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 : )


Amy / Layla the Malamute said...

Good luck finding something!

Maybe it's just because I live on the shore, or maybe it's because I *hate* winter, but I never consider Labor Day to be the end of summer. I wait right until the equinox, then hope for Indian Summer. Then finally I'll admit defeat and say it's autumn.

Kathie R said...

I hear ya Amy! I don't look forward to winter either, but the 70-degree, sunny days we are having this week are sure a relief from the summer heat/humidity of August :) Gives me more energy to train!

tervnmal said...

Oh Kathy, we should be training together! That is exactly where I am with Phoenix. I thought my corrections were helping him understand what I wanted and showing him how to be right. Perhaps they did, but they also added another layer of worry which went right into the ring with us and mushroomed.

After a relatively dismal weekend at Amana, I'm (AGAIN) rethinking my training approach.

I've corresponded with DF, too. Her dogs are amazing. I am all for positive "It's your choice" type training, just not sure how to make it work since I've always believed 99% of training needed a "have to" element. But what I'm doing is NOT working and we are both miserable in the ring. I refuse to show a dog who can Q but hates it.

Good luck and keep posting!

Denise said...

I'm checking out blogs to see what the options are (plan to start one soon), and I came across yours. Then I saw my name...that's a really weird thing.

The dog you mentioned that I'm helping to retrain is not one of mine; it's a HOUND! That doesn't mean what works for her will work for you, but wanted to clarify. If you really work at it, you can make work a privilege. What a great place for you to start! Best of luck and I'll keep an eye on your progress.

Tarmar said...

Hi Amy, I completely understand where you are coming from! I compete in obedience with greyhounds.

I have had the same problem with my dogs melting when they walk through the ring gates. There are many dogs that do the same thing. I have always trained them with all positives so it isn't a problem with compulsion!

I think it really has to do more with me than with them. When we walk through the gates, I get really nervous for the first minute or so and inadvertently act much differently. First of all, the judge greets me and I feel obligated to greet her/him back, that takes my focus off my dog. I feel stressed to get my dog set up right at the spot indicated, etc. These are things that I do not do when I train. Hmmmmm.

One thing I did was buy some electric fence poles that I can stick in the ground and remove easily. Using flagging tape, I can set up something ring-like pretty much anywhere to mimic that environment.

I am headed to a fun match tomorrow with my 2.5 year old greyhound. I plan on going in the ring, setting him up, giving him a cookie and running back out. I plan on running in informally, setting him up, taking a step or two of heeling and then pulling out a toy. Of course, it also depends on how distracted he is... I plan to work on attention outside the ring so I won't need to do that once I get in. This is our first match. My one goal is to literally have fun with him in the ring. By the time I am done, I want him trying to pull me into the ring! That is the attitude that I want!

Wish us luck!