Thursday, January 28, 2016


Welcome to the Functional Agility Trainer class ! In this class you will be learning the fundamentals of how to train functional agility and fitness and the 3 associated sports. Most of these fundamentals will translate to any sport you attempt. You will be learning about your dog's anatomy, behavior, how to teach speed and flexibility and what to do if things go wrong.

Just like tools and equipment, there are at least a few dozen ways to teach a dog how to do those behaviors and tricks we'd like them to do. Because sports are so demanding of a dog, because precision and coordination is so important to preventing injury and obtaining speed, I highly recommend that only positive reinforcement type methods be used to train these sports.

There should never be a need to force a dog to exercise or do behaviors via pain, fear, intimidation, compulsion or moving his body for him. I have no idea if there are any studies comparing methods vs injuries attained. The one thing that I have found is that proper conditioning is usually only a subject on the positive reinforcement based websites. Injury and rehabilitation on the non R+ websites are referred to a sports based Vet. In one PDF I found it suggested:

"The sports in which dogs compete: It is particularly important that the sports re-trainer be actively competing in canine sports and be familiar with current training techniques since they can affect your dog’s return to competition or the potential for later re-injury. In addition, the sports re-trainer should be very familiar with the muscles that are used for different aspects of the various canine sports."

There are hundreds of different ways to teach and a thousand ways that life is being lived. There is classical and operant conditioning; there is social and associative learning; trial and error and memorizing facts and figures. Each of us creates a pattern of actions that assist us in learning and in playing the game of life. But the one pattern, the one learning scenario that is gaining prominence and proof, the one that appears to deliver results in all arenas is Game Theory.

The price for this 12 week class is $300. Please use this button to purchase this class.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What Is Functional Training

Over the past few years, due to positive reinforcement based training having an effect on dog sports, there has been an awareness shift toward making that training more functional. Adding TTouch, Bowen Technique, massage, Reiki and other modalities led the way to using the same balance equipment that humans use to help our dogs develop the balance, coordination, body awareness and core strength they need to not only excel at their sport but to reduce injury.
Along with the manufacturers and marketers of tools for handling dog walking skills and reactivity are those who are building tools for use in canine fitness and training.  Peanuts, donuts, paw pads, exercise balls, balance pads, treadmills, and many more have entered the dog training arena over the past couple of years. 
Sports that are embracing functional training are agility, musical freestyle, and many others where positive reinforcement methods are making huge inroads in the way the winning dogs are being trained.  Even the service and guide dog industries are embracing not only positive reinforcement based methodologies but also functional training.  Unlike the human field of functional training, in dog training there is no controversy.  Functional training started as a way to include balance and coordination and evolved to assist in handling reactivity, injuries, anxiety and much more.
As one begins to explore the concept of functional training for sport, keep an open mind about how and this can also be used for our companion and pet dogs. Think of your training as a vehicle to improve life, not just to improve performance. Current training programs are mostly geared built around actions that occur in the designated sport.  But functional training can do the same job by working behaviors and fitness exercises do not occur in sport but do occur in the life a dog leads in the alien world we’ve created. The key is to design a training program that truly prepares a dog for living life easily, functionally and with minimal injury. This can be done only by using exercises that train the muscles the same way they are used in sport, in other words, functional training.

Skill-Related Components of Functional Training

When looking at human Functional Training, the following six areas are considered the important skills of Functional Training.
Speed is the ability to move quickly.  Speed and reaction time are closely related but speed is more about continuous fast motion and doesn’t require the need to react to stimuli the way reaction speed does.  Speed is essential in many sports.  Some sports, such as agility and fly ball, require speed in most components of the sport.  Other sports, such as IPO, musical freestyle, obedience and Rally, only need such speed as to get through the objectives within a time period but control and competence in the activities are graded higher.

Reaction time is the time it takes for the dog to react to any particular stimulus.  Reaction time always reminds me of the time when Micah wanted to work on top of the hot tub, which he loved, but didn’t realize the top had been blown off by the wind.  When he discovered there was no top to land on, it appeared that he actually levitated himself and went all the way over the hot tub instead.  Reaction time is about observation and being mindful of the environment.  It can be enhanced and increased.

