Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday training - playing

It was pretty quiet at the club this afternoon, so no distractions. We took the opportunity to practice some of the basics, and to work on our 'high fives.' This is the fun trick we've been working on that involves him raising his right foot and left foot on command. I think he's starting to get it : ) I'm going to try to develop some 'tricks' that we can do for breaks in training. It's kind of a stress reliever and something to get him excited. That, and throwing treats across the ring are about as close as we come to 'playing.' He's never been a toy driven dog, so it's been difficult to get him to play in training. I'm also working on teaching him to tug - something that comes natural to a lot of dogs - but not Jackson! If I throw a toy or a ball, he'll go after it then stand and sniff it, but not pick it up. So, I'm trying to find a way to get him to interact with me and a toy.

Susan Garrett has a page on her blog where she gives some tips on how to create play/tug drive in a dog that does not show an interest in toys. I've been following her steps on creating a motivating toy and it seems to be working - at least in my kitchen. We're to the point where he will take hold of the toy and tug on it with me briefly. I'm going to work a little more on it around the house before we 'take it on the road.' Not sure he'll still be interested if there are distractions around.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Utility class - week 5

Tonight was week 5 of utility class, and it went pretty well. I've been seeing some progress each week as we work through the exercises with the stress and distractions of the class situation.

We started out with the signal exercise. Two dogs at a time heeling in the ring and doing signals. Jackson's heeling was pretty good with just a little lagging on the turns. His signals were all good. Yay : ) I'm getting more confident about his signals these days.

Articles were next. His first article went well - started working right away and found the correct article. As he went out to do his second article, someone opened a window near where he was working, and for some reason it spooked him and he headed for the exit! But, I gave him a second 'find it' command and he went back over to the pile and picked up the correct article. The really good thing about that was he worked through the stressful situation and performed the exercise correctly - the kind of progress we've been looking for.

The directed retrieve exercise went really well. His pivots were all good so the retrieves were correct, and he even trotted back to me! I'm getting more speed coming back to me instead of the slow walking since I started doing more distance recalls and less formality in the exercises. (I think even the running through my legs to get a treat is helping : )

The directed jumping also went well. We were having problems with slow/no sits on the go-outs, so I've been following him part way out to give the sit command. I get the sits when I'm closer to him, so I'm going to do that for awhile then gradually lengthen the distance until I get the sits from the start point.

Training notes:
We're finally getting some warm weather so I'm really going to try to get out to train in different locations this next week - especially do articles and signals in new places.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Our first blog award!

Here it is - our first blog award! Honey the Great Dane gave us the Honest Scrap Blog award. We are honored, and in order to accept the award Jackson needs to list 10 honest things about himself. In addition to listing the 10 things, we must pass this award on to seven other blogs.
So, here goes . . . . . in Jackson's own words!

1) Let me start at the beginning. I was born on April 7 - five years ago, and weighed a whopping 1 pound 4 ounces at birth. Aren't I cute!!!! I was one of six in the litter and since I was the first boy, Mom tied a blue ribbon around my neck and I became known as "blue boy."

2) When I was seven weeks old, we all traveled to Wisconsin so my littermates and I could be evaluated for show potential. Since I come from a long line of champions, Mom was really hopeful. Here I am at the evaluation. I was a serious guy even then.

3) I'm proud to say that I was evaluated as the 'pick' puppy in the litter. Mom was excited about my future in the show ring. But . . . . alas, it was not to be. I had this 'flaw' that kept me from being a conformation dog - I was cryptorchid (which means my testes were not in the right place!) But, Mom now says that's okay, because if it hadn't been for that, she would never have gotten into the world of obedience.

4) When I first started obedience training, I had this somewhat embarassing problem - I was a submissive peer. When someone would approach me, sometimes I would get scared and pee. Yikes! I'm probably not what you would call a natural at obedience training. But I was Mom's first obedience dog so she didn't know enough to give up on me : )

5) I like to drink water from the bottom of the bucket. And, boy, does that make a mess. But, I just love to stick my head in the water and gulp it up.

