Well, now that we have our goal for 2010 - obtaining the UDX - I guess we need an action plan to get us to that goal. There are so many skills that we need to work on, it's difficult to decide on our top priorities. However, I've narrowed it down to these three to really focus on this winter.
1) Attention - This is really a basic, but continues to be our top priority. My plan is to do attention exercises in five to ten minute sessions twice a day - at least. These exercises include working attention sitting in heel position and also with fronts using clicker and treats. I do this at home and whenever we are out among distractions. My goal over the next couple months is to increase the length of time I can keep his attention - with and without distractions.
2) Targeting - I've been working on Jackson targeting my finger. I have been using this to improve his position in heeling and also to help him with straight fronts. He seems to be catching on quite quickly with targeting my finger in heeling. Sometimes I have a treat in my hand to give him when he touches my finger while heeling and sometimes I don't. I hold my hand at my waist when heeling so I'm hoping this transitions over to his focusing on my hand when heeling. He's never done a 'heads up, look at your face' kind of heeling, so if I can get his attention on my hand it should keep him in good heel position.
3) Speed - This is a tough one - but I'm not giving up on it : ) I am experimenting with ways to get him moving away from me to go to the article pile, retrieve the dumbbell, and on the go-outs. I'm using the restrained send and trying to rev him up to go away from me faster. I'm also running with him sometimes to try to show him what I want. On the return to me with the article or dumbbell, I am jackpotting him for trotting instead of walking. These things seem to be working well in practice, although I haven't seen a lot of carry over when I do the exercises quietly - as in the trial setting. I'm hoping we can build muscle memory with the practice and maybe eventually see increased briskness in the trials.
I'm thinking if we can make progress in these areas, the rest of it will fall into place. Anyway, it will surely keep us busy this new year.
Wishing everyone happy training in the new year!