Why I Attended Five Interactive Play Workshops (So Far)

At first I went along because I’d caught the ‘workshop bug’ and the topic sounded intriguing. I’d also been told on a working dog holiday that I didn’t play with my dog. What do you mean, I thought, we train a lot, and training is play. Besides, a Lab will never play like a Shepherd. My dog doesn’t even tug!

And then I caught my dog tugging, with a friend of mine. It was me he didn’t tug with. I had never encouraged it because of the old ‘keep ’em soft mouthed’ myth from the gundog world. There is, of course, a genetic predisposition to what a dog chooses to do when it picks up an object. He hadn’t actually been a ‘deliverer’ when we first started gundog training. But we’d arrived at a point where I tried to interact using a toy and he’d just hand it over. Yes, we played. We played rough and tumble without toys, but he was controlled and cautious, which is a good thing considering how delicate we are compared with dog’s teeth. I tried to build him up to tugging, inspired by one of Susan Garrett’s programmes, but he was hesitant and I lacked confidence.

My first interactive play workshop with Craig Ogilvie helped me see my dog’s chase drive and learn that the game didn’t have to stop if my dog lost interest. I learned how to prevent him losing interest in the first place. Some dogs have to be shown and learn to play with us – what an eye opener! I returned home feeling positive about interacting with my dog, and enthusiastic about hosting Craig’s workshops here in Surrey. Fast forward another half year, and Craig has been our guest instructor three times, delivering two workshops and one talk. I’ve also attended three of his workshops hosted by others.

Here’s why:

  • We work just where we’re at and receive just the coaching we need, since everybody gets to have one-to-one time with Craig during the workshop. We’ve made progress since last time when we focussed on toy activation, I practised that at home, and this time I bring a couple of other questions and see what Craig suggests to focus on.
  • I grow as a handler, I gain confidence to push boundaries, many of which Craig pointed out weren’t there in the first place. I’m lucky to work with two dogs with different genetics, temperaments, drive, motivation and level of maturity. And of course it’s helpful to watch a variety of others in action with their dogs.
  • Craig as a coach makes me feel positive and motivated after each workshop. I understand better the why, what and how. Of course Craig could easily get my dog to play with him. Have you ever struggled in a class and the trainer got hold of our dog and made it perform beautifully for them? It doesn’t help. Craig goes beyond that. He may give the dog a twirl to assess or demonstrate, but his work is about getting YOU to succeed with your dog.
  • Craig is also an engaging, informative and fun speaker. Before his talk I wondered, would it be possible to match what he did in the practical workshops? And he matched it! Attending the talk set the context beautifully for my subsequent practical sessions. Things like what toys to choose and why Craig might suggest one or the other thing during play are all explained in this talk. The talk touches on background and aspects than may not come up on workshop day, but you might face at home and be better equipped to handle.
  • Last but not least, for those left gasping for air from the running around – it gets easier! I’m no fitter, but the more I understand the principles, the better I manage my physical energy. I’m even starting to have some spare brain power left to process what Craig says to me.

I would take any opportunity for an interactive play workshop, because my dogs (and I) remain work in progress, whether it’s early days or polishing rough edges. My recommendation would be to attend Craig’s key note talk once (before or after your first workshop) and then as many workshops as you like.

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