FAR from truth



FAR or "Frequent Accusations Rejected":) is a new series on my website where I'll be answering to frequent accusations and rumours I hear are appearing about me on different forums and other places where people that donít even know me and didnít even read anything on my training, are trying to be smart. This is not written for them as I know they will never be on my website as they know everything already anyway and even though Iím adopting a form of questions, those questions were of course never really sent to me and even more, they were never even put in a question form, they were mostly said as truth and nothing but a truth. Even though they're mostly FAR from truth... Here are some:



- Is it true you jump your puppies at full height at 4 or 5 months and ruin their joints by that and then get rid of them and get another puppy? Well, I guess thatís the price of resultsÖ


Believe it or not, but there actually was an accusation like that on one German forum Ė of course by somebody that has never met me and doesnít even speak English to be able to read anything on my training philosophy.


Anyway, I probably donít need to tell that Aiken, Lo, La and Bu were the only dogs I have had in my whole life (if I don't count a little rescue that we had when I was a kid - and well, for next 18 years too...:), so no, I never got rid of any dog and never will.


It is however true that I like to start early with training Ė but just because I want to prepare them for real agility as slowly and as gradually as possible. I start with no bars, then put bars on the floor and with very coordinated puppies, I might at 4 months already put the bars on about 5cm (2Ē). I will then VERY slowly gradually put them higher by 2, 3 cm (1Ē). With my PyrSheps (that are 7 and 8kg), I came to a full height at 15 months and with my BC (11kg) at 16 months.


I firmly believe this tactic is much better as introducing obstacles at 12 months for the first time and then at 18 months already jump them at full height! That's exactly what is bad for the joints in my opinion that supported by researches, done on horses and human Ė for more on that topic, see Agility is good for dogs and Agility is good for dogs part II.


And to comment your last sentence: Iím not ready to pay not even one cent for any result as I donít care about the results. Whatever I do, I do it because I firmly believe that its in the best interest of my dogs and I would never do anything that I believed could hurt them.




- Is it true starting early is necessary for a success?


No, not at all. I think starting later will get you to the results faster and easier. But again, Iím not interested in results. Iím interested in dog training and in well being of my dear dogs and start early from those two reasons. If a result would be my goal, I wouldnít do that, puppies are LOTS of work. Ė And thatís exactly why I love puppies! Because I love working with dogs! I'm never searching for short-cuts as I enjoy the ride too much to be ready to make it shorter!



- I agree that agility, when done for fun, is good for dogs, but I think that agility on high level is not that good anymore, itís too much a fight for the 1st place.


I donít agree. I think that for most dogs that do agility ďjust for funĒ, agility is in fact very stressful as they're not properly conditioned and/or trained to do the job. Their people make them jump without proper conditioning and then call them here and there around the course, telling them directions way too late and making their dogs fall on their shoulders etc. when trying to turn. I don't think it's good for their dogs to do that with them.


On the other hand, of course, it's never good if winning becomes the most important part. But I don't think that happens that often as people think. It might become dangerous if money will get involved, but for now, I think most of us don't care much about winning. So yes, I'm in a "just for fun" category too, just that I think it's no fun to do it without proper training. I find it way more fun to try to find new, better ways to improve the smoothness of our runs and for me, the beauty of agility is all in training for details. Competing as such is not much fun for me, I only do it because it's too easy to be perfect in training and need some challenge to get new ideas for my training. And I'm sure that agility on a level we're doing it (the dreaded winning level:) is nicer to dogs' bodies as the level of those that come to their club to have a beer and then make their dogs go over obstacles somewhere in between. I think it's completely wrong when people think THEY have fun and WE only do it to win. I think that whoever really enjoys agility will try to make their runs smoother, nicer, better and their dogs better prepared and trained and only those that prefer chatting to other club members to training dogs will not strive for more. I just don't think it's fair people call them those that have fun in agility and love their dogs - while they call those that see agility as more than making a dog go over obstacles as those that only want to win and don't care about the dogs. It's just not as simple as that.



- Donít you think that pushing for that much speed as your dogs have is already too much?


I don't think agility is at any time "pushing for speed" - I don't think you can push a dog to go any faster as he does. - Well, o.k., you can do that with dogs that are very unhappy to be there in a first place and just trot around, but that's another, motivational problem. For dogs that don't have motivational problems, we don't push them for more speed as we know that's not possible. We try to make their times better by creating shorter or smoother lines between obstacles, by teaching short turns and fast contacts. I don't think any of this is hurting them. Running contacts are in fact MUCH easier on their shoulders as stopped contacts and smoother lines mean less turning and crashing and everything and cik&cap commands allow me to tell the dog about the coming turn way before it's there, so he can prepare.




- Is it true you only feed your dog for working?


