When the foundation is weak and slightly cracked

A while ago I attended an agility course with Fanny Gott with both Tassla and Quling – good and fun training in every way. Agility is really good for the collaboration between dog and handler, and a fun sport to dabble in when it is not hunting season.;) I am a beginner and I’m having a lot of fun.

Perhaps the most important insight I had after day one, was how much I miss my toolbox. Both Totte and Tassla are quite carefully foundation trained but for many reasons Quling is not.

In order to create good foundation skills – no matter what you want to do with your dog – you need a kind of pre-foundation training to begin from. I can basically teach Totte and Tassla anything with the help of the foundation skills that they’ve got. We can just get on with things.

To my great pleasure, Quling seems to be feeling good now. That is like a basic requirement for us to be able to train. He has had problems with his tummy, which I think came from him being de-wormed repeatedly as a puppy. His tummy simply couldn’t take it. We seem to have it in check now, with the right food and probiotics.

So now I’m going to build that base that I feel we’re lacking.

Quling can do quite a few things quite well – I can direct him to go right, left, back and out (not too far away), he knows the whistle for holding an area, he can mark and retrieve. He actually has a decent stop and he knows some kind of heeling. He can turn away from a marked dummy on cue, he has the foundations of hunting (together with me) and he knows the turn whistle pretty well. He is actually pretty steady – depending a bit on what’s going on around him, but still.

Despite all of this, I feel that his skills aren’t always so solid. Sure, he knows certain things like reversed luring, my favorite helping aid that helps me in all kinds of situations; he has a decent hand target and he has some understanding of shaping.That’s all good.

But I feel like a lot is lacking regarding his repertoire with reward procedures. He doesn’t even know the switching game – my all-time favorite!!!And we could make great use of that game too, because sometimes he runs off with the dummy. 😉 I miss the training system that makes it possible for him to switch from one task to another. He lacks endurance and resistance to distractions. Really, it’s just several small details, but they are all vital for training to work well. In some situations, his off-switch is quite bad. He’s not used to working around other people, other than with our best training buddy from agility.

We’re lacking what Fanny calls the dog being “open-headed”, which means that they really listen to what we’re saying. They don’t guess, they don’t make their own decisions, but instead they listen, open to that anything could happen, even if it seems that something specific is about to happen. I’ve worked on that a little bit with Quling. That training gave us a lovely “leave it” when he should leave a mark that he’s seen fall to go do something else entirely. That’s great. But it’s not enough! I want so much more. I believe that Quling in particular (who to his core is such a hot dog, with a lot of “I can do it on my own), must always, always be open to my suggestions. Otherwise I don’t stand a chance. I might as well just go home and let him hunt for himself… 😉

I have been thinking about this for a while, when planning and longing for spring training, but it became so incredibly clear this weekend.

Then I realized: I know about this book! It has a lot of really good foundation exercises for hunting, but also for building training skills, a good system and the collaboration between dog and trainer. I’ll read and work through every page of that during this spring and summer.

Which book I mean? This one! 🙂

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