Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all our friends a happy Thanksgiving day!

No training today - just a day to eat and reflect on everything we have to be thankful for. Included in the many things that I am thankful for today, is the blogging community I discovered this year. I had no idea when I started blogging that there were so many dog-related bloggers out there. You have truly been an inspiration to me.

I want to thank everyone that has visited our blog; left comments of support; and suggestions for training. And, I am appreciative to all those bloggers who have posted about their dogs and the activities they do with them. I have a growing list of blogs that I try to visit every day to see what's new.

Leaving you with a couple pictures of our Thanksgiving Day : )

Is it time to eat yet?

My clean up help!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

We have our benchmark - now what?

Well, today was the trial at the club where we train. I planned to use it as a benchmark for where we're at and what we need to work on this winter IF we are to set a goal of getting our UDX in 2010.

For some reason he has never done well in this building, even though we train here regularly. And, today was no exception. A couple things were clear today - he continues to be very stressed in trial situations and has trouble focusing on the job at hand. In five years of training, we've just not been able to overcome the fears he has of performing in the ring, which manifests itself mostly in his slowing down - I mean really slowing down in everything he does.

Heeling and signals - We had some lagging on the heeling. The first two signals (down and sit) were good, but then he missed the come signal, so NQ right off the bat. I thought he was looking at me - but it just must not have registered with him. So, after NQing I decided to see how much training I could do in the ring - without being excused : )

Scent discrimination (Articles) was next - I'm not sure how long it would have taken him to pick up the correct article, but I had decided to interrupt any uneccesary delay by giving him a second command. So, on his second circle around the pile, when he stopped to look over in the other ring, I gave him the second command to 'find it.' He then quickly found it and picked it up. The same thing happened on the second article. I could have let him continue circling until he finally found it, but since he had already NQd, I wanted to take advantage of trying to correct this problem in the ring.

On the directed retrieve (glove) exercise we had the #2 glove. His pivot was off and he ended up looking at the #1 glove so I waited until he straightened up his sit and looked at the #2 glove before I sent him. That was a little iffy as to whether or not it would have been an NQ.

The moving stand was good - until the call to heel. He got distracted and stopped before he got to me, so I had to give him a second command to finish the heel. That was one I hadn't seen before.

The last exercise was the directed jumping. This was the only exercise that I saw some - however slight - improvement. And, that was on the go out part of it. He went straight and did not turn around until I gave him the command. Previously he would go about three-fourths of the way out then he would start anticipating and begin turning around before I gave the command. Not today - he kept going! The sits were extremely slow again, but both jumps were good.

So, now I'm in a bit of a quandry as to what our 2010 goal will be. I think I will need to sleep on it for a few days : ) If I could get the performances in the ring that I get in training I would be a lot more inclined to keep going with him. I'm doubtful though that we will ever really overcome his stress at trials. However, on the other hand, he really appears to enjoy training - and I do too - so maybe we will just continue to train through the winter and decide what to do next spring!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A glimmer of progress ???

We had run throughs in our utility class tonight instead of the usual training since several of us are entered in trials this weekend. It was interesting - in that I can see improvement in some areas, and am thinking maybe some things we've been doing lately in practice are paying off. Run throughs are good opportunities to train since I tend to get some of the same behaviors in these as I do at trials - things I don't normally see in practice.

I was pleasantly surprised that his heeling was improved over what I usually get in trials. There was very little lagging and he stayed close. I've been keeping a light string on his collar lately in practice because as soon as I take the lead off, he's not as attentive and I get the occasional lagging. With the string, I can remind him to pay attention and keep up. I'm thinking that may be what has helped his heeling. Signals were good. He trotted in and gave me a good front, but his finishes left something to be desired. The 'around .... and run' game that we've been doing to speed up his finishes evidently hasn't kicked in yet. We've only done it a few times in practice so I'm still hopeful it will help his finishes eventually.

The article exercise went very well. No circling at all : ) He worked the pile fairly quickly and picked up the correct articles. I sure hope we're over that circling hurdle. He's still slow out and back - and slow with the finishes too.

