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Monday, 19 January 2009

“When a handler is such, than it is also pleasant for a dog.”

On January 17-18, 2009 the seminar in obedience IPO (part “B”) was held in Moscow, on the dog training field “Levoberejnaya”.

The seminar was given by Mia Skogster, sportsman, invited from Finland, who, despite of her young age, is already a famous IPO master of the world level.

Mia Skogster was born in 1980 in Pori, on the west coast of Finland.

World vice-champion 2007 among Belgian Shepherd dogs.

Bronze medalist of the 2008 World championship among Belgian Shepherd dogs (“B” – 100 points).

Bronze medalist of the 2008 FCI World championship.

The President of the Working Dogs Club of Finland.

Rina Trifonova and land group “Best” organized the seminar

Participants of the seminar

Raisa Shishkovskaya


GSD Oleg von Karthago

2 years old

Sergei Starovoitov


GSD Cartagena Baxi

2 years old

Rina Trifonova


Malinois Zora ot Vitosha

4 years old

Rina Trifonova


Malinois Zhericho ot Shato Bulgar

1 years old

Irina Kovaleva


GSD Deira vom Nordpfeil

1 year old

Irina Kovaleva


GSD Floh vom Nordstorm

1 year old

Ludmila Muhanova


GSD Charley vom Rio Negro

1 year old

Ludmila Muhanova


GSD Nancy vom Wellental

1 year old

Ekaterina Lugovaya


GSD Олаф Зотерхунд

3 years old

Yuri Matjushkov


GSD Federik vom Rio Negro

7 months

Valentina Sorokina


GSD Зейрона Дженестра

2 years old

Aleksey Strahov


GSD Де Орсе Мак Флай Остин

9 months

Elena Shihova


Malinois Ж’Арисака от Шато Булгар

1 year old

Polina Ilyina


Malinois Штеффи

2 years old

Vil Magafurov


Malinois Дулу от Рилапланина

6 months

We received the invitations 3 months before the seminar. And we went there with dubious expectation of the coming process; the “professor-girl” was too young.

What incited us to this trip?

We are well aware of different directions in dog training of many schools in Europe: Germany (even GDR), the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Holland, Austria, Belgium, Ukraine and of course Russia; but what about Finland? What’s going on there? By the way, we know that it is not the last country in the competitions (FCI, WUSV) rates. And that was of a big interest for us.

Judging by the fact that many main dog trainers, helpers, instructors and organizers were present at the seminar on the first day, we can suppose, Mia Skogster arose not only our interest.

It is difficult to tell people, who due to different circumstances were unable to take part in the seminar, about it, about its details, fine points and nuances, about the very atmosphere on the sports ground. But it is worth trying.

Every next handler, coming out with his/her dog in the centre of the ground, first explained the problem, which he or she wanted to solve with Mia Skogster’s help, then shortly showed the way of his/her working with the dog. During the remaining time Mia displayed how to gain an expecting result

As the seminar was planned as one in obedience, the elements of IPO Part ”B” were worked through.

Before speaking about the norms in order of their priority, I’d like to tell about some general moments.

Mia Skogster left only good and positive impression. She is a real hard-worker! During 2 days there were no breaks, Mia was tireless and showed almost no emotions, which are not suited for the training process. The richest pantomime! Her explanations reminded more of an original dance and very often the translation from English wasn’t even necessary, Mia’s gestures were quite clear.

While training she used her intonation very distinctly.

The more often words used by her were “I’ll try”.

Once when she was unable to solve the problem and she confessed “I don’t know even what to do” – her eyes became very sad and dark, Mia was very upset.

And when one malinois bit her by the hand and in the evening her hand swelled up, this fragile nice girl had the air as if nothing had happened. Such episodes characterise a person as a real sportsman, and not hate to the surrounding colleagues, as many people in our Russian cynology think.

And now it’s time to speak directly about different pieces of advice, her own views on dog training, which Mia Skogster brought from Finland.

With young dogs before one year old all exercises are worked out using dainty. Balls and other such staff are used only to play. Only when a dog likes a ball or a plait very much, they are brought in trainings.

I try to give the toy back, says Mia Skogster, when the dog wins, when fights – it is good, if you want to see your dog drive, try to make it possible, that your dog would win more often.

When your correction of the dog is too strong, it spoils its mood during the trials, what is more important than technique performance.

The basis for success is work with minor details; all constituents of the norm are worked through separately. That’s why during the seminar she frequently told the handlers that a dog is overloaded with the complex and she suggested that they should divide the complex into separate elements.

Mia Skogster devotes 5-6 months of work to one exercise, after that she checks whether the correction is necessary.

Correction, tough impact are admissible only on the training field, but not on the stadium.

Great importance is given to the countermands and surely it leads to certain good results.

Swift transitions from one command to another are not admissible too, because during the trials there can be quite long pauses for judges’ notes.

