A fond memory just showed up in our feed – our summer camp in 2017!
After a long and very intense weekend at the beautiful place Sjöön in the south of Sweden we almost have a post-summer camp depression. Those days required a lot of planning and we had a lot of things to do beforehand, but while the camp is going on, we are as instructors completely occupied with the 24 dogs and handlers that are there, and we want to help them with their challenges and find ways for them to get on with their training.
We always start our camps on Thursday evening because we want to gather the whole group and create a feeling of security and good spirit in the four small groups that we divide those taking part in the course into, and these groups are then the same during the whole camp. We begin with not very serious exercises for the handlers – like a competition, but with our tongues in our cheeks ?and, well, yes, it isn’t very easy to throw a dummy so that it ends up in a dog kennel about 20 yards away, or to be sent off to different areas to retrieve. The group with spaniels won and completely outclassed the others – especially when they took part in exercises that were done against time. The explanation was that “we have to be quick because we have so fast and smart dogs”.?
On the Friday we all had to test our rainwear because of the very changing weather. Each of the instructors (Elsa, Lena, Åsa, and Lisa) had their own training station during the whole day and all the four groups stopped at each station and did the training there, it was for example deliveries to hand on land and in water, heelwork, and training for competitions. It was a lot of fun to meet all the 24 handlers and dogs during the first day, and then see them again during the weekend, because they learn so much during those few days.
What I also like a lot is to meet so many handlers and dogs that are on very different levels in their training. There were so many different variations, from the eight-month old puppy to the dog that is already competing in open class, and all other variations in between. Some of the participants have high ambitions when it comes to hunting and field trials, and others have a desire to do fun things with their dogs, it might lead to a field trial, but it doesn’t have to. In short, it is a wonderful mix!
And, for an instructor, it is of course a gigantic challenge to meet 24 handlers and dogs at so different levels on the same day, and to be present and alert all the time. We worked like crazy, but our focus was a bit blurred from time to time. I wasn’t at my best when I couldn’t count to three exercises, which I should teach one of the groups – in a mysterious way these exercises turned out to be five instead. ? But, that is better than the other way around. ? Or when I was supposed to catch a ball with one hand, but held a dummy in that hand already, and therefore I banged the dummy with full force in my own head … But apart from some small disasters like that, the camp went really very well.
The Saturday started with a downpour at breakfast. But then as if it were a miracle it ended almost exactly at nine o’clock, and we could go on with our exercises as planned, and we began to train on the stop whistle and marked retrieves. We met all the 24 handlers and dogs again during that day.
You can say that our camps are extremely intense when it comes to training, and people are actually so tired in the evenings that it usually is silent and empty outside the house already at ten o’clock at night. Everyone is in bed. ? But on the Saturday evening some of us stayed up and talked about dogs for a few hours – and that was, of course, very nice; to spend time with people who are as geeky as yourself is just great!
During the Sunday we had thunder, rain – and sun! We trained with great awareness that day, and even though both dogs and people were a bit worn out, everyone tried to squeeze out the last drop of energy, and we even managed to have a field trail as one of the exercises that day, and it was very crazy and very funny.
During the last part of the Sunday everyone could choose what they wanted to train, and we divided handlers and dogs into new groups based on what they wished to train. I worked with a mixed and very funny group who wanted to train delivery to hand, taking and holding, search with distractions like other dogs, and the stop whistle. I was deeply impressed by the whole group and not least by the dogs that worked very well, and we managed to train in a way so that all 24 dogs and handlers managed to learn some more. It was fantastic!
Now we have had this camp for so many years that about half of all the participants have been there before. All but four handlers and dogs had attended courses for us earlier. I think that most people, who participate in the summer camp, do so because we have a training method that they like, and because they wants to meet other people that train in the same way as they do – or maybe also to get inspiration to train in a somewhat new way.
We use reward-based training as well as clicker training, which means that we divide everything into small parts and first practice the basics before we put all the pieces together to finished behaviors. We also try to really emphasize to all our pupils that they should take responsibility for their training and if the dog doesn’t know what they want, it is the handler’s fault and not the dog’s.
And that is probably why we thought that we had the best pupils ever this year, because they took so much responsibility for their own training and they were so smart when they planned their training, and they didn’t see mistakes as failure, but instead went back to the basics again and again, when they needed. They made so many great analyses about what the dog – and the handler – needed, so we as instructors were really happy. ?
When a big group of people are able to speak “the same language” it is really cool.
We are really happy because we felt that this camp was our best so far – we say that every year ? – and this also means that we have develop a great concept and that we get better every year. We hope to meet many of you lovely people and dogs again next year! Until then: Train and have FUN!!!
Can’t attend a course IRL with us? Try one of our online courses instead!