Stars of Hope Always in Love to Lupin - Ben

I hope you enjoy browsing my site, and I hope Ben makes you laugh as much as he makes me. Ben was born on June 5, 2008, in a litter of four puppies. He spent his puppyhood with his breeder Anita, whom I would like to thank here for all the love and caring you gave to Ben and for the tears in your eyes when I decided Ben is coming home with me. I couldn't imagine a better breeder for my little Ben!

My greatest and only wish when I decided to have a dog was for him to accompany me 24/7 (which was also the reason why I preferred to take a small dog over a long-wished big one). However, I soon realized my puppy was an energetic bomb who resembled more a monkey than a dog. Long walks and hikes were never tiring enough. That's why we decided to use the brains and started to learn tons of tricks and to take agility classes to make some use of this extra energy.

sobota, 17. september 2011

Black and White

A short agility report: I thought I could not be prouder of little Ben, but I was wrong. Last weekend he ran faster than ever, but that's also due to the courses, lots of straight lines, something we really both adore :) However, straight lines or not, he was crazy already at the startline, so I knew he was going to run for life :) He knocked a bar in agility, because he was too much in a hurry, but the rest of the run was clean and he had far best time in A2 small, and 2nd best time from all size cathegories, small medium and large, there was only one border collie a second faster. In jumping we had an off course because of my stupid mistake, but again, he ran like crazy. But I think I handled him pretty well except for that stupid mistake, suddenly it seems like we make a really good team.

Other than that, he is still the sweetest dog in the world. Lots of people, who know Ben, but haven't met Winnie yet, ask me what she is like. Well, if you know Ben well, just imagine Winnie is his exact opposite. If Ben is sweet, than Winnie is more like a monster :) Ben loves all people and makes friends to everybody, while Winnie doesn't want to meet anyone but me and actually doesn't like anyone but some of our friends. Ben loves playing, Winnie loves eating, Ben is always well behaved, never does anything wrong, while Winnie always does everything wrong, she is never behaved. Ben loves sleeping, Winnie never sleeps unless I put her into her crate. Ben is an angel, Winnie a little devil, I could also put it this way: Winnie is black, Ben is white. I could never decide which character suits me more. I love them both just the way they are, but what I love most about them, is that little something they have in common: they are both 2 big clowns, who make me laugh, make me smile, comfort me when I'm down, follow me like shadows and never ever allow me to get bored around them.

I am working on a tricks video with both of them this time. They've both learnt some new tricks, but too bad I am so untalented for making videos, so it always takes me longer to make a video than teaching all those new tricks to my dogs.

But I still managed to put together some of our runs from Ben's second year of competing in agility, so here comes a video of Ben's agility runs in A2. And I made another video of Ben's running contacts on competitions, as I never noticed how good his contacts are on competitions until I started making a video of his latest runs.

Ben's agility and jumping runs in A2

Ben's running contacts on competitions

sreda, 07. september 2011


I wanted to write this article a long time ago, but I'm just too lazy to take the time. Running with Ben often makes me think about motivation. Some people hardly believe me that Ben was one of those dogs, who didn't want to run agility at all at the beginning. Our very first trainings 2 years ago looked very sad, I used to drive all the way to Ljubljana only to sit and watch other people train, while Ben was sitting away from the obstacles with a sad but stubborn look on his face: determined not to run that. Nothing helped, not even his favourite ball. I was quite desperate, because I didn't know why it all happened, after those first three trainings, he started to run slower and slower and eventually he didn't want to go there at all. It all happened very quickly, so after our first five trainings, I spent most of my next trainings thinking about motivation instead of how to improve his obstacle performance or my handling. But I sure knew at that time that Ben loves running and jumping on our walks, so if he loves it there, why wouldn't he love agility?

So I was determined to show him agility is fun. I soon realized that I have to progress slow. Not slow, but REALLY slow. I never like rushing with things anyway. Winter came and I tried to do some basics in our garden at home, luckily we rarely have snow. The first thing I noticed was that he loves straight lines. So I first started with that - just straight lines and it was a perfect time to start with running contacts. Beginnings were hard, we still had lots of moments where he wasn't running full speed. Our trainings lasted for about 3 minutes not more and I tried to present them as part of a play on our walks. I always stopped training after seeing that with his first try he wasn't running full speed. Winter came to an end and at the beginning of spring Ben already had reliable running contacts with dogwalk being his favourite obstacle by far. Gradually I also started training other things and after that I never had that problem again to be afraid he might leave me on the course alone. However, his motivation might still decrease in a second if there is a slight little thing he doesn't like, such as artificial glass, too many turns, obstacles in a bad state, roof, loud dogs, knocked bar, etc. Though, no matter what it is, now he would never leave the course again, but he might start running slower.