As for the separate norms (standards), most of the time was given to the walking closely and to object retrieval. No dog worked with obstacles; we spoke about one metre high barrier only for several minutes.

When one trains a dog to walk closely, a lot of things depend on the handler’s position of the body, shoulders and head. To avoid the displacement of the dog to the right of the handler while walking closely, a ball or a plait is thrown only to the left. When there is a stop, they are thrown not forwards, but backwards, behind the dog’s back.

When Mia Skogster works through the walking closely, she uses a great deal of revulsive irritants, right up to helpers in the distance.

She doesn’t deny the possibility of using electro impulses under certain circumstances. She gives the main role to the individual approach concerning correction and encouragement.

In any case you mustn’t overload the dog with the extant of the exercise, when the dog is young.

At the seminar Mia said to one of the handlers: “There’s too much walking closely for a small dog”. She took the dog at once – the work began – two steps near, she seated the dog and then cancelled the command. Than again several steps – and cancel.

Encouragement is necessarily given from left – above to prevent the dog from moving forward. A hold-up of a ball or a plait is also necessary before giving it as encouragement.

To get used not to look at the dog while walking closely or at stops, Mia Skogster held the trainings by the mirror.

With young dogs the main position is often worked through near the wall, one meter high barrier. Mia sees the solution of the problem of sitting the dog in movement (as well as in lying down or stand) in speeding up the motivation through using a clicker. After a handler’s long period of work with clicker, a helper is used during the training to give the signal of the clicker when it’s necessary.

On the whole she doesn’t deny the mechanical effect to speed up a sitting, but she considers it undesirable, saying that “an active dog while walking closely will sit fast and actively”. But nevertheless she as a helper displayed the effect on the dog of along riding-crop. Doing it, she paid attention to the fact that the helper is going not after the dog, but after the handler.

If a dog doesn’t run ahead of a handler while walking closely, it will sit better.

A lot of time was devoted to the practice of object retrieval.

Here are main views of Mia Skogster concerning this part

To increase the speed of the dog when it goes back to the handler, an object should be laid out on-the-mitre, so that the dog wouldn’t reduce speed a lot when it picks up the object.

The object should be laid out alongside the direction of the dog’s movement, not across.

At object retrieval on long distances it is necessary to use voice encouragement when the dog picks up the object and than to encourage when the dog has already brought the object.

Touching the object with hands in the frontal position mustn’t be connected with the command “Aus” or “Give”. A dog shouldn’t know when this command will be.

During the first steps in training, when the dog is trained to hold the object in the mouth, it is necessary to carry it out with your hand at the side, not direct from yourself and especially not to give the object right in the dog’s mouth.

If a dogs runs to the object and before picking it up the dog beats with its front legs, than a 50-60 cm high stick is used, which is put into the ground in 5 cm after the object.

In Finland all trainings in obedience, especially with young dogs, they finish with calling up. And calling up is done with the helper’s holding of the dog within the distance of about 40 steps.

Each technique of this practice is worked through separately. Calling up, lying down and transition to the main position are done separately, sometimes they are mixed together.

They learn the dog to sit near the handler after calling up from young age (2-3 months).

They give a lot of time to concentration in the frontal position. Again, it is necessary to watch the conductor’s body position. The hands are pulled down – the main position. When you cancel the command you mustn’t hang over the dog’s body, on the contrary you must bend a little bit backwards. When calling up a grown-up fast dog, Mia often puts her hands forward for amortization.

The participants of the seminar were also interested in the norm (standard) “sending forward with the next lying down”.

When Mia Skogster trains her dogs, most of the time she devotes to fast sending forward through the whole field (standard). She carries out sending forward with a ball encouragement.

At that she uses no devices; she always puts a ball on a small plastic jerrican.

Initially at lying down when she sends a dog forward, she uses a long lead. At lying down the dog gets a ball only from its handler.

It is recommended to change fields more often, and the dog shouldn’t be laid down on a new field at once. Before trials, while doing warming-up exercises, Mia carries out a long calling up in the goal, relieves the dog by giving it a ball and than leaves, keeping the ball in the goal.

After each day of work on the dog training field, when it became dark we went to the hotel, where Mia Skogster stayed for the further discussion.

She brought with her video with her dogs’ trainings and she showed this video to us with comments.

In conclusion she marked, that all the dogs that were shown to her “are aimed to be trained, they are fast and energetic”.

We also received some answers to the question concerning tracking and maintenance and keeping of her own dogs.

We were greatly impressed by the seminar, and as far as I see, not only we. Such phrases as “I think I also must learn” are worth a lot, and such phrases were expressed by people with quite big personal experience and with good results at trials of different level.

And the phrase, said by one beginner in dog trains, surprised me so much, that we decided to use it as the title of the article.

Good Luck!

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