After a long week off from training due to bad weather, we were back at the club yesterday to do some training. I'm beginning to think that having a few days off is a good thing because he was really up and attentive, and working much better. I guess we all need a vacation sometimes : )
I've been trying some new things lately, thanks to suggestions from Kim at doberkim blog. One of those things - I've started doing a restrained send on several of the exercises, and it is really speeding him up! I have used restraint previously on long recalls and in play to warm him up at the beginning of training sessions, but since dogs don't seem to generalize, it was not carrying over to the exercises themselves so it did not become a part of our regular routine. What's new about it now is, I'm incorporating it into the exercises themselves. Now, when I send him to the article pile or to the go out location and on the dumbbell retrieves, I hold onto his collar while I tell him 'ready, ready, ready..... GO!' When I let go, his moving away from me is much brisker.
I've combined that with special treats, which has also helped. The combination of a treat at the go out location and the restrained send gets him actually running to the location. And, the jackpotting him when he trots back with an article appears to be working too. This is actually quite a change from his former slooow walk to the pile and sloooow walk back with the article. A test to see how well any of this will carry over with distractions and stress, may come next Saturday when we have a fun match at a new location.
Something else I'm trying to do is to make the fun match/ring experiences look more like training. Instead of going into the fun match and acting like I would in a trial, I'm going to help him more and have treats. In other words - make training look more like trialing, and trialing look more like training. Not an original thought, I read that somewhere - I believe it was in Front & Finish. I think that approach might help both me and Jackson with handling stress. Maybe that's why working in the ring with a 'judge' has been a scary, stressful experience for him - because it looks so different from training. If I can make fun matches more fun and less stressful, and make training look more like trialing sometimes, perhaps he'll have a better attitude whenever he goes into the ring.