Lots of people, especially people with poodles often ask me how to improve their dog's motivation. There is no rule to that, but I can list some advice which you might find useful for your dog, these are some things that really helped me a lot with Ben, but as Ben is a very special dog, this might not be the best solution to every dog.

1. Reward: Try thinking beyond your dog's favourite toy or food. A reward can be anything. Little Ben loves his favourite ball, but that didn't help me at all at the beginning until I realized he hates turns and loves straight lines. No, he wouldn't run those turns not even for that ball which makes his eyes green. Does that mean I never train turns? Of course not, but I sure keep in mind how many turns to put on one course. For two years I was rewarding every single cik or cap that was well done, until I realized it's just not working. What did work well was my voice and straigt lines. If he made a really nice turn I praised him a lot with my voice, forgot about the course and just started to run the first straight line I could find on that course. And that's when his turns finally improved a lot. I always thought I have to reward those good tries with a ball/food/tugging, but there never was improvement, his speed decreased as soon as I said "cik", because to him that meant "the course is finished, I can stop running now, afterall there's just that last turn left that I hate so much". So I stopped obssessing with rewading with a ball and just started running straight lines after that "cik" instead, and his turnes not only improved immediately, I could see his enthusiasm after he heard my voice saying "bravo" and he finished that run even faster than he started. His turnes got faster and tighter.

Waiting at the startline: I never understood why people insist on waiting at the startline with an unmotivated dog. There are lots of dogs whose motivation and adrenallin get higher when they have to wait on the startline. So it's not neccessarily a bad thing. But there are also dogs like Ben, whose motivation and adrenallin stabilazes as soon as you try to keep him calm on a startline. The best way for me to start running with Ben is to play with him at the startline (our favourite warm up is grass, he loves catching grass before the run) and then without him even noticing, I start running. If that's not possible, and I have to wait for the judge, I often talk to him when he is still in my hands and pretend we are playing "ready, steady, GO!" game. No, I tried waiting too, didn't work for us. See, reward can also be grass, cones, a long walk after agility, tricks (or dogwalk for my Ben), anything that makes your dog happy.

Changes: Changes are one of the most important things for unmotivated dogs. Nothing is worse than routine. I am very unmotivated myself if I have to learn Maths (although Maths is my favourite subject to learn) for long hours, but I can easily study long hours if I switch subjects or tasks. That doesn't mean you have to work with your dog for hours, what I wanted to say is that try to make trainings as different as possible. Set different courses, change rewards, change places, change even the duration of your trainings. Make every training a surprise, but a positive one. Don't ever obsess with training one thing and don't ever forget to train things your dog loves most! Wouldn't you feel depressed if you always had to learn the subject you're bad at? Your training should be diverse and fun, not limited to just one thing. I see a lot of people obsessing on something that is their weak point, it's ok to to train that, but don't obsess on it, don't make it even weaker.

A break: Don't be afraid to give your dog and yourself a break. If you see your dog is tired, is losing enthusiasm, doesn't run like he used to... Why hesitate, give him a break. There are lots of things you can do with your dog besides agility, take him swimming, hiking, running, whatever. Don't be afraid to give him a break, even if it lasts for months. My Ben has been on a break for a month now, I just thought he needed some time off. I only take him to some competitions because of Winnie, but I don't train at all.

RUN!: I see lots of people standing like scarecrows in the middle of the course sending their dogs around. If your dog doesn't run, then it's time for you to start running, start moving, using all your energy, just don't stand still, do your best and run on those straight lines, don't wait for him to come, just run and I can assure you he will do his best to catch you. Play on running outside the course too, when you see your dog sniffing around, call him, encourage him and take the speediest sprint you can and you'll see how fast he will run after you. And try to apply that to agility too, there are a lot of occasions where you can beat your own record and run your fastest run: straightlines, dogwalk, A-frame, while sending your dog in a tunnel or on a cik, etc. And last but not least: don't stop at the last jump, that's when you have to run for your life, that's when the reward comes, that's when the real fun begins, that's when you need to look happy, not tired! ;)

More on motivation next time, there's a lot to write on this subject, but for now just a short note on agility in Duplica. Hmm, I guess it's our favourite competition, I really love this place, it's beautiful and there's a river too. Ben won agility and jumping for about 7 seconds. He was just great, here comes a video, again thanks to Simona Limona for the video. And big big congrats to Simona and Nike who won A1 and passed their final exam for A2!!! It really was a good day, hopefully they soon pass all exams for A3 too, so we can move on together :) And also congrats to some other friends, Roland for winning A3 small with Ammy and 3rd place with Kira, Maruša for winning A2 large and Maja for 2nd place in A2 large.

A video of Ben's runs: