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The Versatile Whippet
-Top Ten Training Tips

By John Heffernan
Here are some tips I have picked up in training Wyatt and Patriot. I hope they are useful to you. Remember your mileage may vary!
1.  Have a goal but be willing to modify it. Goals such as specific titles or championships can really motivate you and focus your training. But don’t be afraid to change your goals if they are not realistic. In most cases, you can modify your goals so you are making progress. Remember that your dog doesn’t know anything about ribbons or titles but just wants to be with you. Never get mad at your dog. Every error is your fault because it is an error in training, proofing, and most likely your handling.
2.  Always err on the side of caution when it comes to your dog’s health and safety. There’s always another trial so if something seems wrong, call it a day. If something just is not working, excuse yourself from the ring. One time, very close to Wyatt’s CPE agility championship he started refusing jumps and running out of the ring. He was trying to tell me that his back hurt in the only way he knew how. Always check for a physical problem first.
3.  Have infinite patience when training whippets. Some things take years and years to click for whippets, especially if you got them after they were puppies and/or they are your first dog. I trained Wyatt’s agility contacts and sits and downs for at least 4 years before I began to get some reliability in a trial setting. Proof, proof, proof. This is often overlooked, but a must for our visual breed. Take your dog to lots of dog shows and trials before you compete. Do any matches and run thrus you can find. Handle the same and expect the same from your dog at a trial.
4.  Never slow your dog down in agility or obedience. It’s real hard to get speed and motivation back. But you can get control on a fast and motivated dog. When something goes wrong, reward your dog if the dog tried. 99.99% of time it was your fault on your level anyway. When you have a good run, reward your dog first. When you have a bad or frustrating run, don’t let your dog know but reflect on what you can try next time.
5.  View each problem as a puzzle. View each non-qualifying run as a chance to learn something. You are going to have to enjoy a challenge if you are going to train whippets. So enjoy it and don’t compare yourself to other breeds like goldens in obedience. Remember, they aren’t the greatest lure coursers or racing dogs!
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