Saturday, September 17, 2011

Growing old is a 'state of mind' .... right????

Am I getting too old for this obedience stuff?

The heartbreak of owning a giant breed dog such as a Great Dane is knowing that their life span is estimated to be eight - ten years. Considering they need two years to reach physical maturity, that doesn't leave a lot of time for training and competing in obedience.

I was perusing my 2010 National Invitational catalog recently and was not surprised to see the ages of the top obedience dogs. Looking through the sporting breed listings, I found the majority of the dogs competing were in the five to seven year-old age range, with a dozen more that were eight to ten years old.

I feel fortunate that Jackson stayed healthy enough to compete through the udx level prior to his seventh birthday. However, I think I am now seeing some signs of his age catching up with him, which may start to limit some of the jumping exercises. He has started refusing the bar jump lately - something he has never done in training. I'm not sure if it's his eyes or a lack of umph when he needs to jump.

Oh, we will continue training, although we will be lowering jump heights or omitting the jumping exercises altogether. I think it's important though to keep him moving and thinking. We just need to find some different things to keep him - and me - learning!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Still trying to figure things out - some random thoughts

Labor Day - can't believe it's the official end of summer. The summer has flown by and we're still training regularly, although with somewhat fuzzier goals. It was easier to stay focused when we had title goals we were working on, but I must say it's been a lot more relaxed without them.

I do have goals though. I'm working on changing the way I train with the goal of making Jackson more comfortable in the ring. He's a natural-born worrier so it's always been stressful for him to be in the ring. Now I'm wondering if my approach to training had something to do with that. Jackson was my first attempt at competitive obedience training, so when we started training I used quite a bit of 'have-to' / compulsion training, which is where my limited experience laid.  However, I've really been trying hard to move away from that toward 'it's your choice' and making the correct choice the most rewarding option. (You can probably tell SG has had some influence here : )

When Jackson walked into the ring, things changed - his happy demeaner in training disappeared and he became somewhat of a zombie in the ring. Some trainers will say it's because there are no treats in the ring - but, in Jackson's case I don't think that is it. I think it had more to do with his fears - fear of distractions, fear of making a mistake, and his general lack of confidence. Anyone watching us in the ring would probably think, there's no relationship in that team. I'm left wondering if my initial training with compulsion and corrections helped set the stage for the stressful performance.

On the other hand, could he have held it together to qualify if it weren't for the 'have-to' training?

Another trainer that I follow online, Denise Fenzi, recently posted about 'fixing' a client's dog's unhappiness in the ring. First on her list of things to do was: 'remove all compulsion from training.'
That got my attention! Is it possible to get a dog to perform competitively without compulsion? It works for her dogs - but then she has high drive dogs - so would it work for Jackson?

DF also makes a point about 'work is a privilege when trained motivationally.' She recommends 'putting dogs away (in the house, in the crate, etc.) for failures of effort - dogs don't get to work who don't want to work.' Hmmmmm..... I'm thinking that may be exactly what the dog wants - to be left alone????? I guess the challenge there is to make training so exciting, they will choose the training over being in the crate.

So many theories, so many things to try - maybe something will work for us : )