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19 minutes | 4 months ago
03x02: Elisa Deutschmann | Trailrunning with dogs
JEANETTE: Nearly 40,000 people are following the adventures of today’s guest and her husky, Finn. They have traveled to eight countries together, and today she will share her best tips on trail running with her dog. Elisa Deutschmann from Germany, welcome. ELISA: Thank you, thank you. Nice to be here. JEANETTE: Yes, we’re very happy to have you here. You are an influencer? ELISA: Yeah, that’s right. JEANETTE: You and your dog, Finn. Can you tell us a bit more about yourselves? ELISA: My name is Elisa, as you already have heard. I’m living together with my husky, Finn, normally in Germany. I think for two years, I started to share all my photos and adventures which I and my dog are doing to Instagram. I uploaded pictures and videos about my life, about all the sports we are doing together, and yeah, it started to get more and more popular, and I think people like it and love to see what we’re doing. That’s why we’re always out and having fun. It’s nice to see that people get motivated about it. I think it’s nice. It’s a little bit more about how everything works with him, because it’s always important to do something together. JEANETTE: And you really are an outdoor person, and so is your dog. Can you tell us a bit more about Finn? ELISA: It’s my first dog ever. Before I got him, I knew I need a dog which was really robust so he can do everything I do and I don’t have to bring him warm jackets or so that he’s safe and ready for adventure. So I chose a Siberian husky. I got him when he was 8 weeks old, and now he’s already five and a half. We’ve made a lot of adventures together, and it works really well. So that was the point – that was when I said, okay, I need a Siberian husky. After five and a half years, I really know it was the right decision, and we’re a really good team together. I can’t think of a life without the dog. JEANETTE: Can you tell us a bit about the adventures you’ve had so far? You’ve visited many countries and you have been on top of mountains, you have been running down mountains together, winter, summer, everything. ELISA: That’s true. I’m traveling a lot with my dog. To be honest, the first holidays or adventures, I was not that prepared how to do everything with a dog because it was my first dog. The first holidays we made were to some really hot countries like Albania and stuff like that. If I’m thinking right now about it, it was not that nice because it was way too hot. But I think that’s the way you learn and how you can prepare everything better for your next adventures. After all that experience, I focused my holidays more on like Norway, countries which are colder or whatever, Netherlands, things like that. Right now it works really well. I was before really into the mountain stuff, but through my dog I became more and more into it. As you may know, we started to get into trail running and all that kind of stuff. Of course, if you have a dog, I think your life changes a little bit. It’s not like you go to the Bahamas and make holidays there. After that, we’re doing a lot of that stuff, but for both, it’s our passion and we love to be in the mountains. It’s insane. JEANETTE: Do you have any advice if you plan to go to a totally different country with your dog? You don’t know how it is when it comes to temperature, where to go, where the nice trails are. How do you navigate when you do research before your trips? ELISA: After a while, I really know my dog really well and I know what fits him and what doesn’t. If we’re going to a really warm place because we have to go or something like that, then I know that my dog loves to swim. That’s a really good point, because I always can put him in the water and he can cool a little bit down. But if it’s maybe too hot, I always search for shadows and stuff like that. I think it’s really important that you know your dog really well. That’s how I prepare it, and I think we’re a really good team, so we can figure everything out together and everything works quite well. JEANETTE: When it comes to water, how do you do it when you’re on the mountaintop and there might be no lakes or small rivers, or you don’t have any extra water with you? ELISA: That’s a really good question. Normally when I know where to go and I know there are a lot of rivers and mountains, then it’s no problem for us drinking the water. But I already had it once where I was really far up in the mountain, and I expanded my trip. It was not that long a plan, but I said, “Okay, it’s fine. We will find some water.” Then we were at the top