How does the OneMind Dog method work for total beginner handlers and dogs? Heidi Lemmetyinen and Petey tried it out.
I’ve been working with the OneMind Dogs gang for a while on other dog related projects. I don’t do agility, but I’ve read a lot about the method and was interested to see how it would work with my own dog(s).
One sunny day we drove to Half Moon Bay, California, to take an introductory lesson with OneMind Dogs Assistant Coach Ivette White. I have two dogs, but I decided my 6-year old rescue dog Petey would benefit from the lesson the most. He is a bit too chubby right now and needs the exercise!
Petey is a dog who was dealt a lot of lemons in life, but somehow he has always managed to make lemonade out of them. Petey’s previous owner dumped him in a high kill shelter and his odds of making it out alive as a middle-aged mix breed dog were slim. But thanks to his great personality, he was picked in a prison training program and spent three months living in the Madera jail with an inmate and completing the Canine Good Citizen program before he came to live with me.
And now Petey got to try out agility for the very first time ever!
Magic on the agility course
At the start of our lesson Ivette explained to us what the 3 C’s - Connect, Commit, Cue - mean. Then she went through the Seven Elements of Handling and told us how they support the dog’s movement on an agility course.
After that it was time to find out how the magic happens! We started by learning offering a jump exercise. I had to lure Petey to the other side of an obstacle using a reward and the positioning of my body. Petey is a smart little guy, so it didn’t take him too long to figure out how to get to the treat. The bigger issue was me - it took me a while to understand how to position myself correctly.
Then we did some exercises where I had to watch my movement even more closely. I had to get Petey to follow my handling to get to his reward. I needed to make sure the direction of my feet was correct and that I was moving the foot that was closest to Petey when I started running. Every time I got it right, Petey followed my handling perfectly. But if I forgot something, he got distracted and started offering other behaviors that normally get him a treat (like rolling, which is his go-to move for treats at home).
We also learned how I could make Petey more excited about training with me. At this point he was very excited about Ivette, as he had quickly understood that Ivette was the guardian of the treat bag… So I had to remind him of my existence, and get him to run to me.
What did we learn?
I had already heard that all the dogs anywhere in the world intuitively understand the OneMind Dogs method, and now I could see it in action. My boy, who had never done agility in his life, instinctively knew what he needed to do when the handling was done correctly. Needless to say he also loved it - it involved treats, running around on the agility course and having fun with humans. What more could a little dog ask for?!
Petey wasn’t the one doing the learning, it was me. I learned to think about my own movement, gestures and body language from the dog’s point of view, which is a valuable thing to keep in mind also outside the agility course. It’s really quite amazing how astute dogs are at reading our body language.
I loved the fact that the OneMind Dogs method is so clearly all about the dog’s perspective and well-being. I’m a huge advocate for positive, force-free dog training, and it is very obvious that the dog’s happiness comes first in this method. I strongly believe that dogs are never “wrong”, because they are perfect. If they don’t behave the way I want them to, it’s on me as their trainer - I haven’t properly communicated what I need to them to do. Watching the OneMind Dogs method in action reinforced this belief. Petey immediately followed Ivette’s handling beautifully, but struggled more with me, because I was such a rookie as a handler. This is why the OneMind Dogs method is taught to humans only; our dogs already know it.
Petey and I are going to continue the foundation exercises at home with the help of the OneMind Dogs training videos. Petey loves learning and I often worry that I’m not able to provide him with enough activation, so these videos are a great tool for us to tap into.
Even if you’re not an agility nut, it’s well worth it to give the OneMind Dogs method a shot! At the very least, you’ll learn to see your own body language from your dog’s perspective in a completely new way.