Sunday, February 24, 2008

Silvia Trkman seminar recap!

We're back from the Silvia Trkman seminar, and we had a blast! Our drive there on Thursday was uneventful, but our drive home was (as Mum calls it) terrifying! Cincinnati had a huge ice storm on the Thursday that we were there. It took us 45 minutes to get the two miles to our hotel from the training center that night.

The next morning we woke up at 3:00 AM to folks ice scraping their cars in the lot of the hotel. Then again at 3:30 AM, 4:00 AM, 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM - that's when we decided we probably wouldn't get much more sleep and got up for breakfast. Maybe next time we'll take some camping gear and just stay in the car! Then during the day on Friday there was another ice storm, then it turned to rain. Our drive home for the first 30 minutes was fine, but as we headed north it got snowy, the roads started getting slick, and it took us a total of four hours to make the two hour drive. Very scarrrryy!

We had to pick up Gracie way out in the country, so we took the back roads home from there, which was much less stressful. We are super grateful to be home safe and sound. After the accident last Summer, Mum worries huge amounts when we are in the car with her.

At the two day seminar, we met pups, from all over the country and their humans, learned a lot, got some great tips, and even a personal team/dog evaluation from Silvia.

We enjoyed Silvia, a lot. She's really nice and friendly, incredibly positive (like us), and she cared about each and every team. She gave lots of individual attention, and shared loads of her training info from pup to adult to high levels of competition. And we got to meet her pup, La!

I wasn't at all up to my usual speed and excitement for my runs. After being injured, I lacked a lot of confidence, and was very apprehensive and cautious on the flooring (horse stall matting, not my favorite). Mum ran me one run at my usual 16" on the first day, but put me down to 12" the rest of the seminar. She rubbed me a lot, and warmed me up and cooled me down. But I wasn't running well, AT ALL! Mum worried about me, but I'm really fine, just a little sore from running 4-5 runs each day. (I supposed it's pretty common that after you get injured at a trial, you'll be apprehensive and have less confidence when you first go back - something Mum and I will have to work on before our next trail).

There were teams from all over the country at the seminar, even though it was small with about 10 working dogs and 10 auditors. We met teams from Virginia, Ohio, Atlanta, Washington State, Illinois, New York and more. They were all fun, and hard working. Some were very experienced, some were trainers and some were judges. I think we were the most inexperienced team in the group, but we still felt very comfortable.

I want to note that whatever I share in my posts about the seminar is from my, and my Mum's, perspective. I'm sure that every team came away from the seminar with their own perspective - each team has different needs, challenges, goals, and training info that they wanted to learn more about. So...with that said...

One of the key bits of information Mum and I came away with is that Silvia (probably, like other Europeans) teach, train and compete differently than we do here in the US. Personally, I really liked their 'philosophy'. Here is some of what we picked up...
  • Have lots of fun and never slow down from the very beginning - speed (beyond safety) is the most important.
  • Build obstacle independence.
  • Don't worry about mistakes, just keep going and keep it fun (keeps the speed and confidence going).
  • Take your time learning obstacles and handling (don't be in a big 'ole hurry) - from pup to adult.
The courses that teams in Europe experience are much different than the ones we see here, I thought. They are more difficult, not as flowing (by any means), kind of jerky, have portions of courses where the obstacles are very far apart, and parts where the obstacles are so close together you can barely get through them, and they have really difficult weave and contact entrances. Because of this, running with me was very important for Mum during the two days.

This was something we expected. I'm pretty good on my difficult weave and contact entrances. But tight serpentines and treadles are not my strong suit, so we got a lot of practice on these during the two days of the seminar, and some tips to work on at home to make them more speedy and fun.

We spent most of the two days walking and running the (European style) courses (4-5 each day) with individual critiques of every run, which was great! Then after lunch there was about an hour or two when Silvia talked a lot about her methods, and it was a great opportunity to ask lots of questions and get interesting and informative answers.

There is really so much to share that we learned. Silvia is very open about sharing her training methods on her website, so I'm not going to reiterate, but just link to the locations on her site where she shares her info about these subjects.

