Tag Archives: Agility

Agility and Puppies

Just found an article to share with you all about starting your Gordon Setter puppy in Agility training. As with any responsible trainer the author reminds us that puppies are growing and because it’s easy to cause growth plate related injuries, cautions us not to engage in strenuous training.

Be sure to read our previous article about the puppy’s growth plates before you start any training  Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, How Does Your Gordon Grow?

Here’s the link to the article (click the bold title to go there): Agility and Puppies found on Everything Dog at Alpine Publications

Photo courtesy Linda Stebbins
Photo courtesy Linda Stebbins

Agility is an excellent way to help an active puppy burn off some energy while having fun at the same time he is building a bond with his owner. While strenuous training is not recommended, or requiring the puppy to jump at full heights, the puppy can learn a lot of the basic foundations that make up agility.

And for even more helpful tips and videos about training our Gordon Puppies for Agility click the colored title link that follows to go to another article we published written by Linda StebbinsReady Set(ter) Goooo

Feature photo of that cute Gordon Puppy by Laurie Ward


Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Raising Puppies to Be Brave: The Top 10 Ways to Create Confident Dogs

Photo by Laurie Ward. Pups exploring the world, learning confidence.

Thank you to Karen Gatchell, Wells Maine for passing this excellent article on for us to read. Gordon Setter puppies need to be socialized properly from the whelping box to adulthood – whenever adulthood comes, perhaps by around age 6 or 7! Breeders who make time to properly expose those puppies to a varied and active start, long before they go to their forever homes, are truly gems. For the best advice ever on how to give your pups a fantastic  start in life be sure to follow this link to Gayle Watkins article Raising Puppies to be Brave: The Top 10 Ways to Create Confident Dogs. (Just point and click this title and my magic carpet will take you there.)

And while you’re at it take a look back at our previous blog post The Puppy Play Ground (simply click this link) for a look at Debbie Slaski Bjerkstrand‘s puppy play ground Mark built for their Gordon Setter babies. Thank you so much Debbie for demonstrating how Gordon Setter breeders do it right!

Here is a great video of her Gordon Setter pups at play in the yard, learning to be brave!

Here she takes the young litter outside for some new experiences.

Here is Laurie Ward’s litter rushing down the steps as they’ve already learned how to explore the great outdoors…brave kids!

And they ask us why our puppies cost so much?

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Raising Puppies to Be Brave: The Top 10 Ways to Create Confident Dogs – Avidog.

Coursing Ability Tests – Go Gordons!!!!

Welcome Guest Blogger – Diane Dargay 

Diane tells us that she agrees wholeheartedly with Linda Stebbins who mentioned that one “needs to have a sense of humor to own this breed” (Gordon Setter). Diane does all of her own training and Flyball has been her forte for the last 16 years with Agility competition her second passion. She and her husband Bill are in their 30th year of owning Gordon Setters and she says they would not change to any other breed.

CSPN6675When I think of lure coursing “hounds” is what comes to mind, so seeing these photos and reading this article from Diane has been a great deal of fun for me, hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Be sure to send her a “thank you” for sharing her expertise with us on Coursing Ability Tests. If this entices you to get involved in Coursing Tests please be sure to share your experiences with us, the more the merrier you know!

Coursing Ability Tests

Coursing Ability tests are lure coursing trials for the non-lure coursing breeds. The course is set just like a regular lure coursing trial except the rules are different for the non-lure coursing breeds.CSPN6678

There are 2 sets of courses…….300 yards for dogs 12 inches and under and 600 yards for dogs larger than 12 inches. The lure is 3 white trash bags attached to a rope on a pulley system. The dog and handler are brought to the start line with the trash bags about 20 feet in front of the dog. The judge yells “tally ho” and the chase begins. The dog is to chase the lure through many turns at many angles until it stops at the finish line. If your dog loses sight of the lure, you may run and help him find it as many times as he needs without touching him. The person will stop the lure until the dog gets back on track and then restarts the chase. The time allotment is 2 minutes for large dogs and 1 ½ minutes for small dogs to pass.

CSPN6641It is a pass/fail system. You need 3 passes to obtain a title. Most tests are totally fenced but you would have to check with the host club. The dog must be at least 1 year of age.

Diane Dargay, Bolivia, NC

Photo by Dargay
Photo by Dargay

Ready Set(ter) GOOOO!

Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins
Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins

I am so very pleased to welcome this week’s Guest Blogger – Linda Stebbins of Los Ranchos NM to share her training experience in Agility. I know you’ll all treat her right, give her a big round of applause or shake her hand and say “thanks so much” next time you see her!

Linda Stebbins

Agility success with a Gordon Setter requires flexibility, concessions, a desire to learn, train with restraint and understanding and a SENSE OF HUMOR! One of my Gordon Setters was running a clean course in a large horse arena and at the end of her run, a pigeon dive bombed her and returned to the rafters. She took a sharp U-turn, raced up the dog walk and went on point to the pigeon. So much for BEAUTY, BRAINS and BIRD NONSENSE.

Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins
Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins

Although I do not consider myself an expert, my 25+ years in a breed I dearly love, allows me to make valid comments, constructive criticism and appropriate recommendations.When I write about a topic, I am pulling from my own experiences and do not deny there are other methods and styles of training whether it be in conformation, performance or field. I do not proclaim to be a professional trainer and am in a perpetual learning mode. I do this for FUN!

Because I handle my own Gordon Setters in all venues, the journey to their titles is extremely long, self satisfying and rewarding for me. I live in New Mexico where 80% of competitions in the conformation and performance rings are a 7-8 hour drive away. This can be long and grueling but I am totally committed to showing and competing with my Gordons. There is a sense of pride when one can train and show their own dogs.

Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins
Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins

I like to get my Gordon Setters’ Championship and Grand Championship titles as soon as I can so I can start playing in the agility ring. I don’t begin competing in trials until my Gordons are two years old and I know that their growth plates are closed. I use rally trials as a tool for socialization, obedience and  positive reinforcement. My true love is agility and I can honestly say I am an agility-holic. Before agility I participated in obedience and hunt tests. Agility became a strong desire for me because it gave me and my Gordon Setter a sense of mental and physical challenge. I truly appreciate Gordons who have titles on both ends of their name, and there is every reason for a Gordon to be extremely successful in this sport if so desired.

I am a strong proponent of breed standards so when one wants to take up agility with their Gordon Setter, we must keep in mind how substantial this sporting dog is. The normal jump height is 24″. The physical demands of agility are significant. Larger boned dogs may require negotiating some of the obstacles more carefully. Good structure (balanced conformation), temperament and soundness are very important.

IMG_3268While most breed show dogs are campaigned for a relatively short period of time, many agility dogs compete into their senior years with the jump height going to 20″. As for temperament, I like a Gordon who has a desire to work and a willingness to train. I was asked in an interview, “In your opinion, what makes the Gordon Setter such a special breed?” I replied, “Versatility!” They aim to please. They can hunt expertly, are extremely agile, obedient out of love, flow like a stream in the show ring, are a form of positive therapy for the owner’s “dog days”, full of snuggles and contentment whether in your lap or in their beds. As a learner, the Gordon Setter in general is intelligent, quick to learn and of bold character. I like the Gordon’s willing and forgiving attitude which makes a great partner. Curiosity and independence are traits which I think allow the Gordon to be a successful student.

Ready Set(ter) Goooooo!

My training philosophy consists of the Five F’s “Fun, Fair, Firm, Flexible and Fun”. I support positive reinforcement using rewards based methods. I want to develop teamwork. As the handler, you have to think step by step through the shaping process needed to train for an end behavior. I enjoy looking for the good things my dog does successfully. Rewards I use are treats, tug toys, tennis balls and/or verbal praise. Clickers are a true way to mark desired behaviors for problem solving and I do incorporate that in my training. Eventually the clear click sound transfers to me saying “YES” or “GOOD”. Whatever the method, I want to find a special connection that makes us a team.

Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins
Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins

My puppy starts in puppy socialization class which includes manners, and then moving into basic obedience where he/she learns to have a reliable sit, down, stay, and recall. We transition to “flat work” which is agility foundation, teaching me how to handle and making my body language clear and timely. The puppy learns how to take direction from me. After all, it is on the flat surface where I do most of my job navigating my Gordon. A combination of training class, private lessons and creative home training make a great equation for success on the agility course. A class exposes my Gordon to different sounds, breeds and people. Private lessons help clarify and tweak those skills that I so desperately need to have for my Gordon to advance. Homework is a must and this reinforces and gives my Gordon a purpose. At home I like to introduce my puppy to a rocker board, and later trading it out for a wobble board for building confidence and being comfortable with movement and sound. The Fit Paws Disc is another way to develop canine fitness, balance and confidence. Learning fundamental skills properly is vital because training mistakes will be very hard to fix later on. I have learned from my mistakes and work to overcome them. One big recommendation is do not compare the speed of your progress to other members of your class. This has been very difficult for me to ignore, primarily because I am generally the only sporting dog in a class of many herding dogs. I find the herding breeds are a natural for this sport and excel quickly.