and I saw Finn needed some water and we had nothing. Then I just picked up my bottle and gave him all my water. I think it’s always important to have enough water for you, of course, but also more for your dog. It’s really important to think about it. But it was good that I still had some water. But normally, as I said, I always plan it, and when I know I’m going to areas which have no water, I bring – I’m not sure how they call these dog bottles, where you can fill them with water – and bring that for him. It works quite well. I also know how much he needs. Of course, it depends on the temperature, shadow, all this stuff. But that’s how we can figure it out. I always try to be a really good dog mom. [laughs] JEANETTE: When you go hiking and running, how do you prepare your dog for this? ELISA: I start to train a lot. For a month I did my first real race, trail run race, and for that we trained half a year or something like that. When it’s hot I always go out really early in the morning or really late so that the dog is not starting to get too hot. The last race was 22 kilometers and 1,200 meters high, so I know it’s a long way. We started with some shorter uphill runs, like 5k, stuff like that. It was really cold, but after a while, we also started to run more at lunchtime, stuff like that, because I knew the race would be at the same time. So I looked at when it is and that my dog feels really comfortable doing the race and it’s not something new. He was really used to the long distances and everything after the half year. I think that’s really important. It’s not like you take your dog and say “Okay, now we are going for a 20k run,” because he’s not known to that. It’s super important that you train your dog for that and that you do it step by step. Also, during the race, I made some breaks. He got some water, and I was always looking for him. That’s also not that easy because if you’re going for a race with a dog, it’s not only about you that you have to take care of. It’s also about your dog. When the race started, it was a little bit too warm, so the first 5k I was really afraid and took it super slow and had a look at him. But after a while it starts to rain, and then the temperature goes down. Then I also saw on him that he was really into it and feeling good. I think it’s important that you really have a good connection to your dog. It’s not only a dog, it’s my best friend, my everything, and I really can see when he’s doing well or when he’s doing not well, when he needs water, a break. That’s important, and that’s how I prepare everything for it. JEANETTE: What kind of equipment do you need for doing this? ELISA: I’m always using Freemotion harness for Finn because it fits him really, really well, and he’s been using it already for 4 years, so I know it works. I don’t change it so much because I think that it fits good is really important, that he can breathe and run really good. Then I’m using the running line, super simple, and the running belt. Everything is super light and comfortable, and that’s really important if you go for long, long trails. But he’s not always running on the leash, because when I’m up on the mountain and running down, it’s super important that he’s not pulling too much for me, because otherwise my knees or other stuff are destroyed after a while. So he has to run behind me. That’s also something which I trained really, really early with him. Because it’s a Siberian husky, it’s not like a border collie, which is doing everything you want. So we had to train a lot for it. After a while it worked, and now he’s running behind me and sometimes I put the leash away. JEANETTE: Can you tell us a bit more on how you trained him to walk behind you? Did you use a treat behind your back? What did you do? ELISA: It was quite hard at the beginning. I was not used to how to do it. [laughs] I tried everything, but after a while I recognized that a pole is really good, because I’m always running with poles uphill. I just used the pole and said the German word “run behind me.” In English, it means that. So I used it and I put my hand to the back, and the pole was in the back, and then he had to have the distance between me and that. That’s really important because I’ll also be out a lot on skis in the winter, and there I also use it so that he is not coming too close to the skis. That works really well. I just can say that’s a good way to use the poles, and always try it so he’s a little bit away. JEANETTE: When you’re out running in the mountains, sometimes you can meet some animals. Not all animals are just as nice. Cows, for example. How do you handle them? ELISA: Cows.
