Training has had a few ups and downs this past couple weeks. Toward the end of last week he seemed real sluggish in training. I wasn't sure what to attribute it to. I didn't know if he wasn't feeling well, was just showing his age, was distracted by more people than normal training at the club lately, or if it was something else - like maybe me! I may be the one that needs an attitude adjustment.
I thought we would take a few days off from training to give both Jackson and me a break. However, I couldn't stay away - I think I must be addicted to training : ) - so off we went to the club again. But I had decided that it was going to be different. It would just be play time and I would focus on keeping things upbeat. I was hoping that we would be the only ones training there when we first went back. I like having others there for the distractions and I enjoy their company, but I really wanted to see if I could get him up and excited with no distractions. We were the only ones there, and it really did make a difference in his attitude. He was very up and ready to work - not looking around or worried about what else was going on in the building. I think maybe my change in attitude and focus on fun entered into it also. Anyway, I'm happy to be able to rule out any physical reason for the sluggishness, so it's full speed ahead with training.
I've entered a trial in April so we have five weeks to train for that trial. My plan is to try to find small trials sponsored by obedience clubs. Trials that have lower entries - thus, less noise, congestion, and fewer distractions. Overall, a more relaxed setting, which I think will be helpful for both Jackson and me. (I'm trying to stack the deck in favor of Jackson since he is such a worrier : ) Our training plan for the next couple weeks will focus on fun and losing the formality. I know he can do all the exercises, so my goal is to get us more relaxed doing them. To work on precision in heeling, pivots, fronts, sits, etc., I'm going to make it more of a game with treats and in some cases try using the clicker. Here are some of the things we've been doing - for fun.
One of the behaviors I'm trying to shape is for him to spin and sit. By itself, it's a fun thing to work on, but I'm also seeing how this might help his sits on go-outs for utility. Jackson's not great at offering behaviors. He's a dog that doesn't like to make a mistake, so I think he prefers to be 'shown what to do' rather than offer something. That may be partly his personality, or perhaps the way I started out training him. Hoping it's not too late to change.
The drop on recall is coming along nicely. He used to anticipate the drop so would slow down to a walk about halfway to me waiting for me to give the drop signal. We started playing a game with it where I would throw a treat for him to chase as soon as his elbows touched the floor. The other problem I sometimes had was him not coming from the drop on the first command. Again, throwing some treats behind me seems to have helped with that - at least in practice.
A new shaping/clicker behavior I'm trying is to have him put his front feet on a box on the floor and pivot his back feet around. This would be good for rear-end awareness, which will help him with his turns and pivots. I've seen this in several videos and thought it about time for Jackson and me to try it. So, the first attempt I clicked and treated him for putting one foot on the box. We got as far as him just touching the box with one foot. Like I said previously, he's really slow at offering behaviors so we'll see how far we get next time. I'm going to try hard to resist the urge to show him what I want : )
Overall, our training will mostly be fun and games and treats for awhile - working on building confidence and attitude. There's going to be a fun match at another training facility in three weeks, which will give us an oppportunity to see where we're at, and determine what our next plan will be : )