When searching for an agility instructor and facility, attend a local trial where you can watch the various handlers and trainers. Find appropriate times to talk to the people and ask them questions about the training IMG_3255methods, styles, techniques, etc. I find most agility competitors are very receptive and want to help newcomers. When you visit training centers and talk with the instructor(s), see if he/she has a willingness to work with all breeds and a variety of energy levels. Not all dogs are high driven. I have had Gordon Setters who have been moderate in drive and consistent on the course. I also have had the total opposite where I have had over the top, high driven Gordons. Once again, don’t compare your Gordon to the speed demons. The instructor should be able to work with all levels of drive. Of course this goes without mentioning, but knowledge and staying up with current changes in the sport is crucial. I personally need to work with someone who has a sense of humor. After all, Walt Disney didn’t create Goofy after the Gordon Setter for nothing. This is supposed to be a FUN sport for you and your Gordon. Make sure there are a variety of classes offered, addressing specific skills and it is not just your basic levels of agility; availability and communication is vital. My READY SET(ter) GOOO! instructor(s) will ask for a video of my homework attached in an email. I will receive feedback commenting on the rights and wrongs. This is extremely helpful! The training center must offer a good foundation so when your Gordon is ready to compete, it is confident and safe on the equipment.

IMG_3253 Agility is constantly changing and evolving. Many handlers have gone to the internet to take instruction. I have not experienced this type of training but it is getting to be more and more popular. In fact books became outdated quickly and the internet has taken its place. Seminars and camps are well sought after and the training center you attend will have announcements posted.

A few resource recommendations are:

IMG_3273Three Gordon Setter Club of America members who have far exceeded anything I have accomplished and are reliable resources are: Julie Ashley, Ohio,  Gail Deller, PA, and Susan Wey, TX. I am sure there are many others who are knowledgeable and successful but these three have helped and supported me immensely in the sport.

Team Work and Making the Dream Work requires your commitment, patience and sense of humor as an agility handler. Those embarrassing moments will occur and you must be willing to be amused by your Gordon Setter’s exuberant antics. It just means you didn’t proof the skill or train it long enough. 99% of the mistakes made fall on the handler, not the dog!

The Gordon Setter can transfer the ordinary day into extraordinary moments and memories.

Auntie Mame said “Life is a banquet!”  I say “Living with Gordon Setters makes it a feast!”

IMG_3271Linda L. Stebbins,  Los Ranchos, NM

Agilitiy with Susan Nelson

Susan and her other sister Susan and her other sister’s sister Susan. Photo by Susan Nelson

Would you all join me please and give Susan Nelson, Casper WY a huge round of applause for sharing her experience with Gordon Setters in Agility! We asked Susan to share with us and she has been kind enough to respond to our request. We believe you’ll truly enjoy Susan’s story.

Susan Nelson
“I have to admit, I’ve not done any agility in a few years and even longer for Obedience. Most of my time now is spent in conformation with Blue and Layla. I’m in the process of selling all my equipment, my desire for agility has faded. My girl, Lillan, was my star and the love of my life. When she died, part of me died also. I stopped running agility with her daughter, Keeley and shortly after, Pippi was retired, she was getting too old. I did start with Fiona (granddaughter), and she did OK, but she wasn’t Lillan. Now, I don’t want to run again. I hope, once Layla finishes (only needs two points), and when her brain gets here, I’d like to try Obedience. It’s been a LONG time since I trained that.. but figure, I’m retired so have some time. Even if we never get into the ring until she’s 10!

Gordon Setter Expert asked Susan if she would share answers to the following questions:

154850_10150341906130175_3704394_nWhat Performance Events have you or do you participate in?

I used to do Obedience and Agility.  I hope to do Obedience with our youngest Gordon, Layla. I did take Pippi into the Rally ring and got her title in three days. Had no idea what I was doing, though. She was working towards her CDX, so most of it seemed like fun to us.

