Monday, May 24, 2010

The video

Since I've been grousing so much about Jackson's performance at the trials last weekend, I thought I would upload the video of his Utility B class. Actually, when I viewed it this morning it didn't look as bad as it felt Saturday, although it's a long ways from where I'd like to be. As I've said before, I don't expect the speed of the high drive dogs you normally see in obedience, but this weekend was especially slow and unmotivated.

The video begins with the first exercise at the point where he NQd. Hubby missed the jump over the bar part, but caught the part where he came in and sat too far away from me. That was the NQ.

VIEWER WARNING: The video is about 10 minutes in length!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Wall - aka the trial weekend

I feel like we ran into a brick wall this weekend. I am challenged to find something positive to say about the trials this weekend --- but, I'll try.
1) the obedience building was air conditioned (something really good since it was a warm and humid in Kansas this weekend.)
2) the hotel we stayed at was really, really nice (La Quinta in Olathe, KS) and pet friendly.
Hmmmm..... that's about it for the positives, now, on to what happened at the trial.

The overall problem this weekend was Jackson's attitude -- or lack thereof. I don't know what it was about the trial site that affected him. The thought did occur to me that maybe he didn't feel well - was having a migraine headache weekend - or something! But, for whatever reason, he just was not up to working at all. I felt like I was dragging him into the ring. I just couldn't get him up at all. Once in the ring, he did all of the basic parts of the exercises, but he did them at 'negative warp speed' (that's really, really, really, slow) Even though he managed to perform the basic portions of each exercise, he did not come close enough to front on the directed jumping and was NQd on that exercise.

He did manage to qualify in Open later that day (Saturday), but he was so slow and lethargic that he almost pointed out. Other than the fact that he did perform the basic parts of all the exercises, it is really difficult to find a bright spot among the day's performance.

This morning was more of the same. He did the basic portions of the exercise in Utility, but did not qualify for lack of enough points. Again, it was like watching paint dry! (I didn't know a body could move that slow and still keep going!!!) I decided after the Utility class to pull him from Open, because I just couldn't see rehearsing that same behavior in the ring again.

So, now I'm left to ponder - what next? Was it just a fluke of a weekend and I should just keep training as I've been training. Albert Einstein is credited with the following definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Does that concept apply to obedience training? If it does, I'm not sure what the alternatives to try are. For starters, I think I will take the week off from training while I try to figure out where we're at.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mixing it up!

Okay, I've taken the suggestions to try training some new exercises to heart and we have been working on something new this week. (Thanks Hsin-Yi :) I think maybe he is getting bored with the repetitive obedience training, and it is time to add some new challenges to the mix. I can see already he's having more fun in training learning something new - especially with clicker training where he gets lots of treats and he's not worried about making a mistake.

So, the exercise we've been working on is practicing rear-end movement with the box. I've seen several videos with different types of dogs doing this exercise, but had not tried it yet with Jackson. At the first session it took him awhile to put his front feet on the box. However, once he did that it didn't take him long to get the hang of it. The video here is the fourth session where we've started moving the back feet around while his front feet stay on the box.

I'm thinking when he gets good at moving his rear end with me standing in front of him it will be time for me to move to heel position and have him pivot both directions. Then, I'll have to think of other things I can do with the box - or with something else new!

Friday, May 7, 2010

What can I do to help my dog?

That is the question of the day. I'm really trying to get into the mindset of asking, "What can I do to help my dog be successful?" when he appears to not understand what it is I am asking him to do in an exercise, or reducing his stress level. Lately, I've been thinking more about the stress thing. I'm wondering what I may be doing to create/reinforce stress, and/or what can I do to reduce the stress he feels in trial situations? The stress is definitely affecting his performance in the ring, so maybe I need to examine more closely, and objectively, what I am doing. Am I unconsciously reinforcing his reaction to stressful situations?

I really do believe dogs pick up on the handler's emotions. I was in denial for a long time regarding my nervousness in the ring - thinking that if I said I wasn't nervous, I wouldn't be nervous :) But, in fact, I do get nervous in the ring and I'm sure Jackson picks up on that. It is getting better though. I believe if you 'act' confident, you will become confident, so I am trying to practice acting confident - and more relaxed in the ring. If I can get control of that, it may go a long way to helping him.

I need to examine what else I am doing or not doing to increase Jackson's confidence. When we are waiting our turn to go in the ring I tend to have my hands on Jackson a lot, if he's not in his crate. I find myself stroking him and massaging his shoulders - thinking that is relaxing him, and me. But, is it? He also likes to sit on my lap. Now you may be wondering how a Dane can sit on your lap - easy, they just back up to you and sit :) Is allowing this behavior reducing or reinforcing stress? Should I just leave him in his crate except for taking him out to warm up prior to going in the ring?

Away from the trials, I am following through with my goal of getting him out several times per week to train in new locations, which I think may help with working through distractions. Yesterday we went to the Wal-Mart parking lot and worked on some attention and heeling exercises for a few minutes. There happened to be a couple pylons set up to block off a drive so that was perfect for doing some figure 8s. Finding new places to work for a few minutes is turning out to be easier than I thought.

If anyone has found exercises that helped them reduce their own stress and that of their dogs, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekend Trials

This past weekend of trials was a mixed bag - some success, some not so much success, but overall lots of fun : ) It was a really nice trial site - fairgrounds in Seward, Neb.; the weather was near perfect; friendly people; and we picked up our 5th UDX leg! However, didn't get the double Q on Sunday because he missed the signal to come from the down on the drop-on-recall exercise in Open.

The trial site is around three hours from our home, so we drove over on Friday afternoon and were able to get into the building and set up. We like to get in the evening before to set up if we can because it's sometimes difficult to find space for a Dane-sized crate if we get there at the last minute. Our training buddy, Melody the Border Terrier, was also there so Jackson had a 'friend' to crate next to. I'd like to think he is less stressed if he has friends there, but I don't really know if that helps or not.

He was stressed and distracted in the ring as usual - lots of yawning, panting and looking around instead of focusing on me, but he was able to work through it and on Saturday he qualified in both utility and open for that 5th UDX leg. We lost a LOT of points for lagging, crooked sits, slow sits, some no finishes, etc. He was quite a contrast to the border collies and goldens that were so fast and so focused on their handlers! However, I am happy with how far he's come in trialing when compared to his performances a few months ago. I just have to keep reminding myself not to compare him to those high-energy dogs. He is what he is : )

On Sunday, our utility run went well and we qualified. However, he missed that come signal from the drop-on-recall and I had to give a second command. I'm not sure what happened there. His mind must have been somewhere else at that moment. That's just something that happens. I'm not going to stress about it in training - just hope it doesn't happen again.

Overall, I was very happy. It's still the ring stress that gets him, so my plan for the next few weeks is to get him out in new places at least three to four times per week to work on basics - attention, heeling, signals, drop on recalls, etc. I know that was my goal some time ago, but I got somewhat lazy about it and didn't get out as much as I had hoped to. This time I'm really going to try to stick with it. We're entered in a trial in three weeks so I'm hoping it will help him build up more confidence.

Here's a couple pieces of video from this weekend. One is the figure 8 in open and the second one is the retrieve over high.