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 : )


Honey the Great Dane said...

Sounds like a good plan! I wish we had as good a strategy for OUR competition which is this Saturday in 2 days time...AAAAaaaarrrgghh!!

I totally agree with you about the 'keeping things light-hearted & happy' really helping with performance speed & enthusiasm - that's exactly what I find with Honey, even though we're training different types of things. If I keep (fake!) laughing and making it all seem like a game when I'm trying to get her through our routine then she responds much better than if she can see that I'm getting stressed and 'annoyed' by her performance, she seems to just get slower and slower and more "mopey" about everything - you just can't work with that attitude!!

I think turning all the exercises into a game for the dog is the key - things like the "ready, set, Go!" which we do too so that it's not all formal and rigid and serious - and sort of makes it more fun. I've resorted to doing that kind of thing a lot, even if it seems like "cheating"! (ie. other dogs just get told to 'get to work' whereas I have to fool my dog into thinking it's a game...but so what? I suppose as long as we get the same results! :-))

I also judge things by tail wags - I would actually prefer my dog to not necessarily perform 100% perfectly but with a happy, relaxed attitude than if she was doing it all correctly but with her head down, looking like she didn't want to be there!

Anyway, good luck - sounds like you will be well-prepared for your trials! Good attitude too - the less stressed we are about events, the less our dogs will be. (Hah! As I keep telling myself when I'm panicking about this coming Saturday!! We can't enter the ring with food but at the moment, Honey won't do her whole 2min routine without being rewarded am I going to fade the food reward in 2 days???)


The PR Gang said...

Best wishes with your new plan. We agree, fun is GOOD!