I've decided to break down our training and just work on 2-3 things in a training session for awhile instead of doing all the utility exercises in each session. I think sometimes our training sessions are too long, and this will give us a chance to focus more on one skill at a time. Today our primary focus was on heeling and go-outs. I'm trying to break those skills down even further. I'm using the clicker and rewarding when he offers me attention in heel position - either sitting or moving. So, I spend some time with him sitting in heel position and each time he looks up at my face, I click and treat. He's not a dog that looks up at my face when heeling - never has - so when we're moving, I'm working on him targeting my hand, which is held at my waist. This is more achievable for him and when he's 'up' and attentive it looks good. If I do this enough, I'm hoping it will become his default position and he'll do it even when stressed in a trial.
We also worked on the go-outs with most of our concentration on speed and sits. I'm putting treats out at the go-out location to try to get his speed up and to keep it up all the way to the gates. When he doesn't have a target, he tends to slow down and walk the last several feet toward the gates. I also threw Bil Jac treats across the ring and/or I would run out with him. Then to work on the faster sits on the go-outs, yesterday I started running out toward him after I gave the sit command - not in a scary way to correct him. Rather in a playful way to give him a treat as soon as he starts sitting. Well, today his sits were quite a bit faster when I stayed back at the starting point. I'm wondering if it's just coincidence, or did the running out toward him with a treat yesterday result in the faster sits today ???? I probably won't know unless he becomes more consistent with the faster sits, but it seems worth it to keep doing that in training for awhile. (What have I got to lose : )
We have a fun match at the club where we train this Sunday. I'll be looking to see if I can see any improvement, especially in our problem areas - signals and the sits on the go-outs. I'm hoping for solid responses to signals, which I have been getting in practice, and reasonably quick sits on the go-outs.