Jackson was invited to join some friends for a school visit today. The teacher does a unit on dogs and has her students pick a purebred dog to research. Each of us gave a brief introduction and told the students some of the basics about our dog's breed and what activities our specific dogs are involved in. Following the introductions we did some demonstrations on the various obedience competition skills and ended with a 'meet and greet' session. Here's some pictures of our visit.
Last night began a new three-week session of classes for club members. The obedience club I belong to has classes for members on most Thursday nights. They cover a variety of subjects from beginning attention and games to utility and open proofing. I'm taking a break from my usual utility class until the weather breaks so this is a good filler and provides a different type of training environment for Jackson.
I participated in the utility proofing class last night. It was a crowded class, which is good for Jackson as we learn to work through distractions. There were 10-12 dog/handler teams in the ring working at the same time. We did signals next to each other and Jackson did great with that. He was not as bothered as I thought he would be by other teams around him and behind him.
The article exercise went well too. We each set up in a different area of the ring - pretty close to each other. He was able to quickly retrieve the correct article even with dogs crossing paths as they went too and from their pile. He was a little slow going out and back on the glove exercise due to the distractions, but did good pivots and retrieves.
The rest of the hour was spent practicing pivots and short go-outs to various points in the ring. Overall, a good training session with lots of distractions.
On another topic, I just received the photos from last month's trial wins, so thought I would post them here for fun :) I hung the stained glass rosettes we won in the kitchen windows, but I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the ribbon rosettes.
One of the side effects of this unseasonably cold and snowy winter is that I've started doing more training in the house. I had previously thought it too much of a challenge to try to train with three Great Danes in a not-so-big house. However, after trying it a few times, I have found that - with the help of baby gates - it is doable and can be productive :)
Today, I decided to try an exercise that had been suggested by a couple different people some time ago. This exercise is designed to build confidence with scent discrimination and involves placing the article pile in another room or around a corner so the handler is not in the picture and the dog is working on their own. This is the kind of exercise that really works well in the house because I can put the pile in one room and send him from another room. Here's a short clip of how it went.
Jolee's homework today involved additional work with the dumbbell. Last time we left Jolee, she was happily picking up the dumbbell, then immediately dropping it. At that point, I was just clicking and rewarding for the pick-up. We haven't done it for awhile so I was interested to see how we would do today. She didn't seem as excited about the dumbbell today (maybe I need higher value treats :), but she is holding it longer and starting to walk to me with it. So, today, it was click and treat when she walked to me with the dumbbell. Here's her training today.
In the mean time, I'm trying to decide what I need to focus on with Jackson as we continue our quest for the UDX. I'm looking at entering a trial the middle of April so we have a few weeks to work on some things. I think overcoming stress may still be our biggest challenge, so my plan now is to keep working on everything to build confidence and hope he's able to work through the stress again at the next trial.
Our club is hosting trials this weekend. We're not entered, but I am stewarding for Utility tomorrow, which really gives me a good opportunity to watch and learn from the good handlers we have competing in our area.
I was thinking when I entered the trials last weekend that this was a 'do or die' weekend for Jackson - as far as our goal of pursuing the UDX was concerned. I was not optimistic due to his performances in new training locations lately, so I was starting to have second thoughts about our goal for 2010. For those who may not know about AKC obedience, to earn the UDX title a dog must qualify in both Open B and Utility B classes at the same trial on the same day 10 times! Now, it took Jackson one year and 14 trials to earn the three legs needed for the Utility Dog (UD) title, so you can see why I thought it might be a stretch for us to pursue the UDX title.
But then Friday morning before we left for the weekend, I read Susan Garrett's post - Making Dreams Come True. Her point was, "Whatever your dreams are, start to see yourself as that person or it will never happen. See yourself as already having accomplished it." So I spent the hours driving up to Minnesota visualizing how I wanted the exercises to go - the perfect performances.
I didn't know what to expect though, so I was surprised - to say the least - when Jackson qualified in both classes both days and earned two UDX legs this weekend! Now, we just need to do this eight more times : ) It was not especially pretty (not exactly how I visualized it) - there was some lagging, some really slow sits, some no sits on go outs, some crooked finishes - but there was also some trotting out and back instead of walking, some good scent discrimination work, really good drop on recalls and he completed all the basic exercises. Our scores for Open were in the high 180s and our scores for Utility were in the low 180s. Certainly not scores to brag about, but because we were the only qualifier in Utility both days, we got the trophies for High Combined. (It was a small trial : )
I was relieved and really happy because it means we can continue training with the hope of earning our UDX title this year. I was also reminded of another post on Susan Garrett's blog about rehearsing success - The way you get better at anything is to create opportunities to repeat those successful events over and over.
The more you rehearse - the more likely it is that you will be able to do it again and again. So, that's what we're going to try to do in these next few months - rehearse success!