Agility is all about changing directions at speed.  Agility by necessity involves balance, body awareness, environmental awareness, reaction time, awareness of and engagement with the human for direction, coordination, and speed.  The training for agility should cover all that and instill in the dog the ability to change direction rapidly without a significant loss of speed, balance, or body control.  

Power is many things including muscular strength and the ability to exert that strength both in a slow controlled manner and at speed. Power is about the speed at which work is performed. Strength, acceleration, and speed are essential for power.

Balance means not falling down.  Balance means controlled movement and static behaviors that maintain equilibrium.  Balance generally comes from core strength, body awareness and muscle coordination.

Coordination is the ability to move and use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.
As mostly a pet dog trainer, I would change this list to:
  • ·         Balance
  • ·         Coordination
  • ·         Reaction time
  • ·         Body awareness
  • ·         Environmental awareness
  • ·         Core strength

When dealing with those sports requiring agility I would add:
  • ·         Rear end awareness
  • ·         Confidence
  • ·         Movement in balance
  • ·         Engagement

Functional Training

Functional Training has been around for a long time in the human fitness world, in and out of favor. I remember when I was on the swim team in the 60's and how it seemed that every year something would change in the fundamental exercises we would do to improve our speed, strength and stroke. Many times it would fall out of favor to what appeared to be the smoother paved roads that promised faster and easier results. This deviation from the functional and the fundamental almost always led to an increase in injuries and failures.

This same path has been followed in the dog world as well. It's a longer path however and spans centuries rather than years or decades. Originally dogs were merely there to assist with the hunt and little actual training was done. Then man discovered that dogs could be trained to assist in other areas like herding domestic food animals, marching with armies and guarding the home place. The training that went along with these activities was all functional. Each dog was paired with another dog who already knew the job. With mimicry and observation, the new dog learned the ropes.
As a dogs role changed over the centuries, so did the manner of training. Man started taking a hand in teaching dogs the different jobs they were to perform. But dogs were still there to assist man for the most part. Eventually, most of those tasks were eliminated or changed and the dog became more a companion with no tasks at all. There were still groups of dogs that worked on farms, for the authorities, service and therapy, but for the rest, work became sport or in most cases there was no work at all.
With this major change in the role of a dog in our lives, strange behaviors and aggression started to explode. Companions dogs had little to no training; no purpose other than to just be there; and most humans did not take the time to educate themselves on what a dog is. Enter the training of police and military dogs into the general society. This training was rigid and rigorous and most dogs failed at this training because of the methods. Due to the nature of these training methods where quick results were necessary in times of way, the dog was treated much more as a machine then a thinking being.
But as history shows us over and over, things change and the circle comes around again. People are becoming aware that their dogs are more capable then they could dream of. Television and the Internet are creating a plethora of canine sports and the awareness of service dogs and the apparent freedom they have. But the quick and dirty methods are still there, the myth that the six major obedience commands are necessary for every dog, and the need for instant gratification which these methods appear to promise. The dogs know their jobs, but those jobs are done to avoid the rough handling of the training methods, and they have no clue how to live in a human world otherwise.
Functional Training changes all this. Functional training takes us back to the roots of our association with canines and getting back to the basics of movement, body awareness, the flow that should be inherent in moving from space to space and when navigating obstacles, balance, coordination, flexibility and agility. Functional Agility helps provide your dog with the strength, stability, power, mobility, endurance and flexibility that s/he needs to thrive as s/he moves through life and sports. Using basic functional movement patterns like pushing, pulling, lunging, squatting, rotating, carrying and gait patterns, Functional Training utilizes exercises that improve movement proficiency, enhance performance and decrease injury.
In Germany there are two activities (Degility and Jagility) for dogs that encompass Functional Training. Using agility, flexibility, strength, balance, coordination, scent and cooperation with humans as the basis for these two activities, I call these activities collectively Function Agility. There is little need for speed in these two modalities, but speed can be built in at the higher levels and that adds a third activity that is rapidly becoming a sport in the US - Canine Parkour.
http://www.functionalagility.comLife is unpredictable and unstable. So why would you develop your dog's training using stable and predictable routines and equipment? No matter your fitness goal with your dog is, treat variety and practical application as critical components of his training. You don't live in a vacuum; your dog doesn't live in a vacuum, so why would you train him in one?