Archive for the ‘labrador’ Category

The next step after setting goals is to evaluate the success of the goals!  We all want to succeed.  But if we set goals that are too lofty, we can easily become discouraged.  If we set goals that are too easy we aren’t going to make much progress.  So what this all means is you must evaluate your goals, and then set new ones!   (It’s never ending!  Vicious cycle of goals!  Remember to reward yourself!)

First goal I set was:

  • I want to train with my dogs at least five days this week.

That one is easy to evaluate by looking at my checkmarks on my sheet and yes I did!  Now for this next week I’m going to make this one a bit more specific, because I’m an English Major (or Word Engineer as one friend called me).  So while I can honestly say I did train with my dogs for at least five days this week, I did not train with EACH dog for five days a week, and honestly I’d rather that be my goal.

So goal for the next seven days:

  • I will train each dog at least five days this week.

That’s better!

Now what about a goal you don’t make?  One of my goals was:

  • By the end of this week I want us to be using five containers and three distractions with him being successful on 100% of the searches.

And we didn’t get there.  This is where you evaluate.  During your training sessions you should constantly be evaluating where you are and whether to take a step back or a step forward, and the same goes for your goals.  Our last session the Golden starting picking up the containers, and not always the hot one!  This is not what I want!  So I had to evaluate and modify on the fly!  First I took out the container he picked up.  I set up again, and he picked up another one.  Was he stressed?  Just running out and grabbing?  And since sadly we can’t read their minds, the best thing I could do was to test out a few theories.  “What if I do X?  Does he still grab?”  I didn’t want to go too long with this, but since after another try he was still grabbing, I backed up.  I reinforced for him nosing the container in my hand.  Then nosing the hot container on the ground.  “Hey, remember?  This is what I want!”  And then I stopped for the night.

So, we did not meet our goal.  And here again is where words come in.  Some would say I failed to meet my goal.  While that’s correct, fail has a very negative connotation.  Thinking of it terms of failure can easily lead to demotivation.  And that’s definitely not something we want!  Instead I look at it as information, and I’m still grateful I set the goal I did because it kept us moving forward!  We kept working, we kept getting better, and now there’s a little detour to work through, but that is dog training!

So even if you don’t achieve the goal, make sure to look at how far you came.  And then…for the next week, plot a new plan!


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So now that we’ve acknowledged I have dreams and not goals, it’s time to set goals.  I created my checklist on Sunday with very generic goals.


  • Cookie Jar Games
  • Agility
  • Misc


  • Scent Work
  • Recallers
  • Misc


  • Wobble Board
  • Chin
  • Misc

The Misc is to accommodate my own “squirrel” factor in my training.  For example as I’m writing this it’s thunder-storming.  If that continues there will be no agility training tonight, so misc gives me a chance to pick something else to work on and give myself a reinforcing check mark!

But let’s be honest.  These are not goals.  So let’s break this down and make goals!  Have you heard of SMART goals?  The idea is to make goals that are:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Attainable.
  • Relevant.
  • Time Bound.

So let’s see how I can take my checklist and make it SMART!

  1. I want to train with my dogs at least five days this week.

Let’s see.  It’s fairly specific.  I could get more specific stating what I want to train, but let’s leave that for right now.  Measurable?  Well if I train for five days this week, that’s measurable and I’ll have succeeded!  Attainable?  Yup, I’ve got seven days in a week.  I should be able to manage five of them!  Relevant?  Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take, so since I want to move forward in my training with my dogs I’d say it’s relevant!  And time bound I’ve got it for this week!  Look I made a goal!

But I need to break down the items on my checklist.  I have “agility.”  How incredibly vague.  So, since this Saturday I plan to be doing a Touch N Go run with the Labrador let’s make this a very relevant SMART Goal!

  • This week every day it’s not raining when I’m home, I will work contacts with the Labrador.