23 minutes | 5 months ago
03x01: Viktor Sinding-Larsen | How to train like a World champion in bikejoring
JEANETTE: If you like biking, you will probably like this episode as well, as today’s guest is the World Champion, European Champions, and Norwegian Champion in bikejoring. He also competes in scooter and Nordic with skijoring, pulka, and 4-dog sled. Viktor Sinding Larsen, welcome. VIKTOR: Thank you. JEANETTE: You have achieved some impressive results throughout many years, so of course we want to know: how are you training yourself and your dogs? Now it’s offseason. VIKTOR: It is. We just finished the winter season. Every year, we give the dogs an 8-week offseason period where we do other things, like not competition-specific training. We try to build up their strength, so we do some power training, a lot of core training. But in general, fewer hours than what we normally do. If some of the dogs come out of the season with small injuries that we do not see, these 2 months normally will heal all kinds of small potential injuries so that when we start again in 2 months, we know that they’re ready for a new year of training and competition. JEANETTE: How do you build your training throughout the rest of the year? VIKTOR: When the offseason period is over, we start very, very light. Only short trainings, maybe 1-2 kilometers in the beginning. Then we build up. Normally when the weather gets colder, it’s possible to do longer trainings. We start 1-2 kilometers and we try to end when the dryland competition is getting closer. We build up so that we are on 9-10 kilometer trainings. Then we prepare for the dryland competitions, and when the dryland competitions are done, we have a lack of time, trying to prepare for the winter season, trying to catch up. All the Nordic guys have been training huge amounts through the fall, so then we have to program the dogs for longer distances, train big amounts in November/December, preparing for competition. JEANETTE: You divide your training into light, medium, and hard weeks. What’s the difference between these weeks? VIKTOR: We try to have these light, medium, and hard weeks. In general we do a lot of pulling. In the light week, maybe two or three times of pulling. The main purpose of this week is to recover. The medium week is a bit harder, maybe three to four times a week pulling. Then we end up with the hard week, five to six times pulling, and we also try to combine it with some core training or just free running in the garden. JEANETTE: You’re living in Oslo, and that’s a city where it could be hard to have your dogs free running, but you solve this by training them in many other different ways. VIKTOR: Yes, that’s true. We live in Oslo, and it’s a little bit challenging to train as much free running as we might like to do for the capacity of the dogs. But I like swimming a lot. It’s a very good, gentle way of training both capacity and strength. So during summer, we try to swim as much as possible. JEANETTE: Swimming is also a very gentle way to train the dogs to avoid injuries. VIKTOR: It is. I always spend quite a lot of energy on avoiding injuries for our dogs. Especially when we got our first greysters, they were really, really good dogs, Siri and Sagan. Because they were such amazing dogs, it was very important for us to get them to the starting line without having any injuries. It was better to compromise a little bit on the capacity training and more focus on having them without any injuries. Therefore, we train a lot of power, core, swimming, and not that much free running as maybe others do. Of course, we don’t get the same capacity, but a healthy dog normally has good enough capacity for bikejoring anyway. It’s more important that it is without any kind of injuries. JEANETTE: At the European Championships this winter, you started with seven dogs. Every dog was healthy. VIKTOR: Yeah. Even though it was a very challenging winter with a lot of ice and it was really hard to train, we managed to bring all our seven dogs without any kind of injuries to the starting line. That’s something I’m very, very proud of. The brain behind keeping the dogs free of injuries is my wife. She’s a physical therapist for both humans and our dogs, and she’s very good at observing. She spends a lot of time looking for any kind of injuries, if they walk in special ways. She spends a lot of time observing the dogs to see if there is anything wrong. This also affects the way we train. We say we try to be better safe than sorry. If there’s any kind of risk involved in the plans we have or the conditions, etc., we try to drop it just to make sure that we avoid any injuries. JEANETTE: Even if it’s competition? VIKTOR: Yeah, even if it’s competition. I think this has changed a little bit. When we started racing and for many years, we were in the middle of the list. It was quite a gap to the best ones, especially on the Nordic part. Then the feeling was much stronger to come up with something a little bit fancier, involving a little bit more risk, to close this gap. But when you continue training like this and try to build the gap in a fast way, it’s normally not possible. The coach of Karsten Warholm says that they build in millimeters, but things can be destroyed in meters, meaning you cannot do something fancy in one training, which means that you need continuity in your training. Every day you train, you become a little bit better. But if you do one mistake, you can ruin everything just in one training. So it’s better to take one step at a time, being careful, instead of having to risk ruining everything and putting you many steps back. I think also it’s important to think about what’s