Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Working on our go-outs

We're missing our training buddy, Melody the Border Terrier, so we're working on our own for a while. Melody has a stress fracture in her foot so she's going to be out of commission for a few weeks. I realize now how helpful, and how much more fun it is to have someone to train with : ) I think that's why I enjoy training so much - you make some great friends.

We did go out to the club today to do some training, especially on our go-outs. That's part of the directed jumping exercise where you send your dog away to the opposite side of the ring; give him the sit command; then using a hand and/or voice signal indicate one of two jumps for him to take on his return to you. What Jackson needs to improve in this exercise is his speed - speed going out, speed responding to the sit command, and speed taking the jump. At the last trial, he didn't have enough speed up to take the first jump so stopped short of the jump. Hoping that doesn't happen again.

I've broken down the training into separate parts - the go-out and sit, and then the directed jumping part. To speed up the go-outs I've been putting a really high-value treat (freeze-dried salmon pieces that really smell potent!) on the gate at the go-out spot. I take a cat pill-pocket, which is squishy and sticky, to 'glue' the treat to the gate. In practice this is really speeding up his go-outs, and he's been sitting quicker - at least starting to sit - still slow getting down : )

Here's a video clip of Jackson's go-out today and his bar jump.

Did I mention we have a trial this weekend! We're going to Lincoln, Nebraska, which is about three hours from where we live for the weekend. They are having a fun match Friday evening that we're going to do also. That will give us a chance to practice in the ring prior to the Saturday and Sunday trials. Jackson is entered in Utility A both days and Jolee is entered in Novice B on Sunday. I think it's going to be a fun weekend, regardless of what happens in the ring.

Not to leave Jolee out, here's a clip of our practicing the Figure 8 exercise today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Training with distractions

Our assignment this week from our Thursday night utility class was to train with distractions. This is great, because this is exactly what we need. I feel like we do try to train with a lot of distractions already - like going to new places to train, and doing exercises with other dogs and people close by doing various activities. However, this week we're taking it to the next level.

Fortunately there were several others working their dogs at the club today, so that in itself provided for distractions. We especially wanted to work the article pile with distractions. We did several articles in the same ring that another dog was practicing dumbbell retrieves in, and my training partner was running around the ring near the pile playing with her dog. As if that wasn't enough, we put some 'foreign' objects in the article pile!

Jackson did great with all the distractions. He didn't circle the pile or stop and gaze, although the first couple articles he was rather slow working the pile, but he kept working. I think the 'foreign' objects placed in the pile were more of a distraction than all the activity going on around him. By the fourth or fifth article, he was going directly to the correct article and picking it up. So, we quit on that high note : )

I'm also jackpotting him with a high value treat when he brings the correct articles back. I can't see yet that it is increasing his briskness going and coming from the pile yet, but I can't help but think he is enjoying the article exercise more! He loves the treats that I've been jackpotting him with and the only time he gets them is when we're doing articles.

The other exercises - signals, directed retrieve and directed jumping - were pretty good. The pivots to the gloves were a little off. He still gets stressed with the gloves and loses some of his precision on the turns, and we still need to pick up some speed on the go outs and jumps. Just a few of the things we need to keep working on.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A walk in the woods

We took the day off from training for a walk in the woods this afternoon. There are miles of paved trails in our city for bikers, walkers, joggers, etc. and the beautiful fall weather we've been having is really conducive to getting out. Plus, I think we need more breaks from training to just relax and smell the roses - or whatever it is that dogs love to smell : )

The trail we were on today had a sign at the trailhead telling us that it was bow hunting season for deer in these woods, so we did not go too deep into the woods. Fawn Danes just look too much like deer to take any chances!
Here's a couple pictures of Jackson anxious to get going on the trail.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jolee's jump start

Okay, Jolee has taken over Jackson's blog today. I train both dogs but usually just write about Jackson. Jolee is quite different from Jackson in attitude so it's been fun training her too - easier in some respects and more difficult in others. We've been working on her 'jump start' to heeling. It started out unintentional. She would jump forward when we started heeling. I thought it was cute, so I've been reinforcing it with rewards. My thinking is, she'll likely lose the jump part in a trial setting, but she may be a lot quicker getting up and started heeling and thus stay in better heel position.