Specific?  I think so.  Working contacts.  Measurable?  Yup.  Attainable?  Definitely.  Relevant and Time Bound are both there.  So I think this is a good goal.

But I’m setting goals by time here.  Some goals need to be set by outcome.  For this I’m thinking of the Golden and scent work.

  • By the end of this week I want us to be using five containers and three distractions with him being successful on 100% of the searches.

I think I like this goal type better in a way.  It meets the SMART criteria, but also has an result involved.  From here I can break my training plan down more.

  • Tonight I will use three containers and one distraction.  If he’s successful 90% of the time, we’ll move to four containers and two distractions.

This type of goal will need more evaluation along the way, but helps one reach an end result rather than just marking off time training.  Is it attainable?  Well, I’m not 100% sure, which is why it will need more evaluation along the way.  With this perhaps I need an overall goal.  Like by the end of August I want him searching a pile of 10 objects with six containers and six distraction objects.  But then I have to think back to my “dream” goals again.  Why did I start teaching this – for the Fenzi Team title.  And for that he only needs three objects.  So the overall goal is the Fenzi Team 1 Title.  I need to keep that in mind when I set my goals for next week, because at some point I need to move on to the other exercises.

But I’m learning to set goals.  I’m trying to take the dreams and make them obtainable.

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I have a hard time setting goals.

I have dreams.

Which means I have a hard time breaking things down and setting realistic goals for my training.  This then leads to very unorganized training.  I tried to be better.  I made a nice little table with the dogs names, what I wanted to work on and a place for checkmarks per day.  This was a great start.  Accountability is important.  But I’m not sure it’s enough.  For example for each dog I had “mat” as what I wanted to work on. I want to teach my dogs to go to a mat and stay there until I release them!  But this chart was for two weeks.  Did I expect to have the entire behavior trained to distraction at the end of two weeks?  Or did I expect to have them understand that when I said mat, they went to mat and stayed there for five seconds until I released?  Did I expect them to stay there while I bounced a tennis ball?  While someone came to the door?  It’s easy to say I’m going to train a mat behavior!  Harder to set a realistic goal.

So now I want to do better.  I like my table for accountability.  We all like our gold stars!  It’s visual and something I can check off and feel good about.  But I think I need to do more than this.  Also I need to understand my “squirrel” behavior in training.  Which means — some days I just want to play with something else!  Maybe today I want to take the Labrador out and train some disc!  So this time I put a spot for that on my table.  Sometimes I think training needs to have a little spontaneous fun in it!

But I think for other things I need more concrete goals.  So, I have my table, but then I’m going to have another notebook I think, with the exact goal written out.  For example I’m doing scent work with the Golden.  By the end of this week I want to be up to six containers on his search.  We did five today.  I may need some practice writing my goals.  And I may have to adjust them as I go along, learning what is too much, and what is too little, but I hope that being at least a little more specific will help us move forward.


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My very first blog post was called Two Dog Travel.  This was the story about how the Labrador broke out of her soft crate while visiting family.

I should have read it before we went home for Christmas.  While it’d been more than three years, and not one incident in all that time once we got back to my parents guess who decided to break out of her soft crate again?

Once again we traveled with two dogs.  This time the 55lb Labrador and the 65lb Golden Retriever.  We now have a Subaru Forester all decked out for the dogs, making the trip even more comfortable for everyone.

On Christmas Eve we decided to go shopping, so the dogs were placed into their soft crates, and my Father who elected not to go with us was given strict instructions not to let them out.

Out we went, shopping for a few hours only to come home to the Labrador greeting us at the front door, tail all a-wag, and evidence of an entire eaten loaf of bread on the floor.  All that was found was the wrapper.

“Dad!” I yelled, “I told you not to let them out!”

The Labrador followed me through the house, tail wagging as I went to find my Father, but there was no answer to my rather loud and exasperated exclamation.

