Sunday, February 6, 2011

Twitter and Dog Training

[This was a post to DogTrek and PositiveGunDogs lists on January 23, 2011]

When Twitter first came out, with eventually millions of people answering the question "What's happening?", I didn't see the point. I tried it for a few days, and couldn't imagine why anyone, even those closest to me, would want to see a running account and/or commentary of my life. As with FaceBook, I used it for a while, then lost interest. I haven't looked at FB in months.

But recently I've come to see Twitter as a valuable resource. I happen to be a news junkie, and I suddenly became aware a few weeks ago that Twitter is a great way to stay on top of news and also on top of news comment. The 140-character limitation is irrelevant, because often the tweet serves as a headline, with a link to the in-depth story. Click the link when you want to read more. Every day I get links to articles in blogs and online newspapers that I'd never have known about if I hadn't seen tweets about them from one of the people I follow. These generally aren't people I know personally. In some cases they're aggregators, in other cases journalists whose stories and posts, which might come out several times a day, I often enjoy reading. Of course often I'll glance at the tweet, decide I'm not that interested, and will ignore the link. If I find I'm not interested in the lion's share of tweets from a particular user, or find particular tweets too annoying, I "unfollow" that user.

Today I was thinking how useful it might be if skillful field trainers used Twitter. Some might write articles in a blog, others might limit themselves entirely to tweets. Some readers might get their tweets on their phones as text messages -- that's how I get most of the tweets I read -- while others might use the website, or even some Twitter utility or app.

Let's say that a particular field trainer I was following tweeted: "Too cold for H2O, so today we worked on reverse hip-pockets. Doubles for the young dogs, added a short mark as go-bird for the older ones." Then the next day he tweeted that he worked on something else, but in a week, it was more reverse hip-pockets. How long would it be before I got a sense of the guy's training rhythm, priorities, and methods? "Ah," I might find out, "when you want to turn a reverse hip-pocket double into a triple, a reasonable way to do that is to throw the extra bird last, and have the dog run the RHP as the last two marks." (I'm not saying that's the case. I actually don't know the best way to add a third mark to a reverse hip-pocket double.)

And what if I were following a dozen trainers, and each of them were sending out that same kind of information day after day, week after week, year after year? Then I'd see the areas of consensus, and the individual variances. Wow, what a resource!

Tweets could be used for other material as well. Maybe one guy is a humorist and sometimes just tweets a funny way of saying something. Another tweets when he wants to forward a link (probably first shrinking it with or Another intersperses his "training journal" tweets with thoughts that he thinks might be interesting to his followers (that's Twitter's name for people who read the tweets being broadcast by a particular user).

Twitter has a few refinements I won't get into here -- for example, re-tweets (RT), mentions, and hashtags. Those sorts of things might turn out to be valuable, too. So far, I haven't figured out how to leverage them effectively.

In any case, I'd going to follow thru here in two ways:

First, if you're someone who's sending out tweets on field training or related topics, I hope you'll send us your Twitter username so I (and possibly others) can try following you. And second, I've added my Twitter username to the bottom of my signature block, for anyone who wants tweets on what I'm up to with my dogs. Since I'm also a blogger, I think I'll tweet brief captions and links to blog entries on my two blogs when I post there as well. That's the way I've seen Twitter used in the area of news and news commentary.

Given my lack of experience, I don't think I have that much to offer by myself, though my dogs have come pretty far by 2Q standards. On the other hand, a broad Twittersphere of field training might be quite useful. Maybe it will become clear to me after awhile that my tweets are a waste, and I'll give it up. For now, I think it's worth a try.

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie (Goldens)
Laytonsville, Maryland

Field training blog: (see "Archive of Video Blog Entries" in right margin)

Reference blog "The 2Q Retriever" (work in progress):

YouTube playlists:
-- Lumi:
-- Laddie:

To further explore the frontiers of dog training, join our DogTrek list at:

Twitter: @LindsayRidgeway

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