Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fun Match today

We had a fun match at the club where we train this morning. It was an opportunity to see where we are in training. There were some areas where I was pleased with his performance, and there are still areas that need work. Overall, he is still stressed in a trial-like situation even if it's just a fun match at a place he is familiar with, so he really slows down. I don't know if we're ever going to get past that, so I'm thinking I will be less frustrated with him if I just expect him to slow down - although that seems like I'm giving up to some extent : )

On his heeling and signals - he lagged at times on the heeling and he anticipated the first signal. We restarted and his signals were fine when we tried it again. He is consistently trotting in on the recall from the signals with perfect fronts, which I am very happy about. A few months ago, he was consistently walking slowly in on the recall, so maybe there is something to that muscle memory thing. Now if we can just get it working on the heeling!

Articles - he was really slow going out and getting to work on the article pile. Stress again - seems like he's avoiding the correct article because he doesn't want to put his head down and pick it up, but eventually he picks up the correct article and walks in with it. The 'judge' said she had that problem with her dog and started putting a treat in the pile and jackpotting him when he came back with the correct article. That got her dog working faster. Hmmmm... I think I'll try that next week - got nothing to lose.

Gloves - He was fine with the glove exercise, although he walked in with the glove instead of trotting in like he does in practice. Stress!!!! Moving Stand - He anticipated so we did a few fake-outs. Then, his moving stand was fine.

Go-outs/directed jumping - His go-outs were straight, however, he slowed down to a walk before he got to the gates. His sits were slow, but he did sit and his jumps were good.

So, if this had been a trial he would have NQd on the signals and moving stand. He likely would have passed on the other exercises, but with lots of points off for lack of briskness on about every exercise.

Okay - we have three days to practice before we leave for the weekend trials. Not a lot of time to fix anything. I'm going to try the treats and jackpotting with the articles. The rest of the exercises, we'll keep doing what we've been doing, working to build confidence - and if we're lucky, some muscle memory. And, hopefully he will not be so stressed at the trial that he forgets everything we've practiced!


Honey the Great Dane said...

Hi Kathie,

Thanks for your nice comment on Honey's blog! I've also been going through a difficult patch with Honey recently so I know where you're coming from - she actually surprised me at the show last weekend because training sessions have been quite a struggle recently and I was dealing with a lot of similar problems to you, like anticipation and slowing down (and in her case, a new problem of jumping up on me which was annoying and painful and dangerous!)

Anyway, I found 2 things which seemed to work for us so I thought I'd mention them here, even though I know Jackson is a different dog to Honey but you might find them useful.

First is I think at this stage, the dog KNOWS all the exercises already - so rather than focusing on trying to "perfect" them during practices, maybe you should just focus on increasing the fun & excitement, REALLY turning things into a game, even if you're deviating slightly from the way the exercise is done in real life...for example, like when he returns with the article, don't make him come and sit & present it in front of you - as soon as he picks it up, whoop and run off excitedly, getting him to chase it's totally not what he's expecting. (I don't know if this would excite Jackson but it's just an example...) This might make him keener to do an exercise, because it's got a different (more fun/unpredictable) result now. So chop them up, don't expect him to complete them - stop him halfway and turn it into a game or a chase or whatever - that's what I was doing with Honey and it really helped.

I know you've mentioned in previous posts about trying to have more fun and turning it into a game but maybe you're still doing things too seriously? I think all too often, we're still too worried about "doing the exercise correctly" and "drilling" the dog in the exercise, when actually, the dogs know it and have no problem on how to do it right - the problem is with their attitude & willingness to do it. Once they have that, they "self-correct" all those little things which they weren't performing so well in previously.

I think - given your limited time in the next 3 days - if you focus on not doing ANY of your exercises like normal (don't worry, honestly - he knows them by now!) but all as unpredictable fun games, Jackson will never know when he's going out whether it's going to be a "real" exercise or one where it will turn ito a game...and so he might be livelier and keener, whereas it sounds a bit like he's a bit bored with things at the moment because they're too predictable.

Also, I think that might help with his stress & slowing down coz if he is more "into you" and excited and focused on you, he is less distracted by stuff around him...whereas if he is "bored" and anticipating everything, he has more chance of zoning out and getting affected by stuff around him and getting stressed.


Honey the Great Dane said...


The 2nd thing is - and I know it's probably not PC to say this - but have you tried getting a bit "tough" with Jackson when he is not performing well? I don't mean correcting him nastily or anything but just maybe with your tone of voice - saying the command again in a way that lets him know you're getting annoyed and he'd better get on with it! I know it's really important to use positive reinforcement, etc, and I do generally but I find sometimes with Honey, a bit of a "kick up the backside" can do wonders - yes, you need to reward them to motivate them but with some dogs who can be slow & zoned out, a bit of a shake-up can wake them up a bit and motivate them too into thinking, "Gee, I'd better pull my socks up because yes, I will get more rewards but also because if I don't, I might get in trouble!" I think as long as you balance it with lots of praise & rewards as soon as they pick up their pace a bit, it won't harm them.

I find with Honey, it makes a HUGE difference in making that last leap from the routine being unreliable and mediocre to her giving me what she did at the last show! For example, she was really messing about with her paw marches - she can do those in her sleep! - but was always slow and just blanking me whenever I gave the cue for them during the routine. I tried rewarding her more, clicking her earlier, turning it into a was all great during practice but the minute we tried it in a ring, in the routine, she'd mess up again...then one day, when she blanked me again, I just gave her a growl and gave her the command in a louder, harsher voice - well, she acted a bit cowed during that session but WOW - at the next session, she was really quick and slick in following that cue and I have never had a problem with her not doing it since! It was like there was a block in her mind or something when it came to that exercise and me getting a bit stroppy just sort of cleared it! And now I can go back to rewarding her lots for doing it.

Similarly with lagging when heeling (lagging is a BIG problem in dancing coz the music doesn't slow down just because your dog does and so it's REALLY obvious!!) - I generally don't like using corrections and always try with clicker & rewards to get better responses but again, I find that if you've tried everything else and are getting nowhere, one sharp correction once can do wonders and as long as you balance it immediately with lots of praise, the dog doesn't lose confidence.

Anyway, those are just some suggestions which worked really well for me & Honey...hope you might find them useful! (And sorry again for the long comment - just can't write about training properly in 3 lines!)