Could you share a brief history of when you started to train and why you choose the events that you are choosing now?

When I started training back in 1999, it was basic obedience with our first Gordon, Pippi who earned CD AX AXJ RA titles. As we progressed through these classes, I decided to try to do Obedience with her. There is something about watching Obedience competition, I love it.  About the same time, a group of friends in town heard of this thing called ‘agility’. None of us knew what it was, but we got together, and ‘played’ at it. Eventually, we decided to enter competitions. When I entered my first agility trial, I entered 600 miles away from home so no one I knew could watch us. It wasn’t ‘pretty’!

How would you describe the Gordon Setter as a learner?

28184_10150189405445175_1291819_nHead strong! With the three girls I did work agility with, once they learned it, I found out I couldn’t keep practicing it. They decided they knew it, and would wander off. They are hunters, and if I wasn’t on top of them all the time, they would go into hunt mode. And, they did it in the ring many a time. I did find out, Gordon Setters do very will with clicker training! They are independent and smart… makes for a tough dog to train.

What advice would you give to someone new, just starting out about where to look for resources in order to learn training techniques?

Find someone who gives lessons. We live in an area where there are no training facilities. The closest is 4 hours away.

Is there a method or combination of methods that you use and find most effective with Gordon Setters?

Clicker Training! Work for 5 min at a time. Mine loved treats and were not toy motivated. If possible, I would try to get a toy motivated Gordon.

What type of training class or trainer, if any, would you advise them to attend or seek?

Someone who understands the Sporting Dog. These dogs are smart, but they have a mind of their own. People with Border Collies, Aussies, they have NO idea how to work with a hunting dog. If possible, find workshops to attend, local clubs (if there are any) put them on a few times a year. Ask questions at trials, go and watch. Find a person who is willing to talk to you. You can learn a lot that way.

154850_10150341906135175_417514_nWould you recommend any particular books or video training materials?

I never used many books–the ones I did, I don’t remember. I gave them away to friends. I found out more by following people around the agility ring during walk through. As we walked the course to learn it, if I was unsure of something, I’d just follow someone who knew how to do it. I learned more by watching than anything.

Any recommendations for internet resources like blogs or websites?

Can’t help here.

When working with a Gordon Setter what do you believe are the most important things to remember about the breed?

They are smart and very independent. They are also quick learners. They can also be stubborn. One thing I learned back with Lillan (and the other two)–once we practiced a sequence, and I went to do it again, Lillan would just take off and run it. They learn it so fast… so I had to shake things up. If we went right to a jump, then the next time, I’d go left. Even then, it was hard to keep them focused on what I wanted to do. Pippi would start great, and then go into hunt mode, if she got a 28184_10150189405445175_1291819_nscent of anything, off she’d go. Many a time, I excused us to go and get her!

Susan Nelson, Casper WY February 2015

Click the title of this video Susan and Pippi at the Glory Run for Retired Agility Dogs to me it is a must see.

Susan has uploaded several YouTube videos of her Gordon Setters running in Agility, another fun run to watch is called Fiona Can Fly and fly she certainly does.

We Need Trainers!

Agility jump
Photo shared by Martha Nicol. Photos by Vince Maidens Photography

We know you’re out there having the time of your life working and competing with your Gordon Setter in all manner of Performance events, Obedience, Rally, Agility, or maybe Flyball (have I forgotten any?) But after you’ve worn yourself out training we’re wondering if you would take a minute or more to share your expert knowledge – as in how did you get your dog to do that?

We need trainers who are willing to share their training methods, such as what resources you use to train, do you have favorite books or websites that you recommend, can you or would you write articles about training or training issues to help others who would like to get involved or who may be stuck and need a helpful hint or two?

agility action
Photo shared by Martha Nicol. Photos by Vince Maidens Photography

We especially and most importantly want to share that information on this site if you believe that the method works well with Gordon Setters, because that’s who this publication is for, the serious Gordon Setter enthusiast.

“Together we will build an interactive, searchable resource for the Gordon Setter Fancier” – Sally Gift

Please help us build this resource site for fellow Gordon Setter lovers by contributing your articles, links, recommended reading, videos, websites, any of the things you believe are important to training with your Gordon Setter. Send your material to us at gordonsetterexpert@gmail.com.