Monday, 23 January 2017

Deep practice and dog training - what does yours look like?

Brrrrrr! Cold and frosty this morning which in my house means over excited colllies galore in the garden. Freya who refuses to walk through mud suddenly can't wait to roll upside down on the icy grass - that's a heck of a cold shower for first thing in the morning!

However the frost does mean there will be less mud on our training run this afternoon - hooray. I'm having to include deliberately muddy runs in my schedule right now so that my knees are getting enough practice coping with the extra twists and rotations as I slide around. My weekly goal of a minimum three runs per week is good enough to get the habit in place, and lets me track my actions BUT it doesn't necessarily include the specific practice that I need.

Which is mostly linked into a fantastic book I've been reading this week - "The Talent Code: greatness isn't born. It's grown" by Daniel Coyle. I'd definitely recommend it for general interest, but I've really enjoyed thinking about how it applies to my running (with dogs) and training my girls more generally. The super condensed version is that fundamentally talent is more about how we practice a skill than being born with it. 
Thank goodness!

Deep practice can super charge our performance, and that means frequent sessions concentrating on small details, repeatedly. This includes getting it wrong often but comparing what we did to our ultimate goal. It's easier to think about this in relation to learning a piece of music
  • practice a - repeatedly play a piece of music, not stopping for mistakes but just trying to complete the exercise
  • deep practice - listening to the piece played by a professional, then working through each phrase pausing when you make mistakes, reminding yourself of the correct phrasing and then trying again, and again, and again....
When you're working on a new skill with your dog, how do you structure your training sessions?

In our TD Rally Progressions and our Agility classes we're concentrating on the small movements that make up the stations/exercises rather than setting out full courses that encourage people to focus on completion at the cost of accuracy. Right now in our Friday TD Rally class we're doing lots of "hind end awareness" and testing our dog's understanding of the heel position. The process of careful repetition, and learning from mistakes is what creates amazing learning (and highly myelinated connections in the brain).

Think about what you do....and what you're asking your dog to do!

Have an amazing frosty week


PS You can find out more about TD Rally here:

PPS We'll be announcing a new venue soon for our Agility and TD Rally classes on a Monday evening, make sure you join our FaceBook group to get priority notice. http://

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