Refresher Training: Useful recap or just going over old exercises?

A few weeks back I posted about returning to exercises started that you were getting a mental block on with your dogs to Serbia a break helped. So now let’s address returning to exercises you have already done before and succeeded in!!

Its rare to find someone who hasn’t covered something previously at some point – I’m obviously referring mostly to dog training but also in any area of life we go to learn and discover we have to start with basics we did a few years back – how frustrating!

But is it really so frustrating when you think about it. This weekend I taught my lovely Senior Dogs class and was privileged to have a group of dogs who have previously done formal training and some still in regular training (if often get to work with older dogs who have never done any training ever!). So when I started early on asking for a sit, down and stand exercise I could see there wasn’t the usual buzz of excitement you get when introducing something brand new (which we got with place boards, cavaletti and balance cushions!), and this was because each owner knew their dog could do this already.

However, the purpose of the exercise was partly to warm up and partly for me to see how well each dog could stand as this was needed for several exercises – and we discovered that although all 5 could get into a stand using luring and guidance there were at least 3 who needed some help staying in the stand instead of sitting or moving about, or who did stand but then quickly offered several extra exercises too!

So by going back over an exercise considered by me as foundation, not high level, and ‘my dog can do that’ by owners we were able to improve and succeed in that area plus use it for the progression I had planned! Every dog did brilliantly!

Often when we see that we need to repeat training we have already done previously we loose a little interest, not put so much enthusiasm in, see it almost as a waste of time, especially when on a course for a specific topic that means we have a lot to cover in a set time! In reality, it can be a great time for a refresher – how well can your dog do this ‘old’ exercise now? When did you last practise it and did you succeed in all areas? Is there any means of progressing with duration, distance, body language? When learning so much we can move forwards and forget to practise the basics so covering these can create a challenge for dogs who want to offer their newest Behaviour so need guidance in recalling the basics again or it may be that although your dog recalls some of the past exercises but there are areas that need sharpening or weren’t finished before but you were able to move on without problems – so now is a great time to really strengthen the basics again!!

Take the sit, down and stand for example (distance control) – one dog knew how to be guided into the stand easily but after 1-2 seconds moved round, curved his body, walked more, sat, went to his bed …. There was the very start of a stand taught many years ago (taught by me!!) but without the practise he only knew how to get into a stand from a sit, not how to remain in the stand position! So a new a achievement was made as he was able to hold a static stand for all of the other exercises we needed it for during the session 🙂

We also may find when offered some basics we have already done as part of a training class or worshop that we did like the exercise the first time we covered it but with so much else to remember we just forgot to practise! So now we have a reminder that the exercise exists as well as the means to spend time on it and to progress or strengthen it – brilliant opportunity!

When I’m planning my weekly obedience classes, 121 training or some of my workshops I will often think ‘oh I haven’t done this with my own dogs for some time’ so keep the plan and work through it myself at the weekend – through planning for other dogs I’ve reminded myself of some training I haven’t practised! This includes the Good Citizen test exercises after passing the awards, basic positioning and stays, recall with distractions and recall presents, plus exercises we needed for titles etc in the past but haven’t looked at since passing!! All that time spent training towards achieving it but now it’s not even used! An example for me is Reverse Around Handler with Taylor. I worked very hard on this to include for his Champion Tricks Title, the early stages causing huge hip and back pain for me and gaining a huge sense of achievement on succeeding – however he passed his Champion title over a year ago and we haven’t practise the exercise since last autumn at least! Guess what I’ll be looking at this coming weekend!!!

So stay positive when it comes to an exercise you already know well when training with someone – you may find they have some new ways of using the basics that you haven’t tried before, but even if it’s the exact exercise you used to do treat it as an opportunity to recap and refresh, and sometimes letting your trainer know and see your dog achieving will prompt to be given some new progression too 🙂

I’ve been told ‘my dog is bored’ when recapping distance control basics or foundation recall, to which I respond with ‘Really? That’s a real surprise as my own dogs who are very high level would be thrilled to be getting rewards and praise for a single sit nowadays’! I then offer to have a try with their dog, and wow their dog is excited to be practising sits, downs and stands in return for praise and fuss, treats, toys played with … For a dog who is working harder exercises going back to basics is a dream with quicker rewards for doing much less lol!

Embrace and enjoy the basics and the classic exercises from the beginning of your training – your dog will and will enjoy even more if you’re taking part too!