minutes of work in me and you just asked for 30" sort of dog. Figure out how to work with him and his strengths, rather than trying to put Mr square post into the round hole. After all, obedience exercises in the ring only take 5 - 8 minutes...

    My first dogs, I learned he worked best at trials if he could stay in his crate until the last possible second and go into the ring cold -- that would maximize his energy and interest. He only had so much and warming up outside the ring used it all up before we went in. My current dog would do best if I could warm him up and make him seriously work for, say, an hour before he went into the ring. To burn off some of that excess zeal and let him really settle in to work.

  4. SLD loves his mama... do you think he would run for someone else??? Just askin' is all...

  5. I still have dibbs on jww (no tunnel) course. Really do hope it's much better so there is no issues. I know I have the "Phoe-----nix" down right.

  6. I do short, short sessions thru out the day. As jennie said, you're only in the ring for less than 8 minutes so why do you train for more than 30? B-O-R-I-N-G! I do go-outs on the way to the barn to do chores or on the road during a walk (that really clarifies the 'you go until I tell you to stop' concept). Randon drops or sits in the yard & house, recalls in the house, stays on the front porch, articles in the bedroom, 5-6 steps of heeling in the kitchen, pivots and turns too. Jumps are the only thing I have to "set up" to actually practice. Other than that, I rarely do a full formal practice of all the exercises. I can't imagine how much more Trey would hate obedience if I trained for 30 minutes every day!