Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ahhhh, the weekend - where to begin

Well, it was an interesting weekend. We managed to complete the first one of the three trials we were entered in over the weekend. The trials were in Wisconsin - about a six-hour drive from where we live so we drove up Thursday. The trial Friday went pretty well, although Jackson NQd on the signal exercise because he didn't go all the way down on the 'down' signal. This was the same problem we had in one of the trials last month, so we need to figure out a way to work on this. I think it's a result of his lack of confidence and stress in the ring. It was a distracting venue with lots going on in the adjacent rings - pretty typical of most trials. We just need to keep working on his ability to work through the distractions and be able to focus on me and the job at hand. Perhaps more fun matches, run-throughs, and proofing with distractions will help build his focus and confidence.

The remaining exercises were pretty solid on the basics. Lots of points off though for slow returns, crooked sits and lagging. Oh yes, and we got hit with points off because he did not sit on the go-outs. On the first go-out I ended up sending him to the jump while he was still standing. First time I had ever sent him to a jump while he was still standing, but he did the jump fine. On the second go-out I waited him out for the sit even though the judge had given the jump command. That jump was good also. The directed retrieve, moving stand and the articles were good, so we were able to practice some success in the ring : ) I was particularly happy with the articles because he has had problems with those previously. I wasn't really surprised by the 'down' signal problem and the lack of sits on the go-outs because those are the things that we had recognized as problems and had been working on the most. We just haven't gotten there yet - at least not in the trial environment.

Now for the bad news - before we were to go in the ring for Saturday's trial I noticed that there was blood in his urine, so I pulled him from the remaining weekend trials and took him to a vet clinic near the show site for evaluation. They determined that he had an infection - likely bladder or urinary tract - and we started him on antibiotics. Hopefully, this will clear things up. If not, we will do further testing to determine what the problem is. He had seemed lethargic and his appetite was off, but I was attributing that to the stress of traveling and the trial. After 36 hours on the antibiotics, he's eating, drinking and acting like himself, and his urine is looking more normal. We'll do a follow-up visit to our regular vet this week to see if there are still signs of infection.

Now, having said all that, I must mention that there was some good news on the weekend trials. Jackson's sister, Jolee, earned the first two legs toward her CD title. Since this is Jackson's blog, I haven't mentioned her. She's the same age as Jackson (littermate) and I hadn't really planned to do any obedience with her. She thought she was retired to a life of leisure after obtaining her championship title in the conformation ring, but I thought I saw some potential in her for obedience work and this spring starting training her for the Novice class. Her personality is much different from Jackson's so it's been a challenge to figure out what works with her.

Here's a short video of Jolee's recall exercise at the trial this past weekend.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weekend Seminar

I didn't get much training in last weekend because I attended a two-day seminar put on by Celeste Meade. However, I did get lots of information, motivation and a number of exercises that I am most anxious to try with Jackson.

Celeste's theme for the seminar was "Attitude is Everything!" She focuses on a motivational, upbeat method of training, creating drive and attitude, and keeping attention between exercises. Since I'm really trying to focus on less formality and more fun and games in training Jackson, this really came at a good time, and I'm looking forward to incorporating these ideas in my training program. Her demo dog was a border collie, so I did have a bit of a problem visualizing Jackson performing with the speed and enthusiasm of a border collie : ) but, I did learn some ways that I can use to try to increase drive and attention.

One of the games that she demonstrated to increase drive was: throw a treat - call dog back to touch your finger - give the dog a treat and throw in the opposite direction - call dog back to touch your finger - and so on at a fast pace. Now, the one thing that I do with Jackson that really does get him revved up is to throw a treat across the ring, but.... I hadn't thought of a way to get him to run back to me. He would stay out away from me waiting for me to throw another treat for him to chase. So, I didn't know if this would work with him but thought I would give it a try. Yesterday we went out to the club and I tried it. It worked beautifully, so now I have a game to get him revved up and driving in practice. I'll try to get a video of us doing this so it will make more sense. ( I swear, he's almost as fast as a bc when he goes after those treats : )

We only have two days left to train before we leave for the weekend of trials. Today we're going to a new location to train and for these two days we're going to keep it informal, work on speed and having fun. I'm also trying to adjust my attitude because I think that's an important part of changing Jackson's attitude. You could tell when Celeste talked about her dogs how much she enjoyed them and appreciated their unique personalities - even when they made mistakes in the ring. She didn't get mad at them, she just saw it as information for training.

As I try more of the exercises/games that were presented at the seminar, I will post about them and whether or not I have success with them. I'm just hoping I can remember all that I learned!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We have a plan!

Okay, we have a plan now to get ready for the next weekend of trials, which is July 24, 25 and 26 - only ten days away! Our plan involves a lot of play time (speed training for me!) - as well as working on more precision. I'm finding that if I keep things upbeat and positive in training, he is less stressed and able to perform with more precision. So, we're going to be training at 'warp' speed for awhile. My goal is to keep things moving at a much faster pace throughout our training sessions.

I'm seeing improvement in his speed on go outs and his sits are much faster - in practice. I've gone back to putting a target out for him to aim for. If I just send him out without a target, his trotting turns to a walk the last 10 feet or so, and he seems confused as to what to do next. Having a target brings out the retrieve focus and gives him something to go after. I then stop him with the sit command before he reaches the target and am finding that his sits are much better - as if the speed of the go out carries over to the sit. After a couple go outs and jumps, I then send him out to retrieve the target. Now, for most of the dogs we train with - the retrieve is a reward in itself. Not Jackson. He doesn't get real excited about going after a dowel, so we then end the exercise with me throwing Bil Jack treats across the ring. Now that gets him excited : )

I've also been including some 'ready, set, GO' commands and racing him to the go out target as well as to the article pile. This gets him excited too. It seems the more briskness he has going out to the article pile - the quicker he gets to work sniffing the pile.

I think what it boils down to is, I need to make it clearer to him exactly what it is that I want him to do and then reward him when he does it. Jackson knows the basic exercises - now my main focus is working on the attitude and showing him more precisely how I want it performed - in most cases this means with 'briskness.'

My goals for the next trials are:
1) to see a more relaxed, happier dog in the ring - and that will be measured by tail wags. I'm hoping to see at least one tail wag per trial; and
2) to see faster sits on the go outs - that will be measured by whether or not he sits before the judge gives the jump command.

To take the pressure off myself, I tell myself that trials are just something you do occasionally to see where you are with your training. So my overall goals for this next weekend of trials is to see how this plan is working, and to hopefully practice some success in the ring with some of the exercises : )

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Learning the 'spin'

Inspired by Hsin-Yi and Honey's clicker training lessons, Jackson and I have been working on some clicker training tricks - specifically, the 'spin.' The downside of this is the bruises on the tops of my feet from him stepping on them while doing this. However, I finally got coordinated enough to keep my feet out of his way!

The video is of our third session doing this. I'm still doing a lot of luring to get him around, but occasionally he will follow my hand. As I reviewed this, I'm thinking that I should wait to put the command with it until after he has learned to do it. And, I may be talking too much. We may not be doing it exactly right, but we sure are having fun : )