Posted by: jility | December 16, 2010

Training Upp

Of all the things to train in agility, contact training gives me the most pause. Crush gave me a bit of confidence but she is a Border Collie and Uppity (aka Pankins) is a standard Poodle. Methods are the same but I expected intensity to be less. Guess what? Susan Garrett told me when I was talking to her about training my new standard Poodle puppy last year that she would be brilliant because my knowledge is greater than it was when I trained my last dog, Crush. At the time, I thought she was right but then I brought home the puppy in the litter with a most challenging temperament. I had bred the litter and didn’t want to “stick” her with anyone else. She had shown the most promise of any puppy and she was to be Mel’s. Then, when we went to see her (I didn’t whelp the litter) at 7 1/2 weeks old, she was a totally different dog! Her temperament went from bold and sassy to sulky, sullen and fearful. I have written about our trials and tribulations over the past year so without going into detail, her training has been the most challenging I have ever faced. It has also been the most rewarding! Uppity has gone from a fearful puppy who was fearful of everything and wouldn’t even look at toys to a brilliant learning machine who loves tugging, playing and anything else I ask of her. Sometimes things still scare her but those moments are few and far between now.

Over the past year we have taken baby steps. I have learned that as long as Uppity really understands each step we take, her progression runs very smoothly. I spent a lot of time getting amazing nose presses into my hand. It is a behavior she will do with anyone, anywhere! Those simple nose presses have taught me more about training than anything I have taught! Nose presses taught me to take the time to get a great behavior before moving on to the next step. With understanding I got intensity and drive. Upp is comfortable doing her nose presses because she truly understands them.  I want the same understanding with everything else I teach her. It is that understanding that gives her the confidence to perform anywhere, under any circumstances.

At 24 3/4″ tall, Uppity is very tall and gangly. She is too immature physically to start weave training or jumping full height. She is 14 months old and I expect she will be well over two years old by the time she ever competes. That is fine with me. She is worth taking the time to get it right! Every little baby step from here on is crucial to her understanding of big jility.

This morning marked another awesome training milestone for Uppity. Never, in all the dogs I have trained, have I been on such an emotional roller coaster ride. The highs are euphoric and the lows are devastating. OK, I am a bit of a drama queen but you get the picture.

This morning, Susan said it was time to introduce the target to my nose presses on the end of the plank. My hand was all the way on the ground and she was pressing well and staying on the plank very well. Her understanding is growing in leaps and bounds! And she is really digging this training stuff. When I ask her if she wants to do nose presses, she screams with joy!

So, we gathered our treats and toy and off we went for a new chapter in contact progression. Pankins was leaping, as usual, all over the Global Warmer with excitement and joy. She literally jumps for joy when it is her turn to train. What a long way she has come from that sullen, miserable puppy that sat in the corner with her back to me, hating my existence or the puppy that peed all over herself in fear or the puppy that bit at me to keep me away from her or the puppy that refused to even look at a toy!

We made our way out the door over to the place where we keep all our contact training crap. Mel made me a beautiful set of stairs and we bought an aluminum plank when we were trialing in Atlanta this fall. The plank is set on the bottom stair off to the side and I shaped her to get on it and stand at the end and wait for further instruction. Treats and toys organized and ready, she hopped up on the plank and I rewarded her with a treat. Then I put my hand holding the treats in her collar and held her back while I placed the target holding hand down for her to touch. She pulls against the collar very hard and has great focus and intensity towards the target. Then I release the collar and she drives into the 2o2o position and starts pressing her nose onto the target in my hand. I drop treats from above into the target hand. Some fall to the ground and she gobbles them out of the sand (yuk). I use about three or four treats, then release her to tug. We tug, then she jumps back on the plank for another session.

She has no hesitation to press the target so I start to move it away from my hand so only my fingers are holding it now. At that point I fully expected her to press my hand rather than the target but she is a smart one! She continued pressing her nose into the target! I released to tug! What a good girl! She showed me how much she truly understands training! She brings tears to my eyes! This time they are tears of joy! There have been many times they have been tears of sadness and frustration.

We repeated several times on each side. Then we did reinforcement zone value building back to the GW. She tried to entice me over to the 12′ plank across the two 24″ high tables. That has become her favorite thing now! At skills camp in November, she was petrified of the plank only off the ground 6 inches! Now she LOVES it so much she leaps with joy as she runs across. Not what I want but whatever. It is all about the fun!

Susan said she went to a great coaching meeting this morning and their slogan is “Progression NOT Perfection!” WOW! What a great thing to use in dog training!

The next step will be to fade myself form the picture so she drive to the target and nose presses no matter where I am and to get on the stairs. I will start that next week but for now, I never want to train a thing again! I want the feeling I have had all day to last forever 😉


  1. Wonderful ! Enjoyed your post. Thrilled for you and pankins.

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