In October, Rundle and I drove to the Langley/Abbotsford area of BC to attend a Hannah Branigan seminar. I have been taking online classes with Hannah since Rundle was a puppy and I just love her style of teaching. She is very good at breaking each exercise down into small pieces so that they are easy to learn. I debated going because it would be a long trip, through the mountains, most likely by myself. So I emailed Hannah to ask more about the seminar (it was an advanced seminar) and she thought it would be great for Rundle. So, I signed up and off we went.
The drive was long (13 hours) but in October there is no tourist traffic through the mountains, so the drive was fairly easy. We stopped a few times along the way to stretch and for potty breaks. Rundle was a great traveller. I was worried he would stop wanting to get back in the car, but he always just hopped back in his crate and settled quietly for the next portion of the trip. We finally made it to Langley where we were staying. I turned the GPS on to find our hotel and it took us downtown, which was not close to the hotel at all! I then used my phone to look up the address and found the general area where the hotel should have been. But it was not there. I was on the right street, it seemed, but both my GPS and phone told me I was at my destination, but nope! Nothing. I finally stopped at a Tim Hotons and asked where the hotel was. It was just around the corner. I found it and went to check in. They had no record of my name. Great! Then she asked which Sandman I was registered at. I had no idea there was more than one and she said there was another Sandman on the other side of the highway. So she gave me directions and off I went. I found it easily that time, although when I went to the seminar, it seemed like no one could get their GPS to work properly in that area, so it just wasn't me. Anyway, the hotel was awesome! I got a great deal booking using the Sandman app, so I booked a mini suite. It was small but had a separate bedroom in the back, which was great, as we couldn't hear the noise from the hall at all. Rundle was awesome in the hotel and made himself right at home on the comfy sofa.
The seminar was being held at TnT Kennels, about 15 minutes from my hotel. What an great facility! There were huge fields we could use to walk our dogs and a wonderful training building. It was great to meet Hannah in person and she was a fabulous seminar presenter. She gave everyone individual feedback and was very positive and funny. The 3 days flew by. I wa a bit worried that Rundle would not be able to handle 3 days of working, but he did great. By Sunday he was getting tired, so I skipped a couple of the exercises or did not work our full time on the floor when it was our turn. I was very impressed that he stayed engaged the entire weekend and would use toys as a reward even on the last day.
We started by working on offered focus and engagement. We then worked on teaching specific cues for different methods of reward delivery. We also worked on disengagement during heeling and how to handle it. Hannah always stresses that the emotional response of your dog when working on something is very important. You do not want to build negative emotions into cues. So, the heeling portion of her seminar was all about keeping heeling fun, even if your dog makes a mistake. On day one we talked lots about criteria, stimulus control and emotional responses. All so very interesting.
We worked lots on stimulus control. We also worked on sent away behaviours adding some distractions. Since so many of the advanced obedience skills involve sending your dog away from you to do something (retrieve, articles, go outs, gloves) your dog must be able to work simple behaviors away from before you start asking for more complex ones. If a dog cannot send to a food bowl with a person standing next to it, they are not ready to send away to a dumbbell, as that takes much more stimulus control then simply running to a bowl and eating the food then returning. We also worked on stand for exams and how to use our food delivery cues from day 1 to reward, depending on the emotional response of our dog to the approaching person. We the. Worked on footwork stuff and figure 8s. We broke down the figure 8 exercise into small parts working separately on the outside turn, the inside turn and the straight away. We learned footwork for each portion and then used that footwork to cue our dogs. We also used eye direction as a cue for our dogs as well. I have never thought about figure 8s so much, but when you look closely at them, they are quite complicated.
We worked on building chains as well as transitions. Hannah builds chains for every step of her obedience routine, including entering and leaving the ring. It is all planned so the dog knows he is on the right path to reward. Very cool! In the afternoon portion of day 3, we each got a chance to have a mini session with Hannah on anything we were having problems with. It was so interesting to watch her work with each team to problem solve their obedience issues. There was everything from dumbbell work, to heeling, and everything in between. When it was my turn I wanted to work on focus around distractions, since that is a big issue for us. So we worked on Rundle choosing to pick working with me over the environment. Rundle loved Hannah (I think he recognized her voice from all the videos we watched). So Hannah held food in her hand and we worked on Rundle working with me instead of focusing on her or the food. It was hard at first but he soon was heeling around Hannah and her open hand of food without so much as a glance at her. So, there is hope for us yet :)
So overall, it was a great seminar and I learned a ton of new things. It was also nice to meet several people that I previously only knew through my online classes. It was so fun to meet them all in person. Such a great group of people. I highly recommend Hannah's seminars and I would go to another one again.