Monday, 16 October 2017

Would you go to work in a swimsuit?

What clothes did you put on this morning?  Did you throw on an old t-shirt and jogging bottoms ready to get on with painting the bathroom?

Or did you choose a smart outfit ready for that big interview?

What if you work from home, do you wear “work” clothes or have you ever tried to work in your PJs? How did it feel?!

The clothes we wear help us to get into the right mindset for the task ahead. Think about dress down days at the office, often there’s a more relaxed atmosphere and a bit more laughter too.

And if you’re wondering what on earth this has to do with dog training, bear with me!

What we wear helps us to do our jobs or tasks better, and not just because it’s easier to run well in decent shoes and sports bra (for those of us that need one!).

I spent the weekend learning more about tracking from Allyson Tohme down in Cambridgeshire with Bronte (my collie). Bronte mostly does TD Scentwork and her preferred style includes lots of movement and air scenting.

Now I’m asking Bronte to follow a new smell, and in straight careful lines (at first).

Enter another new harness - and no I don’t have a harness problem, just a lot of sport interests! Bronte actually has the fewest harnesses of all my dogs…

I was concerned that if Bronte wore her normal Scentwork harness she might go back to that style of sniffing and searching when it got more difficult. With Bronte being deaf and part-blind, I needed to make things as distinct as possible – so we used a different style of harness and a new hand signal.

New sport = new clothes!

Bronte has a different harness for canicross (running and pulling in front), wimbling walks (allowed to move around but not drag me), TD Scentwork (only used when we’re doing serious sniffing), and now a tracking harness.

Putting each harness on helps Bronte understand what her “job” is going to be, and you can see her getting into a totally different frame of mind too.

If Bronte pulled a lot on walks, we’d use a front attachment harness. So the lead getting clipped to the front ring on her chest would = loose lead walking time.

How does your dog know what his job is when you get ready to go on a walk, saunter into town or prepare for a sport like tracking, TD Scentwork or Rally?

Happy walking and stay safe in the wind this week

Morag and the collie girls

PS If you need to try out harnesses. we stock and fit the Dog-Games fleece Perfect Fit range of harnesses, plus we have a range of canicross running equipment too. Just drop us an email to arrange a fitting

Monday, 9 October 2017

Slow down, you move too fast. How to make the moment last.

Wheeeeeee! The blur of moving spaniel complete with manic grin is something to behold.

The sheer joy of living.

Dashing from place to place just in case he might be missing out on something.


But sometimes rushing around can be a little bit wearing to live with. The speedy zooming can mean missing out on quiet moments, or staying safe on a rickety bridge!

The top question at dog sports and activity workshops is always “How do I slow my dog down/how can I keep up with my dog”.

No matter whether it’s a sport like Parkour (jumping, balancing and negotiating obstacles), Rally or an activity like Scentwork.

Super speedy dogs can be exhausting to work and handle, often because they’re not being careful or precise. You are out of breath and forcing your brain to work on over drive just to keep up.

And my answer to that question?

Help your dog learn to keep doing “the thing” persistently – whether that’s staying a position or sniffing for a find.

We have about a billion tactics, training games and tips that would help you.

Today’s top tip comes from the amazing Parkour and Tricks workshop our very own Sian ran at the weekend.

Even though Parkour is described as urban agility, it’s not really about completing a course in the fastest time. In fact to submit your videos for a title, you need to show your dog in each position for at least 5 seconds.

Catching the moment your dog does “the thing” and rewarding is important.

But even more important is the next reward!

The one that helps your dog concentrate on what they are doing, and keep doing it. And the one after that…

You might need to start working on this away from exciting obstacles, take an easy position like a down or just eye contact and work on your dog “keeping doing the thing”.

In Parkour you could work on 2-on (2 front paws on an obstacle) using something that’s too small for anything else, and use repeated fast rewards to help your dog stay in position at first.

So how about this week you work on slower activities with awareness, and make those training moments last!

Have a mindful week

Morag and the collie girls

PS Email us to go on the waiting list for our Monday Parkour classes with Sian (

PPS there are super speedy exercises in Parkour too like Tic-Tacs, it's not all slow and steady!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Rebels without Recall (from Laura & Brian)

I had to trespass into someone’s garden this week to get my dog back.   

Brian had slipped under a fence, couldn’t get back, completely lost his brain and managed to tangle his trailing line around a garden planter to leave himself completely and utterly stuck.

It got me thinking about recall.   

Because we often think about recall as our dogs coming back when they’re “told to” (be honest - how often have you ground your teeth in frustration as you call and call in vain, while your dog blithely ignores you and tears off after yet another bunny/squirrel/bird/tennis ball/other dog/person/leaf/bit of fluff?).   

We think about it as a decision-making process that the dog is entirely in control of, and then we get cross when it feels like our dogs are ignoring us.

Sure, sometimes our dogs do make the choice not to come back when we call them.  Sometimes they’ve found something more appealing than we were offering them, especially when we’re still building up our recall.   

Other times, it isn’t that simple.  

In the garden incident, Brian couldn’t have made the choice to come back even if he’d wanted to.  By the time I reached him, he had had a complete brainfail.  His head was one big tangle of excitement and frustration, and there wasn’t any room left for making good choices. 

We all know what that feels like, right?

The thing is, when we can’t think to make choices, we fall back onto habits and our dogs are exactly the same.  We don’t want our dogs to think about coming back; we want them to have already come shooting over to us before it occurs to them that they might have been able to make a different choice.  We don’t want recall to be a choice; we want it to be a habit.

Obviously, Brian and I still have some work to do on that, but my suggestion for everyone this week is to do a little recall review.   

Check out your recall habits.  How often does it work?  How quickly does it work?  Does your dog come flying over or do they take their leisurely time?  Is there anything that reliably breaks your recall every single time?  What do you need to focus on in your recall training?

And then have a happy week of law-abiding walks!

Laura & Brian

P.S. If you’re stuck on how to make the step from choices to habits, or your recall is turning out to be more “really rotten” than “really reliable”, then drop us an email! I've just booked a training plan review with Morag to get us back on track.