We're trying some new things during our training sessions, thanks to suggestions from someone on an obedience list that I'm on. I think this will help to loosen things up and maybe create some energy. First off, we're losing the formal fronts with the exercises - at least for now. We're starting out our training sessions with a couple long distance and/or restrained recalls to try to build speed and set the tone for the session. No fronts with these recalls, just praise and treats for coming fast - which he is doing.
When we do articles, we set the pile in a location where I can get quite a bit of distance for the return. I send him to the pile from the normal distance, then as he is going to the pile, I go the opposite direction across two rings and wait for him there. With this increased distance between us, he is trotting back with the article now instead of walking slowly. Progress! And, again, no fronts - just praise and treats.
The other thing I am trying with articles is tossing the article toward the pile. This is getting him moving faster toward the pile. I think these new techniques are having the side effect of reducing some of the stress associated with this exercise. He doesn't seem so serious and worried about it.
When we do the glove exercise, I'm also dropping the formal front. This seems to also be speeding up his return with the glove.
I've gone back to using the dowel retrieve for the go-outs. I trained go-outs using a dowel retrieve, but kinda got away from it because he was doing pretty good with the go-outs, however, he really starts slowing down when he gets about two thirds of the way out. I think putting the dowel out is giving him more of a purpose for going out and it really increases his speed. Sits are still slow, but the directed part of the jumping is good.
Overall, I think these new techniques may give us a needed energy boost in our training. I'm going to stick with using these for a few weeks and then evaluate where we are.