6) But, I hate taking baths! Although I like getting in the bathtub. Weird, isn't it?

7) I've never been able to develop a pretty sit. (I've even had judges comment on my sits in the trials.) I think three minutes is a long time to sit in the ring, so I try to get as comfortable as I can for the duration. Mom says, you don't get points for pretty, so she doesn't worry too much about it any more.

8) I'm a lap dog. I like to sit on Mom's lap whenever I can - especially at trials and in utility class. It helps me relax : ) Here I am sitting on Mom's lap at a trial.

9) I'm afraid I'm not a 'dog park' kinda guy. I really don't like dogs getting in my face. I don't mind them being around me - just not in my face! I've never been attacked by a dog, but I'm still a little afraid of some dogs and not sure what they're going to do to me.

10) I love being a therapy dog. I think it might be my favorite thing in the world : )

Okay, now that I've listed 10 honest things about myself, I need to pass this award on to seven bloggers to see if they would like to participate. So here's my seven . . . . .

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Utility class - week 4

Tonight was week four of utility class. We missed last week due to a conflict I had with a meeting. Maybe it was having that extra week to practice that made the difference. Jackson was much improved this week. This is a tough class for him because of all the distractions and working in close proximity with other dogs and handlers in the ring - but, it's what he needs to learn to focus and work through his stress. (And, I think I was a little more relaxed this week, which helps : )

We did signals first, and he did miss the first 'down' signal, but after a restart he did the signals fine and even trotted in to me on the 'come.' Then came the dreaded articles. He's been pretty stressed about these, but tonight - even though he was worried about what was going on around him, he worked through it and got both articles correct in reasonably good time. Now, that's the progress I'm looking for!

The directed retrieve exercise went pretty well except he didn't come all the way around on the pivot to the #2 glove so ended up facing the #1 glove. A problem we've been working on for awhile. With some help though he corrected it and ended up getting the right glove.

The last exercise - the directed jumping - went pretty well. The go-outs were straight with good distance, but sits are still real slow. The directed jumping part of it was good though.

Overall, he is improving although we still have some work to do before I'm confident enough to think about entering a trial. We're half way through the utility session and I'm hoping by the end of this eight-week session we'll have improved enough to have me thinking about a trial. We'll see : )

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fun & Games videos

We practiced some of our fun and games exercises this afternoon at the club and managed to get a couple short video clips of what we're working on. We've been working on Jackson running through my legs the past couple weeks. When we first started, he was reluctant to put his head between my legs to get a treat. That was Step 1 of the learning to weave. Now he is going through my legs after a treat without hesitation - Step 2. The next step is to weave in and out through my legs. We haven't got that far yet, but here's the 'through the legs' clip.

He is such a worrier when it comes to performing some of the utility exercises - especially with distractions - but he really appears to enjoy doing these fun things and is not stressed. In addition to this being a fun, stress reducing exercise, I think it's also going to help his recalls by keeping his speed up as he gets close to me.

The second fun and games exercise we're learning is raising his front feet on cue. He caught on real fast raising his right foot, so now I'm trying to get him to learn the cues for raising the right foot and the left foot. The next video clip is our beginning training for this game.

We also got in some utility work along with the fun and games. We've been trying to build confidence and speed with the articles, so I've been losing the formality lately and praising him and encouraging him a lot more. Can't do that in the trial, but maybe we can build confidence and get him more relaxed in practice and it will carry over into the ring. The big improvement lately has been getting him to trot back to me with the article instead of walking in slowly.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Training in new location

In keeping with one of our goals to train in new and different locations, we went to a club member's private training building this afternoon. Our training partner, Melody the Border Terrier, was also there. I think it's important now to get out in as many different environments as we can to train with different distractions. It was pretty quiet, so the distractions were primarily the sights and smells of being in a new location.

