Sunday, April 25, 2010

Choose to vs. Have to - that is the question

As a beginner to obedience training, I have read a lot and observed a lot of various methods of training - and probably tried most of them! And, to be truthful, I'm not sure which ones are working. I'm thinking about the lagging behavior here. When I started training, lagging in heeling was a real problem. I was even NQd once  in Novice A at a trial because of the lagging - not to mention the time he decided he'd rather leave the ring instead of staying with me. That was the low point of our obedience career, but, we hung in there and we've come a long way since then.  However, I'm still getting the occasional lagging in the ring, so thought I would revisit my training with that particular behavior to see if we could 'fix' it.

I've done a lot of 'choose to heel' in training with treats and rewards for finding the perfect heel position. Hoping to create that 'muscle memory' thing.  That's worked fine in training when I have treats on me, but doesn't always carry over into the trial. It's not necessarily because I don't have treats in the ring, because I don't think he would even take treats in the ring due to his worry and stress in that situation.

Last week I started working on heeling by holding him in that position. All my heeling for now will be on lead - keeping him close and always in heel position. I especially have a problem keeping him with me when moving between exercises. I am putting the lead on when moving between exercises also.  So, is the problem - that he doesn't know heel position or is he choosing not to stay in heel position? And, will keeping him constantly in heel position while moving help? Who's being responsible now for his position - him, or me? I don't know the answers, but it seems I have tried everything. And, since I've tried different training methods, it may be impossible to tell which one is working for him.

Any thoughts out there ?????

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another demo!

Jackson and I were invited to participate in another obedience demo this morning. Instead of elementary students this time, it was college students. One of our friends from our training club is an English professor at a nearby community college. A small group of us performed some exercises with our dogs, and the students were instructed to observe, record and relate what they witnessed in the dogs' behaviors to human learning. There were a lot of questions and discussion about how animals and people show signs of stress;  the different personalities observed; and the impacts of positive and negative reinforcements to motivate individuals (dogs and people) to learn and perform behaviors. It was all very interesting, and it got me thinking more about Jackson's personality and what motivates him and what stresses him.

Susan Garrett had another great post on her blog today about people labeling their dog by what they perceive to be their limitations. And, they are doing so to overcome some embarrassment or frustration they are feeling about their dog's behavior. Boy, did that hit home! If I had a nickel for every time I made a joking comment about Jackson doing things in 'slow motion,' I'd be rich : ) But, what is my expectation of his performance doing to reinforce that behavior that I have found so frustrating? Maybe there is something to that 'self-fulfilling prophecy' comment?

Susan goes on to say, "I would like to suggest every time you make this joke or repeat your limited belief that your dog is _________ (you fill in the blank) you are creating a new reality that does not have to be yours or your dog’s reality."

Hmmmmm,  maybe it's time to start focusing on what Jackson does well, how far he's come, and what he is capable of. Some food for thought : )

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We've been tagged for the photo game!

Thanks to our friend, Honey the Great Dane, we've been tagged for a photo tag game.
 Here are the rules:
1. Open your first photo folder
2. Scroll down to the tenth photo
3. Post the photo and tell the story behind it
4. Tag 5 more people

Well, that was not so easy for us, since last month my computer crashed and they were unable to restore anything from the hard drive. So, I lost most of my photos stored on the computer. On the bright side, that's a good way to get rid of a lot of clutter on the computer !!!!!

Anyway, I had to bend the rules a bit to get to a photo. I went to the first folder that had 10 photos in it and picked the tenth photo. This is it : )

There's not much of a story behind this photo : ) This is Jackson's normal position during the day. When we get home from training he heads upstairs to the bed for some much needed R and R.

Now, here's my list of five bloggers to tag for this game. If you are so inclined, please play along. I know you have great photos - I've seen them on your blogs : )

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend trials

It turned out to be a great weekend of trials. I wasn't sure what to expect on the drive up - I never really know what to expect with Jackson : ) - but, it went really well. This was the first time I had been to this particular trial, which is about a four-hour drive from our home. It was a small trial so there was plenty of room for crating and warm-up. The people were super friendly and the weather was beautiful.

We qualified in Open and Utility both days, earning us our 3rd and 4th UDX legs! (Only six more to go.) He did the best ever in Utility on Saturday with a score of 191.5. However, today (Sunday) he was back to normal with a score of 177.5 : ) He's getting more consistent with his ability to perform the basic exercises to qualify but his attitude/stress level/focus goes up and down and really affects his performance. We can't seem to make that transition from enthusiasm and attention in practice and warm-up to carry over when we step into the ring. However, on the bright side, he's been able to work through the stress and perform the exercises.

I was particularly happy with the scent discrimination exercises. We've finally worked through the endless circling the pile problem and he goes right to work now and picks up the correct article quickly. I was also pleased with the directed retrieve, signals and the moving stand exerises. We need work though on the directed jumping. The going out part was good, but the sits were painfully slow and he walked in a few steps on two of the go-outs before he sat. A few more steps in and he probably would have NQd. Training note to self: work go-outs separate from jumps for awhile and focus on the sits. 

In Open, he was pretty solid on the basics of the exercises, however, we lost lots of points on crooked fronts and some really bad finishes. Today, since we had the #3 glove, which is a left pivot that he backs into, we practiced several of these in our warm up. The upside of that is he did the pivot to the glove great, but whenever I gave him the right finish signal today, he tried to back into a left finish and ended up sitting in front of me instead of beside me. That's probably hard to visualize.Suffice it to say, it was a really bad finish. Training note to self: Work on finishes!

There are a lot of things that we can work to improve, but overall, I am really happy with his consistency in performing the key elements of the exercises. We are entered in another trial in three weeks, so time to sit down and make a plan : )

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Jackson!

The Birthday Boy!

Jackson celebrated his 6th birthday today. Can't believe it's really been six years : )  He celebrated his birthday this morning with his friends at the care center where he goes regularly to visit. Today they had lots of treats for him and cookies for everyone.

 Jackson getting a birthday kiss from one of his favorite residents.

To thank them for the treats and well wishes, he performed a few of his obedience exercises. In this picture he is doing signals for them.

In the afternoon we met up with our training buddies at the obedience club and practiced for our upcoming trials this weekend. I don't know what to expect at the trials because he's been on and off with his exercises this week. I guess we'll just hope for the best Saturday morning : )

Jackson relaxing after a busy, fun-filled birthday!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cooking with Jackson

On one of our recent pet therapy visits to the care center, our friends there gave Jackson some 'cookies' the residents had baked. He absolutely loved them so I asked for the recipe and today we tried our hand at baking them. Now, I am NOT a baker or cook or anything resembling either, and I have no fancy kitchen equipment like a food processer or even a big mixer, etc., so this is a very simple recipe. There are only four ingredients. If my dogs are any indication, they are wonderful cookies - evidently foolproof  : )

Here's the recipe:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, then add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Bake for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container.

One of the things I love about these dog treats is that they are soft and I can break off small pieces to use as treats in training. Following are some pictures of our cookie-making afternoon : )

In the oven they go.
Hot out of the oven and cooling - and boy, do they smell good!

And, what would I do without my supervisor?

Finally, a taste!