Posts Tagged With: Silvia Trkman

Why I Still Like To End Sessions On A Good Note

Silvia Trkman said many great things in her latest blog post on why we don’t always need to end sessions on a good note (seriously, you should read it), but I do have some reservations.

I think ending on a good note has its advantages even for those trainers who use only dog-friendly techniques and make training really fun for the dog. From human psychology we know that how the session ends can have a big impact on how we’ll remember it – if it ends on a good note we tend to remember the whole session more favorably than a session that went well, but ended with a disappointment. I have no proof, but I’m pretty sure dogs are the same. This would mean that too many sessions ending on a bad note would have a negative impact on how your dog feels about training.

As Denise Fenzi wrote in a blog post (this is part of an excellent series of posts on behavior chains): when we train we don’t just train behaviors, we also train a Conditioned Emotional Response (CER) to the trainer and training itself. If the dog is excited during trainings over time their CER to training will be excitement and if the dog is usually bored or frustrated during training their CER will also reflect this. So if by keeping training sessions exciting we built a great CER then by ending on a bad note repeatedly the CER could shift from excitement toward something less.

It also depends a lot on dog’s character and life experience. Just like the same event like loosing a job can impact two people in a different way, one searching for a new job with optimism while the other one wallows in depression, so the same event (ending a session on a bad note) can prompt some dogs to try even harder next time while it can deflate others.

With Ruby who loves to work and believes that if something went wrong it was all my fault, I can end a session when things go wrong and it’s no problem. I don’t think he learns anything from it, we just quit, I think of a new approach and next time he’s no worse for the wear. With Java, who also loves to work, but believes that everything that goes wrong is her fault, I try not to show her that things went south. After all, if she can’t get it right that’s my fault, not hers. I messed up by making the task too difficult for her. After too many unsuccessful repetitions I find something that we can do successfully, we do that and end the session – i.e. we end on a good note.

Maybe a part of the reason why Silvia sees this situation differently than me is in our personalities. When things go wrong she seems to get curious (from what I was able to observe) while I get frustrated. Java can sense my frustration, so I need to candy coat it with good stuff (making success easy) so she won’t think she did something wrong. Ruby on the other hand doesn’t care if I’m frustrated or not, he is sure it was my fault anyway 😉

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Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundations Class Review

Unrelated, but cute

Unrelated, but cute

I wrote a longish post about our experience with Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundations class, but then figured it would be easier to read if I split it into two parts as I was really writing about two things. Today you can read a review of the class and next time I’ll tell you a bit about what we learned in it.

For those who don’t know, Silvia Trkman is a two-time FCI World Agility Champion and currently competes with four very successful dogs, so she obviously knows what she is doing when it comes to training dogs for agility. Agility Foundations is her online class which you attend by getting homework (instructions + video) and then sending in videos of your progress every week so Silvia can give you feedback. There are two ways to attend: Participant (sends videos and asks questions) and Auditor (can ask questions and see other people’s videos, but can’t post their own videos). This class is offered twice a year and lasts 4 months.
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Agility Foundations Homework

The class has finally begun! Unfortunately Java has injured the skin on her paws while running after balls. I think the ground is too rough at the moment as there is not much grass and her skin is not used to it. We won’t be training for a week while her skin heals, but here is what we did so far:

  • 2on2off: we progressed to the point when I can throw the treat ahead and she will stop in position (well, mostly… and sometimes she will get slow while watching the treat – who said stickiness is for BCs only 🙂 )
  • Multiwraps: she is quite tight and focusing on the cone much better than before.
  • Figure 8: I asked for more than she could do, then I tried correcting it with multiwraps, then she got slower 😦 But that first try had lovely speed! Need to have a better plan prepared for next time.
  • Single wrap sends: I used a bottle on a string so that I wouldn’t use thrown toys all the time and she didn’t drive into the turn quite as well, but turns were nice and tight.
  • Weaves: within a few repetitions she was running ahead into nothing and recalling through 🙂 Too bad we’ll have to stop using tennis balls for a while.
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Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundations Class

I have just enrolled Java in Agility Foundations class! I can’t tell you how excited I am!!! Well, perhaps you can tell 😉

I love Silvia’s method of teaching agility because it emphasizes running fast and having fun (not to mention that she is very successful with it). What more could one want out of a sport where a human and a dog run as a team?

My crazy boy exiting the dog walk... Oh how I miss those days...

My crazy boy exiting the dog walk… Oh how I miss those days…

I also love that she got around to making a companion DVD, called Foundations Fun. You can order it even if you’re not participating in the course. If you don’t know her methods yet and feel that 200 EUR for a class is too big a commitment then those 50 EUR for a DVD will be well spent. (Java is watching it intently and softly whining – I think she wants in on the action!)

When I first went to Silvia’s Agility Foundations class with Ruby I didn’t care about how soon we are going to be able to run mini courses. Just doing a single piece of equipment was a very exciting prospect. But now that I got hooked and haven’t been able to run agility in such a long time I am extra happy that Silvia’s method encourages handlers to run their dogs on small courses almost from the start. I will get my fix soon! Very soon 🙂

Truth be told I tried to get some today, but shockingly someone forgot to teach Java to look for a jump when she comes out of a tunnel 😉 I should set up a tunnel course, that would be fun!

Ruby’s action photo was taken by Janja Erjavec.

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