Monday, 27 February 2017

Making mistakes with confidence - here's how to do it!

Monday 15th April 2013 was something of a revelation for me, a real lightbulb moment.

And yes, I was at a P!nk concert rather than at a dog training conference.

The part that is still resonating in my heart even now was when P!nk went ahead and played piano live (second time ever on a tour). She was good. And she messed up a little, in public, yet laughed and carried on.

Relevance to dog training?! Well, I think it’s pretty darn important that we don't expect perfection from ourselves or our canine companions EVEN after lots of hard work and practice.

Mistakes are a natural part of learning, it’s about having the confidence and resilience to carry on without panicking that counts!

Have a great week

Morag and the collie girls

PS If YOU want help dealing with mistakes and hiccups in your training then why not Borrow My Brain for half an hour. Targeted advice and clear action plans to give you more success in your training or behaviour rehab work.

Here's the link to what happened (still gives me goosebumps!)
WARNING she does swear gently when the mistake happens

Monday, 20 February 2017

Does your dog LOVE to train and work with you?

What have you been reading lately that’s gotten your brain all fired up? I’m still working through the Talent Code ( and the chapters on ignition. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about the idea of deep practice being useful in dog training (paying close attention, repeatedly practicing small sections, making frequent corrections), but one of the other elements is about igniting the desire to DO that deep practice.

Here’s the thing – an awful lot of what we ask our dogs to do isn’t inherently exciting, interesting or even that rewarding. For example: come away from chasing the squirrel, walk down the street by your side rather than sniffing every lamppost. Not that different from asking a child to study maths or even practice the piano in the beginning.

Our job is to ignite the desire in our dog so that they really want to engage with us, and do that repeated deep practice over and over again. How? By being an active partner in their learning, and making sure to reward their efforts with the best stuff. That might mean you need to learn how to play the game that really floats your dog’s boat, or break out the chunks of sausage for your dog to chase down the field.

If you’re struggling to make that connection with an adult dog, you might want to check out our Adult Foundations classes starting on Mondays evenings in April. The new venue (Jodhpurs Equestrian Centre) has plenty of space and real life distractions.

The team at Well Connected Canine all teach people (and their dogs) because we love doing it. We’re trying to ignite your passion for training and learning, but it’s up to you to do that work with your dog!

Have a fabulous fired up week with your dogs

PS thanks ever so much for the replies and feedback, I’m delighted that so many of you are finding these emails and blogs helpful! I know not everyone reads everything in their inbox (though I promise I do) but hopefully you’ll open the right email at the perfect moment.

Monday, 13 February 2017

When do the clocks change again?

Hope you’re defrosting nicely after a bitter weekend – I counted rain, hail, sleet, snow and a hideous combination of everything! Freya and I did complete our half-marathon trail race (just under 15miles of mud, hills and slog) but I did question my sanity several times… It’s a gentle day of recovering for Freya now with some TD Scentwork to keep her brain occupied.

Now for a random question, have you been to see T2: Trainspotting yet? 

It's definitely worth it and they manage that rare achievement of not making a disappointing sequel to a real classic story. There’s a few surprises including the central character being Spud – I’ll try to avoid any spoilers! This wee chap has been messing up his life for years even when he is trying to do good stuff. It turns out he hasn’t realised the clocks change for British Summer Time, so for half the year he is an hour late for everything important... 

So where’s the dog training lesson in this rather sad tale? Well, Spud didn’t know about the clocks changing because he dropped out of school, had parent problems and spent a lot of his life looking for his next fix. But none of the professionals or responsible adults around him noticed the lack of understanding either – they just got angry with Spud when he was making the same mistakes again and again.

If we keep making the same mistakes, or our dogs keep making the same mistakes, it’s a good idea to stop and take stock of the situation. Ask someone else for an objective view of our behaviour, and check for the really fundamental building blocks before dismissing yourself (or your dog!) as a failure! In dog training that often means looking at the core elements of management (preventing the unwanted behaviour), enrichment (meeting our dog’s needs) and reward (adding the reinforcer into the desired behaviour). 