going on besides training. We train maybe 1 or 2 hours a day, and the rest of the 22-23 hours, it’s important to be careful. Most injuries happen during that time. JEANETTE: Do you train with both bike and scooter? VIKTOR: I train 99% of the time on bike. I think with a bike, it’s much easier to find the right speed. You can help them upwards, and especially at the end of the training session, you can help them in a much better way to control and find the right speed that you want for the dogs. Especially where we live, it’s very hilly. It’s up and down. Especially at the end of the training when they’re a little bit weaker, it’s super nice to go on a bike, and you can help them find exactly the speed that you want. JEANETTE: How do you know what speed is the right speed? VIKTOR: In general, we train very, very slow downwards. I think this is very important for them to build up the trust for going slowly downwards so that the dogs have the feeling that they want to run faster. When you do that all the time, they really put themselves in a nice way into the harness. They really push downwards, and it’s like they want to go faster. So when competitions come and we pick the speed up, then it’s something they want. When it’s going upwards, then we train very differently. Sometimes we want to do it heavy; sometimes we want to do it light. But by using a bike, you can adjust it just the way you want. In general, I think we train very slow. I get many questions from people following me on Strava for example. They can follow each of our dog trainings, and they ask why we go so slow. I think for me, it’s important just to find a good rhythm where the dog is like flying in a comfortable speed. If the goal for us is to reach, for example, 10K during this training, I try to find a speed, up, down, and on the flat, that will bring us to this 10K as easily as possible, a speed that they will roll or fly in the most efficient way. Then we have to brake downwards, trying not to have it too high on maximum speed, trying to find a good average speed, a good flow, so that we as efficiently as possible reach the kilometers that we want. By doing that, we can gain a lot of kilometers where the regeneration or restitution time is as low as possible. My theory is that if I bring the speed up too much, the gain or the effect is very small, but they need much more time to regenerate and they don’t manage to run as many kilometers as if you find the right rhythm, the right flow, where they can fly away, gaining as many kilometers as possible. JEANETTE: That theory seems to be correct because you’ve done quite well. [laughs] VIKTOR: Yeah. It seems like this is working. I have many different dogs; they’re all running quite well. JEANETTE: After a training session like this, how tired are the dogs? VIKTOR: I always try to vary that as well, but in general I’m very fond of having short trainings. Very often, I end the training before they are very tired. By doing that quite often, they always want to push harder. It’s a very important key in having the progression during the year. We start with just 1 or 2 kilometers, but I know the dogs can run two or three times as much. But by doing this many, many times, maybe five times a week, they will push harder and harder because they know, “This training is going to be short; I’ll spend as much energy as I can on these 3 kilometers.” By doing this, then we can slowly add one more and one more kilometer and still have a lot of power, building up towards 10K. JEANETTE: Is it only in competition that you’re really pushing it to the maximum? VIKTOR: Yeah. Only one time a year, I push 100%. I say that every competition or exercise is like putting money into the bank, and it’s only the European Championship or the World Championship where we go 100%. Even the Norwegian Championship or small competit
23 minutes | 7 months ago
02x06: Line Østerhagen | How much should I exercise my puppy? | SEASON FINALE
JEANETTE: I see a lot of questions on social media about what distances a puppy can walk, when they can start pulling or carrying a backpack, or whether they should walk on stairs or not. Today’s guest has worked with physical therapy for 20 years, and she can help find answers to these questions. Line Østerhagen, welcome. LINE: Thank you. JEANETTE: Your goal is to make life better for dogs by spreading knowledge about how their bodies are working and how we can take care of them in the best way possible. Therefore, you have been working on a book for the past year. LINE: Yes, during 20 years of work and contact with dog owners, I found out that many courses and many places where they teach normal dog training, they actually don’t teach training physiology. So there is a lot of myths and wrong information out there, and I wanted to create a book with all the things that I think are missing from all the ordinary courses and all the important knowledge to all the dog owners so they can take good care of the body of their dog. My book is about training exercise, but also about making a well-balanced program for the dog, how to train strength, endurance, and core muscles, and also how to put all these training methods together. But it’s also about how to train a dog according to their age, because there are certain practices that you need to take care of when maybe you’re training a puppy or training a grown dog. But it’s also a little bit about rehabilitation, harness, and how to actually do an easy physical checkup routine for your own dog and a little bit of stretching and massage. I think my book can help a lot of dog owners out there. JEANETTE: The beginning of the dog’s life is very important. As a puppy, how