Turning the corner I spotted him.  Asleep in bed!  How dare he?  He let out one dog and then didn’t bother to watch her?  “Dad!” I cried out, feeling fully justified in waking him up for a scolding.

Only… “I didn’t let them out,” was his sleepy, confused reply which sent me flying down the stairs to spy a ripped open soft crate.  This time she didn’t bother with the zipper, but ripped her way right through it, while the Golden watched (good boy for not following your sister’s example!).  And then she figure out how to open the sliding door to my old bedroom and probably happily trotted up the stairs to find the loaf of bread so easy to reach on the counter.

Lesson learned.  Metal crate purchased and left at my parents house!

And then I sheepishly apologized to my father, several times.


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Happy New Year!

I’ll be ringing in the new year home, with my husband and the three dogs.  Perfect way, in my opinion, to ring in the new year.  While there are lots of people posting about their new year resolutions I wanted to take a minute and look back over this last year.  Sometimes I don’t feel I’ve accomplished enough.  I’m not a good enough trainer.  I’m not progressing fast enough.  I left a training session frustrated today.  Part of the frustration is due to me trying to figure out my training philosophy – where my lines are.  There has been a lot on Facebook these last two days about training methodologies and labels — pure positive, balanced, force-free, “Have to” vs “Want to” — and I’ll be honest I haven’t read much of it, but what I do know is I have to figure out what is right for me and my dogs, and I’m having some difficulty with that.  Hopefully I’ll find more answers in the new year.  For the moment I’m just glad to be sitting here at home with the pups.

I know I want to stop comparing myself to other people.  I want to be able to appreciate and celebrate their accomplishments, while not feeling like I’m not keeping up.  I need to remind myself that that we don’t travel for trials, and yet the Labrador and I earned five new agility titles this year!  Considering I was someone who knew nothing about competition until the Labrador came into my life four years ago, that’s not too bad.

The Beagle earned her Novice Trick Dog title this year!  This was a lot of fun.  She loved getting to train!  And the Golden earned two legs of his Rally Novice title.  I should probably stop telling this story, but the second leg when the judge told me I qualified I replied with, “Really?  Are you sure?”  Probably not the best thing to blurt out to the judge!!

We’ve done a lot this year.  Maybe not by some people’s standards, but I’ll take it.  I’ve learned a lot this year.  Played a lot of games with my dogs.  And as frustrated as I may get I am enjoying the journey.  What more can I ask for?

Happy New Year!

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What a difference! In March while the Friday started out with 2 Q’s, the rest of the weekend we couldn’t buy a Q to save our souls. The Labrador was distracted. We were not connected and she wanted to visit everyone instead of stay on the course. I left the ring and said, “Did you see my untrained dog in there?”

So, we knew we had a few issues to work on. In lessons our instructor kept a crate next to her. If the Labrador left me to visit, she got put in the crate. Cheese lady was no longer fun! During practices, we asked friends to ring crew and do the same thing. If she visited, just take her and put her in her crate.

During the April trial I had two goals. The first was if she left me to visit, she got one “here.” If she did not respond, she got taken off the course and put in her crate. The other was contacts. If she blew a contact, I was going to pull her back and train it. In April we only had 2 Q’s all weekend, BUT I pulled her off the course when she went to visit, and I trained the contact when she broke it.

Which leads us to this weekend. 8/12 Qs! Four new titles! Only one almost visit, where she came back on the first “here!” NO missed contacts, and only one early release on her start line stay!

This was a Games Trial and we started off Saturday with Touch N Go. It was not pretty. We weren’t connected at all. Definitely an NQ, but the next run I left thinking we’d rocked it! She nailed the discrimination, hit all her contacts and I was so proud of her, but I spent too much time praising her perfect contacts and we missed the Q by 5.84 seconds. But I was happy with that, and I think in the long run it’s going to pay off on contacts. Then we did Weavers. The first run was fantastic! The second run….well I should have taken her for a longer walk before hand. She did the first three obstacles like a rockstar, then popped out of her weaves and gave me that “I’m so sorry mom, but I have to poop” look. Shit happens 😉

Then we ran two Open Tunnelers! I forgot I was in Open and almost missed the walk through! Luckily each day a friend reminded me we’d moved up and I ran in! She rocked the tunnels!

