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I was talking to my tracking trainer the other day, and she got me thinking about the number of things that should/could be done simultaneously with a dog...

She is of the opinion that if you want to do everything, sure, do everything, but sequentially. Otherwise you get kind of mediocre at everything but never really good at anything. She equated it to trying to read multiple books at once, one page at a time from each - sure you'll get through them eventually, but you're probably going to end up with a jumbled mess in your head, instead of a really clear idea of what you read.

Curious about your guys' thoughts about it? How many different sports/things/kinds of things are you involved in at once and do you find it beneficial to do just one thing at a time, or is switching it up more beneficial because it gives the dog (and you) a break from drilling the same sport/thing?
 

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I think it depends on the dog, and somewhat on the day.

In general I like to be involved in at least a couple of different things at once because some days, one thing just isn't working for whatever reason. I'm trying to get better in general at observing/reading what my dogs need or are up for on a given day, but I still need some training there. :p But say Squash has a bad night at agility, the next day we can go for a nice long scooter run and get some cobwebs out. Or we can work on engagement and tricks, or rally skills he likes, or whatever. Toast isn't feeling the heel work today? Let's do a few easy nosework finds instead, and once he's more engaged go back and try the heeling again.

I feel like it just gives me more options. But there are dogs who do better with one thing at a time or just one thing, period. Maisy is pretty much a mushing dog and happy not to do anything else. She doesn't even really like tricks training that much. So I think you just need to learn to read your dog, really.
 

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In general the people who are the top in every sport are pretty dedicated to that particular sport. That is what they do and they put all their effort there.

That said, most people don't go for that level. There are plenty of people having success in multiple sports and that enjoy cross training. But for most people there's only so many hours in a day and so much money. So a lot of people really can't excel in Frisbee, agility, flyball, conformation, obedience, herding, etc etc. So they pick one or two and go with that.

For MY dogs we basically do agility and then sports that don't require a lot of training and are more 'instinctual'. Hank is good at everything we've tried (except dock diving and he's so so with Frisbee). He LOVED flyball, but I love agility. He also really likes obedience work and I think he'd like rally. Barn hunt and lure coursing are almost 100% instinctual- they either do it or they don't. So I don't 'train' for it at all. We just show up to fun runs and competitions when we see them. Nosework we do primarily because my friend runs the nosework group and classes. :p And I get a lot of free practice. But it's also one you don't really need extensive training to do for fun. Agility is really where it's at for me so I don't really feel like branching out.

I don't see much confusion at all between my sports. Hank knows the difference in nosework and agility. Summer and Mia when they did both had no issue differentiating either. Lure coursing is just a world away and doesn't really apply. I think they can easily learn their jobs in different settings. I do know some people dislike cross training in certain sports because they feel it affects performance (flyball and agility is one I hear a lot) but I don't know enough about it. I find most people I know are heavily involved in one sport and then dabble elsewhere and usually in less involved sports (like lure coursing or barnhunt). I don't know many people that do flyball AND agility for example. The obedience people don't often do agility. There are a few 'breed people' that do a TON though really wanting to title their breeding dogs in a lot.
 

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Are we talking about dog sport type activities, or are we talking about what we're teaching and how many things are on the go at once?

My answer is kind of the same either way, but with some caveats that change.

Training wise, I have a lot on the go at once - I have to. If I did nothing but work at one command, behavior, or skill until the criteria was as high as it was ever going to be, it was on verbal only, and proofed for all situations/settings, then I would lose my mind and my dogs would stop working, period. Okay, Jack might go for it but Jack trains for about 10 seconds aa t time. The other four, even Bug, would seriously not take that kind of repetition.

Sport wise is a little different. I think if you want to become really, really excellent at something then you're probably going to need to focus your time and energy (and training) in that direction. That probably isn't going to leave a lot of 'dog brain power' left for other sports, and you risk mostly burning your dog to a crisp. Most dog sports have multiple skills that need to be taught, and it can be a pretty big undertaking - and dogs do, IMO, need both physical and mental breaks. By really excellent here, I mean like serious competitor at a super high level.

And even then, I think some other TRAINING goes on, for fun and to use the dog's brain in a different way and let them blow off some steam and find success and work on the bond between handler and human. I just think that trying to tackle two sports (that involve lots of training) seriously (really really seriously) is probably not going to work well for dog or handler.