We learned about her training philosophy, running contact training method, cik&cap turns, and training the teeter, weaves, and speed. Silvia uses the Channel Weave Method, BTW. Mum and I came away with some great ideas for our training going forward and for Gracie's.

Yesterday Mum spent a lot of time absorbing what we learned and how we'd like to apply what we learned to our training plan going forward.

Here is what Silvia said in my personal evaluation:
  • I can jump really, really tight.
  • Mum is pretty much in the right places at the right time for me and her handling is good.
  • My overall speed can be much better (she said I have loads of potential).
  • I'm sometimes hesitant because Mum is hesitant and not as confident as she could be, and if she's worried, so am I.
  • I'm worrying about the flooring and my footing, so I'm hesitant. (Some of this could have been on these days because of my injury....we'll see.)
  • Always concentrate on being fast, work all exercises with the goal of building speed. Reward for fast, more and often!
  • Work with me so that I look at the course more like it's just running, with things to run over and between - running full out as much as possible. I will enjoy it more if I'm able to run more full out.
  • My contacts are good and my weave poles are good (Earlier in the day she said one of my dog walks was really, really good! Yeah!)
  • She told Mum, not to worry too much, just go for it all the time! (Yeah, Mum!)
  • Mum needs to help me not worry about making a mistake and I need to just go for it too!
  • Make sure that I am always prepared and know where to go next, cuing as early as possible so I don't have to think. (Gee Mum, did Jen Pinder say the same thing? Yeah!) Perhaps look at the cik/cap method to help cue me more clearly and earlier on tight turns on jumps.
  • Work on letting me know at all times that going fast (full out) is a really good and fun thing!
Here's our plan to apply what we learned and agreed with going forward...
  • The first thing Mum and I need to concentrate on is building up my confidence after my injury. In a couple of weeks I should be fully recovered. So our plan is to do some sequencing and course running in an environment where I'm really comfortable (like the back yard or in a horse barn or on grass), then translating that to other environments like different floorings, unfamiliar places, etc.
  • Adjust our sequence training to only build speed using what Silvia recommended - using food (like a target for me, or a toy for others) as a reward far out at the end of the sequence. Example: In building weave speed and entrance difficulty, have a jump before and after the weaves in a wide variety of positions, run them like a sequence one way and then the other, both sides, driving to the target food about 5 or so yards out from the ends of the sequence. This will also build lots of confidence, which I'm lacking right now.
  • Work on building speed and confidence through serpentines, threadles, and pinwheels, with rewards out from the end, as well. Starting with distance between the obstacles and gradually putting them closer together to get the speed when they are tight. Help Mum be more confident with handling me through these more difficult sequences so I know exactly where I'm going.
  • Reward all times and anytime during a training session for good, full out speed!
  • Build speed with me just running with Mum, with restraint, and rewards at the end of a quick run. This will be great with Gracie too!
  • Continue to build obstacle independence and speed. Example: set rewards at both ends of the dog walk about 4 yards out (it's key that the rewards are out further than just near the last obstacle to continue the full out speed as much as possible), run the obstacle with Mum lateral, veering off in various directions, falling down, or even standing still, etc. So that I can do the obstacle at full speed no matter what's going on around me. This will also build lots of confidence.
  • Work on my teeter speed with the same process of rewarding 4 or so yards out. And perhaps even work on adjusting my tipping point.
None of this is really 'new stuff,' but what Mum and I came away with is an overall different view of how we train. Maybe it's something that our trainers have said to us times before, but what really sunk in to us from going to the seminar is that speed in training (for me) is everything right now. Duh! I should always be rewarded for speed, and when we say speed we mean as full out as possible - on obstacles, in sequences, and when I just need to run with Mum.

There was so much that we learned, so if you have any questions, and we can share some info that she gave us during the two days, leave a comment and we'll respond!

Here are a couple of my runs during the seminar, with a bit of critique from Silvia:

And here are some of the fun pups we met there as well. It was great that there were a variety of breeds there. We got to see some really fun runs! I'm sure I'll think of more things about the seminar to post about, but for now...