do you prepare it for an active life? LINE: There are so many misunderstandings, so many myths. Many people say that you have to keep the puppy quiet, don’t do any physical activities, be careful about exaggerating their training. But actually, it’s more like if you don’t do any exercises with your puppy, it will not be prepared for the exercise it’s going to do later in life. In the beginning, when a puppy is born, it is really important that we let the puppy experience a lot of different stuff and a lot of different stimulation to the body because the body will develop to manage the things that we tell it it has to manage. And if you don’t tell it to manage anything, the puppy might easily get injured. Actually, in the United States, in the military, they start stimulating the puppies when they are 10 weeks old. They have had quite good results with that. I’m not saying that you should exaggerate. You shouldn’t do anything that the puppy doesn’t actually manage to do by itself. But the puppy has to be in activity. You are not going to stop the puppy from any normal activities. For example, walking on stairs. Puppies can easily walk on stairs. It’s actually just if the puppy is so small that it cannot manage the stairs that you might wait a little bit with it. But if you make small stairs, even a small puppy will manage to do that. So when they’re old enough to manage it all by themselves, they can do anything. You shouldn’t stop the puppy from anything. But I recommend that you don’t have a tired puppy. If you’re walking, for example, in the woods, you should notice if the puppy is tired. Maybe you should take a break. But the puppy should be in activity. Of course, as it grows, it should be in more and more activity, and you should present to it more and more different kinds of stuff. JEANETTE: Does this include jumping, different surfaces, and everything? LINE: Yes. Surfaces are really important to teach the body how to control itself on different surfaces. Also, of course, mentally so that a puppy is not afraid of anything. A body that is afraid of a surface will also have a very tense body, and a tense body will easily get injured. I believe there are many factors that make it important to present all kinds of stuff, actually. JEANETTE: I know one question many have is: for how long can I walk my puppy? LINE: I wrote a blog about this, the 5-minute rule. Here in Norway we have something called the 5-minute rule that says that the puppy should increase with 5 minutes of walking every day. Actually, that makes maybe a six-month-old puppy say that it should only walk for half an hour. As I have border collies, I can tell you that if I kept my puppy from walking or moving more than 30 minutes a day when she was six months old, she would go crazy. After a trip in the woods, she would run hours in the garden. I think that the puppy must decide itself. As long as it’s not human-driven exercise, they should move as much as they want. And as long as you take breaks when you go into the woods, I believe it’s totally okay. I think it’s really different walking a small chihuahua to walking, for example, an Alaskan husky. You cannot use the 5-minute rule for both of those two. A chihuahua will walk maybe twice or three times as many steps as the other dog when they’re in the woods. It also depends on how well-prepared their body is at that stage. If the puppy has been in normal activities since it was small, then it will also be able to walk further. But of course, if you keep a puppy from walking and then start later on, then you have to start more carefully because the body is not built up to manage that kind of exercise. I would not let a puppy jump all the time as exercise, but normal jumping in the garden, jumping over trees in the woods and everything, of course they can do that. As long as they physically manage it by themselves, then they can do it. JEANETTE: How do I know if my puppy is tired? What signs should I look for? If it’s my first dog, it could be difficult to know if the puppy is tired or not. LINE: Yes. The most normal sign, of course, is that it maybe walks a little bit slower, wants to sit down. Maybe it doesn’t manage its movement as well anymore. But actually, a puppy can also be overtired and get even more active than it normally does. Of course, it’s important to learn this from the beginning and to know their signs before you go on a long trip. I would recommend all people get knowledge about this because every dog is a little bit different as well, so it is really important that you know your puppy. JEANETTE: A lot of our listeners have sports dogs. Many of them are doing pulling sports like bike drawing or canicross. One important question for them is: when can the puppy start pulling, and how do you start? LINE: We recommend that a young dog learns how to do everything with only its own body first. So they build up their muscles, they build up their movements in maybe their first and second year. At approximately two years of age, a young dog can start to pull something or carry a backpack. But of course, this is also relative because the dog has to be prepared for the work. It doesn’t matter if the dog is two years old if it just laid on the sofa for that long. It needs to be prepared for every work that it’s going to do. If it’s well-prepared, then about two years of age. You have to remember that we have to carefully build their body up progressively from the beginning. Those rules, for example, in agility, it says that as long as the dog is approximately one year old, it can participate in training. But of course, the dog has to be prepared in their body, so it doesn’t help to be