Sometimes it’s as simple as remembering to change the watch on our wrist. Or thinking about management for a dog that loves to chase squirrels. Or where and when to deliver the reward in heelwork training.

If you can, see T2: Trainspotting and I’d love to know what you thought of it!

Have a great week
Morag and a slightly tired ultracollie

PS if you’re struggling to see where to make the small changes in your training, you can always Borrow My Brain!

Monday, 6 February 2017

But I don't want my dog to do tricks...

Can you remember ever uttering these words?  “I don’t want my dog to do tricks, I just want them to …..”?

It’s a pretty common thing to say to a dog trainer. Often what you do want is your dog to come back when they’re off lead, or to walk nicely by your side instead of pulling your arm out from the socket.

I’m going to let you into a very badly kept secret.

It’s all “tricks” to your dog.  A thing your dog does on request to earn a reward.

The only difference lies in how we prioritise the importance of walking on a loose leash versus sitting pretty or dancing.

Actually there are some other important differences too. In class we often include tricks because it’s easier to train them in a relaxed way (takes the pressure off), you have a clear goal to aim for (you give clearer signals to your dog), you can see the step-by-step progress (rewarding for you and your dog!).

It’s easier to see some of the common challenges we all face in any training too. Lets take just one example, dogs struggle to generalise. So that means even though you taught “shake paws” at home in the kitchen, it doesn’t work first time in class – new location. Yet how many of us teach loose lead walking in class, but are disappointed when it doesn’t work on your local walk the next day?

Training tricks is a great way to focus in on your skills, and build a better relationship with your dog.

Ironically the “tricks” can be useful too. “Play dead” can be used for lie quietly for a vet examination or acupuncture session, while “paws on” helps you lift your dog over a stile on a country walk and many more!

Have a wonderful week.

PS If you want to build a stronger more rewarding relationship with your dog, and you DO want your dog to learn tricks, come to our workshop on Sunday 23rd April, with Sian.

PPS Want to SEE how much fun it can be - click here for a short'n'sweet video

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Breaking habits and getting help

As some of you know, I’m training for a wee race in March this year (the Hardmoors55 Ultra). Freya UltraCollie will of course be coming with me. Running is as much about spending quality time with my dogs as restoring my sanity!

I must confess, running is not something that’s ever come easily to me. I started with a walk-run programme, but I was always aiming for the longer distances. That means walking is an essential part of my training and racing plan – I’m not ready to run 55 miles of trail, mud, hills and bog without walk breaks!

On Saturday I went along to my local York Parkrun. Flat, minimal mud, no bog.  Biggest challenge on the day? NOT taking walk breaks!

I had a fantastic run and felt very much ‘in flow’ for most of it. But I noticed that about half way through, my brain started to plan a short walk break – scoping out markers, thinking ahead. It took real effort to pull back, assess how my body was feeling and compare that with the remaining distance. I didn’t need to take a walk break. That ever so useful habit on a long run, wasn’t going to serve me well in a shorter race.

Freya was delighted by the newly speedy approach, and we clocked in at 30mins exactly.

Lesson learned – habits are how our brain automates useful thinking and behaviour processes. But we still need to check that the habit is useful to our end goal. Resisting that well practiced habit takes effort and mental resource, plus a handful of self-awareness. I use techniques I learned from my Human Givens coach.

Your action: can you think of any habits in your dog training practice, or daily life? Do you always work on the same things in the same order? If your dog can be reactive – do you intervene or manage situations so much that your dog isn’t getting the chance to learn on their own?

Reply with the habit YOU have identified, and whether you think it might be worth observing, or even changing a little!

Have a fantastic week and enjoy your dogs.

PS  If you’d like some help identifying, changing or breaking habits while training your dog, check out our new online service where you can Borrow My Brain for 30mins. Perfect if your training is stuck, or you need a nudge to implement your behaviour plan.

Book here