Training: CHAMP

Training is also part of treatment, but I am giving it a place of its own because it’s only going to get bigger as a topic and focus for us.

Training implies a goal. You have to ask yourself, “What do I want for (and from) my dog?” Once you start looking more closely, it becomes a very complex question!


For me, training involves five elements: CHAMP

Competitive — Focused fun (I’m not talking about stressful trials)

Healthy — Her mental and physical well being. This is the key element.

Able  She has to be able to get to a vet, to cross a road, etc.

Mine — Do we “love” each other? What do I need to feel connected?

Polite — Because other people exist.

The elements are not equal. I care more about her health than any dog sport title. However, they all inform each other; I’m only separating them to help me think, and to see how each piece of training fits into the big picture:

Each bigger goal (e.g., walk across busy road) can be broken down into specific goals:

Of course, there is overlap, and each specific goal can be broken into many smaller training pieces. “Heel”, for instance, is made up of many parts. I’m just trying to give a general idea of how everything you train — deliberately, that is! — forms part of your overall vision of “dog”.

My current training goals (as well as conditioning):

  • recall (this is already pretty good, but it bears revisiting)
  • loose-leash walking (she’s only good at this when tired!)
  • heel
  • freeze, or “stop” (safety).
  • go to mat (e.g., when someone comes to the door)
  • settle in the presence of distractions
  • foundation skills for dog sports
  • fun tricks

The impact of fear on learning is huge. And I don’t just mean the “spider just dropped on my face” kind of terror. Low level anxiety can disrupt learning, too. Lyra and I accidentally demonstrate it in a video — where she’s practising a dowel touch. She knows how to do it, and the yard ordinarily works as a place to proof skills. But a background truck sound worried her this time — and it created a lag in her timing and (more importantly) her engagement.