Saturday, September 25, 2010

National Obedience Invitational ad

This is the ad we're placing in the AKC 2010 National Obedience Invitational catalog. The trials will take place in Long Beach, California in December. We'll be there in spirit, even if not in person : )

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Training update

With two UDX legs left to go, I've looked at our performance in the last few trials and tried to pick out a couple things to focus on in training that might help us with getting those last two legs. I've decided to let the speed thing go, as I don't think either one of us has enough years left of training to make a dramatic impact on increasing his speed in the trials. He is what he is : ) So, the thing that I've decided to focus on is the sits on go outs. Since I got no sits on go outs at the last trial, it seemed like an area that we could improve.

My approach to training this has been to really up the value of treats that I'm using to reinforce the sits. The highest value reward I've found so far in training is the canned dog food. I use the little plastic containers of Cesar dog food that you can peel off the foil lid and spoon out for rewards. Throwing Bil Jac liver treats is still high value, but the Cesar's is even higher and I can deliver the reward in place. So, with my high-value reward in hand, I've been doing a lot of random sit commands in an effort to make sure he knows the command. I give the sit command when I'm close to him, when I'm across the ring, when I'm behind him, in front of him, etc., I sometimes put a ring gate between us so I can increase the distance, which is also good exercise for me because I then have to run to him to give him the reward in a timely manner. (I really need to dig out my clicker again so I can mark the behavior from a distance : ) I have in my mind a picture of an acceptable sit speed and only reward the sits that are faster than the 'acceptable' level. I'm looking for this 'acceptable' level to improve as we continue with this training.

I also combine the sit command with the go outs sometimes. I work the go outs without the jumping - varying the distance and still using the high-value reward for fast sits. We've just been doing this for the past week, but I'm seeing some improvement already. I have a few more weeks to focus on this before we're entered in trials so it will be interesting to see if there is carryover in the ring.

The other thing we need to do more of is work under some stress. It's hard to find stressful distractions away from trials, but we got lucky today at the club where I train - someone had pulled the agility equipment out in two of the rings. This is one of the most stressful things for Jackson to work through, due to his irrational fear of agility equipment. We did most of our training in the adjacent ring to the agility equipment, but when it came time to do the articles - guess where we put the article pile? Yup, right in the middle of the agility equipment. He was really stressed, but I helped him a little and he worked through it and did fine. Hopefully, putting a little more confidence in his bank account : )

The downside of using these high-value rewards and treating a lot is he's gaining weight. At his annual check-up last week, he weighed 178 pounds.  Not a good thing when he's doing so much jumping. I may need to find a low-calorie Cesar dog food!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Trial Today - #8!

We were entered in an obedience trial today at the club where I train. He usually doesn't do well at all in that building for some reason - even though he's familair with it. Today though, he held it together and qualified in both Utility and Open for his 8th UDX leg!!!!!

It wasn't always pretty - he was true to form with his slowdown in the ring. There was more walking than trotting and some crooked fronts and finishes, but he did all the exercises. I thought we were going to NQ with the first signal. I gave the signal to down and he just stood there looking at me. I was about to give him a second command, which would have been an NQ, when the judge motioned for me to give him another down command. Well, I don't know if he saw the judge from the back of his head, or if it was just coincidence that he decided to go down at that moment, thus saving the day - and the Q : ) 

I got no sits on the go outs, but he took the correct jumps. I was worried though that he wouldn't have enough speed to carry him over the jumps - but, he's getting pretty good at 'walking' up to the jumps then going over them.

Open was somewhat better. His heeling was pretty good except for some lagging on the figure eights. He was still pretty slow on the retrieves and drop on recall, but again, he did everything.

I'm really not getting so frustrated anymore with the slowdowns in the ring. I know he's not going to ever give me the performance in the ring that I get in practice due to his personality - but, that's okay. If we can just get these last two legs, I promised him he could retire from obedience and we'd do something fun --- like tracking!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Photo shoot

Jackson and his training buddy Melody had a photo shoot yesterday. Both Jackson and Melody were invited to the AKC National Obedience Invitational (see previous post). We thought it was really neat that both of us were invited since we're training buddies and nontraditional obedience breeds. And, since and it's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event for us, we decided to put an ad in the Obedience Invitational catalog. Thus, the photo shoot. So, here's one of the photos we selected for the ad.

Photo by Jerry Ranch