the right age if they have not done the right preparation. Actually, I have a kickbike, and although my dog is one year old this year, one of my dogs, she is walking beside the kickbike. She has a harness on, but she doesn’t actually pull. But I teach her techniques and I teach her commands and I teach her to be safer on the kickbike and everything. She also goes on the trip, but without pulling. So I believe it’s really important that we prepare the dogs. That is what it’s all about with a puppy as well because it’s really a big difference if the dog is maybe three months old until it’s a year. We have to very gradually increase the exercise. Also, when the dog is maybe about a year, maybe eight months – depends on what it’s going to do – I would also start to prepare it for the sport or the thing that we want it to do later in life so the body gets the right preparation. JEANETTE: Do you start with easy weight and not very long sessions? How do you build it up? LINE: Yes. Actually, many times I start with no weight or no pull. As I told you, with my puppy, she’s just joining the trip, learning the technique, but she’s not pulling. I have also with my own dogs started to make them comfortable with carrying the backpack without anything in it in the beginning. Then we start with a really easy weight. For normal training, I recommend that you use the body weight of the dog and train with approximately 10%. I know that there are certain dogs doing a lot heavier than that, and for short trips and if it’s really well-trained for it, of course it can carry more. But for normal weekly training, we recommend that. There are also some contraindications. For example, a dog with weak carpus, I would never make those carry a backpack. So you should really know what you’re doing when you’re putting external weight or pull on the dog, that your dog is capable in every way. JEANETTE: Maybe get a checkup from the vet before you start training? LINE: Yes, I believe that’s a good idea. Also maybe read about it. Get help to make a good training p
37 minutes | 7 months ago
02x05: Steve Walsh | Q&A with a dog trainer
JEANETTE: We wanted to involve our listeners in today’s episode, so we’re doing a Q&A with dog trainer Steve Walsh from McCann Dogs. Welcome. STEVE: Good morning. How are you? Well, good morning over here. I guess good afternoon over there? JEANETTE: Yeah, it’s afternoon for us. You’ve had dogs for more than 30 years and taught classes for the last 15. Is that right? STEVE: Yeah, at least. They’ve been a part of my life since I was a little guy. Always something that I’ve had a lot of fun with. Training was always the most important thing to me, and actually, it was the most fun, more so than anything else. [laughs] JEANETTE: What kind of dogs have you had throughout the years? STEVE: My first dog when I was a kid was a black standard poodle. She was the worst trained dog ever. [laughs] JEANETTE: She taught you a lot, I guess. STEVE: Yeah, she was a dog that when you walked out the front door, you had to try to close the door really fast so she wouldn’t run away. I think that probably started me on this idea of wanting to train dogs. Since then, I’ve had several Irish wolfhounds and whippets and border collies and things. I have two border collies right now and an Irish wolfhound currently in the house. JEANETTE: You’ve been competing in different kinds of dog sports? STEVE: Yeah, I’ve done a fair bit of lure coursing with the sighthounds and stuff, and now my main focus is agility. I’ve been lucky enough to represent Canada overseas at the European Open and national events around here as well. I’m very, very lucky to be able to do that. JEANETTE: That’s good. So you have a lot of experience. STEVE: Well, there’s always things to learn. [laughs] That’s the one thing I’ve learned. I never know enough, so I’m always trying to learn more. JEANETTE: That’s good. Our listeners seem to be eager to learn more as well. We asked everyone on Instagram to send us their questions, and we got a lot, actually. There seems to be a lot of excited dogs out there because there were a bunch of questions similar to this first one “Do you have any tips on how to train your dog to not get too crazy and excited before a training or a race?” STEVE: Dogs that are stimulated and excited, especially when it comes to training, are things that I love because I want a dog that’s eager and I want a dog that’s motivated to do the things that we want to do, whether it be agility or just some retrieving or some field trials or any of the sledding sports, things like that. I will say before any of the sport stuff starts, though, I spend a lot of time with my younger dogs just near the environment. The reason I say near is if they’re right in it, we all know the events, especially the trials and events and races and things, are very high energy. If I can start to spend a little bit of time getting them comfortable in the area, doing basic things – having them sit, having them lie down, having them walk with me before I ever get to trialing, that can really help down the road. Now, that doesn’t mean that older dogs can’t do that. We spend a lot of time trying to simulate a trial environment and trying to simulate that energy level because it is so different, and teach our dogs to listen. The more they can do that, the easier that becomes. One thing I don’t want to ever do is try and get rid of that interest and excitement from the dogs. I really like it, but I really want to make sure that they can focus on listening to me in spite of that excitement. That’s a bit of a challenge to do, but like anything else, if I do it in a manner that my dog can be