Well, no, they get the same amount of food every day, at the same time, that way or another: if I don't have time (but it's VERY rarely I donít have time for my dogs!!!) or we already did that much hiking, playing or agility that we're too tired, then they get their dinner from a bowl. But mostly, especially when they're young, I give them their meals from my hand, while teaching them a new trick or play shaping games with them. They think thatís the way coolest way to get their food and while Bu is not much of an eater and will sometimes leave her food in a bowl, she would eat till she drops that way, she thinks thinking is so much fun! I always say that if they were humans, Bu would be a scientist, La would be into adrenalin sports, probably climbing, and Lo would be a clown.


Anyway, the reason why I first started to hand feed was when I got rather small breed dog. With a Samoyed, it was never a problem (and what did I know about training back then...), but small breed puppy eats so little that youíre very limited in how many times you can reward him with a treat if you give them their meals separately from that. And we all know I canít help myself but reward my dogs A LOT (yeah, I admit, I reward more often as learning theory suggests, but well, I just canít help myself as I find my dogs so coolJ), soÖ I figured why not to give their meals as rewards?!? For my scared, fearful puppy Lo, I took her to a new environment for every meal. I remember we were eating every breakfast 30cm closer to a road as she was so scared of noises that were coming from the road. We also spent LOTS of lunches around a dog-walk as she is scared of height and thought dog-walk was the scariest thing ever. Then I got La, my little Miss Perfect. She didnít need that much socialization as Lo and learned all the basics so fast and eagerly that she tricked me into tricks training. Ever since, weíre all addicted to tricks and I use most of their food for that. If I have no new idea, we play shaping games: I just think of something stupid I want them to do and shape it.


So if you were asking if itís true that I hand feed, then yes, I do, I hand feed all my puppies for at least a year as I have so many things to teach them and even when theyíre adults, I try to hand feed every meal, whenever I have time. If youíre asking if I donít feed my dogs when I donít work with them, then of course not, they of course get their food no matter what, that way or another. And if you were asking if I'm making them work for me by depriving their food, then you really don't have a clue on my training philosophy. I never have to make them work, they LOVE to work and always try to make ME work with them. Doing agility, obedience and tricks is what they enjoy most and would do it without any rewarding too. I only use rewards as an information of what I especially liked in their performance and NOT as a way to MAKE them work, I don't need that. They want to work more than anything. If your dog only works for a reward, you have a problem, a dog should work because s/he loves it.


And while in the countries with long positive-training history (like US), people are always impressed that I devote so much time to my dogs to hand feed them, this kind of accusations very typically only come from countries where harsh training is still very present (sorry French, you all know I absolutely love France, butÖ I still need to start every seminar in France by telling that yelling, jerking and blaming the dog for your own mistakes will NOT be tolerated) and they still think that dogs MUST work for their owner. Believe it or not, but my dogs WANT to work WITH (not FOR!) me more than anything and would work day and night even with no food or toys involved. I only use toys and food as an information of what i would like to see even more often and of course, as one of the way to tell them theyíre best dogs in the world ever.



- Aren't your dogs too skinny?


Depends who you ask. La will for sure agree with you, she thinks I should double or, even better, triple, her mealsÖ my grandmother would agree too as all the couch potatoes from her friends are of a double size of my dogsÖ But then, she also thinks *I* am too skinny while my doctor thinks I have ideal weight. And even when I complain something is wrong with one of my dogs, my vet always tells me my dogs are most healthy three dogs he has seen in his careerÖ And while I don't always agree with vets, I think I'll trust them on this subject more as my grandmotherÖ



- Arenít you putting your dogs in a danger by running them feely in the woods, risking injuries, tick born diseases etc.?


Yes, I am, but thatís a price for life:). I wrote above Iím not ready to pay anything for a success, but Iím ready to pay whatever it takes to offer my dogs a decent life, worth of them. And running feely is in my opinion a necessary part of every dogís life. Of course, I make sure to make it as safe as possible, but well, we still got Lyme diseaseÖ They however never got injured, I donít think thatís very common to happen on a walk to a fit and well conditioned dog that is being walked on a daily basisÖ On the other hand, keeping your dog in your home to keep it safe is in my opinion calling for injuries and unhappy dogs and owners. I think it's very important a dog has life outside agility and daily walks should sure be a part of it. I also always promote cross training, especially tricks training as it builds lots of muscle, provides lots of balance and makes a dog more aware of how to use his body. This is a much better way to keep your dog injury-free as limiting his walks.




I think those are about all accusations I was told about. If you know of more, let me know and I'll add them to this page. Hopefully, this will stop some of the people that always feel the need to talk bad about others.


It's really sad how many people have this need... I guess there is a lie out there on just about anybody that has a dog that knows some tricks too much or is too hard to beat in agility... I just heard one of my tricks friends was on one forum accused of doping her dog!?! Yeah, right. I wish those people that make up things like that would spend some more time training their dogs instead... If they did that, they could see that training dogs is not all that difficult that anybody would need to dope or starve or ruin a dog to get him do that or another thing. In fact, it just takes some time and patience - and lots of love for your dog and everything you do together. It's as easy as that. But then, if you're reading this, you probably know all that already. Those that would need to read that already know everything. Oh well.