Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rethinking our training goals

I'm rethinking one of the training goals we were going to work on this winter. Yup, it's the increasing speed goal. I'm not sure it's attainable, and in order to avoid the frustration of not meeting that goal, I've decided to not worry about it. In a way it seems that I am giving up, but if it's not realistic then maybe I should focus on other things.

What got me thinking about it is the performance I am getting when we train in a new facility or with something different occurring, and stress becomes a factor. For example, a couple days ago we were training at the club with a few people and decided to give each other run-throughs. Not a lot of distractions, but it was a different person acting as judge and a couple dogs and handlers in the building that Jackson is not familiar with. We were doing the Open exercises. The first exercise was the retrieve on flat. I threw the dumbbell and sent him. He proceeded to walk slowly out to the dumbbell, retrieve it and walk slowly back to me. And, that was pretty much the way the rest of the exercises went. Now, in practice he can be quite animated and I was hoping this would carry over to a trial-like setting, but with the addition of a bit of stress he defaults to operating in slow motion.

I have tried about everything under the sun - and what's frustrating - it works in practice, but doesn't work when he's stressed, i.e., in a trial setting. He's just a worrier. That's his personality, and it doesn't appear that any amount of exposure to new and different settings is going to change that. He's going on six years old now, and I just don't think we've got enough training years left to change that. So, having come to that realization, I've decided to focus on the other things. Oh, I'm going to keep rewarding him for speed and attitude in practice, but I'm not going to get frustrated when I don't get it in the trial.

Having said that, there are some bright spots. His fronts are awesome. Even with the article, glove or dumbbell in his mouth, he's coming in straight and close and looking up at my face when he sits. And, his heeling has improved a lot. Even with his slowing down on retrieves in the run-throughs, he was staying with me in heeling and did especially well on the figure 8.

We're entered in a trial next weekend. I had intended to wait until spring to trial, however, I saw there was a trial about 3 hours away that is limited to working group dogs. This is a small trial in an obedience building and not being held with a conformation show, so should be a fairly calm environment. Thought I would take advantage of the setting to try for our first UDX leg. How he does at this trial may also have me rethinking our overall goal of attaining a UDX this year. We'll just have to see how things go : )


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I think that's just fine and I would not feel like you're giving up! If you have reached what you are happy with in practice then you HAVE met that goal. You are just now dealing with stress which is another issue entirely. Every dog reacts differently to stress and Jackson reacts by slowing down to think really hard.

I am not a great enough or experienced enough trainer to know how to deal with the stress the dogs and I feel in the ring. We are slowly but surely doing little things that have helped but it is always going to be a work in progress. And I have learned that stress is going to effect his performance and that I will not have the same dog I do in practice!

By the way, are you talking about the North Star trials in Hugo, MN next weekend?! Lance and I are going to be attempting another leg in Open at the Herding dog portion there! We only have a 20min drive though :) Good luck!

Kathie R said...

Hey Laura, Thanks for the comments, and yes, we are entered in the North Star Working Group Trials. I saw they were also having Herding Group trials in the same building. If you see someone with a fawn Great Dane there, it'll probably be us. Be sure to say hi!

Jennifer H. said...

I think that makes a lot of sense Kathie, and I don't think it's like you are giving up at all. You are just readjusting your goals. Nothing wrong with that at all!!

I think that is the show that Falkor's breeder will be at with Falkor's Dad (Ryu)and his Aunt (Ladybug). They'll be doing Rally Novice and his brother Cooper will be there as well trying for their last RN leg.

Good luck next weekend and we'll be rooting for you from Iowa! :)

Kathie R said...

Thanks Jennifer, I'll look for Falkor's relatives at the trial!

Honey the Great Dane said...

I think I'm going to be joining you, Kathie! I've also always shared your frustration with the speed thing - Honey is like Jackson - very slow in her formal recalls (although she'll come like lightening at the park!) and in doing a lot of other things (eg. Sit & Down) in a formal Obedience setting and like you, I've tried everything that people suggested but it just doesn't really seem to make much difference. I find with Honey, more than strange surroundings, it seems to be temperature - if she is hot, she just sorts of zones out...anyway, I think I'm just resigned now to having a "slow dog"!

We've joined a new training class here in Australia - not Obedience club, more of a pet things run by the local shelter - and we were doing recalls today and the trainer couldn't understand / wouldn't believe me when I explained about Honey's slowness. She suggested all the usual things, like using a toy to motivate her or only clicking & rewarding for faster recalls but a) I don't want to have to rely on havign a tennis ball in my hand to get speed and b) I've tried the clicker but there just isn't a faster recall to mark! Honey's recalls are 'slow' and 'slower' :-) - if I don't reward her for the first couple (coz she is slow), she will just get slower and eventually give up - like "OK, whatever..." - she's just not that bothered! :-) (roll eyes - sigh!) The trainer kept givig me advice on how to get her to come and I was like, "But she DOES come no problem - I can always get her to come reliably in any situaiton - she just does it slowly!!)

Anyway, sorry for the long story but just wanted to say that I really understand and sympathise with you!


Janelle said...

I will be at the North Star trials in Hugo with my Dane Cooper. We will be trying for our RN. I will have to be sure to stop by and watch you guys! Good Luck!