The directed retrieve (gloves) exercise was good. And, he trotted back in with the glove (usually walks when in a trial) with a nice front. The moving stand was good, as usual, although slow on the come to heel.

Then there was the last exercise - the directed jumping. Go outs were good - straight and brisk all the way out. However, the slooooow sits showed up again. Hmmmmm... I wish I knew what he was thinking when he's out there and I give him the sit command. He stands there looking at me like he's just not sure what I want him to do, but then he always ends up sitting even if it takes him forever to get his butt on the floor. After the sits, he consistently takes the correct jumps and his speed coming over and to front from the jumps is getting much better. I just need to figure out what to do about those slow sits.

So, overall, I was happy with his performance tonight, and really hopful that it's an indication that some things we've been doing in practice are sinking in -- and that those things will stay with him in the trial Sunday : ) If not, at least we'll still have a benchmark as to where we are with training and what we need to really work on this winter.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let the Games Begin!

The finish is one of the two things I've decided to focus on for our winter training projects. The other one is fronts, but we haven't started our new games with that one yet. Today we started working on finishes with a new game. A game I'm hoping will speed up his around finish and result in him being closer and straighter at the sit end of it. Aside from speed never being his strength in finishes - especially in a trial - he often times ends up sitting too far out and forward, and crooked. The crooked is usually rear-in because he sits before he gets his rear in position.

A big thanks to Melinda (Exercise Finished) for posting the 'around... and run!' game on her blog. You can read the details on her blog, but basically the first phase is as follows: using a treat in your right hand lure the dog around behind you, then use the treat in your left hand to keep him in tight. When you see he is coming around, you take off running. Later on you will transition into adding the sit command and eventually losing the treats. I tried this for the first time today at the club and am really happy with the results. In my version of the game, I end up throwing the treat because he loves to chase treats and it keeps him going.

I think this game is really going to work for him. He loves it, and hopefully, it will speed him up and keep him in close to me when he comes around so he will be in better heel position. And, maybe if I do this all winter, it will carry over into the ring next spring!

Here's a short video of our first go at this.

And, not to leave Jolee out - I'm trying the game with her too, so here's my first go at it with her.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fun Match - lots of work ahead for us

There was a fun match at the club where we train today so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to train in a more trial-like setting. I wanted to see how the article exercise would go with distractions and what his overall attitude would be. I have entered a trial in the same building two weeks from today. I have 60 days from when we received our UD title to still enter Utility A, so my thought was to enter our club's trial to see if his performance of the article exercise is still holding and where we are with other exercises. He's never done well at a trial in the building we train in, so this may be a good test of his progress with the article exercise. It will probably be the last trial we will enter until next spring, so it will be our benchmark to measure our progress over the winter. Depending on how much we progress through the winter will determine our goals for next spring.

I'm excited that the articles went really well. No circling the pile today. He just went out and started working the pile and found the correct article fairly quickly. The moving stand, gloves and directed jumping were also good. His go outs were straight and the jumps were good. He fulfilled the basic requirements of each of these exercises.

What needs work -
The signal exercise gave him a slight problem. He anticipated the down signal so we restarted the signals. He did them fine on the second attempt, and he even trotted in on the come. The anticipated down would have NQd him in a trial. I'm not too worried about that though because it's something we can work through.

I am somewhat frustrated with his attitude (specifically lack of attention and lack of briskness) in a trial-like setting. It's really not surprising though, because we have struggled with this from the very beginning. However, I am getting more frustrated that I haven't found a way to get the positive, happy attitude I see in practice to transfer over to a trial-like setting. He becomes distracted, worried about what's going on in the next ring, and he really slows down. I'm not sure if he needs an attitude adjustment - or maybe I'm the one that needs it : ) Maybe I should try to be more upbeat in the ring. Perhaps he can sense my frustration. Maybe I should change my expectations and accept his slowed down performance in a trial. Maybe he's never going to show the briskness that's required to avoid points off. Hmmmmm... some thoughts to ponder over the winter.

I'm thinking now I will continue focusing on attention and briskness in practice, but not get frustrated when I don't get it in the ring. Because, really, once you get in the ring there's nothing you can do about it then. How's that for compromise?????