Sunday as if to redeem those 5.84 seconds from yesterday we nailed the first Touch N Go course by 4.73 seconds! Close, but we made it with a fantastic discrimination (awesome “here walk it” for a dog who LOVES tunnels!), and beautiful contacts! Second one we were even faster making course time by 10.96 seconds! The first weavers didn’t go so well. I didn’t realize how awkward an entrance it was from the tunnel to the weaves, and we didn’t Q that time, but the second Weavers she was beautiful. And then of course we had our two tunnelers. When I started this journey I swore I’d never be able to get a front cross in on the Labrador because she is so fast, but this weekend on several occasions because of the distance work we’ve been practicing I managed to several times! It was most obvious on the tunnelers where I was able to send her out and around loops without me having to run along side her for each tunnel and then at the end – the final stretch of tunnels where I was over a tunnel length ahead of her, looking back teasing her that, “I”m gonna beat you! Come on! Faster!!”

At the end of the day, I realized we’d earned our Novice Weavers, Novice Touch N Go, and first Open level title — Open Tunnelers! What I only realized moments before writing this is she also earned her OUTSTANDING Open Tunnelers!

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This weekend the Labrador earned her very first AKC Novice Standard Q and a first place!  It was our first AKC agility trial.  We entered Standard Novice.  While we’ve been competing in NADAC for two years, we’d spent some time training the four obstacles (teeter, tire, chute and table) that AKC uses that NADAC does not.   We read the rules, but didn’t fully understand all of them and figured the best way to learn was by doing!

The morning of the trial we arrived a little early to learn about where we check in, how numbers are handled, and getting measured.  Good thing we did because the Labrador got moved down on her jump height after being measured which I was happy about!  She gets to jump 20 inches instead of 24!  And there were two people available to measure so she’ll get her permanent card in the mail and not have to be measured again.  I also learned that ribbons were handled much the same as (self serve) as at a NADAC trial.

Some things that are fault in AKC aren’t a fault in NADAC (passing the plain of an obstacle).  But where as with NADAC you must have a fault free run to qualify, with AKC (at least Novice) you can have up to 15 faults (You have to score 85 out of 100).  Since I wasn’t completely clear on what was a fault and what wasn’t I just ran my course on Saturday.  We had a very disjointed started.  The Labrador wasn’t focused, but once I got her focused she was awesome.  She collected and dropped on the table, left the table flew long and low over the broad jump, into the chute!  From the chute she sailed through her weaves without a problem and over the final jump!  We skipped a jump in the beginning of the course, and I was told the next day that I had taken her back and done it we probably would have qualified.  I made the decision to move forward once I got her attention passing it by.  I’m happy with what she gave me once she got focused and cheered at the end of our run.

Sunday we had a fantastic start — chute to tunnel, to the dog walk to tire.  Then a switch to a jump.  She almost managed her stop on the table, but got right back on (-5 points).  From the table she completely missed the teeter, but I pulled her back and resent (-5 points).  From there well, the person scribing was more important than the jump (-5 points), but this time I pulled her back and had her do the jump once I got her focus back.  The rest of the course she was awesome.  Fantastic contact on the A-Frame good enough I got a front cross in, then beautiful weaves to the final jumps!  Again I left the ring happy with what I had gotten (the fantastic weaves, great contact etc), and knowing there are things we are working on and need to continue (not everyone wants to see you Ms. Labrador!).  What I didn’t realize was that we qualified!  After I left the ring, someone came up and congratulated me.  Then another person asked me if I’d gotten my ribbon.  Ribbon?  Really?  We were only Novice Standard dog to qualify that day!


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