For the rest of us, whatever the dog and handler are happy doing. If you want to play around with different things and are having fun doing it, go for it. Goodness knows I intend to - and more so because agility has an off season longer than is good for Molly. Kylie's fine going 'eh, no agility for 6 months is cool'. Molly responds to a lack of structured activities and outlet by getting more reactive and squirrelly so she'll probably be doing SOMETHING, be it disc dog or obedience or flyball or starting over in agility just to keep her from falling apart.
 

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And keep in mind that some sports have multiple things going on by their nature. IPO for example is obedience, tracking, and bitework so all of those things are taught and practiced relatively simultaneously, although not necessarily all on the same day or in the same session. The tracking isn't exactly the same as tracking in other venues, but it's there.
 

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I assume she means one sport at a time, not just one thing per training session?

Personally, I do lots of things at once and jump around. One session might be working on obedience, one might be agility. Really, my dog probably sees heeling and the dumbbell retrieve as completely different sports. He doesn't really understand what behaviors go with what sports. If I did some agility and then threw in a dumbbell session he wouldn't be confused because he doesn't really see how this all fits together anyway. I aim for my dogs to think all of the stuff we work on is just "tricks". Sure if we enter an empty ring we're probably not doing agility, and if he sees obstacles we probably won't be doing formal heeling, but most of the time I spend training at home we just blend it together.

As far as just focusing on one sport, I think it totally depends on how competitive you want to be, and what your personality is like. If you want to be on the worlds team for agility, then yes, you should probably focus on that. Or if you want to get an OTCH you should probably focus on obedience and forget about agility until you're done. There are only so many training hours in a day and you're going to advance in a sport faster if you use those hours for one sport. It is very hard to be competitive in more than one thing, which is why IPO is so hard - having a dog highly trained in 3 very different activities requires a ton of work.

I really don't care about being competitive, and I don't have one sport that I'm head over heels in love with to the exclusion of everything else, so we bounce around. One day I do agility foundations, the next I do heeling, the next I do nosework. I've taken up to 3 classes a week with Watson in 3 different sports/activities. I like the flexibility to drop something I'm frustrated with and just do something else. Do we advance that quickly? Not really, but then we wouldn't advance that quickly anyway since I'm not a very experienced trainer and am still feeling things out. So for me, I would probably get burnt out by focusing on only one sport, because switching it up keeps me motivated and interested in what I'm doing. I agree with Laurelin that it's easy to add sports that don't really require much "training". Nosework is kind of our easy thing where I can take it easy and let the dog do the work.

As far as the dogs go, I don't think most will care. Some might, but most won't really understand whether different skills are part of one sport or another.
 

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Yes as far as training things goes I don't focus on one skill at a time. We may do one sequencing session then the next work a specific skill like weaves. Then maybe tightening wraps. Then maybe engagement in general. Then nosework then teeter. Etc etc. I don't think it's possible in agility to only work one thing at a time. You have to constantly be working a bit of this and a bit of that.
 

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I usually do one Obedience class with all my dogs, then start Agility with some of them. With Kris it was a little different as she needed a lot more Obedience so I have pretty well done it constantly with a little Agility thrown in. It did get me more interested in Rally and Obedience so will do more of that with her as well as the Agility but won't start doing anything but Agility with my small dogs. Would also like to try nosework with Kris but nobody does it around here yet.
 

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After years of trying, I've finally decided I'm incapable of seriously training for more than one sport at a time. I end up being so-so at all of them, and I'd rather be really good at one thing (obedience). I should have realized this sooner, since I have a very one-track mind about everything and I always end up confusing myself when I try to split my focus. I am in awe of people like Gerianne Darnell, who has a QUINTUPLE champion BC (championships in obedience, agility, conformation, tracking, and herding). I could never even begin to do such a thing. But I think even she does it sequentially. I do know some people who hop around from obedience one weekend to agility the next to herding or fieldwork or dock diving or whatever the next. Some even do well at all of them. I would be totally exhausted.
 

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After years of trying, I've finally decided I'm incapable of seriously training for more than one sport at a time. I end up being so-so at all of them, and I'd rather be really good at one thing (obedience).
Yeah, I think this question really comes down to each person's individual priorities. Personally, I'm totally ok with being mediocre at a lot of things, because I'm enjoying trying everything out and my goals are very modest. I may change my mind with time and future dogs. It's also perfectly reasonable to take Shep's path and decide you want to focus on one thing and be very good at it. So to answer Alla's question simply, I don't think her trainer was wrong to say that if you split your focus you may be so-so at everything (unless you are one of those amazing people who can do it all and do it all well), but that doesn't mean that being so-so at a lot of things is not a valid choice for a lot of trainers. Only you can decide how you feel about that and what your training journey will be.

