This past weekend I spent 3 days learning more about competitive obedience at a Laura Romanik seminar. Laura is one of the top obedience competitors in the country, and campaigned her dog Flare to Obedience Dog of the Year in 2009.
The first day of the seminar was lecture only - no dogs working. Laura explained her training philosophy including how she builds the confidence, fluency, and motivation needed to succeed in the obedience ring. She talked about the background behind how she teaches, conditions, and proofs. Unlike many other seminars, she also talked about the how and why of corrections to help dogs improve their performance.
I've got to say that I was a bit worried about sitting through 8 hours of lecture on obedience theory, but Laura did a great job keeping things interesting and engaging. Even though I was jet-lagged (I arrived home from Germany the afternoon before), I had no trouble staying awake!
Some key take-aways for me:
- In the teaching phase, when the dog is learning a skill, you want the dog to be successful most of the time. Keep things positive so the dog likes each exercise, and thinks they're fun. This fun foundation is needed for long-term success.
- Dogs need mental stamina for obedience. Some of this stamina can be built through work. Some of it just comes with age. This was a big one for me. With a bright dog, it's hard not to push and expect too much too soon. With Rip I need to be very mindful of this. I don't want to ruin the game for him.
- Remain upbeat even if you have to correct your dog. A dog making a mistake means that they're learning. Anger or frustration only makes things unpleasant for the dog (and who likes to work if it's unpleasant?).
- Something I've been doing right is taking Rip to fun matches (obedience practice shows) since he was a pup. Even though he does very few (if any) "formal" exercises, we go in the ring, do some heeling and play, play, play. I want Rip to think being alone in a ring with a judge is FUN. I should have done more of this with Ziggy....
The thing I appreciated most about the "philosophy" day is that it provided an opportunity to learn about many of the things that make for successful obedience training and performance. This type of insight is based on Laura's years of experience and success, and is hard to learn/find out. It's the stuff that folks just forget they know and had to learn when they were new to the sport.
I'll talk about the 2 training days in another post.