I wanted to thank Silvia for a great time and share our appreciation for her taking the time to come to the US to teach us and all the others at her seminars this year. We really appreciate it! And I'd like to thank the Queen City Dog Training Club for being incredible hosts and letting us attend the seminar. Mum and I felt very welcome, well fed, and we had a lot of fun!


  1. HI Johann,

    I'm so happy for you, that you got to go to that once-in-a-lifetime experience with Silvia Trkman! and THANKS for sharing the info that you learned, that's so cool of you!



  2. I told you Silvia was awesome and also a very nice person! I'm so glad you had fun at her seminar :)

  3. We knew you were right Xsara! You are lucky to train with her so often...

    I just wish I had felt better on those days...

  4. Johann, thanks for sharing the video of your three runs. It was great to see how your behaviour changed in the different runs.

    I'd like to ask your mum one question, though. Did I understand it right that Johann ran faster the third time because you were actually holding out the treat bag? I wasn't sure I quite understood it.

    And also, did you mean that he runs faster if the rewards are given out from the end of the run, meaning that he keeps up his speed to the last minute? Like we tell runners not to stop when they break the tape in a sprint?

  5. Thanks for posting the recap and video. I wish I could have been there! I'm glad that Johann is recovering well from his muscle pull.
    Lisa, Fin & Dust

  6. Hey Parlance, thanks for checking it out. Yep, I started to get used to running in there eventually...

    And yes, I ran faster when Mum was holding my treat bag - it's kind of like I knew a treat was coming at any moment and it energized me some. Some folks use a toy if they have a toy motivated dog.

    Silvia talked about how the minute Mum sees really, really good speed on a sequence, she should stop and reward me (like she didn't in the video, duh!) - so I will know that I did the right thing.

    With me, most all the time before my injury I was fast, so Mum got away from treating me in the middle of a run in practice. But we'll be going back to it to help build my confidence after injury and get my speed back.

    Does that make sense?


    And thanks Lisa for stopping by. If you have any questions about your particular situation, feel free to ask. Mum took lots of notes for other situations that other 'teams' encounter.

  7. Hi Johann and your Mum,

    I'm so glad you made it back home safely from your harrowing drive from Cincinnati! I know exactly what you mean. When I was driving there from Milwaukee on Friday, once I got to Lafayette IN the snow started. Closer to Cincinnati was freezing rain. So scary and it took forever. I was just grateful things were a bit quiet when we circled Indianapolis because I wasn't familiar with the area. 275 into Cincinnati was THE WORST, I saw many many cars slide off the road, and even though it took forever, I was glad traffic was crawling. Driving back on Saturday night was a piece of cake thankfully.

    That aside, Silvia is SO amazing!! It would have been incredible to actually work with her as you did but I was very happy to be there to audit as well. I enjoyed your video. She gives wonderful feedback. I wonder how she would have handled my nose-driven sniffing beagle! She did give some good advice for sniffers though, so we'll give it a try for sure.

    Your runs looked great and I love how she uses treats or games or tricks to motivate and keep it fun. We humans can be too serious!

    And La is way too cute!

    Your recap is fantastic. I took a lots of video too but I was standing on the opposite side as you were and my camera picked up some background noise from the ventilation system. When I filmed one video from where your person taping stood there was much less noise, wish I would have realized that while I was there!

    I'm glad you had a great two days. I really enjoyed Saturday. The long drive was entirely worth it and QCDTC people couldn't have been nicer. Don't you wish you could follow Silvia around to all her seminars?!

    Don't let the injury get you down and keep up the great work!

    Take care,

  8. WOW!!! Thanks for posting such a great recap!!! The video was pawesome!!

    Very inspirational!



  9. thats' load of information u got from the seminar...

    i love your recap, thanks for sharing, ms owner decided to memorize all that by heart...

    hope we can improve on our runs too...

  10. Johann, thanks for the extra explanation. I've got the idea now. Looking forward to hearing more.

  11. Thanks for sharing video of your runs - fascinating to watch & learn. How we love that tunnel-under-the-A-frame
    combo -! ;-)


Thanks for barking in!

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