We started out with a run-through for each dog, as we would in a trial. That went pretty well, although the new setting threw them off a little. Jackson needed a second command for the directed jumping and a little help with one of the articles, but overall, I was pleased with his performance.

Then we just did some fun things. I've been working on having Jackson run between my legs. When we first tried it last week, he was hesitant to put his head between my legs to get the treat - now he actually runs through my legs - fortunately I have long legs : ) One of the people that trains at our club does canine free-style with her Goldens, and she is giving me some tips on how to shape some behavior for that. I'm thinking, we need to have more fun with training. We get real serious sometimes with the utility training and I forget why I do this - to have FUN with my dog! I think it will help our utility training too, if we mix it up with more fun things.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Utility class - week 2

We started a new session of utility classes last week and tonight was our second week of the session. It's a stressful class for Jackson because there are several dogs and handlers working in the same ring doing different exercises, so he gets distracted and worried about what's going on around him. I'm probably a little stressed too and I think he picks up on that. He knows it's not the usual fun and games atmosphere we have in practice.

Tonight we did run throughs because several people in class are entered in a trial this weekend. Jackson's performance in the exercises was improved over last week, however, there still needs to be a lot of improvement before we're ready to enter another trial. I'm hoping that by the end of this session of classes I will see enough improvement that I will feel we're ready to enter a trial.

In his run through, the heeling and signals went well. He got all the signals, which was a real improvement. Haven't seen the avoidance behavior or lack of response to the signals at all lately. The articles did not go so well. He got the first (metal) article okay, but missed on the leather article - twice. That's the exercise where we really need to see improvement. When he is stressed, he avoids picking up the article. Doesn't appear to be as easy to fix this problem as the signals.

The directed retrieve was good, although the pivot could have been better. And, the moving stand was near perfect (his best exercise, if he doesn't anticipate). That just left the directed jumping to do. His go outs were good, but his sits were very, very slow. He got distracted so I had to give a second command for the high jump, but the bar jump was good.

Overall, I could see improvement, which is what I'm going to be looking for during this session. I figure, if he can perform all the exercises well in this stressful class environment then chances are he'll be able to perform them in a trial situation.

Training notes for next week:
- Create distractions in practice for articles
- practice run-throughs so he gets used to working the entire set of exercises

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Two therapy visits today

We had our 37th and 38th pet therapy visits today. Our goal is to get 50 by the end of the year, which we are well on track to do. We were certified about 18 months ago by TDI (Therapy Dogs International) and when we get 50 visits, we can put TDIA after Jackson's name. While Jackson may not excel at utility, he does excel at pet therapy. I think that might be his calling : )

Our first visit this morning was to our regular care center that we visit twice a month. He has a list of residents that welcome his one-on-one visits in their rooms, and then we also stop in the various lobbies on each floor and visit whoever is there and wants to be slobbered on by a dog! I think the residents really enjoy the time spent with them, and he in turn enjoys standing close to them and getting his ears scratched.

We also got an unexpected call from one of our friends at the club asking if we could come out to an assisted living facility in the afternoon to visit residents there and do some utility exercises to entertain them. Jackson's training partner, Melody, was also invited. I guess people get a kick out of seeing a giant breed dog and a little terrier doing things together. I thought he might get a little worried about being in a new, strange place, but he was really comfortable in this new environment. We had a nice visit there and Jackson got a chance to do a couple utility exercises for the group. He was working in a small area in the middle of the group of people, so he was somewhat distracted. When he did his finishes, he couldn't resist stopping to visit someone sitting close by. Maybe he was confused because that's what he's supposed to do at the care centers - visit people! The signal exercise went real well, however, he needed a little help with the articles. I didn't need to point them out to him, put I did give him a couple commands to keep him on task. Then, he did pick up the correct article both times.

After we finished, the staff gave us punch and cookies! I hope they invite us back, as it is really good for Jackson - and it's fun : ) Therapy has been great for him in building confidence and getting used to new people and situations, which has carried over into his obedience training as well.