For now more about how Silvia trains her dogs:
Several people asked questions regarding at what age she starts training her puppies for agility and her answer was always "As soon as I get them." She feels that she can train them almost everything they need to know for agility by the trick training she does.
One of the most important is to train them to go to an object like a wastepaper basket or cone or tree and circle it tightly at high speed. When they can do this from a distance and at high speed she'll name it " cik" and "cap" which mean jump turning tightly to the left and right respectively or in other words wrap the left standard or the right standard. A full explanation and pictures are on her website here:http://silvia.trkman.net/ but she doesn't really explain how to teach it. She did show us, though, with puppies we had at the seminar. She basically just starts when they're very young and repeats it a million times while slowly adding distance and using various objects before she does it with a wing (not a jump, just a wing because all they use in europe are wing jumps).
The way she teaches it is to simply lure the dog in one direction or the other in a tight circle all the way around an object like a cone or wastepaper basket rewarding when the dog is on the other side of the object from her. That's the whole trick. It's the many, many repetitions along with the speed that get her the results she has. And she teaches left and right seperately simply by luring the dog in a spin left or right until they can do it on command. She uses left and right differently than "cik" and "cap". "Left" means turn left and then jump, "right", turn right and then jump. And those are taught mostly on the jumps just by using them over and over as they take the cue from her motion.
Another thing she does is to use the number and speed of verbal comands to indicate how much--to what degree-- she wants them to turn. So if it's a really hard wrap to the left becaue the dog is coming back and then going to the right, for example, she would repeat "cik, cik, cik, cik" whereas if it was simpy a tight turn she was looking for she might only repeat it once or twice.
Another interesting topic from the lecture on how she trains her puppies is how she trains them to jump. Quite the opposite from what the prevailing opinion is nowadays, she starts her puppies jumping very low jumps (or even puts the bars on the ground) pretty much by the time they're 4 or 5 months old. and she raises them very gradually, only an inch at a time for some dogs. She feels it teaches them to jump efficiently, to just skim the bar rather than overjump. I don't t hink she does any jump chutes or things like that. I think she would consider that drilling and very boring for most dogs.
And since she's always working on strength training and body awareness through her trick training regimen, her dogs have the muscle, balance and hind end awareness to be good jumpers right from the start.
When someone asked her about why she didn't wait until growth plates were closed she said that in humans some of the growth plates don't close until the early 20's and yet we don't wait to do sports until our twenties. She feels it's good to stress the bones somewhat so that they'll grow stronger. And she reminded us that she doesn't drill her dogs and only raises the bars very gradually. She guessed that she got them to full height a couple of weeks before their first trial which would be at about 15 months.
One thing she said more than once was that she starts her puppies so young so she can take her time with their training. To me, 15 months is pretty early to start trialing because I don't train very often so my dogs aren't ready to trial by then. But if I spent as much time preparing my dogs as she does with hers, I guess 15 months might not seem so early. Plus she has relatively small dogs, not big boned, heavy breeds who take loger to mature.
I didn't hear anyone ask her how often she trials her dogs, I think it would be interesting to know how she decides when and where to enter tirals.
Another very mportant part of her training regimen is the way she conditions her dogs. She lets them run off leash on their walks with her every day for a couple of hours as well as playing frisbee, doing Obedience, trick training, etc. Way more than most of us have time to do with our dogs, I think.
One of the ways Silvia teaches her dogs handling is to use a simple set up of a couple of cones and a tunnel (when the puppies are still very small she'll do this in her apartment using a box that's open at both ends and a couple of watepaper baskets) then she'll run around with them doing "cik" and "cap" and seding them into the tunnel while doing front and rear crosses. It looks very similar to what's called ground work, flat work, shadow handling, etc. Once they're a little bigger she might do this with them when she's practicing agility at her club.
Well, that's all for this installment. Hopefully I'll get a chance to post some sequences tonight.