Here's a short clip of her jump start to heeling - pay attention or you'll miss it, it's only six seconds long : )

I also got a short clip of her heeling today. I love her heads-up heeling - something I could never get with Jackson. I think it's just a personality thing. I didn't teach her to do it, but I'm really rewarding it to keep it going. She does tend to lose it though with distractions so I'm trying to build muscle memory and work with distractions.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday fun match

After taking several days off to relax after the Monday trial, Jackson and I were back at it today at a fun match in the area. It was not at the club where we do most of our training, but it was in a familiar building where we take utility classes. There is only one ring in the building, so it is not quite as busy and distracting as the club. Jackson did fairly well today - much better than at the trial anyway : ) I think it helped to take some time off. He was still somewhat stressed at having an audience, but he worked through the exercises in spite of it.

His heeling and signals were good. He lagged a little on the turns, but he paid attention to the signals and got them all this time.

Articles - He was slow to get to work on the first article, so I helped him out by reminding him to get to work a couple times. I don't want him to get in the habit of taking so much time, so this was a good trial-like setting to help him work through his stress. He did get the correct article. On the second article, he went right to work and got the correct article right away.

Gloves were good. He had a good pivot and retrieve - even trotting back with the glove. Moving stand was also good, although he was so busy looking at the 'judge' that had just examined him that he missed the come to heel signal, so I had to give him a second command.

I was pleased with the directed jumping. His go outs were good. His sits were very slow but he did sit, and the jumps were good.

Overall, I was happy with his performance, although he is still showing stress in the trial-like setting. He's probably always going to be stressed in the ring - that's just his personality. But, his ability to work through the stress is improving - some days it's just much more apparent than others : )

So, we're back to work training next week, but my plan is to keep it fun and try to get some enthusiasm and speed. I've decided to just go ahead and enter some trials this fall, maybe the more he gets out to trials the more confident he will become.

Monday, September 7, 2009

No home-court advantage today!

Okay, I've come to think of trials as an opportunity to see where we are in training, but I am really confused after today's trial. The trial was held at the training club I belong to and where we routinely train. Now, wouldn't you think that trialing there would be much easier because he was familiar with the building? We trialed in the same ring we have been practicing in - even had the same patterns we have practiced. However, you would have thought he had never been in that building or seen other dogs before! He was totally distracted and stressed by the trial environment. I'm left wondering, why would that be? Why would he be so much more stressed in this building then he had been at trials in other places he had never seen?

Overall, we probably looked like we were doing the exercises in slow motion : ) True to form, he really slows down when stressed. He lagged some on the heeling pattern, got the first two signals, but then missed the come signal - so, NQ.

Articles - He got both articles correct, however, he really did take a long time to work the pile and stopped to gaze around a few times. Another judge could have easily had me call him in after a couple pauses, but this judge was very patient and allowed him enough time to find the articles.
Gloves - Good pivot and retrieve of the correct glove, although, slow pick up and return.

Moving stand - Very good stand, although no response on the call to return to heel, so I had to give a second command - second NQ.

Directed jumping - Now, this was really interesting. His go out was straight and to the gate - but he walked. I knew we were in trouble then. He headed to the correct jump, but since he was walking, he just didn't have the speed to do the jump - third NQ. The second jump was much better though. He trotted out, sat on command and took the correct jump. Yay! At least a good finish : )

So, I'm left to ponder, what to do now? We need just one more leg to get our UD title. I think I will give it a break for a week or so. We'll still have training sessions, but we'll work on some fun things for awhile. Maybe I'll try to teach him a few more tricks - or maybe we'll just go to the park and play. That would be something different for him - we really don't have a lot of free play time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We need energy!

This was our last training session before the trial Monday, and it left me wondering. Wondering what's going to happen Monday. I'm not sure why, but Jackson seems to be very lathargic lately. I'm having trouble getting him 'up' for training. This is not usually a problem in training - just in trials - but lately it seems he has no energy.

We had an appointment yesterday with our holistic vet for an adjustment and acupuncture treatment. I thought maybe that would get the energy flowing : ) He's not limping or anything like that, he's just going down very slowly and he's not getting up speed for the jumps. And even when I throw his favorite treat across the ring, instead of racing after it like usual, he just slowly trots - or even just walks to it. Now, that is really out of character for him.

I've also decided to switch to another brand of dog food. I'm going to try a higher-end brand that does not have grain in it. Well, it does have rice, but it doesn't have corn, wheat, soy or any of the other grains. This switch is partly due to the urinary tract infection he had recently as well as his lack of energy. I'm hoping that a higher quality of food will make him healthier and happier. At least help with his 'gassy' issues. Maybe that's why he doesn't feel good - could it be the gas???