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How to Make Every Practice Really Count

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If you are participating in a canine sport, you and your dog work together as a team. You have been propelled through many long practice days by the idea that “practice makes perfect.”

That idea is not wholly truthful. First, the original phrase is actually “practice makes mastery,” which is far more accurate and less daunting (but, I admit, lacks the alliterative appeal of its heir). The distinction between mastery and perfection is important, especially for those who see improvement as a lifelong process and the goal of perfection as a bit of deterrence to trying.

Second, the phrase has a cautionary twin: “practice makes permanent.” The takeaway is implicit—practice can make perfect, but only if you know the right things to practice (“the right stuff”). That’s exactly what you get at ClickerExpo, and if you weren't able to make it this year, we encourage you to check out our new locations for 2018 - ClickerExpo's 15th anniversary year!

Here are three courses that would be helpful for you and your dog. I chose them because their insights, programs, and practices apply to dog-handler teams no matter the sport of choice—agility, obedience, rally, freestyle, and more.

The Fab Five: Concepts that Will Make Your Training Rock!
Can you see the skill similarities between heel-work and weave-pole exercises? Not obvious is it? Most of us have trouble seeing the essential threads—and by that I mean skills and practices—that are not only common across sports but essential to get right. Enter Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh. They focus your time and energy on five concepts that form the nucleus of a training program for almost any form of canine competition.

Fail-Safe: Cracking the Code for Ultra-Dependability
What I noticed right away about obedience champ Hannah Branigan is that the same focus and disciplined thinking that made her a successful collegiate athlete make her a success in training for canine sports. I love her very plain, very powerful summary that “fail-safe” training means “we can’t just train until the dog gets it right; we need to train so that he can’t get it wrong.”

Taking Platform Training to New Heights
Michele Pouliot pioneered and expanded the use of platforms in competition training. Platforms are powerful training aids that increase the effectiveness of your team training time. Michele would know! She has been the top-rated freestyler in the US multiple times and has scored, in the judges’ eyes, perfect 10s multiple times. (P.S. Michele held down a fulltime job all the while!) This new course for trainers with advanced skills includes both training demonstrations and direct work with dog/handler teams. Take your training to new heights!

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Aaron Clayton is President of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and TAGteach International, and a member of the ClickerExpo Faculty.