3. COL: What advice would you give to a newcomer to the sport of performance events?
Sue Larson: Don't be in a huge hurry to get in the ring. Take your time, find a really good trainer, and really put a good foundation on your dog before hurrying into the ring. But, most importantly, remember it's a game and a way to have fun with your dog.
Beth Elliot: Choose your trainer(s) carefully. Watch trials in your chosen event(s), and
talk to the handlers you see and admire, especially of "off" breeds. Find out where they train, then watch some of those classes. Don't take a class just because it's cheap, close to home, etc. Bad training takes longer to correct, and usually under pressure the dog will revert to the first way
it learned to do the exercise. Join one of the performance Collie e-mail lists, it's a great place to ask questions and get information on training Collies specifically from people who have had years of experience.
Marilyn Clayton: Seek out instructors that understand collies (or, at the very least, herding
breeds) and the sport/activity you're planning to take on -- instructors who use positive training techniques, and who are encouraging, supportive and helpful. No one trainer has all the answers; most have valuable information to share; however, you know your dog better than anyone else. It's your job to determine which information and advice will benefit your dog at that particular time in their training. Listen to everyone, evaluate their advice; use those techniques you feel will work best for you and your dog and file the rest away for future reference. Once you choose a technique, give your dog time to work it out before trying a different technique.
Carol Dunton: I would recommend that they spend time bonding with their dog (including lots of play), spend time gaining the trust between their dog and themselves, and spend time learning how the dog thinks and learns. It is also important to socialize the dog and take it out to many different places and expose it to many different situations. I would also attend trials to learn about the sport they are interested in and to meet people who might be helpful to them in finding good instruction as well as valuable advice.
Dr. Deanna Levenhagen:
• Never stop learning. Take each opportunity to learn about you, your dog, training, and different environments. Each time you go to a trial, step into a ring or onto a field, or watch other dogs is an opportunity to learn. You’ll learn far more from your failures than you ever will from your successes.
• Have your own goals (regardless of what level you are at). And remember, the goal doesn’t have to be about qualifying. Sometimes the biggest accomplishments don’t happen in a trial ring. Don’t feel like you have to trial, train, or perform like other handler/dog teams. Each dog and handler is different. Realize that what works for one dog/handler may not work for another. Know or learn what works for you and your dog. There may be faster methods or more direct training methods to reach a goal, but realize that isn’t the only method or way to get there.
• Training is never really done. Just ask any person who has achieved even the highest title in a venue if they think there dog knows everything. There is always something that can be improved or fine tuned.
• Don’t cut corners or expect quick solutions to problems. There are no fast answers to solving training problems. If you cut corners, it may work in the short term, but it will eventually hurt you (and your dog) in the long run. Be patient and take the time for you and your dog.
• Don’t avoid your weakness or your dog’s weakness. Everyone likes to work the areas that they are strong in and avoid things that are hard or they aren’t as good at. However, avoiding those areas won’t make them better. Certainly don’t “overwork” or concentrate solely on the weak areas, but don’t avoid them in training.
• Don’t forget why you do this. This is about you and your dog and the time you are sharing together. Although there will be good days and bad days, roll with it. If it were easy, what sense of accomplishment would there be in reaching a goal or obtaining a title? Enjoy yourself and the time with your dog. HAVE FUN!
Jan Shields: Set your sights high and find a good mentor in any venue that you wish to excel in. Attending seminars and talking with successful people raises your perspective within the performance area you are working in.
Vicki Loucks: Pick a puppy with an outgoing personality and no fear. Use motivational training. Start with puppy foundation work using clicker or marker training. Puppies learn extremely fast this way and it builds a foundation in training for the life of the dog. Learn how to play Three Toy with your puppy to create drive and teach the pup to tug. Most of all have fun, one of the things I have a hard time with is learning to treat competition as a training experience, Trial like you train. If you aren't having fun or if you are taking it too seriously, sit down, take a breather and think about why you do the sport you do -- it's all about having fun with your dog.
Shelley Bergstraser: Train positively! I own a big training center in southern Colorado and one thing I see with newcomers is they often get TOO serious and too anxious to compete and they burn out the dog. Take your time, make sure the dog is ready and STAY HAPPY in the ring! The dog didn't ask to be there-they are there for you. HAVE FUN WITH YOUR DOG. I tell students that if they cannot handle being humbled once in awhile -- showing dogs may not be for them! Learn to laugh.
I also recommend that people start puppies having fun learning -- I start them gently in everything they will do later! Gentle sheep, baby agility, puppy kindergarten obedience -- I start retrieving and dumbells with babies! AND of course stacking and baiting for conformation.