I am in awe of people like Gerianne Darnell, who has a QUINTUPLE champion BC (championships in obedience, agility, conformation, tracking, and herding).
That is completely amazing.
 

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I have a friend like that. Every weekend she's doing some trial. I don't even know how many titles but they barn hunt, compete in at least three agility venues, do nosework, obedience, rally, and conformation. I'd be exhausted!
 

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That's the other thing for me. There are times during the agility 'on' season that I'm doing agility 3 or 4 days a week. Off season is different and sometimes there's just _nothing_, and during that period I'll want to pick something else to play with, but there is a limit to how much I can (or want) to do.

I can't even imagine trialing every weekend. I *might* do two weeks in a row in October, but I'm even thinking seriously about backing out of the not-home trial.
 

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Yea, my goals are pretty much "keep us busy and having fun, and if we even trial that's gravy." So it's really no problem for me to dabble in a lot of things at once. If I wanted to get really serious about any one thing it would probably be different.
 

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I think Watson finished in 12 shows over the course of a year. Not even 12 weekends, just 12 shows, mostly doing two in a weekend. So 6 weekends in a year was about the limit for how often I wanted to show. I don't see that changing even if we get to the point where we can trial in agility or obedience.
 

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If this year is anything to judge by (and it should) I end up with a possible 7 trials in a year, with me doing 5 or 6 of them. I am not anywhere near thinking traveling and staying overnight for a trial is worthwhile or even sounds fun.

I want to do a class, or a practice, or a show and go, or something dog related most weeks. Trialing's a whole 'other ball game. I love it, and it's fun, but they're also completely draining.
 

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If this year is anything to judge by (and it should) I end up with a possible 7 trials in a year, with me doing 5 or 6 of them. I am not anywhere near thinking traveling and staying overnight for a trial is worthwhile or even sounds fun.
The only show that we drove more than 2.5 hours for was Nationals. It was about 5 hours and we spent the night. I think that was worth it, but that's a very special occasion. I don't plan to drive to Purina Farms for next year's National or anything. We might get a hotel for the Thanksgiving shows this year for the first time - they are 2.5 hours away which is kind of a lot if you want to do more than one day. But yeah, I'm otherwise not interested in driving more than a couple hours or staying over night for shows.

I want to do a class, or a practice, or a show and go, or something dog related most weeks. Trialing's a whole 'other ball game. I love it, and it's fun, but they're also completely draining.
Yeah, I'm a class junkie too. We don't have any classes until mid-September and I don't know what to do with my evenings.
 

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The trial that happens the week before my home trial is about 2.5 hours away and that's enough for me to be second guessing if I want to do it and if I DO go, it's definitely going to be one day only. That one pretty much is my 'backup' in case my husband is in Germany for our home trial the week after. I don't want to totally miss going to a trial in October, since it's the last thing happening before January, but I'd rather do the one 'at home' (which is still almost an hour away, but I'm used to that).
 

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Yeah, I'm a class junkie too. We don't have any classes until mid-September and I don't know what to do with my evenings.
Class junkie here too. Although tbh after the repeated failure in FDSA Engagement, I even had to skip my unskippable agility class yesterday - and I haven't done any tracks since my class on Tuesday.

So I guess moral of the story is, do however many sports you want all at once unless you want to be super competitive or something. Which works just fine with me. :)
 

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I don't imagine it would be similar to reading multiple books at the same time because you're not overlapping the sports at the same time.
You're not making your dog weave the agility poles and then take down the trainer for schutzhund at the end, followed by leaping off a dock to retrieve fowl.
(What an awful thing to your train your dog to do. Take down the agility trainer after each exercise hahaha)

You'd be working on one thing at a time. I'd say it could get confusing if you did them all in one day all the time. But usually different training classes are different nights.
I'd think if you want to super excel in one thing you'd devote most/all of your effort and training into that sport, with maybe some additional training that could benefit the dog during that sport. Whether your dog needed it that way for a mental break or not, I think you'd most likely do it that way for yourself. Usually if you are really enjoying something you devote yourself to it.
 

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When I was working on an OTCH, I traveled so much looking for points that my bank account got pathetic. Gas, motels, entries -- it was ridiculous. And I was tired so much of the time. But I loved it, too. I became an expert at carrying soft crates, article bags, and water buckets up and down stairs while holding two bouncy dogs on leash. My favorite part was going back to the motel in the afternoon after the Saturday trial and napping for a couple of hours with the dogs. I could never sleep the first night, so I needed it!
 
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