Sunday, November 28, 2010

Year-end Review

Now, you might think it's a little early for a year-end review. However, we just completed our last weekend of trials for the year and thought it was a good time for a review. Our goal for 2010 was to get the UDX title. Well, we fell a little bit short of that goal but when I look back at the year of trialing, I am very happy with what we accomplished - nine UDX legs!

At the beginning of the year I was not optimistic about setting this as a goal. Our first time out last January was going to be a 'do or die' weekend. If he had not done anything at that first trial, I was not going to pursue the title. As luck would have it, he qualified that weekend and got his first two UDX legs. He qualified the next three trials also and earned three more legs. So, five trials - five UDX legs. Then the magic stopped and the wheels fell off. I haven't gone back and counted how many trials it took for the next four legs, but it was a lot. 

Utility is hard. There are a million - well, maybe not a million - but a lot of things that can go wrong to keep you from qualifying. I imagine if it weren't so difficult, it wouldn't be such a great accomplishment to get to this level of obedience. What's particularly difficult for Jackson, and for a lot of dogs, is the stress in the ring that keeps them from focusing on what it is they have trained to do and do so well in practice.  This weekend was no exception. Jackson was very stressed in the ring even though the trial was in the building we train in. Both days he NQd on the signal exercise. He also NQd yesterday on the moving stand when he didn't come all the way to finish. The moving stand is usually the exercise I have the most confidence in. I think it just goes to show than anything can fall apart when he is stressed.

So, that brings me to our goal for 2011. It's going to be to try to get that 10th leg and the UDX title. We've come too far to quit now - and I'm not sure what I would do with my time if I didn't have a dog to train : )

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Day - Another Demo!

Jackson was invited to participate in a demo last night for a church youth group. We really enjoy doing these demonstrations. It's great fun and really good experience for Jackson to go into new environments and perform exercises with different distractions. The request came through our obedience training club, so we talked about our dogs, how we train them, and demonstrated a few obedience exercises.

Here are a few pictures of our team - Melody the Border Terrier, Sparky the Standard Poodle, and Jackson.

Introducing our team

Drop on Recall

Figure 8

Scent discrimination

Meet and Greet

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend Trials - still one to go!

The weekend trials turned out to be a weekend for training, as we didn't qualify in utility any of the days. The stress monster got to Jackson and our go outs for directed jumping fell apart. He just couldn't bring himself to go to the other side of the ring and sit. Instead, he either didn't go far enough out or when he did he turned around and walked back in too close to the jumps. Now, we've had problems with slow sits and/or no sits on the go outs, but the walking back in is new.  There was ring rental time after the trial ended, so we spent our five minutes in the ring just working on go outs. He was able to do them in practice, but that didn't carry over into the trial the next day.

He had a couple other glitches during the weekend - but, I'm not too worried about them. Overall, I think he was just bothered and distracted enough by the trial environment that he couldn't perform well. I never really know what one - or more - things bother him about certain venues so I just have to wait until we go in the ring to see how it's going to go.

My plan in training this month is to try some different things with go outs to see what helps. We were back at the club training today and I put a couple guides out at the location where I want him to sit. It was just two of the 2" high-jump boards parallel to one another and just far enough apart for him the turn around and sit. Well, wouldn't you know - he was perfect. I've used guides before and they evidently are the clue he needs for him to know exactly what to do. He appears very confident about what it is he is supposed to do when he sees the guides. Now, the challenge will be - how to wean him off the guides? I think I'll take it slow this time and maybe reduce the visibility of the guides gradually.

Our next trial is the end of the month in the building where we train. You would think that would be easier for him, but.... we've not done particularly well in that building previously, so I'm not overly confident.  We'll see : )