successful, that can help in those situations. That’s for sure. It’s a challenging thing to do, but it’s definitely worthwhile focusing on. JEANETTE: Do you start when the dog is a puppy and you start from a distance and then gradually work your way closer? STEVE: Yeah. Distance is a really big benefit. If you’re right next to something and let’s say the dog’s not even listening because you’re right next to the start line and there’s dogs screaming and barking and all sorts of things, going 40 or 50 feet away can really, really help to bring that puppy’s mind back in and allow it to listen. I think about my dogs as having a bubble around them, and when they’re puppies, of course, that bubble is quite large. Anything that comes within that bubble really affects them and really distracts them. But the more adept they get at learning to listen with those distractions, the smaller that bubble gets and the more they can focus. But it also starts with doing simple, basic behaviors, simple things that I want them to do, and really letting them know what to do instead of what not to do. This is one of our big training philosophies. I don’t want to spend a lot of time telling my dog what not to do, but I want to spend time telling them what to do and showing them how to do it to be successful. If I can give you something that you know how to do when you’re in an excited mindset, it becomes easier for me to prevent the things that I don’t want to be happening. Basically, I replace behaviors that I don’t want with behaviors that I do. That’s a bit of a challenge, but that distance that you talked about is really helpful in doing so. Just having a dog sit on a loose leash near that excitement – it might not happen 10 feet away, but at 50 feet away, it can be really, really successful. And then I would move slowly closer, building on that success. JEANETTE: And if your dog is starting to fail, you just go one or two steps back again? STEVE: Yeah, I move back. I move back to where they can be successful. Teaching a dog to offer me some focus when they’re excited is another thing that I really spend a lot of time doing. If I have an excited dog and they’re let’s say standing next to an agility ring, going nuts, if I move away, just encourage the dog to move away with me – I’m not going to tell them “leave it,” I’m not going to tell them “no” or anything negative – I’m just going to wait, and oftentimes in waiting, they will offer to look and offer a little bit of focus. That’s a great way to build a little bit more of the idea in the dog’s mind that when you’re excited about things, you need to look at me for directions, not continue to focus on looking at that thing that is exciting to you. I want my dogs to feel free to look around the world. I don’t expect them to stare at me the whole time. But any time they do offer me some focus, and especially any time they offer me calm focus, then I start to offer a lot more reward. I simply build on that idea that yep, those exciting things are there, but I’m still here and all the good stuff comes from me. JEANETTE: Do you prefer to reward with a toy or with treats? STEVE: Every dog is different. People get so caught up on the thing, whether it’s the toy or the food. I want my dogs to think that I am a reward. All of me, whether it’s a piece of a kibble, whether it’s a toy, whether I’m running and playing with them, whether I’m simply talking to them, I want my dogs to think of me as a reward. All that stuff is just the icing on the cake, so to speak. The more that they think I’m fun, the more they’ll pay attention to me. JEANETTE: Staying in a starting area can be quite challenging because in some sports you have a specific time. You know that “at this time, I’m going to run,” but in other sports it depends on what’s happening on the course. Sometimes you have to wait for a long time, sometimes a shorter waiting time. It can be quite hard to train this. STEVE: Oh yeah, absolutely. You know with a lot of the sports that you do and a lot of the events you’ve been to with agility that sometimes the setups to go into the ring are very different from event to event. Sometimes you can be on the other side of the field and there’s a sound system where they call your name when you need to go. Other times you’re waiting in line, 30 or 40 or 50 dogs long. That’s where spending time away from those events, working on that ability to focus and that ability to settle, can really go a long way when you really need it to. Of course, the other side of that is at those events, we’re also worked up. We’re also nervous or focused or a little bit more on edge, and that goes right to the dogs. They read that, as far as I’m concerned. So conditioning us both to be calm and collected can really make a big difference. Again, starting away from those events and working towards it. The other thing that we really try and do, we often set up fake trials, or we play games in our training to put pressure on them, because pressure changes how we interact with the dogs. Pressure changes how the dogs react to it. We’ll make silly bets or silly games or play music really loud or do something else that simulates that environment to really have the dogs work through it. Maybe it’s a challenge for if you don’t run clean, then you have to do 50 pushups, or something where there’s something on the line that we really have to work towards, and that makes it fun. JEANETTE: When you are at competitions, would you use the chance to do – I like to call it false starts, to pretend that you’re preparing for a start, but then you don’t start so that the dog never knows when it&r
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